Good afternoon, all! 🙂 I know, I have been horrible about adding to this blog. I have this entire list of topics I want to address, and I have been slacking. Things are so hectic around here sometimes!
Since my last post, I have gained some bettas, and rehomed some bettas. First up is little Noh, the silver DT male I mentioned during my introductory post. He has successfully made the trip in the mail to Florida, and is happily set up in a 5g tank in a high traffic area with my friend. She is discovering how derpy and silly he is, and she is super in love with him! 😀 He is doing very well and is still just as fierce as he ever was.
I have also been completely suckered by the “Petco Baby Betta” craze. I feel in two ways about this – one, I feel absolutely horrible because so many baby bettas will not make it, due to horrible advice given to owners, inexperience, or just not enough of them selling in time to save their precious little lives. On the other side of the coin, in the right hands, raising a baby betta to adulthood is extremely gratifying. I was at Petco one day for a betta hammock, of all things, and of course I couldn’t resist stopping to have a look at the betta shelf. I saw my baby, and swore I couldn’t take any more fish! My husband would kill me! Besides, I have no room! And promptly ran away. The next day, I went back and got him. I couldn’t help myself – the thought of that precious little baby betta dying when I had the chance (and empty tank space) to raise him up was just too much. So may I now introduce to you: Nugget. I named him Nugget, as he was a teeny tiny little nugget. But now that he is an adult (well, more like a teenager, I think), he has gold all over his body, and so in keeping with gold nuggets, his name is sticking. I intended to change it, but naaaah.
In addition to Nugget, I dangerously discovered Aquabid and quickly became addicted to looking at BEAUTIFUL bettas there. I fell in love with the idea of Koi bettas, and trolled the auctions until I found “the one” and promptly signed up to place a bid! Lo and behold, I won him! Working with transshippers and the like to get the fish from Thailand to the US is pretty frustrating and difficult. I can see, though, how breeders and more serious hobbyists totally feel everything is worth the hassle and the costs. The fish ARE gorgeous. And for my first Aquabid experience, I can say it wasn’t terrible. My fish is gorgeous, lively and healthy. Readers, meet Kanji:
I also upgraded my community tank, and during my time looking for the right size tank, I came across a poor little dragon scale female that was in a bad way like crazy. I brought her home, nursed her back to health, and gave her to a coworker of mine to enjoy and fill the empty tank she had at her desk. I named her Sheila, and she has marbled out and grown like CRAZY!!
And finally, my newest addition and nursing project, is Chili. I decided I really would like a crowntail betta, and went on Tuesday to Petco for their fish shipment. I don’t think they got one because the shelves weren’t really stocked, but I found this poor fella floating on his side at the top of the cup and had to bring him home with me. It wasn’t until I got home that I noticed the gray film all over him..He has been diagnosed by very knowledgeable folk at Bettafish.com with freshwater slime disease, and is undergoing salt treatment. When he gets better, he is going to be a stunner, though! Look at those lovely blue eyes!
That’s it for the newest additions and catching up. For now, at least. I have a great many topics I’d like to write about, and am going to try to do better at doing just that. Look for upcoming posts discussing the nitrogen cycle, betta pharmacy building, betta illnesses & treatment, and more! And of course, all of you are welcome to suggest topics for me to write about as well.
Today, I plan to go over the basics of betta fish housing. There are many common misconceptions about where and how bettas can live. As a result, many bettas are kept in habitats that are harmful for them, which in turn causes undue suffering or discomfort, and reduces their life span. This is why you may often hear people say that bettas are hard to keep, or that they don’t live long. When kept in the proper conditions, betta fish can live 3-5 years.
I’m sure many of you are familiar with the myth that betta fish can live in, and may even prefer, small habitats (such as the above pictured vase). They are often put in very small containers such as vases or 1 gallon or less bowls/tanks. Many people do not do frequent water changes, have a filter, or have a heater for their fish. All of these factors contribute to poor health for the betta, and it slowly suffers until it succumbs to (likely) disease due to its poor conditions and dies.
So where did this myth come from? Let’s start with the history of the betta’s natural habitat. Bettas are native to Thailand, Cambodia, and parts of Vietnam. They are often found in slow moving streams, marshes, rice paddies, khlongs, and the basins of the Chao Phraya and Mekong Rivers. Such habitats are relatively shallow, though extensive and heavily vegetated, which allows bettas to spread out and claim their own territory (sometimes up to 1 square meter), hunt insects, and find a mate.
The myth that bettas can live in small spaces seems to be predicated by their natural adaptation to the dry season in their native habitat. The streams and marshes bettas live in dry considerably from evaporation, trapping them in small puddles. Those puddles may be stagnant and lack oxygen, so the betta has developed a labyrinth organ which allows them to breathe oxygen from the surface (remember the betta pictured above in the vase? How will he get oxygen at the surface with that plant in his way?). While bettas tolerate these conditions, they will escape given the chance. This behavior is seen by many betta owners in the form of jumping. If bettas cannot escape those small puddles, they will likely die either from the buildup of harmful toxins, or they will starve to death. In the wild, bettas jump from puddle to puddle in search of a larger body of water. In the home environment, bettas may jump in an attempt to get away from toxic conditions or other stressors, and land on the floor/counter/table, and will dry up and die if not caught in time.
In the wild, the vegetation found in the betta’s natural habitat also acts to absorb deadly toxins and waste buildup. Water refreshment from tropical rains helps to dilute the toxins, and since the climate is always warm, it keeps the betta at a stable, constant temperature. In the home environment, when under-educated owners put their bettas in a vase or small bowl/tank with no filter and no heater, temperatures fluctuate, and the lack of replenishment that would come from rain in the wild causes the buildup of harmful toxins (ammonia, nitrites and nitrates; Don’t know what these are? Please read about the Nitrogen Cycle here – it’s a must for anyone thinking of setting up a fish tank of any kind!!). Since the betta is trapped (whether by a lid or a plant), it will eventually die if water is not changed/replenished. In addition, those night and day temperature fluctuations can be stressful and harmful to the fish. Such conditions basically mimic the betta trapped in a puddle during the dry season scenario – it is not natural, and it is not how bettas survive in the wild.
By now, you are probably wondering where you should house a betta, then, if vases and bowls are so bad. Many people in the betta keeping hobby would argue that you should keep a betta in at least a five gallon (19 litre) tank by itself. While this is preferred by many, it should be noted that bettas can thrive in 2.5 gallons (9.5 litres) or more (though many people do not recommend even a tank this small). It is not recommended to put a betta in anything less than 2.5 gallons for the simple fact that ammonia, nitrites and nitrates build up extremely fast in such environments and it is very difficult to maintain. A rule of thumb in the aquarium hobby is that the bigger the tank, the easier it is to maintain. You can put your betta in a 2.5 gallon tank IF you are willing to do more frequent water changes to help mitigate the buildup of ammonia and nitrites.
It is recommended that you at least have a filter and a heater for your betta, as the filter assists with the toxins and detrius issue, and the heater will keep them at a constant temperature. Bettas need a temperature between 78-80F (25.6-27C) to thrive and be comfortable. If the temperature is lower, the betta can tolerate it, though it can slow their metabolism and make them inactive. It is also stressful for them.
When selecting a filter, make sure that the filter either has a minimal current, or that you can find a way to baffle the flow (baffling refers to blocking or stifling the output flow). Remember that bettas in the wild either live in stagnant or low flow water, so they are not adapted to swimming in or against a strong current. This is also evident by the nature of their long, flowing fins. They are lovely, but they are not built for strong swimming. *Note: sometimes baffling the flow of your filter can result in slow water movement and your tank may develop a biofilm that will look like oil on top of the water – this is a natural thing from your fish, and is not harmful, even if it is kind of unsightly. To mitigate this, you can use an air stone (turned down to a low flow with a check valve) for surface agitation. A little amount of surface agitation will break up the film and keep it from forming on the top of the water*
The next thing we will discuss for your betta’s habitat is plants. As mentioned earlier, bettas in the wild live in areas with dense vegetation, so it is a good idea to add plants to your betta’s tank. Plants provide spaces for your betta to hide and explore, and will keep him feeling more secure than he would in a sparse, open tank. Real plants would be preferred, of course, and if you want to read some good information about what plants would be appropriate, you can follow this link. Keep in mind that some plants require higher light, and higher light setups also involve CO2 injection and fertilizers in addition to the light. If you want to do a high light or heavily planted tank, research it very thoroughly first! I keep mostly java ferns, anubias, and marimo balls in my tanks, as they don’t require a ton of light, co2, or ferts (though ferts do help!). If you don’t want to use real plants, the next best thing for your betta is silk plants. My tanks are comprised mostly of silk plants with a few real ones mixed in for fun. You should not use plastic plants for your betta, as they can be dangerous and rip your betta’s fins. Fin rips can result in fungus or other infections taking hold of your betta, and that would be no fun for you or your fish.
Finally, let’s discuss decorations. When searching for decorations for your betta’s tank, keep in mind that they like little hidey holes or caves to hang out in. Make sure that the opening of these are large enough for your betta to easily get in and out of, and make sure that the edges are not sharp (again, we don’t want to tear his fins). If you find a sharp edge after the fact, you can try to remove or sand it down. Bettafish.com has comprised a list of decorations and toys that are dangerous for your betta, which you can read by clicking here. You are free to add any other decorations you want as long as they are not hazardous to your betta. The final item I would recommend for your betta would be the betta hammock (though it is on the dangerous ornaments list due to the fact that it has a wire in it to keep the leaf’s shape – I have personally not encountered this problem, however it is something to be mindful of). I originally thought that the concept of a betta hammock was just a bunch of hooey in an attempt to sell a product to silly pet owners…But I have since added a betta hammock to all of my betta tanks. Out of all of my bettas, only two of them do not use the betta hammock on a regular basis. One of them spends a huge percentage of his time in there being a lazy fart. The others like to stop and rest on it after some time swimming. It’s not very expensive, so it’s a neat little thing to keep in the tank. It is especially helpful if the plants you added are not broad leafed, or do not have enough spread in them for your betta to rest on. Bettas really like resting on broad leaves, so be sure to provide them at least one nice leaf somewhere in his tank.
Lastly, I wish to discuss tank maintenance. If your betta’s new home is 5 gallons or more, you will want to change 25-50% of the water weekly (though you will want to do more frequent water changes if you did not cycle your tank prior to putting your betta in). With a smaller tank, you will need to change 25% of the water 2-3 water changes per week. Make sure to use a good dechlorinator like Seachem Prime (which neutralizes ammonia, nitrites and nitrates for 24 hours as well as removes chlorine and chloramines), and try to match the temperature of the water you removed so as not to stress your fish. These water changes allow the removal of harmful toxins, and dilute those that are present in the water, as rain would do in your betta’s native home.
So to review, when looking to set up a proper home for your betta, you will need a minimum of 2.5 gallons (though 5+ gallons is preferred), a heater, a filter, live/silk plants, and a safe hidey hole for him. 🙂 If you provide these conditions, keep up on your water changes, and feed him a well balanced diet, you will have a thriving betta companion for many years to come. I hope you found this entry to be informative, and don’t hesitate to comment with any questions, I will do my best to answer them.
As you can imagine by the title, this blog is dedicated to the discussion and exploration of betta splendens (aka siamese fighting fish). Many people have seen them in their tiny cups in pet stores, big box stores, or chain stores…And indeed, many people have been misinformed about the proper care for these beautiful creatures by one or more of the aforementioned sources. They are kept in small, unheated and unfiltered bowls, or in vases, or given away as wedding centerpieces….you catch my drift.
This blog seeks to bust common myths surrounding betta fish care, habitat, and behavior. There are many other sources out there on the almighty internet, including many other blogs that discuss these topics (and probably, in some cases, do a better job explaining them than I can). However, so many myths surrounding bettas are so incredibly prolific, I feel that as many good, reliable sources as we can get out there to prospective owners, the better off bettas in general will be. It also allows these prospective (or current) owners to understand their pet, and to be better prepared to care for it in a manner that is most suitable and agreeable for all involved. It is my hope to educate people, through my own information and experiences, as well as those provided by others.
So without further ado, allow me to introduce to you my boys, the bettas who inspired it all…
First up is Sonic, a half moon male, who currently resides in a 10 gallon tank, which he has all to himself on my desk (and he likes it that way, thankyouverymuch!). Sonic got his name because when I picked him up at the store, he was doing zoomies around the cup in huge, fast circles…He has never slowed down either! Sonic is a very active, territorial, nosy boy who enjoys flaring at “other bettas” (his reflection), trying to reach everything on my desk that is in front of his tank, and watching me surf Pinterest. I think someday he wants me to try that cookies and cream fudge recipe I keep looking at but never make…
Next we have Nanashi, my EE (elephant ear; observe his fins) boy, living in a Fluval Spec V, also on my office desk. His name is Japanese for either “unknown name,” “anonymous,” or “nameless.” I intended it to be for “nameless,” as no name I gave him really stuck. Nothing didn’t fit him, so Nanashi it was. He is a very lazy betta, who enjoys spending most of his time on his betta hammock, and who is very VERY keen on food. He loves to watch me on my computer as well, and often just hangs out looking at me. If he’s not sleeping on his betta hammock, he is trying to chase and eat bubbles from his bubble stone. He is a very sweet-natured and curious betta!
This is Sashimi. Sashimi is a rose tail “rescue”, who is currently living in a 2.5g hospital tank. As you can see, Sashimi has what appears to be a cyst on his side, which is pushing away his scales. I am informed that it will continue to grow until it crushes his organs. Not a pleasant ending, I’m afraid…so, it is my goal to set him up in the swankiest digs I can achieve and make his life as wonderful as possible for as long as possible. So far I have only had him about a week, and he has really come out of his shell. He is an extremely kind betta, who enjoys watching my community tank (he has a breeder box he stays in, in his own tank water, and ‘visits’), LOVES his barrel cave decoration, and just learned about how amazing brine shrimp are yesterday. He is the largest of my bettas and he is a very large delight to have.
Next is Banner. Banner is a veiltail, and another “rescue” that I found at Walmart in a nasty dirty cup, with smelly water, and who was very lethargic and very down. Now, he NEVER holds still (except when he’s staring down the filter output, because that thing is sketchy, dammit!). He is in a 5 gallon in our living room and he LOVES to watch TV. He’s a big Game of Thrones fan, and is just as disappointed as we are that Season 4 has ended. *sob* He also hates thunderstorms, which makes me feel terrible, as our summers are basically 95% thunderstorm. If only they made thundercoats for fishies…
The last of my home bettas is Pearl, a female halfmoon that is currently living in a 10g QT with 5 corydoras julii. I am intending to put her in my 38g tropical community tank, where I am hopeful she will thrive and be accepted by the many fish in there. She is a young fish who is very sweet, and I’m fairly sure that she thinks she’s a cory. She hangs out with them, swims with them, and even eats their food (and bloats like a fat cow – working on remedying this situation right now)! She is very curious, and loves to play in the filter flow when she isn’t lounging in her flower cave or hanging with the corys. Pardon the terrible shot, she is a zippy little sucker and nay impossible to get a picture of.
Finally, my boy Charming. Charming is also a veiltail, and is a true office betta, who resides in another Spec V at my place of work. We are thankfully allowed to have fish and other pets at the office (some of my coworkers bring their dogs occasionally. Such a great stress reliever to snuggle a happy dog!), and Charming is no exception! He enjoys flaring at the nerite snails in his tank when he feels like it, following people back and forth as they walk in and out of my office, and sleeping *under* his betta hammock instead of on it. He also enjoys sleeping on his bridge, sleeping wedged into a plant, or sleeping on his marimo ball. Basically, Charming is a teenager who can sleep anywhere on anything. Beware if you try to take his picture, though, he will wiggle and hide until you give up. He is very good at the picture deprivation game. Despite that, everyone loves him and they come visit frequently.
Last but not least, this little double tail is Noh. It is short for no face, as when he came to me, he had no color on his face. He is a “rescue” as well, however he does not belong to me – I am caring for him, and helping him get better, but he will be going to live with a friend of mine (who I hope will join me as a contributor to this blog) in the next month or so. I found Noh floating on his side in a cup with blood on his dorsal and anal fins. I picked up the cup because I thought he was dead, and he fluttered. I initially put him back, but couldn’t stop thinking about him…so after work, I went and got him, and that’s all she wrote. Noh is doing MUCH better – he is growing back his color, the blood on his anal fin is gone, on his dorsal fins it’s almost gone. He had also been listing to the side, and unable to stay upright – but no more! He swims like normal, flares at the “other betta” if I position the light just right over his tank, and is such a princely little diva he loves to be hand fed. He also really likes to show off his mohawk, and does wiggles for dinner or as a “omg you’re home!” dance. He has a huge personality, and I am so excited for her to give him his forever home!
That is it for my introduction here! I hope you all enjoy the content in the coming months, and I welcome debate, suggestions, stories, and comments on the forthcoming topics. Dialogue is the most important if we are to make a difference in the lives of these tiny fish.