Is the newest addition to your fish tank the infamous betta Channoides better known as the snakehead betta? Is the ominous name making you feel a little squeamish? Are you scared that it’s going to present itself as a challenge? Or do you just want to let your new friend feel comfortable and at home and want to know best how to do it? Well, you have come to the right place.
So sit tight, put your seatbelts on, and enjoy the ride as we tell you all you need to know about taking care of your newest little fishy friends. Come on let’s get started.
What are Betta Channoides?
Although the name snakehead might make the betta Channoides seem scary, they are actually some of the most peaceful fish out there. Making them a very good start for beginner fish tank owners. The name snakehead comes from their body shape. They are small and slender fish with a head that appears to be that of a snake. These fish are also a great addition for experts and are desirable because of their brightly colored orange skin with black and white accents.
Common Names of Betta Channoides
The most widely used common name of the betta Channoides fish is the snake head betta, which we have already discussed. Other than the snake head betta, betta Channoides have other common names including; strawberry betta and cherry betta.
As of 2019, betta Channoides have been added to the list of endangered species by the IUCN International Union for Conservation of Nature).
Betta Channoides in Nature
Region and Distribution
In the wild, betta Channoides belong to the Mahakam river basin in Eastern Kalimantan. This is on the island of Borneo in Indonesia, Asia. They prefer a tropical freshwater climate, which is offered in the shallow streams and pools of the Mahakam River.
These waters are highly acidic with a very low pH, as low as about 3 to 4 and the waters usually have a high abundance of leaf litter providing high organic material. This organic material releases a lot of tannins which give the water a brownish color. These streams are therefore also called blackwaters.
The Appearance of Betta Channoides
The snakehead fish have a snake-shaped head hence the name. These fish have black fins and ventrals with white borders and are colored bright orange. Since betta Channoides are mouth brooders (their way of breeding), they have big-sized mouths for this purpose.
Betta Channoides fish are a small-sized betta species, growing up to a maximum of about 1.5 to 2 inches (that is about 35 to 40 mm).
Difference Between Male and Female Betta Channoides?
Male fish have a brighter orange shade than female betta Channoides. Females have a more washed out, dull look (almost appearing a faded light brown) while the male betta Channoides are brighter. Males also tend to have broader heads than females. The ovaries on the female betta Channoides can be visible under a flashlight. This means that the betta Channoides fish show sexual dimorphism.
To identify betta Channoides from other similar species, the dorsal fin is of prime importance. It stands unique with a fully orangish-red fin having a white border on its top.
Betta Channoides tend to have a life span of 3 to 5 years, although 2 to 3 years is more commonly observed.
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Fish per Tank
Betta Channoides can be housed in small tanks in pairs or small groups since they are generally peace-loving fish. They do not generally harm one another. Although in smaller tanks, the males and females might butt heads for dominance, establishing territories, or a lack of space. It should be ensured that the male-to-female betta Channoides ratio in a tank is equal that is one male fish should be present for every female fish, which minimizes the risk of aggressive behavior and fights.
A 10-gallon fish tank with a base size of about 35 cm by 40 cm (1.5 ft. by 1 ft.) would be good to house a pair of betta Channoides or maybe even a small group. Although a larger tank would be required for more fish and if you have a greater number of male betta Channoides fish. Since betta Channoides naturally form a hierarchy in the tanks where they are kept.
Plants in the Tank
Since the betta Channoides come from a natural habitat where the leaf litter and other organic material provide a natural plant cover, the presence of plants in an aquarium housing betta Channoides is very important. It also forms shady areas in the tank. It is important to note that no known toxic plants be kept in the aquarium.
Plants that are safe and can be put in a betta Channoides tank include; frogbit, Java fern, Java moss, Anubias species, Indian almond leaves, etc. Floating vegetation of aquatic plants generally works well like Microsorum, Taxiphyllum, Cryptocoryne spp., etc.
Betta Channoides can fare well without a water filter but since they are mouthbrooders a little gentle flow might be beneficial. Water filters both keep your tank clean and provide some flow. The flow rate of the filter should be low since these fish aren’t strong swimmers and become exhausted easily, they are used to living in sluggish waters in their natural habitats. It is recommended that the water filter have a water flow that is about 4 to 5 times the size of your aquarium i.e., a low medium flow.
Like all betta fish, the betta Channoides are jumpers so they require the aquarium to be covered. But there must be some space between the lid and the water level so that the fish can breathe by coming up to the surface and the humid air can form here. Since betta Channoides too are labyrinth fish with a labyrinth lung-like organ that they use for breathing. They can use this to breathe the atmospheric air directly.
Betta Channoides are best suited to live in dim lighting. Natural lighting might work for this but given where the tank is kept you might have to use artificial lighting.
Although it is best to keep betta Channoides alone, tank mates can be added if the tank is big enough, stresses are minimized, and no big or dominant fish are kept. There are some species that are peaceful enough to be kept with betta Channoides e.g. Kuhli, Norman’s Lampeye killifish, corydoras, shrimp, prawns, loaches, etc. You just have to make sure that the snake head betta Channoides fish are the dominant fish in your tank.
Betta Channoides are very tolerant fish and generally can be reared in a broad range of water conditions.
Optimum Temperature Range
The water temperature of the aquarium should be kept between 72 °F and 80 °F (22 °C to 27 °C), although this is more towards the cooler side, water heaters might be needed depending on external conditions. When raising betta Channoides fry (babies) the temperature may be increased to about 78 °F to 82 °F i.e. 25 °C to 28 °C. This higher temperature encourages faster growth.
Optimum pH Range
Betta Channoides prefer a lower pH similar to their natural environment of 3 to 4. But they can be kept at a pH of up to 6.5. A pH meter should be used to ensure that the tank conditions are indeed acidic.
The water should be dechlorinated and the ammonia and nitrite levels should be zero parts per million, although the nitrate levels can be kept at less than 40 parts per million. Too much ammonia in the tank affects the betta fish’s eyes. Nitrite levels should be low, this can be done by changing the water regularly or having a good water filter in place.
To improve the living conditions of the betta Channoides fish iron might also be added to the water, although this is not necessary it helps make the fish healthier.
The general hardness of the water must be very low and it should be maintained between 18 to 90 ppm (parts per million). The carbonate hardness of the water must also be negligible.
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Diet in Nature
Like other betta fish, betta Channoides are carnivorous in nature, this means that they are meat-eaters. In the wild, the diet of these fish mostly consists of insect larvae, zooplankton, and small crayfish among other invertebrates.
What to Feed your Fish?
It is important to feed your fish a variety of foods so that they to obtain all the necessary nutrients. Betta Channoides can be fed dry foods, live foods, and frozen food pellets. Do not give them any insects that you find yourself in, for they might contain toxins that may harm your fish. Daphnia, Artemia, bloodworm, etc. are good treats to give your betta Channoides.
Although betta Channoides are hard to be trained to eat pellets, it can be done over a period of time. But even when pellet trained you have to ensure that they are still fed live foods in between.
Giving betta Channoides an excess amount of feed must be avoided. This is to be done for the risk of two things; obesity and food accumulation.
Overfeeding should be avoided since betta Channoides are prone to obesity. You should only be feeding your betta Channoides fish once or two times a day.
Dissolved oxygen Levels
The extra food might start to accumulate at the bottom of the tank leading to decreased dissolved oxygen levels. The dissolved oxygen levels will decrease when the food starts to rot. And you will have to clean your tank sooner. Although the use of an aerator is always recommended to ensure appropriate dissolved oxygen levels, food rotting disrupts the clean environment of the aquarium.
Loaches and cyprinids can be kept in the tank to overcome this issue. Since they are bottom feeders, they are good at clearing up any leftover food.
Betta Channoides are mouth brooders this means that they collect their eggs in their mouth. Specifically, they are paternal mouth brooders, since the male betta Channoides parent is responsible for this job. This is because, in the regions where betta Channoides live, bubble nesting is not possible because these streams always have some form of a current and the bubble nests are very visible.
When breeding is to occur the males develop a more intense color and flare up their fins. This attracts the female fish when they develop vertical bars and the male and female embrace each other. It is important to keep betta Channoides of the same sex separate from each other when breeding is to occur. The male and female embrace multiple times. Each embrace releases eggs that are collected by the male in its mouth. Embracing continues till all the eggs are released and are collected in the male’s mouth.
Development of Eggs
Size of Eggs
Betta Channoides have big eggs ranging from 1 mm to 2 mm in diameter. They are significantly larger than the eggs that develop in bubble nests in other betta species.
The eggs develop in the mouth of the male betta Channoides fish till they become fully developed fries and come out. The incubation period is about 10 to 15 days, with 12 days being observed most often, and if full term is reached fully developed fries form.
Feeding and Minimizing Stress
For the first 5 days, both fish are not to be fed i.e. the male and female. After 5 days, you make separate the female fish and feed it but the male does not eat it throughout the incubation period since it might accidentally swallow the eggs. It is important to minimize the stress on the male betta Channoides fish so that it does not become restless and eat the eggs. Stress can be minimized by increasing plant cover on the tank, increasing the water temperature, dimming the light, etc.
Number of Fries
About 3 to 30 fully formed fries can be released at the end of the incubation period but this number might even go up to 60. So it is necessary that the tank has enough space.
Size, Appearance, and Optimum Temperature
These betta Channoides fries are about 5 mm in size. The fries are light brown in color and might require a slightly higher temperature of 78 °F to 82 °F (25 °C to 28 °C). This temperature is necessary for a faster growth rate.
Once the fries come out of the male betta Channoide’s mouth the male parent can be removed, fed again, and reintroduced to the female fish. You can add a filter to your tank if you do not already have one once the fry has hatched. This is because the fry requires a cleaner environment and adding a filter may be beneficial. Air-powered Sponge filters are the most suitable filters for this purpose.
Feeding the Fry
When young the fry can be fed vinegar eels, baby brine shrimps, and micro worms. A diet that is easier to eat. As they grow you can give them chopped live and frozen foods. They can then be trained on commercial diets including pellets and shifted to adult food once they are fully grown.
Betta Albimarginata is the only species similar to the betta Channoides, but it has such a strong resemblance that sometimes even pet stores have the two confused.
Distinguishing the Two Species
The key to distinguishing the two lies in their color. Betta Albimarginata shows a more brick red color, while the betta Channoides fish are distinctly scarlet. The tail of the betta Albimarginata has a black margin that fully extends when the tail extends, however, the betta Channoides tail does not exhibit this. The black margin of the betta Channoides tail does not fully extend.
Female betta Channoides can be distinguished from betta Albimarginata by counting the fins and scales on them.
Betta Channoides Health
Signs of a Healthy Fish
How can you know if your betta Channoides are healthy? Well, energetic, active, fast-swimming fish are signs of fish being healthy. They interact with their caregiver, and other fish present in the tank, and react to any sort of stimulus. Healthy fish exhibit a good appetite, eat regular meals and display vibrant colors.
Signs of a Sick Fish
On the other hand, you also need to know if your betta Channoides fish is unhealthy or sick or facing any other physiological distress. Dulled body color, frayed fins, and tail, and swollen gills are certain signs of your betta Channoides fish being sick. In addition to this betta Channoides fish also lose their appetite when sick and display abnormal or erratic swimming patterns. Fatigue, lethargy, inactivity, and weight loss may also be seen. Cloudy or bulging eyes and wounds on the body may also be exhibited in a sick betta Channoides fish.
The Bottom Line On Betta Channoides
Betta Channoides are good additions to your fish tanks for both beginners and experts. Not as aggressive as other species but vibrant and beautiful, they prove to be great little companions. We’ve compiled here all you might need to know to take care of your new mates. Let us know what you think about it and if you have any more questions. So until our paths cross again, have fun with your scaly little snake-headed friends and we will be back with something more fun and helpful for you. Stay tuned!