Betta Fish (also known as Siamese fighting fish) are one of the most popular freshwater fish for fish keepers, and are perfect for beginners. Originating from Thailand, these beautifully coloured fish are relatively easy to care for. However, as with all aquarium fish, there are certain things you need to know. That’s where we come in. This guide will teach you everything you need to know about caring for a Betta fish.
This will be a long read, so we created a contents box, allowing you to choose just the information you need. Here is what we will cover:
The natural habitat for Betta fish, is small, shallow streams and rice paddies in Thailand. These are usually vast, and are obviously very tropical. This guide will cover everything from the size of the tank, the filtration system, the water temperature, and the ornaments and plants which will replicate this type of environment the best.
Although Betta fish are often found in small tanks and bowls in the pet stores, that doesn’t mean they enjoy being there. Like all other fish, Bettas love as much space as possible. Thanks to their ability to breath from the surface of a tank, they are able to endure some horrific tank environments, but as a fishkeeper, we know that a bad aquarium is not what you are in to, so we would recommend AT LEAST 2 gallons. Ideally, your tank would be at least 10 gallons, but not all budgets can accommodate that.
If you are serious about owning fish, then investing in a quality tank shouldn’t be a problem. Besides from the fish themselves, the tank is the most important aspect of fishkeeping, so skimping out to save a few bucks is not worth it.
We have an article here which covers the best tanks for Betta fish. Not all of them have to break the bank. Just make sure you have sufficient space for your fish to thrive.
Water Temperature & Level
Hailing from the tropical waters of Thailand, it is CRUCIAL not to have your water too cold when keeping Bettas. The optimal temperature is in the late 70’s (Fahrenheit), so anywhere from 75 – 80 degrees is perfect.
If your tank is below 1 gallons (Which it shouldn’t be), we do not recommend using a heater. Water heaters can heat a small tank too quickly, and cause harm to your fish. If you are looking to use a heater, then 5 watts of power per gallon of water is a good baseline to judge from. Heaters are not expensive. You can see our favourite ones here.
In terms of water level, you must leave a small space at the top of the tank for your Betta fish to breath. Bettas are labyrinth fish, meaning they have the ability to breath oxygen from the waters surface. Denying your fish this ‘breathing space’ can do serious harm, since they need to exercise their labyrinth bladder on a consistent basis.
Betta fish are good jumpers, so if you don’t have a lid on your tank, either get one, or be sure to leave plenty of space from the top of the water, to the top of the tank.
Because of their sturdy nature, Betta fish can endure some terrible water conditions. A filtration system is not necessarily needed, but it is recommended. As with any other type of fish, there is a high risk of disease if you do not clean the tank on a regular basis, as the pollution from decaying food and waste can build up quickly. We recommend you change the tank water at least once per week.
REMEMBER that fish become accustomed to the parameters of the water they have been in, so drastically changing the water at once, can lead to shock, and sometimes death. You might think you are helping when you change 90% of the water, but your fish will be thankful if you don’t. Try removing 20- 30% at a time.
A lot of diseases are caused by bad water conditions, so it’s crucial that you keep up to date with your water care, if you want to keep healthy fish. Check out our article on Betta Fish Diseases to get a better understanding of what you must look out for.
When choosing a filter for your Betta fish tank, look for something which doesn’t produce a high current. This can make it difficult for your fish to swim. While they are not needed, it’s always a good idea to have a filtration system to remove any build up of toxins. If your tank is too small, then a filter will do more harm than good, so we only recommend a filter if your tank can accommodate the increase in current, without affecting the flow of the water.
For more information on setting up a fish tank properly, check out our Starter Guides.
If you are planning on feeding your Betta fish just generic fish flakes, think again! Betta fish are carnivores by nature, and require either a Betta specific pellet, or frozen treats such as brine shrimp and blood worms.
In their natural habitat, the primary diet of these type of fish would be small insects, their eggs, and mosquito larvae that form at the water surface. Whilst offering your Betta fish a diet of live food can be exciting to watch, and a treat for them, it’s generally recommended to stick to frozen foods, since the risk of a parasite breakout with live food is not worth it. If you are an advanced fish keeper, then do what you must, but we wouldn’t recommend live food for absolute beginners.
As with a lot of fish, Betta’s can sometimes run into digestive problems. We have found that a ‘pea’ every once in a while will help keep them ‘regular’ and without issue. A defrosted frozen pea will suffice. Just peel off the skin, chop it into bite size pieces, and drop it in the tank. Betta fish will generally eat a lot of floating foods in the wild, so they will have no problem with the floating peas!
We have a list of our most recommended beta fish foods in this article.
How Much Shall I Feed Them?
Overfeeding is a huge issue with Betta fish, since their stomach is no bigger than one of their eye balls! One feeding per day is more than enough. Just one or 2 Betta fish pellets can be enough to keep them full, and happy for an entire day.
It can be easy to assume that your Betta is not eating enough, but keep in mind what you just read, and understand that it will take weeks for a Betta fish to starve to death. They require such a small amount of food, you could forget to feed them for an entire week, and they will still be swimming around soundly (We are just proving a point – NEVER leave your fish without food).
Obviously, if you don’t pay attention when feeding your fish, their will be a lot of leftovers. Only feed your Betta as much as they will actively eat. It may take a few days to gauge this, but it’s worth it. Any food which is not eaten, will build up at the bottom of the tank, and start polluting the water.
Are Betta Fish Good With Other Fish?
Is it just a coincidence that these fish are also known as ‘Siamese Fighting Fish’? Unfortunately, it’s not. Believe it or not, Betta fish were once bred as fighting fish, and some of this aggression has kept it’s roots, making them one of the more aggressive freshwater fish. We DO NOT recommend keeping a male Betta fish in the same tank as other males. Fighting to the death is not uncommon, and the stress from being placed in an unwanted environment, is often enough to kill them, if the battle wounds don’t.
However, not all hope is lost. Their are certain types of fish which can live harmoniously with male Betta fish, but their are certain criteria which the tank mates have to meet;
- No overly bright colours, or colours that resemble another Betta. These type of fish can intimidate a Betta, and as you can imagine, that’s not a great idea!
- They have to be the right size, for the tank they are in. This one is common sense, but Betta fish are solitary fish, so they like their space. Make sure there is enough for everyone. We recommend at least 5 gallons of personal swimming space for your Bettas.
- They do not nibble. Nibbling a fighting fish is a recipe for disaster. Never mix nibblers with a Betta.
As with all fish, personalities will differ, so knowing your Betta fish before adding them to an aquarium with other fish, is a good idea. If they show signs of aggression, it’s common sense to keep them away, but if they don’t show any hostile behaviour, then feel free to experiment with other breeds.
Recommended Tankmates for Betta Fish
1. Neon Tetras
Tetras in general, can have a tendency to nip, but neon tetras usually stick to their groups and keep to themselves, making them a good mate for Bettas.
2. Blue Gourami
Blue Gouramis are another perfect tank mate for Betta fish, since they are closely related, meaning they share the same dietary requirements, and tank environment. Keep in mind that a blue gourami will require at least 20 gallons of water to thrive, so as long as you have enough space, these 2 will most likely live in peace.
3. African Dwarf Frogs
Although not necessarily a fish, the African dwarf frog is definitely a recommended tank mate. They do share the same diet, so make sure they both get enough to eat.
4. Pictus Catfish or any other bottom feeders.
They keep out of the way, and they clean algae from the bottom of the tank. What more could you ask for in a tank mate?
Female Betta’s are generally fine with other fish, and will happily share a tank with different breeds. Females prefer to live in groups, so we recommend at least 5. Try to stick with odd numbers, as female Bettas tend to try and dominate each other, so having an odd number allows them to establish a hierarchy.
Diseases are common in most fish, if you don’t pay attention to the small details. There are too many to list here, so we have created a comprehensive guide on all the diseases your Betta fish could run into. You can check that out here.
Knowing what to look for when choosing your fish, is a skill that is required by all fishkeepers, and the sooner you learn it, the better. Choosing a good Betta is quite simple. Here are a few things you need to look out for;
1. Look for any general body deformities. Does the fish have fins in a good condition? It can sometimes be hard to tell, since Betta fish can have quite large fins, but if you find any severe tears, odd shapes, or just general deformities, then look elsewhere. How are the fish’s eyes? Do they look clean and smooth, without any gunky covering? What about the body? Is there any odd lumps, or discoloured spots? All of these are examples of things you should be looking out for.
2. Betta fish are generally brightly coloured, and very vivid, though some may have a lighter tint of pink or blue. Dull and pale fish are usually not the healthiest, when you are looking for a healthy one, so look for brighter, more vibrant colours.
3. Look at the fish’s behaviour. Are they swimming actively, or are they sunken at the bottom of the tank, with their head bowed. Running your finger from side to side on the tank should encourage Betta fish to liven up, and follow you. However, you have to remember where these fish are coming from. They spend their entire day in a small tank, interacting with tons of different people, so don’t expect them to be the liveliest.
Choosing a Betta from a pet store, or any fish for that matter is not as simple as choosing the ‘best looking’ or the most active one. Remember the conditions that these fish are living in, and try to be a little bit more sympathetic. One which looks down and out, could in fact turn out to be your favourite, once it’s moved to a more optimal environment.