After listening to me whine about wishing I'd gotten a bigger tank for Bart, for multiple reasons, including but not limited to the fact that the tank I had couldn't be filtered effectively without tossing the poor fish around in the current, DM decided to be indeed darling (alternately read: got fed up with it) and while we were at Petsmart on another errand told me "Pick one, it's yours."
So I got this one:
Minus the dinosaur decoration and the boy's room, of course, that's the product picture from Petsmart's website. Three more gallons than I had with an integrated filter system that is far more gentle (and surprisingly enough, effective) than the one I had for the old tank, so Bart doesn't have to swim his little fins off just to keep from being tossed all over.
The difficulty of keeping Bart's tank clean had caused me to try to introduce a rubber lip pleco in the old tank, which didn't last long, alas. I feel bad about it but all signs pointed to things being, if not settled, at least not murderous, when I abandoned my watch, only to come back and find the poor thing dead.
Did a little digging and found some tips on introducing new fish to a betta's tank, the best of which seems to have been to temporarily remove the betta and re-arrange the tank, remove or add decorations and move any that you leave in, to make it a new territory.
I wasn't entirely confident but the tank was to the point of having to clean it every couple of days, so I tried something with a little more protection and attitude next. I introduced a Cory Catfish, which managed to survive, either by dint of being faster than Bart or poking him in the snoot a few times with it's spines to teach him the error of his ways. Or both. Whatever it was, it worked, and he survived.
When I got the bigger tank, I added another Corey, since I had room, and named them Darrel and My Other Brother Darrel.
I also got three mystery snails cause they're reputed to be an awesome cleanup crew, more than for any real desire for them for themselves.
I've been pleasantly surprised, though, at the snails. They're far more interesting to watch than I expected... I got the mystery snails cause they're more fun to look at than the other species, expecting them to hang out on the walls of the tank and putter around not doing anything quickly enough to be interesting.
So now I have plenty to watch to keep myself entertained when I can't sleep, as Bart glides around the tank, the Darrels do their little catfishy searching for food in the crevices dance, and the snails do their thing, which sometimes, apparently, includes training jumps for the First ParaSnail Platoon.
Every so often they'll take it into their heads to turn loose of whatever they're clinging to and dive to the bottom of the tank. We're not talking fold up and fall down the wall, here, they always land more to the center of the tank. None of them has made it that far yet but they're definitely not just falling.
So far the most common time to see this behavior is about three to five minutes after I've put in some shrimp pellets. I'm assuming that as the pellets soften they release a taste or a smell into the water alerting the catfish and the snails that dinner is on, but around that time you'll often see one or more of the snails suddenly unass the wall of the tank and go diving for the bottom, only to race (and I use this as a relative term, they are, after all, snails) across it and pounce on one of the shrimp pellets.
They must be crack, or something, cause they'll push and shove at each other to get to them if one snail manages to cover up the whole hoard.
Here are a couple pictures of the black snail and the white one (they deserve names, I'm undecided between something extremely politically incorrect or something in keeping with the fact that they're MYSTERY snails...) today with the shrimp pellets:
In the second photo, the white snail has actually pushed the black snail over, leaving it clinging to the few pieces of gravel it had been able to hang on to, and of course, the shrimp pellet.