This betta fish care guide will take you on an aquatic journey through the life and needs of any betta fish that may come into your ownership. Knowing the best ways of caring for betta fish will keep your pets alive and thriving. Betta fish have very particular requirements that new fish owners may not be privy to, so sit back and flip through this extensive guide on pet betta fish.
How to Care for a Betta Fish: The Basics
Want to learn how to take care of a betta fish? You’re in the right place. Proper betta care will ensure that you have healthy betta fishes throughout your entire tank, whether you have only one betta fish or your fish has a tank mate to keep them company.
To be able to properly care for a betta fish, you must first learn the basic needs that this particular fish species has. Bettas will be able to live up to ten years if they are well cared for.
About the Betta Fish
The betta fish is a tropical fish that is also known as the Siamese fighting fish. These are popular aquarium pet fish that belong to the gourami family.
Their secondary name may give you a hint as to why these aren’t considered beginner-friendly fish. Siamese fighting fish will fight for their place in a tank, and putting two together can end in disaster if they’re both male bettas. To avoid having one siamese fighting fish killing another, pet owners should learn the differences between the two biological sexes of the betta.
Unlike common pet fish that will happily live on a diet of fish flakes and the occasional treat of frozen foods, bettas are carnivores that need a protein-rich diet. They should not be fed flakes at all.
Did you know that betta fish can breathe air from the surface of the water? This is because they are labyrinth fish, so they have the ability to take in their oxygen from the water surface, as well as the depths of a tank.
Other labyrinth fish include the gourami (male gouramis should not be placed in tanks that house betta fish), and the arapaima.
Male Betta Fish Versus Female Betta Fish
The variation of betta fish that are sold as pet fish is known as Betta Splendens. This version of betta fish comes in hundreds of colors, which makes them an attractive alternative to other fish that are available at your local pet stores. Tropical fish need a tropical climate to live in. The water pH of your fish tank needs to be completely neutral – that’s a pH of 7.
Male bettas have long fins and are more colorful than female betta fish are. From the look of a betta fish, you wouldn’t think that they are so aggressive, but the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” seems very apt here.
Female bettas can be put with community fish and other female bettas without any issues, while male bettas must only be housed with non-aggressive fish or fish that your betta may try to compete with. As an example, bettas will quickly attack fancy guppies.
This fish species has a habit of becoming aggressive and attacking other fish, so you need to be really careful what fish you include in your community tank to avoid issues. It’s best to find tank mates that are compatible with betta fish.
Betta Fish Care
Although they have the potential to live a full decade, the average betta fish will only live between two and four years. That is because of the sheer amount of misinformation given out regarding bettas, which directly impacts their health. Taking care of your bettas does not require any huge amount of effort, just a little reading and the correct purchases of tank equipment and food.
We would recommend doing your research before buying any bettas to add to your home. An existing fish tank may not have enough space or have suitable tank mates for a betta fish to be introduced to it. The last thing you want is to cause health issues in your bettas so soon after bringing them home.
Betta Fish Health
A healthy betta fish will be bright, colorful, and their fins will be entirely intact. They may show aggressive behavior and appear to flare their fins up at you or anything else that comes close to their environment. This is normal betta fish behavior – they are naturally aggressive and possessive of their surroundings.
Betta fish also love to investigate. They will explore their tank, including all of the hiding places that they can find around the aquarium that you have set up for them. They may even investigate you if you come up to the tank to look at them! These fish find their surroundings very interesting when they’re fit and healthy.
You can also expect a betta fish to eat regularly. They enjoy their diet when they are fed correctly.
Common betta fish diseases
A sick betta fish will quickly lose their appetite, and this should be the first sign that something may be wrong with your fish. Other signs of a sick betta fish include:
- Cloudy eyes
- Tattered fins
- Clamped fins
- Black edges on fins
- White growths on the body or mouth
- Abnormal swimming patterns
- Dull coloring
The most common health problems and diseases in betta fish are fin rot, pop eye, columnaris, dropsy, eyecloud, and mouth fungus. There are several more, and they can even affect baby bettas.
Some diseases, such as tail and fin rot, are simply caused by an unclean betta fish tank. They are preventable diseases, and when treated quickly, should not be fatal to your betta or any other fish in the tank. Diseases like eyecloud are caused by bacterial infections. These infections are also the result of unclean water.
Identifying Common Betta Fish Diseases
Fin and tail rot: Fin and/or tail appear to be melting away from the betta fish, they may also become discolored or turn black.
Columnaris: Fin and tail appear to become frayed and ragged, this condition also causes skin ulcers, lesions, white spots, discoloration, and a growth like cotton around the mouth.
Hemorrhagic: Bleeding inside the mouth and eyes of the betta fish, also known as “redmouth”.
Dropsy: Will appear as a swollen or bloated abdomen due to an excess amount of fluid in the belly of the fish, bettas may also present with outward-sticking scales that have turned white, and eyes that have sunk inwards.
Pop eye: A condition that causes one or both eyes of the betta to swell due to either infection or a possible tumor.
Eyecloud: A disease that causes a white film to cover the eyes of the fish.
Mouth fungus: One of many bacterial infections that result in white lines or white clumps around the mouth of the betta.
What Can you Feed Betta Fish?
The best food for betta fish is high-protein fish pellets or frozen foods like blood worms and brine shrimp. Freeze-dried bloodworms are also enjoyed by this tropical fish.
Betta fish food is varied, and the closer you can get to their natural diet in the wild, the better off your betta will be. Betta fish eat small insects in the wild, and they will leave uneaten food in their tank if they are displeased with it.
Whether you have smaller tanks or larger tanks for your bettas, you should buy a floating pellet that is designed for betta fish to eat. Because bettas are a labyrinth-type fish, they enjoy eating their food from the water’s surface. In a way, this can also make casual tank cleaning easier because you don’t need to try and clean up a bunch of sunken food from the bottom.
Bettas eat krill, larvae, and other live foods, too. Avoid fish flakes and try not to feed your betta too many plant roots. Neither of these is suitable for a betta fish. Betta fish need a proper diet to thrive in a tank environment.
Betta Fish Tank Setup
Betta fish live better in larger tanks. For some reason, there is misinformation out there that says that bettas can live fine in small bowls, but this just isn’t true. Small fish bowls are sold in the pet trade to make money and are never suitable to house any kind of fish in for long periods of time.
A betta’s tank may have tank mates, as long as they are an approved community fish that will not be aggressive towards the betta, and will not be easily bullied by the betta, either. The same tank housing a betta should not have a large number of live plants in it – this is because live plants take away the oxygen from the surface water of the tank that the betta can breathe in. Restricting their access to this air is cruel and unnecessary.
The water temperature for bettas should be kept between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Colder water will prove fatal to a betta, while water warmer than this temperature will cause them to age and die quickly. Keep your betta comfortable by using an aquarium safe thermometer to measure the temperature of the tank at all times.
As well as keeping the water temperature steady, you will need to ensure that you are not overfeeding your fish or leaving uneaten food to float around the tank for days at a time. This leftover food can raise the nitrite levels and ammonia in the tank. Keep the tank clean for your fish. On occasion, it wouldn’t go amiss to check water quality numbers using pH level and chemical strips.
Tips for Cleaning and Maintaining Your Aquarium
At some point, you will find yourself wanting to change the water of the entire tank. Don’t. In this situation, be sure to treat the water with a water conditioner and only replace a bit of the water in the tank at any one time.
Treating the water will remove harmful chemicals from the tap water you use to fill the tank – you need to remove chlorine from the tap water, among other toxins that exist in the water we humans drink. Water test kits will be the best thing in your home during these tank cleans.
An aquarium heater is not an optional piece of equipment for your tank. There may be other equipment that you think is more vital, but if you don’t keep the aquarium water temperature at the right level from the start, your betta won’t live more than a few hours from the shock of the temperature change.
Continue to frequently monitor the water parameters of the aquarium housing your bettas. Remember that the water’s pH level should be around 7 and that your tank should have warm water no hotter than 80 degrees Fahrenheit (just over 26 degrees Celsius).
Any tank mate that you include in this environment with your betta should be able to thrive at the same temperature. A goldfish, for example, would not be a suitable tank mate for a betta fish. The fish trade may be booming and full of pet fish that look pretty, but they won’t survive in the wrong conditions.
Do not use distilled water in your betta’s tank.
Fish Tank Lighting
Betta fish will love a little direct sunlight, but this natural source is uncontrollable and can’t be relied on. To keep the temperature of your water parameters where it should be, it’s best to employ the use of a fish tank light. The light should be fully suitable for an aquarium of the gallon size that you have, able to light up as much of the tank as possible to provide a good amount of light during the daytime for your betta fish. Artificial light is consistent, and unlike sunlight, it won’t promote algae growth in your tank.
For a larger tank, you may need more than one light. Make sure you read up about the light you’re interested in buying and be sure to take any live plants and their oxygen needs into account.
Fish Tank Filtration
The best filter for your tank will really depend on the gallon count, particularly if you have a large tank that will need regular cleaning through a filtration system. That said, you need to choose a filter that performs with a slow current because betta fish, even with their long fins, cannot swim very fast. Their natural habitat is slow-flowing, they are used to relaxing and coming up to breathe air as they please.
Male bettas will even a build bubble nest at the surface for mating purposes, so a fast-flowing current will certainly cause problems for your fish and their instinctual habits. Bubble nests will later house eggs released by the female betta fish, which makes them an extremely vital part of betta life.
Bettas don’t like small habitats, which means you should be housing them in a large tank, with a suitable slow-moving filtration system, and water that is cleaned used dechlorinating products to rid the liquid of heavy metals and toxic chemicals.
Sponge filters will be fine, but they aren’t very strong by themselves and you may need a second one depending on the gallon count of your tank and its overall size.
Internal filters are the next step up from sponge filters, but some can be too powerful and very noisy. They are, however, better for circulating oxygen in an aquarium.
Best Tank Mates for Betta Fish
There are several varieties of fish that make perfect tank mates for betta fish. These little friends will keep your bettas from getting lonely or bored.
- Ghost shrimp
- Ember tetras
- Cory catfish
- African dwarf frogs
- Kuhli loaches
- Malaysian trumpet snails
Quick Tank Parameters for Betta Fish
- Water pH level 7
- Water temperature between 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit
- Do not house in small tanks
- Use an aquarium heater
- Use aquarium lights to provide good amounts of lighting during the day
- Install a slow-current water filter
- Be careful which other fish you house with bettas
Betta Fish in the Wild
In the wild, betta fish live in rice paddies, canals, floodplains, and other similar habitats. They are native to Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, so you aren’t likely to find them in the wild outside of these areas. As pet fish, you can find them just about anywhere, because aquariums can be adjusted to the natural habitat of the fish who live in them.
Wild betta fish mainly eat insects and insect larvae. This can be replicated for pet betta fish, thankfully.
The labyrinth organ is the reason that betta fish and other labyrinth fish are able to breathe from the surface of the water. This special organ also makes it possible for them to live in small tanks that have no circulation, but it’s a half-life at best, and not healthy for your betta.
Facts About Wild Betta Fish
- Betta fish are native to Asia.
- They live in shallow bodies of water, such as ponds, streams, marshes, and slow-moving rivers.
- Male bettas are very family-orientated and will build nests to protect their eggs.
- Male bettas are the more colorful of the two sexes in this species.
- The labyrinth organ came about because of drastic changes in the environment of today’s betta fish.
Where to Buy Betta Fish
Don’t support the pet trade by buying betta fish from your local pet store. Pet stores often breed fish en masse to keep up with demand and do the bare minimum to care for them. You may believe that you’re giving a pet store fish a chance at having a better home to live in, but what you’re really doing is fulfilling that demand that pet stores use to continue bringing in hundreds of new fish from outside their native areas.
Instead of buying from pet stores, attempt to find a reputable breeder or specialist who keeps their betta fish in good condition. Seeing lots of fish together in a small tank should be a huge warning sign for potential buyers. Especially if you see mixed sexes of betta fish living together with other species.
Buying From a Breeder
Search for a licensed aquarium or fish breeder to buy from, rather than buying from a pet store. A knowledgeable breeder should be able to tell you all about betta fish and check that you have the right setup ready at home before receiving your new pet.
Most breeders will have customer reviews online, so it’s fairly easy to tell who is about to rip you off if you know what signs to look for. Just like buying a dog from a breeder, ask questions, don’t meet them alone, and never pay in advance for your new pet.
Q: How many betta fish can I keep together?
A: Female betta fish can live together in harmony and will, generally, not try to attack each other like male betta fish do. If you’re looking to have several bettas together like this, you could consider housing anywhere from 4 to 6 female betta in the same tank.
Male bettas cannot live together, but they can be housed with other fish in a community tank setting. Remember that bettas are carnivores, so don’t house anything they might eat in the same tank.
Q: How often should I change the water in my betta fish tank?
A: Changing out the water of your tank can disrupt your fish if you do it too often. Avoid changing out your entire tank all at once because it’s almost impossible to get the environment back to similar parameters and could shock your fish and kill them.
Ideally, you’ll want to change around a quarter of your tank at any one time and only do so once per week. Your tank filter will take care of cleaning each gallon of water that you haven’t replaced.
Q: What should I do if my fish start fighting?
A: There isn’t much you can do if two of your fish start fighting each other. In the case of two betta fish fighting, a fight should only last around 15 minutes and they’ll usually back off from each other afterward. The thing is, your fish shouldn’t be fighting at all unless they’re unhappy or they’ve been housed incorrectly. You may have accidentally housed two male betta fish together in the same tank, which poses a problem because they will continue to fight until one backs down.
If you notice your fish fighting, check the parameters of the tank, give them some food, and see if their behavior changes. You may need to re-house one of the fish in a different tank to stop the fighting from happening.