The Ultimate Betta Fish Care Guide

Introduction

Betta fish are one of the most popular fish in the aquarium hobby and for a good reason. They don't need a huge tank as oscars do, they are easy to take care of, and they have amazing personalities and colors. Being so popular also makes them one of the most mistreated fish in the hobby. In this article, you will learn how to give your little friend the care he or she deserves.

Care Level: Easy

Temperament: Peaceful if put with the right tankmates, but can be aggressive to other fish with long fins and other betta fish

Lifespan: 3-5 years in the right conditions

Size: Up to 3 inches

Diet: Carnivore

Schooling Fish: No

Bioload/Waste Level: Low

Family: Osphronemidae

Scientific Name: Betta Splendens

Minimum Tank Size: 5 Gallons

Tank Mates: Small peaceful fish and inverts, no fin nippers or large fish


Overview

Let me just start off by saying that even though betta fish are very hearty, they still need steady water parameters and at least a 5-gallon tank. Like other fish, bettas are sensitive to sudden temperature changes so keeping a consistent temperature is important. Another thing that is important is feeding your betta a balanced diet. Betta fish are carnivores and need a diet that contains a lot of protein. Making sure that your tank is set up correctly is the first step towards giving your betta a happy life.


Appearance and Types

Veiltail:

Fins: Flowing fins that come down and trail behind the fish

Aggressiveness (as far as bettas go): Low

Description:

These are the most common tail type of betta fish available in the aquarium hobby. They have many different colors and patterns so you can pick one you really like. Bettas generally are bad swimmers, but the longer tail types such as veiltails have an even harder time swimming. So long as your rate of flow in low your betta should swim just fine.


Crowntail:

Fins: Less webbing between the fin rays that creates a spikey look.

Aggressiveness (as far as bettas go): Medium

Description:

Crowntails, in my opinion, are some of the most amazing bettas in the world. The webbing on their tails is reduced to about half a normal betta's. Crowntails are stronger swimmers than veiltails but still like a low flow rate. These fish can be more aggressive than veiltails, but usually, it depends on the betta's parents. Crowntails are more delicate than veiltails so it is important to keep the water conditions very good.


Plakat:

Fins: Short fins, less fancy fins

Aggressiveness (as far bettas go): High

Description:

These bettas are pretty similar to their wild ancestors. In Southeast Asia, these fish were bred for fighting so they have larger bodies than the other types with much shorter fins. Even though these fish were not bred for their colors, you can still find them in some amazing colors and patterns such as the Koi Plakat Betta. Plakat bettas are stronger swimmers than other bettas such as veiltails but are also known to jump a lot more than other bettas. They are also more aggressive and slightly more active than the other types, so they benefit from a 10-gallon tank.


Halfmoon:

Fins: Flowing fins with a 180-degree tail

Aggressiveness (as far bettas go): Medium

Description:

Halfmoon bettas have big tail fins that spread 180 degrees. Their tails are rounded and large witch makes them appear bigger than some of the other bettas on this list. In general, all of the fins on this type are larger than normal. They can be more aggressive than veiltails, but yet again most of the time a fish's aggressiveness depends on his or her parents.


Dumbo:

Fins: Large, ruffled pectoral fins, can be found in any tail type, but are most commonly found in Halfmoon

Aggressiveness (as far bettas go): Medium

Description:

Dumbo bettas, also known as Elephant ear bettas, have large, ruffled pectoral fins. They are normally found with a halfmoon tail. Bettas do most of their swimming with their pectoral fins because their long tails make it hard to swim with their tails. This makes a swimming dumbo a sight to see. Dumbo bettas are hard to find in local fish stores so you may need to look online or from someone who breeds dumbo bettas.


Halfmoon Plakat:

Fins: Slightly larger fins than Plakats, the tail makes a Halfmoon

Color: Comes in all colors

Aggressiveness (as far bettas go): High

Description:

Halfmoon plakats have all the characteristics of a normal plakat except for the fact that they have a 180-degree tail. Like plakats, they are aggressive, active, and good jumpers. This means that they need a bigger tank like plakats and have to have a tight lid.


Double Tail:

Fins: Two tail fins that split at the base

Color: Comes in all colors

Aggressiveness (as far bettas go): Depends on the individual fish

Description:

Double tails are some of the most unique betta fish out there. They have one fin that goes up and one that goes down. These fish are a result of a genetic mutation found in all bettas. This does not harm the fish and they can be found in all tail types.


Rosetail:

Fins: Halfmoon tail with extra rays and ruffled edges

Color: Comes in all colors

Aggressiveness (as far bettas go): Medium

Description:

Rosetails are essentially the same fish as halfmoons except that they have extra rays in their fins which gives their fins a more ruffled look. While these extra rays make the fish look amazing, there are a few downsides to these larger fins. Rosetail bettas are prone to getting their fins snagged on decorations so it is important to make sure that there are no sharp edges in your tank. These bettas are also known to bite their own tails which is bad for the health of your betta. One last thing that rosetails do is break off some of the rays on their tails. All of these things can cause your betta to be more prone to infections and could possibly shorten your fish's life span. Rosetails can also come at a higher price than more common bettas and can have a shorter lifespan due to the fact that they are bred for the tail and not for the durability.


Over Halfmoon:

Fins: Has a Halfmoon tail that goes over 180-degrees

Color: Comes in all colors

Aggressiveness (as far bettas go): Medium

Description:

Over Halfmoon bettas have the same tail shape as the halfmoon bettas, but their tail spreads more than 180-degrees which gives them a very impressive tail. Other than that, all their fins are the same as the halfmoon's.


Feathertail:

Fins: Very ruffled tail fins

Color: Comes in all colors

Aggressiveness (as far bettas go): Medium

Description:

Feathertail bettas are very similar to the rosetail bettas since they have extra rays. One thing that makes them different is that they have webbing on their tails that gives thew a ruffled or feather look. They share all of the weaknesses of a rosetail and can be hard to find.


Combtail:

Fins: Has a tail similar to the Crowntail, but with more webbing

Color: Comes in all colors

Aggressiveness (as far bettas go): Medium

Description:

Combtail bettas are crowntail bettas with more webbing thein between their rays. Instead of the webbing going down about halfway, it only goes down a quarter of the way. They can be a bit hard to come by, but if you can get your hands on one, they are a sign to see.


Deltatail:

Fins: A cross between a Veiltail and Crowntail, the tail fin goes out into a triangle

Color: Comes in all colors

Aggressiveness (as far bettas go): Depends on the individual fish

Description:

A deltatail betta has a triangular tail that is smaller near the body and widens out the farther you get from the back of the fish. Deltatail bettas get their name because of the triangular shape that looks like the Greek letter delta. These fish are thought to be a cross between a halfmoon and a veiltail.


Half Sun:

Fins: Halfmoon tail with fringe spikes

Color: Comes in all colors

Aggressiveness (as far bettas go): Medium

Description:

Half sun bettas are a cross between the crowntail and the halfmoon. They have the same fins as a Halfmoon but have fringe spikes that the end of their tail.


Spade Tail:

Fins: Has the same fins as a Veiltail except that the tail fin curves out and then comes to a point like a spade

Color: Comes in all colors

Aggressiveness (as far bettas go): Low

Description:

Spade tail bettas are similar to veiltials, but the tail comes down to a point and looks like the playing card. They are pretty hard to find these days.


Bettas in the Wild

In the wild, bettas live in rice paddies in Southeastern Asia. Wild bettas live together unlike captive-bred bettas who are bred to fight and be aggressive. It is commonly thought that they like small tanks or bowls with muddy water, but this is not true. The rice paddies are only about a foot deep, but they stretch for miles and have a ton of plants.


Betta Tank Setup

Betta fish need a minimum of a 5-gallon tank. They need a filter with a low rate of flow because of their fins so an adjustable hang on back (HOB) or a sponge filter is good. Make sure that you do not put any decorations with sharp edges into your betta's tank because they could cut themselves on it which could lead to infection. If you can, add live plants to help take out substances that are harmful to your betta and give your betta something to interact with. If you are a beginner then I would recommend using gravel as your substrate and adding some easy live plants like Java Moss, Marimo Moss Balls, and Java Fern. For a general freshwater tank set up guide, click here!


Feeding

In the wild, bettas are carnivores, and they eat bugs off the surface of the water. For food, I would recommend Hikari Betta Bio-Gold as the main food and Zoo Med Dial-A-Treat as a supplement. If you are using these foods, I feed~5-6 pellets if I am only feeding pellets and ~3-4 pellets with 1/2 scoop full if I am feeding with Dial-A-Treat. If you are feeding that amount, then feed once per day at dusk or dawn because that is when they feed in the wild.


Water Parameters

When your fish poops, it releases ammonia into the water, this is harmful to your fish. That is why you need to establish the nitrogen cycle in your tank. If you cycle your tank properly, you will have colonies of beneficial bacteria in your filter and substrate which will break ammonia down into nitrite. Nitrite is also harmful to your fish so the bacteria will once again break it down into nitrates which are not harmful to your fish in relatively low quantities. That is why changing ~15% of the water once a week is important. If you have live plants in your tank, then the plants will absorb the nitrates.

Temperature: 78-80 F (25-27 C)

pH: 6.5-8.5

GH: About 4 dGH or 70ppm (not a big concern)

KH: Above 4.5 dKH or 80 ppm (not a big concern)

Flow Rate: Low

Oxygen Level: The higher the better, but they can breathe air if needed

Flow rate is how fast your water is flowing in your aquarium. pH is a scale to tell how acidic or alkaline water is (0 is the most acidic and 14 is the most alkaline). GH is the concentration of dissolved magnesium and calcium in your tank. KH is the carbonate hardness of the water and shows how much bicarbonates and carbonates are in your water. GH is measured in dGH, and KH is measured in dKH, but those can be roughly converted to ppm (parts per million) or mg/L (milligrams per liter) by multiplying by 17.9. The oxygen level is how much dissolved oxygen is in the tank and more is better even if the fish can survive with lower oxygen levels. You can increase the oxygen levels by adding live plants since they take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen.


Behavior, Temperament, and Tank Mates

Behavior:

Bettas are not shy fish. They like to be the center of attention and show off. If they see their reflection they will think it is another betta and most of the time they will flare at their reflection. You can make them flare by holding a mirror to your tank, but be sure to do it for less than 5 minutes a day so that you don't stress your betta out. If your betta doesn't flare when you hold a mirror up, it could just be that your betta in particular just isn't aggressive. If you notice that your betta is hiding there may be something wrong with your betta.

Temperament:

In general, bettas are aggressive fish. There are some exceptions to this such as my betta, Acorn, who is very calm. Most of the time, their aggression depends on their parents and it varies from fish to fish.

Tank Mates:

When deciding what tank mates you should give your betta, you should first see how aggressive your betta is and if you have the room for these tank mates. For most tank mates, with the exceptions of some snails and shrimp, you will need at least a 10-gallon tank. If your betta is very aggressive, which is pretty rare, then I would not recommend putting any tank mates in. If your betta is like most bettas and a little territorial, I would test it out with something like a nerite snail and then decide if you want to add peaceful fish to the tank. If your betta is calm, which happens some of the time, then you can add peaceful tetras such as ember tetras, peaceful catfish like cory catfish, or peaceful invertebrates such as a nerite snail. In summary, the tank mates that you can but with your betta really depends on your bettas temperament. When considering any tank mate, be sure to do your research to make sure that they are compatible with your betta and have the same water conditions. One tank mate that sometimes doesn't work even if your betta is very peaceful is cherry shrimp. If he/she isn't aggressive, almost any tank mates should work, but if he or she is aggressive, you can house them alone.


Tank Maintenance

To keep your betta happy and healthy, you will need to maintain his or her tank. One reason that it is very important to clean your tank is so that your betta doesn't get sick. Keeping stable water parameters is important when cleaning an aquarium so it is important to not clean too much. Any sudden changes in water parameters could result in your fish becoming sick and could lead to maybe death. To perform a water change, you will need a 5-gallon bucket, an algae scraper of some sort, a test kit, a gravel vacuum, and all your water additives. The first step in maintaining your aquarium is to test the water. The best way to do this is with a water test kit that is made for aquariums. Then, you will want to take your gravel vacuum and drain about 25% of the water into the bucket. While you are doing this, you will want to go through the gravel with the gravel vacuum to suck up any of the fish poop and other debris that may be in there. After you have vacuumed the gravel, you will want to go over all the walls of the tank with your algae scraper. Then, take the bucket of water and dump it in the sink or water your plants with it. Next, fill it with water and add your dechlorinator and other water additives such as plant fertilizer. Take that water back to your tank and fill it back up. Now you know how to change your fish tank's water! I recommend you perform this process once a week to once every other week depending on the amount of fish that you have, unless there is something that makes it so you have to do it more or less frequently.


Breeding Bettas

Personally, I do not know much about how to breed betta fish, but I do know that one of the most important parts is adding the female at the correct time. If you want to learn more about this topic you can read other articles online that cover this topic in depth.


Common Health Problems

As a species, bettas are hearty and strong, but they do have their weaknesses. One of these weaknesses is their long fins. Although they look amazing, they can easily be cut on things in your tank which could lead to your betta getting an infection. To prevent this, make sure not to put sharp decorations or substrate into your aquarium. Another common health problem with bettas is fin rot. Fin rot, as the name states, is where the fins of a fish start to rot away until there is no fin left. This infection is caused by poor water quality or bacteria that is introduced into the tank. One way to make sure this never happens is to keep up your maintenance on your betta's tank and always wash what you add to the tank. Finally, there is the problem of overfeeding. When you feed your betta, make sure that you are giving the proper amount of food so that your betta doesn't start to have digestive problems. One sign of overfeeding is if your fish becomes fat or swollen. If you notice this, skip feeding your betta for a day, I know this sounds mean, but it will help them pass all the extra food through their system. This is possibly the easiest of the three listed here to prevent, just check that you are feeding your betta the proper amount and you are golden.


Buying Guide

When buying any animal, it is important that you select a healthy one. This section will help you learn what and what not to look for in a betta. If you have any questions about the signs, feel free to contact me using the chat or the contact page.

Look for:

  • Long flowing fins

  • Bright colors

  • A fish that is swimming around

Don't look for:

  • White dots over the fish (Ich)

  • Gold mist or powder all over the fish (Velvet)

  • Ragged or torn fins (Fin rot or bitting)

  • Dull colors

  • A fish that is hiding in the corner

  • Swelling near the stomach (Bloating)

  • Discoloration near the tips of the fins (Possible fin rot)

  • Scars or wounds (Possible infections)

  • Fins that are close to the body or clamped (Clamped fins)

  • A fish that is not swimming correctly (Swim latter)

I hope that this section helped you understand how to choose a happy and healthy betta to be your new best friend. If you have any other things to look for and things not to look for, comment them down below!


FAQ

Q: Why is my betta not eating?

A: If this is your betta's first day in the tank, your betta may need some more time to get used to the tank. Give him or her another day and then see if he or she starts eating. If this is not the betta's first day in the tank or your betta didn't eat on the second day, it may be that your betta has an infection or disease. I recommend that you consult a vet and get proper treatment for your betta.

Q: Can my betta live with other fish?

A: Yes! Just make sure that you choose your betta's tank mates wisely. Try to choose tank mates that are about the same size as your betta and are peaceful. Don't choose fish that are fin nippers or have long fins that your betta might nip at. Also, be sure that your betta's tank mates have the same water conditions as your betta. For more on this, check out the Behavior, Temperament, and Tank Mates section of this article.

Q: Can my betta live in a bowl?

A: For most bowls, the answer is no. Bettas require a minimum tank size of 5 gallons. If you have a bowl bigger than that with proper filtration and heating then yes. If you want to know how to make you very own aquarium, visit our freshwater tank set up guide. In a pinch, a betta could survive in a bowl, but this is only a short term solution and not a long term one.

Q: Does my betta need a heater?

A: Unless you live in a place where the temperature of the water can be kept at 78 degrees Fahrenheit or 25 degrees Celcius naturally, then yes. Bettas like tropical water and if the water is not hot enough for them, they will become sluggish and will be more prone to getting sick.

Q: How much should I feed my betta?

A: Feed your best however much the label on the food recommends. If it is a pellet food like Hikari Betta Bio-Gold, then feed 5-6.

Q: Do bettas like live plants? If so, which ones do they like?

A: Bettas love live plants! Some good ones to start with are Anubias Nana, Marimo Moss Balls, Java Moss, Java Fern, and Duckweed.


If you have any more questions, contact me through the chat or the contact page.


Conclusion

In summary, bettas are a great pet and a good beginner fishkeeper who is just getting into the hobby. Bettas do need a filter, a heater, and at least a five-gallon tank. To learn how to set up a tank, click here! If you can meet all of those requirements then I think a betta is right for you!

If you have any questions, comments, or ideas for future articles that you would like me to write, comment below, chat me, or contact me through the contact page.

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