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Old 08-17-2011, 01:32 PM   #1 
Oldfishlady
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Understanding Betta fins and tank size

Lots of different ways to keep this species correctly....so true, lots of information out there...some true, some myths and some based on viewing this awesome creature as a human with feelings and emotions.......as much as we would like it.....a fish just doesn't have the ability to thinks and feel the way we do.....their brain is not wired that way.......that said.....

By understanding the anatomy, physiology and behavior of the fish we keep can help us understand proper care to meet needs

The Betta splendens is a special fish-by that I mean-its man-made-with years of selective breeding to create long flowing colorful fins......the fins are abnormally long and heavy-nothing like what it came from and so care is going to be much different than it will be with its short fin cousin....many people forget this and with the good intention they have...end up with a sick betta with neurotic behaviors and tattered ugly fins in a short time......

Because of these abnormally long fins that can be really heavy and delicate they are kept in small containers with no water movement....as cruel as some may think this is......this is needed to maintain the long flowing fins......

Most males are placed in a small container by the time they are 2 months of age-this is to encourage fin growth and often the reason we want a Betta...the long fins......along with good nutrition and quality water in these small containers-usually by the time they are 6-8 months old-fins are nearly 80% grown and they are ready to be sold.....

Understand-this long fin male has been in a small container for nearly 8 months-it has long heavy fins-due to space it also has limited muscle mass.....Now the Betta is brought home and feeling sorry for the Betta being in such a small container we toss it in a large volume of water with a filter.......soon we start to see either tattered fins, neurotic behaviors like tail biting, glass surfing, depression...etc.......

Its not that a long heavy fin male can't be placed in a large container of water....they can......and some male can go from the temporary cup to a large tank without any issue.....but some can't...or at least right away....sometimes-some need to be moved in steps.......temporary cup to 1gal-then 2gal-5gal...etc......get the picture.......and some may never be able to keep their long fins in anything larger than a 1gal container or be able to tolerate a filter/water movement without being stressed....when stressed-this can compromise the immune response and this is when you see-Ich, fin rot, lethargy, clamp fins, hiding, poor appetite...etc......sometimes it will resolve on it own and other times it doesn't......

Think of it like......swimming with a 50 pound weight strapped on your back....once you build strength and muscle you can do it much easier....

The flag flapping in the wind......this is what happens to the long delicate fins that are used in a lot of space and water movement......until they toughen up...some do and some don't......this can be related to genetic, age, health, nutrition...etc......

This is just a few reasons why you see/hear about so many different tank size requirement for this species......

Irregardless of tank size.....a Betta can be neglected in a 10gal tank just as they can be neglected in a small tank.......this falls on the hobbyist......

To be a good keeper of fish you must first be a good keeper of water and understand how they interact.....

Bettas don't need large spaces or filters...they do need quality water of tropical temps...

Bettas don't create as much waste and ammonia as some may think...

Starting your Betta in a 1gal container without a filter making twice weekly water changes of 1-50% and 1-100% will maintain water quality, fin health, help build antibodies and a strong immune response, provided that the fish is not over feed and uneaten food is removed within a reasonable time.....

Once the Betta is doing well in the 1gal-then move it to a larger tank in steps to his tolerance or keep it in the 1gal-2gal unfiltered tank.....the longer the fins the less problems you will have by keeping them in smaller containers as long as you provide proper care and nutrition....

Yes, fish like to swim....but think back to that 50 pound weight strapped on your back and remember this is a man-made fish with special needs......if your Betta is stressed, depressed, tail biting, glass surfing, stops eating, can't hold its fins, chronic fin problems etc..... in that 5-10gal filtered tank....try a unfiltered smaller tank.......

Nutrition is often not taken into account and the cheapest food is fed......with a Betta....you need to find the very best quality of several different kinds of foods...pellets, flakes, frozen, freeze dried and live.....they don't have to be Betta specific foods....you do want to find food with the first few ingredients that are fish/seafood either whole or meal....feed small frequent meals....what one food is missing the other food may have........

Nitrogen cycle-you can't establish the nitrogen cycle with out filtration and the Betta doesn't really need filtration.....yes, filtration and the nitrogen cycle will make water change needs easier for the hobbyist...but not so much for the Betta......and due to the limited surface area in small tanks the nitrogen cycle isn't that stable anyway and you still need to make twice weekly water changes to maintain water quality.......

Live plants can be the answer provided that you have the proper lights to support the plants.....thats another chapter........

By understanding the Betta and its long heavy fins.......tank size, filtration, water quality, nutrition...etc......you can maintain those long fins many of us love and one of the reason we keep them for a very long time......

Enjoy....thats what its all about.......

Last edited by Oldfishlady; 08-17-2011 at 08:08 PM.
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Old 08-17-2011, 01:40 PM   #2 
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Thumbs up

Thanks for that OFL, a lot of good info!
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Old 08-17-2011, 01:55 PM   #3 
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great read OFL
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Old 08-17-2011, 02:00 PM   #4 
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Thanks OFL love all your info :)
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Old 08-17-2011, 03:34 PM   #5 
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You are so wise.
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Old 08-17-2011, 04:58 PM   #6 
cajunamy
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I totally agree with all that you said, as I have definitely noticed tattered fins in larger spaces with filters vs my 1 gal jars.

I know how easy it is to put human emotion on bettas - heck I do it without even really wanting to! I'm still depressed over Gumbo's passing (fish in AV) but it is good to remember all that you have written here.

Bettas really don't need as much as we think - I have gone from the newbie that didn't know better, housing bettas in cups, to reading and putting them in 5 gal tanks to themselves, lap of luxury. But when I started noticing no matter how clean the water is (even every other day water changes) that the fins were tattered and torn - I started to keep them in smaller spaces with less water movement and have seen wonderful results.

The fry I am raising now, they get water changes in 1 gallon containers every 3 days. You can not tell me these fry are not VERY strong and healthy. Ask those who have received them from me. Come look in my fish room. They are very robust.

Look at ANY seirous betta breeders stock - Thai breeders, Karen MacAuley, OFL - every single fish they produce are kept in smaller condtions but pristine water and the fish are AMAZING. Those Aquabid fish we covet so much, when they are old enough for fighting they are put in beer bottles or the like to grow out.

If this is not stickied it should be.

Last edited by cajunamy; 08-17-2011 at 05:01 PM.
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Old 08-17-2011, 05:08 PM   #7 
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my first betta ever, Zach, started his life with me in a half gallon bowl, with water changes only when it turned brown and stunk. then, he was upgraded to a one gallon with NO water changes, because i thought the bubbler cleaned the water for me. THEN, he spent his last two years in a 10 gallon, with a filter without a baffle.

all through his 4 years with me, he was active and healthy. no tattered fins, no ick, velvet, nothing.

even now, my niece's betta, King Steve, FLOURISHED in the 10 gallon. his fins grew HUGE for a crowntail, and he darkened in color. he was active and happy in it, happier than he is in the 1 gallon he lives in now.

the main reason people suggest larger tanks for bettas, is it's harder to heat a one gallon without the use of a light being on all the time. that, and they truly do love the room. Cup's fins didn't grow, until i put him in the 2 gallon he lived his life in. Ichi was happier in his 2 gallon, than the 1.5 i had him in. my CT female, Freya, LOVED her 2 gallon tank, a big upgrade from the half gallon bowl she was in at first.

on another betta forum, i learned that, with bettas, longer is better than wider. nothing taller than a foot is suggested, so the 20 long is better than the 20 tall. i've never had issues with bettas in larger tanks. as long as you baffle the filter, its' fine. i again point to King Steve. he loved the 10 gallon, and he grew his fins huge while living in it.

though, i must agree, that a gallon is okay, as long as you keep up with the water changes. Lulu loves her one gallon, and hates anything else.
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Old 08-17-2011, 05:08 PM   #8 
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Great info!
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Old 08-17-2011, 05:17 PM   #9 
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Great post. thank you. This helps a lot. Especially when it comes to my Thai betta Joey and why he bit his fins after I moved him into a larger tank. I don't feel guilty for having my guys in 2.5 and 3 gal tanks :)
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Old 08-17-2011, 06:05 PM   #10 
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I posted this on FB, so forgive me if you're read it :)

it all depends on an individual fish when it comes down to it. for the most part, 75% of my bettas do better in one gallon jars. but of course, I know to do very frequent water changes. i have boys in a divided 10 gallon and the ends of their tails are tattered, every one of them. they do not get to each other and there is nothing in their sections to harm them.you have to gain experience and decide for yourself. and for me, I pretty much agree with OFL

And also on heating - I think the issue also boils down to breeder vs hobbyist. A breeder usually has a dedicated room warm enough to heat the water. Which I do. All my betta jars are in the room I'm in now, which is very warm. 80+ and the water stays anywhere from 77-79, so it's perfect. In the winter I'll have to add a space heater though.

If you are an experienced hobbyist that knows what you're doing, then you can safely and effectively keep them in the smaller containers (at least a gal). For newbies that don't know better and will misinterpret what OFL wrote, it may be better to suggest 5 gallons, filtered and heated.

Last edited by cajunamy; 08-17-2011 at 06:09 PM.
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