My betta fish died a couple of days ago and it's hard to forgive myself.

I don't know for certain how old he was, but I think he was almost 2 years old. He was my old roommate's fish, I found in a tiny glass bowl with brown water and nothing else when I got to my dorm for my first semester of college. I got him a big tank, water conditioner, aquarium salt, a heater, a filter, plants, more food and treat options, objects to explore, made sure to change half of his water every week, everything I could think of. He loved it. He made a bubble nest once or twice, and I felt so proud of him. My roommate gave him to me after school ended since I was taking good care of him, and he seemed really happy living at home.

I'm fairly sure he had velvet, but I didn't think about the possibility at all because his scales seemed normal, even when I used a bright flashlight. He probably had it for months. He got a bit slower and started eating less ever since winter. I thought it might've been because it was colder and darker (living in Alaska so the seasons are fairly drastic) so I didn't think much of it. Eventually he would just sit in a corner near the intake filter all day. He didn't check out his plants anymore, he didn't go into his floating log anymore. I thought that he was stressed or bored so I tried getting him more decorations; I didn't once think about the fact that he might have been physically sick. It was obvious to me that something was wrong, but I never understood why until yesterday when I went looking for answers.

I feel so stupid and irresponsible. Velvet is one of the easiest things to treat. He was probably suffering for months and I did nothing about it. I just watched him not eat anymore, not swim around anymore. He probably died a slow, painful, stressful death, and I did nothing.

My mom says that I tried my best, I did everything I could, that I couldn't have known he was sick, that I gave him way more than most people would. I get where she's coming from, but I feel like that doesn't matter. He deserved the best life a fish could have and I didn't give it to him. I didn't even notice he died until a day after it happened.

I'm not sure how to feel about this at all. I'm trying not to guilt-trip myself over this, but this feels so important to me. I was responsible for his health and safety and happiness and I neglected that responsibility. A living being died because of my inaction. It's hard for me to deal with. I learned an important lesson, but I never, ever wanted it to come at the cost of his life.

I buried his body yesterday morning. I just hope that he's living it up in fish heaven, or that he's moved on to live another, better life. He deserved so much more than what I gave him.
 

JCM

Please don't beat yourself up over this! It sounds to me like you gave him the best life you could. When fish get ill it is sometimes very easy to miss the signs and i don't mind admitting that i have done this before. Its all a learning curve and in my opinion this will only make you a better more informed fishkeeper for the future. Give yourself a bit of time then maybe try again you obviously love keeping fish it would be a shame to give it all up. Anyone who cares as much for their fish as you do can only be a good thing for the hobby.
 
Thank you, you’re right. I know that at least now I can do more about this kind of thing if it happens again, and that I’ve learned something really really important. I’m trying not to feel overwhelmed with guilt; it’s really difficult to do right now, but I’m trying. I feel like I’ll probably want to try taking care of another betta at some point, since I have a lot of betta specific supplies, but for now I think I’ll just wait until I feel comfortable with it again. Thank you so much, though, your reply really helps.
 
Hi Alpha Betta,

It's okay to be upset about the loss of your betta. Betta fish have amazing personalities and are great friends, and I'm so sorry you lost your little buddy.All fish are difficult for new owners to take care of, and sometimes illnesses or death happens and there is nothing that can be done for them in time. A fish is not like a cat or a dog, who have lots of veterinarians, research into their health and biology, and can be treated at any hour of the day by a professional. We do our very best to give our fish a happy life and take care of them the best we are able to. It's very important to not blame yourself for something you had no idea was going on.

It made me cry reading this to see how much you love your betta fish. I made an account on this forum specifically to respond to you. We also lost our betta fish to ick, or "velvet". We were able to treat him for in time and were waiting to complete his treatment before he was transfered to his new, large tank. Then, he jumped out of his little tank because the water level was a little too high and left uncovered on top. Finding him there on the floor was the absolute hardest thing in the world. Knowing it was your fault because you didn't know what could happen or what the signs of danger were.

Sometimes something totally unexpected comes out of nowhere and all you can do is try to figure out what happened after. I think the most important thing is to always act fast when you notice something weird, and Google is a great tool. Please don't let this stop you from your love of fish. More people need to understand the love and compassion for fish because they are often disregarded as unfeeling and emotionless creatures. I am so excited to meet people who are capable of loving fish like we do, and I hope you will own more betta fish in the future because they need so much love.

I truly hope you don't blame yourself, because your betta fish loved you very much and was grateful you loved him too. <3 He lived a great life with you and he didn't have to die in a tiny plastic cup at a pet store or be mistreated by someone who didn't love him.
 

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Wow! I think you should give yourself a lot more credit!! You totally gave that fish an absolutely awesome life. It went from a neglected life in a bowl, to a spoiled one in a nice big tank. There is no doubt from reading everything you wrote that you put lots of research/love/care into taking care of your fish. It’s very tricky when fish get sick. They can’t talk about their symptoms or communicate on how there feeling so it’s up to us to diligently look for signs and symptoms as best we can. But at the end of the day we have to accept that we’re not veterinarians and can only do the best we can from the very little information we can observe and research online. It’s ALWAYS tricky dealing with a sick or potentially sick fish. Many symptoms are shared among many different diseases which can make it tricky to diagnose. An improper diagnosis could do a lot more harm than good, giving incorrect medicines could kill a fish making it a risky debate of whether to act quickly and treat or to wait. All I’m trying to say is there is no way to really know for sure What the right thing to do would have been. Many velvet treatments use antibiotics and copper which can be very hard on fish and aquariums especially if an incorrect diagnosis was made, It could’ve been doing more harm than good. There are so many things to consider when looking at causes/treatments for changes in our fishes behaviour so please do not be too hard on yourself for this. You did more for that fish than many do for their own! And not only that if you never came into that fishes life he may have very well likely spent it in that dirty bowl you found him in. Take time to accept the loss but I hope this doesn’t discourage you from more aquatic pets in the future. The care and effort you put into giving your fish everything it needs shows that you are an amazing caretaker. Experience comes with time. I speak on behalf of your fish when I say you did an absolutely amazing job!!!!! Keep it up!
 
Chrissiefishe:

This reply means a lot to me, so thank you so much for responding. I can’t imagine the grief you must have felt in that moment; I hope you know that you gave him the best life he could ever have too. My betta was never much of a jumper (although I always stressed out about the possibility every time I changed his water), so your anecdote also helped me out in reminding me how to go about the process of treating sickness if I get another betta. I feel a little bad for neglecting the tank I had him in since he died, I really need to disinfect it to make sure the possibility of ick/velvet is reduced for the next time it gets used.

Your last paragraph helped me out with my grief the most, I think. I know I gave him a much better life than he would’ve had otherwise, and that’s something I’m trying really hard not to downplay in my mind. Even though his life wasn’t perfect, I can only hope that he enjoyed it and didn’t suffer too much before he passed. I gave him the best life I could, even if it wasn’t the greatest, and now I can make my best even better. Thank you again, genuinely.



Ilovefish1119:

Your words gave me a lot of encouragement and I’m grateful as heck for that. I didn’t think about the possibility of a misdiagnosis or incorrect treatment, or how a lot of fish diseases can have similar symptoms and be hard to pinpoint an exact cause.

I’ll be honest, I was never really a fish person until the day I saw him and wanted to take better care of him. The most I knew was that 1 gallon bowls/tanks should be avoided at all costs. I did a LOT of research and spent a lot on supplies for the little guy (which I don’t mind at all, but it’s amazing to see how much it costs for a water creature to live and thrive outside of its habitat, at least compared to the cost of the fish itself, lol). I’m happy that I got to have him in my life and I can only hope that he felt happy being in mine. I’m not the best at taking care of fish right now, but I’m learning, and your reply makes me want to keep learning and doing the best I can. <3
 
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