If you are a small child you may find it difficult to raise fish. The "Siamese fighting fish", is a popular pet known for its aggressiveness, non-interactive character, and relatively low cost to maintain and care for. Betta fish can be your best friend for up to four years. Follow some of the tips below to ensure your new friend has a beautiful, happy and healthy life.
Part 1 of 8: Learning More About Betta Fish
Step 1. Choose your betta fish
Here are a few things to look for.
- Look at the color. Is the color of the betta bright and sharp, or very dull and pale? Bettas come in a variety of colors, but the most common are blue and red (usually dark).
- Does the betta respond to your movements? Does he swim fast when he sees you, or does he just sit under and sulk? Do not tap the container repeatedly, as this can make the fish nervous. Instead, try moving your finger back and forth in front of the hickey. However, don't be afraid to buy a slightly tame betta fish; they usually meet with humans every day, and end up being more silent. Most pet store-bought betta fish have been bred to withstand the disturbances of a pet's lifestyle.
- Are the fins in good condition, or are they torn or damaged? Are the eyes of the hickey in good condition? Do you see any strange lumps (parasites) on his body? If you see something very abnormal, consider another hickey.
- Sometimes, the fish will choose you, not the other way around. If there is one betta that you see, you put it down, then move on to another fish, but come back to see that fish over and over, consider buying that fish. Even if the fish isn't really healthy, buy fish you feel connected to, rather than choosing healthy fish there. The fish may recover once it is removed from its small bottle and find its new environment in clean, warm water.
Step 2. Do some background research first
There's a lot you should know about betta fish, even more than the basics just described. In general, big sellers are not willing to give detailed information, unless you happen to come across an enthusiastic hickey seller. In addition to having a basic understanding of betta as described above, you might consider finding out more details about betta fish online at sites like bettafish.com, bettatalk.com, ibcbettas.org, etc. These sites will also be useful to you after you buy a hickey, as you can ask questions, check health and nutrition records and find fellow hickey fans to share their stories with.
Part 2 of 8: Preparing a House for Betta Fish
Step 1. Prepare a home for your betta
Do some site preparation before bringing your new pet home. This is to prevent the possibility of unwanted things happening.
Do not place betta fish with other fish without doing some research first about their compatibility with other fish. In general, assume that betta fish will be aggressive towards other fish and may try to kill them (a few exceptions are given below in the discussion of fish that can coexist with bettas)
Step 2. Choose a suitable house
In the wild, hickeys live in the rice fields of Thailand. Therefore, they are suitable for living in relatively shallow but spacious environments. To meet the needs of a large area, consider giving your betta a good size space to help extend its life span. Choose an aquarium that is 19 liters or more for your betta to thrive. It may seem too big, but it is well worth it for your fish.
Step 3. Add the necessary equipment
The various equipment needed for you to successfully raise betta fish include:
- Buy a heater with a thermostat––betta fish like water temperatures between 24-27ºC. Bettas may need heating in some cases––for example, if you live in a cold country or if you have an aquarium that is below room temperature, you may need a heater. You can buy a mini heater for your betta's house that contains between 4-11 liters. During winter, you can add a mini heater or place your tank near a radiator (1 meter away), to keep your betta from getting too cold.
- A filter is always necessary but make sure the water current is not too strong for your betta. Keep in mind that long-finned varieties of fish should be given as little current as possible. Some experts recommend using a sponge filter, to protect the fins.
- Avoid jagged rocks or trim. The jagged decorations can tear the betta's fins easily. It is recommended that you check once a day to check for any torn betta fins. If there are torn fins, check the quality of the water first, as torn fins are usually the result of poor water retention.
- Avoid adding tough plastic plants. Again, this is a rough material on the fins. Use the 'stocking test': If the stockings tear when rubbed with a plastic plant, they could damage your betta's fins. Choose Safe and instead buy plants made of silk.
- Live plants are a good idea. This plant is prettier than the fake one, and the betta likes to relax on its leaves and hide inside the plant to sleep. Live plants also help to oxidize the water and keep the water clean for a longer period of time.
Step 4. If you are considering adding fish, do your research
Bettas tend to prefer to be alone and can kill other fish and even snails if added to the tank. Some people believe that betta fish can coexist with other animals such as snails, cherry shrimp or ghost shrimp and neon tetras, and think that as long as the animal they make friends with is not bigger, not more colorful or not biting their fins, that's fine. It has been said that some of the more aggressive betta fish prefer to live alone and will attack even if it is a slug. Before adding another animal, do a thorough research by asking the seller, reading books about betta fish or opening an online site dedicated to betta fish (ask other betta owners in the forums). When in doubt, let the betta stay alone in the tank.
- Male betta fish cannot live with other male betta fish. They are named the Siamese fighting fish for a reason! In an aquarium, they will fight to the death to protect their living space, regardless of the size of the tank. If your tank doesn't have a screen, don't risk losing one or both of your bettas by letting them live together.
- Keep only one female betta fish or in groups of at least five, to reduce aggression. The aquarium should be at least 38 liters in size and have some places to hide if you have several female fish. All female fish must be introduced at the same time. Do not place only two female betta fish in your tank. They will form a "rule order" and the inclusion of only two females means that the less dominant fish will continue to be bullied exclusively.
- The female betta fish will attack the male fish and vice versa. Don't put them together. Read up on how to breed these fish if you want to give it a try, but remember that breeding Bettas is a big commitment, and not something to be taken lightly.
- Placing a mirror on the side of the tank can make your betta bloom because it thinks there are enemies in its territory. This can stress the fish, so avoid mirrors.
Part 3 of 8: Adding Water to the Aquarium
Step 1. Prepare the water
Use a water conditioner such as Prime before adding new tap water to the tank. Using chlorine and chloramines in regular tap water can harm your hickey, as well as kill any beneficial bacteria that live in the filter. In the past, people might suggest letting the water sit for a while but it's best to use a water conditioner, because standing water removes chlorine but does not remove chloramines and heavy metals.
Using bottled mineral water is not a good idea as it prevents your betta from getting the minerals it needs and is 'unsafe' for your betta. Treated tap water is a cheaper and better alternative
Step 2. Fill the tank for your betta
If the tank doesn't have a lid on it, fill it to about 80% of the tank's height to make sure your fish don't jump out. Bettas are very active and can jump over 7.5cm if motivated! However, betta usually won't try to run away if they are happy in their home.
Part 4 of 8: Put Your Betta in His New Home
Step 1. Enter your hickey
Slowly and carefully pour the container containing the betta you bought into its new habitat, so that the new and old water mix. This will make it easier for your fish to adjust to the water––if the water in their new habitat is much colder or warmer than the old water, mixing the water will help reduce shock to the fish. Be gentle when you pour the hickey!
Avoid netting your betta if possible, as this can damage their delicate fins. If you need to pick up a hickey, try using a small cup to carefully pick it up
Part 5 of 8: Feeding the Betta
Step 1. Choose the right food for your betta
Betta food should primarily be pellets made specifically for betta feed. At certain times, give your betta frozen crayfish or bloodworms.
- Check the pellet ingredients. The first three ingredients must be protein-based. Experts say that the protein in the pellets should not be less than 40%.
- While live feeds may be interesting to look at, they are generally best frozen and dried feed products. These foods are safer and free from potential parasites. Frozen or dried bloodworms are a good treat.
Step 2. Feed your betta regularly
Your betta's eating habits differ from one another, so experiment to see how much food your betta eats. Set regular meal times, for example, once in the morning and once in the evening. If you stick to this routine, you may find that your betta is waiting for you when it's time to eat!
Be careful not to overfeed the fish. Overfeeding can be a problem for some betta fish, as they will eat as long as you keep feeding them (which can be fatal). On the other hand, other betta fish will stop eating when they are full. Overfeeding can cause bloating, although this is not as serious as a similar condition called dropsy. However, this can lead to bladder problems later in life, which can also be fatal
Step 3. Wipe off any excess food your betta doesn't eat
Similarly, watch your betta to see if he's regurgitating food. This could be a sign that your betta is a picky eater, or it could also mean that the pellet is too big for the betta's mouth. Ironically, almost all large fish feed producers don't realize that the betta's mouth is smaller than, say, goldfish or other fish.
You can split the pellet in half with a small razor or something similar to make it easier for the pellet to enter the betta's mouth. If your betta still won't eat, try a different brand of pellets or dry food
Step 4. For a little enriching exercise change the timing of the meal
Put the straw in the tank and watch your betta to see if he's used to it. If he's used to it, and you have some uneaten food on your betta, add one pellet to the tank. Place the straw on top of the pellet so that the pellet goes into the straw. Bring a straw over the fish and wait for the fish to find it. Once your betta finds the pellet, it will follow it. Then you can slowly lift the straw up to the top of the tank until the food jumps out and your betta will eat it.
Part 6 of 8: Keeping the Aquarium Clean
Betta fish are only resistant to different types of water, such as certain hardness and pH of the water. Since these fish take time to adjust to their new environment and the process can be stressful for your betta, you shouldn't change the water too often or overhaul your tank.
Step 1. Clean your betta's aquarium
Place your betta in a container filled with old water when you wash the tank. Wash the aquarium in hot water, as some types of soap can harm your betta. If there are rocks in your aquarium habitat, rinse them thoroughly. Half fill the tank with the new tap water, add the betta and some of the old water, then fill the rest with tap water again.
- Be sure to add a de-chlorinator (also known as a water conditioner) to the water; this will remove harmful chlorine/chloramines present in the tap water that could kill your fish. It will also filter out bacteria.
- Make sure the replacement water is at the same temperature as the old water your betta was in, to avoid temperature shocks; such a temperature shock can be fatal to your hickey. Use a water thermometer to check the temperature of the water.
Step 2. Test the water once a week
To test the water parameters on a weekly basis, you will need a water tester. You can use this tool to monitor your aquarium and get readings from it. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer to perform the test.
Make notes in your calendar or diary to remind yourself that it's time to test the waters
Part 7 of 8: Continuous Fun
Step 1. Have fun with your new friend
Betta fish can recognize their owners. They will really learn faces and even simple games. Treat your betta friend and say "hi" every now and then, so he'll learn who you are!
Betta fish are very curious and often build strong bonds with those who care for them
Step 2. Play with your betta fish
It's fun to see and spend time with betta fish. You can play with your fish by moving your finger back and forth along the edge of the tank (never bang on the tank or stir the water). Watch as the hickey follows you. And most importantly, don't forget to name your fish!
Never tap the aquarium glass. This action easily makes the fish nervous and can cause the fish to go into shock and die. To interact through gestures, lightly touch your finger on the glass and slide it along the edges to see if your hickey will follow suit. If he turns around and looks scared, stop your movement immediately. You can try again later when your hickey is more used to it and isn't afraid of you
Part 8 of 8: Interesting Facts About Betta Fish
Step 1. Some interesting things to know about Hickeys:
Bettas are members of the Anabantoid family (gourami also belongs to this family). They have a backup respiratory system that allows them to breathe air at the surface, however, they still need a filter system in their aquarium.
Step 2. The female betta is usually smaller than the male betta
They do not have the beautiful fins that the male fish have. However, they can be just as beautiful as a male fish in their own way––and full of passion! However, don't put them in the same tank, as the female fish can stick to the flaming fin of the male fish, causing the fin to tear.
Step 3. The male betta builds a bubble nest when happy
Step 4. If the male likes the female, he spreads his gills, twists his body, and spreads his fins
If the female fish likes the male fish, she snakes back and forth.
- Keep in mind that if your fish won't move much or won't move at all and you've just changed the water, it may be too cold or too hot.
- Clean up the decorations before you put them in the fish tank!
- Some owners like to pet their betta after they have known each other for some time. However, don't do it too often. Fish scales have a thin layer of mucus to protect the fish from getting sick, and if you don't do it gently or do it too often, this protective layer will be lost, making your fish susceptible to disease.
- If your fish is lying at the bottom of the tank like a dead fish, it's usually fine because it's just resting. If he continues to act like that you might consider calling someone to check on him.
- If your hickey is sick, treat it with the right medication whether it's an antibiotic, antifungal or anti-parasitic. You can buy these medicines at your local fish shop, most of these medicines need to be ordered in advance, so you should always have them on hand!
- Small bowls or aquariums are not ideal for betta fish. Small environments like these require frequent 100% water changes to prevent lethal ammonia build up (see above), so it's recommended to have a large tank that's been cycled.
- You can have a hard time keeping your betta fish if you are too young. Ask your parents or caregiver for help.
- Do not put several male and female fish in the same tank as they will likely fight each other.
- Do not put a small betta with an adult fish because the small betta will fight with the adult fish.
- If you are using a new tank, be sure to learn about the Nitrogen Cycle (also known as the biological cycle) before introducing your betta. If you introduce your fish before the tank is cycled, it could die from ammonia or nitrite poisoning.
- If you add other animals to the tank, don't buy other fish that are brightly colored (such as the lovely guppies), or fish with long, waving fins (guppy fish, goldfish, etc.). Your betta may mistake the flaming fish for another betta fish. Avoid other fish that are aggressive or have flicking fins, such as barbus. Danio fish, some types of tetra and most rasbora fish can be paired with Bettas. Moss-eating fish such as corydora and otto (Otocinclus) are also good choices. Read online fish forums for advice.
- Do not use distilled water. Distilled water is actually water that has removed all minerals and other nutrients. Bettas naturally cannot live in distilled water and forcing them to do so can be hazardous to their health.
- Betta fish are sensitive to temperature changes. In general, a change of 2 to 3 degrees can lower his immune system. If possible, buy a proper aquarium heater and use it.