Did you know that the betta fish can get lonely and frustrated? That is the reason why you must provide your fish with the best care. To know how to care of a betta fish, you have to understand your fish well. Are you a new owner of a betta fish? Or are you planning to make one a part of your family? We are here to provide you with an extensive care sheet on how to take care of a betta fish(1).
Facts about betta fish you might want to know
The betta fish are known for their eye-catching colorful fins and their aggressive nature. About 70 different betta fish species exist, and they are most commonly known as the Siamese fighting fish. The scientific name of this species is betta splendens. As a betta fish owner, it would prove useful for you to know a few particulars about them.
Here below are some facts about the betta fish:
Natural habitat of siamesse fighting fish
They thrive in tropical blackwater areas like ponds, rice paddies, small streams, marshlands, rivers, etc. Such habitats are shallow, with steady streams, and usually thick with vegetation. The region’s temperature variation ranges from 50° Fahrenheit during winter to as high as 104° Fahrenheit during summer.
When these water bodies dry up during the dry season, bettas take refuge in shallow puddles for survival. It is possible due to the labyrinth organ present, which allows them to breathe in dry air directly. A network connects the puddles to a larger water body. After some time, the bettas jump from the tiny puddles to the larger water body.
How long does betta fish live?
The betta fish’s life span depends on its genes, environment, and proper care of betta fish. With proper care and a ‘normal’ gene, a betta fish’s average life span is 3 to 5 years in captivity.
There are reports that some betta splendens are known to live up to 9 years in rare cases. It takes just six months for the females to mature fully, while it takes about a year for the males. The lifespan of the betta fish reduces with the number of fights they take part in. Hence, female betta fish tend to live longer than males, as females are more peaceful.
The average size of a betta fish
A betta fish keeps growing till it reaches its maturity. By the time this aquatic animal matures, its fins develop fully and stop growing after that age.
The male betta fish grows up to 2.5-3 inches in length, i.e., from its mouth to its tail base. And the female betta fish usually grows up to 2 to 2.5 inches in length. Though the males seem longer and larger, they are usually thinner than the female bettas.
The ideal fish tank size for your betta fish
The minimum betta tank size has to be about 5 gallons. But why do the pet stores keep them in tiny bowls? You might have the notion that they will do well in such compact spaces. Yes, they may be able to survive, but they will not thrive in them. It is, in fact, dangerous to keep a betta fish in such tiny bowls. There are three main reasons to support this statement:
Hence, it is crucial to provide ample space and a fresh environment for the betta to thrive. As already said, 5-gallon tank size is the minimum recommended size. Creating an environment for the betta fish and decorating it will consume a few volumes of the tank. Hence, the most recommendable betta fish tank size is 8 to 10 gallons tank. A larger tank setup size will ensure the betta fish a healthier and livelier life. The betta fish tank sizes will again vary depending on the number of fishes present in one tank.
You might want to check this article about fish tanks for betta. It could help you select the right one for your precious companion.
Water quality and temperature
Are you aware that the use of direct untested tap water in the tank may be unhealthy for your fish? You must also ensure that the water temperature is not too hot or too cold for your betta fish. Let us discuss below the water parameters and temperature maintenance of the tank.
Quality of Water:
Clean water is a necessity for your betta fish to stay healthy. The municipal tap water usually contains chlorine/chloramines, which is harmful to the betta fish. Adding a water conditioner or dechlorinator to the tap water removes most chemical contaminants and heavy metals. Hence, for precautionary measures, it is vital to use conditioned or dechlorinated water in the aquarium.
Even though it is very clean, distilled water is devoid of any essential minerals required by the betta fish. Hence, you must avoid the use of distilled water.
It is also required of you to test the pH level of the aquarium water regularly. Bettas are most comfortable at a pH level of 6.5 to 7.5. If the water’s pH level rises, you may add peat moss or natural driftwood to increase the acidity level.
The addition of a filtration system to your aquarium is optional. However, filters are generally inexpensive and worth the purchase, given the various benefits they provide. Your aquarium develops its tiny ecosystem, which helps in breaking down the wastes and the leftover foods. Filters enable the growth of these microorganisms and help to maintain the tiny ecosystem in the tank. They focus on the reduction of harmful bacteria while supporting the life of essential bacteria.
With the addition of a filter, you don’t have to change the aquarium water regularly. Filters clean, oxygenate and keep the ecosystem fresh for a longer period. Filters process and converts the harmful ammonia buildup into nitrites and nitrates, which are less toxic than ammonia. A low flow submersible filter with an adjustable flow rate is most suitable for your betta fish. This way, you can adjust the strength of the current according to your betta’s requirement. For tanks with capacities above 5 gallons, it is advisable to change about 10-25% of the total water volume weekly.
Thermometer and heater
The betta fish originates from the tropical region of Asia. Hence, the most suitable temperature range for a betta fish is from 76° F to 81° F. To observe and monitor the aquarium’s temperature; you will have to purchase an aquarium-friendly thermometer. The average temperature of a room in the United States is around 67° F to 69°F. Therefore, to beat the temperature variation, the betta aquarium requires a heater as well.
The size of the aquarium heater will depend on the size of the aquarium. Usually, the aquarium heater needs to have a capacity of 5 Watts of heat per gallon of water. An adjustable aquarium heater with a built-in thermostat is the most suitable. These beauties are sensitive to the physical changes around them. Hence, while changing the temperature of the water, make sure that you do it steadily. A sudden temperature change can cause your fish to become sluggish and ultimately reduce its health drastically.
The environment your betta wants to live in
A captivated Siamese fighting fish can only experience the benefits and beauty of nature artificially. They can sometimes get lonely. A well maintained and decorated aquarium is sure to make the betta content and less lonely. Hence, let us discuss the components required to create the perfect environment for your betta.
By nature, the Siamese fighting fish are diurnal, i.e., they are active during the day and rest during the night. This fish lives well, even in places like rice paddies without proper lighting. However, to improve the mood and the quality of experience for your betta fish, adequate lighting during the day is advisable. Both natural and artificial sources of light are acceptable. If they ever need a rest, they can always hide under the leaves’ shade, or caves present there.
It is best to restrict the entrance of direct sunlight into your tank. That is because sunlight can abruptly raise the water’s temperature and cause physical harm to the bettas. The sun rays may also cause unwanted algae and microorganisms to develop and pose a lethal risk to the bettas. Hence, low-intensity artificial lighting is usually preferred.
In their natural habitat, plants provide the bettas with shelters, shade, and freshwater. Similarly, to mimic its natural habitat, it is essential to keep plants in a betta fish tank. Caring for a betta fish means to ensure that they are satisfied and are seldom stressed. The use of plants to mimic its natural habitat helps in reducing a bettas’ stress significantly. Even in the aquarium, plants provide the bettas with shade and places to hide. It makes them feel secure, especially when they’re asleep.
Plants absorb the carbon dioxide and the ammonia produced by the bettas. They also oxygenate and purify the water. Amazon Swords are water plants with very soft leaves, making them ideal for the betta fish aquarium. You can also use dried almond leaves for a similar purpose. They help to clean and lower the pH level of the water.
Decorations and hideouts:
Decorations and hideouts also provide very similar benefits as the plants do. They help the fish to have their personal hiding space. These decorations beautify the aquarium and enhance the bettas’ exploration experience. Thus, they effectively help minimize the bettas’ stress.
The decorations can include fake plants and flowers. These are almost identical to the real ones. While, you can use tiny stone/clay caves, logs, and seashells as their hideouts. These are inexpensive and lasting.
One must check if the edges and corners of the decorations are sharp or rough. If left unattended, a fake plant’s sharp edges may cut and harm the betta’s fins.
If it is possible, you may try purchasing artificial plants and flowers made of fish-friendly silk. There are also other decorations, such as a betta hammock. It provides relief to the betta’s fins and allows them to rest on it.
The male bettas are famous for their hostile and combative nature. They are very territorial and do not welcome sharing a community tank with other male bettas. If you keep two bettas together, they will fight each other aggressively until the opponent is badly injured. Hence, it is never ideal for keeping two or more male bettas as tank mates.
The female bettas are more peaceful and tend to stay in a sorority of 5 or more. They tend to assert dominance and intimidate other females. It is preferable if you do not keep them as tank mates too. But in case you do, it is best to place them in groups of odd numbers.
Breeding is the only time when it’s safest to keep a male and a female betta together. However, you have to make prior preparations to familiarize themselves with each other before they can meet. When it is ready, the male betta forms bubble nests on the water surface. Once the breeding completes, you will have to remove the female betta fish from the breeding tank. The male fish then protects the eggs in the bubble nests.
Yes, the bettas are aggressive, but they behave this way only to their species. They can get along fine with other types of community fish. However, one must avoid housing vibrant colored fishes or fishes with long flamboyant finnage together with the bettas. Bettas may confuse them for their species and charge at them. One must also avoid housing bettas with other hostile fish because they will fight with each other.
Here below are some few species that do well with bettas as tank mates:
Yoyo loaches, catfish, rasboras, clown plecos, zebra plecos, mystery snails, assassin snails, otocinclus, ghost shrimp, African dwarf frogs, and white cloud mountain minnows.
Or you can read our separate article about best tank mates for betta fish.
Food and feeding:
For maintaining your betta fish’s health, it is necessary to know what it must eat and what it mustn’t. If you feed it the wrong fish food, it won’t get the necessary nutrition. If you feed it too much, it will become swollen. Often pet fish owners fail to realize that they are putting excess fish food in the tank. It usually leads to contamination of the water and causes the fish to bloat and become ill. Hence, you will need to regulate its eating habits and care for its diet. Continue reading below to learn how to take care of their diets:
In their wild natural habitat, these betta fish are carnivores and usually feed on lower insect orders and larvae. However, in captivity, they feed on readymade food like specific meat-based pellets, flakes, freeze-dried blood worms, brine shrimps, etc. You can obtain these types of food easily in nearly any pet store in the United States. Besides the readymade foods, there are live foods like blackworms available too. You can give treats to your betta splendens once in a while with live foods. But do not overdo it as they might get attached to that diet.
You should not focus only on one type of food; rather, feed your betta fish with a diverse diet. For a beginner, meat pellets are the most suitable diet as they are easy to feed. In no circumstance you should feed your betta fish with a vegetable-based diet. Nor should you feed your betta fish with other tropical fish diets. That will ruin the health of your bettas. When you buy their food, check the ingredients, and make sure that they have an overall protein percentage of 40%.
Overfeeding is a dangerous way to care for betta fish. You don’t want to feed your betta fish with the recommended quantity for a few weeks, as a beginner. This way, the beneficial bacteria gets enough time to multiply in the tank. These bacteria help to break down the leftover food and prevent contamination of the aquarium water. Even after this period, be careful not to provide excess food to your bettas. If they are overfed, the leftovers remaining in the gallon tank will pollute and make the water toxic.
Normally, it is sufficient to feed your betta twice a day. While feeding twice a day, let the feeding gap be over 12 hours apart. Overfeeding may cause your fish to gain weight, fatty liver disease, constipation, etc. which may lead to premature death. Some owners allow their bettas to starve for 24 hours once every 10 to 14 days. They do so to prevent constipation.
The Siamese fighting fish can go without food for 14 days straight until they die of starvation, like humans. Hence, if you are going for a 2 to 3 days vacation, it is better not to feed it. The reason is that most owners tend to put extra food into the tank, which the labyrinth fish won’t finish. This action results in water changes, from clean to toxic, and harms the fish.
Betta tank cleaning and maintenance - things to know
Let us observe how a betta tank gets polluted. The wastes from your betta and the leftover foods decompose and convert to ammonia and nitrites. The more the wastes, the more the ammonia, and ammonia is toxic to your betta. The ammonia also drastically increases the water’s pH level, which can result in its fin rot. Hence, keeping your gallon tank clean will keep your betta happy and healthy.
How often should you clean a betta fish’s tank?
Smaller tanks get polluted quicker than the bigger ones. Hence, you need to attend to the smaller tanks or bowls more frequently. The number of times that a tank needs cleaning in a week depends on whether it is filtered or not. You need to clean an unfiltered tank and replace the water fully once every week. That is because of how quickly the water quality declines.
You need to change 25% of the total water volume once every week for filtered tanks of 5 gallon to 10 gallons. You only need to clean and replace the whole volume of the water once a month. However, this is only an approximation as the contamination rate may vary depending on other factors. Hence, you must use your water parameters test kit to test the water’s acidity levels and take action accordingly.
The bettas are sensitive to rapid changes in their surroundings. Hence, it is healthier for your betta if you cycle the water more than you do a 100% water replacement. Also, it is safer for your betta if you do not take it out during water cycling.
How to clean your tank and decorations?
Cleaning of the tank and the decorations is tedious and time-consuming. It is a healthy step towards maintaining proper betta care. Here are the steps you can follow in cleaning your tank:
In case your decorations are sensitive to heat, you can use bleach (1:10) to clean them. And you must never use soap to wash or clean the gallon tank. It may poison the fish later on as soap residues are very hard to remove.
Betta fish health - red flags
As an aquarist, you should know how to respond to sudden behavioral changes in your betta. This way, you will be able to make the difference between a healthy and an ill betta. Through this, you can know and understand how to take better care of your betta. With this knowledge, you can use it to determine a healthy fish when buying a young betta fish. Let us discuss below the signs that differentiate a healthy betta from a sick one.
Signs of a healthy fish:
The most common signs of healthy fish are:
Signs of a sick betta:
The following are the common signs which indicate that the betta is unhealthy if:
Due to their labyrinth organ, the bettas are tough fishes that can thrive in areas where most fishes cannot. However, they are vulnerable to some common aquatic diseases. They may show some of the unhealthy signs as the ones shown above, even with proper care. That might be due to some of the potential diseases mentioned below:
How to take care of a baby betta fish?
Caring for betta fish that’s matured is tough already. To take care of a young betta fish is a very delicate job. Young bettas need very careful handling of the diets, timings, and environmental settings. Usually, only the experienced caretakers and breeders mostly take up this task. Recently, Petco has started selling baby betta fish. Though there are many different types of bettas, the babies can all be taken care of in the same way.
You must keep the baby betta fishes separately, usually in a one-gallon tank per baby betta. As babies, they need space to grow. The diet range of baby bettas must be much wider than that of an adult betta’s.
You have to maintain the water temperature at about 76°F to 84°F. Colder water tends to stress the young bettas and decrease their appetite. Also, you will have to perform frequent water changes. For the tank setup, a sponge filter is the most suitable as other power filters may be risky. The shipping of young bettas is dangerous. Hence, it is best to do shipping only after they mature.
In the beginning, it won’t be easy to learn how to care for a betta fish. You will have to face and deal with unexpected challenges. Once you establish a routine and follow the care sheet, you will be an expert in no time.
No matter how aggressive the betta fish may seem, they are delicate beings. They will always need your intensive care and support. They are sensitive to a lot of physical changes and sickness too. Even though in captivity, betta fish deserve to be treated well and cared for like a family. It is crucial to keep a tab on your betta’s health and watch for any unusual indicators. The underlying reason for most health issues is poor feeding behavior, poor tank setup, and maintenance.
Always keep a water quality test kit with you to monitor the water parameters of the aquarium water. You must also keep a good water conditioner always. One must put effort into decorating the aquarium, which could improve the health of the betta. A beautiful aquarium always attracts the attention of people too. Do cover the aquarium with a lid to prevent your betta from jumping out of the tank. Remember to always wash your hands before and after contact with aquatic animals as they are major carriers of diseases.
We hope that this betta care article guides you well in your journey to become a good betta aquarist. Please share this betta care information with other people in need once you know about betta fish care.