Saturday, January 19, 2008

It's Boys!

It was supposed to be a quick visit to PetSmart to pick up some dog food and cat food. Going into PetSmart with children is never a good idea. There is never a quick trip into the store with them. First we have to look at the hamsters, guinea pigs and birds. Next we walk by (quickly if it's up to me) the snakes and lizards. Down the next aisle we make our way to the cages filled with cats needing a home. Here's what the conversation sounds like:

Child 1: Mom can we have a cat?
Mom: Absolutely not!
Child 2: But he's sooooo pretty.
Mom: I don't care how pretty he is.
Child 3: But he's been here for a long time.
Mom: Oh look at those fish!

Moving right along, we enter Nemo's world. There among the dozens of aquariums, we spotted row after row of containers of jewel-colored and flowing-finned Bettas. Harrison ohhed and ahhed at a flashy red one. While Holden and Haley were fascinated with a brilliant blue one. We determined that these containers were all filled with males who apparently are much more colorful and have much longer fins and therefore are the ones mostly sold at pet stores.
They caught me in a weak moment. And when they asked for a fish, I relented. We headed home with not one, but two Bettas, food, water conditioner, and a special divided tank.

At home, first order of business was to name their new pets. Haley and Holden decided to name their fish, Smokey. Harrison decided to name his David (and no matter how many other suggestions the kids gave him, he stuck to his guns). I however, think that is a great compliment to his dad.
After preparing the tank, we transferred them to their new homes. The children were intrigued as the two new neighbors showed us why they are called the Samurai Fighting Fish. They immediately began charging at each other on opposite sides of the divider, their gills and fins flaired. Apparently this is how they defend their territory in the wild (sounds kind of like some men I have known in my life, but that's another story).

My kids were also intrigued by the Bettas' practice of making bubble-nests on the water's surface. These nests were intended to harbor fertilized eggs and males can make them even without a female Betta around. When the female Betta lays the eggs and leaves, the male Betta fertilizes the eggs and takes care of them until they hatch and are ready to swim away. That sounds like a real deal to me!

Since Bettas are surface breathers and are native to decaying, oxygen-deficient swamps in Asia, they're not finicky about a pristine tank — no filters or pumps required. All you have to do is change their water a couple of times a week, by dipping half the water out and refilling with fresh water.
My kids are very eager to take care of their new pets and first thing each morning, they ask to feed them. We drop three little fish pellets in the water and they swim eagerly up to eat. It all seems relatively easy. And since Bettas tend to be much hardier fish than most, we can look forward to a much longer life span than a goldfish.

Here are the newest additions:

and here is Harrison gazing at his fish: