Introduction: How to Properly Care for a Betta

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How to Properly Care for a Betta Fish

This instructable will teach you how to properly care for a betta, a beautiful and hardy fish ideal for a beginner. And unlike other ornamental fish-related instructables, this one will actually give you legitimate facts about bettas that will allow your betta to thrive.

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Step 1: Betta Background

Bettas, aka Siamese Fighting Fish or Betta Splendens, originally came from the muddy ponds, streams and rice paddies of Thailand. The original betta splendens had dull coloring and short fins.

The bettas we know today have long flowing fins and come in all sorts of striking colors, due to genetic mutations while breeding. Their long flowing fins is a distinguishing characteristic that is only acquired by the male, female bettas are generally smaller and have short fins. Male betta's aggressiveness is another trait that sets them apart from female bettas. Male bettas are much more aggressive than female bettas, that is why male bettas cannot be kept together where they are in contact with each other. Once in contact, they will instinctively fight to the death, hence the name siamese fighting fish. It is very important that the owner understands to respect this animal's trait, rather than to use it as a form of entertainment.

Step 2: Betta Essentials

Betta Essentials

These items are a must-have in order to keep a betta:

  1. Aquarium: minimum size of 5 gallons
  2. Water Conditioner: to remove chlrorine and other toxic heavy metals present in tap water.
  3. Heater: to maintain ideal temperature
  4. Betta Food: either pellets or freeze-dried specifically for bettas
  5. Lid or Hood: to prevent them from jumping out

  6. Fish Net: needs to be soft and flexible so it won't harm the fish
  7. Filter: can be any type of aquarium filter that doesn't have too much flow

  8. Aquarium Salt: can be added to the tank water to prevent diseases and help facilitate breathing

  9. Biological Conditioner: beneficial biological bacteria that "neutralizes" harmful substances produced by fish waste.
  10. A Good Owner: that is committed to take care of his betta


  1. Easy, beginner live aquatic plants that can help with the water quality

Step 3: Basic Betta Info

Basic Betta Info

The Tank - Your Betta's Home
Bettas are labyrinth fish, meaning they can breathe directly from the surface of water. Therefore they don't need air pumps to provide them with oxygen like most fish do. You often see bettas at pet stores in small bowls without any type of filtration at all, as bettas do not like fast currents (they come from small rice paddies). And most pet store employees advise their customers to keeps bettas in such small spaces because they seem "happier". How would you like it if you lived your entire life in a 2 x 3 ft room?Bettas need a minimum sized aquarium of two gallons. Although bettas can easily be kept in a two-gallon aquarium, the bigger the better - they would also appreciate the extra space. The larger the tank, the less frequent you'll have to execute water changes. Make sure the aquarium has lid or hood, as bettas are excellent jumpers.

Betta Water
Although bettas are hardy fish and they can accept different ranges of temperature, the ideal temperature for your betta's tank is 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit (24-27 degrees Celsius). Lower temperatures (74 degrees F and below) can cause your betta's immune system to slow down and make them prone to diseases. But most betta experts suggest that higher temperatures (84+ degrees F) can cause your betta to age too quickly (accelerated metabolism) . Most people say bettas are boring fish because they habitually just lethargically lay at the bottom of the tank. In most cases, these owners had their bettas swimming in dirty water below the ideal temperature, bettas are much more active when kept in warmer temperatures. And to maintain the temperature stable, use a fully submersible automatic heater. (Image 3)

But like all fish, bettas need dechlorinated water. Chlorine and heavy metals present in tap water are toxic and can kill your fish, your betta's water needs to be either bottled water, RO water or treated tap water (treated with a water conditioner). The most common water conditioners used today are: Tetra AquaSafe, Jungle Bowl Buddies and Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Tap Water Conditioners; I highly recommend a conditioner not only conditions the chlorine in the water, but one that also removes ammonia and promotes the production of the natural slime coat of fish (a protective coat that keeps microbes away from your fish's body). (Image 4)

Bettas aren't fussy when it comes to pH. But the ideal Ph for your betta is between 6.5 and 8. If it isn't, then the water must be treated with a pH buffer.

Cycled water is another important factor in your betta's health. Cycled water is water that has been established with colonies of biological bacteria that convert harmful toxins produced by fish waste into less harmful substances. This can be done by adding a biological conditioner to the tank water prior to adding the fish (Image 5). Allow the biological bacteria colony to grow to a size that would consume all of the fish waste. This is why it's important to let your tank cycle before you add your betta fish.

Add some aquarium salt to your betta's water. This will prevent your betta from getting most diseases and parasites, and will also help its breathing. Follow the instructions on the product, make sure not to overdose. (Image 6)

Water changes are fundamental. Change about 25% of your tank's volume once a week with treated water in order to remove natural tank pollutants and replenish important elements. And a 100% water change once every 2 months.

Betta Feeding
Feed them about once-twice a day. Skip a day once a week so it can give their digestive system a chance to rest . Please do not overfeed, overfeeding can pollute their water and even kill them. Only feed them what they will consume in 2 minutes.
They should be fed betta pellets such as Tetramin Granules Tropical Fish Food. Don't feed them fatty betta flakes or fish flakes as they will probably not eat it. As a treat, you can feed them freeze dried brine shrimp or tubifex worms.

Step 4: Betta Housing

Betta Tankmates
Every betta has its own personality, some can be aggressive towards its tankmates while others can be peaceful. The tankmate can't resemble the appearance of a betta, can't be aggressive (or else it'll stress or even injure your betta fish) and can't be too small that the betta can eat it. These fish make great tankmates:
1) Corydora (Image 3)
2) Pleco (Image 4)
3) Apple Snail (Image 7)
4) Medium to Large sized Tetras (Image 8)
5) Otocinclus Catfish (Image 9)
Despite the fact that these tankmates are appropriate for most male bettas, some might react differently to its tankmate. Like I said before, every betta has its own personality.

Aquarium Decor: Fake or Live Plants?
Before you decide to add anything to your betta's home, whether it be gravel or an ornament, never wash it with soap or detergent. No matter how well you rinse it off, the soap's residue will still be there and will eventually leach into your betta's water and kill it. Wash it lukewarm water, and make sure its material is appropriate for aquarium use and that it doesn't have sharp edges that can scratch your betta.

Plastic Plants

  • PRO: Doesn't need light
  • PRO: Doesn't need Co2 supplements
  • PRO: Doesn't need any special substrate or fertilizer
  • PRO: Doesn't require any trimming/maintenance
  • CON: Doesn't provide oxygen (under lighting)
  • CON: Doesn't harmful toxins produced by fish waste
  • CON: Most don't look very natural
  • CON: Plastic plants may rip your betta's fins, so silk plants are better suited

Live Plants

  • PRO: Provide oxygen under lighting
  • PRO: Consumes harmful toxins produced by fish waste
  • PRO: Natural looking
  • CON: Need strong lighting
  • CON: Need Co2 supplements
    • Easy beginner aquatic plants such as java moss, Anubias and java fern can be kept without Co2 dosing.
  • CON: Require special substrate or fertilizer
  • CON: Require trimming/maintenance

Step 5: Types of Bettas

Types of Bettas
Bettas come in all sorts of colors and fin-shaped varieties. The most commonly seen in pet stores are the veiltails.
1) Veiltail (Image 1)
2) Crowntail (Image2)
3) Super Delta (Image 3)
4) Delta (Image 4)
5) Round (Image 5)
6) Plakat (Image 6)
7) Double (Image 7)
8) Halfmoon (Image 8)
9) Comb (Image 9)
10) Fantail (Image 10)

Step 6: Acclimating Your New Betta

Bettas are usually packed in a plastic bag or cup. So when you bring your betta home, do the following:
1) Turn off your tank's lights (minimizes stress)
2) Float the bag (closed) or cup in the aquarium for about 15 minutes.
3) Open the bag or cup and using a clean cup, collect some aquarium water. Slowly dump this water in the bag or cup. This allows the betta to acclimate to your aquarium's temperature and water.
4) Wait 5-10 more minutes before removing your betta with a fish net.
5) Observe your new betta in its aquarium for a while.
6) After 15 minutes, you may turn on the lights.

Step 7: Last Chapter: Betta Diseases

Every pet has the risk of getting diseases, that includes bettas. Bettas are often exposed to parasitic and bacterial infections throughout their lives. That is why we need to prepare as well as prevent. Most betta diseases can be prevented by simple water changes, and are often cured by aquarium salt and treatments such as Melafix (Image 2).