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Betta Fish Basics

Updated on January 30, 2017

Set Up: Equipment Needed

Although it's popular to house betta fish in tiny little vases and jars, they actually need much more space than this. Luckily, setting up an ideal environment is easy and relatively inexpensive. You will need:

  • A tank or aquarium that can hold a minimum of 2.5 gallons (10 litres) of water
  • Water conditioner
  • Bio starter
  • A heater
  • A filter
  • Fish food suitable for bettas
  • A siphon and a plastic bucket
  • Places for the fish to hide, such as decorations

To Set up Your Tank:

  1. Simply fill it with water.
  2. Add the appropriate amount of water conditioner, and assemble the heater and filter according to instructions.
  3. Add in the bio starter. This is a special chemical which contains beneficial bacteria, allowing you to create a healthy environment for your fish.
  4. If you are using gravel, rinse it several times before adding it to the tank.
  5. Add in your decorations and hides, ensuring none of them have any sharp edges which may damage your betta's fins.

A male crowntail betta fish
A male crowntail betta fish

Adding Your Fish

Once your tank is up and running, meaning the water is the correct temperature (around 78 degrees F), you can add your fish!

When looking for a betta, select one that looks healthy and active. If it is swimming about in its cup, has a good colour, and no fin damage, it's a good bet that it's a healthy fish.

Float your fish in its cup or bag inside the tank for at least twenty minutes. This will help the water surrounding the fish to acclimatise to the temperature of your tank. Big changes in temperature can make your fish go into shock.

After twenty minutes, gently open the bag or cup and allow your fish to swim into the tank.

Don't be surprised if your fish seems shy or nervous at first. After a day or so, it will be more settled in. It's not unusual for betta fish to refuse to eat within the first day or so.

Feeding and Cleaning

Ongoing maintenance is very simple. Feed your betta once or twice a day with betta-appropriate fish food. A betta's stomach is only about the size of their eyeball, so they don't need much food at all! In fact, too much can lead to health issues with the fish, as well as water quality problems. Betta also enjoy eating bloodworms as a treat, which can be purchased from the pet shop in freeze-dried or frozen forms.

Cleaning the tank is also a simple process. Use a siphon to suction out dirty water and any debris that has settled on the bottom of the aquarium. This used water is great to add to the garden. Then simply add fresh water, checking that it's approximately the same temperature as the existing tank water, and make sure you add the correct amount of water conditioner according to the instructions on the bottle. Full water changes are usually not necessary; 20-50% water changes are adequate for most tanks. Any algae growth can be easily cleaned off during water changes with a dedicated aquarium cloth.

Keeping Your Fish Healthy

Get into the habit of spending time with your fish and watching them swim around every day. This will not only help you bond with your pet, but will also help you watch for any unusual behaviour or changes in appearance which may signal a health issue. A healthy betta fish will swim freely throughout the tank, and their fins will billow gracefully in the water. They will also enjoy hiding in any plants or decorations, and will sometimes rest on the bottom of the tank or near the top. Any unusual growth on the fish's body, inability to swim freely, clamping of fins or damage to the edges of fins may signify a health issue.

Water quality can be recorded by using an aquarium water testing kit, available online and in pet stores. This will allow you to ensure the tank contains healthy levels of ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites, as well as healthy pH.

Other Things to Keep in Mind

  • Betta fish do not like strong water currents, so ensure the filter isn't creating a strong current in the tank.
  • Two male bettas should never be housed together, unless they share a securely divided tank.
  • If your betta is joining a community tank, ensure there is enough space for all the fish, and that the different species will live harmoniously together.
  • A group of five or more female bettas may be housed together in a sorority tank, but need to be carefully watched to ensure the fish are not bullying each other.
  • Male and female bettas must never be kept together in the same tank.

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      Connie 2 months ago

      The posts and information here are easy to understand and very helpful. Thank you.