How to Care for a Betta Fish: The Ultimate Guide for Beginners

how to care for a betta fish

The dramatic colors and extravagant fins of betta fish are instantly recognizable to many of us. A single betta fish often serves as an introductory experience to pet fish. If you're interested in adding a betta fish to your home but are concerned about what it might need, don't worry. It is easy to learn how to care for a betta fish.

What Is a Betta Fish?

Betta fish are colorful freshwater tropical fish. Native to Southeast Asia, in the wild betta fish live in shallow, slow-moving streams and ponds. Their diet is mostly mosquitos, insect larvae, and plankton.

Betta fish come in a wide range of colors. These bold colors make them prized fish for display in fish tanks.

The territorial nature of these fish led them to be termed fighting fish. All betta fish are territorial, but male betta fish are so territorial that they cannot be kept in a fish tank with other males, and should not be able to see males in other tanks of be placed next to a mirror. With some care and plenty of tank space, it is possible to keep more than one betta fish in a single fish tank, but much attention must be paid to the selection of tank mates.

Who Should Own a Beta Fish?

Betta fish are captivating additions to any home. Because a single betta fish can be kept in a relatively small fish tank, finding space for a betta fish is not generally too difficult. Unlike saltwater fish, betta fish can live in tap water that undergoes minimal preparation. With a thermometer and a heater to keep their water temperature in the proper range, most homes can keep betta fish at a comfortable temperature.

Betta fish kept in a five-gallon filtered tank require a relatively modest amount of care, so most schedules can accommodate their care. Learning how to care for a betta fish is not difficult. With a little patience, you can even teach a betta fish to do tricks.

Betta fish are particularly good choices in homes where space for a fish tank is limited, in which a single fish is desired, and in cases where a dramatic and colorful fish is desired.

Betta fish generally live for two to three years, though a well-cared for betta fish can live for five years. When deciding whether you will add a betta fish to your home, do consider the length of time that you will need to care for your betta fish.

How to Care for a Betta Fish

Caring for a betta fish is relatively simple. It may seem as though there are many things to remember at first but once you learn how to care for a betta fish, it will quickly become part of your routine. To best care for betta fish you'll need to prepare for their arrival in your home, carefully introduce them to their new fish tank, and then continue from there with routine care for your betta fish.

Preparing a Home for Your Betta Fish


It is important that before you bring home your new betta fish, you spend some time preparing for its arrival in your home. Learning how to care for a betta fish before you purchase one will lead to a much less stressful introduction period for both you and your betta fish.

Even if you plan to buy everything you need at the time that you buy your betta fish, learning how to care for it beforehand will help you prepare any questions for the staff where you buy your betta fish and help you to create a checklist of things you will need so that nothing gets forgotten.

At a minimum, your betta fish will need a properly placed fish tank, treated water, and food that is appropriate for betta fish. In order to properly care for your it, you will also need an aquarium water testing kit, a net to catch your fish, and the supplies for tank cleaning.

A Fish Tank for Your Betta Fish


As a betta fish will spend its life in its fish tank, you'll want to select the best possible tank for your betta fish. Though pet stores do sell fish bowls for betta fish, fish bowls are not recommended for keeping betta fish as it is difficult to maintain their water temperature and they do not provide adequate space for the betta fish to swim. Fish bowls also require more frequent water changes, which is time-consuming for you and stressful for your betta fish.

For a single betta fish, a fish tank that holds between three and five gallons of water is ideal. A fish tank with a thermometer and heater so that water can be kept at a steady temperature of around eighty degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. The tank should also have a filter so that the water in the fish tank will require less frequent water changes which will be less stressful for your betta fish.

Your betta fish will also need tank decorations. Betta fish like to have places to hide, but be cautious about adding anything with sharp edges that might damage their delicate fins and tail. Live plants will add visual interest and improve water quality.

Where to Place the Fish Tank


Be sure to place the fish tank for your betta fish on a flat, stable surface where the fish tank is unlikely to be disturbed by the passing of people or pets. Choosing a spot that is against a wall will help to stabilize the tank. The more stable the fish tank for your betta fish, the more safe and less stressed your betta fish will be.

Maintaining the proper water temperature is an important part of how to care for your betta fish, and the placement of the fish tank does impact water temperature. To best maintain the proper water temperature, don't position the tank near heat sources, like radiators or fireplaces. For the same reason, avoid placing the tank near a window where sunlight can significantly raise the water temperature. Also, avoid placing the tank near a door or window where cold drafts could chill the water in the fish tank.

Finally, don't forget to choose a spot where you will be able to enjoy the company of your betta fish.

Preparing Water for Your Betta Fish


One critical aspect of how to care for a betta fish is providing it with clean water at the appropriate temperature and pH to keep the betta fish healthy. The ideal water temperature for betta fish is between seventy-eight and eighty degrees Fahrenheit. Betta fish should not be exposed to water temperatures less than seventy-four degrees Fahrenheit.

The day before you plan to bring home your betta fish, fill a jug of water and allow it to sit uncapped overnight so that any chlorine present can evaporate. Be aware that any traces of dish detergent present can be fatal to betta fish, so a jug washed only with water and a brush is ideal. If possible, store the water at an appropriate temperature for betta fish.

Betta fish require water with a pH between 6.5 and 7.0. Test the water you are planning to use for the betta fish to be sure that the pH is appropriate. Water quality can be further improved by using a special water conditioner for betta fish.

Choosing Food for Your Betta Fish


Betta fish have unique dietary requirements and should be fed a diet that is tailored to their specific needs. There is fish food designed specifically for betta fish, but they are healthiest when their diet includes a variety of protein sources. Good sources of protein  are bloodworms, brine shrimp, daphnia, and fruit fly larvae. As an occasional treat, betta fish can enjoy small pieces of frozen beef heart.

If you choose to feed your betta fish pellet food, choose a food formulated specifically for betta fish. Fish food, even fish food designed for betta fish, should still be supplemented with other protein sources.

Have some food already stocked when you go to get your betta fish, or plan to bring home several protein sources with your betta fish.

When You Bring Your Betta Fish Home


Bringing your betta fish home is an exciting time and you'll be anxious to see your pet in its new home. Don't immediately put your betta fish in its new fish tank. Instead, you'll need to help your betta fish acclimate to its new environment.

Begin by filling the tank with the water you prepared. You can do this before you bring your betta fish home if you like.

Once you have your betta fish, put the bag with the betta fish and water into the fish tank to float for about an hour. This will allow the betta fish to gradually get used to the temperature of the water.

After the betta fish has been allowed time to adjust to the temperature of the water in the fish tank, put some of the water from the fish tank into the bag with the betta fish and that water that the betta fish arrived in. This will allow for a gradual transition between the two different sources of water, which will facilitate a healthier transition for the betta fish.

Following the acclimation period with the added water, your beta fish can be moved into its tank.

Feeding Your Betta Fish


As a rule, you should feed your betta fish daily. If you miss a day, don't worry. Just feed your betta fish the normal daily amount the next day. There's no need to feed more for the missed day. In fact, some betta fish owners prefer to let their betta fish fast one day per week.

Betta fish have small stomachs, about the size of their eyeballs, so they don't need very much food. Feed them small amounts and remove uneaten food after five minutes. Do vary their protein sources during the week.

Cleaning Your Fish Tank


The cleanliness of the fish tank is an important aspect of care for a healthy fish. Weekly cleanings will help to keep the water in your fish tank clear and your betta fish healthy.

How much water you will need to replace will vary, largely based on the tank size and whether the tank is filtered. Expect to change between twenty and fifty percent of the water in the fish tank during cleanings. Prepare the replacement water the same way that you prepared the water for the initial tank filling.

You may also choose to move your fish temporarily out of the tank. If you do so, scoop your betta fish up gently with the net, taking care not to catch any part of your betta fish between the net and the tank or tank decorations.

To clean the tank, first remove some of the water. Use a clean sponge that has never been used with dish detergent or cleaning chemicals to clean the sides of the tank. Next, vacuum the gravel or marbles at the bottom of the fish tank with an aquarium vacuum. Remove any tank decorations and wash in plain water. Return any tank decoration to the tank and add the replacement water. Test the water and treat it as appropriate. If you removed your betta fish, return it to the tank.

Signs Something May Be Wrong

It is possible for betta fish to become ill or to be injured. If you notice any of the following signs, reach out to your vet or fish store for recommendations on your next steps:

  • Fading color
  • Swimming for extended periods near the surface of the water
  • Swimming upside down or on one side
  • Lethargy
  • Bumps on the skin
  • Torn fins
  • A white film or white dots on the skin

Conclusion

Betta fish are gorgeous fish that can be highly interactive. These brightly-colored fish can even be taught tricks. Betta fish can be kept with relative ease in most homes and it is easy to learn how to care for a beta fish. If you're interested in bringing a marvelous fish into your home, a betta fish is an excellent choice.

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