The Complete Betta Fish Care Guide: All You Need To Know

Betta fish are one of the most popular fish in the world.

Whether it’s because of their vivid appearance or energetic behavior, these small beauties never fail to impress.

Although it may seem like these species will be easy to care for, this is unfortunately not the truth. Contrary to the popular belief, they require lots of care.

This should not scare you though.

With our detailed and comprehensive article, you will be fully equipped to handle even the most intimidating maintenance tasks when it comes to Betta Fish. Keep on reading and see for yourself.

How to Care for a Betta Fish (Overview)

How To Care For Bettas

First and foremost, you need to fully understand how important the water environment is to the well-being of your Betta.

These fish are capable of surviving a range of different environments in the wild but you should never underestimate the importance of keeping water parameters consistent. Sudden or frequent changes in temperature, can hurt their health.

Another key factor for their health is nutrition. Just like any other fish, a balanced diet can singlehandedly improve or completely deteriorate their health.

Other things that you might not consider that significant at first include the tank setup and position. This might seem like something very basic, but don’t let that confuse you. By following these easy steps you will be able to ensure a comfortable and safe living environment for Bettas.

Let’s start by looking at how to correctly set up the tank.

How to Set Up Your Betta Fish Tank

Set Up Betta Tank

The most important part of any setup is the tank itself.

You will need to choose the right tank, but you also need to know how to pick the right equipment, prepare the aquarium and set it up.

Let’s start with picking the right tank. This will depend on how many Betta Fish you are planning to keep. The minimum tank size for a Betta Fish is 5 gallons, but you should research your specific breed.

Once you have got your tank you will need to set it up. Avoid placing it under direct sunlight, like near a window. Lots of noise will also stress your fish, so the best place for your tank is a dimmed and quiet part of your home.

After the tank is in position, you need to consider the necessary equipment. Betta Fish really enjoy light, and for that reason the aquarium must be well lit. However intensive lighting can promote the growth of algae, to avoid this try using luminescent or LED lamps.

A filter and heater are essential for your Betta tank too. A normal internal adjustable power filter is an ideal solution. You can easily regulate it, adjusting the intensity of flow to make the tank comfortable.

Betta fish are used to living in tropical waters in Asia, and so you will need to use a heater to warm the water too. You can use a small fully submersible one. The best water temperature for Betta fish is between 75.2-80.5°F.

What about the substrate? First, a universal rule of choosing the right substrate applies. Carefully wash it and get rid of sharp granules, so it stays nice and smooth. In terms of the type, the finer the better. Coarse and sharp gravel can damage your fish, so choosing sand or fine gravel is ideal.

Aquarium decorations and plants must be chosen with care. Remember that anything you put into the tank influences the lifespan of your fish. All decorations should have a marking saying that they are aquarium.

Now that you have all the components in place. It’s time to set the tank up.

Test your waters over the next few weeks and once the tank has completed a full cycle, it’s time to add your Betta.

Just check that the recommended ranges are: 75.2-80.5°F, 6-8 pH and 5-35 dGH.

How to Care for Betta Fish

Male Betta

Now the aquarium is setup, to give your Betta the best possible life you will need to know:

  • What to feed them
  • When to change the tank water
  • How to maintain the tank
  • And how to choose the best tank mates

We are going to talk you through step by step how to do that.

What Do Betta Fish Eat

Betta Fish are an incredible looking species. Their bright colors and diverse appearance is ultimately what makes them so popular worldwide. To keep them looking colorful and bright however, a healthy and consistent diet is required.

To best understand what to feed them it’s a good idea to look at their natural environment. Their natural habitats are diverse and warm basins in Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.

These waters are usually filled with numerous invertebrates, insects, and other small organisms. Betta Fish are carnivores that live up to their name.

In the tank you can easily recreate these conditions. Given the popularity of Bettas, finding suitable foods is not a problem. There are many different options to choose from. One of the most popular choices is flakes.

This types of foods can save you a lot of time. If you are just starting out, premade foods can help you avoid all the hassle associated with preparing live foods.

If you want to treat them, their diet can also include both frozen and dry foods.

They can be fed brine shrimp or bloodworms – by far the most popular choices for Bettas.

Because these fish are so small yet so active, they can often end up eating more than they can digest. If you notice that your fish looks exhausted or starts swimming in a strange way, don’t feed them for a day.

To avoid overfeeding pay close attention to how much you feed Bettas. Normally, adults should be fed twice a day. If you are using premade foods, the portion should be about a pinch or enough to fit on the tip of a knife. They should be able to eat all their feed in 5 minutes.

Betta Fish Tank Mates

Betta Tank Mates

Unfortunately the appearance of these fish comes at a price – they rarely get along with each other, let alone other species. Male Bettas are very territorial and often end up fighting each other.

Because of their combative nature, it’s recommended to keep only one male to a tank.

Alternatively, you can get a two female Bettas and a male.

It’s much easier to say what fish should be avoided rather than name the ones they can be kept with. First, definitely cross all peaceful and tiny fish off the list right away.

Fish that have large flowing tails should also be avoided like Guppies. Other fish that should be avoided are Oscars, Parrotfish, Killifish or Acaras, to name just a few.

Compatible fish include Poecilia, Black Tetras, Bloodfin Tetras, Catfish, Croaking Gouramis and Rasboras.

You need to take extreme caution when picking tank mates to ensure best possible conditions for every fish. Apart from simple compatibility, also check the required conditions for every fish beforehand. Some of them might require a specific volume or water conditions that differ from what Bettas need. This can narrow down your list quite a bit. But usually, the larger the tank, the bigger the choice.

Tank Maintenance

Consistent water parameters are the cornerstone of any successful aquarium. You need to make sure that they are all kept within a suitable range (at all times) and don’t jump around.

Any sudden or prolonged change can lead to sickness. So it’s in your best interest to keep the water conditions stable and healthy.

This can be done through a variety of ways. One of the best habits you can develop is to measure water parameters every few weeks.

It is also a good habit to do daily health checks each time you feed your fish. Check the equipment is all functioning, that the water temperature is correct and that the fish are well.

Water renewals are another very important aspect of maintenance. Imagine being in one room with closed windows and breathing the same air for a week or two. That is what fish feel when you let your aquarium just live its own life.

In their habitat, fish depend on natural circulation to take care of that. In the aquarium, you take the role of nature. About 25% of water in the tank should be renewed weekly to ensure that conditions are stable.

Use a gravel siphon to clean the gravel once a fortnight and an algae magnet to remove any algae build up.

Once every few months, you will also need to change the filter media.

Betta Fish Disease

Common Betta Fish Diseases

Although Bettas are true warriors, they are not invincible. They can get sick from time to time but looking after their tank will help minimize the risk.

The most common issue is the infection that starts to develop after a cut. With Bettas this is very common as these tiny soldiers will often have combat scars that can lead to all sorts of nasty infections.

It’s usually sharp substrate that causes this, so make sure that it’s smooth and safe for the fish. The same goes for any decorations that you put in the tank.

Most other diseases develop when the water is not kept clean. For example, fin rot is common with these fish. This is a bacterial infection that will cause inflammation and irritation.

Fin rot can also be caused by introducing bacteria into the tank. It can end up in the aquarium with new aquarium equipment that you bought from someone or poorly cleaned substrate. However, fin rot can also be a symptom for other diseases.

If that happens you should treat it as soon as possible. The sooner you start the recovery process and medication the better.

Another disease, although you may not consider it one at first, is overfeeding. If not spotted it can lead to problems with the digestive system that can ultimately lead to the death of the fish.

If you find your fish overeating, just give it a day to process all the food. However, if that does not help, it could be the diet itself. Take a look at their ration and make sure that everything they eat is good quality and appropriate.

5 Interesting Betta Fish Facts

  1. Betta Fish have a unique labyrinth breathing organ that allows them to take in oxygen from the air, just like humans do.
  2. In their native Thailand they are being promoted for the rank of the national fish.
  3. You already know how pretty their tails can be, but did you know that there are actually multiple types? They are all shaped differently and include veil-like tails, halfmoon, crown-tails and flag-tails as well as others.
  4. When Bettas are threatened they will stick out their gill covers and expand all their fins to make them look bigger and more intimidating.
  5. During the breeding period, when Bettas become very exalted, their coloring becomes brighter and looks more saturated – possibly a way to notify females of their intention.

Betta Care Sheet

Care Guide: Betta
Minimum tank size 5 Gallons
Diet Carnivore (frozen/dry foods, granules/flakes)
Lifespan 3 years
Size 2.5-3 inches
Disease The common ones include fin rot, overfeeding, white spot disease, lymphocystis and hypodynamia
Decorations Allowed (carefully placed live plants)
To-do checklist Weekly water renewal (25%) and daily maintenance tasks

Betta Fish Care FAQs

How To Take Care of a Betta Fish in a Bowl?

Although it might be tempting to keep Bettas in a bowl, it’s not a good choice.

Instead you should get them a larger tank that is at least 5 gallons.

Summary

Betta Fish are very exciting fish to keep and will bring life to virtually any tank. Their appearance will impress anyone and in good conditions their lifespan is 3 years.

These fish are not the most demanding, but they are definitely among the most beautiful ones.

Apart from frequently renewing water in the tank, you don’t need to do too much to keep them happy. Looking after the water composition is key to maintaining their bright appearance.

Also remember to pay close attention to their diet to keep them healthy.

Have you ever owned a Betta? Let us know in the comments section below…

Robert Woods Portrait
Robert Woods is the creator of FishKeeping World, a third generation fish keeper and a graduate in animal welfare and behavior. He is also a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America and the Nature Conservancy.

5 Comments

  1. You wrote that you can alternatively keep two females and a male. Did you mean in place of a single male or in addition to? I’m fairly certain you meant in place of but if I’m wrong let me know!

  2. I have a black orchid male named eggplant. I have him in a one gallon tank with heater and filter. I change the water once a week. Sometimes twice a week. He gets sluggish before a water change. When I do the water change he gets excited. Starts making bubbles. Is it OK to do a water change twice a week?

    • Hi Linda, Let me advice you to move him to a 5 gallon tank. A one gallon tank really isn’t big enough for any fish. You’ll then also only need to do one water change a week too. He probably becomes sluggish because the nitrates build up in the water because it is such as small space. Thanks, Robert

  3. My juvenile male half-moon betta peacefully co-exists with my fancy guppies. I was only going to have guppies in this particular tank (29 gallon) but when I saw “Moonshine” (he’s platinum) trying to jump out of the sad little cup he was it, I was smitten. I had done some research, and half-moon bettas are less aggressive and can be in a tank with guppies. He and his tank mates are fine; maybe because it’s a big planted tank, but Moonshine is young, (the same size as the guppies) and just flares at his own reflection, and doesn’t bother the guppies at all!

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