Tao of the Machine

Programming, Python, my projects, card games, books, music, Zoids, bettas, manga, cool stuff, and whatever comes to mind.

Bad business practice

About a week ago, I was at the local PetCo to get cat treats and such. I usually check out the betta fish in pet stores, and this time was no exception. However, much to my dismay, most of the bettas they had seemed sick, afflicted by fungus and ick.

That happens, fish get sick, but I would have expected people to recognize and treat the disease. Fungus and ick are not fatal, all they take is a little medicine in the water, if diagnosed in time. And it's kind of hard *not* to notice, since the fish gets white spots (ick) or fuzz (fungus). In this case, they didn't notice the diseases, nor treated them; as a result, many fish showed the symptons, and one fish had his whole body covered with fuzz.

Gullible as I am, I bought one fish that looked healthy, to "rescue" it. To little avail, it appears now... a few days later, the fish developed fungus as well, and died not long after.

In comparison, the two bettas I got from Petsmart recently are doing well; they're active and making bubblenests.

I'm not sure I will shop at this Petco again... at least not for fish. If you sell live animals, you should at least know how to take care of them. No matter if they're only $3 or so... they're still living creatures. If you're not willing to take care of them, then don't sell them. emoticon:frown

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2004-03-14 20:44:36   {link} (see old comments)
Categories: bettas

Betta diseases

It seems that when you have a lot of bettas for a year or two, you are treated to a grand tour of fish diseases and ailments.

Our latest encounter is a disease called pop-eye. Like the name suggests, the fish's eye swells up to monstrous proportions. It's really hard not to notice. Fortunately, it can be cured (or so I'm told... I have yet to find out).

Other diseases that I've encountered are:

  • ich: little fuzzy things appear on the fish, like somebody brushed it with cotton wool. Curable.

  • fin rot: like the name says, fins rot away, sometimes exposing the bones. Looks yucky, but it's curable, and the fins will usually grow back (although they might not regain their original size and color).

  • dropsy: fish swells up, its scales stand out, making it look like a pinecone. NOT curable.

Bettatalk has a more complete overview of betta diseases.

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2004-01-13 20:31:02   {link} (see old comments)
Categories: bettas


Since gouramis are labyrinth fish as well (like bettas), I wonder if that means that you can keep them in a bowl as well? Without a filter and all that good stuff? This site seems to think so. (Although the guy says you don't have to change the water at all; I wouldn't go that far.) AquariumFish recommends an aquarium, though.

Posted by Hans "if there's room for 20 fish, there's room for 21" Nowak on 2003-10-25 23:07:03   {link}
Categories: bettas

Betta roundup

They had the most gorgeous orange betta at Wal-Mart today... it's the first time I actually see an orange in real life; I've seen them on the Net, but the stores around here haven't been carrying them. (This was a real orange, not perfect, but not faded-out like they have them on some sites either.) Lately they only seem to have the "common" colors anyway... red and blue, and mixtures. I see the occasional emerald green, but no whites and yellows, and certainly no blacks and oranges.

I didn't get the fish though, because it was one of those "vase" bettas... you know, a vase with a plant, and then a fish in it. 30 bucks is a bit steep if you only want the fish. The "manual" claimed that the betta would eat the algae that form in the vase... I've never heard of this, bettas are carnivores and not algae eaters. To their credit, the little paper also said that you have to feed them pellets. (Some bettas-in-a-vase are sold under the (obviously incorrect) assumption that you don't have to feed them at all!) Still, it would probably be best to move the plant elsewhere and use the vase as a fishtank.

Aquabid has oranges and yellows and much more, but I currently cannot afford $30+ for a fish. Not many people would want to spend that amount of money anyway, I suspect.

By the way, here's an informative betta forum on Delphi.

Some weird stuff seen when skimming over their topics:

  • crunching -- yes, many of my "baby" females do this as well. It's really strange, it sounds a bit like pieces of glass... it's also possible that it's the sound of the pellet against the glass of the jar.

  • halloween bettas -- orange and black. Hard to come by, unless you know a breeder.

  • sleeping bettas -- not all of them show obvious sleeping behavior, but I've seen fish that seemed "dead" until they decided it was time to take some more air.

  • fish prices -- yes, they can be quite high if you order from breeders. It's usually only worth it if you're a serious breeder yourself, and want bettas that are genetically "perfect", and/or if you want any fancy color combinations. (I've never seen a mustard gas or a salamander at Petsmart, for example.) If you don't care much, the $3 fish from the local petstore will probably do just fine.

  • film on the water -- some fish seem to have this, or maybe some bowls. I wonder if it's dust. They all get the same food, so that can't be it.

(Well, it was time for a post about something else than Python... :-)

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-09-30 23:18:26   {link}
Categories: bettas


Last September or so we spawned two bettas. Now, about a year later, the "babies" still aren't full-grown. Probably because this was only our second spawn and we didn't know what the hell we were doing.

Getting bettas to spawn successfully isn't easy, but rearing the fry is even less easy. It takes a reasonable bit of energy and money as well. Fry don't eat chunks or freeze-dried shrimp or pellets (which are usually bigger than them!), so people feed them all kinds of specialty food... microworms, bloodworms, etc. We used live baby brine shrimp, they're even smaller than 3-day old fry, and therefore very hard to see. All kinds of problems can occur at this stage: some fry eat too much, other fry don't get their fair share, the water gets dirty real quick, etc.

In my case, the fry probably remained small due to malnutrition. At least, that's my theory. I have females larger than the males from this spawn, that's why I sometimes call them "microbettas". Still, they seem healthy, and as said before they're a year old now (about as old as the fish sold in stores).

As expected, the colors vary (after all, the mother was blue and the father had all kinds of colors). It's interesting that the biggest male is red (none of the parents had a lot of red). All the others are blue, in various shades, and some have red as well.

Wayne's This and That has a lot of information on bettas. He also did a bunch of spawns. (Orange bettas! emoticon:kwijl)

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-09-08 12:21:50   {link}
Categories: bettas

Sunday roundup

OK, the titles are not getting any more original...

1. I am currently tinkering with an experimental program. May or may not work; development is not going very fast. More later... maybe.

(Update, 2003.07.07: The successfull installation of spambayes makes this project obsolete.)

2. Some ultra-short manga reviews.

  • Outlanders: Aliens threaten the earth. A boy happens to be the love interest of the alien princess, and from this position attempts to save the earth. <spoiler, highlight to see> It doesn't work, and almost everybody dies at the end. An interesting manga with a disappointing end. </spoiler> Rating: 6/10

  • Hotman: Strange title. A relatively subtle manga that tells the story of a family, dealing with everyday problems, emotions, love and death. Rating: 7/10

  • Venus Wars: Not recommended. Boring stuff with bikers and soldiers on Venus. (May sound more exciting than it is.) Rating: n/a

  • Eatman: A bit RPG-ish; explorer/adventurer Bolt Crank has a peculiar ability: When he eats something (usually made out of metal), he is able to reproduce it later. Lots of small stories (quests), some larger storylines as well. Rating: 7/10

  • Tuxedo Gin: Shortly before he can go on his first date, a boy has a fatal accident, but is offered the possibility to return in an animal's body. Turns out he returns as a penguin... Rating: 7/10, for now

3. If I wasn't sure before that bettas had their own personality, how about this. Today I fed my fish some so-called bloodworms. (These come freeze-dried in a container, I don't want to mess around with live worms.) Most bettas liked it, except for Shaggy, the green crowntail. He nibbled at his food, then swam away and sat on the bottom of the tank... I swear, it looked like he was pouting! emoticon:loveit I dropped some pellets in the tank (the regular food), and he snagged them up real quick.

4. Apparently MySQLdb doesn't support the ? parameter in strings. For example, this code works with Gadfly, but not with MySQLdb:

sql = "insert table (foo, bar) values (?, ?)"
cursor.execute(sql, ('blah', 42))

Instead, you have to use:

sql = "insert table (foo, bar) values (%s, %s)"

Or maybe ? is deprecated and I don't know about it?

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-07-06 18:06:05   {link}
Categories: manga, bettas, Python

Mo' bettas

OK, I don’t want to make this website too campy… but I would like to talk about some of my bettas.

As I stated before, bettas are not ordinary fish. They can do more than just pointlessly swim around and eat.

Let’s challenge the ordinary notions about fish. Do you think a fish could be “caring”? “Lazy” or “industrious”? “Enthusiastic”? Happy or sad then, maybe?

Bettas can act like all the above, and more. Of course, it’s possible that I am inappropriately projecting human emotions and traits on fish… then again, it’s possible that I am not.

For those who don’t know, here is how a betta spawn works: the male wraps around the female, squeezing the eggs out of her, and fertilizing them. He then picks up the eggs and places them in a bubblenest made for this purpose. After the spawn, the female is usually removed, since it is the male who take care of the eggs and the fry when they are born.

Mello Yello 1) was a yellow male, who spawned with Blooper, a (mostly) blue female. The encounter yielded hundreds of eggs, and the little fish worked like a horse to put the eggs in the bubblenest, and to keep them there. After a day or so, the first eggs started hatching. Fry can’t swim very well the first 2–3 days, and it is the task of the male to pick up falling fry and put them back in the nest (where they live off the remaining egg yolk). Since there were so many fry, Mello literally worked tirelessly, day and night, to keep the fry where they belonged.

After a day or three, the fry could swim horizontally (also called “free swimming”) and we removed Mello; it’s recommended to do so, and he needed a break anyway. Unfortunately, he got all depressed and droopy after that, just sat in his corner and didn’t want to eat. Eventually he died.

We only did one other spawn after that, with the same female, and Funky, a male who earned his name because of the funky colors he has (shades of blue, pink, some yellowish…). This spawn yielded not quite as many eggs, maybe 80 or so, and Funky’s behavior didn’t help. emoticon:smile Where Mello Yello worked without stopping, Funky often just sat there, looking the other way when fry were falling, and he didn’t appear so interested.

Vesta was a pink/red cambodian female (pink body, red fins and tail) and my favorite fish so far. She was the first betta I could appropriately describe as “enthusiastic”. And playful, too… sometimes she was seen chasing her own tail, like a puppy, around the stone in her tank. She did more peculiar things, like trying to make a bubblenest when she dropped (unfertilized, since no male was around) eggs. (Normally the male makes the bubblenest; it’s unusual for females.)

Sure, bettas are not comparable to dogs or cats. But next time you think of them as “just a fish”, maybe you need to readjust that notion. They are more complex, and more interesting, than you might think.

1) If you think my fish names are cheezy, check out some of the betta sites on the Net, and see what others name their fish.
Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-06-14 21:55:51   {link}
Categories: bettas


A reader astutely observed that I have the word “bettas” in my blog description, yet there are no posts about them. Let’s fix that.

What are bettas? They are also known as Siamese fighting fish. They seem to be quite common here in the US; many pet stores have them, including large ones like Petsmart. Those stores will usually put them in separate jars, because the fish do not get along well (hence the name). Males, when put together, will almost certainly fight (unless they both happen to be docile); females are a bit less aggressive, but (in my experience) cannot be put together either; and males and females will often fight as well.

So, you gotta keep ‘em separated. That is part of the fun, though, because a betta is much smarter than the average fish (or at least appears that way), and it becomes clear by watching him on his own. They have their own little personalities, which become truly visible when you have several and can see the differences in behavior. That’s why I like them, and I keep on getting them… even though now I have 27! (To be fair, this includes “adolescents” from a spawn last year.)

Some people breed bettas (semi-)professionally, and are able to come up with brilliant colors and color combinations. Here’s a site of such a breeder. Looks what she has in stock, and what strains she currently has! Or look on Aquabid. Usually you won’t find anything resembling this in regular pet stores, but you might be lucky. Some breeders sell the (what they consider) “imperfect” fish, and you just might end up with a blushing ghost (white w/ pink head) or something like that. :)

The prices in pet stores are usually around $3–4 per fish, where the females will be a little cheaper, if they sell them at all (our local Petsmart doesn’t). This is probably because they have less finnage and are considered to be less attractive as an impulse buy. <0.3 wink> Breeders will charge a lot more for their best fish, and if they are champions the prices can go up to over $1000 (!).

I sometimes call bettas “the hacker’s pet” because they are intelligent, beautiful (though not offensively cute), funny, and low maintenance. I think they’re interesting, but they don’t interfere with my hacking (like cats would :-). All you need is a fish, a tank and some food. Feed the beastie daily, clean the water regularly, and that’s it. No need to worry about filters; bettas are so-called labyrinth fish, and go to the surface to get air, rather than getting it from the water with their gills. Of course, if you live in a climate that is not so hot, than you might want a little heater for your tank… bettas are tropical fish. (I live in Florida, so the temperature is usually high enough.)

I will end this first entry in the bettas category with a link to a FAQ that might be useful.

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-05-08 23:36:36   {link}
Categories: bettas

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