Beautiful Betta Fish Your First Aquarium Fish

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The Betta Splendens or 'fighting fish' are some of the easiest fishes to keep as pets. Some simple rules for keeping them will ensure their long life and happiness.


Betta Splendens, Fighting Betta Fish

Beautiful Betta Fish: Your First Aquarium Fish. Also called “Chinese Fighting fish”, these easy to care for, splendid freshwater fish can survive in smaller albeit temporary containers, and they make excellent “first fish” for the novice hobbyist.

Betta, The Perfect Starter Fish

Look at these splendid colors and that tailfin! Few freshwater fish are this colorful. This one looks more like a marine fish, coral or a deep sea anemone.

Betta, the perfect starter fish for the freshwater aquarium enthusiast

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Owning one or more of the hardy and reliant betta fish often leads the amateur fish hobbyist to move towards larger aquariums with their fish where they will discover increasing joy from their chosen hobby.

Even these easy to care for fish require some correct attention though. Over-feeding can be a common mistake. Betta have a very tiny stomach, -about the same size as their eye. Only a small pinch of food is required daily. Or you can even feed every second day to be sure. You only want enough food that they can clean-up in about a five minute period. Much more than that, it won’t be eaten and will just pollute the tank or bowl. Underfeeding a better seems unlikely to occur. If there are live aquatic plants in the Betta’s tank or bowl, they can forage a bit from that and not go hungry.

Bettas are territorial and males need to not be kept with other males. But you can keep bettas with other fish such as catfish, mollies, red-tailed shark, zebra danio, clown loach and larger gouramis fish. Slower fish will be harassed by the male betta, nipping and biting.

Female bettas can be kept together if housed in a large enough aquarium. A ten gallon tank at least (preferably larger) can suffice at least five female bettas. Fewer than this, they might still establish a ‘pecking order’ and be aggressive. Five or more will be enough to maintain confusion over whom is the dominate female of the tank. These females should be of around the same age and size, and introduced to the tank at the same time for if introduced few at a time, the current resident female(s) will have already established hierarchy and they will gang-up and harass the newcomer relentlessly.

Glorious Colors on Betta Fish

Betta Fish in freshwater aquarium

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Bettas do not require heated or water filtration of their tank or bowl, but can certainly benefit from these add-ons in a larger tank environment. The ability of the betta to take gulps of atmospheric air makes them able to survive in smaller bowls but don’t confuse ‘survive in a smaller bowl’ with ability to thrive. Betta’s are happier, healthier and will live longer in a larger tank. Even though they are hardy and can withstand environmental factors of confinement that would choke other fish it does not mean that they enjoy being so kept.

Changing the water of the bowl at least weekly is a good practice. Many betta enthusiasts will prefer to change the water of their betta tanks in increments, siphoning-off about half the water and replacing just that amount, to avoid temperature or re-acclimation shock. A betta so cared for can live for perhaps four years although many hobbyists just catch-up their betta in a cup of tank water and exchange the entire volume of the bowl with fresh, and use a water treatment chemical available at any pet store with every change. This is to neutralize any chlorine in the tap water. It also coats the fish with a natural slime that safeguards it, and also protects against any accidental scrapes, cuts or injuries (torn fin, etc) that the fish may incur. Generally, about 5mL of this preparation is enough to treat a half U.S. gallon of water. Often the product is dispensed based upon ‘capful’ measurements of the bottle packing, making dosing the correct amount per volume of water easier.

A Coy Koi? No, -it is a Better Betta!

betta fish, looks like a Japanese Koi pond fish

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The substrate of a betta tanks or bowl should be smooth pebbles or glass marbles suitable for the delicate fins. Any sharp edges can cut and tear their fins, detracting from the beauty of the fish and causing a potential for infection by bacteria. Commercially available plastic aquarium plants can have unusually sharp edges which can damage the delicate and trailing veil of fins and tail of the delicate betta. Care should be observed if using plastic plants in your aquarium. Examine all edges and stems of the artificial plants closely before use to ensure that the edges of the plastic plants are perfect and do not have hangnails, barbs or other sharp points on them.

Betta Fish Bubble Nest

Betta fish bubble nest, freshwater aquarium

Image via Wikipedia

A betta fish with a ‘bubble nest.’ Males build these floating nests in the hopes of attracting a female.

It could be preferred to only use real aquarium plants which not only help to clean and absorb nitrates from the water, they provide food for the nibbling fish but also are more realistic to both the fish and the hobbyist alike.

Betta Fish Fins Like a Geisha’s Fan

Betta Fish

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Betta fish come in many different colors, with red, blue and green being the more common. Through combinations of these colors and patterns,other colors are noted, making every betta fish a unique and special gem. The varying patterns seem endless, and the varying shapes of their fins and tails add to the allure of this amazing fresh-water fish. Some hobbyists breed their own bettas and others introduce bettas that are captured in the wild. This has the added benefit of introducing new lines into the gene pool, which is good for the domestic population. Unlike many captive-bred reptiles where line-breeding (breeding siblings together, or the breeding of offspring/parent) is rampant and can cause problems with the long-term health, appearance and longevity of the progeny. In this betta’s tailfin (above) I see an ornate geisha’s fan, -what do you see?

This Betta Looks Like a Coelacanth

Betta Fish

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Does this betta not resemble the ancient coelacanth, a Lazarus taxon of the ancient and presumed extinct deep marine fish? Coelacanth were deemed to be extinct since the Cretaceous era but these large fish were-rediscovered in 1938 off the eastern coast of South Africa and have since been found off other coasts as well.

Aside from the diminutive size difference of the betta compared to the nearly 2m (6.5 ft) long coelacanth, their shapes here are outwardly rather similar. A Coelacanth (dead or alive) is highly prized by the scientific community for its rarity, these fish are of no commercial use for people. Critically threatened due to their low numbers in the ocean, they are more-or-less safe from us at least. Their flesh exudes unpalatable oil which taints the tough meat, making it inedible. Supposedly, the extinct dodo bird had a similar defense. Their flesh too had a fatty, oily secretion which rendered their meat unpalatable to the Dutch sailors whom happened upon these slow-moving flight birds. The Colossal and Giant squid also have an unpalatable defense; their bodies contain amounts of ammonium which makes their flesh very unpleasant to humans. Whales seem to covet the taste of these mysterious deep-sea squid however.

Variations of Betta Fish Fins

Betta Fish close-up of dorsal fins

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Bettas love a treat called ‘blood worms’ which are really dried mosquito larvae, available at any pet store. These should be given as treats to your betta and handled with tweezers, never by direct contact with your skin. They contain substances that can irritate the skin, especially so in certain people that react adversely to mosquito bites. Handling bloodworms is like being bitten by a live mosquito but imagine then touching your face or eyes accidentally after handling these.

I have heard of people that monitor and maintaining a bucket of water on porches or balconies to attract mosquitoes which will lay eggs in the water, and use this as a ‘feeding station’ for their bettas. In Thailand they raise Bettas in bowls, vases, whatever holds water and mosquitoes would probably be a common occurrences in these hatching tanks. Here around the Great Lakes myself I would be worried about the mosquitoes maturing and escaping as full-fledged adults and the disease they carry. With all the trouble concerning West Nile Virus and other such mosquito-borne disease I don’t feel that venture is worth the risk.