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The Truth about Bettas aka Siamese Fighting Fish by April Moloney

You see Bettas at your local pet stores and they are so beautiful with their long flowing fins and many colors. They are usually displayed in small cups with these small box like habitats that don’t cost that much. So you go ahead and purchase your new finned friend but within a few months their beautiful tails are getting eaten away and they don’t respond to you like they used to. They get sick and die usually within 6-8 months. Why does this happen? It is because you have fallen for the manufacturer of small tanks and the pet store’s big lie about Bettas!

Bettas are tropical fish in the first place and can’t deal with colder, room temperature water for very long periods of time. They need a heater to keep their water between 78 degrees and 82 degrees. Just like goldfish they shouldn’t be kept in small bowls, vases or rectangular tanks. They need more water than that too! Bettas should be kept in at least 2.5 gallons of heated, cycled water that is filtered by a slow moving filter. The lie is because these amazing fish have a labyrinth organ that allows them to breathe oxygen; it was thought that they only needed small amounts of water. This was a matter of survival in the wild so when their puddles or areas of water dried up they could survive to move to a newer deeper body of water.

They can survive in smaller amounts of water but that is not what is optimal for the fish’s long term survival. Bettas are supposed to live 3-6 years but in small bowls that are not well taken care of they usually do not make it a year. We could live in a closet for a while too but that is not what is best for human survival either. Also they need weekly water changes, more frequent than that if you have them in one of those small betta traps. If you have them in a gallon or less than daily water changes are necessary of at least ½ their water. The water should always be treated with a water conditioner and extra food siphoned out. I use Seachem Prime as it is really good and cheap to use.  You only use 2 drops per gallon. Bettas thrive in larger tanks that are 2.5 gallons or more. They need room to swim and if your betta has a large, beautiful tail, they need plants either silk or live to rest on from time to time. Some bettas need lots of cover on the edges of the tank to feel secure. Just like all tropical fish they need heated, filtered, cycled water (with nitrifying bacteria present) to have the best chance of living long happy lives.

Horton on his leaves

I have 7 betta friends at the moment all are different tail types. All of them are in heated, filtered, cycled, live planted tanks. 2 of my bettas are over 3 years old. All are really happy and respond to me in different ways. Each one has their own personality which is what I love best about bettas. Their tanks range from 5 gallons to 10 gallons except my blind one because he can’t navigate a bigger tank safely. Horton lives in a 2 gallon tank that gets extra water changes but it is cycled, heated and filtered. He had an eye injury in shipment and is now over 3 years old. He is also my favorite, but don’t tell the others because they all think they are my favorite. I also have a sorority of females but I do not recommend a sorority to beginners as it is not an easy task to get the sorority balanced with the right personalities and sizes.

Another lie that happens is what to feed your betta, how much and how often. Bettas are carnivores so no they won’t eat the roots of the plant you have in the vase you stuck them in! News bulletin, you have to feed them! They need food that is high in proteins. Check the ingredients in your fish food and if a fish protein like salmon or herring is the first ingredient than you have a good food for your betta. They should be fed 2 times a day. My rule of thumb in feeding them is to watch their tummies right by the pectoral fins. I feed them until that area has a nice rounded look. I also feed my bettas frozen, thawed, bloodworms and brine shrimp every night and they love their night time feedings. I try to keep my feedings 12 hours apart ie: 10 am and 10 pm but you need to find the correct timings for you.

My sorority girls Aisha front, Siri under, and Camilla in the background

Male bettas can not be kept together in the same tank without a divider (I know that some experts can do this but most of us can’t) So if you don’t want a 10 gallon tank to only contain one fish, you can divide the tank with a divider and keep two males in it. Females can be kept in groups of 3 or more which is called a sorority. Some people with the larger tanks keep up to 7 or more females together. I do not recommend sorority tanks to beginners as there are tricks and tips that you need to learn before attempting one. Either male or female bettas can be kept with certain other fish. The rule of thumb is to keep other tropical, non fancy tailed fish with male bettas otherwise there will be fighting. The other surprising fact is that you have to watch that the other fish do not pick on your betta because they are passive with other fish. They are not known to eat other fish or pick on other fish unless they think it is another betta. Any time that you have a betta in the tank with other fish, you have to have a secondary plan in case it doesn’t work out for the betta. The same with betta sorority tanks, I have a female in a solitary 5 gallon (Juliet) because she couldn’t get along with the other females no matter all the tricks I used to fix that. I haven’t added other fish because she was just too aggressive.

My daughter Nevaeh with Elijah Blue playing

If you decide to have a betta, be sure to give them lots of attention. They thrive on attention and love to be talked to. Some will play games with you, some will dance for you, some will just follow you (in their tank) around your room, some will flair for you or at you. I had a betta that actually played with an orange ball and another that played peek-a-boo! Betta can learn tricks for food like swimming through a hoop, jumping through a hoop, playing chase with your finger, come when you call or wiggle your fingers  or just about any trick you want to teach it that it can do in a tank. I do not teach my fish to jump though because bettas have been known to jump out of their tanks and get injured or die from the fall.

So now you know the truth about bettas. Are you going to keep your betta in that little tank or vase anymore? Perhaps you will upgrade your betta’s living conditions as soon as you can. If you can’t do it right now, be sure to change at least half the water daily, add water conditioner and make sure the water is the same temperature when you change the water to reduce shock to help it be healthier until you can change it to a larger tank.

I have lots of products made for Bettas so stop in and get what you need to help your betta be healthy and happy!

(All of the bettas pictured here are my actual bettas, photos taken by a phone camera)

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