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  • I created a sorority yesterday. It's a big fish tank full of female bettas and corydoras (cory) catfish.

    Bettas are the pit bulls of fish. They are intelligent and antisocial. Our kind of fish. Males can't be kept with each other because they will fight until one or both is maimed or killed. The females can be kept in groups, but it's an uneasy truce at best.

    I've been watching my girls, and it's been fascinating. They socialize just like us. Imagine yourself if you'd lived in a sheltered environment all of your life, and suddenly you were placed with other people who had had the same experience. Like going from a sheltered childhood, growing up, and starting out in the world with others.

    A pecking order must be established - who's the boss? Who can we rely on for leadership? The bettas are still working on this problem. They sail into battle with fins flowing like bold flags; engaging in mouth to mouth wrestling matches and tearing viciously at each others' fins and scales. The losers flash horizontal stress stripes and dart away among the leaves. Sometimes the winner continues to chase and bully the loser to deliver a vindictive rip to the fins as a lesson. Typical of some of our leaders. Which is why we're still trying to find reliable leaders.

    Now, the next day, there is an uneasy truce. Each girl has claimed her bit of property; each is her own picket fence. If anyone else approaches, they are met with spread gills and frequently a short chase. All of the battle flags are now tattered with the wounds of battles past, badges of experience, badges of injustice.

    Now if someone flees, the pursuer gives up the chase quickly. After all, her little plot is pretty small - but worth fighting to the death over if needed. Certain real estate is still hotly contested and there are frequent little skirmishes there. Most end peaceably with a dart and flash of surrendering fins.

    What do the cories think of all this? They don't. They are speckled like the sand they love. Sand is SAND to them. They keep their noses down to the dirt, busy at their own little projects. ignoring the occasional nudge from a bossy betta girl. Cories love to be together, but they don't seem to need a boss. No stress stripes or torn fins here. They just mind their own business of feeding and surviving, sifting the soft sand gently between their whiskers. Sometimes they wiggle happily up to the surface to take a gulp of air, a toast to the sheer joy of living the life they love the most.

    We could learn a lot from the cory.
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