Betta fish or the Siamese Fighting Fish are easily one of the most eye-catching aquarium dwellers.
However, their bold, bright colors, feisty personality, and low cost should not be the primary factors in choosing them as a pet.
As you will learn below, betta fish are best suitable for experienced fish tank guardians who fully comprehend the complex requirements of these beautiful creatures who are a common household pet.
Betta fish are sold at pet shops, budget stores, florists, and even on the internet. They are forced to live in tiny cups, small bowls, and even flower vases.
Some fish owners will even keep the bettas in the tupperware-like containers that they come in if they are not properly educated.
Many people’s first pet fish is a betta, and if they don’t have enough information, they can hurt the fish without realizing it.
Betta fish are complex and sensitive and suffer greatly if pet owners don’t give them the right care.
According to a research paper assessing the needs of captive betta fish released by Belgium’s Ghent University, nearly every aspect of keeping bettas in tiny, barren cups in sight of each other is harmful to their well-being and reinforces many myths about these fish’s needs.
What is a betta fish?
Betta fish, or Siamese fighting fish, are small species native to the Mekong River basin, with special levels of concentration in Thailand.
Bettas are famous for their vibrant colours, although in the wild their pigmentation barely stands out with lots of toned-down greens and yellows.
On the other hand, the aquarium types of betta fish have a virtually unlimited spectrum of shades. Another noticeable feature of bettas are the extensive fins and tail.
Bettas are often referred to as “Siamese fighting fish” or “labyrinth fish” but their scientific name is Betta splendens.
Red, orange, yellow, blue, steel blue, turquoise/green, black, pastel, opaque white, and multicolored varieties are common among captive bettas.
The fry of the Siamese fighting fish reaches its adult size of approximately 7cm (3 inches) very fast, in a matter of several months. After the growth stops the fish will remain the same size throughout the whole lifespan, which can be up to three years, provided the living conditions are adequate.
Betta fish are equipped with tiny, difficult-to-notice teeth.
These small but sharp tusks cause the most damage during the notorious episodes of aggression so common for the species.
The foremost reason for betta fish fights is territory protection caused by limited supplies of food in their natural habitats.
The fish, mostly males, can spend hours ripping each other’s fins and nipping, sometimes until severe harm or even death.
In terms of other characteristics, bettas sleep during the night, can hear, see, smell and recognize a variety of water vibrations.
However, despite them having very ordinary carnivorous specifications, betta fish can be rather tricky to look after.
So, it is crucial to get an idea of how to properly set up a comfortable environment for your colorful aquarium addition. Starting with the tank.
Keeping betta fish in small containers such as pet store bowls or cups is only suitable for transportation.
What do betta fish need?
How big of a tank does a betta fish need?
The very first thing to get out of the way when planning a habitat for your betta fish is the size of the betta tank. To exist comfortably every fish needs to have a space of at least 19 litres (or 5-gallon tank). Of course, the more betta fish you are planning to accommodate, the bigger betta fish tank you’ll need.
Glass tanks are more durable, less expensive, never yellow or fog, and cause less visual distortion than acrylic tanks.
Acrylic tanks are lighter, but they are prone to scratching and discoloration.
Depending on what items are included, larger glass tanks can cost over $100.
Do bettas need a filter?
Since Betta fish live in shallow water of ponds, marshes and rice paddies in their native habitat in Asia many people wrongly assume that captive fish can live in stagnant and dirty water without a filter.
Adding a filter to your betta fish house is a must. The filtration system you choose should have the capacity of processing the entire tank’s water three to five times each hour. For example, a 75 litre (20 gallons) tank’s filter will go through at least 225 litres (60 gallons) of water every 60 minutes.
One prevalent misunderstanding is that betta fish suck largely surface air instead of oxygenated water and can thus be safely housed without an aerator in very little bowls.
Do bettas need a heater?
After you’ve selected the optimal tank, it is time to consider the quality and temperature of water for your bettas to swim in.
Bettas are tropical fish and can only survive in warm water with a temperature balance between 25C and 27C (or 78F to 82F). This means that you will most likely require a heater in your tank to maintain the right temperature level.
Colder water makes them lethargic and vulnerable to certain diseases. This is because cold water suppresses the immune system of the betta fish.
Do betta fish need light?
Yes, they do. The light control is another factor to consider. We already know that betta fish sleep during nighttime, which also means that their in-the-dark vision is down to a very minimum.
To install a sufficient amount of lighting, think about the level of natural light around the aquarium and choose a light with a timer.
Many tanks come fitted with an LED lighting system that allows for a variety of color combinations, but it is recommended that you use white light during the day.
Place 3 to 5 cm of gravel on the bottom of the tank.
The easiest way to account for the exact amount is to add half a kilogram of gravel for every three liters of water (or 1.5 lbs for every gallon).
Make sure to rinse anything you use to set up the aquarium before you put it in.
Try to recreate the natural environment
Wild bettas in the wild enjoy bodies of water with abundant aquatic vegetation and surface foliage, such as fallen leaves and water lilies.
Plants provide protection from predators and act as a buffer between hostile males who live together by claiming thick plant patches as territory.
To mimic the natural environment of the betta, decorate your betta fish tank with hiding places, particularly caves, rocks and live plants.
And as far as it goes with decorating your betta fish space, the more the better. Bettas enjoy a variety of hiding places, particularly caves, rocks and live plants.
Having a nice mixture of artificial and real plants, as well as substrates, serves several helpful purposes, such as keeping the water quality high and providing bettas with lots of nearly-natural camouflage spots for some downtime.
Finally, cleaning the betta tank can be a lot easier, when you have a filter and a mini live plant ecosystem.
Can betta fish live in tap water?
Yes, you can use tap water as long you treat it with a high quality aquarium water conditioner. Using the water conditioner is essential as it keeps your betta fish safe from toxic chlorine and chloramines and sometimes heavy metals that are present in tap water.
Regular water changes
The rule of thumb for filtered betta fish aquariums is to clean it once a week and change 25% of the water.
Fresh, clean water is important for the health of your betta.
Before introducing fresh water, it is best to ensure that the temperature of the new water matches that of the tank water. You don’t want to drastically alter the temperature of the aquarium by adding cold water, otherwise you risk a temperature shock, which can be fatal to fish.
Even though Siamese Fighting Fish can tolerate small spaces and poor water quality, they do best in small aquariums with regular water changes.
How to clean a betta fish tank
The cleaning process of your betta fish tank will depend on several factors, such as the complexity of the aquarium arrangement, the presence of other fish and species, and your preferences in terms of thoroughness.
For example, live plants cannot be taken out like their artificial substitutes. In this case, you will need to get your hands on a gravel vacuum which will help clear the bottom without disrupting the miniature ecosystem. But in case your tank is decorated with artificial plants, you can feel free to take out the gravel to rinse it through.
Before cleaning the tank, decide on how much water you are going to change and find the proper container to preserve the saved water as you clean.
Make sure to leave behind at least 20% of the aquarium water, as it will simplify the transition process after the scrubbing and maintain your betta’s health.
Pay attention to the type of cleaning product you include in the procedure. It is best to find materials that suit betta fish in particular. A natural sea sponge can make for an effective and at the same time unharmful clearing tool.
Don’t take too long with the refreshing process, as your little colorful friend will not be too happy in the temporary storage. But do make sure to let the fresh tank filter for at least ten minutes to ensure the comfort of your pet.
How much to feed betta fish?
As already mentioned, betta fish are not exactly simple to take care of, but with the right approach, you can arrange a comfortable living for your fish. Start with establishing a proper diet.
In the wild betta fish will eat pretty much anything small enough to fit in their mouths, various insects, for the most part.
High protein diet
In the bowl betta fish menu still has to remain high in protein. The best solution is to set a balance between fish meal flakes and pallets and frozen or freeze-dried bloodworms and brine shrimp.
The common tropical flakes are not entirely suitable for bettas, except for the specifically tailored kind. So, in case you are hosting several types of fish in the tank, ensure their diet is well-balanced.
Feed a couple of times in a day
Feed your betta once or twice a day (roughly four to six pellets total), depending on their size and appetite.
Keep in mind that although bettas can last up to two weeks without food, they will enter a state of starvation after just five days. This means if you are planning to be away from the fish for a while, find someone who will tend to them regularly.
Loss of appetite
When beta fish loses interest in food, it can signal to two main causes. For one, it can be a change in water quality, such as temperature. Otherwise, your fish might be fighting a disease.
Apart from eating, there are a few more things to keep in check. The betta fish appetite on its own is a good indicator of health, but you should also take note on your betta’s activity levels. For instance, if the little guy prefers sitting in one place to swimming around, it can be a concern point.
Making your betta happy
Generally, to make the betta fish happy you should provide an environment that is similar to its natural habitat and interact with the fish from time to time. If you put in enough effort and patience you can even train your betta to do simple tricks and even respond to commands.
To guarantee the betta’s wellbeing you should also closely monitor how every member of your aquarium community interacts with another. Which brings us to the next point — betta fish cohabitation with other fish and species.
What fish can you put with a betta?
Although male bettas are solitary and hostile against one another, they can live with a variety of fish and invertebrates if adequate space and hiding spots are available.
Before you even consider including a betta fish with other community fish, it is best to start by noticing their behavior in a pure betta environment.
Male bettas can thrive in a communal tank without aggressive fish such as tiger barbs or fish that bettas could turn violent against such as fancy guppies.
While the female bettas are usually friendly towards each other, as long as they have sufficient space to exist in, males get incredibly territorial and constantly pick fights.
For the same reason, not all species of fish can happily coexist with bettas.
But if you are looking for a variety, the optimal neighbors for a single Siamese fighter are other docile species such as Cory catfish or Kuhli loaches for example.
The non-fish animals that will feel comfortable around bettas include snails, frogs and ghost shrimp.
Can betta fish live with Goldfish?
Apart from aggression, some fish cannot survive in the same tank as betta due to environmental factors. A popular pet choice, the Goldfish, for instance, is more used to a cooler water temperature of around 23C (74F).
In case you are looking to enhance the betta’s community just to keep it company, don’t worry, your betta fish is unlikely to get lonely due to its territorial nature. However, if the tank is too small or too empty, bettas can become depressed because of boredom.
And how about breeding? Can a male and female betta fish live together for extended periods? While the short answer is yes, they can, the better solution would still be to keep the genders separately and connect them only for the mating purposes.
Betta fish mating
Because of the betta fish’s magnificent looks, their mating ritual is rather pleasant to observe. However, you still need to account for the male aggression and approach the breeding with careful preparation.
For starters, it can be a good idea to delegate a separate tank for the fry to develop after the mating ritual. That’s where you will place the male for at least a week before breeding.
It is generally advisable to prep the fish for mating by placing their tanks side-by-side.
In case the male tank lacks natural plants, this would be a good time to add some.
Real plants make a wonderful hiding spot for the female fish if her mating partner starts terrorizing her.
Some fish guardians also suggest cutting out the top circle from a plastic foam cup to create a comfortable place for fry storage.
After the female’s stomach forms a marble-sized ball, transfer the fish to the male.
Remember that while it is natural for the male to pick on the female ever so slightly, it is important to watch out for extreme levels of aggression.
If the male becomes too feisty, remove the female and try again after a few days.
The male will form a bubble nest to store the newborns and tend to them for anywhere between 24 to 36 hours.
You should remove the female from the tank as soon as she hides among the plants after copulating and remove the male once the fry begins to swim around.
If the female is allowed to remain for a longer period of time she may eat the eggs that she spawned.
Is my betta fish dying?
To wrap up, it is important to outline the signs that your betta fish might be dying.
Despite the common belief, a change in colors isn’t always a bad sign. Some bettas simply have a gene that causes them to behave that way. However, if the fish remains still near the bottom of the tank and doesn’t eat, the chances are they are either sick or dying.
You can try using betta medication to see if the wellbeing of your pet improves. If it doesn’t and the fish shows symptoms of heavy diseases or deep open wounds, the only solution would be to euthanize it by adding several drops of clove oil into a separate container with a fish.
As you can see keeping a betta fish is not difficult and like any other pet, it requires care and attention. Remember, don’t keep your betta fish in a bowl but opt for an appropriately sized aquarium. Providing the right environment is key to enjoy the beauty of these vibrantly colored fish with their elaborate fins.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do betta fish get lonely?
Betta fish are territorial by nature and should not be housed with other betta fish since they would fight and hurt each other, often leading to death.
They are unlikely to become lonely in their tank, although they may become bored if it is too tiny.
The betta fish may appear to be alone in the tank, but be assured that he is not feeling lonely. Indeed, your betta would prefer to be alone if given the opportunity. That is because, despite their beauty and elegance, bettas are also territorial and aggressive tropical fish.
Male bettas in the wild are lonely creatures who cling to their own territory. When they do come into contact with other male bettas, they frequently fight on sight. This is why two male betta fish should never be kept in the same aquarium.
Are there any diseases that can affect bettas?
Prevention is better than cure.
You can prevent illness in betta fish by paying attention to the following:
1. Maintain adequate water quality through regular water changes
2. Ensure a consistent water temperature between 78 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit
3. Provide a high-quality, diverse diet.
4. Quarantine new fish
Even i f we do everything right for our fish and take excellent care of them, they can still fall sick.
Early detection can mean the difference between life and death for your Betta.
Many illnesses can be treated by improving water condition, and many diseases are caused by poor water quality.
The following are some diseases that have been observed in bettas:
1. Fin Rot occurs when the fins or tail appear shredded.
2. Ich: White spots on the body of the fish.
3. Velvet: The fish isn’t eating or scratching itself on objects in the tank.
How can I play with my betta fish?
Training a betta can be a lot of fun for the whole family and is actually quite simple.
It’s also beneficial to your pet because it keeps them occupied and prevents boredom.
You can teach him to do things like follow your finger, feed from your hand, swim through a hoop, play with a ping pong ball, and with patience and effort even jump out of the water or come up to be touched. For more information check out this article.
How can I stop my betta fish from biting me?
Your betta may bite you for a variety of reasons. The first is that it is curious. He’ll be inquisitive about what’s going on if he sees your hand looming into the tank. Bettas don’t have hands like we do, so they have to grip objects with their mouths and find out what they are.
Bettas usually flare up when something threatens them in their territory, and they want to get rid of it as soon as possible. Another betta, a tank mate, or their own reflection could be the culprit. They may become so worried by the threat to their area that they are sometimes unable to event eat.
Betta fish will attack and bite your hand if they see it as a threat. Even if the betta goes for your hand and bites it, human skin is too tough for the teeth to break through and do harm. Bettas are generally not hostile to people.
What is the life expectancy for a betta fish?
Betta fish have a long lifespan. Betta fish live for an average of 2-4 years. The habitat you keep your betta fish in has a direct impact on how long they live. You may help them live longer by keeping their tank clean and ensuring a healthy diet.