Betta Fish Care
Updated May 13, 2020
Author: Mike - FishLore Admin
Of all aquarium fish the Betta is probably the second most popular fish kept with it being only slightly less popular than Goldfish.
This fish is a favorite because of its beauty, its long flowing fins and because of their relatively easy care.
The male betta sports deep beautiful colors whereas the female bettas are for the most part less colorful. Their stunning colors and flowing fins are some of the reasons for their popularity and the low purchase price helps too (usually less than a few US dollars).
However, due to the betta being such an easy sale it has led to some deplorable conditions in which they are kept while waiting to be sold. It really is sad to see how they are kept in many chain pet stores in small jars or small cups, often in very soiled water that is rarely, if ever changed. There are so many threads on the FishLore betta forum about how this fish is kept while waiting sale that we had to eventually start removing them because it was like a broken record. Different big chain store but the same story, over and over.
If you really want to make a difference with how bettas are sold, don't purchase them thinking you are "rescuing" them because all you are doing is positively reinforcing the store's behavior. Buy from reputable breeders or your fellow FishLore forum members here on the Buy - Sell - Trade forum that you know will have good stock.
Hobbyists often get very attached to this fish. We have a lot of threads on the forum looking for betta fish name ideas and this is the primary species for these name idea threads. I'm not sure of the reason behind this but perhaps it's because bettas are often kept as the only fish in the tank and hobbyists become more attached to them than other species.
It is called the Siamese Fighting Fish because of its behavior towards other males of the same species. Male betta fish will fight with other male conspecifics. You simply cannot keep two or more males in the same tank unless you have an extremely large fish tank. If more than one male is placed in the same tank, they will fight until only one of them remains. They will flare out their gill covers and erect their fins showing the other fish their fighting posture. This is a natural response that is for protecting their territory or to protect their eggs from rival males. This behavior is also why they are kept separated in small containers at the store.
There are ways to see this flaring behaviour without introducing another male. One way is to use a small hand mirror and place it up against the tank glass so that the male may see his reflection. The male will mistake his reflection as another male and the fighting posture should then be displayed. Doing this too often may lead to an overly stressed fish though.
You can get small tanks that come with dividers which will allow you to keep two in the same tank. Many keep them in a small fish bowl and they may live for a while in these small bowls. However, to get the most beautiful colors and optimal health for your fish, they will do better in a 10 gallon or larger aquarium with an aquarium filter and heater that can maintain a constant temperature and steady water parameters in the aquarium.
If you plan on keeping yours in a small aquarium, please read the Betta Fish Tank Setup article written by COBC for the magazine that lists the equipment needed to keep them.
You will often see people keeping bettas in tiny tanks, vases or bowls. You do NOT want to use these for your fish! You will see these small tanks at the store and probably right next to the tiny cups they are kept in. Don't be fooled though! They need at least several gallons of water, with a filter and heater too. The volume of water is too small, they lack heaters and filters and are in general no better than the tiny cups they are kept in at stores waiting for sale.
If you are looking for one to purchase the prices on bettas can actually get kind of high, especially for show quality. At your local fish store they are usually around $2 to $5.
To determine the betta tail type you have, read the forum thread (with pics) Male Tail Types. For figuring out they type of female you have, check out the following thread Female Betta Fish Tail Types.
Betta Fish Care Details
Scientific Name : Betta splendens
Common Names : Siamese Fighting Fish and several different names based on tail type such as crowntail betta, veiltail, halfmoon, etc.
Care Level : Easy, excellent fish that is good for freshwater beginners and can be just as hardy as goldfish.
Size : 2.5 inches (6 cm)
Water Parameters : ph 6 - 7.5 | Temperature 75°F - 80°F | Water Hardness 5° to 20° dH
Betta Fish Lifespan : 3 - 5 years, possibly longer. How long a betta can live is mostly based on the tank conditions in which they are kept. Often times a new hobbyist doesn't know about the nitrogen cycle, water changes, proper tank setup and the foods they should be feeding them which causes disease issues and shortened lifespans.
Origin / Habitat : They are thoroughly domesticated now but they originated from thailand where they live in overgrown ponds and very slow flowing waters such as shallow rice paddies and similar areas with low dissolved oxygen levels.
Temperament / Behavior : Peaceful if given the right tank mates. They will become aggressive with other males and females. They may also become aggressive towards other fish with large fins such as guppies, angelfish and others.
Breeding / Mating / Reproduction : Can be difficult since the male will fight the female if not introduced at the right time. For more information please read the breeding and general info article or this one on breeding them.
Tank Size : Can be kept in small tanks as small as 2 gallons but they do best in larger tanks.
Tank Mates : Not many because of their temperament and because of this betta fish fighting is an unfortunate "sport" in some parts of the world. Tropical fish with regular size fins may do well, but avoid tropical fish with larger fins like guppies or angelfish.
Fish Diseases : Freshwater Fish Disease - Diagnose, Symptoms and Treatment. We frequently get questions on the forum related to betta fin rot. This is often related to poor water quality. Read more here on Fish Fin Rot.
Fish Food : Carnivore primarily, but will take flakes, freeze dried and live foods. Nowadays there are betta fish foods specifically made for them that you can use as a staple food. In the wild they eat live foods like bloodworms, daphnia and brine shrimp (source). So, recreating their wild diet could be very beneficial. Blood worms and brine shrimp can be used as well.
Tank Region : Top
Gender : The male has much more color and bigger fins than the female.
Photo Credit : Photos copyright JJPhoto.dk
Forum Avatars :
Betta FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Do betta fish get lonely?
Even though some hobbyists will tell you that they do indeed get lonely this is opinion only. There have not been any studies done on loneliness in bettas. Given their temperament with conspecifics and other long finned fishes, it is usually best to keep them by themselves in smaller tanks.
What can live with a betta?
Some good tank mates would include corydoras, smaller tetras (keep an eye on them though), loaches, etc. Avoid known fin nippers like many of the barb species as well as longer finned fishes such as angelfish.
How big do bettas get?
They usually get to be around 2.25 to 2.5 inches (6 cm) in size as adults.
Can I have 2 female bettas together?
Depends on who you ask... but in general the females are less aggressive than their male counterparts. That is not to say that you won't have issues keeping multiple females together. There are many threads on these "sorority" type tanks and how they didn't work out that well. See here: Betta Sorority Warning.
Will a betta fish bite you?
Yes it is possible to get bitten but given the size of their mouths this isn't a serious issue. They may bite out of self defense or because they are curious.
Are bettas difficult to breed?
This question needs more context... are they difficult to breed compared to many saltwater species? No they are not hard to breed. Are they more difficult to breed compared to other freshwater species? No... but you need space the equipment to raise the babies/juveniles and unless you are breeding the really hard to find varieties it is economically not very lucrative and can be time consuming. Here is a good thread on Responsible Betta Breeding.
Betta Tips and Comments
Hello, I was wondering what fish are good tank mates for mine. And if it makes a difference if it is a female or a male.
Approximately how long do they live?
Just bought a male, I have other tropical fish in the same tank including a serpae tetra. Will these live together ok?
I have a male that has become listless. If he swims up to the top of the tank he will drop back down to the bottom nose first. What could be wrong with him??
What does it mean when your fish has foam on the top of his tank?
When exactly is the right time to introduce a female to a male?
I have a beta, I would like to get a Plecostomus (I think that is what they are called...the sucker fish that remove the algae & such from the tank) along with some tetras. Would this be ok? Thanks.
Just got a Beta and he is the only fish in the aquarium that has things appearing to grow on him. It is white and feathery looking. What should I do? This started within a day of getting him. I tested our tank and the water is hard, the Alkalinity is high at 300 and the alkaline content is at 8.4. Thank you for any suggestions.
Regarding Elizabeth's post on her sick fish. I was in the same situation, and my fish has recovered and is doing better than ever! His color is back and he is very active. A month ago he was floating on his side (sometimes at the top, some time at the bottom-yikes). I didn't know about the Nitrogen cycle and I cleaned out his bowl (he had been fine). Then he got sick; So here is what I did: I got a 10 gal tank with live plants. The thank had to go through the nitrogen cycle, so he was VERY sick for two weeks. (Several times I thought he died). Anyway, I changed 10% of his water daily to keep ammonia level down while the bacteria could grow (mixed advice from people on this- some say it causes too much stress - they might be right???), used stress coat, seal salt, and enzymes. As I said, his color is back deep blue purple he has red on his fin tips that I had never seen before, and he love's evern fish that had recovered. So I'd thought I'd post this note for those in a similar situation.
Our male doesn't seem to be interested in the flake food but loves tucking into the algae wafers for the Pleco, he also loves bloodworms. A placid fish who floats around not bothering anyone else. He often loafs in the plants and seems to spend the night on top of the filter pipe at the top of the tank. Very interesting and attractive fish.
Ok, my tank is REALLY small but the girl at the store said that the tank would do, but websites are telling me that a big tank is good. My tank is about 1 gallon but the tank he was in before was no bigger then glass. Is my tank okay?
Hi, my name is Cindy and my daughter has one named Gills, who I think is sick. He swims rather close to the surface of the tank and his gills will get really big and they looked inflamed and they stay like this for a while then he will return to normal. My daughter is 8 years old and loves her Gills so much. I have been looking on the net for different explanations to what might be wrong with him but I just can't seem to find any that seem to be consistent with what is happening with our lil fishy. I would really like to know if he is going to be okay or if their is anything that I should be doing to help the poor little thing. I will be eagerly waiting to here from you. Thank you in advance for your time.
I have a recently purchased a male and female. I have been learning the spawning process but I do not know if the female's belly will get full of eggs on its own then the male releases sperm or you put them together and after they mate the female will have eggs? I am only begining to learn to breed but I need to know.
Hi - I just introduced mine into a 5 gallon tropical tank with two other Platy's two days ago. The fish was very aggressive and nipped at the tails of the Platys. Do they usually not get along with Platys? The Platys always seem to mind their own business, so I don't know why they were so aggressive. I ended up removing them from the tank today.
This is a comment for ALL Beta owners and lovers, please do not keep a beautiful fish like the Beta in a little bowl. I have three Beta's and all in their own 10 gallon with a swordtail and if they could speak I'm sure they would tell me how happy they are and I know this because they show me every day by their playfulness and their personality. It's sad to see those beautiful fish at the pet store in a li total, 5 gallon, 10 gallon, 20 gallon, 27 gallon, and a 47 gallon. And I have every kind of fish you could think of and love them all dearly. Thanks.
I have 6 male Beta fish in their own 10 gallon tanks along with a swordtail and half a dozen Neon Tetras and love all my Beta's dearly along with all my other tanks - 11 in total lol. I think I have more tropical fish than my pet store owner. Ha ha - I am crazy about them all! And I would like to add that I have just successfully watched little baby Betas hatching and what an amazing site to see! But watching the male and female mate is totally amazing!
I was cleaning my aquarium today and when I caught him in the net he got stuck (I have no idea how he did it, he just got stuck.) When I transferred him to the temporary bowl I keep him in when cleaning the tank, I saw that he was not moving at all. I believed he was dead. Just to check, I brought him up a couple of times above the water surface to examine him. He did not move at all when I brought him out of the water. I thought he was dead so I left him alone for about 5 minutes. When I came back to take him away, I saw my fish coasting along the water surface, like gasping. After a few minutes he was swimming and was very active. And then he stopped and just dropped to the bottom of the bowl. But soon enough he was lively again. Right now he's back in the tank and he seems okay. But still not as active as before. What I want to know is, is my fish about to die? Should I do special monitoring on him? It would be a shame for him to die since I just got him the other day.
Hi, my fish is sick and I need help!! I have had a male in a community tank for about 2 years. He was very active, made bubble nests and didn't fight with other fish at all. Now is very bloated and swims up just to eat. I feed them frozen food (blood worm, brine shrimp), dryed blood worms and flakes. I didn't see any scale damage, no ick or other parasitic symptoms. It looks like a bladder infection and he is the only one in the tank who is sick. I love him dearly and don't want him to die or at least not suffer if he is dying... Please write back if you have any experience with something like that. Thanks!
Hi there i was just wondering if anyone could tell me what's wrong with my male fighter. He used to be very bright and colorful but now he's turned all cloudy and just lays at the bottom of the tank. He also won't eat!
Hi, I bought 2 females about a month back. They are together in a bowl with some plants. They were happy, frisky and had a good appetite. I used a standby large glass bowl that I put the bettas in whenever I did a water change. I started using this standby bowl about a week back. The first time I put one of the females into the standby bowl, it immediately showed signs of lethargy and lack of appetite. I left it overnight in the bowl as I did not want to disturb it. The next morning it developed a gelatinous white slime like coating on its tail, mouth and fins. In 2 days it died. I have never had fish before and did not suspect the problem. I continued to change for the other female and put her in the standby bowl. Again within a day, she developed the same symptoms and developed a slimy gelatonous coat throughout her body and sank nose down to the bottom. I immediately took her off the that bowl as I suspected glass contamination or poisoning. I added an all symptom treatment medication into her bowl as per petsmarts reccomendation. But she seems to be steadily deteriorating. I really love my fish. Can you please let me know if there is a way to make her better? Please help.
I put a Pleco bottom feeder in a 5 gallon tank with mine and they get along great. They are actually playful towards eachother sometimes. It all depends on your individual fishes temperament. I feed the betta bloodworms, brine shrimp (crushed a little), and flake food. Seems to do better with a variety. You can get all these foods in little jars in the fish section anywhere. I have 3 of them in different tanks and none of them like the pellet hard food made for them.
My beautiful blue lives with some zebra danios and platies in a 65 gallon tank. The other day when I was feeding everyone and I noticed he was missing. Turns out he swam into our a hole in our ceramic dragon. He calmly swam out when I turned the dragon over. The dragon is long and twisty so I am not sure if he was stuck or hiding. I then remembered that when I was in high school I lost one when it swam into a box filter and got stuck there. Needless to say the dragon is out of the tank for now. I may fill it with gravel to keep fish from getting stuck inside.
I have had my beta for about two months, and recently I bought three neon tetras. Well all three died over night, then I did the same thing agan and they all died to. What is going on?
I have one and the fins were snapped off by a shrimp that lived in the tank. Will the Beta survive without the fins or should I expect the worst?
I have a sick fish. He can't stay floating and he somehow tends to fall to the bottom of the tank. What's wrong with him?
I currently have a single male in a 3-gallon aquarium though I may move him into a 10-gallon. Once I tried to put him in my other tank, a 20-gallon with my neon and bloodfin tetras. Yikes! They chased my little guy all over the place (I think it may have just been the bloodfins) so I took him out. His fins were so short because the other fish had bit them and then his fins got infected. I felt SO sorry for him! He seems a little lonely in his tank by himself (but I may just be over reacting) so I was thinking about putting him in a 10-gallon and then adding a few slow moving, UNAGGRESSIVE, fish in with him. Are their some "no fail" fish to put in with him? I know some other questions like this have been posted but I love mine so much and I don't want to take any chances of him being injured by his tank mates again. Thanks.
Can I put a sucker fish in with mine?
My fish also was constantly going up for air then going back down and trying to hide in between the rocks. I was looking all over to see if he was sick and for a day I left him in the same spot that does not have any quick air changes. Now he will eat his food and not spit it out! It turns out he was just stressed.
Hi, I just wanted to comment on the fact that male and females should not be kept together. I successfully kept a male and female pair in a 29 gallon tank. Only occasionally will the male chase the female. Maybe it just depends on the individual fish? I love this site and always come here for needed information.
I've had cold water tanks for years and thought I would venture into the tropical side of things and I ended up rescuing a very sorry betta from a pet shop. I thought he was gonna die but I wanted to give him a nice home. He was totally ripped to shreds by the other "community fish" so he got his very own bi-orb to settle into and is now happy as Larry. Although once when I put a pleco in the tank, mine was so aggressive towards him I had to seperate them. We also had the same problem with a gourami. He just wants to kill anything else that goes in the tank except the pleco! I think they are happiest on their own, and in a big tank.
These bettas are so beautiful! Mine has lived for four years and it still looks healthy.
I have a 20 gallon tank and keep 1 male and 2 females in with 4 gouramis. They are all anabantoids and all have the same environmental requirements. They share the same temperaments and provided they have enough room, will get along very peacefully. I don't recommend keeping them with small, fast swimmers or other long finned fish. I have been keeping aquariums with this mix of fish for many, many years with great success and the fish live long and healthy lives. Please don't spell the name beta like the greek letter... it's spelled betta and pronounced 'bettah' with a short 'e' as in the word better! Thanks
I have to say about them living with other fish. I just started a 10 gallon tank and I put mine in with 5 rosy reds plenty of room for all of them and my betta killed two of them. I have had many of them and they just dont like other fish. If they cant kill them then they just hide in a corner and sulk. Just because they are not trying to kill them doesn't mean they are happy. Mine died a week later, I beleive it was from stress.
Some do not do well with under ground filters because it creates too much activity in the water.
I have to correct what it says for temp requirements. It says 70-85, but actually they are very tropical and need a temp of at least 78 F, preferably 80. And please don't keep them in anything less than 5 gallons. In anything smaller (especially bowls), you can't use a heater and it is almost impossible to maintain good water quality... and despite what pet stores tell you, they DO need room to swim around! If you are looking for a more peaceful alternative to the males, try to get some females. They are not as colorful but equally interesting and females can be kept with most other fish, including other female Bettas.
Tank mates for them are fine as long as they dont have long fins as the reading above has said. However gouramis are not a good choice because they are related to them too closly. Males might believe that they are another male and fight them.
I got mine a couple of days ago and he was doing so well and then I didn't see him eating. I've been feeding him those flakes, which I'm finding out may not be the best for them. I am seeing lots of flakes floating around and he doesn't get excited (he invesitgates but won't eat) when I put the flakes in the bowl. I don't give him a lot at all and I started to crush the flakes up in case he couldn't eat the food.Please any tips that you might have would be awesome. Thank You
I work in a top-notch pet store and the most frustrating part is a lot of people do not listen. The typical response is, "I have had fish for years and have always done it this way". Anyway, I got one and a baby biorb for myself, for my birthday. The biorb is a great tank for small fish less than four inches; only holds four gallons. Remember, one inch of ADULT fish per gallon of water. Room temperature and the light kept him warm, around 70. I had no idea what wonderful fish they are. They have great big personalities! Fell in love. He got a bigger tank, 20 gallons and some tank mates. Well, I learned not to put black shirts and Betta's together. He got a bigger tank, 29 gallons and new tank mates. He lives VERY happily with neon tetras, von rio tetras, white clouds and corys. He loves his decor because he can swim in one side and come out the other, he thinks he is so cool! I have had him for almost a year now, we had a battle with fungus that left a scar that is fading, but he is now healthy, happy, and very much the comedian.
I have kept and successfully bred them (I call them siamese fighters) for over 15 years. They are magnificent fish to look at and to keep in a community tank but you always get the odd exception. I had one male in my tank a few years ago, armed with the knowledge that they only fight with other males of the same species right? wrong. He immediately took a dislike to my angel fish who was roughly three times his size and attacked the angel at every opportunity. Four days later, my two year old angel fish was dead. The male siamese fighter typically attack the gills of a fish they are challenging and no matter how much bigger the other fish are (within reason of course), the male fighter is very capable of killing any aquarium fish. They do normally only fight with other male fighters but this is not an absolute rule.
Just a comment... I wish I could protest or picket the stores that sell them in those tiny cups! I have 3 tanks that are Betta oriented, from 10 gal, up to 30 gal, and my fish are loving every inch of their homes. They are so happy, and so amusing, and have great personalities. Given a chance, and the right tank mates, they live healthy, happy, long lives.
I was reading about tank mates for them. I have had three and I have only been able to keep one of them with another fish. This fish and my corydoras rest in the same cave, my betta lays right on top of the cory! I wish the others would have wanted a tankmate, they do seem so loney in a tank by themselves. Very special fish! It is a shame with the information available, people still think you can keep them in tiny places. My first one past away after 4 years, I now have two, in different tanks of course.
Reply to you Paige about your fish sinking to the bottom. We had one doing that, and I researched and found that he was constipated. The advice given was to soak a green pea in water, shell it, and feed it to him. It worked like a charm. He was up and at him in a day or two. Now, I feed all mine a green pea once or twice a week, as they love them. Good luck!
I would just like to say that although keeping them in an aquarium definitely gives it more space it is not inhumane to put them in bowls, just as long as you give them a spacious bowl with live plants, hiding places, frequent water changes, and a suitable diet. I have kept them in bowls for several years now and all of them have happily lived out their full life spans.
Adding to BettaLover's comment I would just like to say that they are much happier in larger tanks - my old one is proof. I had him in a tiny 1 litre tank and all he would do all day was sit in between his little frog ornament, and occasionaly go to the top for air. I put him in a 90 litre tank with other fish, and he loved it! He would never stop swimming and he loved exploring the whole tank! My opinion, keep them in a tank no smaller than 8 litres - they'll love you for it! (And make sure you give them a heater, as they are tropical fish!)
I have had mine for almost 3 months now and when I bought him he was in one of those tiny cups. I decided to put him in a 10 gallon tank alone with some really nice plants and sparkley rocks. I find that if you get them on a bit of a routine feeding, they eventually automatically know that you are their owner and they really respond to you. One thing to keep in mind, make sure you have a good water heater and keep the temperature stable. Mine has so much more energy and the more comfortable the temperature, the more they will want to eat. This keeps them really happy!
I had a betta in a bowl before. He lived happily for several years when ever his water got too cold, I would simply add warm water. Whats even stranger is he really enjoyed this alot, as well as having his bowl moved by the fire place on cold nights.
I want to say to those who keep Gouramis with a them: I had put my male CT in with my three male dwarf gouramis in a 30 gallon tank. They were doing great until the gouramis built this outstanding bubblenest by weaving the java moss into it. Trevor (my betta) decided it was the most awesome bubblenest he'd ever seen and tried to hijack it from the gouramis. So I came home to a fish who looked like he'd tried to get a haircut from a blind guy. Now I'm working on getting him a 15 gallon bucket to recover in. He really misses the 30 gallon with things to chase, though.
They love green peas. It also helps keep them "regular." I just buy a bag of frozen peas and give mine 1 pea per week. If your fish floats to the top and has trouble swimming after eating...try this. Peel the skin off the pea and cut it into bite-size pieces. He'll love you for it!
Keep the water at a constant temperature. Most people say that they don't need much space, but they do. Don't just keep them in a drinking glass or jar, get your friend a proper tank! You can buy these at pet stores for about $5.00 - $17.00. A proper filtration system is also good because it keeps the water moving and keeps it clean. Try to feed blood worms as they are great and my fish loves them. Here is one tip: if you want your fish water to stay warm but don't want to buy a water heater, try to get a tank with a light so the water can stay warm. My biggest tip is don't put two of them in the same tank. I hope these tips helped! Have fun with your new friend!
I just wanted to say a few things. I just got my first one yesterday and your site has been very helpful. I realized through your website that I have him in much too small of a tank (1 gallon) and that he's probably quite cold right now (no heater). I now know what I need to do to make him a happy healthy little guy. His name is Ryuu-kai which means roughly Sea-Dragon in Japanese. He's got a bit of an odd coloring from what I can tell as his body is silver but his fins are rainbow. He seems pretty healthy though from what I can tell but I WILL get him a bigger tank and a heater and a filter. Thanks so much guys for all of your information!
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