What are Bettas?
Bettas, or Siamese Fighting Fish (Betta splendens) are possibly one of if not the most commonly kept fish. They are a species of Labyrinth fish (Anabantoidei) making them related to Gourami and their relatives.
There are over 70 species of Betta, however, the most commonly kept is the Betta splendens, as it has been domesticated and bred into all different shapes and colours.
Where are Bettas from?
As Bettas are domesticated fish, the ones you see in the fish store are captive bred, usually man-made breeds that are raised in farms and aquariums. It is possible to obtain wild caught Bettas, although they do not look the same and are quite uncommon to see in local fish stores.
They originate from South East Asia, particularly areas within Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam where they are found in shallow rivulets, forest pools and small streams.
Water parameters for Betta
The streams and pools Bettas are found in lie deep within forested areas, with plenty of leaves and decaying plant debris that leach into the water, staining it black and causing it to become acidic.
|6.5 – 7.5
|Low KH and GH
|23C – 27C (74F – 80F)
Feeding and diet of Bettas
Bettas are predatory; they are mostly carnivorous and their main diet consists of small invertebrates, involving the larvae and adults of many semi aquatic fly species such as mosquitos and midge.
In captivity, they appreciate a high protein diet and can be easily fed dry fish foods such as small pellets and flakes, as well as frozen foods like bloodworm, tubifex, daphnia and brine shrimp.
Bettas are easy to feed, as they are not particularly fussy eaters, although they are slow, meaning any competition you have in the tank is likely to get the food before the Betta does, so be sure you are adding enough or target feeding your Betta if necessary.
Best tank mates for Bettas
Bettas do not make ideal community fish, as they are poor swimmers, slow at eating, have long finnage that is easily torn and will attack anything that looks like another betta.
There are, however, some aquatic creatures you can house with Bettas that cohabit well and without issue. This list contains some animals that suit Betta tanks well for various reasons:
Dwarf congo frogs
Dwarf Congo frogs, or African Grey frogs (Hymenochirus boulenger) are a species of small, fully aquatic frog. They are peaceful in nature and can live with fish, accepting that they are not out-competed by them for food.
This makes Bettas a good choice to house with Congo frogs as they oppose little competition when it comes to feeding. The frogs also need a very similar, high protein, meaty diet of bloodworms, tubifex and brine shrimp that is also enjoyed by Bettas.
Neither of these animals also like a current in the water, and both need a filter that has very little flow or is air powered, again, making them ideal. The frogs enjoy a wide range of water parameters, but prefer to be kept around a neutral pH, which Bettas also enjoy.
Just be sure that you provide lots of plantlife for the frogs to perch on and climb up, as while these frogs are aquatic, they still need to come to the surface for air every 5 minutes or so.
Shrimp typically dont do well with Bettas, as they are small enough to be eaten and the Bettas predatory nature will seek them out.
Amano shrimp however, are large enough to not be eaten by the Betta and will be left alone, but are still small enough to be housed in those 5 or 10 gallon tanks, which Bettas are typically kept in, making them ideal. The shrimp themselves are also peaceful, and very little interaction will happen between the shrimp and the Betta.
Amano shrimp stay on the floor, or on plants and surfaces, grazing away at algae and picking up any leftover food. They are an excellent cleanup crew to add to your Betta tank.
When keeping them together however, you will need to provide some calcium for the shells of the shrimp, so adding a little crushed coral or buffering your water with a small amount of KH powder will keep them healthy.
Keep the pH at around anywhere from 6.8 – 7.6 and keep the hardness level low to moderate KH and GH if you want to house shrimp with your Betta.
Much like shrimp, snails take up the same role as cleanup crew, but they are just as fascinating as any fish you could add to the tank.
There are many different types of snail; Ramshorn, Malaysian Trumpet, Apple, Bladder or Rabbit Snail, all of which do different things and are amazing to keep.
They provide no competition over food, but will clean up waste and algae, assisting in filtration and helping to maintain your aquatic ecosystem.
Much like shrimp however, they need calcium, so the same principles apply, add calcium with a buffer every so often and keep the pH anywhere from 6.8 – 7.6.
One of the smallest Loach species in the hobby, Kuhlis get to be around the size of a cigarette. They are little worm-like fish, with bright yellow and black barring going down their body and they make excellent tank mates for Bettas.
Kuhlis enjoy a very similar environment to Bettas, with low pH and hardness levels, so can be kept at their ideal parameters. Kuhlis are also bottom feeders, so oppose no competition to the Bettas when it comes to eating and both will do well in the same tank.
How to breed Bettas
Before you decide to breed your Bettas, you need to have a solid plan of what you will do with the offspring. As you may know, Bettas, or Siamese Fighters, are highly territorial and two mature males housed in the same tank will violently kill each other.
Of course, we cannot allow this to happen, so unless you have hundreds of spare aquariums set up to house them in, you need to have somewhere you can sell or give the resulting offspring away to.
After you have an established plan, breeding Bettas is not very hard, but can be tedious if things go wrong.
The first step is to condition your fish by feeding them plenty of high protein foods to put weight on them. Once they have brilliant colours and are swimming around confidently, then you can begin increasing the temperature to around 27C / 82F.
You will want to set up a breeding tank for this and have plenty of floating plants where the male can construct a bubble nest. Have sponge filters running so as not to produce a strong current and keep the water parameters slightly acidic.
Then once the male is comfortable, he will begin constructing a bubble nest at the surface of the water. Once he has built this, and the female is showing dark stripes and her ovipositor is exposed, it is time to introduce them.
Do this slowly, and get them used to each other by keeping her in a floating tub or cage, so they can see one another, but not fight. Once they are used to each other, and they are showing no aggression, introduce her to the tank and leave them to breed.
Once the fish mate, the male will fertilise the eggs and stick them to his bubble nest.
The father will now do all of the work in raising the eggs and wigglers and the female is no longer needed, so she should be moved back to her old tank.
How to sex Bettas
Bettas are very easy to sex as they are highly sexually dimorphic, with males and females being very easy to distinguish between one another.
- In Bettas, the male has very long flowing finnage, with extremely vibrant colours all over his body.
- The females often appear smaller, with shorter fins and less colour.
When it comes to rationing Bettas, males of course, cannot be housed together under any circumstance, as in captivity, they will fight to the death. Males should be kept on their own, they are not social fish and will even often attack females when they are not in condition
When it comes to breeding them however, they must be housed together for some time and when it is that time. The ratio is usually just a 1:1 with a single male and female pair to one tank, on their own.
However, once the female has laid her eggs in the male’s bubble nest, she must be removed, as she becomes a threat to his offspring and he will attack her, just as he would any other fish.
Betta spawning and fry
The father will tend to his eggs for the next 3 days, cleaning them and aerating them to prevent fungus from growing. Once they hatch, they will emerge as wigglers and will not be able to swim while they absorb their yolk sack.
They will spend another 3 days as wigglers and the father will continue to tend to them in his bubble nest.
After they absorb their yolk, they will develop into free swimming fry, at this point the male should be removed, as he will now no longer care for his young, and will only see them as food. In the wild, this is the point where the fry would swim away and find their own way in life.
Now is the time for you to step in. Betta fry are extremely tiny and need feeding very tiny foods, such as infusoria, baby brine shrimp and walter worms around 3 times a day.
Eventually, the fry can be moved onto frozen foods and crushed flakes. Once they begin to show colour and reach maturity, they are to be separated so that they do not fight.
What tank size do Bettas need?
Bettas should be housed in any tank upwards of 5 gallons – this is a tank or aquarium, not a plastic bottle, not a bowl or jar, but a glass or acrylic aquarium with a filter and heater.
Although Bettas are the most commonly kept fish, they are also the most misunderstood and all too often they are kept in tiny water containers with no filter and no heater.
Housing a fish in some common household item like this is a good way to kill a fish. They need filtration to remove toxic ammonia that comes from their food and waste. They need oxygen, they need to be kept at certain temperatures, and they need room to swim.
What plants are best for Bettas?
Bettas do well with most plants, and really appreciate plenty of places to hide. Like most Labyrinth fish, they like to spend most of their lives up top and at the water’s surface.
Because they like living up top, they feel most comfortable when surrounded with lots of floating plants, especially those with long roots and that cover up lots of the surface, providing shade and safety.
So, here are our top recommendations for floating aquarium plants:
- Amazon Frogbit
- Water Lettuce
- Water Hyacinth
- Dwarf Aquarium Lily
- Brazilian Pennywort
- Pothos (grows above the water)
Tips and tricks for Betta care
Providing any pet with the best possible care is a must if you want to involve animals into your life, and this is especially important for fish, as not only do you have to feed them, clean them and house them properly, you also need to keep the water chemistry just right.
As mentioned, many people keep Bettas in tiny containers of water, like plastic bottles and bowls – this is not an ideal habitat for a Betta, you need to provide them with a tank of at least 5 gallons and have a filter and heater just to keep them alive.
On top of this, you should perform regular water changes to keep the water clean of ammonia and give the filter a clean once a month.
Researching proper aquarium keeping before taking a fish home is imperative, ignorance is the biggest killer of fish. So, our biggest tip for Bettas is to do your research before owning one, as goes for any animal you decide to keep in your home.