The Tao of Hector.

It was clear to me that death was imminent: listless, poor appetite, and nearly unresponsive. So, I did what all neurotic Betta fish owners do in this situation: panic + Google.

Multiple sites and gahdIhatetoadmitit message boards made me feel like a complete idiot for not realizing he was FREEZING TO DEATH. I hauled ass to the kitchen to microwave a cup of water. Once the warm water was added to his tiny bowl (with the proper solution to make tap water okay of course), and he perked up right away – hooray!

Solution found. I’m awesome. Yay me.

The next day he was laid out on the floor of his bowl again. I frowned.

He’s depressed. I mean I would totally be depressed in a space that small. It’s horrible. He needs a bigger house.

We went straight to our local Pet Supermarket to get him one. There are two sizes: the cramped plastic bowl he was in, or a 10 gallon aquarium. For one fish – Bettas are such fantastic assholes they have to live alone.

No matter. I was committed to it. Everyone in our home deserves a chance at true happiness. The 10 gallon aquarium was purchased.

My dude came over to help put it all together and set up the filtration system (shhh, I know) because he’s awesome, and also because he knows I only look at the pictures in directions. I rely mostly on my intuition, which is great with humans, but shitty with equipment. Therefore, he wisely prefers to put things together straight from the box rather than after I’ve mangled it and thrown away important parts that appeared unnecessary. What a great guy.

Anyway, we got Hector all squared away in his new penthouse and he perked up right away – hooray!

The next day he was laid out on the bottom of the tank again.

Well of course he was. There were no plants in the tank yet, I hadn’t gotten nearly enough gravel, and we still needed to get the plastic treasure chest and mermaid to make it homey. Off I went to Pet Supermarket, again.

They know me there. My rabbit won’t eat the pellets in his food – do you have any blends that don’t have pellets?…He also refuses to eat the Timothy hay – can you recommend another type?…My cats won’t stop gaining weight – do you have feline South Beach products?…Do you know anyone who would like to adopt our two turtles?

No ma’am.

I studied the color choices of gravel, and since Hector’s a tropical fish, I opted for the blue and green combo. I was sure that would lift his spirits and make him feel just like he’s in the Caribbean, even though Bettas traditionally live in rice paddies in Asia. It’s me who wants to be in the Caribbean. Regardless, I just want him to be happy and tell all his (none) friends he loves living at my house because that will make me the fish champion.

I got all the plants perfectly situated in his aquarium, the lights were just so, the gravel was lovely, and the strand of pearls in the treasure chest added a touch of luxury. Hector’s so particular I know he likes pearls. And mojitos. But only if the lime juice is fresh. I decided against the mermaid because her tail was mauve and I thought Hector would find it tacky.

I poured him back into his newly upgraded sea palace and he perked up – hooray! I mean thank gahd, because here’s what I’m NOT trying to do: flush this fucker because he died on my watch mkay?

Peace prevailed for 24 hours and then he was back on the floor again. This time dramatically burrowed into his island getaway gravel, which seemed kind of poetic given the absurdity of this never-ending quest to make my $4 fish happy. Is this what Betta suicide watch looks like?

No no no. Of course not. HE’S FREEZING TO DEATH IN HIS NEW PENTHOUSE. No microwaved cup of water is going to keep 10 gallons of water warm! He needs a heater. One that will keep the water a balmy, and digitally monitored, 78 degrees.

Yes I did. Back to Pet Supermarket. Heater installed.

Guess where he is right now.

On the fucking floor of his Beverly Hills heated Betta fish mansion that looks like it’s been art directed and lit by a goddamn Hollywood film crew.

Guess where I am.

On my bed realizing Hector is absolutely content to hang out on the bottom of whatever tank, bowl, or cup he’s in.

Fish are assholes.


  1. Oh, enough of your mental health moral with its “Free to be you and me” message. I think the lime juice wasn’t fresh enough! Back to drawing board, Fish Slave!

  2. ROFL! Oh, what we don’t do for our pets. Our dumbass-furball-of-a-cat, Rupert, treed himself on Sunday night and couldn’t get down. (He’s an indoor cat who escaped his prison — yeah, he’s got it rough ~rolling eyes~ — for the wilds of the backyard.) I figured he got himself up there, he’d just have to get himself down. After watching him for a half hour and listening to him caterwaul, my 20 yr old daughter had tears running down her cheeks, crying, “We have to get Rupert out of the tree!” Okay, the furball WAS scared enough he was hyperventilating, but I drew the line at calling 911 to come rescue the four-legged little critter like some crazy cat lady. On the other hand, I couldn’t let her sit on the front lawn all night waiting for Rupert to plot his exit from the tree. I mean, cats have been known to stay up in trees for 2 or 3 days! Thank goodness her boyfriend is a lineman with the power company (he climbs poles for a living). He and Rupert have a love/hate relationship but he did, grudgingly, fetch a 20 ft ladder and rescued Rupert from his own stupidity. My next pet is going to be a Betta fish. They may be moody, but at least they don’t climb trees.

    • Omg gahhhhd what a tale! I love it. Not that he got stuck in the tree and was being a pain in the ass, but bc you clearly understand pet care and obsession. Now we are friends forever : ). Thank you for reading and chiming in! I’m going to check out your blog now.

  3. You said it yourself: Betta fish are assholes.

  4. I love how you love these animals! you are a good mommy.

  5. You should have let him live in the toilet for a couple of days so he’d appreciate what he had. Fish are disgusting creatures, but good for you for taking such good care of yours. It shows what a kind hearted person you are, or something.

    • I don’t know why I didn’t think of that. Que en el mundo? Trust: there will be no more fish in this house once this one leaves us…Thank you for saying I’m kind hearted. I’m too earnest for my own good sometimes. But it’s better than being a Betta ass hole. Woot!

      • This was even funnier the second time. I don’t know if I find you as kind hearted, but I still think you’re pretty fuckin’ fantastic.

      • Can I say I’m glad he passed? I’ve worried myself SICK over that little guy for MONTHS. I’m just glad it’s over “and he’s in a better (Betta?) place.” Sigh.

  6. now that you got a ten gallon aquarium you will always have fish – or the aquarium will just be waste …

  7. This, is perfect!

  8. That was so so adorable. Just a great story!… “because here’s what I’m NOT trying to do: flush this fucker because he died on my watch mkay?” LOL.

  9. You could have thrown another Betta in the bowl. That would have spiced things up for him. We’ve had lots of Bettas die. Goldfish, too. It’s a good lesson in the Circle of Life. Did your Betta ever make a bubble garden to attract a mate? You’ll never see a greater exercise in futility.

    Here’s the problem I’m having with your blog. When I was a kid, I used to listen to a lot of Todd Rundgren. He had a side band/project called Utopia. Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, to be specific. The first Utopia album had a song called, oddly enough Utopia.

    City in my head, Utopia
    Heaven in my body, Utopia
    It’s time for me, for me to go

    Okay? Flash to decades later. Now, every time I come to your site, I get a fucking modified earworm that won’t go away.

    City in my head, Mollytopia
    Heaven in my body, Mollytopia
    It’s time for me, for me to go


  10. Did you let the water sit for 24 hours before you put the fish in it? (To let any chlorine evaporate out- if you’re on city water). Did you put water conditioner in the water? Did you get a book about the ABC’s of Betta care? Did you realize that probably half of the fish that those pet Supermarts sell are sick when you get them? (At least that’s the rumor I’ve heard). Get a guinea pig. The are cute and furry, and love to snuggle under your chin. They love and will definitely eat all the Timothy hay you can give them. And they make cute squeeking sounds. We love ours- rescued it from a local shelter.

    • Omg I’m such a loser. No, I did none of those things. And I didn’t know that important tidbit either…I’ve heard great things about guinea pigs also – Anna’s class has two : ) We have Hugh (awesomest rabbit in history), and two cats, so we’re good on furry creatures, but thanks for the tip!

  11. I was just talking to a coworker about beta fish and how they always look like they’re dying and that I can’t handle that. What kind of fish just floats lifelessly or sinks to the bottom of a tank? That being said– she mentioned these things called “mirror balls” where there’s like a bobbing ball thing that floats at the surface and hangs a mirror down. According to her the beta fish will perk up and get militant and dart around the reflection and you’ll see its fins and gills stick out like that evil little spitting dinosaur in Jurassic Park. This all seems impossible to me but she swore by it, so……. good luck.

    • Well, our boy Hector died last week while I was on vacation, even though he had a live-in fish nanny the whole time I was gone. No more pets that live in water. Ever. They’re too heartbreaking! But I’ll pass that mirror ball thingy tip on to anyone else who wants my expertise on Betta murder. Sigh.

      • Ha! I was at a fish store just the other day, trying to pretend like I was on the beach, and my boyfriend was like “No. Just no.” It’s so true, it would be like a horrible Vietnam war movie, I’d kill them all.

      • Trust. I spent $400 on a $4 fish over the course of five months. Never. Again.


  1. […] somehow I ended up being the obsessive jackass who spent $400 trying to keep a $4 Betta fish alive and collapsed in on myself when our hamsters […]

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