|Common Name(s)||Betta, Siamese fighting fish, Japanese fighting fish|
|Scientific Name||Betta splendens|
|Origin||Mekong basin of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam|
|Water Parameters||6.8 to 7.4|
|Diet||Live foods preferred, will eat flakes and frozen foods|
Betta fish (Betta splendens) are one of the most popular fish in the aquarium hobby, and for good reason. First, they are very pretty to look at. They come in many different fin shapes and coloration. Some of these specimen are results of many generations of careful selective breeding, resulting in very different appearance than the wild type betta.
Another reason for their popularity can be attributed to their ease of care. Compared to many of the other fish in the aquarium hobby, they are relatively less demanding. In the wild, they inhabit slow moving waters such as small lakes and ponds. These are often low oxygen environments. Betta fish survive in these environments by taking in oxygen directly from the surface of the water with their labyrinth gills. In addition, these small pockets of water can dry up. Some betta fish survive by jumping back into the larger body of water. Betta fish are survivors.
Unfortunately, this has also led to the misconception that they can live in very small containers. While betta fish are survivors, it is important to understand that they do require a proper aquarium setup and care.
Betta fish, or Siamese Fighting Fish, have a bad reputation as being difficult fish to keep. Don’t let the community scare you though. They can live in harmony with other fish, given the proper setup and care.
Betta Fish Lifespan
How long do betta fish live? The average lifespan of a betta fish is 3 years. There are reports of betta fish living close to a decade, but this is rare. In fact, there are many betta fish that do not reach the age of 3 years. Many result in an early death due to poor care by their owners, which is unfortunate.
In order to make sure your betta fish lives as long as it can, good setup and regular maintenance is important. As a foundation for a solid setup, starting with a 5 gallon fish tank or larger is advisable. Having an aquarium of this size is not only good for the fish, but it makes maintenance easier as well.
Betta Fish Care
Proper care for betta fish begins with a proper setup, such as tank of an adequate size. In addition, regular maintenance is important in order to keep betta fish healthy. Some basic things to consider are feeding, water changes, monitoring health, and filtration maintenance.
Tank Setup &Tank Size
Betta fish are often displayed in small containers, such as cups and small bowls. However, they will not be able to thrive in such containers. A proper tank setup for betta fish should be at least 5 gallons. This gives enough room for the fish to swim and exhibit normal behavior.
Betta fish are known to jump. They can jump anywhere from 2-3 inches, or more. The varieties with relatively shorter fins are especially high jumpers. Therefore, it is important to keep install a lid on your aquarium, and keep it closed. If there is no lid on the tank, keep the water level lower than the height that the fish can jump.
Many people do not realize this, but betta fish are tropical fish. They do require a temperature range of 76-82°F. Depending on where you live, you may not need an aquarium heater. However, for most fishkeepers, a heater will need to be added. Low temperatures may not immediately cause death, but it can weaken the fishes’ immune system.
Betta fish prefer a neutral pH of 7.0. While this is the optimal range, the acceptable pH range is 6.8 to 7.4. Water pH can be measured using test strips. However, digital pH testers are easier and more convenient to use. Keep in mind that water pH can be different, depending on many different factors including your city tap water. In addition, decorations in your tank can affect pH as well. Aquarium driftwood and Indian almond leaves can lower pH. Some substrate, such as crushed corals can increase the pH.
Betta fish are able to survive in low oxygen environments. However, water quality is still very important. If there is a build up of toxins in the water, betta fish will suffer just like any other fish. In order to maintain water quality in between water changes, an aquarium filter should be added to the setup. Keep in mind that betta fish do not like fast moving waters, so add a baffle to the filter output if necessary. Aquarium filters with adjustable outflow can be useful as well.
Betta fish do need some light, but they do not like intense light. Lights with adjustable intensity can be useful. Plants and other decorations in the aquarium can provide some shade as needed.
Adding live plants in a betta fish tank can have many benefits. It may give the betta a place to hide if it feels threatened. It may give the betta a place to rest on as well. Since plastic plants can be rigid, and harm their long fins, live plants are generally the better option. Live plants also help maintain water quality by absorbing nitrates in the water. This is especially true for the fast growing plants, such as Water Sprite.
While they won’t provide cover, Marimo Moss Balls are great for betta tanks. They are hardy low maintenance plants that also help reduce nitrates in the water.
Betta Fish Tank Mates
In general, male betta fish should be kept alone. At the very least, they should never be housed with other male bettas. Male betta fish are territorial and they will fight with each other, hence the name fighting fish.
They can be added to community tanks, but their long fins can be a target of fin nipping fish. In addition, betta fish can be the fin nippers themselves. If the fish have long colorful fins, like male fancy guppies, they could be attacked as well.
Good tank mates for betta fish include amano shrimp and otocinclus catfish.
Feeding Betta Fish
Betta fish are carnivores, so they require food that are high in protein. In nature, insect and insect larvae consist of a large portion of their diet. In captivity, their diet should also be a high protein diet, even if it is in the form of dry food. Flakes and pellets for betta fish are specifically designed to meet their dietary needs. In addition, freeze dried bloodworms is another popular source of protein for betta fish. Of course, their diet can be supplemented with live fish food such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia. Live foods are great as treats, and also for conditioning breeding pairs.
Betta fish should be fed once or twice a day. Only feed a small amount of food, and be careful not to overfeed them. Since they are very eager to consume the food, it may look like they are always hungry for more food. However, keep in mind that their stomach are very small, and overfeeding can lead to serious health condition for the fish. It may be beneficial to refrain from feeding them for an entire day if you suspect that you overfed them.
Regular Water Changes
Betta fish tanks are often small, so their tank water must be changed regularly. The frequency of water changes can differ based on the water volume, filtration capacity, and the bio load. However, for most aquariums, 10-25% of the water should be changed on a weekly basis. This will ensure that the harmful toxins do not accumulate in the aquarium water.
The health of the betta fish should be monitored regularly. This can be done during the feeding sessions and regular water changes. If you notice that the betta fish looks different or behaving differently, don’t ignore it. Observation is key to early detection of issues and possible treatment.