The name 'Betta' refers to the Genus in which the Siamese Fighting Fish is classified by scientists. There are several different species of Bettas, though the one most often seen in the aquarium hobby is Betta splendens, the Siamese Fighting Fish.
All Bettas are tropical fish found in the warm and hot waters at lower altitudes in southeast Asia. In the wild they are often found in the slow moving waters of swamps and rice paddies where they have plentiful meaty foods, clean warm water, and plenty of hiding places.
Bettas can be easy to care for, and if you provide them the conditions and care they need, they should live 5 years in captivity, though they can live longer!
Betta Equipment & Maintenance:
To keep a Betta healthy, remember to provide him with plenty of clean, warm water. Your Betta's temperature should never drop below 74° Fahrenheit (about 23.5° Celsius), and ideally should remain between 78° and 80° F (25.5° and 26.5 C), so you will need a heater and a thermometer. Keeping a Betta below 74° for long periods of time, or allowing their temperature to drop below 69° (about 20.5° C) at all can seriously hamper their immune system, making them susceptible to many diseases, particularly the often fatal 'Fur Coat Syndrome' bacteria.
Keep your Betta in a tank of at least 10 gallons (about 38 liters), and make sure that a minimum of 5 gallons (19 liters) of your tank space is dedicated to the Betta. This will provide sufficient space for your Betta and will allow the tank to help you keep healthy fish. Perform your weekly 10-15% water changes, so that your Betta always has clean water and the waste that is not processed by the filter is removed. Your Betta will need a filter to keep the water from becoming toxic, and you will need to keep the filter in good condition. When selecting a filter for your Betta, make sure that the filter will not produce excessive current in your tank, and this will make it difficult for the Betta to swim. What this primarily means is that you should not select a filter that is significantly overrated for your fish tank, not that you need to look for a special filter with a low flow rate. However, this is another reason not to try to keep a Betta in a small tank, since filters for small tanks and bowls generate too much current for many fish, particularly calm water fish like Bettas.
Betta Food & Care:
Remember that your Betta is a carnivore (meat eater), so provide him with a varied and high protein diet. Many Betta foods are available on the market today, and most frozen or processed tropical fish foods are also appropriate. Bettas have small appetites, so don't overfeed them. Your fish should be able to consume all the food within two minutes of feeding. If there is food in the tank after this time has elapsed, this will contribute to poor water quality and make your Betta more susceptible to disease. You will probably only need to feed your Betta once a day, though some people feed twice a day. If you feed twice a day, remember that this will increase the waste your fish is producing and will also increase the risk of over feeding, so it becomes more important that you are performing your weekly 10-15% water changes and all necessary filter maintenance. Providing a proper diet will increase your Betta's life expectancy and bolster his immune system.
Bettas, like any fish, are aware that they are prey animals. In order to feel comfortable, they need to have lots of hiding places. As Bettas are from marshes and rice paddies, they feel more comfortable with 'soft cover, ' generally provided in the aquarium environment from live or artificial plants. Like most tropical fish, they are more comfortable and will come out more and be more active if you can provide them with 50-75% cover - this means, make half to three fourths of your tank space hiding places. Providing sufficient cover will reduce stress and therefore improve your Betta's immune system, reducing chance of disease.
Bettas can be kept with other fish, however, remember that male Bettas are VERY territorial toward any fish that they think is another male Betta invading their territory. Though each Betta is a distinctive individual and will have his own personality, here are some ways to identify potential problem fish: fish with large amounts of red or blue coloring (i.e. Swordtails), fish with long, flowing fins (i.e. Guppies, Angelfish, High-Fin Tetras, Sailfin Mollies), fish with similar shapes (i.e. Gourami, Dwarf Gourami, Female Bettas). Also, watch out for fish that will nip and tear the Betta's fins, as this can result in infection or fighting and will cause stress.
Remember, Bettas are beautiful living creatures. It is the responsibility of the pet owner to care for their pet and provide a healthy environment. So, give your Betta space, clean, warm water, plenty of hiding places, and high-quality, high-protein foods and he should be a good companion for a long time.
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