The betta fish. It’s been touted as one of the most colorful, beautiful fish in the world.
Also known as the Siamese fighting fish, it originated in Thailand, Vietnam and the Cambodian regions.
The males come in a variety of colors and they are fascinating to watch, one of the many reasons millions of fish lovers choose the beloved betta fish as a pet.
So — you are the proud owner of a betta. Now what?
In this article, we will touch on the necessary items to which you must pay attention if you want to raise a healthy, thriving betta.
The main points to consider when caring for your new betta are:
- How to set up the aquarium
- What you will need to maintain the tank
- Characteristics of a healthy betta
- What does a betta eat and how often?
- Warning signs of possible diseases
1. The Aquarium Setup
Your home is your castle, right? You like to keep it clean and free of clutter. Well, it’s not any different for your betta. A clean home equates to a happy betta.
Bettas do not necessarily require a huge, overpriced, complicated filtration system, or a lot of toys. In a way, you can say bettas are “minimalists” — they like their space, and lots of it. Think of the wide open ranges and fields of Texas. There’s no need to crowd the tank with tons of plants, mini castles or figurines. The number-one rule — keep it simple.
Size is important — to a betta. The tank should be at least 3 gallons of water per betta fish; this is the minimum amount of space. A general rule of thumb is to have 1 gallon of water per inch of fish and then add another gallon for good measure. If you plan to add more fish to your tank, I recommend a 10-gallon size.
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When assembling your betta’s new home, consider these things:
- The aquarium can be either glass or acrylic
- Plants can be either live or plastic
- Use waste-absorbing gravel
- Don’t forget a heater — bettas like to stay warm
- Betta food and treats (bloodworms are a nice treat)
- Water and fish treatments
2. Maintaining a Healthy Tank
If your tank is meant to be “home” for your betta fish, or perhaps a few nice neighbors, then you will need a filtration system — but not a huge, complicated one. Bettas prefer stagnant water, so the system should not create a lot of “waves.”
Temperature is important to bettas. As with the three bears: not too hot, not too cold — just right. The water should run around 75 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
The pH levels for the tank should range between 6.8 and 7. Test the water — literally — before submerging your little one into the tank; you want to make sure he’s comfortable. Buy additives or tablets at a pet store to help regulate the pH levels and measure the pH with test kits. Test the water at least weekly.
An important note: Before adding any items to the tank, such as plastic plants, gravel or other decor, rinse the items thoroughly. Many may contain chemicals that can be hazardous to your betta.
3. A Checklist for a Healthy Betta
First and foremost, keep the tank clean.
Second, keep an eye on your betta’s:
- Color — should be bright and clear
- Fins — no tears or holes
- Scales — should be smooth
- Quick movements — they love showing off
These are indicators that your betta is healthy and well. Bubbles on the surface of the water will also mean your betta is a happy fish.
4. Your Betta’s Appetite
Bettas have a rather simple diet. They will grow fast if they are fed mostly fresh or frozen foods that are nutritious for them. But like humans, they do have an appetite for tasty treats — although for bettas, these are things such as worms, insects and small crustaceans.
If you notice body swelling or signs of constipation, cease feeding your fish for several days and then feed him only live food for several days. The condition should improve. Once health is restored, reduce the amount of food you fed your fish previously so constipation does not occur again.
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Tips: Feed your betta small meals throughout the day. If this doesn’t work with your schedule, feed him once in the morning and again in the evening. If you can feed him only twice a day, give your betta enough to eat for approximately a 2-minute feeding duration. Leaving uneaten food in the aquarium can be dangerous as well, so remove all food remnants from the tank. These betta fish care guidelines are vitally important to follow as improper feeding can lead to poor health.
5. Is Your Betta Not Feeling Well?
Your betta likes to swim at the top of the tank, but if he’s floating… you have a problem.
Betta care is not that difficult if you follow the proper steps and guidelines. But, unfortunately, even the most experienced betta owners may deal with an occasional sick fish.
Here are a few signs your betta may not be feeling 100%:
- Swimming becomes a strange pattern
- The fins look clamped
- Your little fella is spending way too much time at the bottom of the tank — hiding
- He’s at the top of the tank gasping for air — constantly
- He’s got the “shakes”
- He’s using the plastic plants and castle as a scratching post — well, he’s not a cat
Normally your betta will have cotton wool disease, ich or velvet, all of which can easily be treated with an over-the-counter medication (usually containing malachite green) and aquarium salt added to the tank. Consult your veterinarian or the specialist at the store where you bought your betta before starting any treatment.
Good luck, and happy betta keeping!
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This featured contribution was written by Adam Short, proud owner of Betta Fish Center, an educational resource for betta owners looking for information on how to keep their fish happy and healthy. On his website you can find free articles, videos, user-submitted gallery images and a betta forum where members can interact and ask questions.