Basically, the Siamese fighting fish, more commonly known as the betta fish, is one of the most popular aquarium fishes people keep today. Also, they are popular for their
- Elaborate fins,
- Their easy care, and
- Their extreme aggression towards any fish they see to be a male.
Siamese betta fish have a lot of character. Meanwhile, if you own more than one, you’ll discover they have very different personalities. For instance, some are more aggressive while others are more peaceful. However, many myths surround the betta fish, which can lead to improper care and premature death.
- the basics of betta fish
- natural habitat
- male or female?
- tank mates
- colors and markings
- habitat and care
- sexual difference
- early development
- water temperature
- setting up the tank
- maintaining water quality in your betta fish’s tank
- keeping your betta fish healthy
The Basics of Bettas
Life Span: Up to five years, but occasionally longer
Adult Size: 3 inches
Tank Size: 2.5+ gallons
Temperature: 75–80 degrees Fahrenheit
Scientific name: Betta Splendens
Distribution: Thailand and Cambodia
Temperament: Basically, males are aggressive towards fish that resemble other male bettas. However, females are more peaceful, but if you keep them in groups, they will establish a hierarchy.
Generally, they distribute bettas in the wild around Thailand and Cambodia, where they inhabit rice paddies and shallow waters. Therefore, to survive in these low-oxygenated waters, they develop a labyrinth organ.
Meanwhile, this allows them to draw oxygen directly from the air, rather than relying solely on their gills.
Generally, they live in a warm, tropical climate. Meanwhile, they supply bettas in captivity with a heater. In addition, the rice paddies of Thailand and Cambodia are shallow, but vast, accommodating hundreds of gallons of water.
Tank size: Basically, bettas are not the most active of fish. Also, they don’t need a very large tank to stay healthy. However, they really need a swimming room and space for a heater, filter, and also hiding place. Therefore, it is best you keep them in a minimum of 2.5 gallons of water.
Decor: Ordinarily, bettas often like to perch upon aquarium decorations. Hence, they sometimes supply them with a place to hide if they become stressed.
Substrate: Basically, there are a lot of substrates suitable for bettas. Hence, sand, gravel, or bare-bottom will do just fine. However, if the gravel is small enough, the betta fish can swallow and choke on it when foraging for food. Therefore, rocks larger than the fish’s mouth are the best.
Lighting: Particularly, this is optional. However, you really should provide some way of letting them know when it’s day and night. Also, you should turn off the lights at night so the betta can get some rest as well.
Equipment: Generally, bettas are tropical fish, and for you to keep them happy and healthy they need a filter and heater. Meanwhile, the filter should be soft enough so the fish does not get caught in the current.
Similarly, the heater should have a thermometer so you can make sure temperature stays between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, you can use a gravel vacuum and bucket to perform weekly water changes. Likewise, testing kits are best to ensure the water quality is high.
Specifically, bettas are carnivorous, meaning they eat only animal matter. However, it’s healthy to supplement some vegetables in their diet. Also, like all fish, you should give them a varied diet to ensure they are receiving all the nutrients they need. Fortunately, there is a wide range of food you can give them, including:
- Tropical fish flakes/pellets
- Small insects which include wingless fruit flies
- Bloodworms (frozen, freeze-dried, or live)
- Brine shrimp (frozen, freeze-dried, or live)
- Krill (frozen, freeze-dried, or live)
- Mosquito larvae
Particularly, when it comes to feeding fish, less is more. Meanwhile, it’s much less healthy for them to eat too much than too little. Also, overfeeding can cause obesity and bad water quality, and these can lead to disease and even death.
Therefore, feeding two small meals a day will be sufficient for your betta, no matter how much s/he begs! Basically, it’s good to skip feeding them every once in awhile, to ensure their tummies aren’t getting too round.
Male or Female?
Generally, while males are showier than females, they are much more aggressive. Thus, you can only keep with fish that are plain and short-finned. On the other hand, females are much more peaceful and you can keep with other females.
However, if you decide to keep more than one female betta, you should keep them in groups of 4+ as they will establish a hierarchy. Meanwhile, the dominant betta will often bully her subordinates.
Therefore, this way, they spread the bullying around and they do not just pick on one fish.
Particularly, you should note that not all males are very aggressive and not all females are peaceful. Meanwhile, some girl bettas can be very belligerent and harm all the others. Thus, if this happens, you need to separate her immediately.
Siamese Betta Fish Tankmates
Basically, there are many animals that you can keep bettas with, as long as the owner is watchful of aggression. However, you should avoid colorful fish with long fins, as males could nip or even attack them.
Thus, if you buy tankmates for your betta, you must make sure you can provide for both of their needs. Meanwhile, here are some examples of suitable tank mates for the Siamese fighting fish:
- Some bottom-dwellers such as Corydoras catfish
- Also, many peaceful schooling tetras, including neon tetras
- African dwarf frogs
- Also, female guppies
- Next, aquatic snails, like the mystery snail
Avoid use of Bowls
Generally, many people who don’t know how to properly look after their bettas keep them in tiny vases or fish bowls, in which they lead miserable lives. Basically, bowls are not suitable for any fish for these reasons:
- Specifically, there is no room for heaters, filters, and swimming space. Therefore, this will leave the water with a constantly fluctuating temperature, dirty water, and a cramped fish
- Also, the betta will become stressed out because it distorts their view, making everything blurry and disproportionately sized. Thus, imagine if huge, scary blobs were walking around your home all day!
- Basically, they are liable to jump out of the opening or their bowl. Also, sometimes toxins can fall into their water and poison them, or pets will fish them out and eat them
Colors and Markings
Ordinarily, the brilliant coloration and long flowing fins of the male Betta fish make it one of the most popular of aquarium fish. However, females are usually not as highly colored and have much shorter fins.
Likewise, in nature, this species is not usually brightly colored. However, captive breeding programs lead to a wide variety of colors, including
- brown, and
Similarly, you can see a myriad of combinations, from solid colors to those with different fin and body colors, to patterned colors.
Particularly, fin types also change due to selective breeding. Also, Crowntails, Deltas, Fans, Halfmoon, Lyre, and Split tails, to name a few, joined Veil tails.
In addition, betta competitions and breeding competing in competitive shows bring new variations to the market regularly.
Also, both sexes have a torpedo-shaped body and an upturned mouth geared for eating at the surface. Basically, mature adults reach a size of two to three inches, with females being slightly smaller than the males.
Ordinarily, a unique feature of this species is the presence of a labyrinth organ that allows them to take oxygen from the atmosphere instead of from water. Therefore, allowing them to survive in low-oxygen waters.
Habitat and Care
Basically, bettas are one of the
- most recognized,
- most colorful, and
- often the most controversial fish in the freshwater hobby.
Specifically, debates rage about the appropriateness of keeping them in small bowls. Therefore, to fully understand their needs it is important to become familiar with their native habitat. That is, where they live in
- large rice paddies,
- shallow ponds, and
- even in some slow moving streams.
However, although many fish keepers are aware that Bettas come from shallow waters, what they often overlook is the water temperature.
Basically, the home countries of the betta fish are tropical. Hence, the water temperature is quite warm, often into the 80s. Also, bettas thrive on heat and will become increasingly listless when the water temperature falls below 75 F.
Ordinarily, water temperature is perhaps the biggest argument against keeping a betta in a tiny bowl, which cannot readily be heat controlled.
Even though, betta fish do well in waters low in dissolved oxygen that does not mean they require less oxygen than other fish.
Basically, bettas have a special respiratory organ that allows them to breathe air directly from the surface. In fact, they inherently have to do so. Basically, in experiments where they remove the labyrinth organ, the fish died from suffocation even though they saturated the water with oxygen.
For this reason, betta fish must have access to the water surface to breath air directly from the atmosphere.
Optimally, the water for keeping healthy betta fish should be soft, warm, with a neutral to slightly acidic pH. Also, you should keep water movement to a minimum, which means that power filters and powerheads are not suitable.
Siamese Betta Fish Diet
Ordinarily, in nature, bettas subsist almost exclusively on insects and insect larvae. Specifically, they build them with an upturned mouth that is well suited to snatching any hapless insect that might fall into the water.
Also, internally their digestive system gears for meat, having a much shorter alimentary track than vegetarian fish.
For this reason, live foods are the ideal diet for betta fish. However, they will adapt to eating flake foods and also frozen dried foods.
Basically, Brine shrimp, Daphnia, plankton, tubifex, glass worms, and beef heart, are all excellent options that you can find frozen or freeze-dried.
Also, if you feed them flake food, it should be supplemented with frozen and freeze-dried foods, and if possible live foods.
Siamese Betta Fish Sexual Differences
Basically, males are more brilliantly colored and have long flowing fins. Likewise, they have a more distinct “beard” and are larger overall than the females.
On the other hand, females have short fins and will display vertical stripes and an egg spot when ready to mate.
Generally, bettas have a fairly short lifespan and are most successful as breeders when they are under a year old. Also, they breed in bubble nests and do not require a large tank or special equipment.
In addition, most breeders find that a bare-bottomed tank of roughly ten gallons works well. However, ideally, the fish should be conditioned prior to breeding, by feeding them a diet of live foods.
Also, the water should be at a pH of about 7.0, and temperature around 80 or slightly above.
Similarly, the male will blow an elaborate bubble nest when he is ready to spawn. Meanwhile, you should provide the female with a hiding place, as males may become aggressive during courtship.
However, even with a hiding place, it is common for the female to lose a few scales or have their fins frayed during spawning.
In addition, when they are ready to spawn, the pair will display intense coloration and begin circling each other under the bubble nest.
Particularly, the male will wrap himself around the female who turns on her back. Meanwhile, as she expels the eggs, they fertilize and begin to sink.
Therefore, the male will scoop up the eggs and spit them into the nest. Meanwhile, from this point on the male will tend the brood.
Ordinarily, it is advisable to remove the female, as the male may become aggressive towards her as he tends his young.
Also, the male will continue to tend the bubble nest. Thereby, spitting eggs that fall out of the bubble nest back into the nest. Meanwhile, in one to two days the eggs will hatch. Hence, the fry will be visible hanging in the bubble nest with their tails pointing downward.
Basically, male bettas will flare their gills, spread their fins and twist their bodies in a dance if interested in a female. Likewise, if it interests the female, she will darken in color and develop vertical lines known as breeding bars as a response.
Also, males build bubble nests of various sizes and thicknesses at the surface of the water. Specifically, most tend to do this regularly even if there is no female present.
Ordinarily, plants or rocks that break the surface often form a base for bubble nests. Usually, they call the act of spawning itself a “nuptial embrace”. Generally, the male wraps his body around the female.
Meanwhile, the female releases around 10–40 eggs during each embrace until the female tires out. However, the male, in his turn, releases milt into the water, and fertilization takes place externally.
Also, during and after spawning, the male uses his mouth to retrieve sinking eggs and deposit them in the bubble nest. Meanwhile, once the female release all of her eggs, the male will chase her out of their territory as she will likely eat the eggs.
However, if you do not remove her from the tank, then the male will most likely kill her.
Basically, the eggs will remain in the male’s care. Interestingly, he carefully keeps them in his bubble nest, making sure none fall to the bottom, repairing the bubble nest as needed.
Generally, incubation lasts for 24–36 hours. Also, newly hatched larvae remain in the nest for the next two to three days until their yolk sacs absorb fully. Afterwards, the fry leaves the nest and the free-swimming stage starts.
Meanwhile, in this first period of their lives, B. splendens fry is totally dependent on their gills. Also, the labyrinth organ which allows the species to breathe atmospheric oxygen typically develops at three to six weeks of age.
Particularly, depending on the general growth rate, which so much varies. Basically, B. Splendens can reach sexual maturity at an age just as early as 4–5 months.
Particularly, betta species prefer a water temperature of around 75–82 °F (24–28 °C). However, they can survive temporarily at the extremes of 56 °F (13 °C) or 95 °F (35 °C). Also, when you keep them in colder climates, aquarium heaters are best.
Likewise, pH levels of the water affect bettas. Hence, ideal levels for Bettas would be at a neutral pH (7.0) However, betta fish are slightly tolerant towards the pH levels.
Specifically, they have an organ known as the labyrinth organ which allows them to breathe air at the water’s surface. Particularly, this organ allows you to keep the fish in unmaintained aquaria.
However, this is a misconception, as poor water quality makes all tropical fish, including Betta Splendens, more susceptible to diseases such as fin rot.
In any case, if you properly keep and feed them good diets, Siamese betta fish generally live between 3 and 5 years in captivity. However, it may live between 7 and 10 years in rare cases.
How to Take Care of a Siamese Betta Fish
Generally, male bettas are especially popular fish to keep as pets, in part because of their wavy, flowing fins and bright colors. Likewise, bettas are interesting to observe and easy to take care of.
In any case, ensure you house your Betta in an appropriately sized tank. Also, keep water conditions safe and healthy, and feed your Betta carefully.
Setting up the Betta Tank
Choose a Proper Betta Tank
Particularly, select a tank that is at least 2.5 gallons. Ideally, the betta tank will be 5 gallons (19 l; 4.2 imp gal).
Thus, this means that neither the classic fish bowl nor the vase which pet stores commonly keep bettas in are not large enough! Generally, the tank needs to be large enough to allow plenty of space for your betta to move and explore, which is necessary to keep him healthy.
Get a Filter for the Betta Tank
Specifically, you need a filter to circulate, aerate, and filter the tank’s water. In particular, a filter will break down and remove toxic fish waste from your betta tank.
However, you will likely need a filter with an adjustable flow rate, as Bettas require a large tank with a low flow. Particularly, this mimics the relatively still water in which the species evolved.
Also, since there are many types of filters, it may seem hard to choose. Therefore, whichever filter you choose, make sure they rate it for your size of the tank.
Equip your Betta Tank with a Heater
Particularly, since bettas are from a tropical climate, they require a relatively high water temperature. Meanwhile, you’ll likely need to equip your tank with a heater.
Thus, ideally, get a submersible aquarium heater and keep it running to maintain the water temperature from 74–80 °F (23–27 °C).
Place your Betta Tank out of Direct Sunlight
Particularly, place your tank on a stable, solid surface that can safely hold its weight. Also, make sure that direct sunlight does not hit the tank at any point of the day. Basically, sunlight contributes to excessive algae growth and dangerously high temperatures.
Maintaining Water Quality in Your Tank
Add Substrate to the Betta Tank
Basically, the substrate is an important component of a healthy fish tank. Particularly, it allows for the development of healthy bacteria. Specifically, your tank’s filter works with the help of these bacteria.
Basically, they collect in a tank substrate and also develop on the filter’s internal materials.
Condition the Betta Tank’s Water
Generally, you can get a water conditioner from a pet store or online. Basically, this will remove chemicals from tap water that are harmful to fish, including
- chlorine and
Ultimately, you’re shooting for a pH around 7.0, which you really should test for weekly. Meanwhile, you can also purchase testing kits at pet supplies stores or online.
Likewise, you may need to add supplements to the tank if your water’s “hardness” needs to be adjusted. Similarly, test kits will also help you test for “general hardness” and “carbonate hardness”. Therefore, shoot for 7-9 degrees and 5-8 degrees hardness, respectively.
Partial Water Exchange every Two Weeks
Particularly, plan to change about 25%-30% of the tank’s water every other week. Also, use a gravel vacuum to suck waste and uneaten food from the tank’s substrate. Meanwhile, during your weekly cleaning, remove the tank’s decorations and rinse them off.
However, whenever the walls of the tank are becoming visibly dirty, wipe them off with a sponge designed for cleaning fish tanks.
Particularly, a gravel vacuum is actually a simple siphon you can get from your pet store or online.
Also, siphon about a third of the tank water from the bottom of the tank. Ordinarily, this will allow you to pull the waste from the gravel without removing the gravel.
Keeping Your Betta Fish Healthy
Feed your Betta Fish a high-protein diet
Generally, bettas are meat eaters. Thus, there must be food that is high in protein content. Meanwhile, there are plenty of options, and you should actually vary the type of food you feed your fish.
Also, as long as you stick to high-protein options, be especially careful not to feed your Betta too much. Particularly, as leftover food can lead to a higher likelihood of your fish developing a disease related to dirty water.
Similarly, feed your Betta an amount of food they can eat within two minutes. However, monitor your Betta while eating.
Particularly, start by feeding them just a pinch at a time. Also, add more if two minutes never elapses and they’re still eating.
Watch out for Signs of Illness
Basically, there are certain symptoms you should watch out for. Specifically, they may indicate that your betta is sick.
Meanwhile, behaviorally, be on the lookout for
- unusual swimming patterns,
- a sudden loss of appetite, or
- your betta fish scraping their body against the gravel in its tank.
However, in terms of appearance, watch out for
- abdominal swelling,
- fins that clamp against the sides of your betta’s body, or
- any inflammation or discoloration.
Therefore, if you observe any of these symptoms, change the tank water immediately and begin more closely testing the water quality. Make sure water temperatures are safe as well.
Introduce a female Betta Fish
Basically, never keep two male bettas in the same tank. However, you can add a female betta fish to your tank. Thus, make sure a tank that houses two bettas is at least 10 gallons (38 l; 8.3 imp gal). Specifically, this will allow both of your fish to establish territories, and reduce stress and aggression.