Of all the freshwater aquarium fish, Betta fish is probably one of the most popular options among hobbyists. They’re easy to keep, but more importantly, have beautiful flowing fins that will keep your tank looking interesting.
What is a Betta fish?
When people talk about Betta, they are usually referring to the Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens). Make no mistake! They are actually just the most famous species from the genus Betta, and there are 72 other species we know of.
We’re going to focus on this one species and refer to them simply as “Betta”, as most aquarists do. However, this entire genus consists of small fishes measuring only between 2.5 to 14 cm in length. They also all live in fresh water and have the signature ray fins.
Brief Summary of Bettas
This species originates in the paddy fields and plains all over Southeast Asia. Thanks to the varying and unstable environment, Bettas all have labyrinth organs, which means they are able to take oxygen from the air. It allows them to survive in waters where the oxygen content is low.
There are hundreds of varieties when it comes to the color, patter, and tail shape of a Betta. Each fish is always unique, and this is the appeal that draws many aquarium owners to keep Bettas.
From spiky tails to short and rounded tails, classic blue and red to rare gradations, marbled bodies to koi-like patterns, the possibility is endless. This variety is also the result of years of selective breeding in captivity.
The typical adult fish can grow between 6 and 8 cm, while their body shape is torpedo-like. In terms of sexing them, the male fishes typically have more vibrant colors and longer fins.
Behavior and Lifespan
Bettas may not be the most peaceful fish as they are quite territorial. When two males fight, their gills flare and colors become more striking, so it’s advisable to separate male Bettas in different tanks. Otherwise, the tank should be big enough for each of the fish to have their own space. Their female counterparts are still aggressive but less likely to engage in conflict.
An average Betta can life from 3 to 5 years, sometimes even longer. The exact age depends on how upkept and clean their tank is. A lot of beginners are unaware of nitrogen cycle, water changes and the correct setup for a Betta, which could be detrimental to the fish’s health. Make sure to pay attention to the maintenance of the tank and watch out for any diseases.
Keeping Bettas in An Aquarium
There is another reason why Bettas are so well-loved, aside from their graceful appearance, and it’s because they are low maintenance. Even beginner hobbyists will find little to no problem with this amiable species.
Remember that they’re a labyrinth fish, so it’s crucial that they can get to the surface air. As they don’t like to eat plants, avoid placing live plants in the water as they will only break down and make the water dirty.
For the tank setup, opt for little to no water movement, warm water of 75-82 F, and a pH of 6 – 7.5. Don’t forget to perform partial water changes every week or two.
Wild Bettas eat insects and larvae, so they will thrive on a diet of brine shrimp, glass works, and Daphnia. Frozen or dried food is okay but be sure to mix them up with live foods. It’s much more nutritious and sustaining.
Unlike some more social fishes, Bettas are actually happier living alone. If you want your tank look fuller, provide a large environment (at least 5 gallons) for one Betta fish and a few smaller tank mates. You can house them with a Cory Cat, Mystery snail, Neon Tetras, or even Glass Shrimps.