Did you know that fish are among the most popular pets in the country? They’re third on the list behind dogs and cats!
Over 13 million households in the United States own at least one fish. That said, many own far more than that, as there are almost 160 million fish claimed by pet owners across the country.
There are many types of fish that make fantastic pets, but one of the most common is the betta fish. And though they’re popular among beginner fish owners, betta fish care doesn’t come without its challenges.
Because there are so many misconceptions surrounding how to care for a betta, it’s easy to take a wrong turn. That’s why, to help you give your betta the best care possible, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to owning a pet betta fish.
With the proper care and environment, betta fish can live between 3 and 4 years. Now let’s get into what proper betta care looks like!
1. Never Buy a “Betta Fish Bowl”
One of the most common (and most harmful) misconceptions about betta fish care is that bettas can live in small bowls. This is incorrect. Not only is there no such thing as a healthy betta fish bowl, but no fish thrives in such a restrictive environment.
Bettas are known as labyrinth fish, which is likely where this misconception comes from. These fish have a labyrinth organ that allows them to breathe air rather than water. They can also eat food from the water’s surface without damaging their swim bladder.
But this labyrinth organ doesn’t protect them from the effects of ammonia exposure or fin rot, conditions exacerbated by undersized tanks. Nor does it make them impervious to the unhappiness that comes with a tiny living space.
Like any pet, fish need room to wander and explore. They want to feel safe and secure without feeling cramped. You’re already protecting your fish from competitors and predators by adopting them, there’s no need to restrict their tank size.
2. Invest in a Full-Size Tank
Rather than a bowl, invest in a full-size tank to give your pet betta fish proper care. The minimum size tank for bettas is 5 gallons; however, bigger is almost always better. If you have the space and budget for a 10-gallon tank, go with this option instead.
The only caveat is that the tank should be square, not round, and should only be so deep. Deep fish tanks aren’t suitable for bettas, as they prefer swimming in shallow waters.
Keep in mind that bettas are extremely sensitive to bacterial conditions, so filtration of the tank is paramount. The most effective filtration systems are built for square tanks, which is why rounded tanks are an issue.
Bettas are tropical fish from the warm waters of Southeast Asia. Because of this, your tank should be kept between 78 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning an aquarium heater is a must. If the tank is allowed to drop below these temperatures, your betta will fall ill and can even die.
This tank should be kept near a power source, away from direct sunlight and drafts. It should also be in a low-traffic area of your home to minimize the stress on your fish.
3. Feed Your Betta a Balanced Diet
Betta fish are carnivores, meaning betta fish food has a high protein content. If you prefer, you can feed them insects and larvae rather than flakes or pellets, though fish food specifically made for bettas is never a bad idea.
Unlike cats or dogs, betta fish are unable to sense fullness, so they’re in constant search of their next meal. This makes it very easy to overfeed your betta. To avoid doing so, there are two rules of thumb to follow.
First, never give your fish more than 5% of their body size in food. Second, don’t give your betta more than it can eat in 2 minutes. This can be adjusted to 5 minutes if you have a lazy eater.
4. Don’t House Bettas Together
Betta fish are so beautiful, it can be tempting to adopt more than one to add to your tank – but this is a huge mistake. There are over 70 different types of betta fish, and every single one is territorial.
This should come as no surprise when you consider that their full scientific name, Betta splendens, translates to “beautiful warrior.” Yes, they’re stunning, but they don’t play well with other bettas.
Males, in particular, will attack each other on sight, and females aren’t much less aggressive.
Don’t worry, they’re quite peaceful with fish outside of their own species, but remember that bettas aren’t social fish. Even if they’re not attacking the other fish in your tank, they’ll always keep to themselves.
5. Choose Tank Mates With Care
As we already discussed, it’s possible to house your betta with fish of other species. However, you should still choose their tank mates with care, as it’s not their preferred environment.
For example, small schooling fish will fight with bettas if they’re also nippers. For this reason, stick to gentle bottom-dwelling fish. Khuli loaches and Corydoras make ideal tank mates for your betta fish.
Now, if you do introduce tank mates to your betta’s tank, 5-10 gallons will no longer cut it. For every new fish, you need to add 2-4 gallons of tank size and water. The rule is 1 extra gallon of water per inch of fish.
Pro tip: water weighs around 8 pounds per gallon, meaning a 10-gallon tank will weigh upwards of 80 pounds! Because of this, your tank will need a sturdy base. Check weight limits carefully before choosing your aquarium stand or table.
6. Introduce Your Betta to Its Tank the Right Way
Before you bring your betta home, get their aquarium completely set up. This means a 1-2 inch layer of rinsed gravel at the bottom, a comfortable hiding spot such as an aquatic cave or dense vegetation, and a tank full of dechlorinated water.
Don’t forget – filtration is key! Your filtration system should be able to handle 3-5 times the amount of water you have in the tank. For example, a filtration system for a 10-gallon tank should be able to push through 30-50 gallons of water per hour.
Once the tank is full, wait 15 minutes, then turn on your aquarium heater. Ensure that your heater is close enough to the filtration system for it to push warm water out into the tank.
Allow your heater to run for a full 24 hours, checking that the water temperature is correct and that it remains constant.
After you’ve completed these steps, you’re ready to add your betta. Bring your betta home immediately after purchase. With the fish still in the bag, place it in the water and allow it to rest for about 15 minutes. This allows it to adjust to the new water temperature.
Then, taking care not to pour the bag of water into your aquarium, use a net to transfer your betta from the bag to the tank.
Monitor the chemical balance of your tank with each addition, as small changes will occur. The water’s pH, as well as the nitrite and nitrate levels, need to remain at a healthy level at all times.
7. Always Watch for Warning Signs of Disease
As we mentioned above, bettas are, unfortunately, prone to certain diseases. It can be difficult to determine when your fish is displaying symptoms of illness or distress, so keeping a close eye on them and learning your specific fish’s personality is a must.
Fish might be low-maintenance compared to a dog or cat, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t require attention.
Warning signs of common diseases include a lack of appetite, fins clamped to the sides rather than floating comfortably, and abdominal swelling. Watch for discoloration of the skin or fins as well, and if your fish begins scraping its body on the rocks in its tank, it’s time to call the vet.
Master Betta Fish Care With This Guide
The benefits of becoming a fish owner are many. Spending time watching your fish can relieve stress, lower blood pressure, and improve your mood. But like any pet, they need love and attention to thrive.
By learning everything you can about betta fish care before bringing your new friend home, your fish will enjoy a happier, healthier, and longer life. And you’ll get greater benefits as a result!
Looking for more advice and ideas for giving your pet the best life possible? Be sure to check out our blog!