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One male betta is plenty; adding a female adds babies

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QUESTION: I have a red betta fish named George who has been living in a little 2-gallon tank on my desk at work for the last month. I have some live plants in the tank, and he has built a bubble nest (built of air bubbles coated with saliva to make them durable) around the stems that poke up out of the water.

He really seems to be fixated on this nest and is always adding more bubbles to it. Should I get him a female betta as a mate so that he can make use of the nest?

I know that the males fight, but I would imagine that they do not fight with the females as that would be an evolutionary dead end.

ANSWER: You would think that getting your fish a mate would be a good thing, but it would actually complicate the situation.

First, males do fight with females. A male betta wants nothing to do with a female unless she is full of eggs and ready to breed. Then he acts quite romantic and will entice the female to the bubble nest and embrace her in order to stimulate her to lay the eggs that he fertilizes as she produces them.

He then grabs each little egg in his mouth and places them in the bubble nest with great care and deliberation. The whole process is quite fascinating to watch.

When the eggs are all laid and placed in the nest, his romantic thoughts toward his mate are all over, and he chases her off. He will kill her unless you take her out of the tank and put her in one of her own.

So now you will have two tanks on your desk with a fish in each one. Then, after the eggs hatch, you will have a lot more drama on your hands as the babies are very small and need a specially prepared food. You cannot feed them the betta pellets that you are feeding the father.

It is fun to watch the father care for the babies, though. If a baby falls out of the nest, the father will carefully grab it in his mouth and ever so gently place it back in the nest. I find it amazing to see such parental behavior in a fish.

However, in a few days the babies are old enough to swim on their own, and then the happy little family is finished as now Dad wants nothing to do with them and does his best to drive them out of his territory.

So then you‘ll have to set up another tank for the babies, and as the males grow, you have to separate them from each other or they will fight together, and before you know it your desk will be covered with tanks and bowls and all you will be doing all day long is caring for fish.

My advice is that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Q: My 10-year-old female Dachshund has always had terrible teeth and nothing we did — brushing, scaling at the vet’s, special oral sprays — has seemed to fix the situation. Now it seems that she is in a lot of distress and is pawing at her mouth and drooling. Our vet says that she needs to have every tooth extracted, and this horrifies us.

Can you advise us on any alternate solutions?

A. I am not a vet, I never went to college and I am lucky that I qualify for a library card. However, I have had a lot of dogs with chronic dental problems pass through my hands in the past half-century, and a few of them needed to have total extractions of every tooth.

I was always amazed at how happy the dogs were after the surgery. I would have thought that they would have been in extreme distress after such a procedure, but it seems not. Obviously, dogs without teeth cannot eat dry kibble, but they do just fine on canned food.

The only problem, in some pet owners’ minds, is that a dog with no teeth will often allow its tongue to hang out of its mouth. Some people think this looks cute, and some do not, but it is still an improvement over the drooling and smell that accompanies a dog with a mouth full of rotting teeth.

So if your vet prescribed this procedure for your dog, then it is in the best interest of your pet and you both. The dog will have a better quality of life as a result.

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