Have you ever seen Bettas (or Siamese fighting fish) in the fish store that are in the smallest of containers and you think to yourself, “Wow, I have plenty of room for that fish!”?  Well, that isn’t the best of conditions for these fish, by any means.  It is true that during certain times of the year in the wild the water dries up in the rice fields that they live in and they end up in little small pools of water, however that doesn’t last long before the rains come back and fill the fields again, restoring their large body of natural water.  It is not natural for this fish to live out it’s years in a tiny bowl.  However, don’t think I’m going to tell you to go out and buy yourself a huge tank for it, it doesn’t need it.  One gallon of water volume is plenty for a Betta fish.  Please remember, after you add rocks, decorations, etc the water volume of the container will be lessened so shoot for a 1.5 to 2 gallon bowl in order to have room for these items. Betta fish are quite easy to care for.  They don’t need a lot of water changes or other care.  They should be fed once a day with a quality Betta food.  These fish are omnivorous, but more carnivorous than vegetarian.  Many times you will see these fish in a vase with a plant and it is said that the roots of the plant feeds the fish.  Sure, it will nibble on the plant, wouldn’t you try to eat tree bark if you were starving to death and had no other choice of food?  Please do not seal these fishes fates with commercial tactics such as this.  It’s okay to have them with live plants, and actually very healthy, as long as they are also feed a quality Betta fish food.

Before you buy your new Betta:

You need supplies for your Betta to make sure his home is a happy one.  Some of the items below will help.

Declore —  this will remove harmful things like chlorine and/or chloramine from your tap water and make the water safe for your fish to live in

Rocks —  You need gravel on the bottom or some other substrate.  This will allow nitrifying bacteria to colonize and to convert your fish’s highly toxic waste (ammonia) into a more suitable and far less toxic form  (nitrate).

Decorations —  You really don’t need a lot of these, if any at all.  However your betta will appreciate something small to hide under.  This can be a large shell held up on one side with a rock so the betta can swim under it.  You can also pick up many decorative hiding places at your local pet store that your fish will enjoy and will be a pretty addition to the tank.

Heater —  If you keep your house colder (say under 72-74 degrees F) be sure to have a heater.  I have always felt that fish being kept at temperatures a little cooler than many say to keep them at makes them live longer and have less disease.  Of course, you shouldn’t let them get below 70 degrees F for any reason.

Betta Food —  Get yourself some high quality Betta food.  It will last a long time and will give your fish the vitamins and minerals it needs to thrive.

Tank or Bowl —  Again, make sure this is at least 1.5 gallons so your Betta will actually have 1 full gallon of water in his system.  You can use any number of glass type bowls or even a very large vase works great.  Just be sure it is large enough for your new friend.

Now I have everything you said, now what?

betta-fishNow the fun starts!  Go pick yourself out a Betta fish that suits your taste.  Make sure you pick one out that is swimming around in it’s small container.  Look at it’s fins and make sure they are not recessed.  Make sure it isn’t just laying lethargically on the floor.  If you see more than one or two Bettas in this condition, I highly suggest you take your business elsewhere.  This shows neglect from the store and I wouldn’t spend a dime with any store that shows animal neglect.  Make sure you keep a gallon jug around the house and keep it full of water for your Betta.  This will ensure the water you use when changing the water on your Betta fish’s home will be the same temperature.  Rapid temperature changes are very bad for fish and can cause sickness and even death.  Be sure when you get your Betta home you set it by it’s new home in the container you received from the store.  Make sure you let it sit for a couple to three hours so it will become the same temperature before placing the Betta in the new home.  Now all you have to do is start feeding him starting the next day.

Maintaining your Betta home

Be sure for the first 6 weeks do at least one 50% water change on the system per week.  Also do NOT over feed the fish.  Feed it about 3 pellets a day and that is it.  The natural bacteria will take around 6 weeks to establish fully in the new home and while that is happening you must remove toxins from the system with more frequent water changes.  After the 6 weeks you can go to 50% every two to three weeks and it will be fine.  Never, ever, remove all the rocks and wash them!  This will kill all the bacteria in your system and will cause it to try to “recycle” yet again.  Please see our blog post about the Nitrogen Cycle for more information.  If you want to wash out the rocks, remove them into a strainer and pour clean, dechlorinated water over them to wash out the crud.  This will allow the bacteria to stay on the rocks.  Be sure to place the rocks back into the tank as soon as you are done rinsing them with clean dechlorinated water, then refill the system with dechlorinated water, add your decorations, and then your fish.  For most water changes you can simply siphon out the water about half way and refill it. Also to note, a Betta fish’s normal life span is about 2-3 years if properly keep. Good luck and happy Betta fish hunting. ;)