Betta fish have long been a staple of the aquarium hobby due to their aggressive personality and elegant appearance.
Their most distinguishing features are the spectacularly unique fins which will steal your attention for hours on end.
They are often referred to as the ‘Siamese’ fighting fish because of the male’s aggressive nature towards bettas.
In this guide, we’ll take a closer at the bettas and how beginners can care for them in their home aquariums.
|Level of Care||Not Easy|
|Temperament||Aggressive towards other bettas|
|Appearance||Copper, mustard, orange, gold, albino turquoise, white, pastel, and more|
|Life Expectancy||Can live for over 3 to 5 years in captivity|
|Size||Reach a size of 2 inches to 3 inches max|
|Tank Size||5 gallons per fish|
|Tank Environment||Modest tank requirements with fine gravel or sand as a substrate|
|Tank Mates||Unsocial species but won’t get violent with other fish except for bettas|
The Betta splendens or the Siamese fighting fish are known for being volatile. Even among famous fish relatives like the gouramis, these stand out for their appearance.
The electrifying appearance of their body makes them clear favorites of both novice and advanced aquarists alike. The correct pronunciation of their name is “bet-that fish and not ‘bay-that fish.
They are native to the shallow waters of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Their natural habitat has dense vegetation, shrubs, and overhanging trees for extra shade from the sun. Over 70 species of betta fish have been identified, although most of them live endangered in the wild.
In the wild, bettas have acquired a dull grey-green appearance with short fins, a far cry from the electrifying appearance of the long-finned bettas groomed in aquariums worldwide. Because of extensive interbreeding, there are several hundreds of different color combinations and finnages available.
You can find these fish in a wide range of fins, including delta, double tail, vein, crowntail, halfmoon, and many more.
Popular varieties are always vibrantly colored, and the fins resemble a wedding veil shape. One famous example is the Crowntail Betta. This species has fins covered with extensive spikes, almost like a crown, hence the name.
The Veiltail Betta is a common fish that is widely available. The males of this species have a long tail that swoops downwards. These species come in extensive color variations, and their overall appearance is spectacular.
You’ll notice that the colors intensify and sparkle up when fighting or breeding (as males try to impress a female). These are a sexually dimorphic species, which means it’s easy to tell them apart.
Males are much brighter with well-developed fins and tails, while females are less colorful than males, but they are attractive in their own right.
Most of these will reach a length of about 2.3 inches or a maximum of 3 inches, but that’s rare.
Behavior & Temperament
Bettas have a nickname that is based on how they behave. The name ‘Siamese fighting fish’ aptly reflects their tendency to get into fights. They used to be bred specifically for this purpose during the late 19th-century era.
Males and females are observed to flare their gills to intimidate rivals. Even when they’re on their own, they will try to establish a territory within the tank and violently defend it if needed. Because of this behavior, most aquarists prefer to keep these fish singly to avoid extensive aggression.
Females are also very territorial, but they are less aggressive than males – this makes them more suited to a community tank. When they’re not trying to outcompete each other for territory and mates, most will slowly swim around the tank’s upper and middle levels.
Most betta fish are known for living for 2 ½ years. However, it’s not uncommon for them to live for over 5 years if the tank conditions are perfect and adequately cared for.
Food & Diet
Bettas are carnivorous species and will need protein-rich food. They would eat animals small enough to fit their mouths in the wild, including daphnia, brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, bloodworms, and even other fish.
In-home aquariums, you can choose flake and pellet foods. These can be found in most pet stores and provide them with all the nutrients they need.
Most protein-rich options include freeze-dried foods, but you should aim to provide live or frozen foods. All three cases of foods involve other creatures, except that freeze-dried foods have had their moisture and nutrient content removed.
Betta fish have been known to eat until there is nothing left, so be careful not to overfeed them. Drop enough food in the tank that can eat in 2 to 3 minutes. Feed them twice every day. It is easier on their digestive system.
It is challenging to choose tank mates for betta fish because they are aggressive. In the wild, they prefer to live in solitary confinements, but they may encounter other fish without fighting them, probably because there’s enough space to move around for everyone.
Shoaling fish are good companions because it’s hard for them to be bullied repeatedly. They are faster and will be able to escape the territorial betta fish in case of an attack. You can choose from various tank mates, including:
- Neon Tetra
- Corydoras Catfish
- Kuhli Loaches
- Yoyo Loaches
- Glass Catfish
Pro Tip: Avoid introducing territorial species like Oscars because they will fight off Betta fish. You also don’t want to introduce fin-nippers like Tiger Barbs because bettas have massive fins.
Your goal should be to mimic their natural habitat, which is often shallow, warm, and slow with lots of aquatic vegetation. Cover the bottom of the tank with sand or fine gravel as a substrate.
You will need to install a heater to regulate the temperature around the 75 to 80-degree ranges. The water’s pH value should be about 6 to 8, and the hardness should never be higher than 35 dGH.
Since they come from slow-moving waters, you will only need a filter. You don’t need fancy equipment like air and water pumps because betta fish are used to still water. A standard filter will provide small movements in the water that should suffice.
Despite their smaller size, they need around 10 gallons even if they’re kept alone. If you keep them with other fish, make sure to get a much bigger tank to keep the infighting down because male betta fish are always for a fight. Female betta fish can make do with 5 gallons, but more is still better.
When cleaning the tank, make sure to take out a 3rd of the water each time and replace it with fresh water. It allows the fish to quickly adjust to the temperature and pH of clean water while not upsetting their environment’s biological balance.
If you keep them in small bowls, make sure to clean the water every 3 to 4 days. If your water has high chlorine quantities, treat it with a few de-chlorinator drops before introducing it to the tank or bowl.
Betta fish have gills paired with a labyrinth organ. It allows them to breathe in oxygen from the air. It explains why fish can survive in harsh shallow waters because their natural habitats tend to evaporate in the drier seasons.
Since they come from waters with dense vegetation, you should spread a few plant species around the tank. It will provide them with lots of shelter from the sun and improve the water’s oxygen.
Pro Tip: Keep the surface free of the plants because betta fish often swim to the surface to feed, breed, and breathe in air.
You have many options for plants to choose from, including Java Fern, Fava Moss, and Hornwort. They are easy for beginners to care for and resistant to most changes.
Amazon Sword: Its broad leaves make it a favorite among Betta fish. The Amazon Sword grows to a height of 3 feet, which is quite large. As a result, they could compete for space with your betta fish, which is not a good idea for territorial species. These plants are better suited to tanks that are at least 10 gallons or larger.
Anubias Nana: The Anubias Nana is one of the best plants because of its comprehensive, broad leaves.
Betta fish have been observed to perch themselves on leaves to sleep and save energy, making the broad leaves of the Anubias Nana perfect for these fish.
More importantly, the Anubias Nana doesn’t grow very tall and can stay small enough to fit in a tiny tank (2 gallons).
Java Fern: These plants are ubiquitous in most aquarium tanks because they are easy to grow and do well in low lighting conditions. They have a slow growth rate, so you won’t have to trim them now and then like you would with the Amazon Sword and other aggressive growers.
Java Moss: Java Moss is just about as famous as Java Fern for a reason. They thrive in all kinds of water settings, are easy to care for, and look pretty good. All these qualities make the Java Moss perfect for beginners.
Java Moss doesn’t require intense lighting to grow well and doesn’t need to be rooted in the substrate. It makes an excellent choice.
Betta Fish Care
Never clean the tank and its decorations with soap or disinfectant. It will harm your betta fish.
You can clean the decorations with warm water. Alternatively, you can use a small turkey blaster to remove debris from the bottom of the tank. It will prevent excessive bacteria and ammonia buildup.
You might want to invest in some LED lights because betta fish are used to receiving at least 12 hours of sunlight in their natural habitat.
They have pronounced daylight and nighttime cycles. Careful not to provide too much light because it can overstimulate and stress them out. Stressed fish will have weakened immune systems, making them more susceptible to illnesses.
Please do not keep the aquarium close to direct sunlight because it will result in a host of problems for your betta fish.
Natural sunlight accelerates algae growth and reduces water quality, leading to your betta fish suffering from bacteria and infections.
LED lights are the way to go because they mimic natural sunlight without all the side effects of promoting extensive algae growth.
Bettas need around 10 to 12 hours of light and just as many hours of darkness, so make sure to turn off the tank light to promote a natural daytime cycle.
As mentioned before, you need to install a filter in the tank. Without a filter, these will start to become ill and die.
If you want to breed bettas, you would be happy to know that these are dominant tail types over other variations.
Therefore, you will have to be more comfortable with producing different fish varieties – although you will have to be patient because the environment needs to be perfect.
Females are easy to identify because they have relatively dull appearances and less dramatic tails and fins.
How to choose a mating pair?
You should ideally select the best male and female you currently have. Select them with the characteristics you want juveniles to have. For example, if you wish for Crowntail Betta, you will need to choose a parent with the coloring you want to achieve.
The fish should show no signs of infection or disease. It should be free from parasites and fungus.
It should be actively swimming around. Make sure fish are not lethargic or flying on the floor of the tank.
Their eyes should be clear and not bulging. You can check their fins and scales for signs of damage, tear, or fungus.
The age of the betta is also important. Betta should be ideally bred when they are between 4 to 12 months old. Older fish can still produce, but the chances of success won’t be as high as the younger ones.
How to condition a mating pair?
Bettas do not typically breed in community aquariums because of their solitary nature. Your pair will have to be conditioned to ensure that they have enough stamina to withstand the stress they will endure during spawning and courting.
The more effectively you condition the pair, the more likely it is for the female to produce enough eggs and the male to have enough energy to care for them.
To condition them, you need to feed them enough high-quality food in small amounts, up to 4 times a day. Live foods are the best way to do this. You can use daphnia, chopped meat, daphnia, tubifex worms, and even roaches to do this. If you don’t have live food, you can make do with frozen substitutes.
Males create bubble nests at the water’s surface in their aquarium to lure females to the nest.
Spawning occurs when the male wraps himself around the female, causing her to release her eggs. The male will catch the eggs and place them in the bubble nest. Males have parental instincts and will care for the nest until the fry hatch.
Females are known to eat their eggs, so remove them from the tank as soon as they’ve recovered. It is advisable because the male may attack her if he perceives her as a threat.
Where to Buy?
Many pet stores, online stores, and online forums feature betta fish for sale at a reasonably affordable price.
However, if you want to buy rare breeds, you may have to search for specialist breeders. Depending on the rarity, you may have to pay a fortune. However, most of them are affordable enough.
Betta fish are a beautiful species that will reward you with a long lifespan if you care for them properly. However, because of their aggressive nature, you have to be careful and plan accordingly.
It means that beginners should ideally keep them isolated for the best results. If you have adjusted to your betta fish, you can add more peaceful, shoaling freshwater fish.
Just make sure to clean the tank regularly, and your fish will stay healthy. These fish are full of personality, so you’ll never have a dull moment with them.