Live Fast & Die Young: Life of a Betta Fish

A little science behind betta fish before I get overly emotional.

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Vertebrata
  • Class: Actinoptergii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Suborder: Anabantoidei
  • Family: Belontiidae
  • Genus: Betta
  • Species: Betta splendens

Bettas, also commonly known as Siamese Fighting Fish, come from tropical areas in Asia. They are known to be very hardy fish. It is said that bettas are able to survive in shallow waters, even puddles. As the puddle dries out, the betta jumps out and finds a new home (this is why its important to have a vented cover on your betta tanks).

Because bettas house something known as a “labyrinth” organ, they can actually obtain oxygen directly from the air by swimming to the top of a tank to the surface of the water. Bettas, however, like normal fish, push water past their gills, where a high surface area and amount of capillaries are found for gas exchange. The technique is called countercurrent exchange, where water flows in the opposite direction of blood flow in capillaries to maximize the amount of respiration that takes place.

In the wild, males typically fight until one declares dominance over a territory (but in a small tank, there is no escape and leads to death). In captivity for breeding purposes, usually males cannot be placed in a tank until the female has changed color, indicating she has released a hormone that signals the male she is ready to mate. Males then create a bubble nest to house and protect eggs until they hatch.

Shadow my love! On the evening of July 4th, 2011 you took your final air bubbles of breathe and we parted ways as you went to fishy heaven.

Biography of Shadow Alonzo, the ever Spunky Betta Fish:

I had originally gotten Shadow just a little bit over a year ago for my 20th birthday in April 2010. I was lonely in my dorm, and my parents brought him all the way up from New York. He was young and vibrant with many iridescent colors of purple, blue, silver, and maroon. Happily making bubble nests left and right as he sat upon the indirect sunlit windowsill at my Millennium Hall dorm.

Then, mommy got sick, my heart got broken, and I had to leave Shadow for a month in the care of my dear friends Naomi & Megan. When I returned and brought Shadow to our new home in North Hall, he was grumpy and lovable as ever in our sweltering hot, AC-less room.

In Caneris, he spent his days gazing out from Megan’s Ikea mesh bookshelf where I made a sign telling us if he was fed or not. He even survived the big move to our very first apartment in West Philly, and this is where his fishy tale ends.

Shadow, we had a lot of fights as I tried to coax you into a cup to change your tank water. Especially when I took away your belovedly guarded tree, Eywa (like in Avatar the James Cameron movie), to scrub all the poop off.

And you flared at me more than you ever did when I showed you other bettas and your own reflection. Others would say that you hated me or that you were simply stressed out. But I loved you so much, and I know you loved me, too. You were my first co-host when I did video blog posts back in the day.

You kept me company at night as I studied my life away. I talked to you whenever I had a new sewing project or was troubled about something. You protected my room while I was away, and I will miss your vitality and shiny scales and beautiful tail.

I’m so sad to see you go, and I know I promised you things like a new tank and pretty gravel. I wish I could have given you more before you went, like a better food variety or a heater. But I suppose you were too big of a fish in a small tank, you deserved a bigger place to roam.

(Shadow loves sarcasm :’) )

I’m glad you waited for me before you passed on. Thank you for waiting for me to come home first. When I saw you had lost appetite, I knew something was up as you are always eager for food. Then began the week of you floating vertically, I knew that your fish bladder had given way and your scales had lost heir luster. Today, I sat with you, talking to you as you crazily flitted side to side, hoping to calm you down. Finally, I said a prayer hoping to ease your pain, and you relaxed and sank besides your favorite tree. I knew you were at peace.

I know many of you may think this is a bit dramatic for a pet fish, but Shadow was and still is a very important part of my college life. It was especially devastating because we had just lost our last koi fish in our fish pond at home, which I will talk about next time. As for Shadow, he watched me as I grew the most rapidly, and he grew chubby and long and beautiful as the months passed by.

My most favorite photo of you my dear, taken by Megan.

Thank you for being in my life Shadow, I’ll miss you muchly ❤ Rest in peace ❤

Love Always,
Momma Christal

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11 comments on “Live Fast & Die Young: Life of a Betta Fish

  1. I’m so sorry for your loss. 😥 I think my betta fish Denzin is coming close to the end, as well. He lives with my boyfriend in Massachusetts, and from what I hear has barely eaten anything for the past three weeks. He even swims diagonally for some reason? I can completely empathize with how much you will miss Shadow, though.

    • I’m super sorry to hear about Denzin 😦 Maybe its not too late for him! If you put his tank by a warmer area, bettas tend to stop being lethargic and gain an appetite. The diagonal swimming is probably a sign of stress and bloating of the tummy since he hasn’t been eating much 😦

      Thanks so much for the condolences! ❤

  2. improperintegirl says:

    Sorry about Shadow 😦 I believe you’ll be able to talk with him the the afterlife, soul to soul, given he hasn’t reincarnated at the time.
    I can kinda understand how you feel, I feel really sad about one of my oak trees that I believe is now dead. The other is doing poorly, but I think I may have found a miracle seedling in my yard that was planted by a squirrel from the same parent tree.

    • I’m sorry about your trees, I’m sure they’ll find a way to live on somehow 🙂

      Thanks for the thoughts for Shadow. I’m glad he didn’t suffer to long though. Many owners try to euthanize their fishies by putting their aging betta between wet pieces of towel paper and smashing them, but I couldn’t bear to even think of it >.< I spent like an hour trying to make sure my Shadow had past on to the great before flushing him.

  3. Scott Pool says:

    You gave Shadow a loving life under your care and I’m sure he appreciates every moment of it.

  4. ~Kristi~ says:

    Aww I’m sorry to hear about your fish! 😦 At least his life, while short, was filled with lots of loving care 🙂

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  6. Nicole says:

    Thank you for posting this. I have lost a few bettas over the years, I got my first one over 20 years ago when I was a kid. I had one that I was really attached to that died a couple years ago. It took a while to grieve, but I now have 3! They are defiantly intelligent, beautiful and playful fish!

  7. Mike and Myrna says:

    I’m very sorry to hear about the loss of your betta, Shadow… I realize that this happened a few years ago at this point, but I’m sure it still hurts.

    I know how hard this is, because my wife and I just lost one of our beautiful male bettas last night (a small elephant-eared iridescent lavender beauty, named Stanley, 1 to 1 1/2yrs old). Stan, like the other two bettas we still have was a rescue… we picked up all of these fish about a year ago after seeing them in pretty poor condition in the local pet store. These were the fish that no one would likely purchase (pale, listless, not very active)… we felt sorry for them and decided to give one- then eventually three- a new home and a fresh start. We eventually had three very colorful, healthy and happy bettas in their individual tanks (2 male and 1 female). We suspect that our Stan got a severe bacterial infection after his heater failed and stayed running all night (causing pretty elevated temps by morning)… this happened about a month or so ago. Not sure, but we suspect that there might’ve been a bacterial ‘bloom’ that infected him (possibly incl internal organs, like his swim bladder)… and even after we started using stronger antibiotics just yesterday (after using the standard ones which had little to no effect), it was too much for him and he finally passed away last night.

    Again, I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your betta… but thanks for taking the time to share your story. My wife and I were able to read your story, and able to share ours in the process. We understand how you feel, believe me.

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