Jewel is our red Betta Splendens female fish who’s survived several “domestic violence” episodes with her fancy boyfriends. She is also a widow of two male Bettas and currently separated (in a different tank) from Georgie Porgie IV, her third husband that (still) doesn’t like her in this ongoing fish soap opera.
Her first hubby was Georgie Porgie II and we bought them together, upon few weeks of empty tank quarantine after our first Betta, Georgie Porgie I died. However, after they recuperated from claustrophobia and stress during shipment and time spent confined in a cup-like space in the store, we decided to try to get them together in the 10 gallon (40 liter) aquarium to see what happens, because some male Bettas don’t kill everything around them as most others do. That didn’t go so well. For the first three or four minutes, they were just slowly swimming around each other and showing off, spreading fins. Then they didn’t seem interested in each other any more for a minute, but soon the female started following the male around, he started avoiding her, but she continued to follow him. After several zig-zags throughout the tank, the male big shot decided he had enough, so he turned around and attacked her. Both of them instantly and abruptly changed their behavior and she seemed scared to death, running wildly and uncontrollably from him and although she had enough plants to hide and avoid him in the bottom, she stuck to the surface where she was easily noticable, so he kept spotting her and going after her. It was almost like he were a shark who smelled blood, or as if she were a sheep who suddenly realized she was dealing with a wolf. I left her in for several hours, closely monitoring and hoping she will learn to use the plants, rocks and other hiding opportunities at the bottom to avoid him, but she never got used to being chased, so I had to take her out before he hurts her or before she hurts herself in her wild and uncontrollable escapes from his attacks.
Then she was in a small, 1 gallon tank next to his 10 gallon kingdom and the male Betta used to show off, looking at her most of the day. He started blowing bubbles in a clumsy attempt to build a nest. After a week or few I suddenly noticed that Jewel’s stomach looked very swollen so I thought she was sick of dropsy and that she was about to die in a day or two like our first Betta, Georgie Porgie I, so I was getting ready to do whatever I could to avoid having to deal with tears and moaning from my daughters again. I immediately moved her to the 10 gallon tank but GP II tried to chase and attack her again, so I quickly took him out and put him in the small tank instead. Now she had more water in a planted and filtered tank which I hoped would make it easier for her to recover before I decide whether to move her out to administer any medications.
Well, she looked better in a day or two, while the male started blowing hundreds of bubbles on surface in an attempt to build a nest, covering almost the entire surface of the little tank. Around that time I finished preparing and planting the 55 gallon (about 200 liter) fish tank, intending to take either one or both of them there, hoping their coexistence would be possible with enough space.
The Red Widow
So one evening I took the lids off of all the tanks to do a partial water change, intending to move Jewel from the 10 gallon to the 55 gallon tank and to move Georgie Porgie II from his little tank to the 10 gallon one. It took me a few hours because there was a couch next to the 55 gallon tank with something interesting on the TV, but I was tired and immediately fell asleep during a boring commercial break. Well, a few hours later when I finally went back to the room with the smaller tanks I got the bad surprise. Georgie Porgie II was nowhere to be found. I assumed he jumped out and I started frantically looking around and under furniture and after some tense moments I finally found him on the counter behind the 10 gallon tank. He didn’t look alive – he was dry and looked mummified. He must have jumped out as soon as I left the room. I felt very bad.
I thought he was dead already, but I put him in the 10 gallon just in case, because as I witnessed and described in my post about our first Betta fish, Georgie Porgie I, these fish are known to be able to survive very bad things. Sure enough, he started moving in a minute or so, went up to the surface for a gulp of air, but looked very sick and I wondered whether to euthanize him, but I decided to let the little dude fight for his life. What happened next really surprised me: Jewel saw something was wrong with him and since he wasn’t chasing her, she bit his tail fin and wasn’t letting go until I scared her off and immediately moved her to the 55 gallon before she kills him. Never before or after had she attacked any other fish and she’s currently sharing her space with some rainbow fish and many little neons who freely school around her and try to follow her whenever she’s close to the bottom. I guess she “remembered” the chases and attacks he gave her, took the opportunity to kick him when he was down and enjoyed it. Not that fish have a long memory, but this earned her the new nick name, The Red Widow.
Fortunately – Unfortunately
Fortunately, my daughters were already asleep during this episode. Unfortunately, I found Georgie Porgie II dead in the morning, resting on the bottom. I guess he suffered too much trauma to his skin and gills while he was out of the water. Fortunately, since the timer doesn’t turn on the light before noon (so that we can enjoy our fish late in the evening when everyone’s home), I had some time to sneak out and find a Georgie Porgie III that looked very similar before the kids realize and go into the sobbing mode, for which I wouldn’t blame them, because I felt very bad about the little guy, too. Unfortunately, the only similar purple Betta male didn’t seem happy and healthy at all to me and under any other circumstance I wouldn’t have bought him. Fortunately, the sales person told me that he had just arrived and was just stressed from the trip, but that he’ll be OK. Unfortunately, my eye for the sick fish was dead right and in spite of all my care with very gradual water adjustment I found Georgie Porgie III dead next morning without Jewel ever having a chance to even meet him. Fortunately, the friendly small store that always has beautiful large Bettas received a new shipment the next morning and gave me a free replacement, so Georgie Porgie IV was secretly introduced into our family without the girls knowing about Georgie Porgie II and III’s misfortune. To them he’s still Georgie Porgie II.
End of Jewel’s “Sickness”
Back to Jewel. Remember how I thought she was very sick and that she may die of dropsy like Georgie Porgie I? Well, after she got better in the 10 gallon tank and after I moved her to the 55 gallon during her attack on sick Georgie Porgie II, a week or so later I found out her secret. She wasn’t sick at all – she is a perfectly healthy female Betta, and she is full of eggs. The other day I saw her engaged in a very strange activity at the sand bottom of the 55 gallon tank, swimming a little, then turning around, resting on her “stand” fins at the bottom and looking like she was searching for something. After I spent more time, I saw that I wasn’t right when I thought that her stomach was full of pus. It was her own eggs that she was shedding and then she was searching for them in the sand behind, getting a nutritious meal. A good use for them considering that no gentleman has yet shown interest for this beautiful “Red Widow” Betta female with great “personality” that I’ll describe in one of my future posts.
Below you can see a video of our attempt to get Jewel and her new “hubby” Georgie Porgie IV together. I had to take her out in the middle of the “date”, due to the abundance of aggression and lack of anything gentle in the gentleman’s behavior.
Some say that male and female Betta fish may be able to peacefully coexist in a much larger tank of 55 gallons or more, but when we tried that after this (that video will be posted as well), she was able to escape him all the time because she’s quicker, but his aggressiveness never stopped, so just like many other Betta fish, they just can’t live together. Most can only stand each other for a very short time during spawning, otherwise the male will chase the female till one of them dies either of injuries or of exhaustion. In nature the chase lasts only a few seconds till he chases her out of his territory, but in a confined space it can be deadly if you don’t remove one of them.
Also, in a deep 55 gallon tank it may be much more exhausting for the male to attend to the eggs in the nest – as the bubbles keep popping and he keeps blowing new ones, some of the eggs fall and they pick them up from the bottom and place back up in the nest, so both have to be ready to spawn before I try this again in the 10 gallon tank and then remove the female immediately after they’re done, because he will chase her even more aggressively trying to protect the eggs. Pheromones are very mighty so it may be useful to mix in a cup of water from the other tank every day so that they can smell each other – that can drive the male to build the nest, which will be the sign he’s ready.
Although our fish behave typically for their species, this behavior can also vary, as some people are even able to have two males in the same tank without any fighting, but we can’t even get our female and male to get along. Hopefully we match them someday. Till then, they’re in separate tanks and they seem happy.