Calculating the Real Cost of Betta Ownership

Betta fish attract people to them with more than just their bright colors and feisty personalities—their inexpensive needs tend to be the largest contributor to their popularity. For families and individuals who cannot house a large animal, or afford the lengthy list of costs they come with, they often turn to fish as a cheap alternative. But—buyer beware!—fish are not as cost free as they appear.

In comparison to larger pet ownership, fishkeeping is inexpensive. There are no regular vet bills, no shots or immunizations, no professional grooming, no bulk food bags. Fish have very basic needs and little else. Inexpensive by comparison, however, is not the same as cheap. The truth is, there is no cheap living animal as most people think of cheap. First-timers involved with aquariums tend to have the clichéd image of a small bowl, water, and fish food being the extent of necessary expenditures, perhaps allowing imaginations run as far as adding a colorful plastic plant or humorous “No Fishing” sign into a pit of brightly colored rocks at the bottom of the plastic prison. This image, still pushed as it is by even the largest of retailers, is antiquated—or too outdated for its own good—at best. Not only is it a misleading picture of fish needs, it is actually a harmful and often deadly set up for pets.

The popular but harmful idea of what Betta fish care requires; such a set up can be deadly for your pet. Photo by Walmart

Fish need love and care. The love and care that they require varies by species, as all fish are individuals with individual needs, but the same general rules of research apply to all living creatures before ownership. Betta fish tend to be victims of misinformation more so than their other aquatic brethren, perhaps an equal contender right up with goldfish as the most misunderstood—and abused—fish species available to the public. Because their needs often go misunderstood, many would-be owners tend to head into stores with little budget set aside for their scaly new pets. Some people turn away from a purchase when they realise how much money it actually costs to create a basic set-up for bettas, yet others still buy a fish with the dangerous bowl-water-food idea as all a fish needs to thrive. Many Betta fish die because of this simplification of their needs. Most of these deaths are often painful and avoidable.

So how much does it cost, exactly, to own one of these beautiful creatures? Because there are many options in keeping a tank, it is best to keep a range of prices in mind when purchasing for the first time. It also helps to know what is essential to own for basic betta care that allows fish to thrive. Extras can enhance betta keeping but are exactly what they are: extras. Both basic needs and extras can be divided up into the following categories: equipment, water quality and maintenance, and food. Determining the true cost of owning a betta depends on your individual budget, ability to provide, and living circumstances, so this guide will be useful to calculate both minimum and maximum costs in betta ownership.

 

 

DISCLAIMER:
For the purpose of this article, costs are approximately calculated to account for one Betta fish in a tank with zero to a few plants in order to provide a basic idea of how much betta keeping costs. Prices are estimated and rounded to approximations using the listings provided by US Amazon.com listings at the time this article was written and they do not include shipping or handling fees. Depending on purchasing choices, including but not limited to, choice of store, brand selection, and location, prices may fluctuate. This article should be used as a guide only.

 

Equipment:

 

Tanks:

A tank is obviously a required item for betta ownership. Volume, shape, brand, and material are entirely customizable for owners and so costs can fluctuate greatly. Please note that Betta fish should NEVER be kept in a tank less than 1 gallon of water for normal pet ownership due to their basic needs. While professional breeders can keep their stock in smaller tanks, they also have round-the-clock care and specialized techniques that are impossible for regular pet owners to utilize, so anything less than a 1 gallon volume should not be considered and will not be listed here for the sake of humane treatment. To determine what tank size best suits your needs, learn about water conditions and the nitrogen cycle to see what best fits into your lifestyle. Additionally, some of these tanks come as a “complete set up” but such additional equipment is not usually betta friendly and you will most likely have to purchase additional equipment despite what products come with these tanks.

 

1 Gallons:

Aquarius 1 gallon ($14)
Kritter Keeper 1.78 to 3 gallon ($14)
Marina Goldfish Starter Kit 1.77 gallons ($35) Note: Despite the name, this tank is not good for goldfish.

Despite how it is advertised, this aquarium is not suited for goldfish but can be a decent betta home with the right amount of care. Photo by Marina

Aqueon Mini-bow 1-gallon ($22)

2 gallons:

Koller-Craft Critter Habitat 2 gallon ($10)
All Glass Aquarium 2.5 gallons ($20)
Fluval Spec III Aquarium Kit ($71)
Aqueon Mini-Bow 2.5 Gallons ($38)

3 gallons:

Petco Aquatic Gardens 3 gallons ($10)

4 gallons:

Marineland Classic Kit 4 gallons ($55)

5 gallons:

All Glass Aquarium 5.5gallons no lid ($40)
Fluval Spec V Aquarium Kit ($76)

The sleek look of the Fluval brand makes it quite popular. Photo by Fluval

Aqueon Mini-Bow 5 5-gallons ($60) Note: Product listing name is wrong. This is not a 2.5 gallon tank.

10 gallons:

All Glass Aquarium + Hood 10 gallon ($50)
Marineland LED Aquarium 10 gallon ($112)
Aqueon 17755 Deluxe Kit Aquarium 10 gallon ($64)

 

Price breakdown for tanks:
Low: $10
High: $112

 

Heaters:

Heaters are 100% required for anyone who does not live in a tropical climate that maintains a steady water temperature between 78 degrees (F) and 80 degrees (F) during all hours of the day and night. Betta fish are a tropical fish species and their health greatly depends on their water conditions, temperature being a large player in what diseases and illnesses they are be vulnerable to. A light is not a replacement for a heater. A warm room is not a replacement for a heater. Not all heaters are created equally either, so for the purpose of this list only trusted, reliable, brands are listed. Please not the watts required for your tank size before purchase.

Elite is a trusted brand of heater. Photo by Elite

 

Hydor 25w Submersible Heater ($15)
Hydor 50w Submersible Heater ($17)
Elite Submersible Heater 25w ($35)
Elite Submersible Heater 50w ($38)

 

Price breakdown for heaters:
Low: $15
High: $38

 

Thermometers:

These are required so you can monitor tank temperature and make sure there are no large fluctuations in temperature. Important for treating diseases and illness, as well as for basic everyday care.

Marina Floating Thermometer ($5)
Marina Deluxe Floating Thermometer with Suction Cup ($7)

 

Price breakdown for thermometers:
Low: $5
High: $7

 

Filters:

Filters are not always needed, so this may or may not be a requirement for you. A filter does not clean a tank nor is it a replacement for water changes. Filters are used only to house beneficial bacteria during the nitrogen cycle, making water changes easier and overall tank health higher. It is not recommended to establish a cycle in a tank under 5 gallons for beginners and a cycle should never be established in a tank under 5 gallons with a live fish living in it until the cycle is complete. Learn more about the nitrogen cycle in this article and determine if a filter is right for you. Also note that tank size may determine what type of filter can be used and that filters not on this list may be betta unfriendly due to output and filter type.

Aquaclear filters are known for their high efficiency and soundless operation. Photo by Aqua Clear

 

TOM 45 gph Flow Mini Sponger Filter ($16) 
AquaClear Power Filter – 110 V 5 – 10 gallons ($26)
AquaClear Power Filter – 110V 10 – 30 gallons, ($33)


 

Price breakdown for filters:
Low: $16
High: $33

 

Substrate:

Substrate is any sort of gravel, sand, or marble base to fill in the bottom of a tank. While this is not a required item, it does help with colonies of beneficial bacteria, holding down live and fake plants, and creating an appealing appearance.

Petco Black Lagoon Aquarium Gravel, 20 lbs ($4)
Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular for Freshwater Aquariums, 5-Pound Bag Natural Rocks ($10)
Natural River Gravel – 3 pounds, Grey Tones ($13)

Naturally colored gravel is popular and potentially better for fish as there have been cases of painted gravel making fish ill. Photo by Spectrastone

 

Price breakdown for substrate:
Low: $4
High: $13


 

Decorative Hiding Places:

Betta fish need stimulation and hiding places give them an environment they can both feel secure in and able to explore. The more coverage the better! These items allow you to customize your tank and create thematic appearances as well. Remember: fake plants must be fabric and openings on decorations must be at least the size of a quarter in order for fish to not get stuck in the opening. These items are just suggestions but do demonstrate the sort of variety available to betta keepers.

Blue Ribbon Soft Foxtail Plant for Aquarium, Mini, Red ($5)
Blue Ribbon Pet Products Broad Leaf Cluster Plant for Aquarium, Mini, blue ($6)
Zoo Med Laboratories Sinking Ceramic Betta Log ($7)

Submerged and floating betta logs are very popular items. Photo by Zoo Med

Marina Ecoscaper Lobelia Silk Plant Plant, 8-Inch ($7)
Blue Ribbon Pet Products Plant – Soft Foxtail Small Orange ($8)
Uxcell Fabric Aquarium Tank Aquascaping Plant, 8-Inch Height, Green ($10)
Marina Decor Polyresin Cave, Small ($10)
Blue Ribbon Pet Products Resin Aquarium Ornament – Rock Tunnels w/ Silk Plants($14)
Penn-Plax Deco-Replicas 8-Piece Granite Stone Hideaway, Assortment ($54)

Openings as large as a quarter are required for Betta fish so they do not get stuck in the product. Photo by Penn-Plex

 

Price breakdown for decorative hiding places:
Low: $5 (per item)
High: $54 (per item)

 

Equipment Category Breakdown:
Minimum Cost: $55
Maximum Cost:$257

 

Water Quality and Maintenance

 

Water test kit:

Water test kits are essential. Whether or not you cycle your aquarium, you can only be sure of how clean your water is by testing it. Because the poisonous chemicals that hurt your fish are naturally present and invisible, the only way to know if they are at dangerous levels is by testing for them. Water-based kits are the best, most accurate, option but are more expensive in short-term than their paper-based counterparts, though water-based kits will be cheaper in the longer term.

API 5 in 1 Aquarium Test Strips ($9)
Jungle TK888W 5-in-1 Quick Dip Test Strips, 25-Pack ($11)
API Master Freshwater Test Kit ($25)

A water test kit will help you maintain high quality water conditions for your fish. Photo by API

A water test kit will help you maintain high quality water conditions for your fish. Photo by API

 

Price Breakdown for testing kits:
Low: $9
High: $25

 

Water conditioner:

There is no way around it: water conditioner is one of the most important requirements of betta care. Each water change requires water conditioner and using a few drops in between changes every 48 hours helps maintain a healthy environment for your fish. Because Seachem Prime is the best on the market for fish, it is the only brand listed here in different sizes.

Seachem Prime 250ml ($11)
Seachem Prime 500ML Two Pack ($25)

 

Price Breakdown for conditioners:
Low: $11
High: $25

 

Gravel Vacuum and Bucket:

Both are needed for a partial water change and can be useful in a complete water change. Buckets do not have to be aquarium-specific, you just have to exclusively use them for aquarium purposes—no cleaning chemicals such as bleach!

Fortiflex 2-gallon utility bucket ($6)
Fortiflex 5-gallon Bucket ($8)
Aqueon 10-inch Gravel Vacuum ($14)

A gravel vacuum siphon is good for both cleaning out debris from gravel and for doing water removal. Photo by Aqueon

 

 
Price Breakdown for vacuums and buckets:
Low: $14
High: $20

 

Aquarium Salt:

Aquarium salt is needed to help treat many health problems. While it should not be used on a regular basis it is needed on-hand to help fish during health emergencies or issues. Common uses for this item include tail/fin tear repair, lowering stress, and infection prevention for open wounds.

Jungle Aquarium Salt, 1-Pound ($2)
API Aquarium Salt 16-Ounce ($4)

 

Price breakdown for aquarium salt:
Low: $2
High: $4

 

Price Breakdown for Category:
Minimum cost: $36
Maximum cost: $74

 

Food:

Nutrition is essential for pets. Cheap food is made with fillers that lack nutrition and cause bloat and/or constipation in fish. High quality food should have as little gluten, wheat, and non-fish-specific meal as possible (should be specifically krill meal, for example, and not fish meal). Live foods are great for Betta fish but can be expensive and thus are optional. At this time, New Life Spectrum is the highest quality producer for betta food pellets.

New Life Spectrum is the best food on the market for Betta fish in terms of nutrition. Photo by New Life Spectrum

New Life Spectrum is the best food on the market for Betta fish in terms of nutrition. Photo by New Life Spectrum

 

 

 

New Life Spectrum Floating Betta Pellets 50gm ($7)
San Francisco Bay Brand ASF65110 Frozen Brine Shrimp Cubes for Freshwater and Saltwater Fish, 3.5-Ounce ($33)
Freshwater Multipack-frozen food variety ($38)

 

Price Breakdown for Category:
Minimum cost: $7
Maximum cost: $38

 

As you can see, betta ownership is not as cheap as many imagine. There are still plenty of products and options not included on this list that many people would rather not be without, such as Indian almond leaves, tank hoods, lighting, or live plants, but were not included. The items here are only the most common and most needed for betta ownership. Considering these prices, though they do fluctuate over time, it is easy to get a rough idea of a range of costs for an initial set up. SO based on each category’s minimum and maximum prices, this is the real financial cost range to be expected when buying all necessary items for the first time:

Minimum price: $98
Maximum price: $369

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Of Bubbles and Bettas

Walking through the betta section of a pet shop you may notice a thick white foam spread across the water’s surface of the fish cups. Or perhaps you’ve seen it in your own tank, a lining of bubbles and white. This is a bubble nest and it is created by your Betta fish. The seasoned betta keeper knows that these nests are created by a mixture of fish saliva and a gulp of air, sticking the bubbles together in a still water area selected by their fish. Although more common with males, female Betta splendens have been known to make bubble nests as well. They are defensive of their hard work and may even attack you or flare to keep you away. Yet, as common as these nests are there are still many misconceptions of them.

A male Betta splendens created a bubble nest above a floating log, adding layers of bubbles to make it thicker. Photo by BettaSmart

A male Betta splendens created a bubble nest above a floating log, adding layers of bubbles to make it thicker. Photo by BettaSmart

Some people believe that the thicker, longer, and larger the bubble nest the happier the Betta fish. This idea tends to go hand-in-hand as evidence of health. Stores may even defend the poor quality of their fish set-ups by referring to the bubble nests their bettas create as a sign of the fish’s well-being and enjoyment of a small, dirty, space.

Bubble nests are not a sign of happiness. They do not mean a fish is healthy, either. They are made only out of instinct. Size and shape of bubble nests change depending on the individual fish. Some nests are thick and distinctly white while others are long and clear looking. The only reason fish have instincts to create bubble nests is because of their need to breed. Even sickly fish will prepare in case a mate comes along. The bubbles are used to house fertilized eggs until they are ready to hatch.

Not all Betta fish species create bubble nests, though. Species that do not create bubble nests are mouth-brooders, meaning that they hatch fry—the name for their babies—from their mouths rather than creating a nest for their eggs. In fact, of the currently 73 identified Betta fish species only 18 are bubble nesters and a few within that group may occasionally mouth-brood in certain circumstances. Betta splendens, the species most people find in stores and refer to only as bettas, are surface bubble nesters but some other species, such as Betta livida are submerged bubble nesters. The conditions for each Betta fish to create bubble nests vary, depending on the species and individual fish. For example, some Betta splendens will not make a bubble nest outside of breeding conditions and some may not make one at all.

It is important to remember that just because a fish is building a bubble nest it does not mean that fish is lonely or need of a mate. Breeding fish is a fun hobby but it is a hobby with serious responsibility attached. Betta fish can easily lay 500 or more eggs, each of which has a potential to grow into an adult fish. Unless you are interested keeping or finding homes for so many individual fish, while keeping all males separate from all females, it is not a good idea to even attempt to breed bettas. Breeding is difficult and beginners have uncertain luck at success, so getting into that part of the betta keeping hobby should be a choice made after much research, an established high budget, and all equipment is purchased—not after seeing a bubble nest. Bubble nests are not a reason to get your pet a mate

A male Betta splendens uses saliva and air to blow bubbles and stick them together in a bubble nest. Photo by Wikipedia

A male Betta splendens uses saliva and air to blow bubbles and stick them together in a bubble nest. Photo by Wikipedia

There are owners who feel guilt in destroying a bubble nest. Their fish did work hard to create it and is rather protective of it, after all. But in order to change water and maintain high quality living conditions for your fish, bubble nests will be destroyed with a water change and that’s okay! Your fish will make a new one if it desires. It will feel no sadness in its loss. Keeping a healthy aquarium is more important than keeping a bubble nest, even if it is an impressive looking one.

No bubble nest is not a sign of poor water conditions, unhappiness, or age any more than the creation of a bubble nest is. While they may be fun to look at and exciting to see built, these foamy white clusters are by no means a reflection on your achievement with your fish.

 

 

References

Denaro, Mark. Splendid Bettas. October 2011. http://www.tfhmagazine.com/details/articles/splendid-bettas-full-article.htm. 18 June 2015.

F., Christie. Bubble Nests. 28 February 2011. http://nippyfish.net/behavior-2/bubble-nests/. 18 June 2015.

Fishbase.org. Fish Identification: Find Species. 2012. http://www.fishbase.org/identification/SpeciesList.php?genus=Betta. 18 June 2015.

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Deconstructing the Puddle Myth

There is an idea that is singlehandedly the most harmful idea in existence to bettas. This idea is the root for most of the myths and misconceptions about their needs, an idea so intensely misguided that it altered how people view these fish at a cultural level. Companies have grown from this myth, pumping out products fed by this false notion. What first appears to be a simple mistake is actually the basis for most of the suffering Betta fish go through as pets: the idea that Betta fish naturally live in puddles, sometimes even ones created by animal hoof prints.

It is easy to understand how this misunderstanding of natural betta habitats could spread so easily. Betta fish are known for their hardy ability to survive through extreme conditions. They also have a labyrinth organ, which allows them to breathe air from the surface in addition to using their gills. Put the two ideas together, along with the fact that Betta fish species have been found in puddles during drought seasons in the wild, and it almost seems plausible.

But an ecosystem cannot be established in a hoof print.

 

A hoof print puddle is commonly thought of as a natural habitat for Betta fish species due to a popular false myth. Photo by Nippyfish.net

 

The truth is, Betta fish species have evolved to survive in extreme situations. But, as has been detailed before, surviving is not the same as thriving. Pets aren’t meant to merely survive under our care. While they may have the traits given to them by evolution for difficult situations, it does not mean that they should rely on those traits as pets. Yes, Betta fish are hardy and, yes, they do need to breathe from the surface. These are not reasons, however, to justify keeping bettas in small tanks that do not tend to meet their needs.

In fact, wild type Betta fish species do not live in puddles at all. Puddles may form as the result of drought during the dry seasons throughout Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and other countries Betta fish are found in, but puddles are not where these species normally live. During normal times throughout the year, when rainfall is good, Betta fish actually live in a variety of bodies of water. Rice paddies, streams, and slow-moving rivers are typical locations to find the different species in. Unlike the perception people tend to form of rice paddies, these bodies of water are several inches to several feet deep and often stretch outwards horizontally. As water begins to evaporate from these bodies of water, wild Betta fish will jump from one wet area to another in search of a larger and more secure living area.

Betta fish may be able to tolerate or survive in a puddle for a period of time during extreme situations in the wild. Pet keeping is about being able to provide an animal with an environment they can thrive in, not just survive. Survival is for the wild. A small cup or tank is not the wild, it is cruel, yet many companies create dangerous fish tanks that hold less than a gallon of water—the lowest volume needed to be safely heated for this tropical species—and market them specifically as betta homes. They even falsely perpetuate the myth further by stating that Betta fish live in puddles in the wild.

Companies that do this are irresponsible and contribute to a cycle of animal suffering. While it is becoming less fashionable to spread this lie of the puddle-dwelling betta that can live through any level of care, the effects of it still influence the betta market today. There are many reasons why the great Betta fish tank debate still goes on and it is true that there is no one right way to care for a betta nor is there one right minimum tank size for all people caring for them but to base a care routine based off a myth is downright irresponsible. Some companies try to back up their claim of Betta fish living healthy lives in puddles by comparing their natural environment to the ones created by large fish farm breeders, who may keep their hundreds of fish in bottles of water except while breeding. Even this, however, is not what it seems to be and by no means is proof of a betta’s natural habitat.

A typical rice paddy field, a habitat of wild Betta fish species. Photo by Imagarcade.com

The average fish owner should keep a tank of no less than 1 gallon of water but there are breeders out there who manage on less because of their strict regiment of feeding live food, constantly replacing dirty water, and ability to maintain steady tropical temperatures. These responsible breeders are not able to keep healthy bettas by the hundreds because these fish can survive in puddles. They are able to do so because of the round-the-clock dedication they are able to give to their fish. To use their care tactics as a way to push the idea of Betta fish living their whole lives in a tiny puddle of water is beneficial to nobody but their own wallets.

The puddle myth needs to die. There is simply not enough water, bacteria, food, and other natural requirements present in a puddle to create a healthy ecosystem that supports the life of an entire species. The sooner we can move past the puddle myth, the sooner better betta products will be produced. So the next time you see a product that describes this dangerous idea, ask a store employee to remove it and explain how it is harmful to the animals they are supposed to be providing for. Together fish lovers can help put an end to a very harmful idea.

 

 

References

Australia, RSPCA. What sort of environment should Siamese fighting fish be kept in? 20 May 2014. http://kb.rspca.org.au/What-sort-of-environment-should-Siamese-fighting-fish-be-kept-in_440.html. 17 June 2015.

Maddocks, Lea. The Native Betta Habitat – Separating Fact from Fiction. 3 October 2011. http://nippyfish.net/2011/10/23/the-native-betta-habitat-separating-fact-from-fiction/. 17 June 2015.

 

 

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Weekly Betta Beauties: Week of June 17, 2015

This gallery contains 6 photos.

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Vacations and Betta Care

Its that time again! Sun, fun, and barbeques aren’t the only things that come with summer. Summer is the season of vacations. Whether it’s a weekend getaway or a weeks-long camping trip, vacations are a great escape from the stresses of work but not from pet care. Dogs and cats are easy enough to make arrangements for, a kennel or neighborhood pet-sitter will usually do the trick, but what do you do when you have a Betta fish?

Bettas do not require the same level of need as a dog or cat may when you are away. They won’t face loneliness or separation anxiety, become destructive, or poop where they know they shouldn’t. They won’t need daily walks, grooming, or interaction several times a day. Yet, many betta owners feel nervous leaving their precious fish at home, unattended, for extended periods of time. Fish still need to eat, after all, and water still gets dirty. While a pet-sitter certainly is an option not many people have a reliable person in their family or neighborhood who is knowledgeable enough about fish to know how to care for them properly and look for (and deal with) signs of trouble. It might also be difficult finding someone who can be trusted to enter your house once or twice a day just to drop a few bits of food in the water and glance a betta over. It can be an inconvenience for both you and your pet sitter, especially if the sitter is not a family member.

So what’s a betta lover to do?

Going on vacation can be stressful to betta owners. Image by the About Betta Fish blog via Tumblr

Going on vacation can be stressful to betta owners. Image by the About Betta Fish blog via Tumblr

Arrangements to make depend entirely on the fish tank set-up you have. If you haven’t yet, now might be the time to consider investing in a fully cycled aquarium. Vacationing—and everyday care—becomes significantly easier with a nitrogen cycle-balanced aquarium, especially if your tank uses live plants as or in supplement to your filtration! Options are severely limited if you have a small, uncycled, tank, so if you haven’t at least considered the option now is the time to read up on the benefits of a cycled aquarium.

When vacationing or leaving home temporarily while leaving behind a betta, only two of the animal’s most basic needs must be focused on: feeding and water quality. While you can get away with focusing on just these needs temporarily it is important to remember that healthy and well-cared for Betta fish need more than just food and clean water to thrive, so these methods of care should only be used for temporary situations.

Food

A common problem most Betta fish owners face is feeding their fish while away. People who are not familiar with fish tend to overfeed even if specific instructions are left behind as to how much food to feed, being unaware that that bettas have no ability to stop eating and can easily eat themselves to a painful death. And while there are automatic food dispensers and large food blocks meant to be left in tanks when owners are away, these options can be even more dangerous to your fish. Automatic feeders and food blocks provide more food than is healthy for a betta to eat and they dirty water quickly. Any time food is exposed to water ammonia, a naturally occurring chemical, is released into it. So not only will these choices potentially feed your fish to death, they also have high chances of poisoning and burning it with ammonia.

Luckily, managing food for these fish is actually far simpler than any other concern when going away.

Overfeeding is a common problem for people who rely on food dispensers and inexperienced care takers to feed their fish while they are away on vacation. Photo by Home Aquarium blog via WordPress

Overfeeding is a common problem for people who rely on food dispensers and inexperienced care takers to feed their fish while they are away on vacation. Image by Home Aquarium blog via WordPress

A healthy betta needs to eat small portions of high-quality food everyday but a healthy betta also one useful evolutionary trick: it can survive for long periods of time without food and have few problems. Wild Betta fish evolved to survive in many harsh natural difficulties, such as drought or periods of starvation. As a result, bettas can easily go a week without food, provided that it has good nutrition on a regular basis to begin with. Right now the best Betta fish food is the betta pellet formula from New Life Spectrum because it is high in proteins from natural food sources and low on bloat-causing wheat and gluten fillers commonly found in high amounts in other brands. If on a nutritious diet of varied live and/or frozen foods in addition to high quality food pellets such as these, a betta can even go up to two weeks without eating—but this should only be done in emergency situations.

If you cannot find a reliable fish-sitter it is important to consider what your fish can and cannot healthily endure during your absence.

Water Quality

This is the tricky one. Depending on how large your tank is, whether it is cycled, how it is cycled, and whether or not you have a community tank, how long you can go without changing the water can differ. If you have an uncycled small tank, going away from more than a day or two is not recommended. The chemical spikes can easily hurt your fish and bring down its health. If you have a cycled tank that depends on a filter, holding no less than 5 gallons of water and containing no more than a single Betta fish, a week before a partial water change of 25% is generally safe. If you have plants and they are hardy plants that require little work to keep healthy, you may be able to go up to two weeks before a water change if you have a larger aquarium.

A water test kit will help you maintain high quality water conditions for your fish. Photo by API

A water test kit will help you maintain high quality water conditions for your fish. Photo by API

To figure out what works best for you and your fish, take a look at the general outline at the bottom of this article for leaving fish at home alone.

Other Concerns

Some people worry about turning on their aquarium’s light while away. Betta fish have no need of artificial light, so unless you have live plants that require certain amounts of exposure do not worry about this. If you do have plants that have specific needs, consider purchasing an automatic light timer and testing it before you leave.

Another concern people have aside from food, water quality, and lighting, is temperature swings. Betta fish are tropical fish and require reliable heaters but summer weather, especially in a home that goes without air conditioning, can make you worry about keeping temperatures from spiking too high. Keeping blinds and curtains shut can help with room temperatures from rising to high. A fish tank kept away from natural lights and in the coolest part of the house will be a fish tank in the best situation.

Basically, you need to know your tank well. Every tank is unique and has different requirements for success. Betta fish are hardy and can survive in extreme conditions but it doesn’t mean they should. Consider instead, as a general rule, vacations that best suit the needs of you and your fish.

The best tank set-up for vacations is a high-volume, well planted, tank that is cycled. Photo by Galleryhip.com

What to Consider for Your Fish

Two to Four Days: This is the best amount of time for those who have uncycled tanks. Not only will your fish run no risk of starvation but your water quality can be easily maintained with a water change before leave and immediately upon return. For a trip of this length of time, no feeding during your absence is needed.

Four to Seven Days: For tanks that hold at least 2.5 gallons of water and more, cycled or uncycled, this can be manageable. A water change and feeding before and after return will be a must. In this case, changing your fish’s water the day you leave and immediately on the day you return within the week is best. Doing so is especially important if your tank is uncycled and requires full water changes. A lack of food will help keep waste levels low so your water conditions should stay fine.

 Seven or More Days: A vacation this long without help from someone is not recommended in most cases unless you have live plants. A week can be done and a tank can—in the case of emergency—go to even 10 days without a water change if cycled but anything longer than two weeks will require someone to change your water. Because this length of time will, without a question, require a large tank that is cycled and preferably well planted, a partial water change from a trusted someone is unavoidable. To make the best out of the situation, your helper should complete a partial water change as per your detailed instructions on the seventh or 10th day of your absence. This way your beloved pet can be fed and cleaned with time to spare while awaiting your arrival.

Vacationing is never as easy as we may like it to be but with careful management and consideration to the animals we vowed to care for, a break from our hectic lives can be arranged. Fish keeping should never tie you down or make you feel as though you cannot live life but it should be priority when making arrangements for a fun summer escape.

Vacationing is never as easy as we may like it to be but with careful management and consideration to the animals we vowed to care for, a break from our hectic lives can be arranged. Fish keeping should never tie you down or make you feel as though you cannot live life but it should be priority when making arrangements for a fun summer escape.

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Thriving Versus Surviving

Existing and living are two very different concepts but people tend to mix them up quite often. These are ideas to difficult separate, after all. Living is the purpose of every creature, yet it is too easy to simply exist and forget to experience life for all its pleasures at all. We, as humans, tend to be too guilty of this ourselves and sometimes even guiltier with inflicting mere existence onto the animals we intend to love.

While we may have a choice in how we choose to live, our pets do not. They are at the mercy of our spare time, money, and affections. Ownership of any animal, big or small, is a contract of care and dedication during both good and tough times. It is easy enough to understand: our animals should thrive and not just survive. Thriving animals are ones that get to experience life to its fullest and have the best opportunities for health and happiness. Survival is what normally gets associated with the wild; the bare minimum needed to continue existing with no guarantee of ever experiencing all that life has to offer is the very definition what it means to just survive. Society has opened its heart to animals so much that there are hundreds of products being sold to help them joyfully thrive at our sides.

We live in a world full of doggy sweaters, scratch-post castles, plastic tube playgrounds, and self-cleaning litterboxes. There mere thought of keeping a dog in a cage with only a bowl of food, water, and a small enclosed attached exercise area for its entire life echoes on images of abuse. While the dog would be surviving it certainly would not be thriving. Animals need interactive, stimulating environments and love from their owners in order to have a happy and worthwhile life. No caring person denies this. Not all pets are considered equal, however, and there is still one animal that is commonly denied the right to thrive. That pet is the Betta fish.

A Betta splendens in a tank that does not allow the fish to thrive and barely meets it’s living needs. Photo by FishChannel.com

Bettas are misunderstood. Although most fish are, bettas tend to receive some of the worst treatment of all. People tend to forget the difference between thriving and surviving when it comes to fish. Even large pet stores are guilty of this. Small tanks, cold water, and rare water changes are what Betta fish are commonly given. While they may live in these inappropriate conditions for periods of time, they are certainly not living a quality life.

Bettas deserve the change to thrive like any other pet. Despite the popular myth, fish do not have short-term memories, so any efforts to make their lives happier will not be forgotten. Bettas who are given only the bare minimum needed for them to continue to exist may suffer from the fish equivalent of boredom or depression and may even begin to self-harm or slowly become lethargic (inactive or barely moving) because their home gives them little opportunity to explore or entertain themselves while meeting their basic needs. If human life was limited to being fed three times—or less—a day and living in a single small room with nothing to do, we’d feel the same way most Betta fish do in the tanks we give them!

Animals that thrive rather than just survive make better pets too. When given the best possible opportunity for life, bettas have brighter colors, are more active in swimming, interact with their owners more, and have significantly fewer health problems than Betta fish who are only given what is needed for them to merely remain alive. A thriving betta has tons of personality and tends to be a far more enjoyable pet to have around the house. These fish surprise many people who switch from giving them small, unheated, homes to larger tanks with constantly warm water. It is amazing to see the difference in a fish when it is given every opportunity for happiness.

An ideal Betta fish home that allows the fish to thrive. Photo by zidanmahardika via his website bettafishzidan.wordpress.com

An ideal Betta fish home that allows the fish to thrive. Photo by zidanmahardika via his website bettafishzidan.wordpress.com

Helping a Betta fish thrive is not just fun—it’s easy! After learning about and understanding betta basics a betta keeper can help their fish flourish in a few simple ways. First, giving a betta lots of space is best. Not only does more water mean less work (more water dirties slower and can be cycled), it gives fish more space to exercise, play, and explore. Investing in a good filter to cycle an aquarium will create a safer, more natural, living environment for Betta fish, so it is recommended to help them thrive. Adding fabric plants, a floating log, or a cave will not only make a fish tank look fabulous but those items will also stimulate the Betta fish need to hide and explore. Finally—AND MOST IMPORTANTLY—bettas can only thrive in high quality water. This means investing in a good water test kit to regularly check water conditions and keeping a strict water change schedule. Just as air quality is the greatest factor in our health, water quality it the greatest factors in Betta fish health and what is toxic cannot be seen.

It may be considered expensive to create a set-up in which bettas can thrive in, but it is not expensive in comparison to the long-term needs of larger pets. Surviving into the next day is not enough. It is not the goal nor a sign of good care. Unless given the chance to thrive, an animal alive is not living at all. Not truly. We can do better. Help end acceptance of bettas surviving, encourage the opportunity for bettas to be thriving.

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Betta Fish Awareness Day is Approaching

June 21st marks the XX annual Betta Fish Awareness Day, a day when betta lovers try to raise awareness about the needs of Betta fish and dispel the myths and misconceptions about their care. To celebrate Betta fish on this day, a series of articles and editorials will be released each day for a week starting on June 14th to lead up to the exciting event. BettaSmart is not the only place that can help raise awareness on better Betta fish care, however. Please help in spreading the word on betta needs!

This year, share BettaSmart articles and post your favorite Betta fish fact on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #BetterBettaCare to spread the word to your friends and followers. Help make the plight of the betta as important and worthy as the struggles faced by our larger animals that get so much more attention to their causes. Betta fish are living creatures that feel just as much pain as any other neglected animal does. Size does not equal importance nor value. This June 21st, help raise awareness for the little guy.

#BetterBettaCare

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Betta Beauties: Week of April 22, 2015

This gallery contains 6 photos.

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A Betta by Any Other Name is Not Just as Sweet

Imagine that you are walking through an animal rescue shelter. Strolling up and down the enclosure you feel the big, eager, eyes watching you excitedly, hear the barks and whines of dogs yearning for you to glance at them in a desperate attempt to capture your attention. An energetic young white and brown male steals more than your passing glance, he captures your heart. Locking eyes with this dog you make a connection and know that he is the one. You wave over a worker. You ask and point, “What kind of dog is he?”

“Him?” The worker confirms, “Oh, he’s a fighting dog.”

The worker clarifies, responding to your stunned stare. “Yeah, sometimes they’re also called fighters. They get their name because they are aggressive and bred for fighting but that’s okay because they’re a hardy breed. Fighting dogs are very popular.”

Pit bulls share a common stigma with Betta splendens, both thought of as aggressive and existing to fight. Photo by Max-o via DeviantArt.com

Try to picture it: “fighting dog” as a common name for a stereotypically-aggressive breed. Perhaps the worker is referring to a pit bull, a shepherd, or a Rottweiler in this scenario. The type of the dog doesn’t matter, does it? All the name invokes is the terrible, horrific, down-right disgusting imagery of dog fighting. It reminds of the abuses of Michael Vick, and so many others who we hear about, forcing dogs to violently hurt and attack each other for the sake of human entertainment and profit. The dogs are trapped, with nowhere to run and with no other choice, often fatally wounded because of humans who lack empathy. This is something that we, as a modern society, simply do not—and should not!—stomach well at all. Animal fighting is unacceptable. Regardless of animal species, whether it be dog or chicken, we have come together as a society to fight against these terrible injustices. We have begun working together to rid the world of the stereotype that certain animals are meant for our violent entertainment.

Except, of course, for Betta fish.

Betta. Betta Fish. Betta splendens. These common names are perfectly acceptable and accurate in identifying the species of colorful, popular, fish that have become commonplace in households across the world. However, in many places Betta fish are still referred to by the unfortunate origin of their popularity—an origin of animal fighting. Also referred to as fighters and fighting fish, these beautiful species still hold the stigma and harmful stereotype that they exist to fight. To apply this name to any other animal would otherwise invoke rage. There would be outcries. There would be protests. There would a strong voice from the animal welfare communities calling for an end to a harmful and inaccurate name that brings suffering to a living species. But there is no such justice for Betta fish.

The normalization for a name such as “fighting fish” is harmful to the well-being and safety of the species. How so, you wonder? Is it not just a name? Consider for a moment how hearing an idea, an idea often spoken as fact, in multiple places effects your perception. We’ve all heard silly factoids that are taken as truth simply because of how often we hear them, simply because these ideas have been normalized. People say these ideas so much that we often forget to investigate if they are true or not. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks; we only use 10% of our brains; goldfish only have five minute memories; taking vitamin C tablets will cure you of sickness; these are only a small handful of totally and completely untrue so-called facts that most of us believe growing up just because we hear them all the time in our culture. Apply this concept to things we name. If an animal is always referred to as a fighting animal, would it not be normal to assume that this animal is meant for fighting?

Male Betta splendens beginning to engage in a fight. Photo by Advocacy.Britannica.com

Words are powerful. A few letters can be like scattered embers, catching flame and causing fire, able to burn truth to ash. It is up to us to fight the flames, to control the damage and smother the cause. A name like fighting fish not only insinuates that the animal tends to fight but it also suggests that they are meant to fight, possibly enjoy fighting, and that it is normal to fight the animal against others of its kind. And, unfortunately for the poor Betta fish, aquatic species are not often regarded with the same affections as four-legged furry companions we so often associate with needing to protect through animal welfare organizations. Fish are not treated as equals in suffering. Fish are disregarded by society. But fish are living.

They feel pain, stress, panic…they suffer just as any other animal suffers when they are placed in danger. The cost of purchase at a pet store does not determine the value of a life of an animal. A $200 puppy is equal in requirement for care and respect to a $3.00 fish. To own an animal is to respect, provide, and tend to the animal’s needs. This is hard to accomplish when society labels and looks at Betta fish as less than another species simply because of their origin.

It is true that Betta fish were originally popularized and bred to be fought for sport throughout Vietnam, Thailand, Malyasia, India, Cambodia, and other countries that they are naturally found within. It is also true that many breeders in those countries today have a lucrative and popular business in breeding Betta fish that are more aggressive, have bulkier bodies ideal for enduring blows, and are bred from fish that win fights in order to continue in traditional aquatic animal fighting. These breeders often adopt names for their fish lines that highlight their stock’s aggressive personalities and fighting abilities. These names are given to more easily identify their fish as separate from the pet fish that are also on the market. These breeders recognize the power in a name.

These fights between bettas are not limited to Asian countries. Betta fights are held across the world, including in many North American locations. Because fish are not often regarded as animals in many states, and animal cruelty laws tend to leave aquatic species in the dark, the danger is real for these fish no matter where they are bred and bought. Even Western culture dictates that animal fights must only be taken seriously and identified as cruel if they involve dogs, cats, or chickens. Whereas videos or images are immediately taken down online, creating a surge of outrage among animal lovers worldwide, these betta fights remain online. Reporting or flagging these disgusting displays of forced animal suffering on social media yields no results. They are easily found on the most popular video sharing sights and are ignored by moderators in charge of taking down that depict animal abuse. They are “fighting fish” to most people, after all.

An example of the small, cruel, conditions Betta fish are forced into during fights. Photo taken from a YouTube video that has been flagged for abuse but remains up despite animal abuse.

An example of the small, cruel, conditions Betta fish are forced into during fights. Photo taken from a YouTube video that has been flagged for abuse but remains up despite animal abuse.

Arguments still persist to this day about whether or not fighting Betta fish is cruel. Some supporters note how not all fish are fought to the death and are often deeply cared for by their owners because winning fights gives them money. But, like dogs in a dog fighting pit, these fish are forced into unnaturally small spaces without the ability to run. They are commonly shaken and forced into each other until they fight. They are bit, fins are torn, blood often drawn. Yes, some are separated before death occurs. They commonly return to their owners with tattered, raggedy, fins, chunks of scales missing, and absolutely terrified. Some owners will tend to their fish, healing their wounds to prepare for the next fight, but many will dump their losing animals into the wild because they failed to bring their owners money. Those fish are deemed worthless and abandoned. If the fish were dogs this would not be accepted. If this concept were better understood then calling bettas “fighers” instead of their true names would be sickening.

Animal fighting is cruelty. It does not matter the species. It does not matter the cost of the animal. It does not matter if some animals are removed from fights with only minor wounds. Cruelty is cruelty. The simple association with animal fighting should make names connected with the inhumane sport completely unthinkable. It is time to reconsider how names effect our relationships with animals. A betta by any other name is not just as sweet. A betta by the name of “fighter” is a betta that helps spread the legacy of normalized animal fighting. It is time to move forward and abandon the term all together. Let us call these wonderful species by their true names. Let’s remove the legacy of suffering, the legacy of violence. Let’s let a betta be a betta.

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Betta Beauties: Week of April 15, 2015

This gallery contains 6 photos.

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