Beloved betta fish proves self as alpha thanks to doting mother

Yesenia is known to exclusively talk and tweet about her newborn child Oscar. To the lovely couple I offer my own haiku: fishy fishy glub, swim with me in the big tub, scrubby dubby dub. Courtesy of Frank.

My friends will tell you that I suffer from a severe case of fear of missing out, or FOMO. Last week, as my friends fell victim to the Vassar Plague, I begged them to cough on me, spit on me, inoculate me with their bacteria, anything to get me sick, because I resented the idea of my friends going through a common experience without me. Since three of my friends have a pet dog, cat and rabbit, and I had nothing, it only seemed right to get a fish in order to complete the pet food chain. My friends warned me against getting a pet and declared that I wasn’t “responsible” enough to begin a life as a fish owner. As someone who takes joy in proving people wrong, I did the appropriate research in order to acquiesce to my friends and make a “responsible” decision. However, I must admit, when I first got my pet fish, Oscar, I didn’t think he would be anything more than another one of my whimsical indulgences. He would merely exist as an amusing decoration in my room. I wasn’t expecting Oscar to dominate my life. Before you make any “The Shape of Water” jokes, let me stop you. There is nothing fishy about my relationship with Oscar. My feelings toward him can only be described as motherly. Something about his swishy tail and beady eyes has unleashed maternal instincts that I didn’t know I had, and boy, are they strong.

In order to be the best mother I could be, I asked my friends to submit their favorite poems so that I could read one to him every night before bed. It’s a tradition we’ve both come to love—I can practically see his ear holes open up in anticipation of hearing the words of Sylvia Plath, or whichever poet we are reading. The poems encompass a wide range of themes, including diaspora, colonization and queer identity, which are important topics for any growing fish to learn about. My goal in doing this activity with him is to improve his memory and cognition. I haven’t found any research articles to back up my hypothesis, but my training as a neuroscience major, as well as my gut instincts, tell me that I am on the verge of a huge scientific breakthrough.

Oscar has encouraged me to adopt healthier habits. One night, I was contemplating pulling an all-nighter to study for an exam. Then I realized that if I stayed up all night, my light wouldn’t allow Oscar to sleep! Just because I was willing to deprive myself of sleep didn’t mean that Oscar should be subjected to that punishment too, so I decided to sleep instead. Some days I forget to eat dinner, but I never forget to feed Oscar dinner. While I’m sprinkling fish pellets into his tank, I think to myself, “Hmm…maybe I should eat some human pellets, too,” and off I go to the Deece. Although we would both agree that our relationship is symbiotic, sometimes I feel like I am benefiting more than Oscar is.

Although betta fish have historically been bred for aggression, I firmly believe that Oscar has overcome his genes. He is a lover, not a fighter. I structure Oscar’s days in a way that allows him to lead a wholesome, fulfilling life. Sometimes I hold a mirror up to him so that he can see with his own eyes how beautiful he is, which probably boosts his self-esteem. Presumably, Oscar knows how to read, so sometimes I write motivational quotes on his tank with an Expo marker so that he remembers how much I appreciate his presence in my life.

Recently, I celebrated my one-month anniversary with Oscar, so naturally, I threw a party. I honestly didn’t expect him to live longer than a week or so, but I have never been more happy to be mistaken. His party featured activities like “Pin the Fin on Oscar,” DIY fish art and goldfish crackers galore. The winner of the Pin the Fin game got to feed Oscar one bloodworm, a betta fish delicacy. Oscar is the last thing I think about before I go to sleep and the first thing I think about when I wake up. It pains me to think that he will one day end up in the Big Toilet Bowl in the Sky. But, when his time comes, I believe flags will be flown at half-mast, people will cry at candlelit vigils, statutes will be erected in his honor and his memory will live on in our hearts forever.

2 Comments

  1. My beloved friend Francisco Flamingo Fandango passed away recently after 3 years of symbiosis and love. He was a gorgeous big red and blue shimmering fins like the biggest flamenco dancer. When he strutted like a rooster if the aquarium to show he was the Emperor of the domain it was stunning, his dorsal fin ridge raised up like a Trojan helmet crest. We had such a connection, even when he wasn’t hungry he’d come over to me if I was cleaning or poking a part of the tank and watch me and he always looked right into my eyes and I am sure his labyrinth advanced fish brain, as they are an evolutionary advanced creature with a brand new air breathing organ and that in biology is a very rare event, recognized me and was simply curious and wanted to see what I was up to and spend quality time with me. I always hand fed him and he loved to eat with my dropping his little Betta pellets into his mouth and often would look at me with those big Bette eyes and make open mouth “talk” and little bubbles to manipulate me to give more like any cat or dog would. Poor Francisco got a tumor and I nursed him along until he passed away, on a bed of little miniature water lily like leaves which he slept in and mainly kept to as he couldn’t get the energy to swim much at the last few weeks.
    He did show off his fin display up to his last day and though he was very ill, his eyes got that death is coming look and it made me cry, his regal red crest and full regalia were used the day before he died as he was disturbed seeing the assassination snail on the glass, he never like it and knew it was a trickster carnivore and always glared at it and a few times charged at it. He labored to breath air the last few days and I helped him get in his leaf beds each night as he got more ill and I would put food near his head in the last few days he lived and I could tell he was appreciating it. I went to breakfast knowing he would die very soon as his eyes and gills were dark blue and he was struggling to breath like he was almost gasping, I got home and he saw me and took his last two breaths and then passed. I know he waited for me to be there when he passed. It was an amazing moment and filled me with tears and I picked his little body out on his bed, making sure I cut out the exact leaves he passed on and so he could rest forever on his favorite safe little comfortable leaves he loved, rested him on cardboard and put some of his food down around his head and buried his frail little body, now in peace from his tumor that sapped his stunning Betta looks and charm way too soon for me. I built a little crypt with jadite rock which is very strong stone, resting him and his little bed on a very flat river rock and covering it with long jadite, it’s chiped up used in construction lot driveways do a nearby lot at 2 am gave me all the time to find the right pieces, in a ornamental tiny arroyo I built in my garden, digging a deep little pool above it that I lined with smooth flat river cobbles to make a tiny reflection pool. The Arroyo I named “Arroyo Francisco” and I went out today to clear leaves from it from the Japanese maple, the two overhead rhododendrons and a Asian pine tree. I sing a little song for him that wrote itself in my head the day he died, “he made tiny little bubbles, such tiny little bubbles, he was never any troubles, he just made tiny little bubbles, such tiny little bubbles, he was never any troubles, such tiny tiny tiny little bubbles, tiny little bubbles, tiny little bubbles, such tiny little bubbles”
    He was my prized Sismese Fighting Fish and I will have to wait a while to get another one as they are so special, shimmering beauty and intelligent, more conscious than any fish I’ve ever had hands down. I got two closely related labyrinth fish, dwarf gouramis now, and they have the same kind of consciousness I noticed with Francisco just more like rambunctious dog personalites running the backyard and always going around investigating whereas Bettas are like regal cats with the aquarium as their palace. Both species are super attentive to me and follow my actions and see me nearby in the room. I have a magnifying glass and look into their faces and they always come over and look right into my eye and you can see there is something there in those eyes looking back. Weird huh?
    Well enjoy your friend, their time is limited but you can get years from them. Change 20% of the water each week, give him some real floating plants to nest in at night, he may mske a bubble nest like in the wild, mske sure he can get air as they can drown becsuse they depend more on breathing air than water and can drown!

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