Betta Care FAQ
1. How big should my Betta fish’s tank be?
A Betta fish can live in a fish tank that holds no less than 1 gallon of water. Although many fish supply stores may sell or advertise betta tanks that hold less than 1 gallon of water for permanent housing, these fish tanks are deadly for Betta fish. These small fish tanks quickly build an invisible, but highly toxic, chemical called ammonia. This chemical is the #1 killer of Betta fish and is released naturally into the water from betta waste, uneaten food, and exhale from gills.
Because of how fast toxicity can build up in low-volume tanks, it is always better to provide as large of a tank as possible. Tanks with higher volumes can also complete the nitrogen cycle, which is a natural chemical cycle that detoxifies ammonia and nitrite through the establishment of beneficial bacteria in a filter and it requires only partial water changes; this means less work for the owner and a preferable level of quality for the Betta fish’s life. The cycle is most commonly maintained in a tank of 5 gallons or more, especially for those new to creating and maintaining the nitrogen cycle.
Fish tanks that hold less than 1 gallon of water are also dangerous because they cannot maintain heat or be safely heated up to a proper temperature. Because Betta fish are tropical fish they need water between 76 and 86 degrees (F), preferably in the 78 to 82 degree (F) range. Although a tank that holds less than 1 gallon of water may be in a warm room and feel to be in the appropriate temperature range, it is very easy for water temperature to drop 10 degrees over night and such extreme changes can cause the fish stress, lowering their immune systems, and sometimes causing their fins to clamp.
There is no limit to what size a betta tank can be. However, it should be noted that due to poor conditions in pet stores and occasionally genetics, some Betta fish cannot be placed in very large tanks for health reasons; this is a rare scenario. Regardless, they still need at least 1 gallon of water.
2. How often should I change my Betta fish’s tank water?
This depends heavily on the size of your tank and whether or not you have live plants. A recommended basic water-change schedule looks like this:
1 gallon: Do a 100% water change every other day. This sized tank cannot establish a water cycle as it is too small.
2 gallons: 50% water changes 2-3 times a week and one 100% water change weekly. Another tank size too small for cycling, it is important to maintain regular water changes. Gravel vacuums will make cleaning easier and help maintain better water.
5 gallons: This is the first tank size that can be cycled and thus is has two different water change schedules. For cycled tanks, perform 50% water changes weekly. For non-cycled tanks perform 50% water changes twice a week and one 100% water change weekly. Non-cycled tanks are much harder to clean and it is recommended that a cycle is established for the this purpose.
10 gallons: For cycled tanks, perform 50% water changes weekly if there is only one betta inhabiting it. If it is a community tank, add another 50% water change to its schedule. For non-cycled tanks 50% water changes should be performed twice a week and a 100% water change bi-weekly.
20 gallons: Tanks this size should only be cycled. 50% water changed should occur each week.
There are many other tank sizes but these are some of the most common. For in-between sizes, adjust the schedule to your best judgement. Although these are not absolute, strict, must-have schedules, they are recommended for the best health of Betta fish.
3. Does my Betta fish REALLY need a heater?
Yes! Betta fish are tropical fish, originating from areas around Malaysia and Thailand. Although a tank may be kept in a warm room, unless the room temperature never goes below 80 degrees it is unlikely that the water temperature will not get colder at night, which can easily happen by 10 degrees. A heater is essential for Betta fish health.
4. Can I place another fish or aquatic animal with my Betta fish?
Despite common misconceptions about Betta fish, they CAN be placed with other species under certain conditions. First, you must find out if a species is compatible with Betta fish. Goldfish, for example, are not. If the tank is appropriate to accommodate the chosen tank-mate species and if you do not have a very aggressive fish, a community tank can be established. A male Betta fish, however, can never be placed with another of its own species without a strong divider separating them completely. Males cannot even be placed with females of their own kind unless during breeding, which is a very difficult practice, and after breeding takes places they must be separated once again. Males will kill females that are not ready to breed, have just bred with them, or females they do not like.
Female Betta fish, however, can be grouped together. Females need to be in groups of 3 to 5 at the smallest, preferably with an odd number so no one female becomes aggressive toward the others. A group of female Betta fish is called a sorority and can only be established in a tank of at least 10 gallons for small groups.
5. A pet store employee told me to feed my Betta fish three times a week with as much food as possible in 3 to 5 minutes. Is this true?
No! This is actually very dangerous for your Betta fish. There are two significant problems with this scenario:
a.) Although a Betta fish can go long periods of time without eating, it is not optimal for its care. A dog, in comparison, can survive on being fed twice a week but that does not mean it is the proper way to take care of the living creature. Similarly, Betta fish do need to eat everyday with a nutritionally varied diet.
b.) A Betta fish’s stomach is only about the size of its eye. Eating such a high amount of food can cause bloating and constipation, even death in some cases. A Betta fish will literally eat until it dies due to instinct and should only be fed approximately 2 to 3 pellets, depending on their size, once in the morning and once at night.
6. My Betta fish is not eating! Is he or she sick?
Betta fish stop eating for a few reasons. One is that they are recent purchases. Newly purchased Betta fish may not eat due to the stress of moving from the pet store to a new tank. This behavior can persist on average up to a week. Some adjusting to the new surroundings, without much disturbance, is needed before some new Betta fish will eat in their new homes.
The other most common reason that a Betta fish will not eat is because it is stressed or sick. This is usually easily to identify because the fish will go from normal behavior (swimming, eating regularly, etc.) to not being interested in food or showing interest but spitting food out. In these cases it is important to identify what caused this change in behavior as sometimes time is of the essence. Check water parameters for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate using a water test kit and see if the readings are off. Depending on what is wrong, there are different approaches to making a fish well enough to eat again.
It is important not to panic during a non-eating period and buying many different kinds of food in order to appease the Betta fish’s appetite. While some Betta fish will only eat flakes, it is rare for Betta fish not to be able to eat their regular food and bribing them with junk food such as freeze-dried blood worms is harmful.
7. I am going on vacation. Should I buy an automatic feeder so my betta does not get hungry?
Automatic feeders or large pieces of food that meant to sit in a tank during a vacation so the fish can feed itself are deadly. Such automatic devices release too much food for Betta fish to handle because they go by the allowing a fish to east as much as it can in 3 to 5 minutes rule or something similar. Many Betta fish owners have returned to find their Betta fish having eaten themselves to death or too much food released into the water, creating unsanitary living conditions. Betta fish are hardy fish and while it is not good to leave them unfed for days on a regular basis, they can be fasted. In fact, certain medical conditions require them to be fasted and so long as fasting does not become a regular habit it is okay for a Betta fish to go through one.
Betta fish can be fine for up to a week without food if they are fed before the owner’s leave but any more time than that is not recommended and can be harmful. Any time away from a Betta fish that is longer than a week should involve a pet sitter, especially since water changes will be needed in addition to food care.
8. My Betta fish is making lots of bubbles at the surface of his or her tank water. What does this mean?
This is called a bubble nest. A bubble nest is created when a Betta fish is ready to mate or out of territorial instinct, usually created by the males but females are known to create these as well. A bubble nest is not an indication of a Betta fish’s health or happiness. There is nothing that you can do to make a Betta fish create a bubble nest; some make them and some do not.
Just because a fish is making a bubble nest, it does not mean that you should buy the fish a mate. Breeding is difficult and can result in over 500 babies easily, all of which need very special care and eventually their own fish tanks, heaters, and other equipment.
9. Does my Betta fish need a filter? Is a bubbler or an air stone a good replacement for one?
A filter is not needed for a Betta fish in a tank that is not cycled. It is, however, needed if you wish to establish the nitrogen cycle in your tank. A bubbler or air stone is not a replacement for a filter, as neither creates a home for good nitrifying bacteria that will help keep your tank non-toxic. Rather, these devices are good for adding an extra supply of oxygen to the tank in order to make it easier for the fish to breath, especially in large tanks.
10. I had a friend who did not follow these rules and kept a betta fish in a small, unheated, bowl that had its water changed whenever my friend felt like it. How did the Betta fish live for a few years in these conditions?
Betta fish are often subjected to conditions that rumors about their care create for the casual owner. It is not normal for Betta fish to live long in such conditions. That being said, the pet store Betta fish species is hardy and some rare fish may survive in the harshest of conditions even if their proper care is neglected. This is not the norm, however, and should not be the way the Betta fish should live.
Just because a living creature can survive in certain conditions, it does not mean that the creature should have to. A Betta fish in these conditions will be more prone to illness, inactivity, and slow poisoning. It is not a life of quality and is comparable to keeping a dog in a small cage its entire life; the animal can survive for many years but it will not live a life of pleasure. Remember: thriving and surviving are two very different ways of life.
11. How long do Betta fish live for?
Depending on the age of the fish when purchased, genetics, and pre-exposed conditions, a Betta fish can live to be 5 years old or higher. On average, they can live between 3 and 5 years in good conditions with good health.
1. What is BettaSmart?
BettaSmart is an awareness blog aiming to end the myths and misconceptions about Betta fish care. In addition to creating articles, editorials, and running a Facebook page about Betta fish care, it runs Betta Fish Awareness Day on June 21 each year. This day is dedicated to ending the myths and misconceptions about Betta fish, their needs, and care. One person runs the blog and Facebook page.
2. Is BettaSmart associated with bettafish.com or other Betta fish related online communities?
There is no official association with any Betta fish website, page, company, etc. The author may frequent or contribute to other Betta fish related websites, or occasionally link to them, but there is neither an official nor professional connection to any of them.
3. What is the Facebook page for Betta Fish Awareness Day? Is there more than one group or website for the group?
The official BettaSmart Facebook page can be found here or on our sidebar. This is the only official outside link to BettaSmart at this time.
4. Does Betta Fish Awareness Day support PeTA or PeTA-like tactics for raising awareness about improper betta fish treatment?
Betta Fish Awareness Day is adamantly against PeTA and PeTA-like tactics.
This is because PeTA has different values than BettaSmart and is known to ethically and financially support the recognized terrorist organization ALF, the Animal Liberation Front, which is a group that believes in “total animal liberation” from humanity and has firebombed medical research facilities that use animals for tests as well as other acts of violence. Rather than violence, BettaSmart supports education on animal care and stricter regulations on animal abuse.
5. Can I adopt a betta or purchase proper Betta fish equipment through BettaSmart?
No. This group is not an adoption agency or supplier of fish and/or their supplies. Questions on where to adopt or purchase equipment for Betta fish can be answered through this group, however.
6. How can I trust your information? If there are so many myths and misconceptions about Betta fish, who is to say this group does not contribute to them?
BettaSmart believes in education on Betta fish care rather than caring based off hearsay. Thus, all of the articles are sourced and referenced from trust cites and at the bottom of each article the references can be obtained and looked at by readers. In order to end myths and misconceptions about Betta fish it is first important to identify proper information from reputable sources, which is the goal of this group.
If any misinformation is posted on any article, please comment or send an email to BettaFishAwarenessDay@gmail.com and the matter will be looked into and corrected if needed.
7. I have a great idea that should be featured on your blog/Facebook page! Will you take it and feature it?
Ideas are always welcomed. However, there is no guarantee that they will be implemented. If you have an idea about a way to raise awareness or have a topic you want addressed, please either send an email to BettaFishAwarenessDay@gmail.com or leave a comment/private message on the official Facebook page.
8. I want to spread information about proper Betta care! I have created a flier/poster/business card that I want to leave in pet stores that addresses this. Can I leave your blog or Facebook url on the back or bottom of my care sheet?
Due to legal concerns, no. While you may have good intentions, if a store or other business entity feels that what you have created is harmful to their practice then they will assume this blog and author is to blame. BettaSmart has created a series of Myths VS Facts posters that have its Facebook url attached to the bottom that can be distributed at appropriate events or hung up in appropriate places. Do not create your own informational piece and connect association with this group, no matter how wonderful your intention may be.
9. I am a member of a website. Can I link either to this blog or to the official Facebook page in my signature or on my profile?
So long as you do not post anything illegal or falsely advertise BettaSmart, feel free to spread this blog and the official Facebook page to all you may know.
10. What time zone is BettaSmart posting information from?
This blog, as well as the official Facebook page, is currently posting from Eastern Standard Time (GMT -05:00).
11. Is your blog monetized?
Yes. While this blog does not exist to simply make a profit, it is monetized to an extent through the Amazon Affiliate program and Google AdSense. These advertisements and links help keep the blog running. Providing you with quality posts and researched information for an educational experience in the world of Betta fish keeping is the primary objective of this blog but that can only be done through monetized supplements. Because of this it is requested that you turn your ad blockers off just for this blog or temporarily disable them while viewing. Feel no obligation to do so, however.