How to Take Care of a Betta Fish (A Complete Guide)

How to Take Care of a Betta Fish

Known for their beautiful coloring, betta fish offer spectacular displays. Also known as the Siamese fighting fish, it is a popular pet. While it does require care, if you can take care of a few things, you will find it’s not that hard.

Want to figure out how to best take care of a betta fish? Make sure it has everything it needs to remain healthy and happy.

That includes its tank, water quality, its diet, and even the temperature/pH of the water.

Also, Bettas are territorial fish that prefers to live alone and can attack other fish it is not compatible with. Even two male Bettas and (and sometimes male and female betta) show aggression towards each other.

A healthy betta fish is a happy betta fish. Here are some things you should consider when taking care of your Betta fish:

Ensure Optimal Water Quality and Temperature

Water quality is critical. With time, your betta fish will produce enough waste to make its environment toxic. This includes uneaten food that can rot in the water. While the fish is sturdy, it can get sick if it remains in dirty water.

A filtration system can ensure this doesn’t happen. Get the low-flow variety. A strong filtration system may suck in the delicate fins of your betta and seriously injure it.

Betta’s original habitat is shallow rice paddies with stagnant water. So they are not going to appreciate a strong filter that makes a high current. You fish will have difficulty swimming then.

If the tank is too small, don’t invest in a filter (just make sure to clean regularly). It will do more harm than good.

Plus, make sure the type of water you use in the tank is conducive to its survival. Tap water may contain chlorine and chloramines along with heavy metals. With time, these can cause immune suppression which can prove fatal.

If you use tap water, make sure you test it first. Use a dechlorinating powder to remove excess chlorine as well. Bottled water is preferable since it contains minerals that are beneficial for betta fish.

Whatever you do, don’t use distilled water. It has no minerals and can prove fatal.

Ensure direct sunlight does not enter the tank. It can raise the water temperature to dangerous levels. Consider artificial lighting that you can control. The ideal water temperature for betta fish is 80°F (but it is fine with the 68 to 80 degree F range).

While Betta can survive in a lower (56-68 degree F) or higher temperature range (80 to 95 degree F), it will not thrive and can likely become stressed.

Remember that Betta is sensitive to temperature and you should definitely invest in a decent thermometer.

Consider Tank Size Carefully

Betta fish are sold in small fish bowls and small tanks. However, they don’t enjoy that experience.

That’s because the fish thrives in larger spaces it can swim around freely in. So make sure the tank is capable of accommodating at least two gallons of water.

Ideal betta fish tanks that can accommodate 10 gallons are ideal. However, beginners may not have the budget to buy these. Regardless of which option you choose, your fish will become accustomed to its environment with time.

This means that changing the water drastically is not a good idea. It can lead to shock and even death. So remove only 20% to 30% of the water before replacing it with fresh water. Your betta fish will thank you for it.

Pick Appropriate Tank Mates

Most betta fish are aggressive and don’t take kindly to new inhabitants in their tank (even to their own kind).

The reason? Male bettas were bred to be aggressive during the 1800s. That trait is still a part of their genetic makeup.

However, some tank mates are preferable over others. These are fish and aquatic insects or amphibians that aren’t brightly colored and are placid in nature.

This includes:

  • Guppies
  • Ghost shrimp.
  • Cherry shrimp.
  • African dwarf frogs.
  • Pygmy corydoras.
  • Amano shrimp.
  • Mollies
  • Cardinal tetras.
  • Redtail sharks.
  • Zebra danios
  • Otocinclus catfish.
  • Glass catfish.
  • Bristlenose plecos.
  • Blue gourami.

The more community fish you add, the more attractive your tank will become. Just make sure they have plenty of spaces to hide.

An 8 to 10-gallon aquarium should have enough space for a proper community habitat. The extra space will prevent overcrowding which may otherwise trigger the betta’s territorial instincts.

If you are unsure, ask experts on which tank mates you should get for your particular betta species. Whatever you do, don’t put two males together! They will keep nipping at each other leading to injuries or worse.

Plus, do not place a female in unless it is for breeding purposes only. Once they mate, separate both fish.

Males can turn on females but the latter can live with other females in groups of five called a sorority.

Just make sure the tank size is about 10 gallons. A good rule of thumb is to add a gallon of water per one inch of fish. So if you have five females that will amount to a 10-gallon tank.

Feeding a Betta Fish

Betta fish are always in search of their next meal in the wild. That’s because food can get scarce and they have to eat when they can.

The fish doesn’t realize that it doesn’t have to do that in captivity. It will gorge itself each time it is fed.

In other words, it is your responsibility to ensure it doesn’t overheat and get sick.

Follow these rules to ensure this doesn’t happen:

  • Do not feed your betta more than twice a day.
  • A single meal should be about 5% of the body size of the fish.
  • Only sprinkle enough food in that the fish can eat in two minutes. If your betta takes time to eat, give it five minutes. Don’t reduce the amount of food further.

Keep the Betta Fish Warm with a Heater

Bettas are used to tropical waters and can die if the water gets too cold. Invest in a submersible water heater that can maintain the temperature between 78 to 80°F. If the temperature gets higher than that, your fish will age prematurely.

Choose a heater with a thermostat so you can monitor the water temperature. Plus, use a separate thermometer to check. The heater may not give you an accurate readout. A five-gallon tank of water will heat up and cool down fast. However, bettas should not be kept in such small tanks in the first place.

Invest In Quality Gravel

The gravel you see in aquariums is not just for show. It prevents fish from crashing into the bottom of the tank. Bettas love to explore. Smooth and small gravel will prevent them from injuring themselves on the bottom.

Additionally, gravel also plays a critical role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. It is home to beneficial bacteria that break down waste. So make sure you get granular gravel rather than large rocks. Waste will get stuck and rot in the latter.

If you place live plants in the tank, the tank should have at least two inches of gravel. Fake, silk plants only need an inch to remain upright.

Add Some Décor and Hiding Spots

A content and stimulated betta fish can live for years. The best way to ensure that? Make sure the tank environs mimic their natural habitat as much as possible.

The fish hides when it feels unsafe and vulnerable, especially at night when it sleeps. If it is forced to sleep without cover, it will remain awake for hours. The stress and fatigue will kill it eventually.

Their natural habitat includes plants, sticks, and rocks they can slumber in peace in. Place these or artificial alternatives in the tank. Live plants are preferable since they do more than give the fish a place to hide. They also remove ammonia from the water and are soft enough to prevent injuries.

If you have no choice but to use artificial plants, go for silk ones. These are inexpensive and can withstand a betta assault easily. Plus, no one will know they are artificial, that’s how real these seem.

Make sure that the décor you add in the tank is free of sharp edges. There is a trick you can use to test this. Run pantyhose down the decoration. If it rips or snags, consider softer replacements.

Clean Regularly but Invest In a Large Tank First

A 10-gallon tank should be cleaned twice a month. A small one-gallon bowl should be cleaned two to three times a week. The latter is not preferable.

A frequent cleaning schedule will stress out your betta. Imagine if you have to move every week to a new home. That stress can easily kill a tiny fish. So consider investing in a large tank.

If you have a busy schedule you may even delay clean up and make your fish really sick. With luck, you can save the fish. But how many times will you do that before giving up?

In Conclusion

Betta fish are territorial, but that’s fine. The fish can grow to a large size and the fins are a sight to behold.

Just make sure you take care of it. It’s a loner, not immortal. The tips mentioned in this guide will ensure that your fish has a happy and healthy life.

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