Beginners Betta Care Guide: Tips, Facts, How To

In Tropical Fish by PaulK

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The betta (bet-tah) fish are easily recognizable with their gorgeous long fins. They are native to Southeast Asia countries and come in a wide variety of types and colors. Bettas are not exactly a beginner fish but are not the most difficult fish to care for either.

In this guide you will learn:

  • Proper housing & environment
  • Various types of betta
  • What to feed them
  • Types of diseases typical of bettas and how to treat them
  • Heating requirements
  • Compatibility

FACTS:

Bettas grow to about 3 inches.
The average lifespan is about 2-5 years.
They’re labyrinth fish that have the ability to breathe at the surface.
Also known as Siamese Fighting Fish.

HOUSING

You will see all kinds of small, decorative fish tanks for bettas out there in pet stores. These are not recommended environments for a betta fish. Instead, you’ll want to start off with at least a 5 – 10 gallon. Bigger is always better when caring for tropical fish because it’s much easier to keep the water clean in a bigger tank.

A lot depends on the type of betta fish you want to keep. Some bettas like the rose tail or half-moon do well in a smaller tank due to their inability to swim well.

ENVIRONMENT

It’s advisable to set up a fish tank for bettas with the proper filtration. Meaning the right size for the tank that will house the bettas and plenty of media for proper filtration.

Make sure and dechlorinate the water if you’re using city tap water.

Bettas don’t like a lot of water flow, so it’s not ideal to have a power pump circulating water. They prefer nice still water.

Bettas prefer a pH range between 6.4 and 7.0, so slightly acidic. Softer water is better, somewhere around 2 to 5 DH.

A good tip is to add peat and tropical almond leaves. They will stain the water a bit to an amber color, but will add acids that are beneficial to the betta.

For lighting, you don’t want anything that’s too bright. Keep the lighting fairly dim to medium. Obviously, you want to actually see the fish.

Another good thing to add are floating plants. This give Bettas the opportunity to build bubble nests.

Bettas are known to jump, so keep a tank cover on your fish tank.

FILTRATION

Really a decent hang on the back or sponge filter would work nice because bettas don’t like a lot of water movement. Get an adjustable HOB filter if you can. That way, you can adjust the water flow down if needed.

FEEDING

You should have a mix of high-quality frozen food, pellets, and flakes. Bettas like a variety and this mix provide that for them. Since bettas are carnivores, it should be mostly frozen food like brine shrimp, black worms, blood worms, mosquito larvae, then a mix in some higher quality pellets once a week with less filler content. It’s better to soak the pellets first. You can even go with live food once and a while for an extra treat. A good option is Fluval bug bites.

COMMON DISEASES

Dropsy
Symptoms: Swelling of the stomach, scales sticking out looking like a pinecone, sunken eyes and a tendency to stay at the top of the fish tank.
Causes: Dropsy is often caused by kidney problems, bacterial infections, nutritional deficiencies, or poor water quality.
Cure: Dropsy is hard to cure. The first thing you’ll want to do is move the infected fish to a quarantine tank and add 1 teaspoon of salt for every gallon of water and change the water once per week, then only feed high quality frozen or live food. Treat the fish with an antibiotic medication such as Fish Aid amoxicillin.
Prevention: Just make sure you feed the betta a healthy diet and only use fresh flakes (within a month of opening). Also, make sure to keep the water properly filtered and clean.

Fin Rot
Symptoms: Ragged, rough looking fins around the edges.
Causes: Bacterial or fungal infection. Poor water quality high in nitrites, fluctuating pH levels, or water that is too cold causing stress.
Cures: Since this is a common fish disease, there are many medications available on the market for fin rot. Fin rot is caused by a gram-negative bacteria, so it can spread to other fish in the tank. It’s best to move the infected fish to a quarantine tank and treat with a medication such as Melafix.

Pop Eye
Symptoms: Swelling in one eye or both. Eye may pop out of the socket.
Causes: Usually from an infection such as tumour.
Cures: Treat the water with aquarium salt and some antibiotics.

Fungal Infection
Symptoms: White fungus growing on the bettas’ fins or body.
Causes: Fungal infections are a secondary infection caused by injury from sharp objects or other aggressive fish.
Cures: Antibiotics and aquarium salt.

Ick
Symptoms: Small white spots all over the fish that resemble grains of sand.
Causes: Ick is caused by a parasitic infection. High ammonia levels are the number #1 cause followed by water temperature drops.
Cures: Move fish to quarantine tank and treat with Melafix and aquarium salt. Increase water temperature.

Anchor Worm
Symptoms: Small worms attached to the bettas’ fins and body.
Causes: Anchor worms are parasites that are transferred in through plants or other fish. New fish and plants should be thoroughly checked for anchor worms.
Cures: Antibiotics aimed specifically for parasites and aquarium salt. You can also try to pull out the worms yourself with tweezers.

Swim Bladder
Symptoms: Swim bladder results in a bloated, swollen stomach. The betta will find it hard to swim and may float on one side or lay at the bottom of the tank.
Causes: Generally caused by overeating or swallowing too much air.
Cures: Try not feeding the betta for three days and increase water temperature.

Make sure to have some supplies on hand as a first aid kit.

Here are some essentials:

  • Aquarium Salt
  • Antibiotic treatment like tetracycline, kanamycin, and ampicillin
  • Jungle fungus eliminator
  • Multipurpose treatment

HEATING REQUIREMENTS

Bettas are more of a warm water fish and prefer a constant temperature of about 78 degrees. Bettas are one species that can survive in hotter temperatures, because they can use their labyrinth organ to breath. This is important because the hotter the water, the less oxygen is in the water. Having said that though you’ll still want to keep the temperature constant.

DECORATIONS

When it comes to decorations, you’ll want to avoid using any plastic artificial plants or rocks with sharp edges. Bettas have very delicate fins that tear easily. It’s recommended that you use decorations with soft edges.

Another thing to watch for are small little holes or crevices. Bettas tend to get stuck in small spaces and die because they can’t get free. Get decorations where they can swim through easily.

COMPATIBILITY

The betta fish is also known as a Siamese fighting fish so not every type of betta is compatible in a community tank. You definitely don’t want two males in the same tank as they can be very territorial.

If you’re going to add more species of fish, then you’ll want a bigger tank of at least 25 gallons or more. Make sure and provide lots of hiding places for them. That’s why a live planted tank is much better.

Acceptable tank mates would be snails, corydoras, shrimp, plecos, and other schooling fish like Roseboro or neon tetras. Start with shrimp to see if the betta will accept them or not. If your betta starts to snip at their antenna, then it’s probably too aggressive to accept other tank mates.

Fish that don’t make good tank mates would be tiger barbs. Tiger barbs have a reputation for being fin nippers and bettas have a whole lot of fin. Do the math.

How to tell between a male and female betta:

First of all, you need to wait until the betta is about 2-3 months old before you can differentiate between male and female. Baby bettas have not matured enough to really tell the male from the female.

When the betta is old enough the males will start to develop their fins. Observe the size and shape of their fins. The male will have long dorsal (top), ventral (bottom), and caudal (tail) fins. Often 2-3 times their body height. The dorsal and caudal fins will tend to droop due to their length. Female betta fish will typically have shorter fins about as long as the betta itself. The female bettas’ ventral fin will resemble a comb.

Note the colors. Males tend to have much brighter colors, while the female coloring tends to have dull, muted colors. If the females get stressed, however, they can turn brighter colors. Bright blue, green, and red colors are a good indication of male betta.

Female bettas will have a small white egg spot (ovipositor tube) on their underside. The spot resembles a grain of salt and is located near the top edge of the ventral fin near its head.

Compare body shapes. Males tend to be long and thin while females are shorter and thicker.

TYPES OF BETTA:

Veiltail
Crowntail
Combtail
Doubletail
Spadetail
Halfmoon
Over Halfmoon
Delta
Super Delta
Suntail
Rosetail
Feathertail
Plakat
Dumbo Ear

5 BETTA MYTHS:

Since betta fish come from an environment where they live in small pockets of water, you can house them in small little decorative containers.

This is not a good idea. Yes, they can survive for a time in small pockets of water, but ultimately they will need a larger tank with proper filtration to live a good life.

Bettas can live in dirty water since their natural environment is muddy water.

First off, there is a difference between muddy water and dirty water. Dirty water implies waste and harmful ammonia. Definitely not good for the betta. Secondly, the water they come from (if they are wild bettas) is actually quite clean because of all the natural filtration coming from plants, so you must provide the same. Thirdly, most bettas that you get will come from a pet store or breeder and most likely filtered water. So that’s what they are used to.

Betta fish can survive with just a plant or two and no filtration or other food.

Bettas are carnivores and require a lot of protein in their diet. You need to feed the betta a good healthy dose of frozen and/or live foods. You also will need a proper filtration system, because a plant won’t do enough to filter out the waste.

Betta fish don’t live long.

Bettas average life span is 2-5 years.

Only male betta fish are aggressive.

Females can be just as aggressive as males. It’s best to pair a male and female rather than two or more of the same gender.

BREEDING TIPS

Use a special breeding tank and only fill about halfway. This is to allow for the baby fry to get to the top of the tank easier.

Water temperature should be about 82 degrees.

Give the male at least 6-12 hours in the breeding tank before introducing the female. This gives the male time to acclimate himself to his surroundings and be more comfortable.

Have a breeding box for the female in case the male gets too aggressive. If that happens, you need to be able to remove the female and keep her in the breeding box.

Add a few hiding spots for the female. It’s a good idea to add a cave-like decoration and lots of live plants.

Provide a platform on the surface of the water for the male to build a bubble nest. This could be surface plants almond leaves or bubble wrap. The bubble wrap you buy at office supplies works really well. Just tape it to the sides in one corner of the tank.

Make sure to feed the female well with plenty of protein for about a week.

Add some tannins in the tank in the form of an Indian almond leaf or driftwood. The tannins lower bacteria and pH which is great for betta fish.

FINAL WORDS

I covered a lot in this guide. Hopefully, you found it helpful, but if you’re wanting to know more here are some additional resources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siamese_fighting_fish
The Betta Bible: The Art and Science of Keeping Bettas

Betta Fish Tanks

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