If you are looking for a colorful, active, and playful fish for your freshwater tank, then betta fish should be your ultimate choice.
Though primarily a solitary species, it does well in a large tank with carefully chosen tank mates.
It’s super easy to care for and is a lot of fun for beginner aquarists. Owing to its diverse and captivating features, it’s also known as the designer fish of the aquatic world.
Intrigued to know more? Let’s explore the world of these colorful species.
|Origin||Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Basin: Mekong Basin, Chao Phraya|
|Scientific Name||Betta splendens|
|Common Names||Siamese fighting fish, betta fish|
|IUCN Red List Status||Vulnerable|
|Appearance||Green, brown, and grey in the wild. Variety of colors in captivity. Torpedo-shaped body, protruding bubble-like eyes, upturned mouth. A caudal peduncle before the caudal fin|
|Siz||Up to 6-8 cm (2.4-3.2 in)|
|Lifespan||Usually 2-5 years, 6 years with best care|
|Temperament||Peaceful, slightly territorial, can be aggression among own species|
|Tank Level||Middle to top dwellers|
|Water Temperature||24-30 °C (75-86 °F)|
|Water Hardness||5-20 dGH|
|Minimum Tank Size||5 gallons for one male single fish. 20 gallons for 5 female fish|
|Tank Environment||Spacious, planted tanks with plenty of hiding spaces with lots of toys|
|Tank Mates||Non-aggressive, non-territorial species that are less active|
Betta fish is a native of Southeast Asia, the Malay Peninsula, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam.
It is particularly found in areas like the Mekong to Chao Phraya basins, the eastern slope of the Cardamom mountains in Cambodia, and the Isthmus of Kra.
Due to possible human introduction, it’s also found in neighboring areas of the Malay Peninsula and parts of Sumatra.
It thrives in shallow waters like marshes, floodplains, and paddy fields, thanks to its unique lung-like labyrinth organ that lets it breathe from the air.
There are dramatic fluctuations in water availability, chemistry, and temperature in its habitat. This makes it highly adaptable, resilient, and able to thrive in challenging environments.
The fish stays close to habitats with aquatic plants and surface foliage, which provides safety from predators and a barrier between territorial males.
It’s categorized as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List Status.
The fish belongs to the Perciformes family under the Osphronemidae order. Its scientific name is Betta splendens, and it goes by common names like Siamese fighting fish and betta fish.
It belongs to the Betta genus, which includes 73 species. But it’s the only one known simply as betta due to its widespread popularity as a pet.
Fun Fact: The fish was first tamed over 1,000 years ago in Thailand’s central plain. It was initially bred for its aggressive nature in gambling matches, like cockfighting. It’s also the national aquatic animal of Thailand.
If you want to know how these species look, let me take you through the details of their captivating beauty.
On average, betta fish measures around 6-8 cm (2.4-3.2 in). The size may vary based on the genetics of the particular specimen.
In the wild, the betta fish is green, brown, and grey. It shows vibrant colors when excited or agitated.
Captive breeding has produced a wide range of colors in these fish, ranging from white, yellow, orange, red, pink, blue, green, turquoise, brown, black and more. There are multicolored and patterned varieties available.
Betta has a torpedo-shaped body, protruding bubble-like eyes, and an upturned mouth that allows it to eat at the surface.
It uses its gills for oxygen extraction, aided by a unique labyrinth organ for surface breathing. The fish also adapts by breathing through its mouth when necessary. There is a caudal peduncle before the caudal fin.
Today, you can find a wide range of betta fish types that have unique colors, fin shapes, and tails that look very different from the wild variety, thanks to selective breeding.
Popular variations like veils, deltas, half-moons, crown tails, lyre tails, double tails, and more have transformed bettas into captivating and distinct aquarium pets.
Bettas have several sexually dimorphic traits that help distinguish males from females. It’s all explained below.
Male Betta Fish
The males are usually bigger, with longer ventral and anal fins and brighter colors. They’re more aggressive and defend and compete for territory and mates by flaring their fins.
Males use their longer fins to attract mates and have a visible beard-like extension of their dorsal fin under their gill covers (operculum).
Female Betta Fish
Females are generally smaller, with shorter fins and bodies. Their dull body colors and shorter fins aid in camouflage to avoid predators.
They are less aggressive as they don’t need to compete with other females. They possess a less visible beard, usually seen when flaring.
Female betta fish have an ovipositor. The small protruding white spot on their underside, resembling a grain of salt, is used for laying eggs during mating.
Behavior & Temperament
While generally peaceful with other species, betta fish can be territorial among themselves. Dominant males fiercely fight each other, sometimes leading to death. Males may also attack females, causing stress or death.
The species need a lot of activity to stay happy. Often, females are more active than males. It is also seen that bored male bettas can bite at their own fins, leading to disease.
Aggression in bettas stems from their predatory instincts developed in the wild, which is amplified by selective breeding.
When two male bettas meet, they display aggressive behaviors like gill flaring and fin nipping. This can escalate into full-blown battles. They fight for territory, resources, and mates.
Female bettas also exhibit aggression, but typically to a lesser extent. Their goal is to establish hierarchies within the group.
The Siamese fighting fish can live up to 2-5 years in captivity. But in my experience, it’s possible to increase the longevity to 6 years.
Behavior Before Death
The specific behavior of a dying betta fish varies depending on the underlying ailment. But it usually exhibits the following signs:
- Fading body color
- Gasping for air
- Loss of appetite
If you notice these behaviors in your betta fish, take immediate action like:
- Change the water
- Disinfect the tank
- Monitor water quality
- Remove any leftover food or impurities
Consult a vet if your pet’s health still doesn’t improve.
Author’s Note: Being great jumpers, opt for a tight lid on your betta fish tank. Or leave a lot of space between the water and the top of the aquarium.
Betta Fish Care
If you’re eager to add this captivating fish to your aquarium, let’s dive into the details of how to properly care for it!
A 5-gallon tank suffices for one betta fish. This works especially well for males, as the male fish prefers staying solitary.
It’s discouraged to keep more than one male together, even if you opt for a bigger tank.
On the other hand, female fish like to stay in groups. But they also display territorial aggression in confined spaces.
To keep a sorority of 5 female betta fish, you need at least a 20-gallon tank. This will provide ample space for the fish to swim, explore, and establish its territory.
This fish is quite adaptable to shifting water parameters, but you should provide them with the following water conditions to keep them happy and healthy:
- pH Levels: 6-8
- Water Temperature: 24-30 °C (75-86 °F)
- Water Hardness: 5-20 dGH
- Ammonia: 0 ppm
- Nitrite: 0 ppm
- Nitrate: Below 20 ppm
A well-designed aquarium environment is vital for your pet fish’s mood and overall health. Let’s craft the ideal habitat to ensure the best possible living conditions!
The best choice for a betta tank is dark gravel or dark aquarium sand. Make sure the substrate doesn’t disturb the water chemistry of your tank. Pool filter sand or play sand should work fine.
In a community tank, plants create barriers that obstruct the line of sight for territorial bettas. They provide hiding and resting places for your fish to sleep at night and recreate their natural habitat.
Artificial plants are an affordable choice. But only opt for silk ones, as plastic ones with hard leaves harm betta fins.
If you can splurge, choose live plants. These fish graze on the algae forming on the plant leaves. But they might also snack on the roots of certain plants – so choose wisely.
Here are a few plant suggestions for a betta fish tank:
- Java moss
- Java fern
- Amazon sword
- Dwarf sagittaria
- Water sprite
- Marimo moss balls
- Water wisteria
- Flame moss
- Christmas moss
- Red ludwigia
- Banana plant
- Crypt wendtii
- Giant hygrophila
- Staurogyne repens
- Dwarf lily
- Hygrophila pinnatifida
- Monte carlo
- Amazon frogbit
Standard lighting is essential for your betta fish’s health and the growth of live plants, leading to oxygen production.
Create a consistent day-night pattern to regulate your fish’s internal clock. To maintain stable conditions, avoid direct sunlight on the tank, which causes algae growth.
Artificial aquarium lights are a better choice for steady and controllable lighting.
Decorations like ornaments, caves, rocks, sticks, Indian almond leaves, leaf litter, coconut husks, driftwood, and logs can help create a stimulating and comfortable environment for your betta fish while mimicking their natural habitat.
Before placing logs and hideaways, check for sharp edges and sand them down if needed.
Apart from all the other things, if you provide your betta with the right toys, it will not only be healthy but also happy. Here are a few suggestions:
- Mirror with suction cup
- Handheld mirror
- Floating log
- Betta fish leaf hammock
- Marismo moss balls
- Ping pong balls
- Groot air bubbler
- Interactive toys
You can even train your finny buddy to follow your finger and jump through hoops for added fun and natural behavior enhancement.
Choose an adjustable filter that circulates the tank multiple times per hour without strong flow, like a sponge or internal filter.
If needed, use pre-filters to reduce strong currents by baffling intake tubes and exits. The filter should circulate the tank’s water three to five times an hour for optimal care.
To avoid stressing your betta, change only 25% of the water weekly, letting the filter do the rest.
Water Flow Rate
Betta fish are not strong swimmers, and strong currents can harm them. Much like their natural habitat, establish calm waters with a low flow rate.
Fish Care Tip: It is wise to install an aquarium divider or screens to prevent fierce and deadly fights.
Food & Diet
The fish is inherently carnivorous, and in the wild, it consumes zooplankton, small crustaceans, and young waterborne insects, like mosquitoes and insects that enter the water.
Ensure a balanced diet of pellets, live, frozen, or freeze-dried foods to keep betta fish healthy and thriving. You can feed them with the following:
- Betta fish pellets
- Brine shrimp
- Mysis shrimp
- Tubifex worms
- Betta fish flake food
- Mosquito larvae
- Wingless fruit flies
Bettas have stomachs as small as their eyes, so avoid overfeeding. Overfeeding leads to obesity, constipation, and water quality issues. Generally, feed them once a day for about 1-2 minutes.
Incorporate fasting days into their diet, which promotes digestive regularity. Stick to a regular feeding schedule for best health.
Betta Fish Not Eating
Betta fish may stop eating for various reasons, like:
- Unfamiliarity with the food
- Stress, especially if it’s a new betta
- The food is frozen or freeze-dried and needs proper thawing
- The fish is overfed
- Too low water temperature leading to slowed fish metabolism and poor appetite
- Poor water quality
- Competition among tank mates for food
- Poor food quality and variety
- Readiness to breed
To address these issues, you can offer different foods, provide time for acclimatization, maintain water quality, and monitor your betta’s behavior closely.
There are many other tips that will be available for you to read in another think-piece.
Male betta fish are solitary due to their need for space. Know your betta’s personality before adding them to a tank with other fish. If they’re aggressive, keep them alone. If not, you can try other species.
You can keep several female bettas together, ideally at least 5, in odd numbers. They form a sorority. They’re usually fine with other fish, but ensure they have hiding spots. Younger females adapt better in groups, but older ones like to stay alone.
If there’s enough space and your bettas are friendly, introduce non-aggressive, non-territorial, and calm tank mates like these:
- Feeder guppies, female fancy guppies, Endler’s guppies
- Cory catfish, upside down catfish, otocinclus catfish, pictus catfish, glass catfish
- Harlequin rasboras, mosquito rasboras, lambchop rasboras, fire rasboras, red rasboras, black line rasboras
- Neon tetras, ember tetras, black neon tetras, rummy nose tetras, glowlight tetras, cardinal tetras, gold tetras, blue tetras, red eye tetras, penguin tetras, diamond tetras, silver tip tetras, pristella tetras, black phantom tetras, dawn tetras, green neon tetras, colombian tetras, head and tail light tetras
- Clown plecos, snowball plecos, bushy nose plecos, candy stripe plecos, bristle nose plecos
- Blue gouramis
- Kuhli loaches, clown loaches, yoyo loaches, peppered loaches, zebra loaches
- Cherry barbs
- Zebra danios, celestial pearl danios
- White cloud minnows
- Short-fin platies
- Short-fin mollies
They can also be housed with invertebrates like
- Amano shrimps
- Mystery snails
- Nerite snails
- Ramshorn snails
- Zebra snails
- Cherry shrimps
- Ghost shrimps
- Assassin snails
- Malaysian trumpet snails
- Dwarf crayfish
- African dwarf frogs
Tank Mates to Avoid
Avoid housing the following together with betta fish:
- Brightly colored species: It leads to confusion and potential territorial aggression. Visual distinction between your betta and its tank mates is important to reduce stress and conflicts.
- Nibbling or fin-nipping species: They may stress and injure bettas with long flowing fins.
- Aggressive fish: Bettas may be harassed, stressed, or even harmed by other territorial or dominant fish.
- Other territorial fish: They may get into conflicts and aggression as male betta fish are territorial in nature.
- Fish of similar shape and size: This may also cause confusion, and they can be seen as competitors. Especially if they occupy the same tank level, it leads to territorial disputes and aggressive behavior.
Betta fish are hardy and adapt to gradual parameter changes, but abrupt temperature shifts can affect them. Prepare to handle the following diseases as unforeseen issues may arise.
|Fin or Tail Rot||Bacterial infections||Fins falling apart, reddening or blackening at the base||Improve water quality, add aquarium salt, seek advice from a vet|
|Bacterial Infections||Bacteria||Cloudy eyes, open sores, or reddened skin||Enhance water quality and use recommended antibacterial remedies|
|Ich||External protozoan parasite||White spots on fins and body, erratic swimming, rubbing against objects||Isolate the fish, use freshwater aquarium salt, and treat with ich remedy|
|Cottonmouth or Columnaris||Bacterial infections||White cottony growths, frayed fins, brown gills||Quarantine, improve water quality, lower temperature, and medicate properly|
|Popeye||Poor water or bacterial issues||Bulging eye||Improve water quality and follow antibiotic treatment|
|Dropsy||Bacterial, viral or parasitic infection||Swollen body, pinecone-like scales||Quarantine, enhance water quality, and consult a specialist|
|Swim Bladder Disease||Overfeeding or constipation||Floating or swimming problems||Reduce feeding and use antibiotics if necessary|
|Velvet||Poor water quality or stress||Gold/yellow rust-like coloration, rubbing against decor||Improve water conditions, raise temperature, and reduce stress. Isolate and treat with ich remedy|
|Hole in the Head||Protozoan parasite, inadequate nutrition and water conditions||Noticeable holes above the eyes||Maintain clean water and offer a suitable betta fish diet|
|Tumor||Genetic predisposition, environmental stressors, poor water quality, or age-related issues||An abnormal growth or lump||Maintain clean water and consult an expert for guidance|
Quick Tip: If your sick betta fish resides alone in the tank, treat them in their current tank. However, if they have tank mates or their tank has carbon filters or delicate plants, quarantine them in another tank for treatment.
Breeding & Reproduction
Breeding betta fish can be an engaging and rewarding experience for aquarium enthusiasts. While it’s not too complex, it requires specific conditions and knowledge. Before you begin the process, ensure you have enough financial resources to aid the needs of the young fry.
If all that’s settled, let’s get started!
Select Healthy Pair
Choose a healthy male and female betta fish for breeding. Look for vibrant colors, active behavior, and fish that are free from deformities or illnesses. Make sure they are between 4-12 months old – not older or younger.
Breeding Aquarium Setup
A separate breeding tank is essential as it provides a controlled environment, reduces stress on the pair, and makes it easier to monitor their behavior.
The tank should be at least 10 gallons in size and shallow (around 15 cm or 6 inches deep). Equip it with a gentle filter and a fine intake filter to prevent fry from getting sucked in. Maintain the following parameters:
- Water Temperature: 78-80 °F (25-27 °C)
- pH Levels: 6
- Water Hardness: Up to 8 dGH
Avoid substrate for easier cleanup and reduced risk of fungal infections in the eggs.
Provide hiding places in the tank using leafy plants, caves, and decorations. Include a floating object like a broad-leaved plant or Styrofoam for the male betta to build a bubble nest.
You can introduce one male and one female betta to the breeding tank. However, in larger tanks, you can add multiple females to reduce aggression.
Introduce the Pair
Initially, keep the male and female Betta fish separated using a divider or tall glass tube with open ends. Allow them to get acquainted without physical contact. Observe the female for signs of stress.
Remove the Divider
After about a week, if both fish appear comfortable and non-aggressive, remove the divider to let them interact. Monitor their behavior to ensure they do not fight.
Once together, the male betta courts the female. He flares his fins, dances around her, and displays vibrant colors. The female, when ready to breed, will show signs of pregnancy.
The male builds a bubble nest using saliva – one of the most remarkable behaviors of the species – and places it on the water’s surface.
The nest serves as a safe haven for the female’s egg deposition and the fry. The size and quality of the nest can indicate the male’s fitness for breeding.
Signs of Pregnancy
When a female is ready to breed, she undergoes noticeable changes in her appearance, like the following.
- Her body adopts a deeper and darker coloration, with vertical lines referred to as “breeding bars” on her sides.
- Her swollen abdomen, which becomes more pronounced as her eggs mature.
- The small white or yellow spot near her vent, known as the ovipositor, also becomes visible.
When the female is ready, she inspects the bubble nest, indicating her readiness to breed. Then, the male embraces her and the female releases up to 200 eggs, and the male fertilizes them. This process may take several hours.
Betta fish eggs are small, round, and translucent with a whitish appearance. They stick to the underside of the bubble nest, where they are safe from predators and receive oxygen from the surrounding air.
Not all eggs may survive, and some may have fungus. The male betta diligently removes damaged eggs to maintain the health of the remaining ones.
Incubation and Fry Count
It takes approximately two to three days for betta fish eggs to hatch, depending on factors like water conditions and temperature. The male continues to protect the nest and fry once they hatch.
A single breeding session can yield hundreds of fry, so be prepared for a potentially large number of offspring.
Initially, the fry are unable to swim and rely on the male’s care. Yolk sacs provide them the desired nutrition and growth for 3-4 days.
As they grow, introduce them to suitable foods such as vinegar eels, mini-worms, infusoria, and eventually baby brine shrimp.
Not all fry may survive, and cannibalism among the fry can occur if they are not separated as they grow. Proper care and feeding are essential to maximize survival rates.
Separate all fry when they become 3 months old. Use a large aquarium with compartments to avoid cannibalism.
The male betta guards the bubble nest, removes damaged eggs and ensures the fry’s safety. However, after hatching, it’s essential to remove the male from the tank to prevent him from consuming the fry.
Breeding Tip: When choosing betta fish to breed, think about what you want their babies to look like. Do you like big bettas, colorful ones, or a specific tail shape? Pick parents with desirable traits to breed baby bettas with similar features.
Quick Buying Tips
To buy the best betta fish specimens, check for these key signs of their health.
- High activity and alertness fish
- Regularly food consumption
- Vibrant colors
- Intact fins
- Assertive reaction to external stimuli.
Carefully observe the fish and make sure you don’t get bettas with the following signs:
- Loss of color
- Poor appetite
- Body or mouth spots or fungus
- Cloudy eyes
- Elevated scales
- Excessively frayed fins
- Labored breathing
- Erratic swimming
- Weight loss
A word from FIA
Betta fish are charming with unique finnages and personalities. They can be kept even in a relatively small tank with low maintenance.
Since you don’t need a community to keep the fascinating fish, their setup cost is quite low. But if you want a community tank, that’s also manageable with reasonable care and knowledge.
Finally, if you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to share it with fellow aquarium enthusiasts. Or, drop us an email if you have any questions, and our team members will be happy to assist you.