Are Betta Fish Freshwater?

Are Betta Fish Freshwater?

Each body of water has a unique chemical makeup, as different minerals and components leach into it. Some water is brackish, some are fresh, and some landlocked bodies of water are fully marine in terms of salinity. Others have high levels of dissolved solids and heavy metals, while others are as pure as rainwater. Since there are different species of bettas, each one hails from a slightly different type of water.

Most betta species are freshwater fish, but there are a few brackish water species, most notably Betta Mahachaiensis. The domesticated betta, commonly referred to as Betta Splendens (despite it being a hybrid fish), is a freshwater species, as are the other species it was hybridized with. The bettas you buy in pet stores are freshwater, and some are very sensitive to the addition of salt.

In this article, we will discuss the differences between freshwater, brackish, and saltwater, salt sensitivity, salt as a preventative, Betta Mahachaiensis, the marine betta, aquarium salt vs marine salt, and brackish water plants.

Freshwater vs Brackish vs Saltwater

As we already know, saltwater has a lot of salt in it, brackish has some salt, and freshwater has very little to no salt. The amount of salt in the water determines what type of water it is. But you can’t use most salts for aquariums. For example, brackish water has a specific gravity between 1.005 and 1.010, while saltwater has a gravity between 1.022 and 1.027.

If you have done research into treating different diseases, you’ve probably come across some advice to either do a salt dip or add salt to the main aquarium for certain illnesses, such as Ich.

In order to treat diseases in aquariums, aquarium, or non-iodized salt, is used to treat the fish. Table salt will not work, as it is iodized salt, which will kill fish. However, if you attempt to make a brackish or saltwater tank with only aquarium salt, the tank will fail.

In order to make a truly brackish or marine tank, you have to use marine salts. This is because these salts contain a multitude of various minerals and other components that are essential for keeping one of these tanks running.

This is important to know if you plan on keeping Betta Mahachaiensis or other fish that require some salt. The minerals in marine salt also greatly increase the hardness of the water, which is why you cannot use it to treat freshwater fish, as they could go into osmotic shock.

Salt Sensitivity

Some keepers swear against ever using salt with bettas, while others keep their bettas in low levels of salinity as a disease preventative. Some bettas seem to be able to tolerate low levels of salinity. But others do not, even members of the same species.

If you attempt to keep freshwater species of bettas in brackish water, you will encounter serious issues and your betta will normally die after a few days. If you try and put your betta in saltwater, it will die in a few minutes.

Bettas, for the most part, come from soft and acidic water. As soon as you add salt, you are adding many dissolved solids, making the water hard instead of soft. Some bettas do not handle this change well at all.

Osmotic shock is another concern when it comes to adding salt. Since the total dissolved solids, or TDS, severely changes with the addition of salt. If you add the saltwater too quickly, the betta can go into shock.

Osmosis is a process through which something crosses a semipermeable membrane, in this case, the betta. If there is a high concentration of dissolved molecules on one side of the barrier, they will cross the barrier to achieve a proportionally equal amount on both sides.

Fish regulate their own osmosis based on the number of minerals in the water. If you suddenly add a large number of minerals to the outside, the fish may not be able to equalize fast enough and can go into shock and die.

Salt as a Preventative

The breeders who keep their bettas in some level of salt normally keep them between freshwater and brackish. This can help ward off certain external parasites. But it can lead to salt resistant parasites/diseases and can damage a betta’s health long term.

Salt works as an irritant and causes excess slime coat production. The slime coat can help protect fish against certain external pathogens, but over time, the irritation from the salt can cause illnesses on its own, including lesions.

The most common argument against using salt as a preventative is the same argument you hear from people against using antibiotics as preventatives: Superbugs. Now if your fish gets sick, you will have no choice but to treat with medications, instead of adding salt for a week or two.

From experience, this is a poor argument, as good quarantine policy would prevent your fish from getting sick. However, this also means that, with a good quarantine policy, there is no reason at all to add salt and unnecessarily stress your fish.

Since salt is an irritant that constantly causes fish to create and slough off slime coat, it does stress them out a great deal. It can also cause some minor pain and near constant discomfort. Salt is not useful for bettas as a preventative, and the addition of salt to their water can harm them.

Betta Mahachaiensis

Betta Mahachaiensis is the most common betta fish species that come from brackish water. If you have never dabbled in brackish aquariums but really want this fish, the good news is that you do not necessarily need a brackish aquarium to keep them in.

As previously mentioned, salt greatly increases water hardness and TDS. If you have extremely hard water, with a similar TDS to brackish water, you should be able to keep this betta without the addition of salt.

If you have soft water, the only way to keep this fish is by using salt to create a brackish tank. This species is not capable of regulating their osmotic processes if the water is too soft or getting needed minerals from the water and they will die as a result.

Marine Betta

Even though the Comet is often referred to as saltwater betta, it shares nearly no similarities with members of the genus Betta. This is a pure saltwater fish that grows to eight inches in length. The marine betta is a carnivorous fish like the domesticated betta. But if you try and keep any species of Betta in salt water, they will die.

Aquarium Salt vs Marine Salt

If you want to keep a brackish tank for a brackish species, you need to use marine salt. If you just need to add some salt to fight off Ich or Anchor Worms or whatever else, you want aquarium salt instead.

Marine salt is used to create brackish and saltwater aquariums. It contains more than just non-iodized salt. Marine salt contains necessary minerals and other compounds that non-freshwater fish need to survive.

For simple disease treatment, you do not need or want, these extra minerals. They will not cause harm other than raising the hardness, but marine salt is much more expensive than aquarium salt (and, for a much cheaper aquarium salt option, use pickling salt!).

Plants and Brackish Water

Just like the other wild bettas, Betta Mahachaiensis also needs a very densely decorated and planted tank. There is a common myth that most plants cannot survive in brackish water.

In fact, most commonly available aquarium plants for freshwater aquariums can survive in brackish water. The mistake that most people make is that they simply plop the plants into brackish water.

This forces the plants to undergo osmotic shock. It’s unable to keep the excess minerals out, they draw in too much and wither away. In order to keep these plants in a brackish aquarium. You must carefully acclimate them over a period of days to weeks.

Your aquascaping choices for freshwater and brackish aquariums are nearly identical, so don’t forget to let your imagination run wild!

In conclusion, most species of betta, including those found at your local pet stores, are freshwater fish. Betta Mahachaiensis, on the other hand, is not one of those species and is, in fact, a brackish water fish. There is also a fish called the marine betta which is a fully saltwater fish. But it is not related to the genus Betta at all.

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