Betta Fish Care Guide

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Siamese fighting fish, popularly known as Betta fish is native to Cambodia, Vietnam, and Mekong basin of Thailand. They’re also known as Betta splendens and belong to the gourami family. Betta fishes are highly territorial.

You can find a large number of betta fish in the Chao Phraya river in Thailand. They’re also mostly found in rice paddies, floodplains, or standing waters of canals. Betta fishes are among the most beautiful fish species thanks to their bright, and colorful bodies.

Betta Fish Behavior

As beautiful as betta fishes are, they’re highly aggressive. And it sometimes makes it hard for breeders to keep them. They require special care and guidance.

Betta fishes are fragile and fierce at the same time. And they have different ways to show off their aggression or mood depending on how they’re feeling.

Betta fish usually flare their gills to show a sign of aggression. After all, they’re fighter fishes so whenever there is the presence of another male in the tank, the male betta tends to show off his skills. And sometimes when they see their own reflection, they get startled and use the flaring skill as a defense mechanism.

Another clear sign that shows that your betta fish is upset is when they start to swim up and down the sides of the tank. The behavior is known as glass surfing. And it indicates that the fish isn’t happy in its surrounding and is experiencing stress.

Why is my Betta Glass Surfing?

Glass surfing usually occurs in betta fish when the water condition is poor. And also when the tank they’re in is too small. So, in order to tackle this, you might need to change the tank and replace it with a bigger one. And maintain proper water hygiene.

Why is my betta laying on the bottom of the tank?

Sometimes, you might also catch your betta fish laying on the bottom of the tank. This usually happens when the fish gets tired and lazy. And they’re dozing off on the bottom.

However, if this behavior continues or they’re tucking themselves in a corner or on leaves of plants, it might mean than they need some hiding spaces. Often times, it also means that they’re ill, injured, or a sign that they’re about to die. So, you need to keep a close eye on them.

Why do Betta Fish make bubble nest?

Another interesting behavior betta fishes show is forming a bubble nest. This usually happens when they’re mating. Male bettas build the bubble nest when they’re content with the surrounding.

source: reddit

However, it might also mean that they’re having a hard time.

Ideal Water Parameter for Betta Fish

If you’re planning to keep betta fish as a pet or to breed, it’s very important to have proper water parameters. Everything from the temperature to the quality of water and pH level plays an important role.

Betta fish requires a temperature of around 24-28 degrees Celsius ( 75-82 degrees Fahrenheit). And it’s highly recommended to use water heaters during colder climates.

The ideal pH level for a betta fish survival is a neutral pH level, i.e., 7.0. However, they can tolerate slightly higher or lower levels as well.

Some Facts about Betta Fish

As tiny as betta fishes are, they’re one of the most interesting fish species in the world. They’re filled with fascinating truths. Here are some facts about bettas.

They’re Incredibly Intelligent

Betta fish has the ability to recognize its owner. And you can teach them certain tricks. These fast learning fish species can follow your fingers if you teach them to perform any tricks. Or, they can also jump on hoops or push the ball into a goal.

Betta fish can be trained in the same way as dogs by using food as rewards.

They Can Breathe Like You

Betta fish has a special organ called the labyrinth. It extends from the gill plate and consists of many folds of bones. The labyrinth allows betta fishes to breathe air at the surface of the water.

So, thanks to labyrinth, betta fish can survive a little longer outside the water. And this organ also helps betta fish to survive in water with lower oxygen level.

There are Approximately 70 Species of Betta Fish

Betta fishes, as we know it, are either splendens or Siamese fighting fishes. However, in a perfect Betta world, there is more than what meets the eye.

There are actually about 70 species of betta fish found all over the world.

They’re Named after Warriors

Betta fishes are fighting fishes. They were popular during the 1800s when fish fighting was a popular sport.

Thus, betta fish get their name from an ancient clan of warriors known as “Bettah”.

They are Omnivorous When in Captivity

Betta fish feeds on different type of food when in captivity. You can feed them live or frozen food like daphnia, bloodworm, brine shrimp, etc. Betta fish also eat flakes and pellets.

In captivity, you can even feed vegetation to your betta fish. However, in wild, Betta fish prefer staying away from vegetation.

In the wild, betta fishes are mostly insectivores which means they feed on insects.

Betta fish might also eat smaller fish in the tank if they get a chance.

Male Bettas Guard their Offsprings

In nature, it’s usually a female’s job to look after its offspring. But in case of betta fish, it’s the male that looks after them.

Male betta fish watch over the eggs until they hatch. They even chase way female bettas while guarding the babies.

Highly Territorial

Male bettas are among the most aggressive fishes. They’re very sensitive about territory and can be easily provoked. They will attach other male bettas and cause serious harm if not death.

Female bettas, on the other hand, can live peacefully in a group. But male bettas aren’t as friendly with each other. However, they do get along with other male fish species.

Wild Bettas are Different from Aquarium Bettas

Bettas are totally different in the wild as to what you see in pet stores and aquariums. They might have a somewhat similar aggressiveness, but it won’t be wrong to say that they’re different species.

Wild bettas are comparatively dull in color than that of the ones in captivity. And they only exhibit brightness with agitated and use it as a threat display.

The wild bettas have shorter fins and tails than the ones in the aquarium. The aquarium bettas are all a result of selective breeding over the years.

Feeding Betta Fish

In the wild, where betta fish live in their natural habitat, they’re mostly insectivorous. They feed mostly on insects which they collect from the water surface. Wild bettas even feed on aquatic insect larvae. But they avoid eating plants and vegetation.

However, in captivity, betta fish feeds on a variety of food, including vegetation. In the tank, vets recommend feeding betta fish a diet rich in animal protein as well as fiber for a healthy digestion.

The most common food to feed betta fish are flake food, pellets, frozen food like bloodworms or brine shrip, and live food like vinegar eels and daphnia.

How often to feed betta fish?

Betta fishes are very tiny fish species. And when their bodies are tiny, their stomach is bound to be smaller. Their stomach is as big as their eye. So, its crucial to see what you’re feeding your bettas and in what amount.

Overfeeding in betta fish is a very common mistake that most fish keepers go through. And it is one of the most serious issues that takes their life in an early stage.

Don’t ever feed huge meals to your betta fish. They’re usually slow eaters and take plenty of time in eating and digesting the food. It’s always a good idea to feed them two small meals, one in the morning and one in the evening.

Feed as much food to your bettas as they can eat under three minutes. And if they’re done, remove the uneaten food immediately. Giving them more food than they can eat increases the risk of constipation. And overfeeding bettas can lead to death as they won’t be able to pass their waste. And the uneaten food, if not removed in time breaks down and degrade the water condition.

How to Differentiate between Male and Female Betta Fish?

Knowing whether the betta fish you own is male or female is quite simple. There are plenty of differences between a male and a female betta fish. Here is how you can differentiate between male and female guppies.

Color

Color is one of the most distinct feature that differentiates a male and a female betta fish. Male bettas have more vivid colors and vibrancy compared to its female counterpart.

Female Betta Fish

But that doesn’t mean that female betta aren’t colorful. They just lack the vibrancy that male betta’s posses.

Body Shape

Male bettas have a more elongated boides whereas females are a bit shorter. Their bodies are wider than their male counterparts and the males are flatter.

Fins

Another easy way to distinguish between a male and female betta fish is by examining their fins. Male bettas tend to have longer fins than female bettas. The fins can be 3-4 times longer than that of a female betta.

Vertical Stripe

There is a distinct vertical stripe that you can see in a female betta fish. But a male betta fish completely lack this phenomenon. It usually occurs in female bettas when they’re ready to mate.

Beard

Beneath the gill plate cover of a betta fish, there is a membrane called opercular membrane. It looks like a beard in betta fishes and appears when betta fish flares the gill plates.

Female bettas have a much smaller beard than that of the male. The male beard is so huge that it is easily visible when they flare their gills.

Egg Spot

Another distinct physical feature that male bettas lack but present in female bettas is the egg spot.

The egg spot is usually seen in mature female that are ready to give birth. It appears between the ventral and anal fins. And it is the ovipositor that is used to lay eggs.

Flaring

Flaring of gills is a fairly common trait between both male and female bettas. However, this trait truly differentiates their genders. Usually when female bettas flair, they take a head-down position. However, males don’t do the same.

Also, as mentioned earlier, the visibility of the opercular membrane or the beard is clearly visible in male. Whereas in female, you can barely see it.

Behavioral Traits

Male and female bettas are mostly different in terms of behavior as well. While female are more calm and composed, male exhibit a more aggressive nature.

A male betta shouldn’t be kept with other males in a tank. In fact, keeping females with males is also a danger. So, only place them together while mating.

Bettas are natureally fighting fishes and if something goes out of their way, they can be very aggressive. Female might be calmer than male bettas, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t aggressive.

Its better to keep females in a group of at least five if you don’t want to see them being aggressive towards each other.

Another trait that differentiate male and female bettas is the bubble nest. Only male bettas build bubble nest. Its usually made in preparation for breeding, hiding, or keeping offspring safe from outer threats.

Best Tank Mates for Betta Fish

Betta fish might be tiny in size but since they’re fighting fish species, they tend to be more aggressive. So, before keeping them as pets, there are a couple of very important things you should know about these fishes. And when it comes to keeping them in a community tank, things can get pretty hectic if you’re not careful enough.

When it comes to male bettas, keeping them in a group is a big no-no. Male betta fishes are highly aggressive and would even kill each other if kept together. Even keeping a similar look male fish in the tank is a huge risk.

However, females can survive pretty easily in groups. In fact, keeping female betta fish in a group of 5 is highly beneficial for their health.

However, there are several fish species that betta fish can get well with.

Betta fish do experience a certain level of frustration or depression. But don’t assume that they’ll get lonely in a tank all by themselves. However, you do want some tank mates for your bettas to make sure that they’re peaceful in nature and mostly bottom dwellers.

What Fish to Avoid?

Gouramis

Since betta fishes belong to gourami family, almost all of them have a lot in common. And it might be difficult for male betta fishes to acknowledge that they’re different. And seeing their colorful bodies, fins, and tails might intimidate the bettas causing havoc.

Fancy Guppies

Guppies are among the most common and beautiful pet species. And their vibrant colors and brightness is easy to intimidate bettas. And despite guppies being a peaceful and calm fish, bettas might attack the poor creature.

Aggressive Fishes

Bettas are already an aggressive fish species. And keeping them together with other more aggressive fishes means nothing but trouble. They can easily get picked on by these fishes, especially because they’re slower.

Betta Tank Maintenance

Betta fish requires plenty of space for them to move around and have a good time. A minimum tank size for a betta fish is 5 gallons. If you want to add more fish than get a bigger tank.

But one thing you absolutely must not do is keep them in tiny bowl tanks or cups. It makes bettas more aggressive and upset. And its also not a good idea in terms of their physical health. The water parameters aren’t matched in a tiny tank. And it leads to a lot of consequences.

Bettas might be tough and can live under harsh circumstances. But that doesn’t give you the right as owner to test their tolerance. Instead, it is your duty to provide them a better living situation.

We’ve already talked about the parameters in the above paragraph so here are other things you need to pay attention to while setting up a betta fish’s tank.

Tank Decoration

It is best to have hefty decorations and plants in a betta fish tank. Providing them with plenty of plants and decor gives them hiding spots when they’re feeling down.

One of the best decor to keep in a betta tank is a hammock. It is tiny plastic leaves that has a suction cup attached in it. The hammock acts as a resting spot for bettas and can calm them down instantly.

You can also decorate the tank with live plants. Plants like anubias, Java fern, etc. can bring the beauty of the tank as well as the fish.

Lights

as far as the lighting go, betta fish don’t require any specific need. However, it’s always nice to know that your fish is safe and sound, isn’t it?

If you just own betta fish, you don’t need an aquarium light. The light in your room would do the trick. But you should place it in a place where they can take benefit from the light.

However, if you own a community tank, put whatever lighting is best suited for other fishes and it’s do.

Aquarium Heater

It’s crucial for you as a betta fish keeper to have heater in the tank. The ideal temperature for bettas to survive is 23-27 degree Celsius (75-81 F). So, in order to maintain the proper temperature, a heater is a must.

Aquarium Water Filter

A filter is an absolute necessity not just for betta fish, but for any fish out there. It help keep the water clean and safe for fishes to survive in.

It filters out harmful chemicals, ammonia, bacteria and provides a healthy space for bettas to live.

Common Diseases and Remedies

Just because bettas are fighting fishes doesn’t mean they can’t be weak. Betta fishes get sick pretty often and mostly due to a lack of care. Here are three common betta fish disease and their remedies.

Constipation

When you overfeed your betta fish, it results in constipation. Their tiny bodies can’t handle a lot of food. And their slow metabolism doesn’t digest the food faster.

The fish losses its appetite when suffering from constipation. They abdomen is swollen and they stop excreting.

To make sure your betta fish doesn’t get constipation, try feeding them as much as they can eat. If you’ve accidentally overfed them, you can try fasting for a day or two as well. You can also try feeding your fish a single frozen pea with no skin. It’ll help remove the blockage.

Fin Rot

Fin rot is caused due to bacterial infection in the fin. The bacteria gradually eats away the fin in the fish. Fin rot even results to death.

It mainly occurs due to poor water condition and a weak immune system in the fish.

in order to treat the disease, you need to change the water completely and also use medication. And to avoid the risk, maintain the water parameters and clean the water frequently.

Ick

Ick is a parasite infection that occurs in betta fishes. The fish start getting tiny white spots all around the body which are actually cysts. The cysts harbor the immature stage of the parasite and infect the fish.

The only way to get rid of the parasite is by removing the carbon filter, adding an ick treatment to the water, and raising the temperature to 85 degree F. The cysts detaches from the body and burst.

What is the average lifespan for betta fish?

Betta fish can live up to 3-5 years if you take proper care of them. There are also records of betta fish living as long as 7 years.

What sort of care does betta fish require?

Betta fish do require some more maintenance than usually advertised.
For the very best care, they need a decent amount of room, heated tank, and yes they actually need a filter, don’t believe anyone when they say Betta fish don’t like filters, they simply can’t handle too strong of a current but there’s easy ways to fix that too.

Why did my betta change colors?

Dulling of color can be a sign of illness, so be sure to test your water parameters. Also ensure that you have properly set-up tanks for them, because dulling is typically from stress.

Color change is fairly typical for bettas, and it happens because of an unstable marbling gene. Since pet store bettas are generally “mutts”, many of them carry the gene and go through color changes. Also, pet store environments are extremely stressful for bettas, so their natural colors won’t flourish until they’re placed in a proper home.

Conclusion

In conclusion, betta fish is one of the most popular fishes to keep as pets. Their vibrant and colorful look makes them ideal to elevate your homes. They’re also very intelligent fish species and require minimum care.

However, they can be very problematic, especially if you own a community tank. So, in order to keep betta fish as pets, you need to have proper knowledge about them.

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