Whether or not you’re a fish keeper, you probably have heard of betta fish before. Betta fish (also known as the Siamese fighting fish) are longtime favorite pets for both beginner and veteran fish keepers. They are popular for their elegant movement, colorful finnage, and fiery characteristics.
Betta fish are not difficult to take care of. However, there are things you must take notice of to keep them healthy and happy. If you are new to the aquarium world, this guide is here to help you. Find out what you need to know to successfully keep your betta fish.
Table of Contents
Betta Fish Facts
Betta Fish Natural Habitat
Betta fish are native to South Asia. They are often found in the shallow water of marshes, ponds or slow-moving streams. While some betta fish are captured in the wild, the majority of those in the US market come from breeding farms in Thailand and a few other countries in Southeast Asia.
Betta fish are diurnal. Just like us, they are active and “awake” during the day and sleep at night. That means they require a clear separation between day and night in their living space to be energized during the day and get proper rest during the night.
Betta Fish Lifespan
Everyone always wonders how long their pets can live. For betta fish, the average lifespan ranges from 3 to 5 years in captivity. There are occasions which betta fish lived up to 9 years. Yet, those are very rare cases.
In general, betta fish should do well over 3 years if the living conditions are favorable. They are tough and hardy fish. They can survive some harsh conditions that other fish species cannot. However, in those conditions, though they can survive, they cannot thrive.
Average Size of Betta Fish
When fully grown, betta fish have an average length of 2.25 inches (or 5.7 cm). In very favorable conditions, they can grow up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) in length. Betta fish’s size depends much on the fish’s age and how it has been taken care of. Bettas are considered fully grown around 7 months.
They also develop their signature full finnage during that time. After that mark, whatever size the fish is in would probably be its size for the rest of its life. Beginners should purchase betta fish around this age range for easier care. Smaller sizes and younger fish should be reserved for experienced caretakers.
What Size Tank Does a Betta Fish Need?
There is a myth that because of where they originate, betta fish only like to live in small spaces, and they will become stress or even die if they live in larger spaces. That is not true. All fish, including betta fish, require ample space to swim freely and exercise.
In general, no fish should be kept in a tank smaller than 10 gallons. Yet, for one single betta, a tank of at least 3 to 5 gallons is acceptable – but the more space the better. The tank size required needs to be adjusted according to how many fish there will be.
Best Water for Betta Fish
Most municipal tap water contains chlorine and/or chloramine, which are lethal to fish. Chlorine could evaporate if the water sit out overnight but chloramine doesn’t evaporate. Therefore, to be certain, you should always add some water conditioner or dechlorinator to tap water before adding it to the aquarium.
Then after fully set up the aquarium with dechlorinated water, filters, any substrate, and decorations, you can either do a few weeks of fish-less cycling to build up some bacteria in the tank. Or you can add a few fish and feed them a lesser than usual amount of food every day to slowly build up the bacteria.
See more here: Best Water for Betta Fish? All You Need To Know
Ideal Temperature for Betta Fish
The ideal temperature for betta fish ranges between 76°F to 82°F degrees, but they are more active in warmer waters. Most of the time, betta aquarium would need a heater, since the water at room temperatures in the US is often between 67°F to 69°F.
The aquarium should have constant and controllable temperature and light. Bettas can be lethargic and sick from being too cold.
Betta Fish Diet & Feeding
What to Feed Betta Fish?
Betta fish are carnivores. The most basic food for betta fish are freeze-dried blood worms and brine shrimps, which can be easily found in most pet shops. Besides freeze-dried food, you should add other types of food for a diverse diet such as dried worms and shrimps, or fish pellets and flakes, or insect-based pallets. Betta fish like freeze and dried food but their most favorite is live foods. Live blackworms would be a great choice for bettas.
They are a freshwater species (which resembles bettas’ actual diet in nature) and they can live for quite a while in your aquarium without dirtying the water. The disadvantage of live foods is that they are not always readily available at pet stores and they can potentially bring in parasites. So don’t overdo with live foods. You also should not feed betta fish with the same type of food every, try to rotate the food as much as you can.
How Much to Feed Betta Fish?
Betta fish tend to eat anything you give them, so be careful not to overfeed them. If you do, they will produce a lot of waste and dirty, or even poison, the tank water. In the beginning, you should feed them lesser than the recommended amount for a few weeks.
This is to cycle the water and build up enough beneficial bacteria in the tank to “deal” with the food waste later. You don’t want to feed the fish too much food until the bacteria has grown enough to handle the food waste.
How Often to Feed Betta Fish?
Frequency of feeding depends much on the type of tank. If it is a fishbowl or a small tank, it would be more than sufficient to feed your fish once a day. But if you have bigger tanks, feeding them twice a day should also be okay.
Betta fish tend to eat the food right off the surface of the water. When feeding, you can see whether the fish reach for food on the surface or let them drop to the bottom of the tank. If they no longer reach for the food and let them drop, your fish are not interested in more food. You should stop feeding.
See more here: How often Should You Feed a Betta Fish?
Betta Fish Breeding
Breeding betta fish requires much planning and preparation. The first step in breeding is finding a good pair of male and female with similar colors and fins.
Bettas are aggressive in nature. They don’t normally allow any other bettas to come close to them. In order to breed, you have to condition the breeding bettas to get used to each other beforehand. Try having the female in a glass hurricane globe inside the tank before putting the male in. Then introduce the male to the tank.
After some time of getting used to the female, the male will start building a bubble nest in the tank. This is time to release the female.
When the female is sure the nest is ready, she will signal the male that she is ready for breeding. The male will wrap himself around her and eggs are produced. After the male moves all the eggs to the nest, the female would move away, into her hiding spot. You should move her out of the tank now.
The male will spend all of his time tending the bubble nest. After 2 or 3 days, the eggs will hatch into fry.
Betta Fish Community Tank
Can Betta Fish Live with other Betta Fish?
Betta fish are famous for their individuality and aggression. All bettas have strong individual personalities. The male betta fish are very aggressive towards other bettas and will fight each other to defend territory. They will not stop fighting until their opponents back down or severely injured. That is why male bettas should always be kept separately.
Female bettas tend to claim dominance and bully other females. You should avoid keeping them together. But if you do, it is preferable to keep females in groups of odd numbers (like 3, 5, etc…)
Males and females should also not be kept together except for breeding purposes. Even then, you should condition the fish, so they get used to each other before actually let them live in the same tank. And after breeding is done, the female should be removed from the tank.
Betta Fish Tank Mates
Though bettas are famous for being aggressive, they are only aggressive towards other bettas. Yet, they get along well with other fish species. They can live together with other community fish.
Bettas should not be kept with other brightly colored fish or fish with long flashy finnage. Bettas will mistake them for other bettas and attack them. They should also not be kept with other aggressive fish. Bettas will not back down from a fight.
The following species are known to be good tank mates with bettas: Octocinclus, ghost shrimp, platies, Corydoras, Neon or Cardinal Tetras, Snails, African dwarf frogs, and white cloud mountain minnows.
Still, each betta fish has an individual trait so you need to observe carefully whether or not that specific betta can live with other fish in the same tank.
Betta Fish Health
Signs of a Healthy Betta Fish
Betta fish should be around their average size around month 7 months old. Their finnage should also be close to fully grown then and remain vibrant and colorful. A healthy bettas fish should eat well and swim actively around the tank. If they appear sluggish or dull in color, that’s not a good sign. Your fish might be sick or stressed. Or the more obvious signs like when the body has open sores, white cottony patches, or red and white spots on their bodies.
If you want your fish to grow to its full potential, you should provide a spacious and healthy habitat for them to thrive in. You should use water filters to keep the water quality at the pristine condition. It is also important to keep your water in the range of 76 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Coldwater causes great stress for bettas. Finally, you should try a diverse diet with protein-rich food for your bettas. Nothing helps an animal more than a proper diet.
Betta Fish Diseases
Despite being hard fish, bettas are quite susceptible to a few common aquatic diseases. If they have signs of being unhealthy listed above while the living condition is top-notch then they might be affected with some of the following diseases:
1. Betta fish fungal infection: Bettas carrying fungal infection will have white cotton like patches on its head and body. Sometimes, they will stop eating and their colors turn pale. This can be avoided by adding aquarium salt and one drop of Aquarisol per gallon of water.
2. Betta Fish Fin Rot: Suffering bettas will start losing their fins. The tails often get shorter and change to darker colors. This disease is caused by dirty water. This disease can get serious and lead to death if not treated properly and promptly. Once the bettas have no fins left, they can’t survive.
3. Popeye: Also an infection caused by dirty water. Betta fish’s eyes will start bulging out. This can be reversed with clean water.
4. Ick: Ick is a parasite. Suffering bettas have white spots all over. They will appear less active and their fins may be clamped. This is a very contagious disease. Try adding aquarium salt and Aquarisol per gallon of water to avoid.
5. Velvet: is a contagious parasite. Suffering bettas will appear to be covered with fine gold or rust mist. If one fish catches this parasite, the whole tank should be treated. This disease is highly contagious. Try adding aquarium salt and Aquarisol per gallon of water to avoid.
6. Internal parasites: suffering bettas will continue to lose weight though they eat normally. Try adding aquarium salt and Aquarisol per gallon of water to avoid.
7. Swim bladder disorder: this disease is caused simply by overfeeding. Suffering bettas can’t swim well.
8. Dropsy: this is the most fetal betta fish disease. This often leads to kidney failure. Suffering bettas have abnormally big floated belly and raised scales. This disease is said to come from feeding bettas live foods. This disease is not contagious but it is also not curable.
Betta fish are beautiful fish with strong individual personalities. It takes some effort to take good care of them. But in general, you should be easily able to keep a betta happy and healthy just by choosing good tank mates for them, feeding them well, and keep the tank water in good, clean condition. Now, what are you waiting for? Bring a beautiful betta fish home.