Caring for your Betta fish is the most important part of keeping it in the first place. However, due to some reasons, which includes misinformation and myths, most fish keepers find it difficult taking care of these awesome fish. As a result, they record very low or no success in this hobby.
The good news is that betta fish are very easy to care for. Yes, all you need to do is provide the basic care kit such as a medium-sized aquarium for comfort, a heater to keep the water warm, and inevitably proper diet. With these and a few other miscellaneous necessities, you will see your Betta fish thriving and happy. More so, you will enjoy the company of your aquarium specials.
We will now further on this page discuss in details ways to care for Betta fish that will benefit both beginners and experienced fish keepers who wish to learn more. Therefore, we will treat the following subheadings as they relate to Betta fish care.
The nitrogen cycle is normally an unfamiliar topic to new fish keepers, but it is a leading killer of fish. If you ever kept fish and they died in the first 2-6 weeks, it was probably ammonia or nitrite poisoning. Especially if they started gasping at the surface, their gills turned red, they sat at the bottom of the tank, got stuck to the filter, or became lethargic. Luckily, there is an easy way to circumvent this.
The most ethical way to cycle your tank is to do so fishlessly, but betta fish are hardy and can survive the cycling process. In other words, the cycling process refers to the natural nitrogen cycle, which takes place in all bodies of water.
Think of an aquarium as a closed system. Anything that goes in doesn’t come out until you take it out. For example, this includes the substrate, decorations, and fish food. Firstly, the fish digests food and passes it as waste, which breaks down and produces ammonia.
Ammonia is toxic in any quantity and burns off the fins, scales, eyes, and gills of the fish. Secondly, after a week or two, bacteria metabolize ammonia into nitrite. However, nitrite is even worse. Because nitrite prevents hemoglobin in the blood from carrying oxygen, it effectively suffocates the fish.
Thirdly, a week or two later, another bacterium convert nitrite into nitrate, which is safe up to 20ppm, but ammonia and nitrite are toxic at 0.25ppm. The filter houses the beneficial bacteria that turn these harmful compounds into less harmful ones. Above all, cleaning your filter must be done very carefully to avoid losing your cycle and having to make a new one for over a month. We will discuss this further in the “filtration” section.
Aquarium Water Changes
Now you may be wondering how to avoid burning or suffocating your fish. The answer is simple; water changes. In fact, you only need a bucket, a siphon, and water conditioner. During cycling or min-cycles, Seachem Prime is the best water conditioner.
Seachem Prime locks ammonia and nitrite up to 2ppm combined. For example, this can help save your fish in an emergency. During cycling, 0.25ppm ammonia and nitrite are acceptable, but above this
In order to decrease the dangerous compounds, you will need to carry out water changes. First of all, siphon out the water into a bucket, then dump the bucket in a sink or tub (or in a garden, it’s the best fertilizer!), fill it with water matching the tank’s temperature, add water conditioner, and finally, carefully pour it back into your betta’s tank.
With the exception of cycling a tank, you should do weekly water changes of 25-40%. When cycling a tank, do a water change any time ammonia is present over 0.25ppm. If your ammonia is at 1, you will have to do a 75% water change in order to get the level down to 0.25ppm.
Keeping the Right Aquarium Temperature
Betta fish are tropical fish. For example, they come from areas with the absolute lowest temperatures being 50-60’s and the highest in the 90-100’s. Therefore, betta fish need to live in water 78-82 degrees Fahrenheit, which is where the heater comes in. Since fish are cold-blooded animals, their water temperature controls their metabolism and body temperature.
The primary concern with keeping bettas at a lower than optimal temperature is their metabolism. Specifically, their metabolism helps control their immune and circulatory system, both of which have been affected by domestication.
Their immune systems tend to be very weak, so they must live in optimal condition. Therefore, if their immune system reacts too slowly, your betta could succumb to an easily treatable illness.
The circulatory system is very important in regard to the long fins of domesticated bettas. On the other hand, wild bettas have very short and precise fins and have no circulatory issues. The capillaries, or small blood vessels, on the edges of the fins, can fail to work. For example, if the fish is too cold, it will ensure blood flow to central organs by stopping blood flow to the extremities. Consequently, if the circulation is poor or slow, the fins will begin to rot at the ends.
For these reasons, a heater is essential for keeping your betta. A heater also helps avoid temperature swings, which stress fish and contribute to illness. Since betta fish are so common, there are many preset heaters that automatically heat the water to 78-80 degrees. The brand and type of heater, whether automatic or adjustable, is up to you.
Ensuring Good Water Filtration
As previously mentioned, a filter houses the bacteria that create your cycle. For this reason, it an essential piece of equipment. All the tank’s water passes through the filter and the filter cycles and cleans the water, keeping it clear and free of debris.
For bettas, a sponge filter is the best filter. This is because a sponge filter has a gentle current and no chance of harming your betta’s fins. They are also the easiest filter to clean and do maintenance on. Sponge filters tend to last much longer than other filters, depending on the brand.
Unlike other filters, you need a few components for the sponge filters. For example, you will need a check valve, control valve, airline tubing, an air pump, and the actual sponge filter. All of this should only cost $10-20.
The check valve and control valve go on the airline tubing. To clarify, the first prevents water from back siphoning out of the aquarium and the second allows you to control the air flow. The air pump pushes air through the airline tubing to the filter. As a result, air travels up the filter and displaces water, which pulls the water through the sponges.
The sponges collect debris and beneficial bacteria, so you must be clean them of debris. To clean the sponge, you will need your bucket of old tank water during a water change. Take the sponge, place it in the bucket of tank water, and squeeze it several times. However, you must prepare yourself for some grossness. Brown murk will come out of the sponge and turn the water nasty. After that, replace the sponge and finish your water change.
Introducing the Best Aquarium Décor
If you have very lethargic betta and your water parameters are perfect, then try adding some plants to cheer it up. Live plants, especially stem and broad-leaved plants, are loved by bettas. They love to swim between them and sit on broad leaves near the surface.
Plants also help you with the nitrogen cycle. They can absorb small amounts of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate as well as carry some beneficial bacteria. As a result, of absorbing some of your nitrates, plants can help you prolong the time between water changes.
However, some plants require extreme care, including hundreds of dollars in lights, CO2 injection, and fertilizers. On the other hand, other plants will suffice on whatever minerals are in your tap water. Some easy, low light, beginner plants include: Anacharis, Brazilian pennywort, Ludwigia, Bacopa, Amazon Swords, Rosette Swords, Hornwort, water wisteria, and many others.
Plants are by far the best possible decorations for your betta’s tank. They come in a wide variety of colors and shapes and can match any background. Plants also help you avoid decorations that would tear your betta’s fins, since soft leaves can’t do any damage. However, there is an exception; hard water causes hornwort needles to become very sharp. Soft to moderately hard water is fine.
Feeding the Betta Fish Right
Betta fish are carnivorous, so they need to have a high protein and varied diet. Pellets and flakes made specifically for bettas should be the staple meal. These are full of micronutrients and vitamins that bettas need.
Bloodworms are often sold as treats for bettas. Frozen bloodworms are much better than freeze dried bloodworms. These worms are high in fat and protein, so your betta will love them, but they should only eat them 1-2 times a week.
Mysis shrimp, white worms, blackworms, and brine shrimp are common frozen and live foods that can also be fed to bettas. Bettas can, and should, eat them more often than bloodworms, but not as often as the pellets.
When feeding your betta, keep in mind that their stomach is the same size as their eye. To clarify, this means you should only feed enough food to fill that tiny space. However, keep in mind that pellets expand when placed in water, to see how far they expand before estimating how many to feed.
The Essence of Cups
When you go to a pet store, you will often see betta in cups. If possible, find somewhere else to buy your betta because bettas suffer permanent damage from these cups because they have no filters or heaters. Ammonia constantly burns them, and because of a lowered immune system, this often causes them to become sick.
Even though you may want to buy a poor, sad looking betta in one of these cups, it is better not to. Even if you save one, the company gets more money and will replace it with one or two or three more. Try and find a local breeder, or a pet store that keeps them in something other than cups.
If you can source your betta from somewhere else, they will be much healthier and will live longer.
Choosing the Right Aquarium Size
Now we get into another area in which bettas are frequently abused. For example, pet stores are notorious for selling tanks far too small for bettas. Because these often rage from 0.25 to 1 gallon, they are too small to even hold a cycle.
When it comes to actual betta care, aim for a 5.5- or 10-gallon tank. The 5.5-gallon should only be $10-15, as will the 10-gallon. On the other hand, some suggest that a 2.5-gallon is acceptable for bettas, and it can be. However, this will only work for long-finned male bettas who are not very active.
Bettas with smaller fins, such as wilds, females, and Plakats, need a wider space as they move around much more often. In addition, the larger the tank you get, the less often you must do water changes as well.
If you have a betta in a 10 gallon, you may be able to get away with weekly water changes, even during cycling! This is because the volume of water is large enough to dilute the betta’s waste to a small enough amount that it is not damaging.
If you have a space issue, keep in mind that column tanks exist as well. Unlike standard tanks, these tanks are tall and not very long. As long as you have some rests halfway up the tank and near the top, your betta will flourish in one of these.
Taking Care of Sick Betta Fish
There are several common diseases that can affect Betta fish. The most important thing is knowing what to do every time your pet develop symptoms. Thus, here are common diseases of Betta fish, their symptoms, and how to take care of your fish according to the disease involved.
Pop-eye is a common, and terrifying looking, illness with bettas. If your betta has one of its eyes incredibly swollen and protruding, that’s pop-eye. Here we will discuss where this illness comes from and how to treat it.
Pop-eye is normally a bacterial infection of the eye, so antibiotics are needed to treat it. However, some antibiotics will kill your cycle, so you may have to recycle your tank. Sometimes frequent water changes can boost your betta’s immune system enough to heal it on its own. By frequent water changes, we mean 25-50% every day to every other day for over a week.
This illness often comes from unclean water. If you keep your parameters in check (ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrate < 20, temperature between 78-82) then you will likely not have this issue. However, if you yourself fall ill and are unable to change the water or do maintenance, the parameters can quickly get out of control.
If pop-eye is caused by incorrect parameters, clean water should remedy the issue. On the other hand, if your parameters are perfect, you will want to consider antibacterial methods. Erythromycin and Kanaplex are good go-to medications for bacterial problems, including pop-eye.
Betta fish are very prone to bloating problems. They tend to swell up in the stomach region and may begin to have issues with their swim bladder. This can devolve into swim bladder disorder, which is treated the same way as bloating.
The primary cause of bloating is constipation. Fast your betta for three days and then try to feed your betta some frozen daphnia. If you do not have access to frozen daphnia, you can try feeding a small portion of a deshelled, blanched pea.
Both foods are high in fiber, with daphnia being healthier for your betta. Bettas do not eat vegetation in the wild, so trying to feed your fish vegetable matter can make the situation worse. You can attempt to fast your betta several times but be sure to feed for 1-2 days in between.
If the fasting did nothing for your betta, you can try an Epsom salt bath. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt in a 1-gallon container. Make sure the tank temperature and the temperature of your betta’s tank are the same. Move your betta into the 1-gallon container for 10-15 minutes, then move your betta back to its tank. You can repeat this up to 3 times daily in extreme cases, or once a day for moderate cases.
Velvet is another disease that affects bettas, and owners often misidentify it. This is a parasite that attaches to the outside body of your fish. The only way to identify it is by its metallic sheen. If you turn off all the lights in the room and tank, shine a flashlight on your betta, and see a gold or silver metallic reflection, you are probably looking at velvet.
However, metallic bettas have recently entered the market, as have hybrids. These bettas can display a metallic shine on all or just part of their body. If you are concerned that your fish may have velvet, first compare old and new pictures of the fish to ensure it isn’t its natural coloration.
If you confirm that it is velvet, then you should start treating with a velvet specific medication. You should be able to find some at every pet store.
They contain copper to kill the parasite, but the copper will also kill invertebrates like snails and shrimp. If you have these, move them to a separate tank during treatment or move your betta to a separate tank.
Fin rot is extremely common in bettas and can occur even in perfect water conditions. If the fins are edged black, white or gray and appear tattered or torn, it is likely fin rot. However, if they have a black edge, it could also be ammonia burns, so test your water.
Once you see fin rot appear, you have several treatment options. Some prefer to add an Indian Almond Leaf (IAL) and do daily 50% water changes for 1-2 weeks. Pristine water can cure minor cases of fin rot and IAL’s have antibacterial and antifungal properties.
If you have a particularly strong case of fin rot, you may need to turn to antibacterial medications, such as Kanaplex and erythromycin. Both may destroy your nitrogen cycle, so keep an eye on your parameters.
You can also use a Methylene Blue dip in a separate container as it stains everything in a tank, including the silicone seals. A hydrogen peroxide swab can also help.
This involved using a net, Q-tips, and 2 or 3% hydrogen peroxide. Dip the Q-tip in hydrogen peroxide, lift your fish out of the water, swab the affected areas, leave your fish out for 5-15 more seconds, then place it back in your aquarium.
Tumors are increasingly common in bettas. They can either be the same color as the surrounding skin or some version of white, peach, black, or gray. They protrude from any area of the fish and can be lumped under the skin.
Most of the time, fish can live for years with tumors. However, they may obstruct the mouth or other vital areas and will need to be removed. An experienced fish veterinarian will have to do this, but unfortunately, there are not many of them.
This is a disease that looks exactly like a fungus but is actually bacterial. It appears as fluffy, white puffs on the back, fins, and mouth. It is also called “cottonmouth” and “Saddleback” disease because it normally starts at the mouth and back.
There are four primary strains of this disease, two are slow-moving, two are fast-moving. Two are cold water and two are warm water. When it comes to bettas, you will only encounter a slow-moving warm strain and a quick moving fast strain. The fast-moving strain kills fish in 12-72 hours, and not all fish will show symptoms.
The slow-moving strain takes several days to a week to kill fish and they normally all show symptoms. Columnaris is best treated with Macaryn 2, Furan 2 and Kanaplex at the same time, or in a pinch Kanaplex can work.
In conclusion, bettas are great beginner pets due to their hardy and interactive nature. However, they do require more care than most think. If cared for properly, they will be a great pet for years to come.