My fish usually live far longer than average and Georgie Porgie, our male Betta (Betta Splendens, AKA Siamese Fighting Fish) far outlived an average lifespan of a domesticated Betta. However, in spite of your best efforts, you can’t always control everything in life. He died earlier than we expected although he seemed happy in his last tank and I believed he could have lived years longer.
There are several possible reasons why he left us unexpectedly – perhaps the 10 gallon tank didn’t cycle although I was changing up to 40% of water once or twice a week and it was filled with the cycled sand and live plants from the old 55 gallon tank. The water would get a bit cloudy when I was planting new or splitting the old plants, but after that I’d do a partial water change and it would get back to normal in a few hours.
Perhaps it was his time to go, but there were more possible causes. Once when I was reaching into the sand at the aquarium bottom to put in a plant, I suddenly felt something moving rapidly under my hand, so I jumped and almost broke the tank only to see him swim away. Don’t laugh at me – I’m not scared of the fish, but when you suddenly feel something wiggly under your hands your body has a natural reflex to first jump back and then let you in peace and from a safe distance check out what the heck was wiggling under your fingers.
This is their typical behavior, because Bettas are very curious and like to come very close to your hands or tools whenever you’re doing something in the tank so remember to look around and be careful with your fish. He sneaked in when I wasn’t watching. I wonder whether my sudden reflex move hurt him, although if there was a push, it was against the soft sand and he didn’t get a single scratch. But if he had an internal injury, that may have caused his death several weeks later.
Then there’s another possibility – several days before he died I gave him few tiny pieces of raw steak, and another – the plants that I was planting when we had the sand encounter were bought at a local pe(s)t store and might have brought in an infectious disease.
Whatever the unfortunate cause, his routine included taking naps tangled in the plants or resting on the floor during the day since we got him years earlier, so I didn’t pay much attention to his recent lack of activity and spending a lot of time resting on the floor or on top of the rock (near surface) in the 10 gallon tank. But one day I noticed his belly was quite swollen (as visible on the picture above) and I researched and started reading about dropsy, the frequent illness of the Bettas (or symptom of an internal organs failure, most likely kidneys) and about its usually fatal outcome, so I told my daughter that he may die just to prepare her, but I thought we had a lot of time and I was getting ready to do more research and prepare some medications.
However, next morning I found him resting on the bottom as usual, but this time with no moving gills or fins and when I tried to move him he was stiff. At least he didn’t suffer long. You often grow accustomed and fond of animals with whom you share a part of your journey. Georgie Porgie was like a family member and we’re all sorry he left us so abruptly, particularly after everything he went through with us (flood, heat stroke, move, layoff, new tanks) as described in my first article about him. Most of all, I feel bad because I’ve never bought him any company.
Surprisingly, my two and a half year old daughter cried most, while the 5 year old understood and even asked whether we’re going to give him a “sea burial” in the bathroom, but the little one didn’t allow for it, so we had to bury him in the garden later in the afternoon.
But life goes on, as you can see above on the photo of our current “Georgie Porgie IV” or Giorgio Porgio as I sometimes call him, the pretty and nasty male who harasses his girlfriend Jewel and who is our joy and my responsibility, but more about that in another post.