Caring for Your Betta Fish
Also known as Siamese Fighting Fish, Bettas are tropical fish found in warm, shallow waters of southeast Asia. Bettas are known to have a great deal of personality! They are smart, curious, and beautiful to look at. They can make great pets for anyone, from beginners to advanced aquarists.
While bettas are hardy and easy to care for, it’s important to remember that they are living creatures with specific care requirements. If given the care they need, bettas can live up to 5 years, and sometimes longer!
Bettas are an amazing little fish originating in the warm waters of Thailand. In the wild, bettas live in shallow streams, wetlands, swamps, and even in rice paddies! They have a labyrinth organ that enables them to breathe air from the water’s surface. This adaptation allows them to live in environments which would be unsuitable for other fish.
In general, the males are colorful and have long fins, whereas the females are less brightly colored and have shorter fins. Bettas have a lifespan of around 5 years in captivity if they are cared for correctly, and they can grow up to 3 inches long.
Housing & Habitat
Even though bettas originate in shallow water, they have plenty of room to roam in streams and wetlands. Bettas should not be kept in a small container or a vase long-term. The bigger the container, the better—and easier maintenance for you! The minimum requirement for long-term housing (not temporary display, as in pet stores) is at least a gallon, but 2.5 or more gallons is preferred for a happy betta. In fact, it is often said in the betta community that they require "5 to thrive"!
Since bettas are jumpers, you will need a lid for the container unless the top of the container is several inches higher than the surface of the water. Bettas breathe oxygen at the surface of the water, so do not block the surface and be sure to only use a lid with air holes.
Bettas are tropical fish that need a consistently warm water temperature. They can temporarily withstand temperatures as low as 69⁰F and as high as 85⁰F, but their normal temperature range should be between 78-80⁰F. If the betta is too cold, it will stop eating and sit at the bottom of the bowl, eventually wasting away. To keep your betta’s home at optimal temperature, you can either keep your betta in a room with a consistently warm temperature, or you can purchase a small tank heater. For a healthy and happy betta—keep the water warm!
Bettas like to rest on plant leaves and sometimes hide in caves or crevices. A habitat will make him feel safer and more comfortable. Never use sea shells or objects from outdoors unless approved by your local fish expert.
- Large bowl or fish tank (2.5 or more gallons)
- Water conditioner (dechlorinator)
- Betta food (pellets and/or frozen bloodworms)
- Live or plastic plants
- Slow-flowing filter
- Fish net
- Algae scrubber pad
- A cave or hide (optional)
- Additional habitat items (optional)
Bettas are primarily carnivores and can be picky eaters, so always provide them with foods specifically formulated for them. Alternating a combination of small betta pellets and frozen or freeze-dried bloodworms is the easiest way to provide the nutrition they need.
It is important not to overfeed your betta. Overeating can cause constipation, and the more they eat, the more they’ll poop, contributing to dirty water. Any uneaten food should be removed promptly, as it will pollute the water.
We recommend to feed your betta once a day, one or two pellets or bloodworms at a time—only what he will consume in a minute or two (about 3-10 total). You can also skip a day or two each week, as occasional fasting is healthy and natural for bettas.
Performing water changes on your betta bowl is one of the most important aspects of their care. They are hardy creatures, but their health and longevity depends on the quality of the water!
The smaller the volume of water they are kept in, the more often you will need to clean it. Using an appropriately sized filter with a gentle flow will reduce the amount of water changes needed. As a general rule for unfiltered tanks, anything less than 1 gallon should be changed every 2-3 days, bowls and tanks that are 1-5 gallons should be changed every 5-7 days.
Here are the basic steps for a typical water change:
- Transfer your betta into a separate container along with about one quarter of his old water.
- Rinse the bowl, gravel, and decor in warm tap water. Wipe off the sides of the bowl with an algae pad.
Fill the bowl with tap water that’s close to the same temperature of the old water, and add water conditioner (dechlorinator) drops. The bottle will indicate how much to use. Before transferring your betta back, use a thermometer to check whether the water is close to the temperature of the old water. If the water needs to warm up more, let it sit for a while with the tank heater or in a warm room.
Warning: Simply letting the new water sit out overnight will NOT remove the harmful chemicals in our tap water! Dechlorinator drops are necessary.
- Transfer your betta along with the portion of his old water back into his home.
Once again, a tank with a built-in filter will only require a 10-15% water change weekly, greatly reducing your effort and the betta’s stress level.
Do’s and Don’ts
- DO rinse your hands with water (no soap) before cleaning his home.
- DO NOT use soap, detergents, or spray chemicals in or near his home.
- DO place your betta in an area where he will be enjoyed and admired.
- DO NOT place your betta in a cold or drafty area—or in direct sunlight.
DO use fresh, dechlorinated tap water for water changes.
DO NOT use distilled or bottled water for water changes.
A happy betta blows bubbles! Male bettas blow bubble nests on the water’s surface to attract females.
- Male bettas are very competitive towards one another and will fight each other, even to death. Even seeing another male gets them riled up. Occasionally placing a mirror near your betta’s bowl will actually give him needed exercise and stimulation.
- Bettas CAN live with other fish! Keep in mind that only bettas can live in an unfiltered bowl. Bettas thrive in filtered community aquariums with peaceful inhabitants (i.e. cory catfish, dwarf frogs, white cloud minnows, and others).
Ask your local fish expert or search the web! There are many online resources that cover betta care and health. Here are a couple of great sites with more information:
*The information provided here is meant to be a fun and helpful outline of the animal and its care requirements. By no means is it a comprehensive or exhaustive list. Always be sure to do your own research and consult an expert, such as an animal specialist or veterinarian, before making any decisions about your pet’s health.