Tim was a couple years into retirement when he discovered Betta fish. Tim wasn't old, he just made a lot of money in the tech industry and retired at the age of 35. He still went out with friends, dated a few lovelies and socialized with former co-workers, but he found a lot of free time, especially in the morning. It was getting boring.
Yes, he retired from Silicon Valley to the neighborhood with Marley, the vegan dog, Jeri, the stoned cat, duck, Boston, the Yankee Doodle, Larry, the white cockatoo, the bunnies and the chipmunks, but those were all outdoor animals/pets. He wanted something he could enjoy indoors, especially on all those rainy days in the Pacific Northwest.
Wandering through the pet store, he saw dozens of small plastic containers with betta fish in them. The poor fish had barely enough room to turn around and Tim felt a need to liberate at least a couple of them from captivity.
"How many fish can I put in one tank?", he said to the teenager in the fish department.
"Well, only one male fish or a couple female fish, but you can't mix them. Males will fight other males or females, sometimes to the death."
"All right. I'll take a dozen male fish with small tanks."
"A dozen?" The teenager thought he must be kidding.
Tim flashed his black credit card.
"All right, these one-gallon tanks have a filter, light and heater. They should be perfect. I'll have them brought to the register. You can choose your fish."
Tim looked over the collection, betta fish ranging from $2.99 to $30 each. He chose only male fish, with their vibrant colors and beautiful fins.
The teenager gave him a container of pellets, enough to feed all the fish for months. "You only give each fish a few pellets a day."
"What about gravel and plants?"
Betta fish love gravel, plants and some structures to hide into, so Tim bought an assortment of colored gravels, plants, structures, even a mirror so the fish could see themselves, you know like they put in canary cages.
"What about water maintenance?"
"I'll tell you a secret. We have many chemicals to adjust the water chemistry for fish, but you only need to use spring water instead of tap water. The tank will stay crystal clear and you only need to do partial water changes every month or two."
"Great, any particular water?"
"Evian is best. PH of 7.2, perfectly balanced."
"Is that why I see some people have such clear tanks and some look like the black lagoon?"
"Yup, it's our little secret, so people keep buying chemicals."
"Well, I appreciate the tip and I'll keep your secret." Tim handed the teenager a crisp, one-hundred-dollar bill. "Here, take your girl out on me."
Being an engineer, Tim was able to set up book cases for the twelve tanks, and power strips for all the electrical cords. Once everything was set up, he posted a picture of all the tanks with their LED lights on, the rainbow of colored gravels and little structures for the fish to play in. Reactions to the post were immediate and frequent.
Other betta fish owners sent congratulations, along with respect on how he had freed so many betta fish from their little containers at the pet store. He was nominated for an award from the betta fish association of America (BFAA).
Local school teachers asked Tim if they could bring their students in to see the tanks. "Now, look, children, but don't touch. You could scare the fish," said a teacher to his students. The students marveled at the display. You could almost hear them asking their parents for a fish when they got home.
"Can you touch the fish mister?" said one cute 8-year-old boy.
"Well, no, son, you might upset the water chemistry and besides, they might bite you."
The kids laughed. "Little fish can't bite, they have no teeth."
"I'm afraid so. That's why there's only one fish in each tank. Otherwise, they bite each other."
"All right, children, time to go." The teacher thanked Tim.
"You're quite welcome. Would you like one of the fishes for your classroom?"
The kids overheard his offer and began clapping and cheering.
"That's very generous sir. Which one do you think?"
Let's let the kids decide. After a few minutes of commotion, the children decided on the Double Tail fish with red and blue fins. Tim took out the tank and handed it to the teacher.
Later that day, Tim read a post from a woman who saw his fish display. She asked if she could come see them. Tim agreed and the woman came over to his home around dinner time with a bottle of wine.
Tim was surprised when he opened the door. Here was this stunning twenty something blonde with athletic built and an angelic face.
"Hi, I'm Kelly, you must be Tim."
"Yes, please come in."
"I brought dinner and wine, if you don't mind, a thank you for letting me see your fish."
"That's so generous. Here, let's put these on the table and see the fish before we eat."
Kelly marveled at the fish display, beautifully set up in Tim's bedroom on cherry wood bookcases, four shelves of three tanks each.
"They're amazing! I love this. But I thought you had twelve tanks."
"I did, but I gave one to a classroom that came to visit today."
Kelly sighed to herself, obviously taken with the kindness of his gesture. "Can we open that wine now?"
"Sure." Tim and Kelly ate dinner and finished the bottle of wine, talking with soft chamber music playing in the background. After a couple of hours, Kelly stood up, took Tim's hand and led him to the bedroom. She stayed the night. Tim wasn't bored anymore.