Today, I honour our little Betta fishy Julio, who passed away on Thursday the 4th of June...
I have so much I want to say about Julio, yet I’m struggling to find where to begin. I guess I’ll start at the beginning...
My husband and I got married in August 2012. We did things the "old fashioned way" and didn’t live together before we got married. So once we got back from our honeymoon, moved in together and got settled into life as a couple, we decided it was time to get our first pet. As the house we were living in wasn’t our forever home we decided on a fish - as we didn’t want to get a cat or a dog and have to move it from one house to another.
It was December 30th 2012 - en route to my parents place for a family BBQ, when we made the decision to stop off at the Frankston Shopping Centre pet shop, and get our fishy. I’m not sure if my husband will remember this - but we were drawn to Julio straight away. He was in this massive tank with other fish (not other fighting fish) and he was nuts! He was swimming up and down the side of his tank like crazy, showing off for us and flaring his fins. It was almost as if he was saying "Pick me! Pick me!!" So the pet store guys scooped him up for us, hooked us up with a small tank, heater, thermometer and food and off we went to my mum and dads.
To begin with, Julio's house was a small "betta cube" - basically a small cube shaped tank - with a lid (because they jump!). The people at the pet store advised that his tank needed to be heated (as their optimal living conditions are 26 degrees) and his water changed weekly. As neither of us had been fish owners before (let alone tropical fish owners), we jumped on line and armed ourselves with all the information we could find about these funny looking fishy's.
The more we read about Betta fish (their proper name is Betta Splendens) the more we felt bad about having him in such a small tank. So about a month later, we upgraded his crib to a 15 litre tank, equipped with more gravel, a 25w heater and lots more silk plants for him to hide amongst.
I found an amazing forum (www.bettafish.com) dedicated solely to fighting fish. And it was with the help of the people on this forum that lead to Julio having a long, healthy and happy life with us
Betta fish are one of the hardiest breeds of fish in the aquarium hobby. They are often marketed as no/low maintenance fish that can be kept in small glass bowls - sadly, this is far from the truth. First off, two betta fish should never be kept in the same tank. They are gender aggressive to their own kind and will often fight to the death. Secondly, in order for them to thrive and live their best life, they need to be kept in a minimum 3.5 litre tank (not the pathetic 2 litre tank we had been recommended in the pet shop). It is also essential that their tanks are heated. They are tropical fish, therefore need to be kept in tropical conditions (26-28 degrees). Unlike other fish breeds, betta's need access to oxygen. This is due to their labyrinth organ, a lung like organ which developed to compensate for the oxygen poor waters of their natural habitat. The last point I want to stress about looking after these fish is that water changes are a MUST!! The smaller the tank, the more you will need to do! These changes ensure that waste build up like ammonia and nitrates are removed as they are toxic to your fish (any fish - not just bettas).
Let’s go back for a minute, and I’ll tell you why we named him Julio... When we decided that we wanted a fighting fish as a pet, I had originally believed that they were called Mexican Fighting Fish - so thought that Julio was an appropriate name. My husband Isaak then informed me that they are Siamese Fighting Fish, not Mexican - but by that time, we had already named him, so he stayed as - Julio, the South East Asian Mexican Fighting Fish.
Anyone that knows me, knows that I am a crazy animal lover. Fur, feathers or fins, I love and appreciate them all for their own personality and unique personalities. So it came as no shock to my family and friends that I loved and connected with this fish with all my heart and soul.
Isaak and I never expected to fall in love with a fish, but we did.
"Big J" (as Isaak called him) swam into our hearts with his beautiful colour, googly eyes and wonderfully aggressive personality. He took up residence on our kitchen bench, and was a great source of joy and entertainment for almost 3 years. It never mattered what was happening in the kitchen, he would always swim up to the front of his tank and watch what you were doing. He would often sit and watch as I would cook dinner or bake and decorate cakes, for hours, his attention never waning. If you wiggled a bit of fondant, or a tea bag in front of his tank, he would puff his face and his fins out, and go crazy, swimming aggressively trying to intimidate the object. He would even react to your fingernails (depending on the colour they were!). I remember when his thermometer stopped working, i went and purchased him a new one... it was a different type of thermometer however, with a black tip at the bottom (Julio hated the colours black, and red). Well, he wasn’t shy in showing us his dislike for the new object in his tank... he spotted it quick-smart, puffed out his little face and his fins and he got SO mad!! He was circling it and swimming like crazy!!! He even tried to bite the end of it!!! You had to see it to believe it. When I say he was a character, he really was.
It was a Tuesday night two weeks ago when we realised Big J was a little off. He didn’t want to eat his dinner - which immediately set off alarm bells for me because he was a guts. He also seemed a little lethargic, and not as responsive as he normally was. I hit up the betta fish forum and did some trouble shooting with the members, and he seemed to perk up over the weekend. He was eating again and he even made a bubble nest (bettas make bubble nests when they are happy and content). Unfortunately, on Monday, we noticed he was back to being sluggish and not all that interested in his food. We also noticed his scales seemed to be sticking up ever so slightly (instead of slick and smooth against his body). When I saw his scales like that, I knew he was sick. A few pictures posted to the forum and my fears were confirmed - Julio was ill. I knew from my research that he probably wouldn’t survive it, but I still had to do everything I could to try and save him. Tuesday came and his scales were a little worse. Wednesday, worse again. Isaak and I went to two different aquariums to try and find a solution to help, or at least try and make his final days a little more comfortable. Wednesday night, when we said goodnight to Big J for the last time, we both had a feeling he wouldn’t make it. We could see our little buddy struggling. It’s funny though, even on Wednesday night, when we were making dinner, and we could see J getting worse, he was still patrolling the front of the tank wanting to see what was going on. When I woke up on Thursday morning, I knew in my heart what i would see when I went downstairs. Julio had gone. His little body laying still under one of his trees.
It was a really sad day for us on Thursday. We had lost our pet, our fishy, our Julio. He may be "just a fish" to most people, and I wouldn’t expect anyone to understand, but to Isaak and I, he was our buddy and part of our family. He was the first pet we owned and loved together.
We buried Big J in our backyard under a lavender plant. We cried for our little fishy and for the little Julio shaped hole he left in our hearts.
Now, our kitchen feels empty, not to mention the big open space on my bench which makes me want to cry every time I see it. I had to move my mixer just so there wouldn’t be a big gaping hole there.
It’s hard to believe such a small fish could take up such a big space in our home, and our hearts.
We decided to honour Julio's memory with tattoos (yes, tattoos, for a fish, you read that correctly!) Isaak designed and tattooed mine (he is a tattooist) and he had one of his colleagues tattoo his. It sounds insane, but that’s how much he meant to us. Betta fish typically only live for 2 years. So we feel so blessed to have had Julio for almost 3.
Thank you for choosing Isaak and I as your humans. We feel so blessed to have called you our fishy and we hope we gave you the best life possible (we think we did).
Thank you for your crazy face and googly eyes. And thank you for keeping me company for hours and hours while I baked and decorated. You were truly one of a kind, and no fishy will ever be as special as you.
Swim in peace my little fishy friend... I'll meet you under the Rainbow Bridge...