How to care for Siamese fighting fish

Their natural environment is one with lots of vegetation, so having several plants in your tank, as well as other sorts of cover, will help keep them feeling safe and give them somewhere to hide and rest.
Their natural environment is one with lots of vegetation, so having several plants in your tank, as well as other sorts of cover, will help keep them feeling safe and give them somewhere to hide and rest.

Bettas, also known as Siamese fighting fish, are a popular household pet. These intelligent, curious fish require a tailored environment to meet their needs. Read on to find out how to properly care for Bettas.

Tank size, temperature and water quality

It's a common misconception that bettas can be kept in small fishbowls or tanks - this is in fact incredibly harmful to their welfare. Bettas need a minimum of 15 litres of water, and ideally should have 20 litres or more, in order to meet their behavioral and psychological needs.

It's important that the tank you choose has a lid on it, as these fish are known for jumping. They also require occasional surface air, so ensure there is a gap between the top of the tank and the water.

A suitable water filter is crucial for the health of your fish, in ensuring that the water is circulated and large waste particles are removed from the water. Bettas prefer a low water flow, to make sure your filter has an adjustable flow, that can be set at the right level for them.

Being from a tropical climate, Bettas prefer warm water at around 24 degrees celsius. Normal room temperature is too cold, so a submersible aquarium heater is ideal. Remember, a lamp fixed to the top of your tank is not sufficient, and the tank will need to be kept at a stable temperature during both the day and nighttime.

The water quality of the tank is very important, and needs to be tested regularly. The water should be changed partially (approximately 10%) every week, and a gravel vacuum can be used to remove waste from the floor of the tank. Keeping your tank out of direct sunlight will help avoid algae growth or overheating of the water.

For more information on how to create the right environment for your bettas, including tank maintenance, and water quality, head to the RSPCA Knowledgebase.

How to keep your fish happy and engaged

Bettas are smart, and need plenty of environmental enrichment to keep them happy. Their natural environment is one with lots of vegetation, so having several plants in your tank, as well as other sorts of cover, will help keep them feeling safe and give them somewhere to hide and rest.

Make sure that anything you add to your tank has smooth edges, to avoid your fish tearing their fins or tails. Provide tall plants, so that they can rest near the surface of the tank, as bettas do require surface air.

Never place a mirror in the tank, as this can elicit 'flaring' behavior in males, and continuous flaring will cause stress and exhaustion.

Bettas do like to rest or 'hang out' in one area for a while, and some fish will be more active than others. If your fish is resting for very long periods of time, or is unresponsive to you, take them to a vet as soon as possible.

Can I keep a betta with other fish?

It is important to choose tankmates for your betta carefully, to ensure the happiness of all fish in your tank.

Male bettas can be aggressive, and should only be housed with fish that are plain and short-finned to avoid any conflict. Females, however, can be kept in groups with other female bettas, with more than four fish recommended. As female bettas form natural hierarchies, more than four fish will prevent dominant behavior from the group leader being focused on one fish. Where there are groups of bettas housed together, it is important to closely monitor their behavior for aggression, so that you can take action if necessary.

Ideally, speak to your vet to ascertain the best tankmates for bettas, as well as when and how to introduce them.

These beautiful creatures are wonderful to behold, and it's very important to provide them with the right environment to cater to their behavioural and psychological needs.

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