The beautiful and popular Betta fish are the second most abused fish.
Siamese fighting fish, or betta fish, rank amongst some of the most popular aquarium fish because of their low maintenance requirements and flashy good looks. Sadly, they rank only behind goldfish as the most abused aquarium fish in the world.
What are Betta Fish?
If you're not familiar with bettas, these are small-medium fish that come in about every color of the rainbow. Males of most varieties have long, flowing fins but both males and females of good breeding will have vivid, colorful bodies. These fish are often sold in small cups or divided plastic barracks in pet stores because of the fierce territorial behavior of the male toward other males of its species. Contrary to popular belief, however, a single male goes very well in a community aquarium with tank mates that will not nip its fins.
The fish you're undoubtedly familiar with seeing in pet stores are the well-known veiltail bettas with the male's long spade-shaped tails, but there are also crowntails, half-moons, deltas, super deltas, plakats and more. The plakats are a variety that sports short, rounded tales in both genders.
What do Bettas Eat?
If you're familiar with bettas you're probably familiar with the popular betta vase which pairs a betta fish and a peace lily or hardy vine in an attractive display. Unfortunately, many people misunderstand this setup, thinking it's completely self-contained and that the betta will eat the roots of the plant. The problem is, bettas are carnivorous.
Like all fish, bettas require a variety of foods to be healthy, but they are also notoriously picky eaters. If you purchase a fish from a reputable breeder they will often already be used to eating various foods, but if they're from a fish farm (like most pet store fish) they have probably only been fed one type of food their entire life and may need some encouragement to try new things.
The packaged betta pellets in stores work fine as a grade staple food, namely Hikari Betta Bio-Gold or another good pellet with low ash content (filler). Live or freeze-dried blood worms are generally a favorite, and live foods such as micro-worms, vinegar eels or grindal worms are easy to keep and readily accepted by most bettas. Bettas have small stomachs, so they'll likely only eat about five pellets or 3-5 small worms at a time and appreciate twice-daily feedings.
What Environment do Bettas Require?
Since bettas are kept in very small quarters in pet stores and so-called "betta tanks" of miniscule proportions are sold all over the world, many people believe that their fish will do just fine in these quarters. Sadly, this is how it earned its rank of second-most-abused fish in the world.
While a betta can survive for a time in small amounts of water due to the fact that they breath air from the surface of the water instead of the dissolved oxygen, reducing the need for proper aeration, it is exceedingly difficult to keep these tiny quarters clean and the betta will not thrive in this confined area.
In order to be healthy the betta requires at least one gallon of water - and that's total water volume, not the total a container can hold before gravel and decorations are added - as well as very clean water and good filtration. Because their fins snag and tear easily, they should only have real or silk plants rather than plastic plants. They prefer to have plants situated so that they can rest on top of them and be able to reach the surface of the water.
Water changes of about 50% have to be done about every other day for a single betta in one gallon, though the number of water changes goes down the more water volume you get. Alternatively, there is a product in the EcoBio-Block family called EcoBio-Stone S that will help reduce the number of water changes in your betta's tank by introducing the beneficial bacteria that breaks down ammonia and nitrites from the fish's waste and uneaten food into nitrates, as well as keeping the proper levels of essential minerals in the water at all times. There are indications that suggest EcoBio-Block also promote the growth of anaerobic bacteria that convert nitrates into gases that can evaporate rather than needing to be removed manually (such as through water changes).
Bettas are not strong swimmers so they prefer a filter with minimal current. A small sponge filter paired with an aerator works great for smaller setups and ensures that there is enough dissolved oxygen in the water to keep the beneficial bacteria healthy. Additionally, make sure you have a secure cover on the tank because bettas are strong jumpers and can get out of surprisingly small holes.
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