As you know, my daughter, Campbell, lost her betta fish, Goldie, a couple of weeks ago, and then promptly asked when she could get another fish. In an attempt to cheer her up, I took her the very next day to choose a new companion.
She looked and looked at all the options and considered which ones were looking at her longingly and which ones looked half-dead already. She declared that she'd like a baby betta. A red flag went up in my mind. Though we've successfully cared for adult bettas, we'd never tackled a baby, and I wondered what additional care might be involved. I told her that we'd need to speak to someone about it before she made a final decision, so the lady at the register sent someone over.
"How may I help you?" he asked.
"Well, my daughter has her heart set on a baby betta. Before we choose one, I want to make sure we can care for it properly. We've done well with adult bettas...is a baby much different?"
"Oh, no. Aside from feeding them one pellet per day rather than 2-3, the care is just the same," he answered.
"So we just feed it less, and we're good to go?" I confirmed.
"Yes, exactly. Let's set out all of the babies so she can choose the one she wants."
Sounded simple enough to me, so we proceeded with the selection process. And–bonus–the babies were a mere $1.99. I could find that in my couch. Campbell selected a silvery-white baby and declared him a boy and named him "Crystal." She also selected a new pink plant and disco-style multicolored gravel for his dwelling.
We went on our way, and Campbell made sure to keep Crystal very still in the car. She took her mommy skills seriously.
When we got home, we gave Crystal a chance to get used to his shelf, then transitioned him into his new little tank with all the trimmings. He swam around and seemed very happy. Campbell asked me how to spell "I love Crystal," and proceeded to decorate his shelf with paper cutouts of the phrase, along with some other cute ornaments. It was love at first sight, and my girl seemed really happy about the new addition.
Before going to bed, she tucked Crystal in and told him goodnight.
The next morning, Big and I were up at 4:00 a.m. for some such thing. "Oh, you got home late from work last night...you didn't see Crystal, yet." I was excited.
"I'm calling him Billy Crystal, by the way," Big announced as we walked over to the baby fish. "Oh, BLEEP," he said. "Please tell me he's sleeping."
I made my way over to Crystal and gave the tank a little tap. And then I broke into tears. This could not happen again. "What do I tell her?" I cried. He didn't know. Crystal was on his side at the bottom of the tank.
I relocated the tank so Campbell wouldn't go right to it when she woke up and I'd have the chance to break the news to her gently. Then I hopped on the computer and Googled "baby betta care." What I found was not at all what the man at the pet store said.
Betta Care Central said:
Unfortunately stores such as PetCo often times sell "baby betas" properly called betta fry. The reason I say this is unfortunate is that these fry are too young to be sold, most people do not know how to take care of them properly, and baby bettas have a weak immune system making them more prone to illness and disease. Baby betas have special requirements."
Betta Adventures said:
Like every other animal, babies are more high maintenance to take care of and require extra attention...
And so on. You get the point.
Though I should have done my own research before taking on the baby, I felt confident that the people helping us in the store would give us correct information. The gentleman who helped us seemed confident and gave no indication that I should seek other assistance. I felt angry. But I could deal with that later.
There was a more pressing matter at hand: how to break the news to Campbell.