Many people think of betta fish as “easy” pets to care for – and betta fish care is indeed simpler than caring for, say, a dog or cat. However, there are some things all betta owners need to know, and like all pets, betta fish deserve to be cared for properly to live long healthy and happy lives.
In this guide to betta fish care, we give you the essential info you need to get started as a betta fish owner!
1. Buying betta fish
There are two main concerns when buying betta fish:
1. Health: This is the most important concern! It is important to know what to look for in a healthy fish and seek out the best places with betta fish for sale, rather than simply visiting the nearest pet store.
Only buy betta fish from a clean, uncrowded tank, with no signs of parasites or fin damage. The betta fish should be active and happily swimming around the tank.
2. Appearance: Once you’re sure that you’re buying a healthy betta fish from a quality pet store, you’re free to choose a betta that you find aesthetically pleasing in terms of shape and color.
Once home, keep your new betta in a separate tank from any other fish for at least two weeks. Look out for any signs of illness and only add the betta to a tank containing other fish once you’re sure it is healthy.
Find out more about buying betta fish.
2. Betta fish tanks: Can betta fish live in a bowl?
As bettas are small fish, many new betta fish keepers often think they can be kept in very tiny bowls. This isn’t true. To live a long, healthy life, betta fish should be given plenty of space to swim around.
Being kept in small containers with no filtration and poor water quality can make betta fish stressed and unhealthy. Also, bowls are often uncovered, which can lead to your betta fish jumping out when you’re not looking!
We recommend keeping your betta in a rectangular tank of at least 2.5 gallons. Cover the tank with a lid, include a place for your betta fish to hide (e.g. a cave or leafy plant) and install a filter.
Find out more about betta fish tanks.
3. Do betta fish need filters?
Betta fish can often survive without a filter… however, that does not mean that they should be kept in those conditions! Our recommendation is to always install a suitably sized filter in any betta fish tank.
A filter doesn’t just remove debris such as uneaten food from the water; it will also become home to a colony of “good bacteria” that will turn harmful chemicals into less harmful chemicals that won’t hurt your fish!
The process described above is called “cycling” a tank, and we strongly recommend that all fish keepers learn about the cycling process.
Finally, it’s important only ever to wash your filter in water from the tank. Never was your filter in tap water, as this will kill all of the good bacteria!
Find out more about filters in betta fish tanks.
4. Do betta fish need a heater?
Betta fish thrive at a water temperature of between 74 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Most tank locations won’t naturally keep a fish tank at anything close to this temperature, so a heater is required.
The other advantage of a heater is that it will keep the tank at a consistent temperature. Betta fish don’t like it when their water varies drastically between hotter and colder temperatures.
We recommend buying a small, reliable heater for a betta fish tank and adding a thermometer to monitor the water temperature separately.
Find out more about heaters in betta fish tanks.
5. Betta fish food: feeding betta fish
Eating a well balanced, healthy diet is essential to keeping your betta fish fit and healthy.
Betta fish are carnivores – actually “insectivores” – who naturally eat insects and sometimes the eggs of other fish.
Betta fish are not vegetarian, and only feeding a vegetarian diet to your betta will not give your fish all of the nutrients it needs.
As well as dried foods, such as flakes and pellets, we suggest that you also feed live and/or freeze-dried foods, such as mosquito larvae, brine shrimp, bloodworms, tubifex worms, and plankton.
Find out more about betta fish food.
6. Betta fish diseases: symptoms and treatment
It’s far better to stop your betta fish from contracting a disease at all than it is to treat disease after your fish is already showing symptoms.
Three things that can lower the risk of illness in your tank are:
1. Quarantining new fish before adding them to your main tank
2. Not overcrowding your tank.
3. Ensuring that your tank has a suitable filter and that you perform regular water changes.
If your fish does show signs of illness, then we recommend researching the symptoms of fin rot, velvet, swim bladder problems, and dropsy, as these are some of the most common illnesses.
Find out more about betta fish diseases.
7. Keeping other fish with betta fish
Not only can betta fish live perfectly happily on their own, they sometimes have to be kept alone to stop them from fighting other fish.
If you choose to try housing your betta with other fish, it’s essential to choose a suitable tank mate.
You should also always have a backup plan in case your fish start to fight. We recommend having a small additional tank that you can move your betta fish to if necessary.
Finally, it’s important to remember that, although male bettas are generally more aggressive, females can also display aggressive tendencies.
Find out more about keeping other fish with betta fish.
8. What to do if your betta fish fight each other
When two male bettas view each other as a threat and are preparing to fight, they will puff up their gills, deepen in color, and deliberately display their fins and tail in all their glory in an attempt to intimidate the other fish.
If you wish to see what your male betta looks like in threat display without risking their health, you can hold a mirror up to the outside of the tank. When your male sees his own reflection, he will think it is another male and display his fighting stance!
If you have betta fish that are fighting each other, then you have the following options:
1. Separate the fish into different tanks
2. Purchase a tank divider to split your existing tank into two self-contained spaces
3. If your tank has plenty of space, then adding some plants and caves may stop the fish from fighting, as they will be able to claim their own territory.
4. If your tank is small, then purchasing a larger tank – ideally with caves and plants added -?may help stop the fighting
Find out more about betta fish fighting.
9. Breeding betta fish
To successfully breed your betta fish, it is important to condition your bettas to encourage them to lay their eggs and the male to fertilize them. To do this, you should feed your fish plenty of high protein foods such as bloodworms and daphnia.
It would be best if you also placed your male and chosen female in separate parts of a partitioned tank where they can’t get to each other but can see each other.
The male betta should then begin to build a bubble nest, and the male and female fish will flare at each other, displaying their full size and color as a prelude to breeding.
When both fish are ready, bring them together and expect lots more flaring, chasing, and possibly even what appears to be aggressive behaviour between the two fish.
Ultimately, the male fish will wrap himself around the female to squeeze the eggs out of her while fertilizing them at the same time. Once this is completed, the female fish will float to the top of the tank and the male to the bottom before the male, and sometimes the female begins to move the fertilized eggs to the bubble nest.
This can take a few hours to complete, and when it is done, the male will guard the nest, chasing the female away from it.
Find out more about breeding betta fish.
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