If you haven’t read my full biography, you might not know that I currently can’t keep most pets. Yep. My significant other and child are both deathly allergic to all things furry or feathery or that require any sort of bedding. I do have hopes of keeping pets again in the future, but our living situation doesn’t allow it.
So, we now have fish. Well, a fish. His name is Scooby Doo (not named by me) and he’s a betta, or Siamese fighting fish. Bettas are beautiful little fish. They are complete and utter jerks to other bettas, but delicate when housed with almost any other aggressive species.
These betta care tips will keep them thriving for years instead of months.
1. Buy a Tank
I know the pet store sells cute little one-gallon betta tanks. They even have cute little cascading tanks that house three or more male bettas. While these homes allow for a collection of bettas, they also are difficult to maintain.
Bettas like small tanks. Naturally, bettas live in shallow, dirty water, full of plants and aquatic matter, so in captivity bettas like similar housing. However, in the wild they also have short lifespans. Their puddles are refreshed by currents and rain, and their water remains relatively stable.
In captivity, tanks change properties quickly. When you raise the heat in your home, a tank will become slightly warmer as well. This doesn’t happen quickly in the wild, because much more water would need to change temperature. A small drop of contaminant would dilute quickly in a river, but could kill an entire tank in captivity.
Bettas prefer life in 5 or 10 gallon tanks. They prefer tanks that have more surface area, and are thus shallower.
2. Use a Heater
Bettas are tropical fish, and thus need tropical temperatures. While you might prefer your home to be in the high 60s, bettas need temperatures of 78 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. They can live in colder water–but they are sluggish and cold, and don’t live as long because their digestive system doesn’t work as well.
Heaters cost around $15, and keep your tank at a steady temperature no matter what the weather. For only a few dollars, your betta is more comfortable and happy.
3. Use a Filter.
Yep, that too. Wild bettas spend their lives in filthy water, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for them. It only means they can tolerate it. A simple sponge filter provides filtration without creating a heavy current. The smaller the tank, the less current your betta can handle.
Dirty water leads to illness and infection. While the fish can breathe air, they will still be more likely to develop fungus or bacterial infections.
4. Buy quality food.
Bettas are obligate carnivores–just like cats! They need foods heavy in protein.
While tropical flakes provide acceptable nutrition, your betta will only display his best colors when fed a quality diet high in protein. Any food he can’t eat will go to waste, and dirty his tank.
Many specialized betta diets provide for the needs of your betta. Bettas also love frozen fish foods, available at most major pet stores. They especially love frozen bloodworms. Just remember to clean the tank after feeding. I feed mine bloodworms about a half hour before I do a water change, then I clean up the scraps.
5. Talk to him.
Did you know bettas are smart? Unlike most aquarium fish, they recognize that there is a world outside their tank. They learn their owner’s steps, voice, and mannerisms. They develop clear personalities. Some are curious about strangers, others flare and try to pick a fight.
They do truly know you, and your family members. Mine, Scooby, loves to watch my son play, and greets each family member differently.
6. Give Him a Home.
Bettas love nooks and crannies. They find preferred spots to hide, rest, and chill. Because they watch everything that happens in your home, they like having places that feel safe but also let them check out the world.
They also need a good, secure spot to rest. Because of their heavy fins, they tire easily and spend much of their time resting. They like live plants, some artificial plants, and caves. Mine have always preferred a small clay pot, on its side, on the bottom of the tank. They will also enjoy decorations from the pet store.
Betta care tips keep your betta happy, but…
Do you have any other betta care tips for other fishkeepers? This article, caring for bettas, describes their proper keeping in more detail.