Introduction: Betta Basics With Phoenix and Jack

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Hey, Instructables Fans! I’m back, this time with double the fun! This tutorial is a tribute to my two beautiful Betta boys, Jack and Phoenix.

Bettas are my favorite type of fish. Since age five, I have at least had one Betta swimming around my house. They make excellent pets, are vibrant, easy to care for, and just plain awesome!

I recently purchased my fifth Betta, Jack, from a local pet store. After about three weeks, I picked up another Betta, Phoenix, and decided to build an Instructables tutorial on keeping a Betta fish alive and well from Day 1!

Ready? Here we go!

Step 1: A Bit of Betta Info

The aquarium I will be showing you how to make is actually a vase for my favorite type of fish, the Betta Fish! Also known as Siamese Fighting Fish, these fish are small warriors, and are renowned for their hostility toward other fish, including members of their own species. In fact, some males will even attempt to attack their reflections!

Bettas are also known for their vibrant colors. However, only the males of the Betta species are brightly colored. The females are smaller and rather dull-colored. It is also a little-known fact that in the wild, Bettas are not brightly colored. Wild Bettas only change colors when agitated. Domestic Bettas are bred to be bright.

That being said, I think Bettas make great pets for first-time, or veteran fish owners. Bettas normally live about 2-3 years, but I personally have owned one that lived to be 7 years old.

Step 2: What You'll Need

For this, I used a big vase as my fishbowl. But any tank will do!

1. A large vase, tank, or fishbowl for the fish.

2. Distilled or Spring water stored at room temperature. I used bottled, but the important thing is that the water is not tap water. Tap water has chemicals that can kill the Betta. Also, the water should be between 75◦ and 83◦ Fahrenheit.

3. Tank accessories, such as gravel, decorations, or live plants!

4. Fish food. Bettas do well on commercial Betta food pellets.

5. A Betta Fish to live in the tank!

Step 3: Picking Out a Tank Location

The first and most important step to owning a Betta is having a safe place for him to live. I used a large vase for all my Bettas, including my new babies, Jack and Phoenix. To be honest, any old fishbowl or tank will do as a suitable Betta habitat. It all depends on personal preference!

But no matter what habitat you use, pick out a safe location for the vase, tank, or bowl. It should be in a place out of reach of pets and young children who might accidentally harm the fish. I put Jack on the island in my kitchen, and Phoenix on the dining room table. Both locations are well out of reach of my cat and three dogs.

It is also important to note that I keep Jack and Phoenix well apart. Male Bettas are not very tolerant of other fish, especially brightly colored ones, like goldfish or other Bettas. I’ve heard that female Bettas can live in a community tank, but having never owned a female, I can’t say for sure. But even if the males are in separate tanks, if too close to each other, they will become aggressive. The sight of a potential rival causes huge amounts of anxiety and stress for these little guys. My advice is to keep them far away from each other.

Another thing is to keep your Betta away from direct sunlight. Even though these are tropical fish, the heat from the sun will essentially cook them and cause them to die. I keep my boys in stable artificial lighting situations, out of direct sunlight.

When you have picked out the ideal location for your fish to live in, rise out the tank using cold tap water, then dry it with a dishrag. Move it to the chosen location and proceed.

Step 4: Tank Accessories

Keep the environment safe and healthy when it comes to accessories. Live plants add an element of flair while also giving the fish protective cover. Adding gravel to the tank helps to define the space and anchor any plants or decorations you choose to add.

Gravel comes is two types; tiny chips, or in large rocks or colorful gems. I recommend the gems, because they are easier to clean when changing the water.

If you choose to add gravel, be sure to wash it before adding the spring water. Cut open the package, and put the stones into a bowl to be rinsed. Using cold tap water, rinse the gravel. Drain the bowl, and add the pebbles to the bottom of the tank.

Next, add your extras, if you have any. Whether alive or plastic, be sure to rinse the plants, rocks, or other ornaments before adding them to the tank. Your habitat should still be waterless at this stage.

Both Phoenix and Jack each have a live aquatic plant residing with them in their tanks. I have noticed a brighter disposition in both boys compared to my previous fish who lived in a plant-free vase.

Step 5: Getting Wet

Now, we can add the spring water. Distilled and spring are the best options for Bettas because the water is free of contaminants found in tap water.

Move the water over to the habitat. The Betta should not be in yet. Now, slowly pour in the spring water, filling about halfway, and taking care to not damage the accessories.

Don’t add too much water, because when you pick out your new fish, he will come with his own bagful of H2O.

Now, it's time! Move the fish over to the habitat. Carefully cut open the Betta’s bag or lift open the lid of your fish’s plastic container. Gently tip the Betta into the prepared space. He will be a little freaked out, and I suggest you watch him until he settles down a bit. Initally, the fish will dart around with gills flared. This is normal. It is a brand-new environment, and he is just exploring.

Wait about twenty minutes before feeding the Betta his first in-home meal. Give him a bit of space while he explores his new home.

Step 6: Feeding the Fish

There is but one step before you take your Betta home. Having something for him to eat! There are a variety of different foods to choose from. However, the advised feeding regimen is the same; once a day. Set up a regular schedule if possible. Bettas can either be open-minded or finky when it comes to food, so I advise experimenting if this is your first one.

Standard Betta pellets are a good first choice. Small and round, these pellets don’t sink and you should only add between 3 and four at a time when feeding the Betta.

Brine shrimp make a great choice for a treat. My boys adore them. But they can be problematic. It can take a few tries for a Betta to snag a brine shrimp. Or, it could be too big for the fish’s mouth.

I recently found out about freeze-dried bloodworms. Many sources claim they make an excellent choice for Betta food.

Often, the uneaten bits of food sink to the bottom of the tank. This dirties the water am slowly making the switch from pellets to bloodworms, and it seems to be working. To introduce a new type of food or snack for your Betta, add a little bit to the daily diet to see if the fish is receptive. If so, you can make the switch total and permanent.

Step 7: Changing the Water

When it comes time to change the water in the tank, there are a few do’s and don’ts.

First off, never change the water with the Betta inside the tank. I know it sounds like common sense, but I’ve lost one too many fish to the kitchen drain. Always move the fish to a safe container with a bit of the old water, remove the tank accessories.

To catch a Betta, try to avoid using a net. They are floppy and slippery when out of water. To make things worse, nets can damage a Betta’s delicate gills or cause life-threatening levels of stress.

If you have a small habitat, like a bowl or a vase, move it to a safe, dry place, close to the sink where you can work. Make sure to have a temporary container ready for the fish while you change the water, like a bowl or a large mug. Tip the tank slightly onto its side, above the container, and let the water out until the fish lands inside.

With the fish out, remove any accessories in the tank. Separate decorations like plants or other ornaments and rinse them with cold tap water to clean them. Put them aside on a dishrag, somewhere out of the way.

Gravel can be tricky. Small, fine pebbles will clog the sink if you let them into a toilet or sink. Use a spaghetti strainer to drain the excess water. For bigger rocks or gems, use a colander. Both ways will let the water out, but keep the gravel in. Like the previous accessories you already removed, rinse the gravel in cold tap water.

Next, take the now-empty habitat and rinse it using just cold tap water. Never use soap to clean a fish habitat. The chemicals in the soap will kill the fish. After rinsing the tank several times, dry it thoroughly with a new cloth.

Now, add the gravel back into the tank, followed by the accessories. Pour in some fresh spring water, remembering to leave enough space for the fish and the water in the temporary containment unit.

When reintroducing the Betta, take it just as slowly and carefully as when you first added him to the habitat. Again, give him a few minutes to readjust before moving the tank back to where it was before. Waiting just five minutes can make a world of difference.

Move the newly clean vase and decorations back to its original position. You are all set with changing a the water.

Step 8: Final Thoughts

Thanks for taking the time to read this tutorial. Taking proper care of any animal is a true sign of a loving and responsible pet owner.

To keep your Betta happy, clean his water at least once a week, and remember to feed him once a day.

Feeding the fish more than once a day can lead to obesity and lethargy; a deadly combination in a fish bred to be thin and warrior-like.

But above all, be sure treat your new fish with love and respect. Play with him when you walk by, or talk to him. Give him treats, like frozen bloodworms. Be careful not to give him too many though!

Signs of a happy Betta include bubbles at the top of the tank. Jack has had a big net of bubbles floating at the top of his tank for a few days now. Another giveaway is if the fish swims close to the glass when you come by, follows you when you walk by, or swimming to the top of the tank when you are nearby.

Congratulations on your new fish. I hope he brings you many years of happiness!

Until next time, see ya later, Instructables fans!

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