Bettas are mesmerizing to watch, with their undulating, brightly colored fins and their curious and distinctive personalities. Bettas are often sold as low-maintenance fish with little needs beyond a small tank and food, but this does not do them justice.
Betta fish are easy to take care of, but although they are a hardy breed, they are not ‘starter pets’ at all. Betta fish need specific care to thrive, and survival is not a benchmark for keeping these spirited and beautiful fish.
Although they are easier to maintain than many other more sensitive tropical freshwater fish, bettas need particular primary care to be happy and healthy. Luckily, you can easily take care of a betta if you consider their needs. Here’s how you can easily take care of a betta and how to properly care for these fierce beauties.
What Are Betta Fish?
The betta splendens or Siamese fighter fish are freshwater fish native to South East Asia. These brightly colored and graceful fish with the heart of warriors are known for their beauty as well as aggression.
They are one of the most popular aquarium fish in the world. Bettas are endemic to Thailand, where the Thai people have bred them for thousands of years. Thailand remains the largest breeder and exporter of bettas which are the national aquatic animal of the country.
Contrary to the seeming proliferation of these fish in American pet stores, the species is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN due to pollution and the destruction of their habitat.
Why Are Betta Fish Easy To Care For?
Bettas have a specialized breathing organ called a labyrinth organ that allows them to take air from the water’s surface. This adaptation makes them remarkably tolerant of poor water conditions and low oxygen levels.
In their native habitat of marshes, paddy fields, and floodplains, the betta is accustomed to sudden temperature fluctuations and water chemistry changes, and they can withstand relatively toxic environments.
The fact that a betta can survive in a vase or glass full of water is where the popular misconception arose that the betta needs little care and maintenance. The mere fact that a betta may survive these cramped and cruel conditions does not mean that they suffer stress and maybe miserable for their usually shortened lifespan.
What Do You Need To Take Care Of a Betta Fish?
To take care of a betta fish your will need a tank of sufficient size, with a heater, filter and correct pH and water perimieters. Plants, substrare and artificial caves/logs mimic their favored habitat and provide stimulation. High protein feed is essential with supplements of bloodworms, brine shrimp and daphnia.
While merely ensuring that your betta will survive is easy, it takes some time and effort to ensure that your Siamese fighter actually thrives. Clinical studies have shown that fish react to stress much as humans do by releasing cortisol.
This flight or flight hormone can cause depression in humans and your poor betta fish at high enough levels.
In a clinical trial, zebrafish with high cortisol levels showed classic symptoms of depression such as lethargy and a lack of interest in food or their environment.
So taking care of your betta is not just a measure of feeding and providing adequate aquarium perimeters but also ensuring their psychological wellbeing. Here are the main ways to properly care for your betta fish.
Provide the Proper Aquarium space
Although a betta will survive in a fishbowl, they actually need at least 5 gallons of water as a bare minimum per fish. Providing sufficient space is not merely a method to make a healthier and happier fish but also provides ample space for the nitrogen cycle to take place and maintain healthy water perimeters.
In a clinical study, a researcher experimented with 20 betta fish in 10 different tanks, some of which were 10 gallons per fish, the others 5 and 1.5 gallons big. The mortality in the 1.5-gallon tanks was exceptionally high due to disease, while the larger, heated tanks showed the best growth, color, and active behaviors.
Provide the Correct Tank Perimeters
As tropical fish, bettas need a water temperature of 75–82 °F (24–28 °C), although they may survive some fluctuations. In areas of the US with room temperatures lower than 67°F to 69°F, it is crucial to purchase a tank heater. Constant low temperatures cause a weakened immune system and make your betta susceptible to disease.
Bettas are affected by pH levels, and a betta requires a neutral pH level of around 7.0, although they may survive higher levels for a short time. Water hardness should be between 5 and 35 dGH.
Ammonia and nitrate and nitrite levels
Always ensure your water is dechlorinated to safe levels. Test your tank regularly to ensure your ammonia and nitrite levels are 0 parts per million and your nitrates below 40ppm.
Your tank should be larger than 5 gallons as a bare minimum, at at least 10 gallons to be ideal. If your tank is over 5 gallons, experts recommend a filter system. Filters provide good bacteria and waste filtration and stabilize your water parameters, ensuring a healthy betta fish.
However, filters are a bad idea if your tank is smaller than 2.5 gallons. Betta prefers slow-moving water and will become stressed in powerfully moving water.
Tanks over 10 gallons should have weekly water changes of at least a third of the total water volume in the tank. The smaller the tank, the more frequent and the higher the volume of water that needs to be changed.
Tank Additions For Betta Care
Live plants mimic the betta’s marsh and paddy field native habitat, and as well as the psychological benefits, they play an essential role in your tank’s health. Plants absorb nitrogenous wastes such as ammonia and protect the fish from these harmful chemicals.
Beta enjoys a well-lit tank but dislikes harsh outside light. External light can promote algae growth, so most experts suggest a luminescent or LED tank light.
A couple of inches of finely milled substrate mimics the betta’s natural sandy marcheses and paddys. Ensure you rinse the substrate properly before placing it in your betta’s tank. A
Caves and Mental Stimulants
Your betta’s natural instincts are to explore and scavenge for their favorite meals, so fake logs and caves make an excellent place for them to explore and behave naturally. Leaf hammocks are a great option where your betta can rest close to the surface of their tank.
Changing your tank decor or introducing new and interesting articles is a must for your curious and intelligent betta to combat boredom.
Feed Your Betta Correctly
Bettas are carnivores in their natural habitat, and they feed on live organisms such as:
- Small crustaceans
- Insect larvae
Because they are carnivorous, bettas have short digestive tracts, making it difficult for their systems to process carbohydrates such as corn and wheat. Unfortunately, many commercial foods contain carbohydrates as fillers in abundance.
It would be best to feed your betta a variety of feeds such as pellets, and flakes, as long as they consist mainly of protein. To ensure a happy and healthy betta, you should supplement their diet with foods such as:
- Brine shrimp
It would be best to feed your betta once a day and only in amounts that it can eat in under a minute to prevent obesity and tank pollution.
Although bettas need less maintenance than many other tropical fish breeds, it does not mean that you should take the time to ensure that they thrive and not merely survive.
These curious and intelligent creatures are happiest when your tank mimics their natural habitat most. If your bettas are happy, they could last up to ten years, and you have the pleasure of their company for longer.