Being able to care for a betta fish means knowing what makes it happy and healthy. It also means knowing what causes stress and illness so you can avoid it.
Taking care of your betta requires a bit of education and responsibility for both children and adults. The beautiful betta is quite hardy and cheap to buy and maintain, and they can bring years of companionship and joy.
Knowing how to care for a betta before you buy one will make things a lot easier, especially when buying a tank and other accessories for the first time.
Betta fish (Betta Splendens)
The name Betta is given to them because of their warrior and fighting character, just like an ancient warrior clan called the Bettah. They are native to Southeast Asia, where they lived in small ponds or ponds.
In captivity they adapt very easily to medium-sized tanks or aquariums, since they do not need too much space.
They are known for their beautiful and bright colors, which in the wild are reddish, greenish or brown. Food, in addition to health, influences shades.
Also the selection of specimens in captive breeding, provides some types of colors in a wide variety of tones: blue, purple, white, orange…
betta fish characteristics
The aquarium should have a water temperature between 24 and 30 degrees, which favors its growth and good development. The water should be changed fairly regularly for them to have an adequate quality of life.
They are diurnal animals, during the day they carry out their activities and sleep at night. Being carnivorous, they eat mainly insects or their larvae, although they also eat plant roots.
It is not advisable to overfeed them, as too much waste and leftover food in the aquarium produces highly toxic levels of nitrite and ammonia, which can make the fish sick.
There are commercial foods that, in addition to protein, provide them with the vitamins and minerals they need, thus taking care of their health.
They have developed the ability to breathe oxygen directly from the air, using their gills. This allows them to survive out of the water, but only for short periods of time.
They usually hunt for food on the surface of the water.
The betta fish is well known among aquarium enthusiasts for its aggressive and territorial nature with other fish, even its own species.
It is not convenient to keep more than one Betta in the same aquarium.
Even being a female, you have to take some security measures to avoid aggression between them.
How long does a Betta fish live?
The Betta is a very resistant fish that in captivity, with optimal conditions, can live between 3 and 4 years. In the wild they do not usually live more than 3 years.
To extend the life of our Betta we must provide it with a good diet, and keep the aquarium in good condition. The water change must be very regular and the temperature must be close to 27 degrees.
We must inform ourselves of possible diseases in order to treat them and thus maintain their health in perfect condition.
How long is the longest a Betta fish lasts?
With proper care, despite its average lifespan of 3-4 years, your betta could live up to ten years. This discrepancy is due in large part to misinformation in pet stores, on the Internet, and from other betta owners. Betta fish are a beautiful and intelligent species of fish and deserve proper care.
The tank for betta fish
In typical fish tanks your betta fish would not be happy or very healthy, in fact, it is only a matter of time before it ends up getting sick and dying.
The minimum recommended aquarium size for a healthy betta is 20 liters. Larger tanks are easier to maintain nitrogen cycles and temperature, and require less frequent cleaning. On the contrary, the smaller tanks are more worked and require more maintenance.
In its natural habitat, the betta splenden lives in shallow, oxygen-deficient streams, rice paddies, and puddles, but many of these areas still have a high volume of water.
Your betta needs space to swim and places to hide. Also, you will enjoy it much more if it has enough space to swim.
Never fill your tank to full volume. Betta fish need to access the surface of the water to obtain air using their labyrinthine organ. The characteristic labyrinth organ of anabantids allows them to extract oxygen from the air and not just from the water through their gills. That’s why betas don’t need air pumps.
You should also make sure you have a lid on the tank because bettas are great jumpers, and they can jump right out of your tank. It happens all the time and it’s a very sad way to lose a betta.
The water added to the tank must be free of chlorine and other contaminants. If you use tap water, be sure to use a betta water conditioner like this one to remove chlorine, chloramine, ammonia, and other heavy metals.
This prevents any potential harm or death. Never use distilled water either, because it has been stripped of all the essential minerals betas need to thrive on.
You should also consider adding aquarium salt to your tank water to reduce stress and anxiety and promote healthy fins.
Betta fish come from a tropical climate in Thailand, so they need warm water in their tanks. Never let the water in your tank fall below 18 degrees or exceed 28 degrees Celsius. Try to keep it in the range of 24-26º C. This is the temperature at which betas are happiest and most active.
The average temperature of a house is 20C, which is below the required temperature. If the water in your aquarium is constantly cold for your betta it will shrink back and most likely get sick. This is the fastest way to reduce your potential shelf life.
thermometer and heater
Buy an aquarium thermometer to monitor the temperature of the water. If the temperature is too low, buy a small aquarium heater. Heaters that are adjustable and contain a built-in thermostat are the best solution.
If you have doubts about which heater to choose, our guide on the aquarium heater can help you, where we explain everything you need to know about these devices.
If the ambient temperature the tank is in is at least 25º C, then an aquarium heater is not required.
Betta fish are very sensitive to changes in their habitat temperature and water parameters. When you change the temperature and conditions of the water, do it slowly and methodically. Abrupt changes can stress fish and even cause adverse health consequences.
pH level in the water
Betta fish prefer the pH of their water to be slightly acidic. They do best in the pH range of 6.5 to 7.5.
Some tap and spring water can be significantly higher than 7.5, which means you should always test the water before adding it to your betta tank. Consider purchasing a pH kit to keep it in a healthy range if necessary.
Filters reduce harmful bacteria while supporting healthy bacteria. They are your little helpers when it comes to tank maintenance and the care of your betta fish.
A filter is relatively inexpensive and is best when included in a complete installation.
Betta fish are not very strong swimmers and can be stressed by the filter if the current is too strong. Prolonged agitation can lead to fin breakage, acute stress, and even death.
Choose a filter that is adjustable or recommended for a betta fish. Bypass inlet and outlet pipes with pre-filters if necessary to reduce strong currents.
If you have any questions when buying your aquarium filter, click on the previous link and visit our guide dedicated to the best filtration systems used in aquariums.
Betta fish need natural day and night light cycles. They need light while awake during the day, and darkness at night in order to sleep. This establishes a regular pattern of day and night, regulating your internal biological clock.
Plants and other decorations provide shade if you want to avoid direct lighting for a period of time.
Avoid direct sunlight from entering your tank because it can quickly raise the water temperature to dangerous levels and encourage unwanted algae growth.
Artificial lighting is recommended, placing the betta fish tank away from the window. In this way you control the light that is on during the day, and off at night with the simple button.
If you have doubts about the role of light in the aquarium, in the previous link you have our special article on aquarium lighting.
Plants, hiding places and decorations
A large part of caring for a betta fish involves making sure they are happy and not stressed. Mimicking their natural habitat is the best way to achieve this. Betas love places to hide to feel safe, especially when sleeping. Think of these hiding places as their homes.
Their natural habitat has many places to hide, including substrate, rocks, plants, and sticks. Live plants are the best option for aquariums because they can help remove ammonia from the water.
Artificial plants are fine, too, and they’re cheap and sturdy. Their quality has improved a lot in recent years and they look almost identical to the real thing. But watch out for sharp edges on artificial plants and decorations that can damage your betta’s fins.
All artificial plants and leaves should be silk if possible. Logs and other hiding places should also be inspected for sharp edges and sanded if necessary.
Experienced aquarists like to use what is called the » sock test, « running a pair of socks over the plant or décor to see if they will snag. If you do, the plant or hiding spot will likely snag on a betta’s delicate fins as well.
Cleaning and maintenance of the Aquarium
One of the most common problems associated with poor betta fish health is sustained exposure to elevated levels of ammonia and nitrites. Water quality declines as ammonia builds up from waste and uneaten food. This ends up causing the pH level of the water to go out of a healthy range.
The fish will swim in their own waste and will eventually get sick and even die. A good filter can help reduce these levels and establish healthy bacteria.
How Often Should a Betta Fish Tank Be Cleaned?
A systematic maintenance program must be followed. Smaller tanks will need more frequent and complete water changes to avoid dangerous levels of ammonia. It can be done, it’s just more work.
A water analysis kit is necessary in your equipment to check the quality of the water in the tank. Smaller tanks need more work because of how quickly the quality of the water can decline.
Remember, adding live plants can also help lower ammonia levels in your water naturally.
Betta fish get used to their ecosystem and do not like sudden changes in it. Because of this, it is recommended to do more small water changes than one large one. Removing too much water from the tank and then adding new water can cause fish to go into shock.
Removing 15-30% of the water from the tank and refilling with dechlorinated water of similar temperature and pH is safest. Whenever you add new tap water, be sure to use dechlorination drops or spring water that has already had the chlorine removed.
How to clean the tank and decorations?
The cleanliness of the tank and its decorations is very important for the health of your betta fish. Use only approved aquarium decorations and materials that are safe for fish.
Use a magnetic algae scraper like this one for regular algae removal while the tank is full.
Filters and their media should be cleaned by rinsing with tank water to preserve healthy bacteria. All other components must be cleaned and disinfected.
Never clean an aquarium or its components with soap! It is very difficult to remove all of the soap and it can poison your betta fish once the tank fills up.
All decorations, including stones, should be thoroughly washed in hot water to remove dust and other contaminants. If you want extra cleaning power, you can use distilled white vinegar to remove tough stains and odors.
Regular bleach that does not contain detergents or perfumes is another excellent and powerful cleaning option, especially after an illness.
Use a 10% mix: 9 cups of water to 1 cup of bleach. Do not let the mixture sit on any aquarium or decorative surface for more than 10 minutes. You should always thoroughly rinse all surfaces with clean water to remove any traces of bleach before refilling.
Betta fish compatible fish
The reason the betta fish is known as the fighting fish is because of the heightened aggressiveness of the male. This was increased from selective breeding in the 19th century and is still part of their genetic makeup.
The chance of success is increased by adding community fish with bettas in large tanks where they have plenty of room to hide. Use an aquarium of 40 liters or more to provide enough space for a suitable community habitat.
In larger tanks it will decrease betta fish’s territorial instincts and may decrease aggression against certain types of fish. If in doubt, ask your local pet store or favorite aquarium forum before purchasing a possible betta-compatible fish.
DO NOT put two males in the same tank because they will fight, probably until one is dead or severely stressed. This is cruel and should never be done!
Male bettas should also not be housed with a female, they will also exhibit aggressive behavior towards females. Unless they are breeding, in this case it should be for short periods of time and then they should be separated.
Females, however, can live together in groups of five or more, but tank size should be proportional.
Lastly, you might consider a tank divider to house two bettas in a single aquarium.
Healthy vs sick fish
Experienced keepers, however, can purchase sick bettas to help save them from death and disease. Below are the common characteristics of healthy and diseased betta fish.
healthy betta fish
- It has bright colors, especially the males
- intact fins
- Nothing to investigate when you approach their habitat
- Are hungry and eat regularly
- It is aggressive and can explode with you or with other stimuli
sick betta fish
- Dull coloration, especially in males
- fins glued
- Torn fins with black edges
- Nothing abnormal
- Lethargic state and frequently hidden
- Loss of appetite for long periods of time
- White growths on the body or in the mouth
- labored breathing
betta fish feeding
In the wild, bettas feed on insects and their larvae at the surface of the water. Replicating their feeding environment and their food will keep them happy and healthy.
Betta food comes in several varieties, including pellets, flakes, live and freeze-dried options. The most common ingredients are meat, fish and shrimp.
Do not feed your betta fish other tropical fish foods because they need a specific high-protein diet.
Betta fish can also be very picky eaters. Persistent rejection can mean trying a different brand or blend until you find the right one. Betta fish also love treats from time to time, but they may start to prefer them if you go too far.
Freeze-dried worms and brine shrimp are favorites for betta fish. Some aquarists prefer to use bloodworms or shrimp as their sole food source.
Breeders can also steer clear of manufactured pellets and flakes, opting instead for live foods to prepare for shows and breeding. However, the most important thing is to ensure a rich and varied diet.
It is difficult to calculate how much you should feed your betta fish. Food labels are often unclear and inconsistent. Its stomach is about the size of your eye, and the pellets can expand after being ingested.
Overfeeding is a serious problem, leading to bloating, constipation, bladder problems and a buildup of uneaten food in the tank.
Stick to a regular feeding schedule, and follow these guidelines if you’re still unsure. If you decide to feed your betta fish twice a day, make sure you feed it a maximum of 2-3 pellets at each meal. Feeding once a day should be 3-4 pellets.
Many betta owners get stressed out wondering why their fish won’t eat, but in reality it’s usually due to previous overfeeding.
Betta fish can also refuse to eat during stress, especially when they are first brought home. Bettas can go 14 days without eating before starving to death, just like a human.
If you are going away for 2-3 days, never add extra food to compensate. It’s better for your betta fish to run out of food than to leave a bunch lying around and think they’ll eat it. They won’t and will only foul the tank.
If you are going to be gone for more than 2-3 days, think about the benefits of having an automatic fish food dispenser, you will save yourself trouble.
How to tell if a betta fish is male or female
The male Betta is larger and bulkier. His colors are more intense and bright. It also has huge dorsal, anal and canal fins in proportion to the body.
The most common colors are green, blue and red.
Betta fish have a membrane under their gills that is dark in color: black or brown. This membrane is known as a beard, and in males it is more noticeable especially when they are in dominant mode with other males.
The male Betta is much more aggressive and territorial than the female, so it is not recommended to have more than one male in the aquarium.
They can even attack females if they are not properly introduced.
At the time of mating, the male produces a bubble nest, which attracts the females, thus initiating courtship.
The female Betta is slimmer than the male and her colors are less bright. They also have caudal, dorsal and anal fins but are smaller in size.
They tend to be less aggressive and coexistence with other females in the same tank is possible, as long as it has the optimal size conditions.
Betta fish can live with docile species such as guppy, catfish or pangio kuhlii. Coexistence with different species such as snakes, frogs or shrimp is also possible.
Betta splendens fish care
Males and females may require different types of care before, during and after breeding, but that is more advanced than basic care. Females can also coexist together in guilds, leading to different care recommendations as well.
Betta fish fry require special care during rearing, and special diets because they cannot feed on the pellets, they are too big for their mouths. The rearing of fry should be reserved for experienced keepers and breeders.
There are over 70 different species of betta fish sold as the splenden betta fish. Betta splendens come in many different tail variations through selective breeding, however they all require the same level and types of care.
Caring for a betta fish is not that difficult once a routine is established and the myths are separated from the facts. As a betta owner, you should always keep an eye on the health of your fish and be on the lookout for any indicators of concern. Most of the problems can be traced back to poor care in feeding patterns, acclimatization and tank maintenance.
Types and varieties of Betta Fish
The Crowntail Betta is one of the most popular freshwater fish. This species is relatively young, first bred in Indonesia about 25 years ago.
The fins of this species have a long pointed crown appearance, however if the strap reaches more than 2/3 of the tail then it is classified as a different type – the Comb Tail Betta.
While the males display striking colors with long fins and tails, the females look quite different. The female is usually lighter in color with a shorter tail, with an overall less stately appearance.
Veiltail betta fish
The veiltail betta fish (Veiltail Betta) is one of the most common fish in aquariums. Its caudal fin is long and asymmetrical, falling slightly downwards.
The male of this variation has a long tail that flows downwards. It comes in many different color variations and the overall appearance is quite remarkable.
If you want to breed betta fish, you should know that this is a dominant tail type over other variations, and therefore one of the easiest to breed.
The female is again quite different. She has none of the notable features of the male, but is sometimes brightly colored. Females tend to have lighter colorations and short fins and tails.
half moon betta fish
The name Media Luna (Halfmoon Betta) is self explanatory. The tail is large creating a half circle similar to the shape of a crescent. These betta specimens are most appreciated for the beauty of their body.
This type is strictly captive bred, you will not find them in the wild.
Halfmoon Bettas are commonly bred among experts for display during shows. First bred in the 1980s, the Crescent Betta soon found its way to Europe and later became internationally famous.
These fish can be a bit difficult to breed and come with a more aggressive behavior.
Dumbo betta fish
The Dumbo betta fish, also known as the Elephant Ear Betta, is known by that name due to its formidable pectoral fins, which are reminiscent of large ears.
This is a very identifiable fish due to its unique feature, which is its pectoral fins. Usually with bright and conspicuous colorations, the fins of this variation are quite amusing.
They are also found in nature exhibiting a duller coloration of dark green, gray and brown. More striking colors such as bright blue, turquoise, red and yellow are found in the aquarium trade.
dragon betta fish
This type of betta fish is relatively new created through selective breeding. It is very popular for its colorful scales, with metallic shine, reminiscent of the scales of a dragon. Hence its name.
The base color of its body is usually a deep red-like color with pale iridescent scales along its body, often copper-colored.
Delta betta fish
The tail of the Betta Delta fish has a fairly large tail. It is named for the Greek letter d, as the tail resembles the shape of the letter delta (∆). The tail begins to taper towards the body and widens towards the edges resembling the triangular shape of the Greek letter.
There is also another known variation called the Super Delta. This variation almost reaches 180 degrees of fan.
The length of a normal delta tail is usually much smaller. Tail edges are even without any combing or cackling.
Double tail betta fish
The characteristic of this fish is the fork in its caudal fin, which visually gives it the appearance of having two tails.
The Double Tail is easily recognizable as it has two distinct tails separated from the base. Typically this variation has a larger and longer dorsal fin with a shorter body.
This gene can be found in any Betta, of any tail shape and size.
This often means that single-tailed Bettas already show double-tailed characteristics like dorsal fins with more rays than normal giving them a richer appearance.
Final Thoughts on Betta Fish
Once you know how to care for a betta fish, please help us spread the word to other keepers. Over time we can help reduce the prevalence of misinformation out there. Betta fish deserve the right to live a long and healthy life in captivity.
We hope you liked this little guide for beginners on the basic care of the Betta Fish. If so, do not forget to share this article on your favorite social networks. Thank you!!