Betta fish are easily one of the most eye-catching aquarium dwellers. However, their sheer attractiveness should not be the primary decision-making factor in setting up a pet fish tank. 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.
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.
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 colourful aquarium addition. Starting with the tank.
How to set up a betta fish tank
The very first thing to get out of the way when planning a habitat for your betta fish is the size of the tank. To exist comfortably every fish needs to have a space of at least 19 litres (or 5 gallons). Of course, the more betta fish you are planning to accommodate, the bigger tank you’ll need.
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.
The bubbler, however, isn’t necessary, since betta fish gulp air from the surface.
After you’ve selected the optimal tank, it is time to consider the quality and temperature of water for your bettas to swim in. Due to their tropical-river origin, Siamese fighting fish can only survive in freshwater 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.
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.
Place 3 to 5 cm of gravel on the bottom of the tank. The easiest way to account for the exact amount is half a kg of gravel for every three litres 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.
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 fish tank can be a lot easier, when you have a filter and a mini live plant ecosystem.
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 to take care of a 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.
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.
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.
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.
Generally, to make the betta fish happy you should provide an enticing environment 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 live with betta fish
Before you even consider including a betta fish into an existing community, it is best to start by noticing their behaviour in a pure betta environment.
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 fish can happily coexist with bettas. But if you are looking for a variety, the optimal neighbours for a single Siamese fighter are other docile species, such as guppies, for example. The non-fish animals that will feel comfortable around bettas include snails, frogs and ghost shrimp.
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.
How to breed betta fish
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.
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 colours 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 coloured fish with their elaborate fins.