Dr. Keller with the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital is back with tips on how to properly care for your betta fish.
Bettas Need More Than Bowls
Known for their bright, beautiful coloration and elaborate fin displays, betta fish, more accurately called “Siamese fighting fish,” are a common household pet. These little beauties require specific care to ensure that they stay happy and healthy.
Housing Your Betta
The first thing to consider for a betta fish is its environment.
“Betta fish are often seen living in bowls that are too small to allow for normal swimming and hiding behavior,” Dr. Keller says. “They should not live in bowls. Instead, they should ideally be in a 5-gallon glass or plastic tank or larger.”
Having an environment of this size allows the betta fish to exhibit normal activity and have less buildup of toxins in their environment.
It can be fun to decorate a fish tank—there are so many different shapes, sizes, and colors of decorations found in pet stores and online. However, it is important to keep the betta fish in mind when choosing decorations.
“Decorations for a tank should never take up too much of the tank, pushing the fish to the periphery,” Dr. Keller says. Betta fish love to swim around and explore their entire tank. Many decorations also have sharp edges that can easily tear the delicate fins. Avoid these to keep the betta’s fins beautiful.
Water Quality and Temperature
Water quality is vital to the health of a fish. Toxins can build up over time from urine, feces, and break down of uneaten food in the water.
A filtration system that is low flow is preferred in their tank to keep the environment clean of toxins. A low-flow filter is vital to ensure that the fish’s delicate fins are not injured by the suction of a filter.
“Most people don’t realize that betta are tropical fish,” Dr. Keller explains. Their tank needs to be kept within a distinct range of 76°F to 81°F. Owners should measure the tank temperature with a thermometer. Because most homes are kept at a lower temperature, an in-tank water heater will be needed to maintain the temperature.
The type of water used in the tank matters too. Tap water contains harmful chemicals, such as chlorine and chloramine and sometimes heavy metals. These chemicals can cause immunosuppression or make the fish very sick.
“If tap water is used in the tank, it is recommended to use a dechlorinating product and test for heavy metals,” Dr. Keller explains. An alternative to tap water is bottled water, which is free of these harmful chemicals. However, distilled water should not be used as it lacks vital minerals that are important for fish health.
Time to Eat!
“Many resources may falsely claim that bettas can live off nibbling the roots of several plants,” Dr. Keller says. “This is not true!” Plants can provide enrichment for the fish to hide and explore, but plants are not a food source.
Betta fish are carnivores that eat insects and insect larvae. They should be fed a balanced pelleted or flaked food daily.
Just like cats and dogs, betta fish can be overfed, leading to obesity and other health issues.
Dr. Keller suggests that every day a betta fish should be given the amount of food it can eat within 3 to 5 minutes, without any food left over. Left-over food will sink to the bottom of the tank and lead to poor water quality.
“Betta fish can be given treats, too! They should be high-protein items such as bloodworms or brine shrimp fed live or freeze dried, and like all treats they should be given in moderation,” Dr. Keller explains.
Do They Get Lonely?
Betta fish are naturally territorial and should not be housed with any other betta fish because they will fight and injure each other, often resulting in death. They are unlikely to get lonely in their tank; however, if they are in a small tank, they may get bored.
“There are a variety of other species of tank mates that can be safely added to a betta’s tank, such as snails, ghost shrimp, certain species of fish, and African dwarf frogs,” Dr. Keller says. In order to add these friends, however, the size of the tank and filtration system must increase to keep everyone healthy and clean.
And here’s a bonus link to an article quoting Dr. Keller about “blue hedgehogs”:
Animal experts praised the upcoming animated film Sonic: The Hedgehog Tuesday for its accurate depiction of hedgehogs, noting that most media representations leave out the creature’s tendency to roll up into a fast-moving blue ball to attack enemy combatants. “Most of the hedgehogs we see in film and TV are portrayed as timid, antisocial creatures, which completely glosses over both the frequent smoke trails they leave in their lightning-fast wake and their daily ritual of battling their natural enemy, the nefarious mad scientist,” said University of Illinois zoologist Dr. Krista Keller, adding that the 6-inch woodland dweller Americans typically see only exists on the silver screen, while the common hedgehog is approximately 3 feet tall, stands on two sneaker-clad feet, and zooms through city streets to save our planet from sure destruction. “The creators of Sonic really did their homework by exploring the life of our glowing, neon-blue little friends that arrived from Mobius with such precision and care. This is exciting, too, because the quiet, plodding hedgehog you’re familiar with pales in comparison to the real ones I work with as a veterinary professor. I’m much more accustomed to observing hedgehogs that crackle with electricity and run up the side of skyscrapers and jump off buildings to escape the dreaded Dr. Robotnik, all the while tossing out clever quips in plain English.” Dr. Keller added that the film, unfortunately, appears to present yet another unrealistic depiction of James Marsden.