Every betta owner is concerned with the health and well-being of his precious fish. However, there are a lot of less-known issues regarding betta health that are not always paid attention to.
The following ten tips for proper betta care should be known to every responsible betta fish owner:
10) When getting a new aquarium, it is essential to have enough “good” bacteria in it in order to process the ammonia and nitrites excreted by the betta. In a brand new tank, there are none (unless you put real aquarium gravel in), which causes bettas to suffer from “new tank syndrome”. The correct way to handle this is to get a testing kit from your local pet store, add some Java moss to the tank, replace about 20% of the water each day with fresh water, and keep measuring the ammonia and nitrite levels. If they stay at a stable low level, you have a colony of good bacteria in place and there is no more reason to worry.
9) Never use purified or distilled water, since the mineral content is too low. Nor should you use one of the carbon water filters that humans use for their drinking water, unless the manufacturer recommends them for aquariums (and normally they don’t). There is no need to buy “designer” bottled water either. Your plain, unfiltered tap water should be fine if it is properly treated.
8) The minimum amount of water necessary for a fully grown betta not to be miserable is about 2 gallons. However, there is no real limit, since no betta will be upset with too much water.
7) Never put two males together. That’s the surest way to prevent them from fighting. If your goal is to introduce a female to the environment, do it slowly. Start by putting the female into a tank and placing it next to the male’s tank. Let the male become accustomed to seeing her for a week or so. Then introduce her to the male’s environment
6) Bettas are carnivores. That means they eat meat. Feeding your betta a vegetarian diet will make him sick because he will not get the protein he needs. If your dietary beliefs do not allow you to feed meat products to your betta, don’t buy one!
5) Avoid using antibiotics on the water. Although they do kill the bad bacteria, they also kill the good bacteria, which can again lead to betta getting poisoned.
4) Your betta’s life revolves around the surface of the water – so don’t make it hard to get to. Even if there are no females in his tank, your male will still enjoy building a bubble nest at the surface and playing around with it as if training for the day he’ll have real babies to raise. This means moving eggs from the bottom up to the nest – and it’s something your male will practice even if he hasn’t done any breeding. So
the bottom line is that you should aim to have the water depth be no more than 10 inches from substrate (gravel on the bottom) to surface.
3) The water pH levels should ideally be 6.8 to 7.0 – slightly acidic to neutral. However, don’t worry about it if the water’s pH isn’t in that exact range. Bettas can adjust. The main thing is to not make drastic changes
to the pH level. For your little ones, a stable pH is the most important thing. Additionally, the chemicals used to adjust pH have been observed to cause bettas to become sick and even die.
2) There is some disagreement about this issue, but we have found through extensive research and experience that most bettas only need to be fed once per day. This most closely approximates a betta’s feeding experience in nature. If you want to feed twice per day, remember you are running the risk of overfeeding plus you will likely end up having to clean the aquarium more frequently to counteract the additional waste buildup.
1) Before handling your bettas, wash your hands. Use a soap that is organic and non-toxic. Sticking dirty hands or hands washed with aggressive chemicals into the tank is a sure way to make your bettas sick.
These were just some of the basics of caring after bettas. For exhaustive information on purchasing bettas, betta health care, feeding, breeding, and more, you can refer to the Betta Fish Lover’s Guide by Marcus Song at
David is a pet enthusiast and a long-time aquarium owner.