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Writing about Blue Betta Splenden and My Conscience

Yesterday I brought home a Blue Betta Fish. One minute he was hanging in a tiny packet in a shop, amongst a jungle of other packets, barely able to move, and the next he was in his new 5 gallon tank.

Blue Betta Splenden, Siamese Fighting fish

Blue Betta Splenden

For the first few minutes, he kept perfectly still, as if he were still in that tiny packet where he could barely turn around. And then the aquarium was lit up by flashes of cerulean, aquamarine, cobalt, topaz, plum as he darted about, his long fins trailing him, making him look much bigger than he really is.

I am not sure what to think of myself. An year ago I would have not bought a Betta, thought of it as animal cruelty. The male of the species is very territorial and would fight unto death another of its kind. They come from the rice fields of Thailand, where I suppose they are used to big tracts of shallow water. That is why vendors keep them in tiny bottles, (because you can’t keep two in the same container) putting black paper between two, so they don’t get agitated. This seemed to me cruel and unusual punishment.

Then one day a few months ago I bought one because my better half thought a brown and purple Betta pretty. It jumped out and died when I went out of town for a while. I told myself this was a sign. I would not get another.

And then, yesterday, I just had to get one. From a shop where they were hanging in packets, in less than 100 ml of water each.

I’m feeling guilty now, having bought one fish, helped promote the shop.

I’m consoling myself from time to time. At least this Betta has a good home, not one of those 10 cm cube plastic boxes with fake plants that some people keep them in.

My conscience won’t shut up. But when I look at the blue vision my Betta fish makes as I walk past him in the living room, I feel I can live with the righteous noise in my head.

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • maspring37 says:

    My husband and I had a large fish tank containing just two Angel fish and a load of guppies. One day, we were visiting our local pet shop and saw a man showing his son how to put a mirror against the side of the tank to enrage the fish . The Fighter would then flare out his fins and turn a wonderful intense colour blue. We bought the poor fish so at least it would never be ill treated again. It lived , quite happily with the other fishes, though the Angel Fish took bites out of its fins. I didn’t know that they could be hand fed. ลดe also bought a Pangasius Catfish as well, which looked like a baby shark.

  • athling2001 says:

    I hate seeing those poor fish in their tiny bags or tubs. Tears my heart out. I’m glad at least one beautiful betta has a good home and a large tank in which to roam.

  • andy1076 says:

    It ‘jumped’ out? dang, I didn’t think something so calm and tiny in the little bowls would be so active. They do sell small 5 galons with a lid and LED light, now I at least see the reason for the lid :O

  • juaneismann says:

    I’ve had several fish as pets when I was much younger than the wrinkle party I now am. Guppies, Goldfish and even a Black Mollie (sic) or two. The Goldfish were kinda difficult as the Mollies were, but the Guppies were like rabbits of the sea.

    Watching them swim around was kinda therapeutic for me. One of the Goldfish used to actually come over every time it saw me come near. I guess he or she was hungry most of the time.

    Still, even attention under less than noble reasons is better than none at all.

  • I have to agree, he is far better off with you.
    He is blessed to have a nice home of his own; with a loving, caring owner.

  • DarcKnyt says:

    I sort of agree with Gladys here, hon — he’s far better off with you caring for him and providing him individual attention as he needs it than he would be in a tiny little plastic cube breathing his own direct waste. (Okay, he still does that, but it’s diluted by 5 gallons of water now instead of festering in a few ml’s worth.)

    He’ll be happier until he ceases, and isn’t that all we can do for a pet? ๐Ÿ™‚

    • damyantig says:

      Thanks for dropping by, Darc.

      And no, my Betta’s waste is not diluted in 5 gallons of water. I vacuum his tank, and he has a filter, so there ๐Ÿ˜€
      He also shares his tank with a Pleco fish, and those fish think all kinds of waste is food!

  • He’s better off than those fish that are kept alive in tanks in eating houses, ready for a customer to choose to have it for a meal.
    Aren’t lobsters, crabs, mussels etc dropped into boiling water? Some shellfish eaten alive? (Don’t eat shellfish myself). Fish are hooked out of water by anglers, some to be thrown back so they can get a vicious hook into their gills again. Fish are hooked or dragged out of the sea to suffocate on decks. But in the sea fish are not kind to each other either!
    Yes, I would concern myself about your beautiful fish too. But then I KNOW I’m over-sensitive โ€” or just plain DAFT!
    Here in the UK, it seems odd to me that there are rules governing fish sold in pet shops and yet fish for eating no one seems to care about. (Would you believe, a pet shop owner was given an ASBO and her son a heavy fine for selling a gold fish to a boy of fifteen?)
    I like the post โ€” given me food for thought!

    • damyantig says:

      Thanks, Gladys, your looong comment made me feel better. I fed him this morning, and he has already begun displaying the trait that makes this species so lovable, they will eat right out of your hand. He also has his own formula food created by a Betta expert, so his colour is coming through more and more, and he is very beautiful indeed already…