INTRODUCTION TO BETTA CARE
Betta fish (Betta Splendens) are one of the hardiest fish in the aquarium hobby. Unfortunately, this is taken advantage of by the pet fish industry. Bettas are often marketed as low/no maintenance fish that can be kept in small glass bowls. This however, is very misleading and untrue.
Comparatively, bettas are indeed one of the easiest fish to keep in the aquarium hobby. But, no matter how "easy" they are to care for, Bettas still need the basic, basic equipments for keeping tropical fish: heater, water, water conditioner, food and care. In this introduction to Betta care, we will walk you through these basic fish keeping necessities.
Never keep a male betta fish with any other betta fish, be it female or male. Bettas of either gender are aggressive to their own kind, and will readily fight to death in the limited confines of the home aquarium. Females can be kept together in a sorority if specific measures are taken.
Read more on keeping a sorority here:
Important tips to a successful sorority
Bettas can also be housed in a divided tank or a community tank (usually 10 gallons or larger). As bettas are aggressive fish, care must be taken when introducing a betta fish in to a community tank.
Read about other ways to house bettas here:
Betta Compatibility With Each Other
Generally it is recommended to keep a betta in no less than 1 gallon of water. Larger and/or more active bettas will need bigger tanks. This is to ensure a stable environment for the fish as well as an ethically acceptable space for swimming and exercise. The bigger the tank, the less tank maintenance is needed.
It is recommended for tanks 5 gallons and over to be cycled. It is possible to cycle smaller tanks as well, but such cycles are know to be less stable than that in a larger volume of water.
More on cycling:
A Beginner's Guide to the Freshwater Aquarium Cycle
Nitrogen cycle-Betta specific
To prevent temperature fluctuation, tanks should be placed on a sturdy surface of contant temperature. Room heaters, windows, areas of direct sunlight or cold drafts should be avoided
Bettas are tropical fish, this means that they should be kept in tropical temperatures. A good temperature for bettas is from around 76F to 82F. Many do just fine when summer temperature hits the 90s. A good betta environment should have as little temperature fluctuations are possible. With large fluctuations (especially on the cooler side) bettas may go into temperature shock. (think of it like a really sudden painful brain freeze o_O)
In cold water (room temperature water is usually considered too cold for bettas) bettas will become lethargic and sickly.
In the majority of cases, heaters are an integral part of fish keeping. They help maintain a stable water temperature and prevent fluctuations.
A standard 25w adjustable heater works well in tanks 5 gallons (<20 Litres) and under
a 50w will be good for a 5-10 gallon (20-40Litres) tank.
To know how warm the water is, you will need a thermometer. Checking the thermometer should be a daily habit as it is one of the primary indicators of a healthy betta environment
BASIC DECOR GUIDE
Betta fish needs access to air. This is due to their labyrinth organs, a lung like organ which developed to compensate for the oxygen poor waters of their natural habitats. Do leave room above the water for your betta to breathe, else they may drown!
Water changes are a must. Water changes ensure that toxic ammonia, nitrite and nitrates are eliminated and is usually performed weekly, according to your tank conditions.
For a comprehensive water change guide, please visit this sticky:
Oldfishlady water change recommendations
For most of us, the water that comes out of our taps contains an amount of chlorine/chloromine that is lethal to fish. This calls for the need of a water conditioner. Water conditioner neutralizes the chlorine in tap water. Try to look for a brand which takes cares of both chlorine and chloramine. Some water conditioners such as Prime by Seachem also locks down ammonia for a short period of time.
Test kits test water parameters such as ammonia, nitrite, nitrates, PH, Gh and KH. Knowing ammonia, nitrites and nitrates is important when cycling a tank. It is also good to have a test kit on hand to test for problems with the water parameters when you encounter a sick fish in your aquaria.
These are recommended, but not needed.
Bettas should be fed a varied diet of highly nutritious foods.
bettas are carnivores and should be fed a staple that is high in protein. It is important to check the ingredient label and verify that some of the first listed ingredients are indeed meat products rather than plant products.
Quantity and schedule
A betta's stomach is around the size of its eye. this means that it should not be fed too much at once. As the sizes of pellets vary, it is up to you, the owner to decide how big the stomach is, and feed accordingly. Over feeding can create water issues, constipation and bloat. Most feed their fish once in the morning and once at night.
It is recommended to give your betta a "treat" (such as freeze dried bloodworms) once a week in place of the usual pellets. It is also a common practice to fast (not feed) your betta once a week.
An active betta is less prone to infection compared to a motionless betta. Often daily flaring exercise (about 15 min) after feeding keeps them active.
To do this, simply hold up a mirror to your betta, when it sees the "other betta", it will flare as a sign of territorial behavior. You may even see your betta poop in excitement!
Sunlight can be great for betta health, especially against certain types of bacteria.
Should you choose to do this, it is advised that they get direct EARLY MORNING sun light for about 15 minutes everyday.
Do not leave them there for too long as water temperatures will rise dramatically in open sunlight and you may return to find a cooked fishy :(.
Tannins is a mix of organic compounds that is released when Indian Almond Leaves (IAL), elder cones, certain types of oak leaves are allowed to steep in water. Tannins will make the water look tea colored.
The addition of tannins to your betta's water is beneficial against certain types of fungi and bacteria. This can be used on sick bettas, recovering bettas or simply to provide a healthy environment and general disease prevention for the fish.
Common signs of a sick/unhealthy betta:
- Darting against ornaments
- White stringy excrement
- Raised scales
- Appearance of white salt like grains
- Helplessly floating or sinking
For an extensive article on betta disease and treatment, please visit:
Betta Fish Disease and Treatment