In all my taglines and summaries about what Beagles and Bargains is and is going to be, I described myself as a first time pet parent.  Well, that isn’t entirely true.  I am a first time dog parent, but I did have a Betta fish for the last three years of college. Some people might not consider a Betta fish to be a real pet, which is probably why I claimed to be a first timer.  But, they are.

My Betta fish’s name was Rho.  I tried to be ironic with the name (Rho Rho Rho your boat, fish Roe, Be(t)ta and Rho as in the Greek letters).  Regardless of whether I cleverly named him, I loved him and cared for him as best as I could.

How I came into having a fish is not a great story.  I bought him on campus from a student group as part of a fundraiser.  I had been mourning the fact that landlord wasn’t allowing me to adopt a cat and had been considering getting a fish.  Then there was an opportunity right in front of me, so I took it.


I brought Rho home in a jar and spent the next few hours searching the internet for Betta fish information.  While most retail sites recommended less than 1 gallon of water for my new friend, more community based fish sites like and suggested 5 gallons or more.  I realized that I should have done this research before deciding to get a pet.

During my research I realized that Betta fish are often not treated appropriately and because they are “just fish”, few people speak out for them.  I couldn’t believe that stores encourage putting Betta fish in vases with various flowers when Bettas actually breathe oxygen out of the air unlike most fish.  Why not just spring for a little bigger tank and lose the pretty flower?  Bettas are living things, not decorations.

I went to the store and bought Rho a 5 gallon tank.  My cart was also full with various other supplies needed to keep his water in pristine condition, clean his poop, and keep him fed.  Once in the tank, he seemed happy.  He followed my finger when I moved it in front of the glass.  He would even recognize me and swim over when I came home from class.  I finally had a friend to talk to when my human friends wouldn’t listen.  He loved it and I loved him.


I, however, did not love transporting a Betta fish.  Fish may not be as much work on a daily basis, but traveling with them is much harder than traveling with a dog.  Rho rode in a car at least 13 times between Northern Virginia and Ithaca.  Rho rode in a plastic container inside a cooler on the floor of my car.  Initially, I packed Rho’s entire tank, water and all.  Eventually, I bought a second tank for breaks.  I would always bring some of Rho’s water to make sure it wasn’t a huge adjustment, but breaking down and setting up the tank still took at least an hour.

Rho taught me how to care for another living being.  He taught me to value life.  He got me through various college stresses and was great emotional support.  He listened to me complain, cry, and laugh without telling me I was overreacting.  And, he put up with me putting him in that little plastic container at least 13 times.


Rho passed away in June 2012, just after college graduation and just before I moved out of my parents’ house and started my new job.  I buried him in my parents’ backyard in a small jewelry box.  I covered the area in black pepper so that my parents’ cats or my future beagle wouldn’t disturb his rest.  I don’t plan to get another fish at least for a while, but I’m sure glad I had Rho in my life.

This is for you little buddy.

Jessica Shipman
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