View Full Version : Betta Write-up

08-25-2017, 10:54 PM
Here's my write-up on bettas, for peer review. Will probably take me some time to break it up into manageable posts, so hold comments/suggestions until I've got all the pieces put up.

Betta Splendens

Betta splendens, or known more commonly simply as betta fish, are one of the staples of the aquarium-keeping hobby. With flamboyant visual appearances and attitudes to match, bettas are easily recognized in their little cups at the pet stores. Due to massive marketing from companies who sell novelty items, bettas are one of the most misunderstood and poorly-cared for animals in the hobby. The purpose of this article is to dispel some of the common misconceptions regarding the species and provide new and experienced hobbyists with accurate info that will lead to the proper care these fish deserve.

Natural Habitat

One of the most ridiculous and common things said about bettas is that they live in small puddles and therefore prefer small homes. This is the justification used by companies who push those small office desk novelty containers, the employees at stores trying to sell their tiny tanks to customers who are afraid of large tanks, and owners who like to stick their bettas in things like vases because the simply like the look. This misinformation has been spread around so much by so many people over the years that it is considered in many circles to be true. Even more knowledgeable individuals, such as those who work in fish shops, tend to believe this and will regurgitate the info without their own diligent research. It's almost guaranteed that every one of us, as some point, will hear the story about bettas living in a footprint puddle. In reality, the bettas’ natural habitat in composed of slow-moving streams, ponds, and large rice paddy fields, all of which are much deeper and broader than most of the respectable-sized aquariums we keep for our bigger fish, let along the tiny little plastic cubes that so many believe are adequate for bettas.

Tank Size

The absolute bare minimum tank size for a betta should be five gallons, period. Ten gallon tanks are even better and really the optimal tank size. Aquatic Community and its staff are dedicated to the well-being of the fish, first and foremost. Tank size is hotly-debated in other forums and social media groups, but AC has a strict no-tolerance policy regarding this topic. Members who are found advising others that it is fine to house bettas in cruel inadequate containers will be warned and have their post(s) edited or removed. This includes the practice of taking decent-sized tanks and dividing them up into small compartments of one or two gallons so that multiple bettas can be housed in the same tank. Continued willful defiance of the betta tank policy may lead to the banning of your account. It is not ok to perpetuate the myth that bettas live in puddles and are perfectly happy in a tiny home, regardless of how many pet store employees tell you this. They are wrong, plain and simple. Please do not contribute to the spread of this false information that leads to the miserable existence of so many beautiful and intelligent fish.

08-25-2017, 10:59 PM
Tank Setup and Proper Conditions

Water temperature – Bettas are tropical fish and come from fairly warm waters. A heater is generally required and the water temperature should be kept between 76-82*F (about 24-28*C).

pH – Wild-caught bettas prefer acidic water (pH less than 7), however tank-raised bettas are very tolerant to a wider range of pH and do well even in water that carries a pH greater than 8.

Hardness (gH/kH) – Bettas comes from soft water, but captive-bred are fairly adaptable to water that is harder. If your water is approaching 20 degrees or more of hardness, it is advisable to add in some distilled/reverse osmosis water to make the water softer.

Nitrogenous compounds (ammonia/nitrite/nitrate) – As with any fish, ammonia and nitrate levels should always be reading zero. Nitrate levels should be kept to a minimum, but levels between 20-40ppm are perfectly acceptable.

***Please note that ornamental bettas – the typical store-bought ones with long flowing fins – are incredibly susceptible to fin rot.*** Fin rot occurs when the betta’s water is not being kept clean. If the betta’s fins become damaged from brushing up against a sharp decoration or fake plant, the site of the injury can rapidly become inflamed/infected. If your betta’s fin starts to look shredded/tattered, and has red edges, evaluation of tank maintenance needs to be done to determine the source of the dirty water conditions. This could be anything from the filter pads not being cleaned as frequently as they should be, gravel not being vacuumed to remove uneaten food and fish waste, and/or insufficient water changes (not frequent enough or not enough water being changed each time). Bettas are large fish and generate a lot of waste, and will sometimes miss a lot of their food which will then end up rotting in the gravel. Please make a habit of changing 50% of the tank water once a week and be sure you are vacuuming the gravel.

Labyrinth organ – Bettas are anabantoids, meaning they possess an air-breathing organ that is similar to a lung, called a labyrinth organ. Bettas must have easy access to fresh air at the surface of their tank so that they can come up for air whenever they need to do so. This is a reason why using vases with plants or novelty containers with closed/tight lids are not advised, as those types of setups prevent access to fresh air.

***Bettas are very intelligent and do best in tanks that are planted with lots of areas for them to explore.*** They enjoy interaction with their owners and people will often enjoy playing with their betta by having them pass through hoops, pushing around ping pong balls, or chasing your finger back and forth across the tank. One of the cruelest things you can do to a betta, other than putting it in a tank too small, is putting it in a bare tank with nothing to inspect or interact with.

08-25-2017, 11:02 PM

Aggression - Bettas are known to be very territorial, and should be kept apart from other fish – especially other bettas. Other males, or simply other fish that appear to be similar with large fins or flashy color, will be seen as a threat and will be approached aggressively. If the other fish does not back down, or if the tank is too small for them to retreat far enough away from the aggressor, a fight will ensue or the betta will relentlessly chase the other fish. These confrontations generally lead to injuries, stress, and even death.

Female aggression – Females are much more tolerant of their own kind and can oftentimes be kept together with other females in what is called a betta “sorority.” There may be some chasing and aggression at first, but this is due to the females establishing a pecking order. Once the pecking order is set and each girl knows her place within the sorority, most - if not all - the aggression will cease. If several days go by and the females continue to chase each other and tear up their fins, it is advisable to look into rehoming some of the females.

Flaring – Bettas will occasionally flare out their fins and push out their gill flaps in a display of warning. Some will do this towards other fish/animals that they feel need to be challenged, sometimes they will flare at a nearby person, and often times they will see their own reflection in the tank glass and flare at themselves. This is completely normal behavior and is generally agreed that is harmless to the betta. Some people feel that purposefully inducing flaring by placing something like a mirror in front of their betta fish is stimulating and beneficial to the fish, but those kind of claims are unproven. The practice of purposefully getting your betta to feel threatened just to get it to flare is irresponsible and unnecessary. A happy and stress-free betta will live for years without ever needing to feel threatened.

Bubble nests – Bettas build nests with bubbles, as do a lot of anabantoids, like gourami fish. The males, when sexually mature, will find a corner of the tank – or in plants that are touching the surface – that is calm and still. They will then use their “spit” to form little delicate bubbles that stick together and float on the surface of the water. Tanks that have lots of water flow and surface agitation will make this natural behavior very difficult as the turbulent waters will prevent the delicate bubbles from staying together.

Fins, water flow, and resting – Bettas have huge fins, obviously. These impressive fins have been bred into the species for aesthetic purposes, and actually hinder the fish’s movements. This leads to them becoming tired often and needing places to relax. Bettas will literally “lay down” on decorations or wedge themselves into plants. While it is important to provide any fish with proper filtration to ensure a clean and healthy home, special care needs to be taken with bettas. Strong currents from filters will tire and stress them out if they cannot retreat to an area that is calm and has places for them to relax. Having lots of décor and/or plants in their tank will not only break up the water current and slow it down in general, but will also give the betta some nice places to stop and relax. Pet stores will often sell little fake leaves/ledges that can be stuck to the glass for bettas to rest on, but bettas will always love to have some real plants to play in and relax on!

08-25-2017, 11:04 PM
Tank Mates and Compatibility

As a rule of thumb, especially for new hobbyists, never keep a betta with other fish. A good understanding of fish aggression and how to deal with it is necessary before attempting to keep bettas with other animals. Yes, bettas can and have been kept, peacefully, with other animals, but they have also terrorized and killed many others. There is a reason their nickname is The Siamese Fighting Fish.

When the decision is made to keep a betta in a community setting, it is important that a separate tank is already set up and ready to receive the betta in the event that things turn ugly, which can happen in the blink of an eye. Generally, do not put a betta with other fish who are colorful or as large (or bigger) as the betta, as they will view this as competition. Fish with large fins, such as angelfish, gourami, and discus should never be kept in the same tank with a betta. Fast-moving schooling fish, such as tetras, in a large tank (such as a 55g), could work with a betta, as the large numbers of the school will confuse it, and there will be enough room for the tetras to run away. Please use good judgment. Putting five neon tetras in a 10g tank with a betta is a recipe for disaster. The betta will chase the neons mercilessly until he either kills them directly or he stresses them out to the point of sickness/exhaustion/death. Safe tank mates in small tanks are always going to be things like snails that have defensive shells and aren’t aggressive.

More experienced aquarists will have luck keeping some micro-fish with a betta that they’ve already deemed non-aggressive in a small tank, but the key here is having the experience to know your fish, their personality/aggression levels, and how to quickly deal with the situation if aggression becomes an issue. Putting a betta in the same tank with others without a backup plan is a quick way to kill animals and will be considered reckless by a lot of experienced hobbyists…especially after they have already given warning to the individual. Shrimp are sometimes kept with bettas, but tend to end up as a betta snack. It is advised to have lots of plants and hiding places for the shrimp that the betta cannot get to before you mix the two together. DO NOT KEEP MALE BETTAS WITH OTHER MALE BETTAS. DO NOT KEEP MALES WITH FEMALES UNLESS RIGHT BEFORE MATING.

08-25-2017, 11:06 PM

Bettas are often the first fish people start out with, and feeding is always something new hobbyists have to get a feel for. Despite fish being opportunistic feeders that can go weeks without food (not advisable), most newcomers feel that they need to feed their fish two or three times a day like they would their pet dog.

A betta only needs about three or four pellets per day, although they will continue to stuff their faces until their stomachs literally bulge out.

When feeding your betta, take one pellet at a time and drop it in next to the betta and wait for him/her to eat that pellet before adding more. Pellets drop fairly quickly, and if you add all the pellets at once, chances are some will fall more quickly than the fish can keep up with, leading to uneaten food getting down into the substrate and fouling up the tank. Plus, it is entertaining to feed one at a time and watch your little fish buddy chew up and gulp down each pellet.

If you forget to feed and miss a day, do not “double-up” on the next day’s feeding. A day of fasting here and there helps keep your betta’s digestive system clear. Doubling-up its food can possibly lead to digestive blockages and/or distended bellies. We all eat with our eyes and know all too well that misery that comes from gorging on more than we should have.

08-25-2017, 11:09 PM

Male and female bettas are incredibly easy to distinguish, compared to some of the other common fish in the hobby, and can be told apart from one another even by the most inexperienced hobbyist. Males are the ones that have larger bodies with the huge flowing fins. Females lack the flamboyant finnage and generally do not come in all the fancy colors, although the females still possess some striking and beautiful coloring of their own.


When a male and female reach maturity, they can be introduced into the same tank with each other to see if they will mate. It is advised to keep them separate before mating to reduce the chances of fighting.

Once the male has built his bubble nest, the female can be released in his tank. The male will flare and chase the female. If the female does not want to mate with the male, she will destroy his nest as a sign of displeasure. If this happens, remove the female, let the male rebuild his nest, and try again. If the female destroys the nest a second time, chances are she has completely rejected the male and you will need to try finding a different breeding pair.

If, however, the female is ready to mate, she will extrude her egg tube and chase the male back. During the actual act of mating and fertilization, the male will wrap himself around the female and hold her until he is done fertilizing the eggs. After this, the female will start dropping her eggs. The male will pick up the eggs with his mouth and deposit them into his bubble nest. After the female is done dropping her eggs, it is advised to remove her from the tank as she will attempt to eat the eggs. If this happens, the male will defend his nest from the female and kill her if he can.

After several days the eggs will hatch and the fry will become mobile. Once the fry have finished feeding off their yolk-sacs and begin to move more freely away from the bubble nest, the male can be removed from the tank. Some breeders keep the male with the fry as he will help tend to them, whereas some breeders prefer to remove the parent as they will sometimes eat the fry that it deems sickly/weak, culling his own brood. Breeders who keep the fathers in the tank with the fry do so in larger tanks, like 10g, and feed the father often to keep him from snacking on the young. Breeders who keep the fathers with the young also report that doing so decreases the aggression among the young males in the tank, allowing the young to stay together in one tank longer instead of having to separate the males at an earlier age.

08-25-2017, 11:11 PM
And that's what I got. Feel free to pick it apart and let me know what needs to be changed. I don't think I'm allowed to edit a post after ten minutes, but maybe the mods can make the changes that people agree on.

08-26-2017, 12:24 PM
Great write up Andre! Pretty much spot on. We have really hard water here with pH in the high 7's and our bettas have done incredibly well.

08-26-2017, 06:52 PM
Thanks buddy!

Yeah, our water is nice and soft but pH has been pretty steady at 8.2 for years. Bettas do extremely well.

One of these days I'm going to set up a new betta tank using our RODI water, and see about getting a wild-caught. Wilds are incredibly beautiful, IMO. They look like extremely colorful gourami, in a way.

08-27-2017, 10:26 PM
Finished reviewing this article.

Its really well written. And hits the nail on the head.

08-28-2017, 05:26 AM
Thanks mac. It's beyond the time frame for me to be able to edit it, but if you or the others need to change some stuff in there, go for it. I know we had discussed the issue of debatable topics, like the tank size, on our FB discussions. Didn't know if I came across too strongly here of if that was the stance you guys want to take.

08-28-2017, 05:32 AM
I will check on the desk top along with a correlation on the face book messages.
But from what i have read its perfectly written.

08-30-2017, 03:45 AM
This is a really good resource! thumbs2:

08-30-2017, 01:59 PM
Nice write up my only issue is with the betta sorority.

Female aggression – Females are much more tolerant of their own kind and can oftentimes be kept together with other females in what is called a betta “sorority.” There may be some chasing and aggression at first, but this is due to the females establishing a pecking order. Once the pecking order is set and each girl knows her place within the sorority, most - if not all - the aggression will cease. If several days go by and the females continue to chase each other and tear up their fins, it is advisable to look into rehoming some of the females.

Females are as aggressive or even have the potential to be more aggressive than males. Having had a gentleman who breeds betta speak to the club I attend, he explained the only reason a betta sorority works is because the chemicals released by each individual betta is accepted by the others-grudgingly. IF a female is removed from the tank, she can never be re-introduced. He said a slight imbalance in the tank can also cause the girls to suddenly no accept each other and attack their "sisters". In my opinion forcing fish to live together for our convenience is not right.

I know some have success, but I know a lot more where their sorority ended in lots of fish damaged or even killed.

09-05-2017, 08:54 AM
Hey Nat,

Would you like to possibly do a draft of the female aggression??


06-02-2018, 09:03 AM
Some how this got forgotten.
So its been sticked!

Big thank you to Boof for all his work!

11-11-2019, 11:28 AM
Betta fish are why i joined this forum as they are what i might start out keeping :)

I did read up on feeding betta fish is this a good guide for a newbie?