Did you know affordable, submersible heaters were not available to the amateur hobbyist until the 1970s? About that time they invented tiny undergravel filters for bowls, too. Very exciting!
I can’t quite remember if I bought my first Betta, Raymond I, in 1967 or 1968. Either way, he was a VT who came from Woolworth’s and lived for four years+ in a two-gallon bowl. At that time there were no heaters or filters for anything less than a 10 and certainly not for bowls. He was healthy and active; never had SBD, fin rot, bloat, fin biting, etc.; none of those thing which seem to plague so many of today’s Betta. He received twice weekly 50% water changes and was fed flake food as Betta pellets didn’t come to be until much later.
I was lazy so I had two two-gallon bowls. I would fill the empty bowl, with its separate décor and substrate, and wait 24 hours for the water to "age" before netting Raymond and plopping him in the clean water. When I bought Raymond II, another VT, I had three two-gallon bowls and swapped the boys out a day or two apart.
I finished college in three years and after I graduated in 1970, I went to work in a pet store that specialized in aquaria because I wanted to learn more about fish. I had wild dreams of someday owning my own specialized aquatics store; instead I became a newspaper political editor and, later, a canine behaviorist and trainer.
In 1970 there was no FedEx or UPS for overnight delivery so we had to order fish from St. Louis and drive to the Louisville airport to pick them up.
We kept our Betta in one-gallon bowls with water changes every other day. For whatever reason we pushed two-gallon bowls as what Betta needed and spurned the prevailing one-gallon “wisdom.” You must remember that not only was the general belief that Betta didn’t need anything larger than a one-gallon but small tanks, much like today, were actually more expensive than 10 gallons. As a matter of fact, I don’t recall that we even stocked tanks less than 10 gallon and even with my employee discount I had to save out of two checks to afford a 10-gallon set-up. Anyway, as the prevailing view was Betta would attack and kill any tank mate a new hobbyist wasn’t going to buy a 10-gallon for just one fish. The belief that all Betta will attack and kill any tank mate has been repeatedly disproved but people still perpetuate it.
Don’t get me wrong: Not all Betta can have tank mates and one should always be vigilant because they are unpredictable fish. But a majority live quite peacefully with others, especially African Dwarf Frogs, if the habitat is maintained with the needs of the residents in mind…which translates into a natural habitat with an abundance of live plants. I’ve had Betta-based community tanks since around 1975 and have only had one Betta that became aggressive toward his tank mates and that was after he’d been with them for two years…thus, why you must be vigilant. There were two others, if memory serves, which immediately let it be known they preferred a solitary life.
Back to my journey in aquaria: I remember how excited I was the day the store received undergravel filters for bowls! I bought one each for Raymond I and Raymond II. Those bowls were so cute with their little tube of bubbles in the middle. The Raymonds would swim round those tubes and flare; a new form of amusement!
Raymond I died when he was, I guess, four or five; I’d had him for four years and I don’t know how old he was when I bought him at Woolworth’s Department Store. I had Raymond II for nearly five years and Raymond III and Raymond IV, both in community tanks, for about the same amount of time.
I often wonder if, as with some breeds of dogs, today’s extremes in Betta have made them less healthy and shorter lived than those early VT? I know my Betta today receive the same treatment as the Raymonds and seldom has one lived more than three years; most have reached two. Or maybe it’s all the stuff they put in our water? Who knows?
Last edited by RussellTheShihTzu; 12-22-2015 at 03:48 PM.