Basic Betta Care
Bettas can survive in almost any size due to the ability to breathe air. This is how petstores are able to keep them in tiny cups. This does not mean that they thrive in these cups. Quite the opposite. The water quality is very poor and rotting food can cause disease for the bettas rapidly in this type of housing. Small betta bowls that only hold a pint of water are not ideal either unless you are able to change the water at least every other day.
A good home for a betta is a one gallon fish bowl or clean 1 gallon jar. Small aquariums also make good homes and a 2.5 gallon to 5 gallon aquarium is an ideal size. Larger aquariums are fine too. My “work” betta has a 10 gallon all to himself and he swims from one end to the other all day long. Most bettas are not as active as he is and that is why a smaller aquarium will work for most. The advantage to using an appropriately sized bowl or aquarium is also that maintenance is less time consuming since water changes generally need to be done only once a week.
Water changes are very important to keeping a betta healthy and happy. How much and how often the water needs to be changed for an adult betta varies by size of container:
- 1 pint jar or bowl (or smaller…eek!): 100% water change every day
- 1 quart jar or bowl: 100% water change every other day
- 1/2 gallon bowl: 100% water change twice a week
- 1 gallon bowl: 100% water change once a week
- Small aquarium: 2-3 gallons: 50% water change once a week
- Aquarium 5-10 gallons: 25% water change once a week
Note: If you are raising baby bettas, the jars/containers should be changed as often as possible, every day or every other day for maiximum growth.
Other times when water should be changed:
- When medication is being used. Some remedies like Hikari Revive are more effective when the water is changed every 24 hours
- If the water is cloudy/scummy. This is bad for the betta. Rinse bowl well if this happens and wipe down sides with a clean sponge or paper towel before refilling
- When there is rotting food in the bowl. If your betta does not eat the food served within 5 minutes, he likely will not do so. Remove any uneaten food to avoid water quality problems. You can also add an aquatic snail to clean up any extra food. I like ramshorn snails but some people do not because they tend to reproduce like rabbits. Mystery snails are also good but they would only be suitable for a 2.5 gallon aquarium or larger due to their large size.
How to Change Water
It is very important that the water be the same temperature as the water the betta is currently in. It should also be dechlorinated with a water conditioner before use.
If your betta is in a bowl, you can set a container of dechlorinated water next to the fish the night before and use it the next day.
If your betta is in a HEATED aquarium, you can take out the amount of water mentioned above, then use plastic containers to float the new water in the aquarium. Large plastic dixie type cups work well because the edges keep the cup from hitting the side of the aquarium and possibly squishing your fish.
What is a siphon?
A siphon is a piece of fish tubing that can “vacuum” up waste and uneaten food. To start the siphon run the end under the kitchen sink. Once water is running out the other end (make sure the other end is over the sink too!). Put your thumb over it. Hold the tube ends at an equal level to avoid dripping. Put a bucket below your betta aquarium or bowl. Put one end of the siphon into your betta bowl and the other end below the bowl/aquarium over the bucket. When you take your thumb off the bucket end, the water will flow into it. Be careful not to catch your betta’s fins. If you have trouble controlling where the end in the betta bowl is going, you can buy a piece of rigid aquarium tubing and insert a piece into the soft, flexible tubing for more control. You can use a siphon to drain water, pick up excess fish food or excess fish waste in between water changes.
Live plants are great for bettas. They can help keep the water clean, absorb some toxins and increase the oxygen level of the water. The most common “betta” plants are java ferns and java moss. Both do very well in low light situations. If your aquarium or bowl gets a higher level of light (artificial or diffused sunlight) you can try other plants such as Najas grass or water sprite.
Learn about breeding bettas…