Better with a betta


(Stephanie Arndt)

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” That’s how it goes, right? No one talks about what happens when you give a woman a fish.

I walked into Petco recently with every intention of getting lost among the aisles of animals and jokingly asking my mom if I can have one. Childish, I know, but it felt good to be childish for a min- ute. My mom rarely takes my animal-requests to heart because there is always a new animal that I would love to have and money could never keep up with my love for animals. After being knocked back into the rhythm of classes and buried by readings, it felt good to think that a fish could brighten my week. I did my research for fun and came home prepared to make a small, seemingly-hopeless case to my mom on why a fish would enhance my college living. Shockingly, I found myself looking at the Betta fish longingly when my mom said yes.

Don’t be fooled by the tiny, inhumane plastic cups that these fish are sold in. There is nothing simple about these fish. I looked among the cups that Petco had neatly filed them away in and noticed that most were laying on the side of the cup and others were floating questionably near the surface. I felt sick knowing it wouldn’t be long before these fish die in their cup that can hardly fit their long fins or in a bowl that can hardly contain a gallon of water. Still, I was on a mission to save just one.

I brought the fish that seemed the most lively home with me and named him Poseidon after the god of the sea. Poe, as I have nicknamed him, has high hopes attached to his name just as I have high hopes for his survival in my care. Although he will most likely live only 1.5-3 years (like most Bettas are expected to do), I find myself wondering what it must be like to exist on this earth as a commercialized and domesticated creature.

My fish eats and swims. That is his life. Poe makes puffy faces at his reflection on the tank, swims over occasionally to see what I am reading, looks at who I am talking to when I Skype and lounges on the rubber ledge of the heater when he feels tired. He’s cute, but he doesn’t do too much. So why am I writing about him? Why does the tiny life of my fish matter? It probably doesn’t to you. This may seem like a waste of room and ink on this page. At least, to you it may. Still, when I go home after a long day and check what Poe is doing as he observes what I am doing, I can assure you the experience is the most rewarding part of some days. I can promise you that life is better with a Betta.

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