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Hints from Heloise: Proper fish care better for your betta

Dear Heloise:My first pet was a Siamese fighting fish (also known as a betta). I got a turquoise one and named it "Blue." I took good care of him, always washing and changing the rocks and feeding him. I just wanted to tell you that anyone who gets a betta might think it can just live in a small bowl without oxygen or a bubble machine. If you want your BETTA TO LIVE LONGER, you should treat it like a regular fish in an aquarium.

— Amy M., via e-mail

Amy, how right you are! Taking care of Siamese fighting fish does require some effort. The fish need:

— Special betta food (not just plant roots, or the fish will slowly starve to death).

— Fresh water every few days or a "bubbler" in the tank. (It is true that bettas will swim to the surface to gulp air, but a bubbler puts much more oxygen in the water.)

— Gravel or colored rocks to hide in. Make sure to clean the rocks in running tap water before you put them in the tank. (Don't use soap.)

— Dechlorination drops (or tablets) for the tank water, which take out the chlorine.

— A light is not necessary, but if you get one, use it only a few hours per day so algae don't grow like crazy.

Betta fish don't need a large habitat, but they do like to swim around and hide in their plants and rocks — something the size of a large goldfish bowl is best. Remember, don't ever put two betta males together, since they will fight to the death!

— Heloise

Dear Readers:Irene Balogh of Willimantic, Conn., sent a photo of her sheltie, Gypsy Rose Lee, and her granddaughter, Kate, enjoying a tea party. Irene says: "Whenever my granddaughter comes over for the day, she takes the tea set that she played with as a little girl and has a tea party with Gypsy Rose Lee.

"Gypsy drinks water from a teacup and eats dog nuggets from the plates. It's quite a picture."

To see this great picture, visit www.Heloise.com.

— Heloise

Dear Heloise:We have a hamster that is a master of escape! So, we use metal twist-ties to keep the opening of his cage shut. We used to use a clothespin, but he chewed it and was able to get out! Then everyone was on the search to find him.

— Aaron Ridge, Schertz, Texas

Hamsters, gerbils and other rodents need only a quarter-size hole to escape! They like to chew, so if you have plastic tunnels for them to exercise in, keep in mind that they can chew them and escape.

— Heloise

Dear Heloise: When it's hot, we exercise our dog either in the morning or in the evening. It is easier on both of us.

— Irene A., Naples, Fla.

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