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Care Guide for Betta Fish – The Best Beginner Pet Fish

Betta fish (also known as Betta splendens or the Siamese fighting fish) are a long-time favorite pet for both beginner and veteran fish keepers because of their colorful finnage and spirited personalities. If you’re brand new to the aquarium hobby, this care guide is for you! Find out the key essentials you need to know to successfully keep your first betta fish.

Is It OK to Keep Betta Fish in a Bowl?

If you haven’t bought a small bowl yet, we highly recommend that you get a larger aquarium that holds at least 5 to 10 gallons of water. More water gives your betta fish extra room to swim around and allows you to go longer between tank cleanings before the water gets too dirty. Also, it doesn’t cost a lot more to buy a bigger tank, especially if you take advantage of Petco’s “Dollar Per Gallon” aquarium sale (where a 10-gallon tank only costs $10). Read this blog post to get our complete betta fish checklist and tank setup instructions.

How Long Should Water Sit Before Adding Fish?

Tap water often contains chlorine for killing harmful pathogens, and this chemical is also lethal to betta fish. You may have heard that letting the water sit out overnight allows the chlorine to evaporate, but nowadays some cities treat their water with chlormine, which does not evaporate. Therefore, always add some water conditioner or dechlorinator to make your tap water safe before pouring it into your betta fish’s tank.

Fritz Complete water conditioner

We love Fritz Complete Water Conditioner because it comes with an easy-to-use pump head for quickly removing chlorine and detoxifying ammonia compounds.

Do Bettas Need a Heater?

Yes, they do. Betta fish prefer temperatures around 80°F and tend to be much more active when kept in warmer waters. In the United States, where room temperatures are commonly between 67°F to 69°F, a betta fish without a heater is quite lethargic and may even become sick from the constant stress of being too cold. For recommendations on heaters, read our article How to Choose the Right Aquarium Heater.

Why Does My Betta Tank Get a Film on Top?

To prevent an oily film of proteins from forming, you need adequate filtration to provide good surface agitation, cleaner water, and improved oxygenation. However, since betta fish usually have long, beautiful fins, they cannot swim in strong currents that will whip them around the aquarium. Get a gentle sponge filter or smaller filter with an adjustable flow rate, and your betta will thank you for it. Here's a complete tutorial on how to set up your first sponge filter.

Aquarium Co-Op sponge filter

Sponge filters are a very popular choice of filtration for betta fish because they’re so gentle, reliable, and easy to use.

How Often Should I Feed My Betta Fish?

Feed your betta fish once a day, as much as they can eat in one minute. It’s very easy to overfeed betta fish, so make sure his belly does not become swollen with food or else he may get constipation and other health issues. Start by feeding two staple foods: a dedicated betta fish pellet and freeze-dried bloodworms. When you’re ready to add more variety to his diet, get some ideas from our list of 5 betta fish foods you should try.

Xtreme Betta Pellets - betta fish food

These small floating pellets are specially formulated to provide the nutrition that betta fish need.

How Often Should I Clean My Betta Tank?

If you followed our previous advice and got a 10-gallon tank for your betta fish, you may only need to clean the aquarium once or twice a month by changing out 30% of the water. However, if you have a small 1-gallon bowl, you’ll have to clean the tank every two to three days with 100% water changes. This type of frequent maintenance schedule creates a volatile environment that is very stressful on your betta fish (similar to you having to move to a new home every week). Eventually, you will get busy with the holidays or project deadlines and forget to clean the bowl. Your fish will get sick from living in his own waste, and then you’ll have to spend time and money on medications to try to save him.

Do Betta Fish Get Lonely?

No, betta fish are actually territorial creatures (hence the nickname “Siamese fighting fish”) and should not be housed with other bettas. However, depending on their temperament, many betta fish can live with other peaceful nano fish, provided that you give them a larger aquarium (at least 10 to 20 gallons in size) with lots of cover and live aquarium plants. Some recommended roommates include smaller tetras, rasboras, and corydoras. Check out our complete list of ideal betta tank mates.

Our biggest piece of advice is to not skimp on your betta fish’s care. Get a bigger tank and buy good quality equipment and foods for him. Also, continue to educate yourself by joining a betta fish group on Facebook or reading online articles. Armed with more knowledge and experience, you can help your betta can live a long and healthy life!

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