Betta Fish Care and Guide

betta fish care

Betta fish, also known as the Siamese fighting fish (Betta Splendens), is one of the most popular hobbyist fish in the world. Known for their spectacular, fan-like fins and ferocious attitude, the brilliant betta fish began its career in the swamps and rice paddies of Asia.

Since their discovery, bettas has been heavily cultivated and bred for both fighting instinct and color variants. One of the contributing factor to the betta’s popularity is their spawning habits.

In this page, I will share all about bettas and how to take care of a betta fish including the tank, water care, betta tank mates, feeding, and breeding.

Betta Fish Facts:

  • Adult size: 2.4 inches long, not including tail
  • Average fish life span: up to 3 years with proper care
  • Origin: Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam
  • Diet: carnivore, zooplankton, mosquito and other insect larvae.
  • Minimum tank size: 1/4+ gallons
  • Water temperature: 74 to 85°F

The Ideal Tank For Betta Fish

EcoQube - Aquarium Kit for Betta Fish Get more details

Betta fish tank – Ideally, any betta fish tank from 1 gallon to any size up is just fine (5 gallons and up would be best). Just because betta fish can survive in a small bowl does not mean they will thrive in such a small tank. Those bowls are just too small. Betta fish enjoy swimming around and develop great “personalities” when they have ample room in which to live. If you want to keep many Bettas in the same tank, it is recommended that you have at least one gallon of water per betta. Remember that Betta fish have a tendency to jump so a lid is a very good idea.

Does a Betta Need a Filter?

Ideally, yes. Using a filter is the way to keep the water from becoming toxic. Betta fish tank without a filter, deadly ammonia levels will build up very quickly. Tiny tanks with no filter require daily water changes to keep Betta healthy. Daily water changes can stress the fish greatly so I strongly recommend a filter. I know, this is not easy to find a filter for a bowl, but I never said it’s a good idea to keep fish in a bowl. If you keep your Betta in a bowl, what you can do is to use a small sponge filter. They are easy to find on Amazon.

Avoid Water Movement! The Betta fish live naturally in very shallow water that has little movement. Bettas like calm water and don’t like current on the surface of their water either.

Decorations in The Tank

care for betta fishBetta-fish, like any fish, need to have lots of hiding places to feel secure. They will be more active and less prone to stress-related diseases. There are many options available for decorations but make sure all ornament are smooth to the touch with no rough edges. Sharp edges could potentially harm your Betta’s fins, so you don’t want that in your tank.

As they are from marshes and rice paddies, they will love floating plants (live or artificial) and any other aquatic plants. If you chose to go with fake plants, it is better to go with silk plants rather than plastic plants. Silk plants are soft with no sharp edges, while plastic plants can be rough on the fins. The more hiding place, the better.

Temperature Bettas Tank

Does a Betta tank need a heater? – One thing that is often overlooked in Betta fish care is the water temperature. Bettas are tropical fish native to the shallow waters of Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam and parts of China. They like their water temperature stable and warm (but not too warm). Low temperature is one of the most frequent causes of death for Bettas. The optimal range of water temperature for your Betta fish is 78 -80°F (25-26°C) and should not vary more than a degree or two from night to day. If you do have to alter the temperature, do it gradually over the course of a few hours. The temperature should never drop below 74°F which would have negative impacts on their immune system, making them susceptible to diseases. You can find common betta fish disease and how to prevent here: betta-fish diseases guide.

Since temperature plays such an important role in your Betta’s health, a thermometer and a heater are essential. If your tank (or bowl) is really small, it might be difficult to fit a heater in there. In that case, waterproof heating pads can be used. It can be difficult to heat a small bowl and it is perhaps one of the biggest argument against keeping them in such tiny tanks.

The air temperature at the surface is also important. Bettas are surface breathers, meaning they also breathe from surface air. Low surface air temperature is a common mistake that can be fatal for Bettas. Ideally, the air temperature at the surface should be 78 -80°F (25-26). A lid is a very good idea to keep the air warm.

Compatibility With Other Fish

Betta fish tank mates – Although Betta fish have their territorial side, it is possible to set up a community tank for them where they can live peaceably. When it comes to mix Betta fish with other fish, try to avoid any aggressive and/or fin-nipping fish. Keep in mind that male Bettas are very territorial toward any fish that look like an another male Betta invading their territory. So don’t keep two male Betta in the same tank, avoid fish with long, flowing fins and fish with similar shapes.

betta tankmate with neon tetra
Best tank mates for bettas

What the best tank mates for betta fish?
Betta usually does well with small freshwater fish like platys, swordtails, rasbora, white cloud minnow, plecos, mollies, neon tetras, cardinals tetras, cory catfish and ottos.

For the best betta fish tank, you would have a 10 gallon or larger with a good filter and water heater to have more than just the Betta. Bowl are just too small.

Marina Aquarium Kit for Betta Fish Get more details

The tank setup makes a huge difference in whether or not keeping Bettas with another fish is successful. Having plenty of hiding places and room to get away from each other will help a lot.

The ideal aquarium for your Betta fish is what will make the difference between a happy and an unhappy Betta. Unhappy Bettas usually don’t last very long so why not do things the right way. So let’s resume what we’ve learned about the ideal aquarium for Betta fish:

  1. Any tank from 1 gallon to any size up is just fine (5 gallons and up would be best). Fishbowl are too small.
  2. Using a filter is the way to keep the water from becoming toxic.
  3. Decorations such as fake or silk plants make great hiding places. The more hiding place, the better.
  4. The optimal range of water temperature for your Betta fish is 78 -80°F (25-26). Warm air temperature at the surface is also important.
  5. No more than one male Betta per tank
  6. When it comes to mix Betta fish with other fish, avoid any aggressive and/or fin-nipping fish.

Betta Fish Water Change

Changing betta fish water became one of the important things in betta fish care. Just because they originate from stagnant and shallow waters does not mean Bettas can live in poor quality water. Just like it is for any aquarium, regular water changes are the best and easiest way to keep the water quality high and your Betta healthy.

How much water should be changed?

The amount of water that has to be changed depends on many factors: tank size, the amount of fish, live plants, filter or no filter, etc.

A 1 to 5-gallon tank with a filter is what requires the less maintenance. If there are live plants, it will need even less maintenance. In some heavy planted tank with a low fish population, I often manage only to change the water once a year. As a rule of thumb, weekly 10% water change should too. Buying an NO3 test kit and testing the water once a week will tell you lot about how often the water needs to be changed.

If no filter on your tank, expect to change the water a little more often. 10% water change twice a week should too. For a tank smaller than 1 gallon, water changes have to be done regularly to keep your Betta healthy. If no filter on the tank, a complete water change might be needed every two days!

Keep in mind that complete water changes are a big source of stress are not ideal for any fish. With a filter, bi-weekly 50% water changes should do. Here again, an NO3 test kit will tell you lot about how often the water needs. Don’t waste your time and money testing the water in such small tanks with no filter. If this sounds like a bit too much work, a larger tank may be a better option for you.

How should you change the water in your betta fish tank?

  • Always pre-fill a separate container of water at least 24-hours before changing the water so that chlorine has time to dissipate completely. Add a water conditioner to the new water.
  • Raise the temperature of the water to match the temperature in the tank or bowl. Put a heater in the tank if need. Temperature fluctuations are very stressful for Bettas. New water MUST be at the right temperature before to procede to the water change.
  • If you intend to change all the water, you must first remove the Betta from the tank and place it in a special cleaning cup with cover. If you only change a part of the water, you may leave you Betta in the tank. If you fear that cleaning can be too much stress for your Betta, you can always remove it.When removing a Betta from its tank, avoid using the fish net (it’s stressful and unnecessary). The best way to do this is to dip a small cup into the water when your Betta is near the surface. This will suck both the Betta and water from the tank into the cup. Don’t forget to put a lid on the cup!
  • Vacuum the gravel to remove all leftover food particles. Remove all decoration, and vacuum underneath them as well. If there are live plants in the tank, leave them there and vacuum around. NEVER use soap or other cleansers to clean anything that comes in contact with your betta!The filter (if any) must be cleaned as well. Simply rinse the sponge. Whatever they told you at the store, you don’t need to replace the sponges. If your filter is large enough to fit more than one sponge of other filtration media, only rince one per water change.
  • Once the tank is clean, pour your Betta back into the tank.

Feeding Betta Fish

Knowing what to feed and how to feed Bettas will have a profound effect on its health and longevity. Next to the quality of the water, the food is the second most important factor in caring for Bettas. They aren’t particularly fussy about food but if you are new to Betta fish care, feeding them might present a challenge at first.

How much to feed?

Only feed what your Betta can eat. If your Betta doesn’t eat all the food you gave, SYPHON ANY LEFTOVER so it won’t rot and pollute your Betta’s water. Remember to give less next time. As a rule of thumb, feed only what your Betta will consume right away (in 2 minutes).

When feeding your bettas, be aware that if they really like their food. Bettas might not stop eating until all has been gobbled up. Overfeeding Bettas can lead to GI blockage, swim bladder disease, constipation or death. Keep in mind that a betta’s stomach is only as big as his eyeball.

How often to feed Bettas?

Once a day for adult Bettas and twice a day for the fries is good. What’s even better is to feed smaller portions twice a day.

What to do if you can’t feed them for a few days?

Bettas can survive without food for a long time so don’t worry if you are leaving on a weekend trip. It won’t starve or anything. That doesn’t mean that regular feeding isn’t important but once in a while won’t be a problem.

Best Food to Feed Betta Fish

Betta fish are carnivorous top-feeder. Their food must be easily digestible and high in protein. Ideally, offer your betta several types of foods to insure a well-balanced diet. Variety will contribute to a strong immune system. Many kinds of food will do well. Rather than listing them all here, let’s have a look at what they like the best:

best betta fish food Get more details

  • Bettas love frozen food such as brine shrimp, mysid shrimp and blood worm. Of all the frozen food available, blood worm is by far what my Bettas like the best. Bloodworm is the best food for betta fish also part of the Betta’s natural diet. It’s very nutritious and easily digestible. You can get this food frozen from your local fish store so don’t waste your time trying to find bloodworm or mosquito larva around your house. Unfreeze small portion and feed them to your bettas.
  • Betta bites and Betta pellets are specially designed for Bettas and can be a good alternative to frozen food. Some Betta that has been fed frozen food for a long time might not eat pellets. You can buy Aqueon betta food if you will feed your betta with pellets.

Breeding Betta Fish

Betta fish are not the easiest fish to breed. Some other species are much easier to breed than the betta (Guppies, for example, seem just to multiply in your fish tank overnight), but their courtship, spawning, and nesting activities are fascinating to watch. The more experience you get at breeding your Betta the easier and less complicated it will be.

Choosing The Right Couple

Betta fish male and female should be between 5 and 18 months old and in good health before you attempt to breed. Chose a male and female of roughly the same size and remember to choose them in the color you wish to breed for. Another important thing when selecting a breeding pair is to look at their level of activity. You want them to be active!

The Breeding Tank

Material needed:
10-gallon tank, hood with lights, plants (fake or real), submersible heater, aquarium salt, dechlorinator, sponge filter (or any small internal filter), thermometer, tank divider, styrofoam cup cut in half (lengthwise).

Required food:
live baby brine shrimp, vinegar eels/microworms.

live baby brine shrimp
Live baby brine shrimp

Tank setup:

  1. Fill half the tank with cycled water. Place the filter in the right corner (don’t turn it on right now). The filter will be used later to slowly circulate the water and keep fry off the bottom.
  2. Place the plants in the aquarium.
  3. Place the heater and set to 80F (26.6C).
  4. Place the thermometer in the tank.
  5. Tape the styrofoam cup in the left corner (right at the surface of the water).
  6. The styrofoam cup will be used to protect the male’s bubble nest. Put the hood on and turn on the light.
  7. The lights will be left on 24/24 until the fry are 2 weeks old.
  8. Put the tank divider right in the middle of the tank.

There are a few specifics that need to be in place before you get the happy couple together for the big event. A 10-gallon aquarium is an ideal size for a breeding tank, providing enough room for the female to escape the male’s insistent aggression while still keeping them in relatively close proximity. The tank should have a tight fitting cover to prevent cool drafts over the fry at the critical time when they’re developing their labyrinth organs. Plants act as cover for the female to take breaks during the active courtship. Gravel makes it hard for the male to spot the eggs as they fall after the spawning embrace, so it’s better to have a bare tank bottom. A plastic or Styrofoam cup cut in half and taped to the side of the tank provides an excellent, stable and protected area where the male can build his nest.

Water conditions are crucial to the health of your fish, whether they’re breeding or not. The water should be properly cycled, with the correct chemistry, pH, and bacterial filter before you start breeding bettas. For spawning bettas, the water temperature should be at 80-82F. A heater is highly recommended to maintain a consistent temperature since fluctuating temps can interfere with the adult bettas health and cause the death of the fry.

Get Bettas Couple Ready

To get your chosen couple ready for the big day, they should be conditioned with plenty of nutritious foods, given in frequent, small amounts. Feed them four times a day and feed as much protein as possible, preferably frozen or live bait such as bloodworms. It also helps to have the two in the same tank, but separated by a clear partition, since visual contact will stimulate the male to build his nest and the female to create eggs. The separation keeps the male interested and keeps the female protected from his violent amorous advances. During that period, the male will be busy building a nest made out of bubbles where the eggs will be incubated and hatch into fry.

Breeding Time

betta fish nestWhen the bubble nest is ready and the female is well-rounded and often has vertical barred markings, it is time to remove the division so they can be introduced. The male entice the female with sometimes brutally aggressive courtship to join him under the nest. The female may hide from the male at first but, most likely they will swim toward one another pretty soon. The courting behavior is a spectacular display on the part of the male, and even the female can become intensely colored and flashy.

The male spreads his fins, flares out his gill covers, and dances in an “S” pattern. The male can get so rough that he can cause damage to the female, torn fins and scales, but when the female is ready to spawn, their courtship gentles considerably. The female meets the male under the nest for the intricate dance of spawning. The two often dance in further courtship before the male wrap the female in an embrace, squeezing out her eggs while he fertilizes them. The spawning process can last many hours and they will continue this cycle until the female has released all her eggs. Remember that you should be offering good food to the Bettas throughout the spawning process.

After the female expels the eggs, both fish may stop moving (that is normal). Once they start moving again the male gathers the eggs, blowing each one up into the bubble nest for protection and incubation. Most females help with this process. Once the eggs have all been released and gathered the female can be removed from the tank. The male will continue to care for the nest and eggs until they hatch after (24-36 hours) and become free swimming (after 48-72 hours).

Hatching

betta fish eggs hatching

The eggs hatch 24 to 36 hours after spawning, depending on the water temperature. Once the fry are all free and swimming (after 48-72 hours) the male must be removed, or he may start to devour them. Do not attempt to spawn the male and female for a few weeks, and take good care of them for a week (like you would be conditioning them).

Fry ‘Em Up

So you’ve put your male and female Betta fish together. They’ve done their wild and crazy courtship, producing a boatload of eggs, which the happy couple carefully placed in the bubble nest. You’ve managed to remove the female without damaging anything, and the male has brooded over the eggs. After 24-36 hours, you’ve got teeny tiny wigglers in there, dropping out of the nest like little bombs. Your male is working his long-finned tail off, scooping the fry up and blowing them back into the bubble nest. Now, what do you do?

Day old betta fry hanging from bubble nest

At least for the next thirty-six hours, is that you don’t need to do anything, except possibly feed the male betta if he eats. Male betta got quite the job, rescuing the little fry as they constantly fall out of the nest. He might not want to take time out for a meal, or perhaps you can do a little tank cleaning. The fry are still absorbing what’s left of the yolk material, so they don’t need to be fed while they’re hanging tail down from the nest. When they’ve depleted the yolk sac and start swimming horizontal (after 48) hours), then it’s time to feed. It’s also time to remove the male before he views the tiny swimmers as food.

NOTE:
The first two to three weeks of their lives are the most critical for the baby bettas. They are developing their labyrinth organ, so they’re very sensitive to cool drafts across the water. If this organ is damaged, they’ll die. So it’s important to keep a tight cover on the tank and try to keep the atmosphere inside the tank as warm and moist as possible. When they’re a couple of weeks old, you can start gradually withdrawing the cover so that they get exposed to cooler temps slowly.

Feeding the Fry

The fry are very small and need an abundance of micro-food. Ideally, the fry should have a continual source of food. So to properly feed them, aim for 5 to 6 feedings per day. At that stage, microworms or vinegar eels are the best food for bettas fry. When feeding with microworms, simply scrape up enough worm to fit the tip of a toothpick and drop the worms in the water. When feeding vinegar eels, suction up a small amount of rinsed vinegar eels with an eye dropper and drop the eel in the tank. In my opinion, it is much easier to work with microworms than vinegar eels. An alternative food for fry is to strain cooked egg yolk to make a fine particle make a fine particle infusion. It works but it is messy and it can make the water dirty which could kill the fry.

After about a week, it is time to turn the filter on. The filter must be really slow and to do this, you can tie an knot in the air line. It is also time to add baby brine shrimp to the feeding routine and alternate foods throught the day. Feed the fry often (3-4 times a day) but make sure to not mess the water. The best is to start off with small amount and add more if needed.

After two weeks, increase the flow of the filter by loosing up the knot in the airline. It is also time for a first cleaning. Vacuum the bottom and replace 10-20% of the water with new water. New water must be at the exact same temperature, pH, everything!!! Before to dump the old water, look for fry that could have been sucked up while cleaning. If any, put them back in the breeding tank. The water quality must stay as high as possible so you will have to clean the tank every day or two.

About a month after hatching stage, you can stop feeding the fry with microworm or vinegar eel and start feeding them with finely crushed dry foods. Start by giving dry foods a try. If they don’t eat it, wait a couple of days before to stop feeding with live food.

They Will Grow

During the critical first few weeks, the betta fry shouldn’t be moved, since that might damage their sensitive labyrinth organ. They don’t start to show much color or fin shape until they are about three months old. As they mature and gain color, watch for aggressive behavior. Move those that are aggressive into jars. Only house one per jar and keep the temperature as close to 80F as possible (they grow faster when it’s warm). The jars should be cleaned every 2-3 days. The females get along fairly well, so they can be moved all in the same tank as they grow. To sex them, female has shorter bodies and fins, and often, round bellies and more square anal fins. Males have more pointed and longer anal fins.

At 1.5- 2 months, it is time to lower the temperature to normal (do this gradually). Dry food should be their only diet now.

Beautiful Bettas

One question you might be asking yourself is, “Why?” Why are you putting yourself through all this trouble and work? Some people actually breed bettas for commercial gain, but many hobbyists breed their bettas for the educational experience, or just because they love their beautiful bettas and want more. Some fanciers breed their bettas for show, fine-tuning their betta strains for the most beautiful or most unique specimens. For whatever reason you began this experience, breeding bettas and raising the fry is bound to be interesting, educational, and fun.


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