Betta Fish Care – An Ultimate Guide

The Betta Fish is a staple in every pet store because it is known for its beauty, intelligence, and ease of care. The species comes from the shallow waters of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam where it is spotted in rivers and rice paddies.

Back when Thailand was named Siam, these territorial fish were bred by locals specifically to fight each other, thus the name Siamese Fighting Fish.

Betta Fish Tank Size

The Betta Fish tank size is one of the points of contention in many pet stores and forums. While many companies and businesses recommend small Betta Fish tanks and containers (even cups!), Explore Fish World would like to clear up that information.

A single mature Betta Fish needs a tank size of at least 5 gallons. Considering the maximum size of the typical aquarium male Betta fish to be 2 and a half to 3 inches, this is a good-sized tank for it. Female Betta Fish grow to be about 2 and a quarter inches.

While Betta Fish can survive temporarily in a cup, the living situation should not be imitated at home. For why Bettas are kept in small containers, check out our explanation here.

Additionally, we figured that Bettas were put in clear cups or small containers side by side so they would see each other and flare their fins. They usually do this when they’re stressed or preparing to fight a fellow male Betta. Flaring shows off their beauty and color, attracting buyers. Unfortunately, they’re also stressed.

Even more inappropriate is the practice of some to put Bettas in flower vases. Explore Fish World strongly discourages this as flower vases cannot provide proper filtration (and oftentimes, heating) for the fish. A few fish keepers even say that it’s comparable to a person living for days in a janitor’s closet.

Although not a very active swimmer like, say, the Danios or the Molly, the Betta fish does need some space to stretch its fins and roam around. Factor in the space that its wide fins, decor, live plants, substrate, and devices and you’ll realize 5 gallons is minimal. If you want tank mates, you’ll have to upgrade to a bigger Betta Fish tank.

Betta Fish-The Ultimate Guide
Betta Fish-The Ultimate Guide

Five-gallon kits are almost always available in many pet outlets, big box stores, and online sellers. The set usually includes a filter, heater, lid, and lights.

You can also buy a used Betta Fish tank if you want to save on costs. It can be cleaned and disinfected as long as it’s intact and the right size.

A lid is necessary when taking care of Bettas as they learn to jump pretty quickly.

Water Parameters

All fish need clean, cycled water to be able to live healthily. That includes the Betta Fish.

ammonia0 ppm
nitrite0 ppm
nitrate< 40 ppm
pH6.5 to 7.5 (6.8 optimal)
hardness5 to 20 dGH
temperature72 to 80 deg F (78 deg F being optimal)

But if you’re confused as to why some Betta Fish aquariums look dark and dirty, that’s because a lot of seasoned fish keepers use tannins to imitate the type of natural environment a Betta Fish lives in.

What are tannins? Tannins are chemical compounds that provide disinfection and pH lowering qualities to aquarium water. The water may look darker with a sort of orange-brownish tinge, but it is in truth cleaner and more beneficial for tropical fish (like the Betta) that like softer water.

One source of tannins is the Indian Almond leaf (Terminalia catappa) which is available online. Aside from having anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, the Indian Almond leaf gives off a tea-colored stain that’s inherent to Betta Fish habitats in Asia. For more information about the dosing and benefits of the Indian Almond leaf, read our post here.

Pure red rooibos red tea is a cheap alternative. A commercial form of tannins can also be bought in a bottle.

Another important part of that natural environment is live plants and these have many benefits to any Betta Fish tank, including additional filtration and oxygenation. Java Fern, Java Moss, Hornwort, and Eelgrass are great choices. However, there are some types of plants that Bettas don’t like.

The right kinds and amount of plants also make the perfect environment for a nano tank suited for a Betta Fish. Nano tanks are all the rave today, and you might’ve heard of them before. They are 5 to 20 gallon-sized tanks with very light bioloads— which means the perfect size for a single Betta Fish.

If you want to try keeping a nano tank, just know that the biggest challenge to it is its maintenance. Less means more when it comes to nano tanks: less water means more maintenance work for you. If you’re a beginner, a bigger Betta Fish tank will give you more room for error than with small ones.

Betta Fish Feeding

Part of the Betta Fish’s health is dependent on its food and the way it is fed.

Betta Fish are primarily carnivorous. This means they need a lot of protein in their diet and fewer carbohydrates. Betta fish will eat:

  • Live or frozen food such as bloodworms, mosquito larvae, daphnia, brine shrimp, Mysis shrimp, tubifex worms, wingless fruit flies
  • Betta pellets

You may notice that fish flakes or tropical flakes are not on our list. Although Betta Fish will eat them, they are not as nutritious as the other food we’ve listed above because of their high carbohydrate content.

Carbohydrates do not translate as energy for Betta Fish but instead become fat. Some carbs are even made of wheat which a Betta’s digestive tract cannot fully process. Therefore, flakes should be given sparingly as opposed to live or frozen food.

betta care
Betta care guide

The same can be said for omnivorous fish such as Platies, GloFish, or Zebra Danios eating Betta Fish food. The high protein and low carbohydrate combination is not a balanced diet for these fish.

Frequency of feeding. It’s very important to note that a lot of Betta Fish get sick due to being overfed. This is a common pitfall especially for new pet fish owners as they are led to believe by commercial products that Betta fish need to be fed often and with copious amounts of food.

However, overfeeding may cause serious problems starting with an imbalance in water chemistry. Too much food leads to too much waste, which in turn leads to ammonia spikes in the water.

Overfeeding may also cause indigestion in the Betta Fish. This is easily treatable but can lead to more serious problems such as swim bladder disorder.

The correct amount to feed Betta would be a small pinch which the fish can finish in a minute or less. If he wants more, put another small amount. Any sign of unfinished food and you need to stop. Do this once or twice a day.

You may also fast your Betta Fish once or twice a week to ensure a good functioning digestive system. Since Bettas don’t eat that much in the wild, this should not be a problem for the pet in your aquarium.

Betta Fish Tank-mates

Betta Fish do not require tank mates, especially males, as they can be aggressive towards other fish. They’ll be happy on their own.

But if you do want to find compatible tank mates, you can take care of a sorority of all females in a 20-gallon tank or bigger. Just watch out if they will build their hierarchy (yes, they have these, too, with females) and peacefully at that.

Other fish that can get along with it and has the same water chemistry requirements are Tetras, Rasboras, Cory Catfish, and Guppies. Avoid nipping, overly energetic tank mates as they can damage the Betta’s beautiful and delicate fins.

The GloFish Betta

The Betta GloFish was introduced by Spectrum Brands in 2020 as an addition to the GloFish roster that includes the GloFish Danios, Barbs, Tetra, and Shark. The first one, the GloFish Danios, was created with a different purpose in mind. It and the other GloFish varieties have since become colorful invitations to the younger generation to get into the fish keeping hobby.

The GloFish Betta is marketed as The Electric Green GloFish Betta and has the same prescribed care as other kinds of Bettas do. It comes in Premium or Standard Male, and Female Betta Fish.

Controversy surrounds not only the GloFish Betta but all Glofish species because of the genetic alteration done to give these creatures their neon color. The GloFish Betta, in particular, has a green-tinged eye just like its body and seems to have less sight than its non-GloFish counterpart.

If you find yourself with a GloFish Betta, make sure to observe it more closely as it tends to bump into aquarium decor and walls.

Betta Fish Breeding

Although unlikely, GloFish Bettas may breed if kept together. However, only the company Spectrum Brands has the license to sell these glow-in-the-dark Bettas.

For the Splendens, Betta Fish breeding is a beautiful and intricate ritual between a strong male and female Betta Fish. The chosen pair are young, at the peak of health, and usually the most beautiful in the brood. It is a very interesting process that displays the dominance of the male and the will of the Betta Fish female to choose her partner.

It also displays the protectiveness of the male Betta Fish over its young.

Betta Fish females may lay 40 eggs or more. Give the female a month to recuperate before trying to have her mate again.

How Long Do Betta Fish Live?

Proper care and maintenance are the keys to the Betta Fish’s longevity. A happy Betta Fish will live healthily for 3 to 5 years, sometimes even more.

One major factor why Betta Fish die before their time is stress. Fish stress leads to a lot of health-related problems because it may refuse to eat and therefore affect the Betta’s immunity. Here are some reasons why a Betta Fish might get stressed:

  • Shock – shock may come from traveling from the pet store to your home, being put in a new tank without acclimation, a crash in water chemistry, banging and loud noises, and constant tapping on the walls of the aquarium.
  • Incompatible Betta Fish tank mates – being bullied comes with it a lot of stress. Even without getting injured, a Betta may become stressed if chased constantly by fast, aggressive tank mates. Two male Bettas are also incompatible because of their territorial attitude. They would end up fighting, staying true to their name of Siamese Fighting Fish.
Betta fish care
betta fish care guide
  • Wrong temperature – too cold of a temperature and you will find your Betta Fish lessening its activity. Remember, it came from a tropical region and would like heated water. On the other hand, a very high temperature would make it harder for the Betta to breathe. Even if it has a labyrinth (an addition to its gills) that allow it to breathe from the surface of the water, it will still find it difficult to stay in temperatures above 82 deg Fahrenheit.

If you are interested in learning more about your fish behavior, check out the links below:

Betta Fish Diseases

Proper Betta Fish care involves being able to identify abnormalities in its appearance and behavior for early diagnosis and treatment.

Since Betta Fish have long, glorious fins, it’s also the most common disease this fish can have.

Fin rot is a disease that looks as if your Betta’s fins are disintegrating. It is caused by a bacterial infection that can seriously hurt or even kill your Betta if left untreated. Luckily, it is easily treatable and the fins will grow again given time.

Betta Fish may also suffer from ick or ich, a parasitic infection that’s very itchy and irritating. An infected Betta may show symptoms like flashing, shimmying, salt-like or pepper-like granules on its body, and gasping (if the parasites have reached its gills).

Popeye Disease, as the name implies, makes the Betta’s eyes look bigger and out of place. It is caused by injury, bacteria, or the constant presence of ammonia in the water.

Meanwhile, dropsy disease is one of the more serious diseases a Betta can have. It is a severe symptom of either a bacterial, fungal, or parasitic infection that has affected the internal organs of the fish, particularly the liver. A clear indication of dropsy is the appearance of pine-coning, or the raising of the Betta’s scales. Sadly, not many Bettas can recover from this problem.

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