Betta Fish Guide

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Whether you’re planning to bring home a new Betta fish or you already have one, it’s important to be educated on the specific needs of these beautiful creatures.

Unlike many beginner freshwater aquarium fish, Bettas require a great deal of specialized treatment and care to keep them healthy and happy.

Although there is plenty involved with Betta fish care, it’s simple to catch on and can be a fun learning experience for the whole family.

You’ll soon find that many people have their own opinions on how Bettas should be cared for, but it all generally points in the same direction. With special attention on a proper aquarium, food, and care, your new fish will feel right at home in no time.

Let’s get straight down to it…

Betta Fish: Facts

Originating in Southeast Asia, Betta fish are also referred to as the Siamese fighting fish.

Bettas come in various multi-hued colors and can grow to be around 2 1/2 to 3 inches on average.

Although popular as a freshwater aquarium fish, these unique fish can be territorial and aggressive when mixed with other fish. If the fish feels threatened at any time, it will flare out its gill plates to intimidate possible threats.

Similar to that of a peacock or turkey, this sign of hostility can also be used to attract other fish for mating purposes.

betta fish care

Betta Fish Tanks

When choosing your new Betta fish, there are many things to consider.

If you want a fish that is more colorful and has dazzling fins, the male Bettas are your best option. Females, on the other hand, are less vibrant, have smaller fins, and a larger tummy, so if you’re looking for something both beautiful and simple, consider a female.

Since you cannot keep more than one male Betta fish in the same tank, it’s recommended to purchase only one starting out, because purchasing separate tanks and equipment for each one can become very expensive very fast.

You can have a male and female together for breeding purposes or multiple females in one tank, but never put two male Bettas together; they will fight until one eventually wins and the other dies.

Females will fight each other also, but there’s no need for alarm when you witness this. Although they fight, they do not fight to the extent of severe injury or death.

betta fish tanks
By Daniella Vereeken (CC BY 2.0 licence)

Betta Tank Mates

Although you have to be careful when pairing multiple Betta fish together, you can pair them with a handful of other breeds safely.

Your Betta will have its own personality, but the majority of these fish get along well with the smaller, more peaceful breeds.

These include:

  • White Clouds
  • Hatchetfish
  • Cardinal Tetras
  • Mollies
  • Corydoras Catfish
  • Swordtails

Many Betta fish owners choose Guppies as their tank mates, but this pair requires caution, as sometimes the Betta will nip at the Guppies’ tail.

All fish, including Betta fish, have their own personalities, so your new pet may get along with fish that are not listed above. Some tend to be more aggressive than others, creating hostile environments, so just be careful when choosing to mix different breeds with your Betta.

Here’s a good video on compatible Betta tankmates:

Creating a Safe Environment

The first step of Betta fish care and providing a safe home for your new fish is choosing the aquarium.

You’ve probably seen many people keep their Betta fish in small jars, but this is not recommended. These tiny homes do not provide adequate space for your new fish to stretch its fins and explore, so it will lead to an unhappy Betta.

Two-gallon aquariums are the absolute smallest recommended size, but for best results, choose a tank that is ten gallons or more. This will allow your fish to swim around freely and be comfortable in its new home.

Betta Fish Care

Water Conditions

Once you choose the aquarium size for your new Betta, it’s time to fill it with water.

They are freshwater fish, and since they come from tropical weather conditions, it is important to keep the water between 72 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit with a pH of 6.5-8.0.

Leaving your Betta in water that falls below the recommended temperature can lead to illness, disease, and in some cases, even death.

Due to the long fins on Betta fish, they cannot maneuver through strong currents. To provide the light-flowing water that is best for Bettas, make sure you keep the water filter on low.

Another important thing to remember when learning to care for a Betta fish: keep the water clean.

betta fish care

It is recommended that you check the water temperature daily and the overall water quality weekly. The waste from your new fish creates ammonia in the water which is deadly to Betta fish, even in small quantities.

When you refill the water in your tank, make sure it’s the same temperature as the water already in it, so as to prevent shock to your Betta fish.

Some people choose to remove the fish from the water before changing it. This is perfectly safe, but make sure you fill a cup with existing water from the tank before placing your Betta fish in it. Although very tough, these fish are also extremely sensitive to temperature and environment changes.

One last tip on choosing water for your Betta fish: opt for store bought conditioners such as Aquasafe. In some cases, tap water can be toxic and harmful to your fish.

Betta And Aquarium Plants

If you want to add decorations to your aquarium, make sure your decorations are safe for Betta fish. For example, if you want to add plants to the aquarium, you have to consider your Betta’s fins when deciding which plant to use.

Since the fish have long fins, it’s important that the plants cannot damage or tear them.

Silk plants are an excellent choice. You can find silk plants of all types, and although they look very realistic, they are much softer and safer.

Another addition is a safe and efficient hiding spot.

Betta fish love to hide, so depending on the size of your aquarium, you might want to add multiple hiding spots to keep them happy. Ceramic mugs and other small containers with no lid are perfect for this purpose.

Make sure you don’t use items that rust easily, because this will quickly contaminate the water in your aquarium. It’s also important to choose a hiding spot free of sharp or jagged edges that can easily hurt your new fish.

Last but not least, consider using a mechanical water filter. Although these are not required, they can be a huge help when it comes to providing clean water for your fish.

If you do use a mechanical filter, be sure to keep it on a gentle setting as stated above, because Betta fish do not fend well in strong water currents. Also, be sure to choose a filter that features a safe and modern design to ensure your fish’s utmost safety.

siamese fighting fish

Betta Food

Along with creating a safe environment, a Betta’s diet is an essential part of keeping them health and happy.

Betta fish are carnivores, so provide them with essential protein and nutrients. In the wild, they typically feed on small organisms like larvae.

Make sure you use food that is formulated specifically for Betta fish, as this includes shrimp, fish meal, and other Betta-needed ingredients you will not find in normal fish food.

In addition to feeding them the right food, timing is vital for their care.

A Betta fish that consumes too much will become ill, and more importantly, their water will be contaminated by wasted food. If your fish stops eating after one to two pellets, make sure you remove any additional pellets from the water to keep it clean. If you don’t care to monitor their eating habits too closely, feel free to see how much they eat in two minutes.

Remember this portion and then only deal out this much in the future.

If you choose frozen food for your fish, make sure it is thawed fully before adding it to the tank. Baby Bettas require smaller pellets, so be sure to buy food that is specific to its age.

Keeping Your Betta Healthy

Like all fish, Betta fish can get sick very easily.

Observing your Betta fish on a regular basis is important so you can catch illnesses early. For example, if your Betta fish starts acting lethargic and unusually slow, it may be due to the water temperature. Buying a thermometer for your aquarium can help prevent these unexpected and innocent sicknesses.

Betta fish are also prone to fin rot, which is usually caused by too much ammonia in the water. If you notice small bits of your Betta’s fin are missing, do an ammonia test immediately.

betta fish breeding
By Pharoah Hound (CC BY- SA 3.0 licence)

You want the ammonia in your tank to read zero, as this will halt current issues and prevent future sickness.

If the ammonia level in your tank is zero and your fish is still missing parts of its fin, it could be due to fin biting.

Betta fish often do this out of boredom caused by a lack of space to swim or a lack of hiding places. Make sure your aquarium is set up properly for active fish, as Betta fish love to move and explore.

With proper care and nutrition, Betta fish can live up to three years. Although they require extensive care, these fish are the perfect aesthetic addition to your home aquarium.

Now that you know how to take care of Betta fish, it’s time to choose the right one for your family!

Do you own any Betta fish?

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