You may remember hearing about Frankie the fish in my very first post on this site. Frankly (no pun intended), I’m surprised our little Beta lived as long as he did. After two years of living with us, Frankie finally passed on to the big ocean in the sky last night. I happened to see him in his final moments. I was sitting on a kitchen barstool, typing on my laptop resting on the counter, which happened to be right next to the fish bowl. Everyone else in the house was asleep, so it was just me, tapping away on the keyboard, and Frankie, maniacally swimming around his home.
I suppose that’s what caught my eye. You see, Frankie was a pretty sedentary fish. He liked to spend a lot of time hanging out inside the mouth of the ceramic whale at the bottom of his watery surroundings. When I’d remember to feed him, um, every few days, he’d come out of the whale’s mouth and waste no time sucking in those little food flakes. With his energy restored, he’d happily swim around for a bit, before retreating into the whale’s mouth again. Perhaps Frankie’s odd lifestyle was a direct result of his sub-optimal living conditions. In addition to his irregular feedings, I guess it’s fair to say he also had less than clean water. Oh, I changed it every few weeks, which isn’t cruel, but not necessarily “correct” either. I started to realize that I wasn’t changing his water the proper way when it became more cloudy and dirty, even after putting in fresh water.
You see, I have a problem with slimy creatures. I absolutely love all animals, but for some reason, anything with scales completely freaks me out. So, I never wanted to handle Frankie in any way. Instead of removing him with a net and plopping him a separate little bowl while I cleaned his home, I’d simply spill out the water until there was just enough for him to swim around in and then I’d add new water. I’d squeeze in a few drops of water neutralizer and voila, fresh bowl again…well, sort of. The floating leftover food (at least that’s what I thought it was) would swirl around his bowl for a few minutes and then settle back to the bottom. Sometimes I’d try wiping the sides of his bowl with a paper towel. At first, I was alarmed at the funky, green residue left on the paper towel, but after awhile it didn’t bother me anymore. And Frankie didn’t seem to mind it either.
Every time we’d come back from a week long vacation, I’d cautiously make my way over to check Frankie’s bowl and peer over the top. Inevitably, he’d swim out of the whale’s mouth to greet me, although sometimes I’d have to tap the side of the bowl to jolt him out of his whale-cave. I’d immediately toss in an extra large pinch of food and he’d chow down.
“He’s still alive!” I’d proclaim to the boys, with both relief and amazement.
I had no idea what kind of life expectancy these types of fish had, but Frankie seemed to be defying all odds, despite his borderline neglect. Although I felt like I did my personal best to care for him, I can’t help but also be tinged with guilt, especially after witnessing his last swim. Our normally mellow fish began darting around the bowl like a crazed torpedo, whizzing through the water at top speed, only to suddenly give up, and float backwards down to the bottom. Then, seconds later, he’d try again, resuming the same warped routine. At once, I knew what was happening. I stopped typing and watched. He actually appeared to be suffering, as he lay on his side at the bottom. I couldn’t just sit there anymore. I rushed to the cabinet and pulled out his food, sprinkling some into his bowl, hoping to revive him. But, nothing. I can’t just give up, I thought to myself. Next, I changed the water, squirting in an extra few drops of neutralizer. But, still nothing. Frankie had taken his final lap. My guilt was starting to build, and I promised myself I would change the water properly for the next fish. And, um, feed him everyday.
I quickly googled “betas” and “siamese fighting fish” to determine their average life expectancy: 2-5 years. Phew, Frankie made the minimum. Now I could have a relatively peaceful night’s sleep. I shut down the computer, turned out the lights, and let Frankie have one more night in his murky bowl. R.I.P. Frankie, beloved pet and a fighter till the end.