Caring For A Betta Fish The Right Way
Did you know betta fish are one of the most popular first pets amongst aquatic species? Part of the reason is that caring for a betta fish is easier than with other similar species. First-time caretakers also prefer betta fish because of their beautiful flowing fins and coloring. Betta fish have amazing personalities and the ability to recognize their owners.
Bettas fish are, however, a beautiful species of fish that is particularly so with myths about their habitat and care. At some point in their history, the wild betta fish habitat perpetuated the myth they prefer small and low-oxygen habitats. Through evolution, the betta fish survived in small and low oxygenated bodies of water, but that does not equate to thriving in captivity.
Whether you have a betta fish, are considering keeping one, or want to advocate for this species, below are the most common misconceptions when it comes to caring for a betta fish:
1. Tank Size
Betta fish actually do not prefer or thrive in small habitats. Pet stores keep bettas in small solitary cups because they are territorial fish and cannot be housed with each other or other aggressive or bright colored fish. Keeping a betta fish in these small containers for extended periods of time is cruel and detrimental to their health.
Betta fish can live in abnormally small spaces for a period of time, but that’s only for survival. Despite living in areas of prolonged droughts, betta fish prefer a habitat that is at least 2.5 gallons or larger. While bettas can live in smaller tanks, they thrive in larger habitats that are 2.5 gallons or larger. The ideal size is 5-10 gallons with plenty of plants and hiding spaces.
Betta fish may or may not need a heater, depending on their surrounding environment. Bettas are tropical fish, and they need tropical water temperatures to be active and healthy. Their water temperature should stay between 74 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. If the room a betta’s tank is in isn’t at least 75 degrees, you should have a heater to maintain the water’s temperature.
Filtration is another area of contention amongst keepers of betta fish, both educated and non-educated. Some prefer to go without filtration to emulate their natural and slow moving water habitat. Others prefer to use filters to help oxygenate the water and to reduce ammonia levels. A betta fish can thrive with or without a filter; however, the absence of filtration will require more frequent water testing and cycling without a proper nitrogen cycle.
4. Tank Mates
You might think your betta fish is lonely, and want to get them a friend. A girlfriend or a boyfriend would be great right? This idea is very dangerous because unless you are experienced and have the right size aquarium, tank mates should be off limits. This is especially true for other bettas as they will fight and nip at each other, which usually ends in one of their deaths, or being severely stressed and injured. Betta fish should only cohabitate with other non-aggressive and dull colored species.
At some point, the fad of caring for a betta fish in a vase underneath roots started, and this perpetuated the small habitat myth and that you only had to feed them once a week. The betta fish’s waste helps the plants grow, the plants clean the water, and the betta fish eats the roots? Betta fish are carnivores and need a variety of protein rich foods for proper health, not roots. A good mixture of pellets, freeze-dried bloodworms, and brine shrimp are ideal.
Caring For A Betta Fish 101 Infographic
The information here is not an exhaustive list of the requirements of caring for a betta fish, just the most common areas that are filled with misinformation. If you are considering keeping a betta fish, or any pet, due diligence and research on their care requirements should be done. Encourage others to do the same, instead of going to the pet store on a whim.
Reliance on something you heard or from a pet store employee is naive on your part as a fish keeper. Hopefully, one day, pet stores will educate their employees better about caring for a betta fish and stop allowing small habitats to be sold on their shelves.
The infographic below from bettafish.org is designed to cover the basic requirements of proper betta fish care.
The difference in the level of care for a betta will mean the difference between them surviving or living a long, happy, and healthy life! Make your betta happy with the right habitat, water guidelines, and cleanliness and they’ll be beautiful and active for years.
Healthy betta fish swim up to the tank when their owners approach and they are eager to eat and put on a show, and this is the type of behavior you should be advocating for and providing as the caretaker of this beautiful species.
*** Many thanks to Bryan, the founder at bettafish.org
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