Betta Fish by Charlie O'Shields

I wanted to try doodlewashing a fish for the first time, so I chose the only fish I ever owned which was a Betta Fish. They’re also called Siamese fighting fish because if you put two males in a tank together they will most likely attack each other and battle to the death. The behavior may seem strange, but then again, so does cage fighting so we humans really shouldn’t judge.

I combined several references to create this particular fish as I was trying to emulate the one I had years ago. After layers of Yellow, Gold, Green and Blue, I wasn’t quite able to get the likeness I remembered. I think it’s fairly close, though, as my fish had always looked a bit to me like a tiny trout wearing a ball gown.

It was just after I finished college, when I decided to get a fish. I had a couple different jobs and was pulling in enough money to get a better apartment. I saw an advertisement for a fish bowl you could hang on the wall next to your bed. There was a gorgeous Betta swimming around happily in the beauty shot, and it seemed like a fitting pet for someone who was still learning how to take care of himself.

This was, of course, in the pre-Google days when you were forced to believe what advertisers told you or wait until it was no longer relevant to discover via word-of-mouth that something was wrong. It turns out these fish don’t love to live in small tanks as wall art, regardless of how they appeared when posing for a photograph. But without the ability to cross check, I went to buy my new fish and wall bowl.

When we got home, I hadn’t really thought of what to call the fish. They aren’t like dogs and don’t come when summoned so it seemed much like naming a plant. You can, but it’s not going to change your relationship. In the end I just decided to call it Betta, which was as regrettably stupid as naming a dog, “Dog.”

I got a book on how to take care for these fish and was determined to take care of it properly. The first few weeks were glorious as we formed our new friendship. Betta would swim towards me each night as I said goodnight and mouth something in return. In my head, I would imagine him saying, “Good night, my friend, sleep well!” but in reality he was probably just desperately trying to communicate: “This stupid bowl is too small, you asshole!”

I was living alone, completely unsure of my future and often feeling isolated and depressed. Each day when I would come home to an empty apartment, I’d stumble back to my bedroom and collapse on the bed for a moment. Looking up, I’d see Betta yelling at me from behind his Plexiglas prison. Likely getting it wrong yet again, I would assume he was telling me to cheer up. We were in this together.

When you feel sad and lonely, it’s strange how little it takes to change your mood if you just let it. I had some dark days during that time where I doubted myself and whether or not I could make my life better. But I pushed through it, determined to succeed, never expecting to receive just the support I needed from an angry little fish on the wall.

Posted by:Charlie O'Shields (doodlewash)

Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world!

35 replies on “Betta Fish

  1. Beautiful doodlewash, Charlie! You really captured the iridescence! I had my son’s 3rd birthday party at a pet’s store and all the children went home with a Betta fish. We started with a small bowl and slowly over time we started buying more accessories and the tank got bigger. By the time it died, we had a good sized tank so we started to stock it with other small fish but none were quite as hearty as those Bettas.. Too bad they can’t play nice with others!

    I’m so glad you have Philippe and Phineas to keep you from talking to a fish.. ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Ha! Now that would have been a party! My son, at 5, got to act as a car salesman and explained the features of all the cars to his friends. Lol. The guys at the dealership were impressed, but his friends, not so much.. But he still says that was the best birthday party.. 😜

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Charlie O – I love our fish, and I love the thought that he comforted you during those times you needed. It’s cute how you now view it now, but I still contend he was comforting you – and not calling you an asshole! 🙂 Then again – I live in my own little dream world happy place! haha!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My daughter had several Betta fish, and we enjoyed them, but I did feel bad that they had to stay in the tank alone…we did have two in side-by-side tanks for awhile. Not sure the fish noticed.
    You caught the color variation well. (K)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You painted your fish swimmingly well, Charlie! ❤️🎨🐠 Glad you had a friend to help you through your dark days. It can be reassuring to have a pet. I prefer the 4-legged variety but I have heard of people who have had their pet fish for a long time. Pets with fins or legs can provide that unconditional love that we all need in my opinion. 😊💜

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Seeing this wonderfully colourful fish makes me wonder why I persisted with goldfish all those years!

    Lovely all round, Charlie, as usual! Small and silent they often are, but the creatures we let into our homes are charming and always special. Betta made things better… how appropriate…! I’m sure with those blues and greens I’d have been fighting for his friendship! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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