|Table of Contents|
|Why have a betta FAQ?|
|What is a betta?|
|How is "betta" pronounced?|
|How can I tell if my betta is male or female?|
|What are the names of my betta's fins?|
|How big should my betta's home be?|
|What should I put on the bottom of my betta's home?|
|Should I put a plant in my betta's home?|
|Does my betta's home need a lid?|
|What kind of water and water conditioners should I use?|
|Should I add salt to my betta's water?|
|Should I add Aquari-Sol every week to my betta's water?|
|What temperature should my betta's water be & do I need a heater?|
|How do I perform a water change?|
|Do I need to use a filter & air bubbler?|
|Where should I place my betta's bowl?|
|Who are suitable tankmates for my betta?|
|What and how much should I feed my betta?|
|How do I know if there's a problem with my betta?|
|How do I know if I'm buying a healthy betta?|
|Why isn't my betta eating?|
|Why does my betta puff out his face & gills sometimes?|
|Will I hurt my betta by exercising him too much with a mirror?|
|What is that bubbly white foam floating on my betta's water?|
|Can I keep a betta healthy in a peace lily vase?|
|I want to learn how to breed bettas!|
|Betta care sheet.|
|Slideshow of general betta information.|
|Slideshow of betta diseases.|
|Betta embrace movie.|
Why have a betta FAQ?
Bettas are fun and easy to keep! If you provide
them with the proper basic care, such as clean conditioned water, proper water
temperature and a varied diet, they will in turn remain healthy and reward you
with their attention and awesome displays of color! There is a lot of information
about betta care on the Internet to wade through and it is often conflicting.
I have taken the time to try to "demystify" the steps necessary for good basic
betta care because it really can be easy and you should have tons of fun caring
for your betta! I have compiled the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) about
betta care. Their answers are based upon my personal experience, what I've learned
from betta literature and from listening to and talking with hundreds of bettakeepers.
What is a betta?
The Betta splendens is a beautifully colored fish filled with personality that will literally wiggle his or her way into your heart and home! The betta comes in almost every imaginable color with red and blue being the most commonly seen at your local fish store, to the most rare colors obtained from breeders, including white, gold, orange and black, and then there is every color in between. The betta also comes in different patterns, such as the marble, butterfly and Cambodian, which brings these colors together in many unique ways. Add to that the multitude of betta fin types, such delta tails, double tails, half-moons and crowntails, these fish are truly splendid creatures to behold!
"Mustard Gas" Male
Turquoise Crowntail Male
Double Ray Crowntail Male
Double Tail Female
In Thailand, the Betta splendens is called Pla Kat, which means "biting fish" and yes they can! They don't often do so, but if they do, it only feels like a tiny pinch, so don't sweat this, 'k?! ;) The male betta is very territorial, defending his turf by opening his fins, flaring his gill covers wide open and displaying his *big & bad* self, while "tail-beating" to fend off any would-be intruders. We also know our long finned bettas as "Siamese Fighting Fish" because of their territorial behavior and because their short-finned ancestors have been used to fight each other in contests in parts of Asia.
The betta is an Anabantid and has a labyrinth organ, allowing him to *breathe* atmospheric air from the water's surface. This allows a betta to survive in oxygen deficient waters, while other fish without a labyrinth organ, only relying on their gills, would die.
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How is "betta" pronounced?
The correct pronunciation of "betta" is "bet-tah" and not like the second letter of the Greek alphabet, beta, or "bay-tah". Mispronouncing betta seems to be a sore point for a number of hard-core bettakeepers. Frankly, "bay-tah" rolls off my tongue much easier than "bet-tah" does and what I do behind closed doors is my business, right? ;)
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How can I tell if my betta is male or female?
The easiest way to tell the difference is to look at the length of the fins on your betta. The male betta has long flowing fins in comparison to the female.
Only the female will have an oviposter, or egg tube, which looks like a white dot on the belly between the ventral fins (the long fins that hang down in front), through which, she will release her eggs...
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What are the names of my betta's fins?
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How big should my betta's home be?
betta's home should at the very least be a one-gallon container, such as a one-gallon
bowl or "hex", however, this is definitely an instance where bigger is better!
Containers that are smaller than one-gallon are fraught with a number of problems.
First, the smaller that a container is, the more difficult it is to maintain
good water quality. A quart-sized bowl for example, needs a 100% water change
every couple days to maintain good water quality. Secondly, small containers
do not give your betta ample swimming room and living space.
Much better homes than the one-gallons are 2, 3, and 5-gal tanks. Your betta will flourish with the swimming room that you will be giving him with a larger home. The 3-gal Eclipse tank, despite being a little pricey, is a wonderful tank for a betta, as it gives your betta three gallons of swimming room and comes equipped with excellent filtration and lighting systems. Bettas also make for a peaceful fish in a community tank of any size.
Remember to never use crystal bowls or vases as these may contain lead, which can leach into the water and poison your betta.
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What should I put on the bottom of my betta's home?
local fish store (LFS) should have an assortment of items to choose from and
among these, marbles, pebbles or gravel will work fine as the substrate (bottom
covering) of your betta's home. You don't even have to be limited to these items,
for now is the time to let yourself be creative and design the home that suits
you and your betta. However, be sure to use items from your LFS that have been
designed for aquarium use. Do beware that some types of epoxy coated colored
gravel may be harmful over time, as pieces of the colored epoxy may flake off
and can even get stuck in your betta's gills. The darker colored gravels tend
to show off your betta's colors well, while your betta may appear more washed
out, when using the lighter ones.
In the smaller homes, such as the one and 2-gallon containers, in which you will be performing 100% water changes, it is easier to do them if you use the larger items, such as marbles or pebbles, which are easy to rinse off when cleaning his home. Choose the smaller options, such as gravel, which has a much larger surface area for the growth of beneficial bacteria (the "good guy" bacteria) when using 3-gallon tanks and larger because you will likely be cycling your tank and performing partial water changes with a gravel vacuum.
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Should I put a plant in my betta's home?
Bettas enjoy a plant to "rest" upon (betta's
version of sleeping), so definitely include them in the design of your betta's
home! You will often find your betta cuddled up, quite comfy, on a leaf.
You can choose from plastic, silk or live plants, when decorating your betta's home. If using plastic plants, be sure to only use ones, which have leaves with very smooth, rounded edges and no pointed or sharp areas, which can tear your betta's fins. Only use silk plants obtained from your local fish store, as they will be made for aquarium use. Silk plants from craft stores are not designed for aquarium use and they may leach toxic dyes into your betta's water and poison him. Do not leave any lead weights on plants, which are designed to anchor them down, as the lead may leach into the water and be toxic to your betta.
In one and 2-gallon containers, which only receive indirect light and undergo 100% water changes, low light-requiring and hardy plants, such as Java Fern and Java Moss make for great choices if you want to go with live plants. They are particularly suited for betta bowls because they don't need to be rooted and will naturally sink to the bottom, yet remain "free floating". They will tolerate 100% water changes and add that natural feeling to your betta's home.
You can have much success with live plants, while venturing into a little aquatic gardening, with the larger tanks if they have the appropriate lighting and substrate. The 3-gal Eclipse System has a 6-watt fluorescent bulb, providing 2 watts per gallon, which is ample lighting to grow a number of low-light requiring plants. Choices of such easy-to-grow plants include Java Fern, Java Moss, Water Sprite and Anubias nana.
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Does my betta's home need a lid?
No matter what type of home that you choose for your betta, there must be a
lid on it because bettas are "jumpers" and given the opportunity, they will
do just that… make a BIG jump for it! There is nothing worse than coming home
to find your betta laying dried up on the floor, except perhaps if your curious
cat gets the upper hand and scoops him out of his bowl… yet another reason to
ALWAYS keep a lid on your betta's home!
Most 2, 3, and 5-gallon tanks come with lids, so please use them. It becomes a bit tougher to cover a one or 2-gallon bowl, but there are some creative options that you can choose from. Be sure that these covers are "breathable", so that your betta is assured plenty of air to breathe, using his labyrinth organ. Bettas obtain oxygen from the water through their gills like other fish, but they are unique in that they also breathe atmospheric air with their labyrinth organ. One option for a bowl lid is to cut thick, heavy craft plastic canvas in a circle and place it on top of the bowl. Another is to use an embroidery hoop, which has a size that fits over the opening of the bowl and fit the hoop with a breathable fabric, such as netting or lace, that is to your liking. Some bettakeepers will take a "breathable" fabric and tie it around the lip of the bowl. If you are using a bowl or vase with a small opening, then a CD makes for a suitable lid.
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What kind of water and water conditioners should I use?
For the vast majority of bettakeepers, it is
perfectly fine to use tap water, which is inexpensive and convenient. You will
need to "condition" the water with water conditioning products, that can be
bought from your local fish store, to remove toxic chlorine or chloramines,
depending upon your water supply. I condition my water with AmQuel® and
AmQuel® is a water conditioner, which removes chloramines, chlorine and ammonia. While letting a never-seen-soap bucket of water sit uncovered for 24 hours will allow chlorine to evaporate, it does not allow chloramines to evaporate. Chloramines can only be removed by using water conditioners specifically designed to do so. You can contact your local water supplier to find out if your tap water contains chloramines, to determine if you need to use AmQuel®.
It is very important to use AmQuel®
or Prime™ when cycling
a tank to convert toxic ammonia to a non-toxic form!
NovAqua® removes toxic chlorine and heavy metals, adds a protective coating to the slime coat as well as sodium chloride (salt). If your water supply does not contain chloramines, then you can use NovAqua® alone. Yet, even if my tap water didn't contain chloramines, I would still use AmQue®l with NovAqua® because of its' added benefit of taking care of toxic ammonia, which is critical, if you are keeping your betta in a small container, such as a one-gallon bowl. An article published in the IBC's 'Flare', titled "A Water Quality Experiment", revealed that in as little as 24-48 hours, there was a build-up of toxic ammonia in ½ gallon containers. AmQuel®, used as a water conditioner to convert toxic ammonia to a non-toxic form, is what allows us to keep the ammonia levels at zero in our smaller water containers between regular water changes. Both AmQuel® and NovAqua® can be used at the rate of 10 drops each per gallon.
Stress Coat is a very popular water conditioner used among bettakeepers, which removes chloramines and contains aloe vera. I do not use this conditioner because there are reports that the aloe can "gunk" up the gills of fish, leading to health problems and because it does not prevent ammonia build-up.
Never use distilled water, as water in this form lacks minerals, which are necessary for your betta to remain healthy. Likewise, do not use de-ionized or R.O. (reverse osmosis) water alone. It is fine to use some types of bottled water or spring water, but many undergo processes, which makes them unsuitable for your betta. If the bottled or spring water that you wish to use has undergone any processing, then don't use it. Also, test this water for pH to be sure that it is within the range that is suitable or a betta, such as a pH of 6.5-8.2. In any event, bottled supplies of water are expensive and much less convenient than using water right out of one's tap.
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Should I add salt to my betta's water?
As a new bettakeeper, I read all over the 'net that I should be using salt to
prevent and treat disease and I followed this trendy recommendation. However,
as I looked closer into the subject, I found that the scientific evidence to
support using salt as a preventive or curative measure against organisms causing
fish disease, at dosages commonly used in freshwater aquariums, is most often
lacking. So, about three years ago, I stopped adding salt to my bettas' water
and they have remained healthy. I know that there are plenty of bettakeepers
who swear by salt… I'm just not one of them!
Salt is useful to minimize the toxic effects of nitrite poisoning on your betta, when cycling. Also, salt may be useful in the treatment of osmoregulatory stress, which may occur when transporting bettas and when bettas are suffering from gill disease. If a betta has an open wound, salt may stimulate production of the slime coat and help to protect its' body.
An April 2001 study from the Department of Fisheries
and Allied Aquacultures at Auburn University in Alabama showed that keeping
some freshwater fish in water with salt of increasing concentrations can prevent
presumably by preventing adhesion of the Flexibacter to the fish’s body.
Betta fish were not studied. When fish were exposed to Flexibacter, those kept
at a 0.1% salinity (about one teaspoon salt per gallon) had mortality rates
reduced by one third, while those at a 0.3% salinity (about one tablespoon salt
per gallon), experienced no deaths. In the freshwater control or no-salt group
(salinity= 0.03%), there was virtually a 100% mortality (except coldwater goldfish,
which had a 67% mortality). Whether the findings of this study hold true for
aquarium fish and bettas is unknown, but it suggests that salt at concentrations
that are commonly used in the hobby may help to prevent Flexibacter infection.
If you decide to use salt with your betta, then only add ½ teaspoon of aquarium salt per gallon of water. You can buy aquarium salt at your local fish store. As an alternative, rock salt can be used. If you use NovAqua® as a water conditioner, this adds sodium chloride (salt), so this can suffice to meet your salt needs. While you may read reports that salt, such as table salt, which contains iodine and/or anti-caking agents, should not be used, this is a myth. Table salt used at the amounts commonly used in freshwater aquariums in unlikely to be harmful. The one exception of salt that may be toxic to bettas, uses sodium ferrocyanide (yellow prussiate of soda) as an additive.
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Should I add Aquari-Sol every week to my betta's water?
No! Aquari-Sol is a copper medication. Adding this or any other medication every week to your betta's water may allow organisms in his water to develop resistance to the drug. It is better to prevent infection by more natural means, such as maintaining good water quality through regular water changes, meeting your betta's basic needs and providing a varied diet, rather than by dosing your betta's water weekly with a drug!
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What temperature should my betta's water be & do I need a heater?
The betta, as a tropical fish, prefers a water
temperature of 75-80ºF (24-27ºC). Many bettas can tolerate water temperatures
(room temperatures) down to 70ºF (21ºC), but some may act sluggish
and refuse to eat at temperatures below 75ºF (24ºC). All temperatures
below 70ºF (21ºC) should be avoided. Cooler temperatures may depress
the immune system and a betta may no longer be able to fight off disease causing
organisms, which are normally present in water. With temperatures greater than
86ºF (30ºC), a betta may begin to show distress, most often respiratory
with rapid breathing. A temperature of 80ºF (27ºC) is ideal for betta
breeding. Water temperature changes of more than 2-3ºF per day may act
as a "stressor", making your betta more susceptible to disease, therefore,
temperature fluctuations are to be avoided. Be sure to get a stick-on-the-outside
thermometer, a.k.a. a liquid crystal thermometer, from your local fish/pet store
to keep an eye on your betta's water temperature.
If your room temperature is 75-80ºF (24-27ºC), then this is ideal for your betta. With temperatures below 75ºF (24ºC), whether you will need to heat the tank or not depends upon the individual betta. With temperatures of 70-75ºF (21-24ºC), if your betta's activity level is normal and he is eating, then no heater is required. If however, he is sluggish and feeds poorly or not at all, then he should be kept in at least a 2 or 3-gal tank with a submersible heater, which has a thermostat. While heating larger tanks with heaters is safe, it is felt to be much more risky to heat tanks that are less than 5-gallons due to difficulty in regulating the temperature. This is the time to spend the extra money and get a reliable submersible 25-watt heater in order to minimize the risk of overheating the smaller tank. I would not recommend using a heater in a one-gallon bowl as this container is just too small to do so safely. Some use junior heaters in one-gallon bowls, but these heaters are inexpensive and as such, quickly wear out and on occasion have led to electrical shock!
One word of caution, when using a 25-watt heater, is to rely on your stick-on-the-outside thermometer rather than the thermostat to monitor the water temperature. In my experience with these heaters, the actual water temperature in small containers will be several degrees higher than the temperature that you have set on the thermostat, so, to avoid overheating, set the thermostat low and gradually raise it upward according to the water temperature as measured by your stick-on-the-outside thermometer. Once you have reached your desired water temperature, the heater should reliably hold that temperature.
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How do I perform a water change?
If you are keeping your betta in a one or 2-gallon
home, then you should be performing a 100% water change at least every week.
Many bettakeepers fail when they try to "cycle"
a betta in a 2-gallon... it is simply too small and the betta inevitably gets
fin rot. Some bettakeepers will perform partial water changes by siphoning (drawing
water slowly out via a tube), but this can lead to a build-up of toxic ammonia
over time. In any event, you should condition your water with AmQuel® to
neutralize any toxic ammonia build-up between water changes. When changing 100%
of the water in one and 2-gal containers, one is not attempting to "cycle" these
homes and all of the water can be changed and the substrate
and plants can be rinsed off without worry about harming
the good guy bacteria. Water changes for the 3-gal tanks and up are performed
quite differently, though some bettakeepers do change 100% of the water in 3-gals.
In these larger tanks, you will have cycled them safely
and they will require partial water changes of about 25% every week to every
other week with partial gravel vacuuming.
Advocates of siphoning as a means of performing water changes claim that it is less stressful on a betta. There are methods of removing your betta during water changes that are not particularly stressful if done properly. Many bettas can easily be netted, especially if they learn early on that the net is not a "bad" thing. I have bettas, who learned at an early age, that when the net is put in the water, that it is water changing time and they swim into it and are gently pulled out of the water. Extreme patience is the key to properly netting your betta, as they eventually will make a turn and swim into it. If they have been chased around the bowl with a net, you will forever have trouble trying to net them. You can take two nets, placing one behind your betta and the other in front of him. He will turn to avoid the net and end up swimming right into the net that you placed behind him. Another method to easily remove your betta is to lure him to the surface of the water and dip a cup, such as a measuring cup, behind him and he'll go *swoooop* right into the cup along with the water that gets sucked into it. I know of several bettakeepers, who cup their hands in the water, allowing their betta to swim into them and then transfer him this way. If using this method, be cautious that he may decide to take a jump, be careful not to drop your betta and be prepared to be bitten!
When performing a 100% water change, I always sit on the floor because bettas are "jumpers" and have been known to jump and do that perfect swan dive right down the drain of one's sink or take the long fall to the counter or even worse, to the floor! Use the following steps to change the water in one and 2-gallon unheated bowls. This is a very detailed version but changing water is simple, takes very little time to do and with experience, a water change just gets easier and gets done even faster!
1. Dip about one cup of water out of his home and put him in a never-seen-soap container (e.g. new Tupperware bowl with lid). Soaps, cleaning agents and chemicals are very poisonous to bettas, so never use any equipment that has come into contact with these.
2. Note the temperature of his water from the stick-on-the-outside thermometer.
3. Transfer your betta from his home using one of the methods above and place him in his temporary container that now contains some of his "old" water.
4. Place the lid on top of his temporary bowl to prevent him from jumping. Be sure that you leave a good layer of air between the water's surface and the lid, so that he can breathe.
5. Remove the plants and decorations.
6. Empty all the water out of the bowl, while emptying your substrate (marbles, rocks, etc.) into a never-seen-soap strainer.
7. Rinse the bowl both inside and out with very warm water and wipe dry with a paper towel.
8. Rinse your substrate off well in the strainer with very warm water.
9. Plastic or silk plants and decorations can also be rinsed off at this time.
10. Rebuild his home by replacing the substrate, plants, etc.
11. Add tap water back to his home, which is the same temperature as you made note of in #2. Use your stick-on-the-outside thermometer to determine that you have reached the same temperature. You can dedicate a brand new never-seen-soap bucket with water in it and let it sit out for 24 hours before the water change, so that this water will be room temperature, which would be the same temperature as his old water was (providing that you are not using a heater). Still remember to check the temp on the thermometer after pouring in the water from the bucket to be sure that it is the same temperature as his old water was.
12. Condition the water with proper water conditioners for your particular water supply, such as with AmQuel® and NovAqua®. When using AmQuel® and NovAqua® as water conditioners, after shaking the bottles well, add 10 drops of each per gallon of water.
13. You can immediately put your betta back into his home by either using the net, cup or you can gently pour him back in from his temporary container.
14. Put the lid back on and you're set!
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Do I need to use a filter & air bubbles?
do not need to use a filter for one and 2-gallon containers as you will be performing
100% water changes and this will keep the water clean. You will not be "cycling"
either one or 2-gallon containers.
When cycling the 3-gallon and larger tanks, you will need to use filters. For example, the 3-gal Eclipse tank has all three types of filtration; biological filtration (good guy bacteria) via the biowheel and chemical and mechanical filtration via a carbon cartridge insert.
A drawback of using filtration in which there is a lot of water movement, is that in many bettakeeper's experience, this has led to their betta's being more prone to fin/tail rot. Many bettas seem to enjoy playing in the bubbles and waterfalls created by filters, yet some truly demand calm waters to remain healthy. Water turbulence also makes it more difficult if not impossible for the male to build and maintain a bubblenest. When using a filter, be sure to have areas of calm or little water movement within the tank for the betta to rest in. Plants usually work well for this purpose. Likewise, the strength of the water current can be slowed down by placing filter foam or by wrapping several layers of never-seen-soap hosiery around the intake tube.
Bettas do not require an air bubbler. They do breathe with their gills like other fish but they are unique in that they can also breathe atmospheric air from the water's surface with their special labyrinth organ.
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Do I need to buy water-testing kits?
Yes, you really should! If your bettas are kept
in one or 2-gallon bowls and you perform 100% water changes
regularly, which maintains good water quality, then knowing what the ammonia
level measures at is critical, to be sure that you have your water maintenance
schedule down, so that ammonia never shows up. If you are finding measurable
ammonia, then your 100% water change frequency is not frequent enough. Likewise,
should one of your bettas get sick, you quickly would want to rule out a water
quality problem. I think that it is important to have in addition to the ammonia
tester, testers for nitrites, nitrates and pH for this purpose. In one and 2-gallon
bowls, measurable nitrites means that a water change is way overdue, measurable
nitrates usually means that a water change is beyond way overdue. With the pH
tester, you will be looking for any unexpected change in pH level, especially
for a rapid lowering of pH or a "pH crash".
You definitely want to have testing equipment available when you undertake cycling, such as with the 3-gallon tanks and larger. The testing kit(s) to purchase should include testers for pH, ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. When using AmQuel® as a water conditioner be sure to get an ammonia tester that is compatible with AmQuel, that is, a salicylate-based tester, such as Aquarium Pharmaceutical's two-bottled tester for ammonia.
When using regular liquid AmQuel® as your water conditioner, it is helpful to know the KH (carbonate hardness) of your water to be sure that it is equal to 4 dKH (71.4 ppm) or greater in order to prevent pH crashes. You can buy a tester for KH but as only a one time measurement of your source water is needed, you may wish to have your local fish/pet store test your water for free. If your KH is less than 4 dKH, then you should use either AmQuel with Buffers (a dry product) & NovAqua® or Prime™ alone as your water conditioner(s).
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Where should I place my betta's bowl?
Place your betta near you so that you can enjoy
him and he you! This may sound like an odd question to ask and answer but there
is information on the 'net that says that your betta should be placed in a very
quiet, secluded corner because they can't handle the noise of being around people.
For the vast majority of bettas, this simply is not true! On the other hand,
you don't want to situate your betta in a spot where he is likely to be startled
with loud and sudden noises, such as right in front of the stereo speakers,
because this is likely to be stressful to him.
Do not place your betta's home in direct sunlight, as this may heat the water to such a high temperature that it could kill him. Likewise, placing a betta under an incandescent light bulb can heat the water up to dangerously high temperatures. Do not place a bowl or tank on television, stereo or computer equipment, as these also will heat up the bowl's water temperature. Conversely, avoid placing your betta near open windows or other drafty places that may blow cold air onto his bowl, lowering the water's temperature.
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Who are suitable tankmates for my betta?
The betta can make for a peaceful community
fish. Suitable tankmates are fish, who do not have long flowing fins, whom the
male betta might mistake for another male betta and want to pick a sizeable
fight with! Likewise, avoid fin-nipping fish, such as barbs (except the cherry
barb), who will harass and nip at a betta's long fins. Bettas are relatively
slow swimmers and cannot outrun those fish who want to harass them.
Compatibility between the betta and other fish ultimately depends upon the temperament of the fish involved. Most bettas are quite peaceful, though occasionally, you will run across one who will behave very aggressively with other fish or frogs, even killing them. This betta needs to live alone.
The following lists potential suitable tankmates for the betta, bearing in mind that their compatibility hinges upon the betta's and the tankmates' temperaments:
Molly (but not the sailfin type; however mollies need brackish water for optimum health and bettas are freshwater fish)
Guppy (but not the fancy tail type, which could be mistaken as another male betta)
Cherry barb ( but no other type of barb)
Cardinal/neon tetra (but tetras sometimes nip at a betta's fins and likewise, a betta will sometimes make a quick snack out of that little neon!)
White cloud minnow
Oto & Cory cats
African Dwarf Frog (but not an African Clawed frog, whom when grown up will be large enough to eat your betta! )
Never put two male bettas together as they will fight until one or both are injured or even dead! Housing male and female bettas together can also result in someone getting hurt or dying, not to mention producing unintended fry! Raising betta fry successfully, takes a lot of planning, hard work and expense on your part! During spawning, which can get very rough, the female can get "beaten up" badly, but likewise, she can turn right around and kill him! Housing many female bettas together may work but expect to see a pecking order take place. Sometimes, however female bettas can be every bit as nasty as the males and will fight viciously with each other and must be kept separately. You are much more likely to see harmony in the tank, if the females grew up together (i.e. from the same spawn) and if you stock them at 3 or more per proper-sized tank, to spread any aggression around, and provide lots of plants for the girls to take cover in.
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What and how much should I feed my betta?
are two simple rules to follow in order to keep your betta healthy: feed a variety
of foods and do not overfeed!
There are many foods, dried, frozen and live that your carnivorous (meat-eating) betta will enjoy. In terms of nutritional value, the dried foods are of moderate strength, the frozen are moderately high and the live foods are the highest.
The dried foods consist of such examples as freeze-dried bloodworms (gnat larvae) and Tetra's "Bloodworms" (mosquito larvae), various floating pellets and freeze-dried shrimp. The freeze-dried foods should be avoided because they can easily cause constipation and swimbladder problems in a betta. Hikari Betta Bio-Gold or HBH Betta Bites are popular pellets. Hikari Baby Cichlid pellets have the same composition as their Betta Bio-Gold product, yet the Cichlid pellets are much less expensive and so, for a much larger portion than their betta pellet counterpart. Be sure to get the "Baby" Cichlid pellets and not the "Mini" Cichlid pellets even though the "Mini" pellets look very small, they are still much too large to fit into a betta's tiny mouth. A few bettas will eat flake food but most will turn up their noses and give it the big *patouie*!
Frozen bloodworms and brine shrimp, purchased at your local fish store, are thawed, then rinsed off very well and your betta will eat them with great delight! Never refreeze these foods for later use. If there are leftovers, then throw them out. Live foods consist of various worms, such as the blackworm, as well as brine shrimp and wingless fruitflies. Live foods should be rinsed well before serving. I use water conditioned with AmQuel®, which removes chloramines and chlorine, when rinsing food. When feeding frozen and live foods, this is one time not to be thrifty! Discard all discolored worms or pieces and only feed plump, colorful and lively (if live) foods.
Some bettakeepers feed frozen peas (after being thawed, skinned and cut into a very tiny piece to fit into the betta's tiny mouth), spirulina flakes or fast their betta one day per week, especially if their betta is prone to constipation.
Bettas are surface feeders and their upturned mouths are designed perfectly for this!
I hold (frozen but thawed) bloodworms with tweezers at the water's surface and hand-feed my bettas in this manner. Spoiled or what?! ;) If bloodworms are just dropped into a tank, they will often quickly sink to the bottom before the betta can eat them and may fall between the cracks in the substrate and rot there. Always remove any uneaten food from your betta's home, as not doing so will foul the water. Something as simple as a new/never-used turkey baster can be used to suck up any uneaten bits of food that have fallen to the bottom.
Bettas have very small stomachs, so it is healthier to feed them frequent small meals rather than a large one once a day. Although many food packaging instructions indicate that you should feed your fish what it can eat in several minutes, this is too much food for many bettas and your betta will be headed for such health problems as constipation and a swimbladder disorder (buoyancy problems). As an example, I feed my bettas 3 Hikari Baby Cichlid pellets in the morning and 2-3 frozen bloodworms in the evening or sometimes, I feed 3 pellets one day and three bloodworms the next day and so on. The key is not to overfeed them. For the good health of your betta, you need to be strong and resist their eyes and tail wagging that begs you to feed them just a little more (or in some cases, a lot more!), as keeping their feeding to a minimum will result in their good health. In fact, skipping a day of feeding once in a while will have no harmful effects upon your betta. They can easily go without feeding should you leave them in the office or take a short trip over the weekend.
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How do I know if there's a problem with my betta?
day as you feed your betta, take a little time to inspect his body and fins…
notice what colors and spots are exactly where… get to know every little speck
of him. The reason to do this is so that you become very familiar with what
is "normal" for him. For it is only when you know what is normal for him that
you can easily recognize when something is abnormal. This will save you lots
of needless worry and anxiety about finding little things and wondering whether
they are something significant or not. For example, you will know that the yellowish
spot that you always see on his head is in fact part of his normal coloration
and not new or due to some disease process like Velvet.
If you do see any abnormal external signs, such as "grains of sugar" (Ich), yellowish/goldish powdery coating (Velvet), fuzzy patches (Flexibacter), red streaks or bloody splotches (septicemia), abdominal swelling with scales sticking out (dropsy), pop-eye or torn, ragged fins with an eaten away appearance (fin/tail rot), please go to the Flippers 'n' Fins' Emergency Room and post your specific problem there for treatment advice. Please answer the questions at the top of the forum in your post as this will provide the specific information that the moderators will need about your particular situation.
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How do I know if I'm buying a healthy betta?
When buying a male betta from a pet store, look for bettas that have strong color and are active in their little cups, swimming and flaring. Finding a bubblenest is usually a sign of good health, though not always. Next, look the betta's body and fins over very carefully. Look for signs of disease, such as "grains of sugar" (Ich), yellowish powdery coating (Velvet), fuzzy patches (Flexibacter), red streaks or bloody splotches (septicemia), abdominal swelling with scales sticking out (dropsy), pop-eye or torn, ragged fins with an eaten away appearance (fin/tail rot). Ask the pet store employees how long the bettas have been in their cups and how often the water has been changed to get an idea if the bettas are being poisoned by ammonia build-up. If they've been in the little cup for more than one day without a water change, then they are already facing toxic ammonia. Ask what food the bettas have been eating to find out if in fact they are eating or even being fed and ask the employee to allow you to feed the betta to check his appetite. Knowing which food he has been used to eating, may help you if you end up having problems getting your betta to eat when you take him home, because you can try the same food. Finally, ask how healthy this shipment of bettas has been and if any of them have needed to be medicated. Do not buy a betta that is lying in medicated water (blue water), unless you are prepared financially and emotionally to take care of a sick fish.
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Why isn't my betta eating?
There are many reasons why your betta may stop
If your betta is new, then sometimes he will not eat for several days, as he adjusts to his new home. If you bought your betta at a pet store, in which he was kept in a little cup, then he is most likely suffering from ammonia poisoning and it may take several days to a week or even longer for him to recover from this and regain his appetite. Some never do recover. The move itself from the pet store to your home is also stressful and may account for your betta's lack of appetite. It can be helpful to ask the pet store what food they had been feeding your betta and try to get him to eat the same (providing that he was being fed with proper foods in the first place), should he continue to refuse the betta foods that you are offering him.
Your betta could be a "picky" eater, preferring one type of pellet to another or bloodworms over pellets and so on. Most trouble will be encountered when trying to feed bettas flake food, which they generally turn their noses up at, though some will eat them.
When some bettas are kept in water that is too cold, that is, water temperatures that are <75ºF (24ºC) and certainly at temperatures <70ºF (21ºC), they may feed poorly and sometimes will refuse to eat completely. Your betta's water temperature must always be considered when he continues to refuse to eat and he is kept at temperatures less than 75ºF (24ºC). This would be the time for you to get him a small tank and a [heater] and warm him up into the betta's ideal water temperature range of 75-80ºF (24-27ºC) and see if he regains his old self.
Finally, bettas will stop eating when they are sick. Any water quality problem can result in your betta not eating. So, an unexpected change in pH or measurable ammonia and nitrites or very high nitrates can result in appetite problems. Be sure that your betta is in clean conditioned water of the proper temperature and inspect him for any outward signs of disease, such as "grains of salt" (Ich), yellowish powdery coating (Velvet), fuzzy patches (Flexibacter), red streaks or bloody splotches (septicemia), abdominal swelling with scales sticking out (dropsy), pop-eye or torn, ragged fins with an eaten away appearance (fin/tail rot). If you find any of these problems, please go to the Flippers 'n' Fins' Emergency Room and post your specific problem there for treatment advice. Please answer the questions at the top of the forum in your post as this will provide the specific information that the moderators will need about your particular situation.
Always remember that any uneaten food will foul the water, so if he doesn't eat his food, then you need to remove it. A new/never-seen-soap turkey baster comes in handy for this task.
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Why does my betta puff out his face & gills sometimes?
When a male betta becomes confronted by another male, he responds by flaring out the gill covers (operculum) and showing the underlying branchiostegal membrane (that beard thingy!) to his competitor. Flaring makes him appear larger and more fierce to his would-be aggressor than he would otherwise look. My male bettas flare at their food, at each other and often enough at me too! Males will flare at females as part of the courting behavior during spawning. Females sometimes will flare too. Besides flaring, you will also notice that the male holds his fins very erect and wide open and that he wiggles his body back and forth really fast.
Male Betta Flaring
I have found that my bettas love to flare at objects colored red, so pointing a red pen always seems to do the trick for my boys, making them flare like crazy! Sometimes a betta can see a red or other object from his bowl and will flare away like a madman until the bettakeeper figures out what the offending item is and removes it from his view! Bettas will even flare at their own reflection on the tank wall, which they can more easily see when the tank lights are on and the room lights are off.
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Will I hurt my betta by exercising him too much with a mirror?
not, though many bettakeepers are fearful that prolonged flaring
is stressful to a betta. If you "exercise" your betta daily by placing a mirror
so that he can see his reflection, so that he thinks there is another male threatening
his territory, then it is probably most wise to limit the flaring to only several
minutes. A betta in a small container does not have the same escape routes available
to him as a betta in the wild might, so it conceivably may be stressful.
However, not all bettakeepers believe that it is harmful to allow their bettas to flare a lot as they let their male bettas live in bowls or tanks side by side and I fall within this group. Granted in this situation, the first few days are filled with quite a bit of flaring, but after that, things calm down as each male gets accustomed to his neighbor and then there is just the occasional displaying for each other.
You can always take a middle-of-the-road approach to exercising your bettas. One way to do so is by placing an object between two betta bowls, such as a vase, so that most of their view of each other is obstructed, but not completely so. There remains then a few spots from within each bowl, where they can see each other and flare away and when they have had enough fun, they can then retreat to the "protected" areas within their homes.
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What is that bubbly white foam floating on my betta's water?
That would be called a bubblenest! The male betta builds a bubblenest in order to be prepared to house eggs, should a willing female happen by. However, male bettas do not have to reproduce with a female betta in order to have a "happy" life.
Wow! Now THIS is a bubblenest!!
A bubblenest is a cluster of bubbles that the male blows onto the water's surface. He takes air into his mouth and coats it with a special mucous and then blows that bubble up into the cluster. During spawning, the male will retrieve the fertilized eggs from the bottom with his mouth and blow them into the nest, where he will tend to them until they become free swimming fry.
At water changing time, don't be too upset when you destroy his bubblenest because if you keep him healthy with the basics of good water quality and a good diet, then he will simply blow another one. While building a bubblenest is generally considered to be a sign of good health, there certainly are bettas who are quite healthy who don't build them and bettas who are very sick, who will build them, often as they are beginning to get better.
If you see a thin greasy film on the water's surface, this is most likely an oil slick!
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Can I keep a betta healthy in a peace lily vase?
for you for finding this page! I'll assume that you bought or are about to make
a peace lily with a betta in a vase set-up and want to know how to take care
of your betta properly. I will say up front that I am not an advocate of this
set up, as typically the vases that are used are too small and the instructions
for care of the betta, which are passed along, are incorrect. That said, it
can be done properly.
First, the vase must be at least a one-gallon size as anything smaller leads to a quicker decline in water quality and does not allow the betta enough room to swim. It is a myth that the betta prefers to be kept in small, cramped quarters. Likewise, be sure that the bottom one half of the roots are cut off so that he has ample swimming room within the vase.
Next, insert a straw in an inconspicuous spot between the plastic cup holding the plant and the vase to allow air to exchange between the outside and the inside of the vase. This is important because a betta breathes atmospheric air, with a special organ called the labyrinth organ, at the water's surface. If the cup is lifted up daily to feed your betta, then this will replenish the space between the water's surface and the cup with fresh air, making the straw unnecessary. Also, the roots must never be so thick upon the surface of the water that the betta cannot reach his way to the surface to take a "gulp" (breath) of air or he will drown. :(
Your betta must be fed with foods appropriate for bettas. It is a myth that the betta will live off the roots of the peace lily or any other plant. It is true enough that if you starve your betta by not feeding him properly, that he may resort to eating the roots. However, he is a carnivore (meat-eater), so eating the plant roots will not sustain him for long. It can take a betta 1-2 months or even longer to starve to death, so if you think that your betta is doing just fine after not being fed for one month, take a minute to reconsider his situation. The betta, like all creatures, deserve to be fed properly and if they aren't, then their lives will be shortened. A betta should live on average for two years and many live quite a bit longer.
It is a myth that the plant cleanses the water of all the betta's waste, making water changes unnecessary. Your betta needs clean "conditioned" water of an appropriate temperature on a regular basis. Please, check out how to perform water changes with a betta.
Please help our little finned friends from such tortures as starvation and filthy water and share this information with someone who owns or makes the betta with a peace lily set-up. Thank you for wanting to learn more about how to properly care for a betta!
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Author: Dr. Barb
Copyright © 2003 Flippers 'n' Fins. All rights reserved.
Revised: May 13, 2005.