Betta splendens is a great beginner fish that can fit in small spaces. They come in a wide variety, based on their fins and coloration, from crown tails, to veil tales, to marble and dragon scale.
These fish were originally created over 600 years ago through selective breeding in Thailand, from their relatives who lived in small streams, ponds, and rice paddies They were specifically bred then for aggression to be used for fighting, which is why they are also known as Siamese fighting fish, and why it is often advised to keep males separated from one another.
Unfortunately, while these fish can be kept in smaller tanks, they are commonly kept in small bowls, cups, or vases, more as a decoration, than a pet. Being kept in such small containers has also given the false impression to many people, that these fish are lazy, and don’t move around much. Contrary to belief, bettas can actually be extremely active swimmers.
Tank Set up
When it comes to tank set up, these fish will do best in a minimum tank size of 2.5 gallons, having said that, bigger, is of course, always better. Bettas are actually very intelligent fish, which thrive in a more enriched environment. Smaller tanks also tend to require more frequent maintenance, as ammonia and nitrites can more quickly build up and become an issue, potentially causing harm to your fish.
Now bettas are notorious jumpers, so you will want to have a tightly fitted lid for your aquarium. Because these fish are also very intelligent, you will want to provide them with plenty of aquarium décor or plants to prevent them from getting bored. And for a more natural environment, these fish will do very well in a heavily planted black water aquarium.
Now because of their delicate fins, when choosing gravel and décor, you will want to avoid any items with sharp or rough edges, as these could damage or tear their fins.
Bettas are tropical fish, so they will likely need a heater, as they will be healthiest in stable temperatures of between 78-80 degrees. In temperatures below 78 bettas tend to be less active and if there are any large fluctuations of tank temperatures, or temperatures become too low, this can stress your fish, which could lead to illness.
Bettas do well between neutral to slightly acidic water with a pH between 6.5-7.5, and they prefer slower moving waters, so you will want to choose a low flow filter, or you can modify your filter using a baffle. Sponge filters tend to be favored amongst fish keepers as they won’t blow the betta around the tanks and are relatively inexpensive.
Now if you are setting up your betta fish’s tank for the first time, you will want to cycle the tank before adding your fish. Cycling the tank will allow good bacteria to flourish, these bacteria feed off of ammonia and nitrites produced from fish waste and uneaten food.
Maintaining your betta’s aquarium should be relatively easy. You will want to test your water regularly to know when it is time to do a water change. How large of a water change you need to do, and how often, will be based off of your water parameters. Most people need to do about a 10-15% water change per week, but this can vary quite a bit depending on if you have a sterile or planted tank, and how large your tank is.
When it comes to diet, most people will feed pellets or flakes to their fish, but remember bettas are considered insectivores, and do best on a high protein varied diet. When choosing pellets or flakes, you will want to look for a high-quality food high in protein with little to no fillers. Brands such as New Life Spectrum, Bug Bites, or Ken’s Fish Food are often recommended. Now, bettas can suffer from bloat and constipation from overfeeding, feeding low quality foods, or not soaking the pellets or flakes before feeding.
To help prevent bloating and constipation, you can soak your pellets or flakes in dechlorinated water for about 30 minutes before feeding your fish. Food that has not been soaked first can expand in the gut, which can lead to potential illnesses.
As for other foods, bettas will enjoy live or frozen foods such as blood worms, daphnia, and baby brine shrimp.
When it comes to tank mates, bettas don’t really get along with many other fish. Male bettas must be housed separate from each other to avoid fighting and possible injuries, but most females can be kept in sorority tanks.
If keeping a sorority tank, you will want to keep a minimum group of 3 female bettas, as keeping less than 3 you may see more signs of territorial behavior.
Sorority tanks are not recommended for beginner fish keepers, as behavior in the females must be monitored, as some females are just as aggressive as their male counterparts, and the bare minimum tank size recommended for a sorority is a 10 gallon tank. Having said that, many fish keepers have greater success with a minimum of a heavily planted 20-gallon tank with plenty of hiding places.
As for community tanks, these are also not recommended for beginners, since again, these fish will need to be monitored, along with the tank mates added to watch for problems with aggression and fin nipping. Also, always keep the size of tank mates and your betta in mind, because if it fits in a fish’s mouth, it’s food, and that can sometimes be a very expensive snack.
Common tank mates, however, are fish such as neon tetras, Corydoras, amano shrimp, or nerite snails, but always research the needs of other species as many will require larger tank sizes and have specific care needs that must be met.
Unlike many other species of fish out there, male and female bettas are typically kept separate. Breeding bettas can be a complicated process and is not recommended for those new to the hobby.
Males and females are typically labeled when purchased online or in stores. With bettas, males and females are typically equal when it comes to their vibrant colorations, but males are usually slightly larger in size, are more slender, and have slightly longer fins.
Females once they reach maturity will have ovipositor. Fish use the ovipositor to lay eggs; it looks like a small white spot between the pelvic and anal fins.
Timing is everything with breeding bettas. When conditions are just right, the male betta will begin to build a bubble nest, when the male and female are both ready to breed, this is when the female is usually placed with the male, and he will then fertilize the eggs, and carefully place them in his bubble nest.