Betta Care Guide

Flowingfins

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*Due to picture limits, some posts are further down and mixed in with chit chat*
I was looking through the betta stickies and realized we have no betta care sheet!
I figure since I've kept them for over 4 years, and have quite the collection, why don't I write one up.

-The basics of betta care-
Tank size~ The minimum is 2.5 gallons(9.46 liters). I don't recommend going under a 5 gallon (18.92 liters) though. Bettas are very active fish, and when given the proper environment their personalities flourish. Bettas prefer long tanks over tall tanks since they have a labyrinth organ that allows them to breathe air. The long trek to the surface can easily tire your finned friend out.

Filters~ Like any fish, bettas need a cycled aquarium. No if's, and's, or but's. Having a cycled tank means having a cycled filter. I would recommend a filter that turns over the tank volume at least x5 an hour. I prefer sponge filters in my betta tanks since they are low flow and don't shred any fins. If you go with any other type, make sure the intake has a sponge covering it so no fins get stuck. If you haven't already, check out the aquarium nitrogen cycle, here's a great link explaining it. Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle . Some may argue, what about the Walstad method? I do not recommend this to beginners, there is a high chance things could go wrong. Stick with a filter for safety. Another thing, never, ever, change your filter cartridge. This gets rid of your beneficial bacteria. If it gets nasty, just rinse it in a bucket of old tank water. For sponge filters, just take it out of the tank and squeeze it in a bucket of old tank water.
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(Sponge filter in with 5 day old betta fry)

Heating~ Bettas are tropical fish, this means they need warm water. Bettas should be kept in temperatures between 78-80 degrees fahrenheit(25-26 degrees celsius). Lightning is not a sufficient heat source, since the light is not on 24/7, there are fluctuations in temperature. How would you like to be warm and toasty, and as soon as the sun sets turn into a popsicle?

Food~ This is a very important component of keeping bettas, with no food, you don't have a fish. I know this sounds silly, but with all those "aquaculture" aquariums out there, it needs to be said. Bettas eat insects. They are not herbivores, this means they cannot survive on the roots of that plant in your "self sustaining" death trap your betta calls home. Bettas should get a variety of food, how would you feel if you were stuck eating one food for the rest of your life. Sure, you could survive, but you wouldn't like it. Bettas should be fed a high quality pellet food, I like Omega One. This should be supplemented with frozen brine shrimp, frozen bloodworms, and if possible mosquito larvae and wingless fruit fly's. Bettas also enjoy live daphnia and live brine shrimp, but frozen is a great alternative. Please don't feed your fish human food. It's bad for them and can make them sick. Freeze dried food is also a no-no for me. If not soaked correctly it can cause bloat, swim bladder issues, and constipation. It is not very nutritious anyways, think of it like potato chips. I try to stay away from flake food as well, since it is hard to determine how much you are giving the fish and there is a higher risk of swallowing air, causing swim bladder issues.

Water Changes~ Bettas should have weekly water changes. Around 25%-50%. Make sure any water you add back is the same temperature as the water already in the tank, otherwise you risk temperature shock. It is necessary to treat the water with a water conditioner, I recommend Seachem Prime because it removes chlorine, chloramines, and detoxifies up to 1 PPM(part per million) of ammonia and nitrite for 24 hours. You use less of it per gallon than most other water conditioners as well, which saves you tons of money.

All pictures are mine unless specified otherwise.

What do you guys think? Am I missing anything?

If anyone has any pictures they would let me include in here please comment below. You will receive credit for the picture.
 

Annie424

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Flowingfins, you have pretty much nailed it. Thank you for this post, you obviously have put a lot of thought and effort into it. One difference of opinion I have is that of the minimum size tank. While a 2.5G might be better than the death cups most fish stores sell them in, from my limited experience I would not recommend keeping them in less than a 10G. I've never had a betta in a smaller tank than this (or any other size to be honest) but from what I've experienced, bigger is better, longer is better than higher. If a higher tank, the more plants there are floating might create a better environment for those that have heavier finnage. It doesn't seem to be so much that that a higher tank is bad space-wise, but that with the heavier fins that people have bred that it might be easier for the fish to get to the top if they are not in prime condition. A smaller tank with less swimming space may not be not conducive to better physical condition. I do like all of your photos, you have some fantastic fish!
 
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Flowingfins

Flowingfins

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Thanks Annie
I don't like keeping them in anything less than a 5, but as a breeder I keep them in less than a gallon of space at times.
Thanks BTWB, I will definitely be editing it into paragraphs. I will include that article and adjust the tank mates section once I find it. I totally forgot about rosetails. I will definitely add them in, this is really just a rough draft for now until I finish editing it and such. Thanks for the pictures
What do you guys think about including a paragraph about their native habitat?

Now that the basics are covered, it's time to get into more advanced topics.

Tankmates~ Please be careful when keeping bettas with other fish. There are many people that have successfully kept a betta in community tanks but there is always a risk. Acceptable tank mates are snails, shrimp, and in tanks 20 gallons(75.7 liters) long or more, possibly a school of warm water corydoras, a school of small, peaceful fish that do not have flashy fins or colors, or maybe in larger tanks, a small species of pleco. Here's a thread regarding bettas and tank mates Important - Betta Tankmates .For the more experienced betta owner, it is possible to have a betta sorority. This is a group of 7 or more female bettas in a large tank. I'll get into that later. Dividing tanks for two or more bettas is perfectly fine, just make sure there are sight barriers. Rember to always have a back up tank, either for the betta or it's tankmates.

Lighting~ This doesn't matter that much, as long as you can turn it on and off. If keeping live plants, you may need a specialized light. Most low light plants(Java fern, anubias, java moss, marimo moss balls) do well with a light that is 6500K(kelvin) or higher. Keeping your tank in direct sunlight light can cause algae problems, it is best to use a hood or clip on light so you can adjust light schedules.
Substrate~ This is a long debated topic, do bettas do better on sand or gravel? I have kept bettas on both with no problems. Some people say that keeping them on sand can cause gut impactions, but I have never experienced this. Barebottom tanks are perfectly fine as well. Keeping bettas on large stones or the glass marbles sold as "substrate" is not ok. It catches food easily and can cause ammonia spikes, using them as accent pieces is perfectly fine though.

Decorating~ since bettas have such fragile fins it is important to make sure any decorations are smooth. A great way to test this is to drag a pair of pantyhose across it, if it snags, it's not betta safe. Bettas like places to rest near the surface, they can be lazy sometimes. Make sure to provide lots of areas for your betta to explore. Live plants are great for bettas, they provide resting spots and look great!
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(All decor has passed the pantyhose test)

Dividing betta tanks~ There is an awesome sticky on this here Dividing a tank for bettas..fun and low cost. Make sure the amount of divided sections isn't too high, for a 10 gallon the most bettas I would put in it is 3, so 3 different sections. For a 20 long the most I would put is 6, so 6 different sections. Some bettas just aren't for divided tanks, they will jump the divider and attack other fish. Be prepared with backup tanks for each fish.
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(Divided 20 long with 6 male bettas)

Sororities~ These are not for beginners, sororities are groups of female bettas in a large heavily planted tank. The minimum number of bettas is 7, the more girls you have the more the aggression is spread out. The minumum tank size is a 20 gallon(75.7 liters) long, this gives more space for them to hide. Lots of sight barriers should be provided. It is best to introduce a large group at first, but if you find a girl that catches your eye you can add her in, after quarantine of course. This is not for beginners, there should be tanks set up for each fish incase something goes wrong, and there is a high chance something will.

(Betta sorority with 9 female bettas, as you can see there are many sight barriers allowing the girls to get away from each other if necessary)

Diseases-

Finrot~ Probably the most common betta illness, finrot is basically what it sounds like. Bettas fins practically rot away. Usually caused by poor water quality, finrot is an opportunistic disease. It can be treated with daily water changes. More extreme cases will need to be treated with Kanaplex, Erythromycin, or Tetracycline. If not treated properly it can progress into body rot.

(Mild fin rot)
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(Severe fin rot)
Body rot~ When finrot is not treated, it progresses into body rot. As the name suggests, body rot eats away at your bettas body. Body rot is very hard for a betta to recover from. It can be treated with Kanaplex, Jungle fungus clear, tetracycline, and similar products. Since body rot is so threatening, stronger medicines are necessary.
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Ich/Ick~ Ich is identified by small white dots that look almost like salt. It can be treated by raising the water temperature to 84 degrees fahrenheit(28 degrees celsius) for 2-3 weeks. The raised temperature shortens ich's life cycle. Gravel vacuuming the aquarium every other day remove the cysts from the floor, preventing them from spreading. Sometimes the heat treatment doesn't work, if after 3 weeks there is no improvement, it's time to try a medicine such as jungle ich guard. Ich looks worse before it gets better.


Constipation~ Usually caused by over feeding, constipation can be treated by fasting(not feeding) for three days, and then being fed a deshelled pea. This allows them to digest any food they can't pass, and the pea acts as a natural laxative. In extreme cases, epsom salt baths may be able to help. You can identify constipation by a bloated, fat betta and lack of poop during water changes.

SwI'm bladder disorder(SBD)/buoyancy issues~ SBD/buoyancy issues can be identified by your fish being bloated, floating at the top of their tank, unable to get down to the bottom, staying at the bottom, unable to get to the top, upside down swimming, sideways swimming, wobbly swimming, and the inability to right themselves. The fish can often be found propping itself up against decorations. To treat SBD/buoyancy issues you can feed a cooked, cooled, and deshelled pea, this is a natural laxative. A constipated betta may have poop pushed against the swim bladder, rendering it ineffective. This causes the fish to either stay floating or stuck on the bottom. Another way to treat swim bladder/buoyancy issues is fasting, this prevents more buildup in the digestive tract. Epsom salt baths can also work as a laxative.
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(Images courtesy of Platylover)

Euthanasia~ I hate having to talk about this subject, but if your fish is gasping for breath, in an extreme amount of pain, or obviously at the point of no return, euthanizing your betta is probably the best option. This doesn't mean flushing him down the toilet or sticking him in the freezer. Both of those are extremely cruel ways to euthanize a fish. The most humane method of euthanasia is the clove oil method. This is done by putting your betta in a cup of water, mixing clove oil in with water in a separate vial, and dropping in one drop every 10-15 minutes. Depending on how much water is in the cup it can take between 30 minutes to 2 hours. Here is a link explaining it better

Bettafix/melafix~ These "medications" contain melaleuca oil, which will irritate the swim bladder, causing it to expand. This will suffocate your fish. It is best not to use this, if water changes won't help, neither will these two.
Update Regarding Labyrinth Fish and Melafix

Aquarium salt (not to be confused with epsom salt)~ This is a debated topic, some are for it, others are against it. I, personally, am against it. Bettas are freshwater fish, they are meant to be in freshwater. AQ salt can, and will, cause liver and kidney failure if overdosed or left in too long. I choose to stay away from it, but the decision is ultimately up to you.

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(Anatomy of a betta)

Breeding-

This deserves a whole thread to itself, it is not as easy as plopping 2 fish in a tank and getting babies. If looking for an easy fish to breed, I suggest guppies. Before attempting to breed ask yourself these questions. Do I have the time necessary to do daily water changes on 500 individual fish tanks? Do I have the money for spawning tanks, quality parents, sponge filters, live food, and all the jars necessary to breed bettas? Do I have the space for 500+ bettas, each in their own jar? And do I have somewhere to sell/give away 500 fish? It is considered inhumane to breed rosetails, as they are prone to fin collapses and tail biting. Mixing tail types (such as CT and HM) is not recommended, as it can be hard to rehome the fry.
 
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Flowingfins

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Tail types-
This is where it gets interesting, since there are so many tail types!
Crown tail~
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Identified by their spiky tails, crown tails are prone to fin rot. They have reduced webbing so only their rays are present.
Plakat~
Identified by their short fins, plakats are sometimes confused with females. Their fins look similar to those of wild bettas.
Doubletail~
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Identified by having two caudal lobes.
Delta~
f4cb85cd3e0660f615bd2e882d4d6b3a.jpg

A delta tail is identified by it's caudal spread. It is less than 180 degrees, and does not form the perfect D shape associated with halfmoons. Bettas with a large caudal fin that isn't quite a halfmoon are considered super deltas.
Halfmoon~
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(Picture courtesy of BornThisWayBettas)
Halfmoons are bettas with a caudal spread of 180 degrees or more. Their tails form a D, or halfmoon shape.
Veil tail~
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(Picture courtesy of Fgrefee(Bettas are not suitable for bowls, this fish has been/will be moved to a 5.5 gallon)
Veil tails are identified by their long, sweeping tail, they almost look like ballgowns. VT are very common in the betta world.
Rosetail~
7b500254a9f6e64631ddd2cd37b7ea35.jpg

(Picture courtesy of BornThisWayBettas)
These bettas have very heavy, layered fins. Since their fins are so heavy there is a risk of ray collapses, fin biting, and a heightened chance of finrot. These bettas do best with many resting places and a filter with very low flow.
Elephant Ear/Dumbo~
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These bettas come in all tail types. They have large pectoral fins that look look like elephant ears. They are prone to finrot due to their enlarged pectorals.
Spade Tail~
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(Picture courtesy of PythonTheBetta)
Spade tails can be identified by their spade shaped tails, they are rather uncommon in the hobby.
Female~

Female bettas have short fins. They also have a white dot called an egg spot between their ventral fins. Females tend to be rounder and have wider bodies than males. Sometimes tail types can be hard to tell with females.
How to tell the Tailtype of your Female betta
 
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Flowingfins

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Sorry for double posting so much mods, there's a limit to how many photos I can add per post. Otherwise they would all be in one thread

A bettas natural habitat and history~ Contrary to popular belief, bettas do not live in mud puddles or oxen footprints. In fact, Betta splendens are not naturally found in the wild. Betta splendens is a man made species, (I am not certain on the species Betta splendens was bred from, I have not been able to find any information on this subject). They were originally bred for fighting, which is where the name Siamese fighting fish came from. Betta splendens are raised in large ponds and above ground concrete pools in Thailand(In the US and other countries, they are most commonly bred in aquariums due to unsuitable temperatures outdoors). Some of the fish in these ponds escape into waterways, which is how they are found in the wild. With such flashy fins, they don't last long. The original Betta splendens was short finned, had a large body, and had red, blue, and green on a dark brown body(Similar to Betta imbellis). The Betta splendens we see today have been selectively bred to have their long, flowing fins and wide variety of colors.

BornThisWayBettas, could you post that link? I couldn't find it.
 
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Flowingfins

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It's ok as long as it is used correctly. Overdosing can cause issues, I wouldn't use it myself, but there are many people that do. If I had to use it I would only use 1/2 the recommended dose.

This thread is now a sticky(it has been for a while actually)! Thanks Lucy
I have edited in some paragraphs containing information on melafix/bettafix, AQ salt, and swim bladder disorder. There will be more revisions to come. I also updated some pictures in the tail type section.
I am still in need of some pictures! If anyone would be nice enough to allow me to use pictures of the following, please let me know
Bodyrot
Ich
Constipation
Veil tail(the current one is extremely blurry)
Your name will be credited.
Thanks for all the help with this guys If you have any ideas on what to add, pictures to share, comments or criticism, don't hesitate to comment. I'm hoping to have this fully edited with all pictures in the next three weeks(before school starts).
 

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Lots of great info here! I did notice the lack of mention that Bettas are a blackwater fish and as such prefer Soft Tannic water in the Ph range of 6.8 to 7.2 with 7.0 being a good median.

Peat in the filter works great but indian Almond leaves are a great addition to the tank. I know most beginners and even some veterans prefer crisp clean water, however that is not where these fish come from and should be addressed.

A little carbon in the filter will remove much of the yellowing or tanning color of the water resulting in a soft golden yellow color which is very pleasing.

Alot of debate has sprung up about using Almond leaves or Banana leaves or even peat but I have tested these for years and some areas I have felt become fact:

1. The natural tannin water from Indian Almond leaves does aid in antI fungal properties as well as protect from bacterial blooms.

2. Fin damage heals faster as the fish are much more hardy in a natural water environment provided by tannin water and they are much more resistant to diseases.

3. Bettas fare much better in planted tannin tanks and from a breeders prospective produce better viable fry that grow faster and are much healthier than BLANK high Ph water conditions offered by 99.8% of Betta owners.

The slight yellowing may have some belive the water is dirty but it's actually healthier than Blank water, and the Peat in the filter method will buffer the water and prevent high Ph spikes especially in areas with hard Alkaline water, you can supplement your water changes by pre treating with peat or use an RO unit or even bottled water that isn't mineral or spring.

There's plenty of info available on this topic but from my experience black water planted tanks work exponentially better for Betta's and they thrive, it is their natural environment.

Make sure to do the research if you're not familiar with Black water setups and make sure you can keep the conditions constant which is very little effort or expense, but do the homework before doing this!
 
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Flowingfins

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While bettas do like blackwater setups, they are not necessary for them. They can certainly withstand a PH much higher than 7.2, many members on here(myself included) keep them in a PH of over 8. I have considered using bottled water for breeding purposes, but will be putting the house on central RO water in the upcoming year or two. I add IAL to all my tanks, and while I agree that they certainly benefit from it, they do not need it. IAL does not lower PH by much, and I prefer not to drastically alter mine in fear of shocking my fish.
 

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Could you please make a note in the first posting that there is much more information further down the page. I missed it earlier and unfortunately have done some things that are not recommended.
 
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Flowingfins

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Of course! Yeah, the thread got a little mixed up due to picture limits. Lucy, is there a way you could either merge the posts together or put the posts in the same order?
 

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I recently found out about Dimond eye, and was wondering if you'd want to add it to your post. Not quite sure if you'd label it as a disease since its something they are born with, but there's not much out there about it. Apparently Rory has it(not covering completely), so if you'd need photos of a not completely covered eye I can post some.
 
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Flowingfins

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Sorry I missed your post Platylover! I'll definitely add that in! If you still have the photo's, that would be great!

I'll be going through and editing this again over the week. I'll be updating the pictures as well, quite a few of mine are blurry and should be replaced. If anyone else has additional information they think I should add, let me know
 

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Lol it's no biggy! I honestly forgot about it. Another thing I learned recently was about redwash, if you want to include it and want photos Rory had some.
 

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I'll see if I can find a better one, ur you can kind of see it here
d5b1c845ae5b8057a445ba0c62a08a1b.jpg
 

MujiB

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Great and helpful information! Thank you
1 more question please! (sorry if I missed it in the thread)

I use prime to condition my water, but what else do you recommend for already cycled tanks? Vitachem? Or Aqueon betta water renewal? Or something else from Seachem like stress guard etc? Anything else that might help general well being of healthy bettas or help regrow damaged fins, whether from attacks from another betta, or finrot?
 

Melissa Wedin

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MujiB said:
Great and helpful information! Thank you
1 more question please! (sorry if I missed it in the thread)

I use prime to condition my water, but what else do you recommend for already cycled tanks? Vitachem? Or Aqueon betta water renewal? Or something else from Seachem like stress guard etc? Anything else that might help general well being of healthy bettas or help regrow damaged fins, whether from attacks from another betta, or finrot?
Indian almond leaves work the best.
 

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