The goldfish were a beacon of peace. Bobbing up and down to the trickle of water which flowed from their filter, I often found myself just sitting and staring. I smiled as they came to the front of the aquarium, their gargantuan eyeballs fixed upon me with what seemed to be compassion and understanding. At the end of a rough day, this was the place to go: a place that reminded me that there was more to the world than the office.
And that was the thought that started it. I worked at a desk now, the buyer for a small company. Amidst frantic deadlines, mis-shipped freight, and product quality issues, I was beginning to feel the weight of the job. If fish made me so very happy at home, why couldn’t they make me equally happy at work?
The idea was a brilliant one and it wasn’t long before I had secured permission to set up a new aquarium at my desk. Nothing big, just a gallon and an half: enough to hold a small Betta. Like my goldfish, his selection was inspired by childhood memories. Unlike my goldfish, however, I labored under no misconceptions that he would be an “easy” fish to keep. I started out right with a volume entitled, “Betta: Your Happy Healthy Pet” by John H. Tullock and shortly thereafter added, “The Betta Handbook (Barron’s Pet Handbooks)” by Robert J. Goldstein, Ph.D. Both books contained a wealth of information and I was able to ensure that I had my aquarium set up properly from the start.
My goal was to make the environment at “native” as possible. This included everything from adding the almond oil, tannin containing ATISON’S BETTA SPA 100ml to an attempt at providing my new fish with a real-life hunting experience through the addition of a few live plants and some newly hatched brine shrimp. I think that my boss began to rethink his project approval the day I appeared with my San Francisco Bay Brand Shrimpery and set about my farming project, but he tolerated it nonetheless. Three days later, I had a fresh hatch and, with great delight, dumped the entire clutch (probably a few hundred baby shrimp) into the aquarium.
With a few plants and plenty of substrate, I figured that it would take Mr. Spock a few days to locate all of his new prey. Unfortunately, I had underestimated his love for the hunt. He immediately took to the new live food and I watched at first in excitement and then in horror as he set about consuming every single shrimp in a matter of minutes. The once bright-eyed blue crown-tail now looked distinctly bloated and, for good reason, I was distinctly worried. Of course, there isn’t any good way to pump a fish’s stomach (at least not that I’m aware of) and the next morning, I found myself paying a tearful goodbye to the friend who, at least for several weeks, had helped relieve the stress of my job.
Not ready to give up, I immediately went out and purchased a second Betta: Mr. Worf. This time, it was not the crustaceans who were to seal his fate, but my fellow office workers… including one germ-obsessed nut with a can of Lysol. With great effort, I explained that chemicals and aquariums didn’t mix. Then, I explained it again. And again. Each time doing my best not to have an asthma attack within the confines of my own, freshly aerosolled office. (Come to think of it, I might have had better luck had I made my lungs the topic of discussion rather than my fish tank!) The message fell on deaf ears and, a few weeks later, Mr. Worf found himself buried in a grave not far from Mr. Spock.
Irritation now flooded my heart and soul and with selfish zeal, I packed up all of my tiny aquarium equipment and hauled it home where, unwilling to accept defeat, I set it up one more time. Within days, a new occupant flitted amongst the plant life. I did my best to ignore that this completely defeated the purpose of setting up a second aquarium to begin with and, for the next two and an half years, enjoyed the constant presence of “Fishy”.
As I sit here writing this, I find myself gazing at a new little friend. Baby Sev is now my fifth Betta (most live only two to three years in captivity) and my second attempt at raising a fish “from scratch”. Still a fry, he may as easily turn out to be a female as a long-finned male: only time will tell. He’s friendly enough and as I watch him flick his fins at me I am reminded that true failure is found only in a failure to learn from our mistakes and an unwillingness to try… just one more time.