If you’ve gone into any pet store, you’ve seen the brightly colored betta fish swimming around all alone in their little bowls. The reason they are alone is that their other name is the Siamese Fighting Fish; these aquatic pets don’t get along well with others, so they are happy to live their lives in solitude. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to have this type of pet, read on for information on how to care for your betta fish.
How to Set Up for Your Betta Fish
- Purchase an appropriate aquarium. Although you will likely purchase your fish in a small plastic or glass container, he will do much better if he has more room. Purchase a one- or two-gallon fish tank or find another container that holds at least a gallon of water. A tank under 2.5 gallons should not have a heater or a filter. Larger tanks require a heater and a filter. You will need a vacuum to clean out the tank, too.
- Choose the right location for your fish tank. Choosing a good location for your fish tank is important because the wrong location could expose your new pet to heat, drafts, or stress.
- Do not place the aquarium too close to a window because it can get too hot from the sunlight coming in or too cold if there is a draft.
- Keep the tank away from radiators or other sources of heat. Again, the tank should not get too warm.
- Choose a stable, flat surface that won’t get hit when people or other pets walk by. Placing the table or desk against a wall will add more stability and prevent too much jostling.
- Pick a location where you can sit comfortably and look at your fish. Putting your betta fish in an out-of-the-way area won’t allow you to enjoy him.
- Set up the habitat to be comfortable for your betta fish. Your fish will want to hide sometimes, so a cave or a plastic plant can provide him with a place to have some alone time. Aquarium rocks or glass marbles will help anchor the accessories in place and will also add some sparkle or color to your fish’s environment. Don’t give your betta fish a roommate, because he won’t be friendly and could end up hurting or killing another fish.
How to Feed Your Betta Fish
- Feed your fish the right amount of food. The amount of food that your betta fish can eat in one day is about the size of her eyeball. So take a look at your pet’s eye and give her a pinch of food that is smaller than that. Even if she eats it all in a couple of minutes, that’s enough food. If she’s not eating it all within five minutes, scoop out the excess food and feed her less next time.
- Feed your fish every day. You’ll want to feed her daily, but if you skip a day here and there, that’s okay. If you go on vacation for a week, you will certainly need to have someone come in to feed your fish every other day or so, but if you are going away from home overnight, she’ll be fine without food until you get back. Don’t feed her extra before you go or when you get back. Stick to the same amount even if you skipped a day.
- Vary your pet’s diet. Betta fish should not eat the same food every day. At least weekly, give her something that’s different from her normal diet. You can also choose two or three different foods and alternate them each day. Here are some ideas that can be found at your local pet store:
- Dried or frozen bloodworms.
- Brine shrimp.
- Fruit flies without wings or fruit fly larvae.
- Tiny pieces of frozen beef heart (this should be a rare treat).
- Avoid feeding your betta fish only pellets or dried flakes. While these are okay some of the time, they’re not a healthy diet for every single day. If you do feed dried foods, soak them first before putting them in the tank for your fish to eat.
How to Safely Move Your Betta Fish
- Only pick up your fish when absolutely necessary. The only time you should be moving your fish is if you need to take him out of the tank to clean his tank or if you have to transfer him to a different tank for some reason.
- Prepare an appropriate temporary container. If you are going to clean his tank, scoop some of the dirty water out of the tank and place it in a large mug that’s dedicated to your fish or another similar container. Make sure the container is tall enough so your fish can’t jump out. To be extra safe, cover the container with a plate.
- Use a net or cup to scoop up the fish. Purchase a fish net to catch your aquatic friend. You can also try a plastic cup. Move quickly but gently to scoop him up and be careful not to pinch any part of him between the net or cup and the side of the tank.
- If your pet gets scared, try again later. If your fish starts darting around the tank trying to get away from you, wait a few minutes, then try again. He’s at a greater risk of injury if he’s trying to get away from the net. Within a few minutes, he’ll be calm enough to try again.
How to Clean Your Fish’s Aquarium
- Prepare the replacement water. The day before you are going to clean your fish’s aquarium, fill an empty water jug with tap water. Leave the top off so any chlorine that’s present in your tap water will evaporate. Keep the jug in the same area as your fish tank so the water will be the same temperature as the water in the tank. Let it sit overnight.
- Gather your supplies. You’ll need some supplies at hand so you can get the job done quickly and efficiently. They are:
- A siphon.
- A bucket.
- A sponge or algae pad. (Don’t use an old kitchen sponge; you need one that has never had detergent on it.)
- An aquarium vacuum.
- Distilled water.
- An aquarium testing kit to check for nitrates in the water.
- Determine whether you need to move your fish. If you are diligent about cleaning your fish tank each week and you don’t feed her too much, it’s likely that you will rarely have to move your fish to clean the tank. If the water is very dirty, however, it’s best to take her out for a little while. Use your fish net and be careful as described in the section above.
- Remove some of the water. For a routine cleaning, taking out approximately 20 percent of the water is sufficient. A dirty tank or one that has high nitrate levels will need about half of the water removed. Take out the water by siphoning into an empty bucket. Be careful not to siphon your fish into the bucket!
- Clean the sides of the aquarium. Use the sponge or algae pad to clean the sides of the aquarium. Don’t add any detergent or cleaner; just use the pad itself.
- Vacuum the gravel or marbles. Use your aquarium vacuum to clean up the rocks or marbles. You can push the vacuum into the bottom of the tank to stir up any sediment and waste. If the rocks are very small and might be sucked into the vacuum, just use your finger to gently stir up the rocks so the sediment floats up, then suck it up with the vacuum a half-inch or so above the rocks.
- Wash any decorations or accessories in the tank. Take out the plants, cave, and any other decorations and wash them in plain water. Don’t use detergent. Rinse them off with distilled water.
- Add new water. Once the aquarium is clean, you can carefully add the water you have prepared.
- Test the water and remedy as needed. Test the water to be sure that the nitrate level is not high. If it is, you might need to remove some of the water and add more prepared water.
How to Tell If Your Betta Fish Is Happy and Healthy
- Check your betta fish’s color. As your fish gets older or if he gets sick, his color might fade. If you notice the color fading and you have only had him a short time, it’s possible that he might be ill.
- Evaluate your betta fish’s activity level. If you wiggle your finger in front of your fish (on the outside of the tank), does he swim back and forth to interact with you? Is he swimming around in the tank near the middle or bottom? A fish who is swimming up near the top, particularly if he is putting his mouth to the top of the water, might be in distress.
- Look for bumps, torn fins, and other physical changes. Your fish shouldn’t have lumps or bumps on his body. Also, his fins and tail should remain roughly the same. If it looks like pieces of his tail or fins are coming off or tearing, that is a sign that he’s not healthy. Other signs of poor health include a white film or white dots on the fish, colored streaks that were not there before, and a swollen body. Test the water to see if the wrong pH or high ammonia levels are causing the problem.
- Take your fish to the vet if you are worried. It might sound funny to take a fish to the vet, but your veterinarian will be able to diagnose what’s wrong with your fish in many cases.
Your betta fish will probably live two to three years or longer; there are even some who have lived past the age of ten years old! With proper care, you will be able to enjoy your pet for a long while.