Betta Splendens can live for up to ten years when appropriately cared for. Proper care does not include a fish bowl, as they will only live a short time in a small space like this. Bettas need at a bare minimum, 2.5 gallons of space along with a heater and filter. More space is better.
Remember that when buying fish, your local fish shop is going to be much more knowledgeable about the species you are getting than a big box store. If you need help doing your research, go to the experts. You can also find lots of helpful information on sites such as bettafish.com, bettatalk.com, and ibcbettas.org as well as others. Some of these sites have forums that can become useful later if you need a question answered.
Adding a Betta to Your Home
Always prepare a tank for a new fish in advance of bringing one home!
Choose Your Tank
A betta will do best in a tank that holds five gallons or more. Larger tanks can help prolong the betta’s life. Although Betta Splendens has been greatly adapted from its wild cousin, they are still suited to living in shallow but spacious environments.
Filter – Many people are under the mistaken impression that Bettas should not live with filters. However, they are necessary for keeping the water clean and cycled. Just make sure that it is not too powerful as to push your fish around the tank. A sponge filter is recommended, because it is unlikely to cause damage to a betta’s delicate fins.
Heater – Bettas will need heaters in almost all cases. They need water temperatures between 78º and 82ºF. The best heaters are ones with an adjustable temperature, which won’t continue to heat once it has reached the required temperature. This will keep the fish in the appropriate range without overheating.
Filling the Tank
Preparing the Water – Using water straight from the tap can be harmful to both your fish and any beneficial bacteria, due to chemicals added to tap water. In order to negate these effects, it’s recommended that you use a water conditioner such as Seachem Prime.
Filling the Tank – If you do not have a cover for your tank, do not fill it all the way to the top. Betta Splendens can jump up to 3” high, and may escape your tank if the water level is too high.
Decorations – Make sure that any decoration you put in the tank will not damage your fish’s delicate fins. Jagged rocks, for instance, would be a bad choice. Live plants are your best bet, as they can help keep your water cleaner and oxygenated, but silk fake plants also work well. Make sure that anything you add to the tank passes the “pantyhose” test. If it snags when you run a pair of pantyhose over it, then it should not be placed with a betta.
Cycling the Tank
Let your tank cycle for a week or two to allow beneficial bacteria to build up.
Bringing Home Your Betta
Add your betta slowly to his or her new home. You’ll want to take the time (about half an hour) to acclimate him to his new tank. Float the cup or bag that your betta came in inside the new tank and allow to sit until the water temperature has evened out. You may then place your betta in the tank. Try to keep as little water from the delivery bag/cup from getting in the tank as possible.
The First Days
Sometimes bettas will not eat for the first few days after adjusting to a new home. You may also notice some lethargy. This period can last up to a week, but is nothing to worry about. I promise your fish will not starve himself to death.
It can be tempting to overfeed your betta. They seem to go into a frenzy every feeding time, making it look like they are hungry. In truth, it’s stomach is no bigger than its eye, and three pellets twice a day will suffice. The best foods for bettas are high in protein, and the first ingredient will be a type of fish, not including fish meal.
For a treat, you can provide live or frozen (not freeze-dried) food once a week. Personally, I give frozen blood worms once a week and live daphnia a couple days a week.
Caring For Your Betta
Check His Colors
After the first couple days in his new habitat, you will notice your new betta’s colors brightening up. This is what happens when you take them out of their small living spaces and get them accustomed to a real tank. Once those colors come out, fading can be the first sign of illness.
Check His Fins
You should check on your betta’s fins daily to see if there is any sign of damage. The main perpetrator of fin damage is poor water quality, but you should also see if it could have been caused by any of the decorations or equipment in the tank.
Check His Scales
Any lifting of the edges of the scales should be considered an emergency. It’s a good idea to put the fish in quarantine and perform daily water changes in addition to any medication that is tried.
Check for Signs of Bloating
Depending on the cause, bloating can either be resolved by simple fasting, or can be a sign of a larger issue.
Male bettas CAN NOT be placed in the same tank. They will fight to the death.
Bettas can be companions with other fish, provided the other fish is docile, does not have long fins, and is of a similar size to the betta.
Female bettas are trickier. Under the right circumstances, a sorority can be established. You must have more than five females in a tank with sufficient space (greater than 10 gallons) that has a large number of hiding spaces. This will only work if all the females have a calm personality. If you have fewer than five, or a smaller tank do not attempt a sorority or the result will be the same as placing males together.
Males and females are not able to live together peacefully. Breeding is complex, and even in those cases, the pair should only be in the same tank for as long as it takes spawning to occur and no longer. Breeding bettas is a huge commitment of both time and money and should not be undertaken lightly.