Betta Splendens (siamese fighting fish) are one of the most popular pet fish for the casual aquarium owner. This is due both to their beautiful bright color and reputation for being hardy and easy to care for. Although this fish is easier to care for and can tolerate water conditions that would be unsuitable for other fish, they do still require some level of care to thrive.
Betta fish are available in many colors and types and can live for many years if properly cared for. These fish are highly territorial and males should only be housed alone, except when breeding. It is possible to find other suitable tank mates for bettas but this should only be attempted in tanks of at least 10 gallons. Female bettas are sometimes more tolerant of other fish but should still be considered semi-aggressive.
Contrary to popular belief these fish do not like to be kept in very small tanks. As with other aquarium fish they prefer at least one gallon per inch of body length, therefore betta fish are best kept in tanks or bowls that hold at least 2 gallons of water. Very small tanks or bowls of less than a half gallon can cause a great deal of stress for the fish and significantly shorten lifespan. Fish kept in such tight quarters also tend to be less active and display fewer natural behaviors than those kept in larger tanks.
Bettas are tropical fish and like to be kept at constant temperatures in the upper 70s; heated tanks are best but if this is problematic they can be kept in a warm room. Betta fish possess an organ that allows them to breathe air as well as get oxygen from the water like other fish. This is what helps them tolerate poor water conditions, but betta owners should still keep water clean and well circulated for the comfort of the fish. Filters are not necessary for keeping bettas but water should be changed weekly, or whenever it becomes dirty.
Like other fish, bettas like to have plants and decorations in their tank. This helps them to feel secure. Choose soft silk or real plants over plastic ones when decorating a tank for a betta. Tough plastic plants can catch the long trailing fins of the betta and injure them. Pointy or rough tank decorations should also be avoided for the same reason.
If a filter is used make sure the current is not too strong. Sometimes the filter intake can be hazardous to the fish. In this case it can sometimes be made safer by covering the intake with a layer of gauze or pantyhose material.
Bettas are carnivorous fish and require a meat diet. Specialized betta pellets are available. Make sure to follow the directions on the package to avoid overfeeding. Betta also enjoy shrimp and bloodworms as treats.
Some betta are prone to illness and medicines should be kept on hand in case the fish becomes ill. These include concentrated aquarium salt, anti-fungus, and ick treatments, among others.
These are some basic tips to help you get started with betta fish ownership. As you can see, the betta fish does have more requirements than the average owner would lead you to believe. However, when your betta is in a safe and happy environment, you can rest assured that he will live a long and happy life.
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