Betta Fish Care – A Complete Guide About Lifespan, Breeding & Diseases

Are the brightly colored and beautifully captivating betta fish the newest addition to your tank? As they’ve taken the whole pet and fish world by storm so have they taken your tank by storm too?

Are you confused as to how to best take care of these uniquely fiery wild creatures? Or are you one of those who want to know all their needs before you go on about buying them and giving them a home amongst all the other fish in your tank? Well, then you’re in the right place. We have all the answers here.

We’ve put together a detailed and easy-to-follow betta fish care guide with all the necessary information, tips, and tricks to help your little friends thrive. And make sure you have a great time with them.

We will answer all of your questions ranging from the simple, what feed to get, and are betta fish-friendly and cooperating to the more complex, diseases that affect them and breeding. So let’s dive right in to find out how to best care for these captivating betta fish and make your aquarium grow. The contents covered in our Betta fish care guide are mentioned here so that you can skip to a specific section you are looking for if necessary:

What Is Betta Fish?

Betta fish are also known as the Siamese fighting fish due to their aggressive nature and sharp teeth that they use to bite. And their scientific name is Betta splendens.

These fish are native to Asia, specifically South East Asia, and generally live in shallow pools, streams, and rivers usually lush with different sorts of aquatic vegetation. Tropical freshwaters are their region of choice and lead to the best growth and development.

What Is Betta Fish

Betta fish have a very adaptive nature, so they may even be found in rice paddies and puddles along the sides of roads. They are usually adjusted to a warm water climate, with slow-flowing gentle water that generally has a low dissolved oxygen level. They prefer gentle waters over fast-flowing rivers because bettas are not very strong swimmers. They have even been named the national dish of Thailand.

Life Span of Betta Fish

Betta fish have an average life span of about 3 to 4 years but they are even seen to live till 8 years of age in captivity if given the proper optimum conditions. Optimum conditions are the best conditions that allow an animal or plant to grow and develop.

Life Span of Betta Fish

Size of Betta Fish

Betta fish generally grow to a length of about 2.5 to 3 inches or 6 to 8 cm (excluding the tail). They are therefore placed in the category of small fish.

Labyrinth Organ

A unique characteristic of betta fish is the presence of the labyrinth organ, an organ resembling the lungs used to take up air directly from the water surface. They are therefore a type of labyrinth fish. Betta fish are highly intelligent creatures and can be taught to learn certain tricks, they even show signs of recognizing their owners and caregivers.

Diurnal Biorhythm

Betta fish, both male, and female have a diurnal biorhythm. Diurnal means that they are active and awake during the day when they show maximum activity and therefore can be interacted with. They sleep during the night.

Location in the Tank

Betta fish generally live in the middle region of the tank. If your betta fish tend to live at the top of the tank only, this might mean that there is a low amount of dissolved oxygen in your tank. Betta fish get oxygen directly from the water surface so this might mean that your tank has a very small surface area at the top and you might need to increase it.

A chemical test or an oxygen meter is sufficient to show the level of dissolved oxygen in the water. If it is less, you might want to put some plants in your tank since they generate oxygen or use an air bubbler. You might also want to check if there are too many fish in your tank and the overcrowding is leading to less amount of oxygen available for all the fish that require it.

Aquarium Size

Aquarium Size

Recommended Size of Tank

Generally, the recommended side for an aquarium housing betta fish is about 1 gallon or larger. keeping betta fish in fishbowls is not recommended since they are too small for these fish. Even though betta fish are small, the tank size ought to be spacious.

Betta Fish are Called Jumper Fish

Betta fish are jumpers – they like to jump out of the water, therefore, it is of importance that a lid is securely fitted on the top of the aquarium. But since betta fish need to come up to the water surface to breathe, there should be adequate space between the surface of the water and the lid placed on the top of the tank.

Male Betta Fish

Male Betta fish are generally very territorial and aggressive. They compete with fellow male betta fish and other aggressive fish, mostly species that have long and flowing fins. Therefore they should be kept separately, or in a container that has been partitioned. They are known to have a very strong bite using their sharp teeth.

Recommended Fish to be Housed as Tank Mates

In a community aquarium that is 15 gallons or more, male betta fish can be kept in the absence of any other aggressive fish like guppies, tiger barbs, gouramis, etc.

Fish to Be Avoided as Tankmates

Suitable fish that can be housed in the same aquarium include non-active fish such as calm barbs, livebearers, neon tetras, catfish, etc.

Female Betta Fish

Female bettas are non-aggressive calm fish that can be housed with fellow female bettas and other community fish provided that the tank has various hiding spaces which they prefer.

Community Housing of Female Betta Fish

If kept in groups that contain only female betta fish known as sororities, the recommended water level is about 15 gallons. In addition to this, it should be kept in mind that female betta fish compete with one another and form a hierarchy, so an odd number of fish is recommended.

Difference Between Male and Female Betta Fish?

Male betta fish are more aggressive and are slightly larger in size than female bettas. Anatomical differences also exist between male and female betta fish, in addition to the physical changes that can be observed. Male betta fish have wider bodies than females and have longer and larger fins on their bodies. The most obvious difference between the two is in the size and length of the fins.

Optimum Or Best Aquarium Conditions

Optimum Or Best Aquarium Conditions

Temperature

The optimum temperature of the water in the aquarium should be kept at 76 ° F – 85 ° F (25 ° C to 20 ° C). Although they can live in somewhat cooler conditions, such conditions make them more susceptible to diseases and they grow to be weaker. The water temperature can be maintained using a submerged water heater, and tanks should be kept away from windows and direct sunlight so that it doesn’t alter the water temperature.

pH

Betta fish thrive best in a pH of approximately 6.8 to 7.5. This is a pH that is close to neutral and is recommended for betta fish housing. Lower acidic pH damages the gills of fish so the bettas may be seen gasping for air as they cannot breathe properly. Another sign of low pH in the tank is the excessive growth of algae in the water tank. The pH can be measured using a pH meter to ensure that an appropriate pH exists in the tank.

Décor

Bettas like to have some floating plant cover in the tank under which they can hide, décor with sharp edges is to be avoided as it might injure them. Any gravel or accessories placed in the tank should be cleaned about every 2 weeks but no soap should be used in this process. Gravel can be cleaned by sifting through a sieve. Plants can also be put in the tank as they provide hiding places for the fish, and are also responsible for making oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. The presence of these natural plants will also increase the amount of oxygen available to the fish for their activities i.e. it will increase the dissolved oxygen levels.

Filtration

A gentle water filter is recommended to be placed in a tank housing betta fish but bettas can survive without them due to their adaptable nature.

Changing Tank Water

It is important to note that all the water of a betta fish tank must not be changed at the same time as this may lead to shock causing death.

Filtered Water Tank

For a filtered water tank, 10% of the water every week or 25% of the water every two weeks needs to be changed, with the filter media cartridge being changed every month. Water filters must be gentle since betta fish are not very strong swimmers.  

Unfiltered Water Tank

While for an unfiltered tank, one-third of the water needs to be changed every 3 to 4 days.

Aeration

An aerator is mostly not required in the water tank since betta fish are labyrinth fish and can take up air directly from the water surface. This is done by the presence of a lung-like organ known as the labyrinth organ.

Water Quality

Water quality should be checked weekly. 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. The eyes become cloudy and if the condition persists, the bettas may even go blind. All-round tester kits are available in the market that can be used to check water quality easily and give a measure of all the ions mentioned that need to be tested.

Algae Growth

It is important to make sure that algae growth is avoided in your tank. Excessive algae growth leads to the tank getting dirty faster than usual and more maintenance is required to keep the conditions healthy and clean. Natural sunlight promotes the growth of algae so it is necessary to keep an eye on growth. Artificial white or colored lighting does not promote the growth of algae or any other sorts of plants.

Lighting

Betta fish prefer living in a well-lit tank, LED lighting can be installed or a luminescent tank may be used for this purpose. You can see whether artificial lighting or natural sunlight works better for your aquarium. Artificial lighting is easily controlled, while natural light may vary and is unreliable but it is inexpensive and gives the illusion of natural habitat. This helps give the bettas an appropriate sleep-wake cycle of at least 8 to 12 hours of daylight. Betta fish do not have night vision so the light is important for them to navigate the tank and find the food efficiently.

Lid

The tank must also have a well-fitted lid. Betta fish are jumpers and should therefore be placed in a tank that is closed from above but has enough space for the fish to come up and breathe from the surface.

Acclimation Of Betta Fish

You might have seen on TV or even in real life that people just buy fish from the store and drop them into the fish tank directly. But this isn’t the correct way to do it. It actually leads to the fish, any fish but betta fish, in particular, to go into shock.

Acclimation Of Betta Fish

When to Acclimate?

While changing tanks, getting new fish from the store, going for community housing, or even getting a cycled tank, it is important to acclimate the betta fish to it first. To avoid them going into shock and even dying.

How to Acclimate?

There are two ways to acclimate betta fish to their tanks to avoid them going into shock:

  1. The Standard Acclimation Method
  2. The Drip Method

1. Standard Acclimation Method

This method is a simple method that involves adding the tank water to the fish cup, container, or bag slowly. After every 15 minutes add a cup of tank water to the container containing the betta fish. This will help set the pH of the water and the betta will not go into shock based on the pH difference.

2. Drip Method

This is a slow method and therefore the best form of acclimatization. Make sure that the container containing the betta fish is only half full. After this you connect the container to the water tank by means of a plastic water pipe with a knot tied in the middle with one end dipped in the water tank and the other end dipped in the container containing the betta fish. Place the water tank higher than the container. This will cause the water from the tank to slowly drip into the betta fish container thereby acclimating the betta fish to the conditions present in the water tank slowly but surely.

Betta Fish Feed

Betta Fish Feed

Natural Diet

Betta fish are carnivores. Their natural diet out in the wild consists of larvae and small insects. An ideal diet for betta fish is a meal rich in animal protein that is varied. This does not mean that you should give them any insects that you find outdoors as you cannot know for sure what toxins they might contain that may be harmful to the betta fish.

Feed and Treats

The feed should be given in an amount that the fish can eat in about 1 to minutes, as leftover feed fouls the water very quickly. Any leftover feed should be removed from the water tank. High protein pellets or frozen foods make up the best diet for betta fish. You can feed them with live food too like blood worms, black worms, red worms, small earthworms, small insects, mosquito larvae, etc. Protein pellets or flakes should make up the majority of their diet which includes brine shrimp, krill, daphnia, etc. with thawed frozen blood worms and frozen or dried brine shrimp being their favorite treats.

Food to Be Avoided

Since they require a high protein animal meal diet, goldfish feed or tropical fish food should not be given to betta fish. Algae wafers put in for their tank mates are also not an appropriate meal for the bettas. If the betta fish are fed with any food that is not specific to them, it may lead to the development of digestive problems. These digestive problems might show themselves as swim bladder disease, bloating, fluid retention, constipation, etc.

Baby Betta Fish Feed

Baby betta fish should be given small feed pellets or the flake food should be crushed so that they can easily eat it. Frozen food should be first thawed before being given to the betta fish. Baby fish have not yet developed the sharp teeth betta fish are famous for.

How Often Should you Feed your Betta Fish?

Betta fish have very small stomachs, approximately the size of an eyeball, so they should not be fed more than one time a day. You should only feed betta fish with the amount of fish food they normally eat and leftover food should not be left to accumulate at the bottom of the water tank.

Breeding

Solitary Fish

To breed betta fish community aquariums should be avoided as betta fish generally prefer to be solitary animals. They can be bred in captivity in just a few inches of water.

Bubble Nests

Once male betta fish reach the reproductive maturity stage they start to build bubble nests which are used to lure the female betta fish.

Need of the bubble Nests

These bubble nests should be allowed to be made as they are necessary to keep male betta fish calm and they become agitated if they are disturbed or not allowed to make the bubble nests.

Location of the Bubble Nests

These bubble nests are made on the water surface or under any leaf cover that is present on the top of the tank, as is done in the wild too.

Use of the Bubble Nests

These bubble nests are responsible for keeping the eggs moist and giving them an oxygen-rich environment inside the bubbles since the betta fish habitat is often more on the dirty side with low dissolved oxygen and shallow water pools.

Spawning and the Nuptial Embrace

Once done making their nests, the male betta fish guard their nest until a fertile female betta fish is attracted to it or they find one themselves. Once a female fish is attracted to a male’s bubble nest spawning takes place by what is known as the ‘nuptial embrace’. In this nuptial embrace, the male betta fish wraps itself around the female and squeezes until the eggs are released.

Female Betta Fish with their Eggs

The female betta fish are usually inflicted with serious internal organ damage during this entire process. Female bettas are also inclined to eat their eggs so if breeding is desired it is important to remove the female betta fish from the tank as soon as spawning and fertilization occur.

Male Betta Fish – The Guardians of the Nest

The eggs are then collected by both the male and female betta fish in their mouths and placed in the bubble nest. It is then the job of the male betta fish to guard the nest and take care of the fertilized eggs and the babies when they hatch and raise them. They also protect against any predators, or threats, and put the eggs back into the bubble nest if any fall out of the nest.

From the Fry Stage to the Adult Stage

Certain species of male betta fish may also eat all or some of the fry i.e. the betta fish babies when they hatch. Once the fry has hatched out of the eggs, they still stay beneath the safety of the bubble nest until they can survive on their own. It is important to not disrupt the male betta fish bubble nest even if no females are present in the tank. Since the fish might respond to this through either aggression, depression, or both.

Epsom Salt for Betta Fish

Betta fish are known to enjoy a relaxing Epsom salt bath once in a while. Epsom salt is actually magnesium sulfate (MgSO4), nothing like table salt (NaCl) even though they look alike. Never add table salt to your water tank as betta fish are not a saltwater species and cannot tolerate brine water solution. Epsom salt is used in addition to other medical treatments to help treat certain diseases and health conditions.

Betta Fish Health

Betta Fish Health

Signs of a Healthy Betta Fish

Confused as to whether your bettas are happy and healthy or not? Well, you can know if your betta fish is/are healthy if you observe the following signs in them:

  • Energetic Movements and Active
  • Fast and Alert Swimming
  • Interacts with the caregiver, owner, or anyone visiting on a daily basis
  • Reacts to an unknown outside stimulus aggressively
  • Healthy fins – fins that are flowing and not frayed
  • A good appetite – eats regularly
  • Displays vibrant bright colors
  • Healthy interaction with other fish

Signs of a Sick Betta Fish

On the other hand, to know if your betta fish is/are unhealthy or sick or facing any other physiological distress that needs to be dealt with, the following signs and symptoms can be observed in them:

  • Dulled body color – loss of color
  • Loss of appetite – irregular eating
  • Frayed fins – curved and withering fins
  • Frayed tail – curved and withering tail
  • Swollen Gills
  • Abnormal and Irregular Swimming
  • Labored Breathing and Difficulty in Respiration
  • Listlessness, Fatigue, and Lethargy
  • Inactiveness
  • Damage or Wounds on the body
  • Irregular Growth
  • Fungal growth or Spots on the body and the mouth
  • Weight Loss
  • Elevated Scales
  • Bloating or Swelling
  • Fluid retention leading to Abdominal swelling
  • Cloudy Eyes and Bulging Eyes

Common Diseases in Betta Fish

Disease NameCommon SymptomsCommon CauseTreatment
Different Bacterial InfectionsCloudy eyes, Lethargy and lack of energy, Inflammation, Reddening of scales and skin, Open Sores  Different BacteriaThe use of suitable Antibiotics
Cotton Fin Fungus (Also known as Cotton Mouth and Columnaris)Cottony growth on the body, the gills, and the fins, Frayed fins, Browning of gills till they become necrotic in severe cases  Bacterial InfectionsLower the water temperature of the aquarium to about 72 ° F (22 ° C), Quarantine the affected fish, Improve the water quality, and use antibiotics as directed by the physician
 Ich (Also called White Spot Disease)The appearance of white spots on the body, the tail, and the fins, Rapid breathing and respiration, Itching, Erratic swimming, Fish become agitated and uncontrollable, Fish rub their bodies against hard objects like the decorParasite Ichthyophthirius Multifiliis (From new plants used as decor, new fish added to the tank, or infected water in the tank from the store, etc.)Use antiparasitic water treatments, Add freshwater aquarium salt, and Quarantine the affected fish immediately when symptoms are observed and noticed
    Fin or Tail RotFrayed, damaged, and disintegrating fins, Reddening or blackening of the base of the fins, Lethargy, fatigue, and lack of energy Poor water conditionsAntibacterial water treatments are used, Add aquarium salt, Improve the water quality
Swim Bladder DiseaseProblems in swimming, Fish swimming on the side, Betta fish sinking or floating in the tank uncontrollablyOverfeeding, Deformity or Physical Malformation, Environmental Factors, Constipation, or Bacterial infectionsDecrease the amount of feed being given, Use Antibiotics, Aquarium or Epsom salt baths to be given, and Increase the water temperature
Dropsy (Also called Pine coming)Fish scales flare outward – like pine cones, Abdominal swelling, Fluid accumulation in the abdomenViral, Bacterial, or Parasitic InfectionQuarantine the fish, Improve the water quality, and Use aquarium salts and antibiotics
Velvet (Also known as Gold dust disease or Rust disease)Open sores, reddening, and inflammation, Golden or yellow or brownish discoloration on the body that looks like rust (hence the common name), Difficulty in respiring, and Labored breathing, which leads to secondary infectionsParasitic disease, caused by the parasite Oodinium Poor water quality, and StressQuarantine the fish immediately since the disease is very contagious and deadly, Improve the water quality and decrease the water temperature of the tank to about 82 ° F (28 ° C), Use any commercially available Ich remedy and use aquarium bath salts, Change or refresh the water present in the tank, Antiparasitic medications used
  Popeye  Bulging EyesPoor water quality, or Different bacterial InfectionsAppropriate antibiotic use as directed by a veterinarian, and Improve the water quality

The Bottom Line On Betta Fish Care

Betta fish are good pets both for beginners and experienced pet owners. It is important to keep your little fish buddies happy. We hope our comprehensive betta fish care guide will help answer any and all questions you had. It will definitely lead to your betta fish finding a good home with you. So until next time, have fun with your scaly little friends and we will be back with something more fun and helpful for you.

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