We are an animal family. Under our roof have lived rodents and reptiles, two spoiled cats dominates our sofas, and a flock of chickens squawks in the backyard whenever a squirrel hops by. For quite some time, the youngest human among us felt his turn to stake claim to a pet had come. And so for Christmas when he was six, I presented him with a certificate good for one Betta fish. A few days later we headed to the local pet store to pick out his new friend. He chose a beautiful indigo male and while we gathered our supplies, he bestowed upon him the title Blubby. A fittingly elegant name for such a magnificent creature. I did mention he was six, right?
At first Blubby seemed to be doing well in his little habitat. We diligently changed the water and kept the sides of the tank clean. We read up on nutrition and I had a chat with my son about the importance of never overfeeding Blubby. After a month or so, our once bright and active little swimmer seemed pale and listless. We all began to worry.
I started researching probable causes for the decline in our piscine friend and suddenly it clicked. Blubby was a Christmas present. This tropical fish came to live with us during late December/early January. In New England. Blubby was uncomfortably cold. I rushed back to the pet store and found a heater appropriately sized for our tank. Within hours of setting it up, Blubby was back to full color, full appetite, and darting around like his old self.
When you see those little containers of Betta fish sitting on shelves in your local pet store, it’s easy to think that caring for one is simply a matter of dropping it in a slightly larger container and calling it a day. And it turned out there was more to Betta fish care than I’d initially realized.
If you’ve had similar issues or have been considering adopting a new Betta fish, listed below are 7 essential tips to owning a healthy and happy Betta fish that I wish I knew prior to adopting Blubby.
Here are 7 Essential Tips for Raising a Healthy and Happy Betta Fish!
1. Find an appropriately sized tank for your Betta fish
It’s a common belief that Bettas thrive in small spaces with minimal water, but sources have shown this is not actually the case. A good rule of thumb recommended by multiple sources is three gallons of water per inch of fish. Betta fish tend to be 1-2 inches long so make sure to take a look at your fish and find the right sized tank to accommodate its size.
2. Purchase the right Betta food
Bettas love a varied diet. Pellets specially formulated for their nutritional needs are an important staple in a good diet but they shouldn’t be the only thing your Betta eats. Supplement with frozen brine shrimp and frozen bloodworms. Before offering, make sure to thaw completely. A well-rounded Betta fish diet looks something like this:
– 2-3 Betta feed pellets in the morning / 1-2 in the evening
– 1-2 defrosted bloodworms per day
– 2-3 defrosted brine shrimp per week
An important note about feeding: Just like I told my son, it is extremely important not to overfeed your Betta. Use tweezers to portion the right amount of food. Overfeeding is not only physically harmful to your fish in similar ways that overeating can be harmful to us, it can also negatively affect water chemistry because a buildup of excess food and excess fish waste causes buildup of ammonia and nitrites and low oxygen levels.
3. Get a heater
Betta fish prefer water that’s around 78 degrees and let’s face it, that’s just too hot for your house. Heaters are widely available for every size tank. They are inexpensive and easy to set up. Do be careful to get the appropriate size otherwise you could find yourself with water that’s too hot or barely heated at all. An aquarium thermometer will help you keep track of the climate.
4. Never put your Betta fish in water straight from the tap
Tap water may look and taste fresh and clean to us, but it is often contains chemicals that keep it sparkling and pathogen free. Before adding water to your tank, let it sit in an open container for 24 hours. Some people heat the water and let it slowly cool (completely!) before adding to the tank, but I’ve always found that just letting it sit does the trick.
5. Use a water conditioner
Another way to ensure that the water in your Betta’s tank is right for your little friend is to treat it with a water conditioner. Water conditioner is inexpensive and formulated to keep things optimal for your fish. Be sure to follow directions carefully.
6. Learn about the signs of picking a healthy fish at the store
When you have all the bits and pieces ready to go, it’s time to introduce your Betta fish to his or her new home. So how do you know which fish is the healthiest? One thing to look for right away is the condition of the environment where your Betta has been living. Be sure the water and tank look clean and that the other fish seem healthy. Look for a fish with smooth, bright scales and no visible lumps or abrasions. Eyes should look clear and bright and when you gently place a finger near the fish, it should react. Plus, learn about all the different types of Bettas you may find at the store here to find your best fit!
7. Check the status of the tank’s water on a weekly basis
You’ve already learned the basics of Betta care, now it’s just a matter of keeping up with them. Make sure to check the water in your tank on a weekly basis. If you’re using a filter, make sure it’s functioning well. If you are using a cycling aquaponics system, it’s recommended to use fish tank water quality test strips which test for everything from chlorine levels to water pH to ensure your tank has the proper water conditions.
Wait, what’s a cycling aquaponics system?
Plants are really good at keeping things clean. It’s what they do. Keeping your Betta in a habitat with a plant root system is a great way to keep your water clean and your plants healthy. Fish waste fertilizes your plants while the plants help keep the water clean.
Check out our Water Garden, a tank customized for your Betta that grows edible plants on top and comes with all the bells and whistles described above that you need to set up a home for your fish.
So! Now you’ve got the basics of Betta fish care down (Blubby would be so proud). But before you run out to adopt your new fish, comment below which tip you would suggest to a new Betta owner!