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 Airborne betta!  

                                                                           author: Amanda Watkins
                                                                                                                 date: 05/01/02


We all know that bettas need to be able to reach the surface to breathe because they are labyrinth fish. Youíd be amazed to find out just how good this little 'lung' works.

Iíve been raising bettas for a little under two years now and Iíve learned a lot from hands one experience that I would have never found out in a book. It was one of those times about half a year ago when I discovered that being labyrinth fish really make bettas more special than I ever thought.

Apart from my bettas, I also have six cats, and as you probably know that isnít a very good combination. But donít worry! For the most part they are kept separated. My bettas are kept secure, locked in a cat free room. Or so I thought. . . .

When I left my house to go to school one day all was calm, but only a few hours later my poor mom was in over her head. One of my cats snuck into the betta room and ended up getting locked in. For her it probably seemed like a seafood all-you-can-eat-buffet, and she was going to do just that. The cat jumped up onto the shelf the bettas are kept on and knocked over one of my female bettas. My poor fish went flying, along with the water and jar. Hearing the racket my mom ran upstairs and chased the cat away. She searched long and hard for my betta but couldnít find her. Finally she gave up, assuming the cat ate it, but that wasnít the case.

More than five hours later she was back in the room trying to dry out everything that got wet. Low and behold what did she happen to stumble across? My fish! And it was still alive! She scooped it up and placed it back into the little water that was left in the jar. Can you believe it? I didnít either until I went upstairs and saw it for myself. I knew that having a labyrinth meant they could breathe air but I never imagined that it could sustain their life for over an hour without water.

Unfortunately, after three days of lethargically swimming around and not eating my betta died. I think it had more to do with stress than anything else, but Iím no vet. Not only did she get attacked by a cat, and left out of water for five hours, but she also had to undergo an almost complete water change after having all but half an inch of dirty, bottom of the jar, water left in after the spill.

Now not only are the bettas kept in the cat proof room, but they are placed up where it would be impossible for a cat to get them even if it did get into the room. Iím happy to say we havenít had anymore accidents and that all my bettas are happily swimming around.

A footnote from Faith:

Live and learn as they say :). If you have cats, beware!! I wanted to clarify a few misconceptions about the labyrinth. First off it is NOT a lung :). Also bettas can survive without breathing from above the surface. Experiments have been conducted to that effect and although bettas do go up for air on a regular basis and should be allowed to, they would not 'drawn' sorta speak if they were for example, stuck at the bottom of a tank inside a rock crevice or something. Last, I have had a few experiences with airborne bettas myself. In one extreme case, a female jumped and ended up on the bathroom floor unbeknownst to me and a few hours later when I came back to finish my jar cleaning, I almost stepped on her! Yikes. She had started to dry up. Cause they will, you know, end up drying like a crisp potato chip :((  (see photo below). Well I promptly put her back in her jar, and as always in a case like this you want to treat the betta for infections, so bettamax or any other broad spectrum antibiotic/anti fungal medication is a MUST!!! If bettas have spent only a limited amount of time outside of their water they usually bounce back beautifully. But in extreme cases such as these, they often end up dying. Primarily of secondary infections but also I suspect from internal damage due to loss of water from their tissue as well as I believe their organs. Having said that never discard a betta that went airborne, unless it dies of it's own. Sometimes they look TERRIBLE and still make it back 100%. Oh, and KEEP THE DARN CATS AWAY!! ;). Miow!!!

This is what bettas look like when they are dead and all dried up. Not pretty.