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What are Betta Fish?

By R. Kayne
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Betta Splendens is the scientific name for a small, colorful freshwater tropical fish known as a betta, beta, or the Siamese fighting fish. Bettas are originally from Asia, however, the colorful varieties in the pet stores are bred locally.

Bettas are probably one of the most recognized fish in the aquarium trade, often sold in tiny cups of water, stacked on shelves, side-by-side. This controversial and hotly debated practice is thought to be inhumane by many hobbyists, despite the fact that the betta is a quite extraordinary fish that takes most of its oxygen from the surface, thereby able to exist in oxygen depleted water.

The male betta is a long-finned colorful and graceful looking fish with an upturned mouth. Its crepe-like fins and 3-inch (7 centimeters) body can be deep red, blue, or nearly any combination of colors. The female fish of the species has shorter fins and is often less colorful. Females may be kept together, but males will fight to the death. For this reason only one male betta can be kept in an aquarium, though it can be kept with other species of fish or other betta females.

In Asia, bettas are found in organically polluted shallow rice paddies and slow moving rivers. Their upturned mouths are perfect for eating insects from the surface. In captivity, they eat frozen bloodworms, flakes, and other prepared diets, but prefer live foods.

Bettas are easily bred in captivity. First, the male builds a bubble-nest at the surface signaling his readiness to mate. Once the female lays eggs, the male scoops the eggs up into his mouth and spits them into the bubble nest. The male will tend the nest until the young bettas hatch. He must be separated shortly thereafter to prevent him from eating the fry.

Bettas prefer warm temperatures of about 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius), and slightly acid to neutral water. And while the betta can breathe oxygen and survive in non-ideal conditions for a period of time, it is neither humane nor advantageous to keep a betta in a bowl or small container without heat and filtration. A small tank of 10 gallons (38 liters), heater and filter, is negligible in price and will be repaid many times over by the enjoyment derived from a fish well kept. In this minimal environment a betta will thrive happily with improved coloration and temperament. A tank of this size also has the added advantage of allowing your betta a few friends. Just remember to avoid fish that are fin-nippers!

Kept in ideal conditions, bettas can live 2-3 years. Though this might sound like a rather brief life span, there are few fish more beautiful, or that give more pleasure, than the exotic Betta Splendens.

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Discussion Comments
By anon339643 — On Jun 25, 2013

Bettas need to be fed at least three pellets a day, but no more than ten fast for one day each week to avoid swim bladder problems.

By anon143537 — On Jan 16, 2011

Any idea what to feed baby betta fish? I hear green water (the sort with a lot of free-floating algae) is good because it can really give them lots of good nutrients.

By anon38833 — On Jul 28, 2009

does anyone know what the biggest betta fish on record is?

By anon29415 — On Apr 01, 2009

Male betta fish change colors. All beta fish do. With male betta fish, it just takes longer.

By anon24517 — On Jan 13, 2009

Fish food manufacturers are in the business of selling fish food, so the faster it goes, the more you buy. OTOH the Betta container is small, and I hope you aren't planning on keeping the fish in that. A small amount of water will become polluted quickly from fish waste, causing a spike in ammonia which can severely stress and even kill the fish. Hence, when a fish is confined to a small amount of water (hopefully temporarily as in transporting and selling it) you would not feed it often so that you don't pollute the water. But a Betta deserves a small tank (10 gallons), heater and at least a Bio Wheel for filtration. In a proper setup you can feed a Betta daily by sprinkling a small amount of food on the surface, no more than the fish will consume in 5-10 minutes. If there is left over food, clean it out with a net and feed less next time. If you skip a day or even two once a month or so, it's not the end of the world (like if you go away on the weekend), but feeding once a week is not often enough for a small fish. Pregnant Bettas might need a different feeding schedule.

By anon24310 — On Jan 10, 2009

How often do betta fish get fed? The betta fish food suggests 2-3 times a DAY, but the label on the betta fish container states to feed once a week! That's a big difference!

By anon5589 — On Nov 30, 2007

AS we know, betta fish can change colors, but they recently found a new color of species! They just found a neon orange and lime green striped betta fish, the first of its kind(becoming a new species), in the Indian Ocean.

By anon3632 — On Sep 09, 2007

What filter is good for betta fish?

By anon1254 — On May 22, 2007

Do male betta fish change colors?

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