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Fish 101 | PetsWeekly

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Bettas are the perfect beginner fish. They take up very little room, don't need a lot of care, and will swim to the side of the bowl every time they see you, begging for more food and attention.

All About Bettas

Bettas (Betta splendens) are also known as Siamese fighting fish. They are native to Southwestern Asia, where farmers found them living in rice paddies and began to raise them for their colors and their fighting ability. At one point, men would even wager money on fights between bettas, but thanks to new laws and people who are more educated, such an act would be considered animal cruelty.

Male bettas have bright colors and long, flowing fins to attract females. However, they are highly aggressive toward other males (so aggressive that they will often attack anything that resembles another betta fish). Many will even attack their own reflections...

When a male betta is threatened or spots another fish, it will flare out its gill covers, which is called opercular flaring. They will also spread out their dorsal and tail fins, making them look larger and more threatening. Then, the betta will beat its fins rapidly and charge towards the other fish.

This is why it's important to keep them in a tank by themselves.

Types of Bettas

Bettas are available in all types of colors. There are also several different variations on sale in pet stores. Veil tail bettas are the typical betta and are characterized by a long, flowing tail fin. There are also crown tails, which have spiky tail finds, delta tails and half moon tails, which have broader tail fins, and even elephant ear bettas, which have long pectoral fins. A relatively new betta on the market is the king betta, which does not have particularly impressive fins but is much larger than other bettas.

Did You Know: With proper care, your betta can live over five years!

Buying Your Bettas

Male bettas are the ones that are typically sold, but many pet stores sell female bettas and even baby bettas as well. Female bettas are generally less impressive in appearance than male bettas, and baby bettas may not have developed the striking color and fins of an adult.

When purchasing a betta, choose a fish that is active and alert. Check its fins for damage or injury. Avoid any fish that are covered in white spots, are inactive or floating on their side, or otherwise look sickly.

Tank Mates (or lack thereof)

Male bettas must be kept in an individual tank by themselves. They will attack other male bettas and anything with long fins that resemble a betta (including guppies, goldfish, and even female bettas). In the wild, attacked fish can always retreat and swim away, but in a tank, there is no escape and the male will continue to attack and bully the other fish until it dies. For this reason, male bettas should be kept independently.

Female bettas do not typically have the aggressive tendencies of the males. For this reason, several can usually be kept together without a problem. Though females do not typically fight with each other, you should watch for any signs of aggression and remove any female that begins to bully the others.

If you have a large enough bowl and truly want to give your male betta a companion, choose something that does not resemble another fish. Some have put dwarf frogs or snails with male bettas. If you chose this route, make sure that you have a tight fitting lid on your tank that allows airflow because frogs can jump out of the tank, and snails will slug their way out without a problem.

Tank Size

Bettas are able to survive in small tanks because of the labyrinth organ, which allows them to breath air on the surface of the water.  While they do like small spaces, that doesn't mean they should be crammed in a tiny bowl. Bettas need a minimum of one gallon; they cannot be kept in the small containers that you bring them home in, or the small betta bowls that many pet stores advertise. Most bettas do well in 1-5 gallon tanks. Be sure to give your betta enough room to swim around and display its beautiful fins.

If you are keeping multiple females together, a ten gallon tank is fine. Be sure to give them plenty of plants and spaces to hide in. You should purchase a gentle filter and heater for a tank of this size. Do weekly partial water changes to ensure the health of the tank community.

Heat and Filtration

Bettas are semi tropical. Though many do alright at room temperature, they will be more active at a temperature of 75-86 degrees Fahrenheit. Many pet stores sell heaters for smaller tanks. If you decide to purchase one, read the instructions carefully and purchase a tank thermometer as well. Keep a careful eye on the temperature to make sure it doesn't get too hot; you do not want to cook your betta.

Bettas do not like strong currents, as it can damage their fins. If you get a filter, make sure that it has a very weak flow and current, and will not stress out your betta. If your betta is fighting against the current and trying not to get sucked in the filter, the end result will not be pleasant.

Aquatic Quotes

  • "One must ask children and birds how cherries and strawberries taste."
    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
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Fish Facts

  • Which type of fish can walk on land? The climbing perch. This amazing fish, native to India, can walk on land in search of water when its water hole dries up.
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