Originally kept in the Far East as part of a betting sport, Siamese Fighting Fish (scientific name Betta splendens) have been kept and selectively bred in aquariums since the early 19th century. In modern times, the focus has been beautiful coloration and extended – even bizarre – finnage, rather than aggression, resulting in some amazingly beautiful fish that are quite easy to care for.
Aquarium size: with careful feeding and frequent water changes, a betta could probably live it’s entire life in as little as a pint bowl – but that’s just a testament to how durable and tolerant they are. Ideally, bettas would like a lot more room: at least a gallon, or better yet two or five gallons. In addition to more elbow room, a larger container provides a more stable environment, and more easily allows for filters and heaters if needed. There are dozens of styles of “mini tanks” that would make excellent homes for a betta.
The perfect bowl fish? Yes, and no. Since bettas stay fairly small, and do not require aeration, circulation or filtration, they are indeed far better suited for life in a “goldfish bowl” than a goldfish. And as evidenced by many thousands of bettas displayed in very small bowls at aquarium stores around the world, bettas can survive indefinitely in such small quarters. However, given a little extra space, some decor and circulation, a betta’s behavior changes markedly, becoming more of a pet than a decoration.
Temperature: bettas thrive in temperatures in the upper 70s and low 80s (Fahrenheit), and adjust reasonably well to mid to low 70s. However, anything under 70 is likely to stress the betta into poor health, so in many modern households, a heater is recommended, or a consistently warm space must be sought.
Filtration and aeration: with consistent, routine water changes, neither filtration nor aeration is required, but either or both can be highly desirable. Mild circulation aerates, allows for gas exchange, distributes heat, and undoes all the other evils of stagnant water. But the key word here is “mild”: the current should be more like a gentle stream than a raging river.
Decorations: like most fish, bettas often take interest in their surroundings, and are more fascinating to watch as they interact with various items of decor. They seem especially comfortable hanging under floating decorations like live or artificial plants, but sometimes make use of cave-like structures on the bottom as well.
Tankmates: on the whole, bettas prefer to be alone, and some vigorously enforce that notion by endlessly harassing any other fish or animal in sight. Others cower or fail to compete for food when kept with active or aggressive fish. Some hobbyists report consistent success keeping unrelated, smaller peaceful fish as well as larger cherry shrimp or mystery snails with bettas, especially in 5 gallon or larger aquariums. It should go without saying that keeping two male “Siamese Fighting Fish” together is virtually impossible, and even a male and female rarely get along for more than the few hours it takes to spawn.
Feeding: bettas have a fairly high metabolism, especially when kept in their optimum temperature range. They also have a digestive tract suited for processing an insect here, an insect there, all day long. So, ideally, a betta should get several tiny meals per day of a fairly high protein diet. There are many such betta formulas readily available, and that should be the mainstay of the betta’s diet. Special treats like freeze-dried bloodworms or frozen or live brine shrimp are also taken with gusto. Whatever the meal, bettas usually eat their fill in a minute or less; any uneaten food should be removed promptly, and a mental adjustment made to the size of the next feeding. Poor water quality due to decaying excess food is among the leading causes of poor health in aquarium fish, including bettas.
Water changing: like most tropical fish, bettas thrive on regularly scheduled water changes. In filtered tanks of two gallons or more, weekly 30%-50% partial changes are excellent, or bi-weekly changes should suffice. In smaller unfiltered tanks or fish bowls, weekly changes of 100% are often the standard. Care must be taken that the new water is dechlorinated and of similar temperature, especially if complete changes are being performed. For unheated fish bowl setups, a container of water should ideally be set aside after each water change to achieve room temperature in time for the next change.
Here are some products we recommend to keep your betta happy and healthy
- Deep Blue 3 way Betta Tank
- Marina Submersible Betta Heater
- Prime Water Conditioner (For start-up and water changes)
- Hikari Betta Bio Gold Food
- Hornwort (Live Plant)
- Zoomed Betta Log & Leaf Hammock