How to Take Care of Betta Fish

Ask anyone into betta fish care and they’ll tell you that these tiny warriors may just be the perfect pet.

They don’t bark, scratch or shed mounds of hair.

They are small. They are low maintenance. You’ll never have to take them for a walk.

Even better these diminutive showboats pack a totally macho attitude into a glittering package. A package that comes adorned with long flowing fins in a vast array of brilliant colors. That’s right. Betta fish come in just about any color imaginable. And some you may never have thought were possible. That’s because breeders are doing a bang up job extending the range of colors of these fish from their natural muddy gray.

For example this video of iridescent best of show betta beauties is but a sample of the colors they are capable of. It’s a display no true betta lover can resist. Seems each successive fish is more resplendent than the last. My favorite is the flaring velvet red male who makes an appearance towards the end.

FYI – you clearly won’t find spellbinding bettas like those hanging out in some tiny bowel at Walmart. But you can get an idea of the array of colors that are possible. Which was your favorite?

Socially Challenged – At Least When It Comes to Other Bettas

Now as you know bettas can certainly use help in the social skills department. The mere glimpse of another male, or just their own reflection in a mirror, unleashes a surge of territorial testosterone. So for sure they can cop an attitude faster than you can blink.

At that point they brazenly pump themselves up to look all big and bad. Typically their bad guy swagger includes extending their fins and flaring their gills to best bully their perceived rival to back off. Or if this visual spectacle fails to impress they jump into the fray to physically convince the other of their superiority. To the death if need be.

So no shrinking violets these. Which could be why in part you too have become a betta lover. And why you may want to learn all you can about betta fish care to insure their well- being.

To be sure there are some things you need to know about caring for bettas before you rush out to the nearest Petco or start to develop a short list of quirky betta fish names.

What elements of betta fish care do you need to pay attention to avoid dealing with betta fish diseases?

What goes into a proper betta fish tank setup?

What can one do to maximize the life span of your fish?

Betta Fish Care in a Snapshot

Well, here’s what we’re going to briefly cover then.

  • Tank Selection – A Place to Call Home
  • Watching Water Quality
  • Maintaining Tropical Water Temps
  • Water Changes – Important or Not?
  • To Filter or Not, That Is The Question
  • Plants, Gravel and Caves and Such
  • Acclimating the Betta Fish
  • Feeding Betta Fish

Let’s get into this overview of betta fish care starting with

Tank Selection – A Place to Call Home

Sure a betta might be able to survive in a tiny pint sized bowel. Problem is they won’t thrive. They won’t look their best. And such depressing digs are sure to repress their otherwise winning personalities as they live out their likely short, miserable existence. Leaving them to ask, “Is that all there is?”

No, most would agree that the ideal betta fish setup would be something all glass in the be 2.5 gallons or larger category. Because the rule of thumb you want to follow is simple: bigger is better.

Sure you might be able to get away with a one gallon sized tank. Just don’t expect your betta to last all that long in that tiny watery realm either. But you can expect to be spending more time than you like doing frequent water changes.

So if you want to keep both you and your betta happy and healthy the best advice would be to house your charge in a 5-10 gallon tank. A real aquarium. Complete with silk or live plants and even a bit of filtration.

Also, keep in mind that some betta fish seem to have a death wish in that they love to jump. As in out of the tank. So make sure to cover the tank in some way so you won’t find them dead on the carpet some morning instead of racing back and forth across the front of their tank greeting you.

Extra tip: You don’t want a tightly fitting cover exactly. Because they need air to breathe. Bettas have labyrinth organs that allow them to breathe atmospheric oxygen just like you do. Now I bet you can’t contain the excitement knowing that. NOT! But it still is a reason to allow them some air.

Water Quality

While (tank) size matters for bettas, so does the kind of water you give them. Tap water is okay for the most part. But…it should first be treated with water conditioner and dechlorinator to remove anything they would find to be remotely toxic.

Oh and distilled water, even though considered to be “pure” water, is a lousy choice. For one it is devoid of essential trace minerals bettas require. Not to mention distilled water often has low oxygen content. Those two reasons alone make it bad water for your betta tank.

Extra tip: If you choose not to use a dechlorinator be sure to let tap water sit for at least 24 hours. This allows the chlorine, as well as any dissolved nitrogen, to evaporate out. Both of which can be lethal to the fish.

Also bettas are what you might call soft water fish. That would mean that ideally you want water that is neutral to just a bit on the acidic side.

Maintaining Tropical Water Temps

The ideal water temperature for your betta fish tank should be 76-82 degrees Fahrenheit. To attain that installing a heater is recommended. It will also keep the temp more or less steady which your fish will appreciate too. Otherwise fluctuating temperatures (especially at night or a tank placed in an air-conditioned room) can cause bettas to be more prone to infections and other assorted betta fish diseases.

For 2.5-gallon tanks or larger: Secure a submersible tank heater that comes with a thermostat and an adjustable temperature setting to insure you get a stable temp. Consider using a 25 watt heater for a tank less than 5 gallons and a 50 watter for 10-gallon tanks.

A Must: Use a submersible thermometer in monitoring the water’s temperature.

Water Changes – Important or Not?

If you don’t have a filter to remove the crap that builds up in the water you’ll need to be religious about changing water. You want to keep nitrates low. And your tank maintenance should include washing down any ornaments you’ve got too.

The smaller the tank the more often you need to schedule water changes. Which again is why most find bigger to be better. In the case of bigger tanks if you are diligent about checking the water chemistry, to verify you’ve got ZERO ppm ammonia and nitrites and nitrates under 10 ppm you can monitor water quality that way.

To Filter or Not, That Is The Question

There is an ongoing debate as to whether the responsible thing to do is to filter betta fish tanks.

Some would tell you bettas don’t live in moving water in the wild. So adding any current is going to be stressful for your fish. Which in the end can wear down their immune system.

There is probably some truth to this. Fish with heavy finnage like halfmoons or super deltas may experience more than a healthy amount of stress from too much water movement. So care should be taken when filter shopping to find one that produces a mild amount of water agitation when returning the filtered water back into the tank. Or you can place your silk plants in such a way to slow down the return current too.

Don’t obsess about this. Basically there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to filtration. It more or less comes down to how you want to approach betta fish care. The big idea is simple enough. Regardless of how you do it, if you maintain stable, high water quality your fish will enjoy a long life.

Of Plants, Gravel and Caves and Such

It can be fun to decorate your tank with gravel, plants, and caves. Not only do these create a more natural habitat for your bettas, but also they make for perfect hiding spots for them during moments of shyness.

Besides bettas are naturally curious and love to explore. Just be sure to check ornaments for sharp or jagged edges that may accidentally slice into your betta’s delicate fins and tails.

This is also why silk plants are recommended over plastic plants. Best of all would be live plants since they also help regulate the temperature.

Finally if this is new gravel be sure to rinse it until all the dust is out of it. Aquarium gems can also be used. Either the natural kind or plastic.

Acclimating Your Betta Fish

Now you’re ready to add your newly purchased betta fish to its new home. But as you know you can’t simply dump your fish in and wish them well. So what comes next is important. If you’ve been sleep walking through what came before by all means WAKE UP and pay attention now. As transferring any betta directly from the store cup to their tank can be very stressful. Your fish will be (much) better off if you follow this this simple step-by-step approach to acclimating them.

  • Step 1: Let the travel container (store cup or bag) float in the tank water for like maybe 15 or 20 minutes or so. This will give the water in the bag a chance to slowly come up to the temp of the water in the tank.
  • Step 2: Next open the bag and add a few tablespoons of tank water to it. For the next hour repeat this every 5-10 minutes. By doing so you are gradually starting to get the fish used to the water in its new home.
  • Step 3: Gently scoop out the fish and release them into the tank. You really want to avoid dumping too much of the water in the bag into the into tank because it’s safe to assume the water they’ve been in is pretty disgusting. And you don’t want to be pouring any of that nastiness into your carefully primed set up.
  • Step 4: Dispose of the water in the bag.
  • Step 5: Give your fish a chance to settle in. Explore. Don’t be alarmed if it chooses to hide out for a bit as it takes in its new surroundings.

Okay. Now that you’ve got everything set up and introduced your fish the last element of betta fish care involves feeding time.

Feeding Betta Fish

First remember that bettas are carnivores or primarily meat eaters. Some can be rather finicky eaters at times. The key is to keep your pet’s diet as varied as possible to avoid boredom. Because think about it. You’d become bored with the same ole same ole pellet every day too.

Besides no one food contains all the nutrients they need. Only a varied diet can provide complete nutrition for your betta. Nutrition they need to live a long healthy life.

Also remember that a common mistake betta keepers make is to overfeed or to kill them with kindness – literally. All sorts of bad things can result from that from constipation, to swim bladder problems not to mention what all that eating can do to their water quality. When you look into their eye you are looking at the size of their stomach. Small isn’t it?

Okay so what should your betta’s diet consist of ideally then? Ideally you want to include a mix of live and frozen foods and betta pellets on the menu.

Live foods are jam-packed with nutrients and closely resemble the typical betta diet in the wild. Plus they feed into your pet’s killer instinct. You might be able to get your hands on live brine shrimp, blood worms, even wingless fruit flies. The problem here is availability and whether or not you can easily pick them up at your local pet store.

Frozen foods have a longer shelf life, are easier to come by, and more convenient. In the frozen food section of your local pet store you are apt to find packets of frozen brine shrimp, daphnia, bloodworms and the like. If you’re lucky you can get a frozen food that’s like a variety pack and contains different larvae, worms and such. Just be sure to first thaw out the small amount you are going to present as a feast to your hungry fish.

Pellets make good snacks for bettas. But be sure you get a good quality betta fish pellet and not tropical fish pellets. Although bettas are technically tropical fish ordinary fish pellets won’t be able to meet your betta’s nutritional demands.

Then how much should you feed your betta fish. Just remember this. Bettas always want you to think they’re dying of starvation. Don’t be fooled by this charade. They can go days without eating. In fact it’s actually a good idea to fast your betta once a week following that occasionally with a tiny hunk of a frozen pea as fiber to prevent constipation.

So that’s the highlights of caring for betta fish. Sure this could all be overwhelming for you the first time. But once you get used to the routine of betta fish care, everything should come easy for you. Besides one look at this courting pair will have you dreaming of a new betta.

Don’t forget you can find even more help by browsing this site. You’ll see that we cover how to take care of your betta fish in much more detail.

In any case, it’s easy to see why these little jewels are so popular. You might sum up their popularity in three words: dazzling flowing fins. They are just mesmerizing as they patrol their watery realm. So even though they would rather live alone they can fill a tank with their beauty. Pay the slightest bit of attention to this short betta fish care list of tasks and don’t be surprised if your betta fish occupy their tank for years to come.

9 Responses to “How to Take Care of Betta Fish”

  1. vispi says:

    My betta males built bubble nests some days ago and when I put in the females, the males tried to breed them but the female did not release her eggs. Now the males are not building nests anymore. The water temperature is 27 Celcius. Please advice.

    Thanks and best regards,
    vispi.

    • admin says:

      Sorry to hear things didn’t go as planned. Breeding bettas isn’t easy. Lots of things can go wrong. Especially with younger inexperienced fish. How did you condition them? Did the females show the stripping you’d expect? Did it appear she was full of eggs? Was the male flaring and trying to impress? Best you can do is give them a rest, recondition and try again. Perhaps with different females. There nothing one can do to induce a male to bubble nest on command. You can try some of the things I suggest on the second bubble nest article on this site however.

  2. Walter says:

    Hi Lucas,

    Terrific website! My family and I have a lovely violet-blue Betta named Indigo that we have now had for 4 months and unfortunately, he is ill because of our accidental negligence(I feel like a dunce)in terms of the water quality. However, he is a tough little dude and is hanging in there as we are giving him medication (Tetracyline)as he is battling popeye, some elementary fin rot, his color is a bit faded, and of course his appetite decreased. We had some initial success after a couple of days as the popeye decreased significantly, and his activity increased dramatically and his appetite came back, but practically, almost a half day later, the popeye came back again and he lost some of his color again and so we are working to get him healthy again.

    Now, fortunately, we’ve taken some of the steps that you have listed and as of this morning, prior to leaving home, he is stable, swimming very slowly and leisurely around the tank, which we have in the range of 82.9 to 83.9 degrees and have basically done so since yesterday, with the proper dosage of medication and also, of course, the water treatment to make sure it is balanced. We’ve fully changed his water yesterday morning and we changed it again this morning 24 hours later.

    He’s our first family pet and to be honest, we love the little dude as he has been a blessing to my wife and I as well as our 8-year old daughter who absolutely ADORES him and we want to save him and have him with us for years.

    Two questions—You had said that if there is white on the fins, that means it is regrowing—do you mean the fin rot is regrowing, which is bad, or the fin is now regrowing, which is good? He has some whiteness now on the tips of some of his fin.

    Secondly, anything that you can recommend, we are all ears, as the local pet store contact was not all that knowledgeable and we feel like we are grasping at straws.

    Please forgive the long message.

    Thanks!

    • Lucas says:

      Sounds to me like you’re doing the best you can for Indigo. And yes, we can get attached to these guys. Each has their own personality. And at least the fish acts like it’s glad to see you, even if you know the ulterior motive is to be feed. Sorry the fin rot thing wasn’t clear. The white is a sign the fin is HEALING. Fin rot can look pretty nasty. And is indicative of the water quality issues you alluded to in your post. But you didn’t know and usually if you are attentive to making keeping the water quality up, the fin rot will go away completely. The fins may not return to their former glory but they’ll be close enough. Otherwise I’d keep on keeping on and probably not do the Epson salts at this time. Usually less is more with medicating these guys. And oftentimes the fish dies from too much cure rather than the disease itself. I would also suggest the video in this post. To me learning to treat betta disease is a bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle. Get enough bits and pieces connected and the picture comes into focus. Good luck!

      • Walter says:

        Lucas, thanks a bunch…..I picked up some items to check the quality of the water and I need to balance the pH …..Does the medication cause the pH to drop?

  3. Walter says:

    Hey Lucas ….Thanks again for everything. Indigo passed away about a half hour ago but he’s no longer suffering and so for that, I’m happy. We tried everything we could but the damage was done. That’s why eventually, we’ll get another purple betta and we’ll name him Indigo II and this time, we’ll do everything right in Indigo’s memory.

    Thanks again!

    • Lucas says:

      Thanks for the update. Sorry it wasn’t good news. And I’m sure you’ll do better by Indigo II. Sadly we aren’t born with innate betta keeping know how. I’m sure you know tons more now that you did before. :) Best.

  4. Sharon says:

    My betta has been doing well for a year now. Yesterday I noticed he was not active, just hanging under some foliage. When I coaxed him out he looked like he was favoring his tail end and hardly moving, only the fins near his head. I will try fasting him and then the piece of frozen pea because I did notice that even though he wasn’t well, he still ate a few pieces of food. Anything else I should try?

    • Lucas says:

      Hard to say what could be wrong. What you describe doesn’t sound like the more common issues bettas suffer from. The only other thing would be water changes. But again it’s hard to know what might be wrong in this case. Sorry.

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