Betta fish care guide

Betta fish (Betta splendens) or siamese fighting fish has been well known and popular among aquarists for quite a long time. Its relative species paradise fish were the first to be brought from Asia to Europe. However, long before that, the betta had already been bred in Thailand and Malaysia.

Betta fish has become popular due to its gorgeous appearance, unusual behavior, and its capability to inhabit in small tanks. Also, bettas are easily bred and interbred, so as a result, there are lots of morphs that have various coloring, fins shape, etc. Wildlife species aren’t that attractive and colorful – its color is greenish or brownish, the body is elongated with short fins.

Siamese fighting fish

Betta fish has got the name of fighting fish because of violent fights that male put up with each other, which sometimes end up with the death of one. Wildlife species are still used for fights in Thailand, though the fights now never last till the death of one of them.

Even though the betta is a rather furious fighter, it has quite a specific fighting strategy. If one of the fishes swims up to the water surface to get some air, the other one won’t attack, the male will wait till the other one gets back.

The same happens when two males are fighting, the third one doesn’t interfere, and it waits till the fight is over.

However, those fish that you may encounter on sale are a far cry from the species their relatives used to be. They still have the same temper and behavior, and they’ll still have fights, but the concept of the species itself has changed – because the modern breeds are aimed to be beautiful and attractive.

They have gorgeous fins that are so long that they can be damaged even by tank plants, not to mention the fights. These fish are now kept in tanks for their beauty, bright coloring, and amazing long fins, but not for their ability to fight with each other.

Habitat in the wild

Betta fish was first described in 1910. It can be encountered in South-West Asia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam. However, Thailand is considered to be its habitat, though it’s rather difficult to say if it’s true, taking into account betta’s popularity.

The fish got its name “Betta” from Javan” Wuder Bettah.” Right now, in Asia, the fish is more often called “pla-kad,” which means – a biting fish. Another interesting fact is that in Thailand, the fish is called “pla kat Khmer” which can be translated as a biting fish from Khmer lands.

B. splendens is one of more than 70 described species of Betta kind. There are six or more kinds of these fish that weren’t classified. This fish kind may be divided into two groups – one of them broods its juveniles in the mouth, and the other one builds a bubble nest.

They inhabit in thickly planted impounded waters or slow-flowing waters – in channels, rice fields, and in middle-sized and large rivers. The betta fish is considered to belong to Anabantoidei kind – the one that can breathe with atmospheric oxygen, which allows the fish to survive in very severe conditions.

Scientific NameBetta splendens
Common NamesBetta; betta fish; Siamese fighting fish
Range and habitatSoutheast Asia
Size6–8 cm (2.4–3.1 in)
Lifespan2-3 years
Ease of keepingEasy
Minimum tank size5 gallons (20 L) and more
Temperature75–82 °F (24–28 °C)
Water hardness5 – 25 dGH


In the wild, the betta fish isn’t that attractive – it has an elongated greenish or brownish body with short rounded fins. However, nowadays, the fish is a collectible item, and its coloring, as well as its fins shape, vary quite a lot.

Max size is up to 6–8 cm (2.4–3.1 in). Betta fish lifespan is rather short – as a rule, it’s about 2-3 years. It is quite normal for a fish of this size.

Difficulties in keeping

The fish is good for beginners since it is quite easy to take care of it. It can be kept in very small tanks and under different tank conditions. Bettas are perfect for beginners and those aquarists who can’t afford to have big tanks since they require minimum space and feed.

Betta splendens is not demanding as for the feed, and it’ll do with almost all types of feed available on sale. Usually, betta is sold as a fish for community tanks, however, keep in mind that the males tend to have rather violent fights with each other, they may harm their females, and they are aggressive during the spawning period.

At the same time, the fish can be kept alone in a tank, and it stands this quite well.

Also, the fish isn’t demanding, it’s healthy and always on sale. Due to its labyrinth organ, it can survive in the water with the poor with oxygen content and in very small tanks.

Betta fish is rather peaceful provided with proper tank mates. However, during the spawning period, males are rather aggressive, and they attack any fish around, especially if it has the same appearance (even a female of its kind) or any other bright colored tank mates.

Because of that, only one fish is usually kept in a tank, or it should have proper tank mates that it won’t be able to hurt. Also, you may keep a couple of bettas provided that they have a spacious tank, so that the female will have a place to hide.

Care and keeping at the tank

Betta fish swims in all water layers, however, it prefers the upper one. Ten gallons is quite enough for one fish, though this is a minimum required capacity of a tank.

It’s not a good idea to keep the fish in a round-shaped tank, though it’s quite a popular thing to do. It’s better to keep it in a tank of about 5 gallons capacity and more, with a heater, and it must be covered from top, since the Betta may jump out. If your fish isn’t alone in a tank, it’ll surely have to be more spacious with some shelters for females, not bright lighting, and some floating plants.

Routine tank care includes weekly water renew (about 25% of the total tank capacity). Since when there are a lot of leftovers and other litter in the water, it first of all effects the state and appearance of the fish fins.

As for the tank water parameters, they may vary a lot. In general, it’s recommended to maintain the following water parameters: 75–82 °F (24–28 °C), pH: 6.5-7.5, 5 – 25 dGH.


Though betta fish is omnivorous in the wild, it can even feed on some algae; however, insects are its main diet. In the wild, it feeds on insects larva, zooplankton, water insects.

In a tank, it eats all types of live, frozen, and artificial feed, so there shouldn’t be any trouble in this respect.

The only thing is that you should make diet diversified by changing feed types to keep the fish healthy and brightly colored.


In general, betta fish is quite suitable as a tank mate for many species.

However, you definitely shouldn’t keep it together with the fishes that are nipping fins, for example, dwarf puffer or tiger barb.

However, betta itself may start nipping fins, so don’t keep it together with long-finned fish kinds. Sometimes, they attack other fishes in a tank, but usually, it’s because the fish has taken them for its relatives.

The thing that definitely shouldn’t be done is putting two males in one tank, because they will surely have fights.

Females of this kind are less aggressive, though they have a rather strong hierarchy.Therefore, one male can be kept together with several females provided that the latter have enough shelters in a tank. Serpae tetra, glowlight tetras, black tetra, emperor tetra, opaline gourami, dwarf gourami, and live-bearings are perfect tank mates.

Gender differences: male vs female

It’s quite easy to see between males and females. The male is larger with larger fins, and it has more saturated coloring. The female is less brightly colored, smaller with small fins, and its abdomen is rather rounded.


As a majority of Anabantoidei kind, the betta fish is a bubble nest builder. Breeding is an easy, but rather a troublesome process due to the male temper and the ill health of juveniles.

To grow the juveniles successfully, one should get prepared for the process. After you’ve chosen a couple of breeders, you should feed them well with live feed and keep the fish separately before they start spawning.

Once the female is ready to spawn, its abdomen becomes more rounded due to the eggs she has inside. As soon as the couple is ready to breed, it’s put into a spawning tank with the water level not higher than 15 cm.

You may encounter some info over the Internet, which says that a tank of 10 liters capacity will do as a spawning tank, however, if you do some calculations, you’ll see that it’s not enough.

Choose the tank capacity according to your resources, you could do with any other tank size, since anyway male will haunt and fight the female and she’ll need a place to hide.

Increase the water temperature up to 26-28 °C, and then the couple will start building a nest. To keep the betta male from killing the female, add some thickly growing plants into the tank (for example, some Java moss and keep in mind that 10 liters capacity isn’t enough).

Put some floating plants on the water surface – water lettuce or amazon frogbit.

As soon as the nest is ready, the betta male will start calling the female to get closer to it. Then the female will close its fins and approach to the male, but keep an eye on the male so he wouldn’t kill her!

The male embraces the female one squeezing the eggs out of her, and simultaneously sperm is being released. Female lays about 40 eggs in a time and about 200 eggs in general during the whole spawning period. The eggs go down to the tank bottom, and the male picks them up and puts into the nest.

The betta female can also help him with that, but more often she just eats the eggs, so it’s better to remove the female from the spawning tank right after the spawning is finished.

The eggs hatch in 24-36 hours. Larva stays in the nest for 2 or 3 days after that, until it completely eats its yolk sack and starts to swim.

Once juveniles start to swim, you’d better remove the male from the tank, because it may start eating the juveniles. You should lower the water level (up to 5-7 cm) and turn on the aeration at a minimal level.

These should be done till the juveniles have their labyrinth organ completely developed, and they start taking some air from the water surface. After that, you may start to raise the water level gradually. All the abovementioned happens in about 4-6 weeks after the spawning.

Feed betta juveniles with infusorian, egg yolk. As the juveniles grow, you may add some brine shrimp nauplii and tubifex into their diet.

Betta juvenile’s rate of growth is quite individual and different, so you should sort them according to their size to avoid cannibalism among them and to prevent their fights in the future.