Bettas, or Siamese fighting fish

Bettas, or Siamese fighting fish, are an incredibly rewarded fish to own. They are beautiful, intelligent, and hardy. This article will help you provide the best care possible for your pet.


A minimum of 2 gallons; 5 gallons or more being highly preferred. While many pet stores sell betta habitats of ½ gallon and even smaller, these are in fact unsuitable, for a number of reasons:

  • A habitat that small is nearly impossible to filter or heat properly.
  • Lack of swimming room often results in poor muscle development.
  • It is extremely difficult to manage water quality in such a small tank.
  • They result in a bored, unhappy fish!

The improvement made by a betta removed from a tiny cup at the dealer’s and placed into a warm, clean, spacious tank easily outweighs having to spend a little extra money on him.

Bettas prefer mostly “soft-cover,” meaning plenty of plants, plastic or live. Originating from the rice-paddies of places like Thailand and Vietnam, they enjoy being well-sheltered by foliage. Rockwork and/or caves are not strictly necessary. Bettas will often sleep on or behind their favorite plant.

Also, bettas are a labyrinth fish that “breath” air from the surface with a modified swim bladder which acts as a lung. No matter how pristine their water conditions, they must be able gulp air from the surface, or they will drown. In the majority of tanks, there is a space between the waterline and the hood or canopy. This will provide plenty of air. Owners with unusual tanks with a lack of surface area, however, should be aware of this special need of bettas, and fill their tanks accordingly. All hoods should be snug and well fitting, as bettas are jumpers, although they rarely jump when water quality is kept up.

Bettas will tolerate a wide range of pH values, from 6 to 8, and live equally well in all. They prefer soft water as well, but adjust easily to almost any hardness.

As with all tanks, weekly water changes should be performed to maintain water quality in a betta’s home.

Heating and Filtration:

Bettas are a tropical fish, and require temperatures between 74 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. For tanks of 5 gallons or more, standard aquarium heaters (5 watts per gallon) will do. For tanks between 4 and 2 gallons, a nano-heater (typically 7.5 watts) works well. I have found that they typically keep the water at about 80 degrees Fahrenheit (this depends on the volume of the tank), which is ideal for bettas. It is most important that the temperature of a betta’s home remains stable.

Either a canister, box (HOB), or under-gravel filters is suitable for a betta habitat. Generally, bettas do not like a strong current, but I have found that unless the current is extremely powerful, they will adjust to almost anything. If a betta is purchased from a dealer that keeps him a small cup, he may initially have difficulty with the current created by a canister or box filter, but he will adjust after a short period.


In their native habitat, bettas eat mostly insects and insect larvae, especially mosquitoes. They require a diet high in protein. Commercial betta pellets/flakes provide a solid base to a betta’s diet. They should be fed a very small amount twice a day. This should be supplemented regularly with frozen and, ideally, live food. Frozen bloodworms and live blackworms make an excellent addition to any betta’s feeding schedule. Other treats include frozen or live brine shrimp and daphnia. Freeze-dried foods (i.e. bloodworms) can also be offered, but care should be taken, as bettas are prone to over-eating, and freeze-dried foods can expand once eaten.

Sexing a Betta:

Perhaps one of the easiest fish to sex, only male bettas have the characteristic long, flowing fins. There is a variety of betta in which the male has short fins; this is known as the “Plakad” type, and is close to the original fighting form of the betta (short fins are harder for rival males to grab and tear). Females have short fins and have a slightly stockier body than the slender males. Mature females also have an “egg-spot,” which is a small white dot between their ventral and anal fins.


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