A Betta fish swims in a tank.

Most people think of fish as low-maintenance pets that are a great addition to a house that already has dogs, cats, or other pets. While there are certain breeds of fish that can survive happily with some food occasionally sprinkled into a bowl, the betta fish is not one. 

This species requires specific care to ensure a healthy and happy life. Wheaton Animal Hospital wants to be sure you know what it takes to successfully add betta fish to your pet family.

Putting Betta Fish In The Right Tank

When it comes to successful betta fish, one of the most important elements to consider is the kind of tank you use. 

In order to thrive, betta fish must have the space to swim far distances, which is why it is imperative to get a tank that is at least 5 gallons or larger. While it is okay to spruce up the tank with a few decorations like plants and rocks, make sure the majority of the water is free and clear so the betta fish has plenty of room to swim. If you put a betta fish in a tank that is too small, it might get so bored that it starts to chew on its own fin. 

Be aware that betta fins are very delicate and can easily tear on tank decor & even some filters. Feel any and all tank decor (bridges, huts, plastic plants & toys) with your own hands to make sure they do not feel sharp or jagged. Be aware that some tank decor (like plastic trees & structures) can have hollow spaces where small fish can become fatally trapped. Because they like to lounge by the surface, adding a suction-cupped betta leaf hammock attached 1-2 inches under the surface gives them the perfect spot to hang out. 

Keep The Water Warm And Clear

Since betta fish originate in tropical waters, you need to make sure the water in the tank is between 76°-81°F.  You can find tank water heaters and thermometers so you can make sure the water is warm enough for your betta even if the air in the room is cooler. 

The kind of water you use in the tank can affect the fish’s quality of life as well. Typical tap water often has chemicals and heavy metals that are dangerous for a betta. You can either use a dechlorinating product or fill the tank with bottled water to ensure the fish has a clean habitat. Use a water-testing kit with strips to periodically check the levels of water hardness, ph balance, Nitrate and Nitrite balances. You should likely perform ⅓ water changes every 1-2 weeks, replacing a third of the old tank water with new (and pre-treated, warm water). This will help keep bacteria levels in check and keep your Betta healthy. Using a tank vacuum to suck up waste and debris during water changes will also help keep the water inhabitable. Betta fish have evolved to survive off of both water and air, so do not be surprised if you see your fish hanging out near the surface.

General Care Tips To Remember

These general care tips will help you provide the best and safest environment for your betta fish:

  • Betta fish are carnivores, so make sure to give them food pellets made with fish or shrimp. Tropical fish flakes are not an appropriate diet. Consider freeze-dried worms and frozen blocks of bloodworms for additional nutrition. Remember, a Betta fish’s stomach is only as large as their eye, so be careful not to overfeed. 
  • If given the opportunity, betta fish will overeat. Be sure to ask your veterinarian about the proper amount to feed them to keep them at a healthy weight. It’s even recommended to have one fasting day a week so that your Betta has a chance to fully digest all food from the week and pass it easily.
  • Any uneaten food should be removed from the tank after your betta is finished. Food waste, along with actual betta waste, can rot in the water and contribute to fatal water quality. 
  • They are very independent and territorial. While some groups of females can be housed together occasionally, it is not generally recommended. Males should always be single-housed in a tank. There ARE complimentary tank-mates that you can research who can live amiably with Betta fish. 
  • Betta fish can jump out of the tank and can even survive temporarily out of the water.. Adding a lid to your tank will keep them safely inside the water.
  • Contrary to popular belief, toxins in the water can be harmful to these fish, so you need to clean the tank water regularly and install a small filter that will clean it for you. Beware that strong current filters can often be too strong and can either cause your Betta to avoid that area of the tank altogether or they can get caught in the currents and trapped in tight spaces. 

Wheaton Animal Hospital wants to make it as simple as possible to keep your pets happy and healthy in your home. Whether you need some resources for first-time pet owners or you want to schedule a wellness exam for your animal, we are here for you. Visit us online to learn more.