When a Betta fish is born, he and his brothers and sisters are split up from their mother so as to avoid being eaten. From the beginning, each Betta learns to fight for their lives. Once the babies are left alone they must fight for food, until they are eventually split up for good and sold in your neighborhood.
This was the path forced upon Gup, a male of brilliant red coloring, with fins like flames. He assumed he was being kept alone for his own safety, and he was determined that if another Betta fish should ever come near him, he would be ready. He would be the toughest fish alive.
So, Gup trained every day. First thing in the morning, he would swim a hundred laps around his tank. As he grew stronger, so did his ego.
“No fish will ever defeat me,” he said to his plastic tree friend. “I’m unstoppable.” Meanwhile, Gup’s owners noticed that Gup spent an awful lot of time blowing bubbles at inanimate objects.
“He could use a friend,” his owners decided. They went out and bought another male Betta named Steve. Steve was royal blue, with hints of gold.
They had been warned about how male Bettas fought each other, but they felt Gup’s need of friendship would overpower his nature. So, they dropped Steve in Gup’s tank.
This was the day Gup had been training for, and he entered fighter mode. He nipped at Steve, and pushed him into the walls. Steve fought back, but he was less-trained and his heart wasn’t in it.
“Why are you doing this?” Steve asked between head-butts.
“This is my tank,” said Gup, pummeling his opponent. “You are not going to take it from me.”
“Stop! Stop!” Steve said, “I’m not here to take your place. I’m here to be your friend.” Gup knocked Steve unconscious.
“I win,” said Gup. He turned to his plastic tree friend for support, only to accept for the first time that the tree wasn’t real. Gup looked back at Steve’s bruised body, and asked himself: What good was having a large tank, if you have no one to share it with? He hated living by himself, and his owners were nice enough to bring him a companion. The least he could do was give Steve a chance.
When Steve woke up an hour later, Gup was by his side.
“I’m sorry,” Gup said, “I’m still not exactly sure what a friend is, but it sounds better than being alone,” and from that day on, Gup used his training for athletic pursuits. He would challenge Steve to races around the tank, and Steve was improving. Gup was no longer angry all the time. He and Steve fought occasionally, but they always settled their differences. They had no other choice.
Now they just had to remember these lesson when girls were introduced to their tank. It would be tough, but not impossible.
Written by Alex Schattner (9/3/12)