I'm sorry to announce that Sir Robin has gone (bravely) on to his eternal reward. On saturday when I left for the Pirate's he had a touch of clamp, but was basically OK. On monday morning when I returned he was in a bad way: clamp, tail rot, and ich.
Clamp isn't serious; it's usually brought on by stress and will generally clear itself up.
Rot is serious if it reaches the body, but I sterilized some scissors and cut off the blackened bits and removed them from the the water, so that would have cleared up as well. (probably.)
Ich is a different story. It's a parasite that lives under the scales of the fish, and when it matures it forms white bumps on the fish's body. It's very easy to identify, but by the time Bubbles is displaying symptoms it's pretty far on. Antibiotics can help (I've used them before with success), but with no car I was unable to obtain the necessary meds yesterday. The best I could do was to dump some salt in the water. A bit of salt won't bother the fish any (especially bettas, who live in semi-brackish water anyway), but can throw the osmotic balance of the parasite out of whack. That's the idea, anyway. I've never seen it work, but I know people who swear by it. The trick is the salt has to be pure NaCl, without ant-caking agents. In other words, Kosher salt.
Except that the English gave the Jews the boot in 1290 and the result is that you can't buy Kosher salt anywhere to this day.
So I used rock salt, which doesn't have anti-caking agents, but does have other minerals. I had no idea how harmful those minerals would be, but I did know that if I did nothing the fish was doomed. I figured there wasn't much to lose by trying.
Gambled, and lost.
Most likely the ich was just too far gone, because when I woke up this morning he was belly-up. But I'd rather blame the English for exiling the Jews for the death of my fish. That makes for a much better story.
(And just for good measure, my back hurts like a bitch today. Nothing like adding injury to insult, is there? So I'm going to lie on my bed and drink bourbon and cry a bit. I could really do with a good pirate right about nows.)