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What You Should Know About the Betta Fish

Last Updated: 12.07.24


If you think your current aquarium would be a nice house for betta fish, there are some things you should consider before going to the pet store. The betta fish is loved by many fish enthusiasts due to its unusual appearance but there is some information that people don’t know. We will discuss these colorful fish and how they got their name, origin and breeding habits so you can make a more informed choice. 



The origin of the betta fish

More than 70 kinds of betta fish live in freshwater environments in the Southeast region of Asia and all of them are part of the Osphronemidae family. The betta fish usually live in the shallow waters of swamps, lakes or in slow-moving rivers. It is not uncommon for rice farmers to spot these colorful fish around their farms during the flood season.


The aspect of the betta fish

They are quite small as they are between 2.5 to 3 inches long so their aggressive behavior is even more surprising. In the wild, males don’t develop the eye-catching, powerfully colored flowing fins regularly observed in the pet stores. 

In their natural habitat, betta fish have a dim green coloration and small fins which they use to attract breeding partners. Also, they use the fins to ward off predators such as cats, bigger fish, and salamanders. 

The spectacular traits such as the gold, blue, red, and green fins are the result of selective breeding according to the University of Michigan. The captive males are using the fins in the same way as the wild males and their vivid powerful colors might help them a lot.


How they got the name

Betta fish are also known as Siamese fighting fish or as ‘pla kat’ by people in Thailand which translates to ‘fighting fish’ and the name suits them perfectly. These fish are known for being tough fighters. 

Male betta fish will aggressively flare their gill covers and will start nipping the fins of another male or female that gets too close. Into the wild, fights can go on for 15 minutes before one of the males decides to quit. In addition to this, people in Thailand selectively bred betta fish which are capable of fighting for a few hours. However, this is considered to be a form of animal cruelty by most of the Western countries.


Betta fish illegal fights

The aggressive behavior of the betta fish has been exploited for financial gain as people gamble on fish fights. These customs date a few centuries back and the fights are similar to cockfights. In the United States, fish fights are illegal regardless of the fighting species.

Even placing a mirror next to the aquarium so the fish thinks there is another individual is considered unethical as the fish will keep displaying aggression and hit the aquarium’s walls. However, some pet companies are advertising a ‘mirror designed to exercise’ so the betta fish keep flexing their fins in a spectacular way. 


Breeding behavior

The reproductive behavior of the betta fish can go from beautiful to weird. The male starts blowing bubbles in order to attract a mating partner. After gulping some air from the water’s surface, he begins to blow out some mucus-covered bubbles that remain at the water’s surface. This goes on for a couple of hours until the nest of bubbles is thick enough.



Finding a mating partner

After creating the bubble layer, the betta male tries to nicely invite a female under the nest by flashing the fins and flaring the gill covers. If the female is unimpressed and remains uncooperative, the male might become violent. He will start nipping her tail and fins until he tears and rips off her scales.

When the female finally joins him under the bubble nest, the newly formed couple starts to dance as they circle one another and nudge at each other’s sides. At the end of this dance, the male places one of his fins around the female in an embrace, flips her body upside down and fertilizes her eggs. 

After he ends the fertilization process, he lets go and the female maintains the belly-up position and releases several fertilized eggs. In general, she will release three to seven eggs at a time. The betta male carefully catches the fertilized eggs in his mouth, covers them with a layer of mucus and attaches them to the nest of bubbles.


How the betta male protects the eggs

The fish couple keeps performing this dance dozens of times until they produce several hundreds of fertilized eggs. After the breeding process ends, the male will aggressively chase away the female and will protect the bubble nest until the eggs hatch. In general, this takes 24 to 48 hours later, depending on the environmental conditions. 

The male will take care of the hatchling for another three or four days as they complete consuming their yolks. Once they begin to swim freely, they are completely on their own. The young betta fish will become sexually mature after five or six months.


What do they eat?

If you plan on getting a betta fish as a pet, make sure to inform yourself about their diet. They are carnivorous animals and in the wild, they generally eat insects that fall on the water’s surface or insect larvae. 

Unlike other fish species, they can’t survive with a diet based on plant roots. It might keep them living for some time but since it lacks the much-needed nutrients for this species, the fish will get sick and die.


Don’t overfeed them

The food’s quantity is as important as its components. If you keep overfeeding the fish, uneaten food and waste material will increase the level of ammonia and nitrite inside the aquarium. This way, the water will become toxic for the fish. 



How to feed them correctly

If you have a betta fish as a companion or any other type of fish, there is a simple way to find out how much food you should give them. When feeding them, watch the fish for about three minutes. If there are some pieces of food floating around, you should consider reducing the amount of food you are giving them.


The betta fish might get lonely

It is better to get more than one betta fish as they might get lonely living without a friend. According to scientists, they might experience frustration and depression. They could be happy in a tank alone if you enrich their environment by adding caves, plants, and other spaces for them to explore.


Adding a friend

However, if you plan on adding another fish in their aquarium to keep them company, make sure they are compatible. The betta fish experiences a high level of stress when its fins are picked by another fish placed in the same tank.

If the tank has enough rooms and hiding places, female bettas have a high chance of living in a peaceful group. Betta males might fight other males or Gourami males (a species with a similar aspect). However, all betta fish can cohabitate with non-fish species such as ghost shrimps, snails, and frogs.


Setting up a proper tank

If you intend on setting up and maintaining a proper aquarium for any type of fish, keep in mind the process might be more complex than you think. In general, people underestimate how complex, expensive, and time-consuming this process is.

If you already have a tank, you can improve it by adding elements found in their natural habitat. This way, they will enjoy natural lives and will not get frustrated or depressed. As a basic rule, regardless of its species, no fish should live in a tank with a volume smaller than 10 gallons. 

Even if the Betta fish can survive in a 5-gallon tank, it will not live a happy life. Especially if you want to add some other fish to keep him/her company. 


Avoid using tap water

In general, the municipal tap water contains chloramine and chlorine which are harmful to fish. Before adding water, make sure it is treated properly using a water conditioner. Add to the tank a water filter and let it run for a few weeks before adding the fish. 

About 10 percent of the total volume of water should be replaced every week and waste material from the substrate can be removed using a small gravel vacuum. You can relocate the fish in a smaller tank while doing this to make sure you don’t hurt them. 



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