The ubiquitous betta is one of the most beautiful and common pet store fish available today next to the goldfish (carassius auratus). While bettas are easy to care for, they do require some specific care and attention to thrive. Many myths and misconceptions surrounding the right and the wrong way to care for a betta tend to oversimplify their needs. Here are 5 reliable tips for making sure your pet betta lives a long and healthy life.
1. Warmth. Bettas require a warm water environment to thrive. Approximately 78 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature (slightly higher is ok, but lower should be avoided) and can be achieved consistently with a high quality aquarium heater and monitored using a thermometer. Allowing a betta’s environment to become too cool for extended periods of time or changing temperature rapidly can negatively impact their immune systems and can often lead to fatal diseases.
2. Diet. Bettas are carnivores and need a diet rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals. Most commercial betta foods offer a combination of higher protein ingredients. Feeding a smaller number of pellets per feeding many times per day is better than a once or twice a day feeding plan. Over-feeding should be avoided at all times. Freeze dried or frozen bloodworms and/or brine shrimp can also be part of a betta’s feeding regimen, but should be used sparingly. There is a common misconception amongst pet owners that betta can survive in a simple vase of water, feeding on the roots of water plants. This, however, cannot be further from the truth though and is a practice that will inevitably do the fish harm.
3. Company. To say that bettas are solitary fish is an understatement. Unlike other species, bettas do not school and are actually very hostile towards other fish of the same species. Bettas enjoy an environment with plenty of room and a few well-placed hiding spots to keep to themselves and provide a resting area.
4. Cleanliness. Bettas thrive in clean water as much as any other freshwater species does. Even though stories of betta surviving in a dirty puddle of water are just as ubiquitous as the fish itself, they are nonetheless untrue. Well-filtered water that is maintained to an appropriate pH and hardness is a must and can be achieved through a number of filtration equipment options available on the market today. Look for something that fits the size of your tank appropriately and just remember that you need some type of regular filtration or very regular water changes to maintain a healthy living environment for a betta.
5. Water Changes. Due to the smaller environments bettas tend to live in, very frequent water changes are a must (weekly preferably). Be sure to use a water conditioner that removes chlorine, chloramines and ammonia or a high quality betta bottled water from your local aquatic retailer. If you are not using a filter on your betta tank, be sure your water conditioner has some residual ammonia removing properties to handle the ammonia your betta will be constantly putting in to the water between the water changes.
6. Restraint. Bettas have been known to easily stressed-out and therefore can jump so an aquarium lid is an absolute must if you are considering owning one of these wonderful fish. A good lid will also keep curious pets like cats and dogs from disturbing these bright and attractive pets.
Owning a betta is a wonderful way to start a fish keeping adventure. Even though the above tips are highly recommended in order to maintain a healthy and productive living environment, they are by no means an entire handbook. Strike up a conversation with a local aquarium or fish seller and get additional guidance on best practices for making sure that you create a happy and healthy home for your betta. With proper betta keeping techniques, you can extend the life of your betta in a big way. We have had a number who have lived more than 5 years with the record over 8 years and counting!