Articles Betta Caresheets

Caresheet: Betta | Betta splendens

January 6, 2013
betta splendens

Bettas are a long-time favourite of many fishkeepers: betta shows are held all over the world and there are many hobbyist breeders. Available in many colors and fin shapes, it’s no wonder this little insect eating fish with a history is one of the most popular aquarium fish around.
Please note that even though the genus Betta contains over 60 different species, I will only be discussing the Betta most of you know and love right now – Betta splendens.

Tank size 5-8 gal (20-30 L) for 1 fish
Temperament Aggressive to other bettas
Diet Carnivore
Temperature 77-83°F (25-28°C)
pH 6.8-7.5
Length 2.4 inch (6 cm)


Betta splendens, Betta, Siamese Fighting Fish

Betta natural habitat

Betta fish are naturally found in Thailand and Cambodia, usually in small ponds, rice paddies and slow moving rivers with lots of thick vegetation. To be able to survive in these areas, where the water often dries up to small puddles in the dry season, Betta fish have developed the ability to jump from puddle to puddle and breathe small amounts of oxygen from the surface using something called the labyrinth organ.
This is likely what spawned the myth that they can live in small amounts of unfiltered water, like cups and vases.


Their appearance is what made these fish so popular! Selective breeding has resulted in endless color and fin shape combinations, often with pretty exotic and interesting sounding names. The most common fin shapes include veiltail (the most common variety), plakat (short finned), double tail, crown tail and half-moon.

Most of the Bettas found in your average pet store are males, that can be recognized from their large, flowing fins, which they flare out when trying to impress and intimidate another male. Females have much shorter fins and are often less colorful. This sometimes leads to confusion: short finned (plakat) males are occasionaly mislabeled as females, so be careful when buying a “female” betta.

Betta requirements

Contrary to belief spread mainly by pet stores, Betta fish cannot live in a cup, and won’t ‘freak out’ in larger spaces. They are tropical fish that require a heated, filtered and preferably rectangular tank of at least 5 gallons with a lid. Bettas can breathe air at the surface, so they should always have the possibility to do this. To make them feel safe, a planted tank and calm tankmates are recommended.

Tanks like the ‘Betta peace lilly’, wall mounted bowl, tiny “aquaponics systems” and “self cleaning tanks” are not proper living space for a betta and should always be avoided.

More information about why betta bowls are bad can be found here.
More information about proper betta aquariums, equipment and tankmates can be found here.

Betta diet

The Betta’s upturned mouth reveals what it likes to eat in the wild: insects that have fallen in the water. Mosquito larvae, zooplankton and occasionally small amounts of vegetable matter are also in the wild Betta’s diet.

In captivity, Bettas should be fed a varied diet, consisting of high quality Betta pellets like Omega One Betta Buffet Pellets or New Life Spectrum Betta Formula and other foods containing animal protein, like mosquito larvae, bloodworms, brine shrimp and small live shrimp.

Be sure not to overfeed your Betta. Although they are great at begging for food and seem hungry all the time, they only need a small amount of food once or twice a day. Skipping a day, for example when you’re away, is not a problem.

More information about what a good betta diet looks like can be found here.

Betta behavior

Although most guides list building bubble nests as the best indicator for whether a betta is happy and healthy or not. However, even sick bettas in tiny cups will sometimes do this, so whether your betta makes bubble nests or not says nothing about its condition. A healthy, happy Betta is curious and active, and will usually flare when confronted with a mirror. Other signs that your Betta is doing well are begging for food, getting excited when you enter the room and patrolling the tank.

When provided with the right kind of aquarium, Bettas are gorgeous fish with a huge personality towards both their owner and their tankmates. If you’d describe your Betta as ‘boring’, then there’s probably something wrong. Sick or unhappy Bettas show symptoms like lethargy, paleness, fins rotting/”melting” away, hiding, scratching or being skittish.


A healthy betta is colorful and active. Betta by telemudcat

Breeding Bettas

Breeding Bettas is considered to be fairly easy. The male and female should be healthy, well-fed and roughly the same size to prevent injury, and water quality in the breeding tank should be high. The female is usually introduced into the male’s tank for the spawning process. The two should be allowed to get used to each other for a few days before being put into the same tank, which is usually done by placing their aquariums next to each other for a while. The male is then moved to the breeding tank, and after a few hours of acclimating the female is put in a vase or behind a clear divider inside the breeding tank until a bubble nest has been built.

When the female is released into the breeding tank, the couple will usually bite at each other’s fins for a bit before starting the spawning process – it sometimes takes a few days before they are ready to spawn, but it’s not uncommon for them to start right away either. The female follows the male to the bubble nest, where they embrace. The female releases her eggs and will usually sit motionless while the male picks them up from the bottom of the aquarium and puts them in his bubble nest. The female should now be removed from the tank to prevent her from eating the eggs or being attacked by the male.

The male is left in the breeding tank with the bubble nest and eggs until the fry are free swimming or until he starts eating them. The fry will live off their yolk sacs for the first few days, but as soon as these are gone you should start feeding lots of tiny portions of infusoria throughout the day. Other foods, like newly hatched brine shrimp and microworms, can be fed when the fry is at least two weeks old. Uneaten food should carefully be removed, as stable water values are very important. This also means doing frequent water changes. The fry grow quite slowly, but should eventually be separated when the males start becoming aggressive. Females can stay together in the same tank.

If you have any additional questions about keeping bettas or if you want to share your own experiences with them, leave a comment below. Happy Betta-keeping!

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  • Reply Juliet Jacob August 13, 2015 at 2:39 am

    I love your website! I recently started working for PetSmart and will soon work in the petcare department. I know about and have lots of experience with small animals but not with fish. I really would like to educate myself better to help improve the lives of the fish. There are so many people coming in with fish questions and also to return dead fish. I would like to address the problem or avoid selling a fish to an inexperienced person. But im glad I found this site! Its proved very useful so far.

    • Reply Mari August 13, 2015 at 1:10 pm

      That’s fantastic to hear! If you’re looking to learn, there are also some great fish forums out there where people with lots of experience discuss the hobby, it’s really helpful.

  • Reply Kris February 16, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    It is also good to remember the local laws. As far as I know, USA doesn’t have many (if any) laws considering animal welfare for fish, but for example, Finland has much stricter laws.
    No fish are allowed to be in smaller than 40 liter (10g) tank (and there are species-related laws too), so if you lived here and put betta into 5 gallon, you’d be breaking the animal protection laws.

    • Reply Mari February 19, 2015 at 9:47 pm

      That’s very interesting to hear! Unfortunately these laws are often not enforced, although it’s good to consider why they’re there. They also hopefully prevent pet-/aquarium stores from selling bowls and tiny tanks! 🙂

  • Reply Lisa September 21, 2014 at 11:52 pm

    Well, I own nine bettas, and I have generally found that technically one gallon is the minimum for females, 2.5 per male, but that set-up does require quite a few water changes. And 8 gallons is by no way anywhere near the max! I know somebody with a betta in a 125 gallon tank.

    • Reply Mari September 22, 2014 at 8:57 am

      Setups as small as the ones you mentioned cannot be kept safe without the use of an automatic drip system. I hope you’re not keeping your bettas in such small tanks? It’s more important to keep bettas in adequate housing than to own as many bettas as possible.
      I agree that 8 gallons is not the max, I’m not sure where you read that! I kept my bettas in 15 gallons.

      • Reply Lisa September 24, 2014 at 4:35 am

        Actually, it’s the water quality which matters more. Many aquarium fish breeders who I look up to keep their bettas in smaller tanks. They have very diligent water changes though, so I understand where you are coming from. Better tell people to keep them in bigger tanks, especially with lots of uneducated people out there. Same reason many people keep sororities a secret from pet stores…

        Oh, it was just the way it was phrased 5- 8 gallons.

        • Reply Mari September 24, 2014 at 1:55 pm

          I was referring to water quality with the automatic drip system. Many of the betta breeders I know keep their bettas in very small housing as well, but they have these drip systems or are able to do water changes every day. They keep their bettas in these containers because it’s not possible to house all of them in normal setups, but this doesn’t mean that we should do the same. These people have years of experience and they know what they’re doing. Apart from that, even if it’s possible to keep a betta in a very small setup, doesn’t mean we should do it. A tiny, bare tank will always be more stressful for bettas than a normal setup. Like you said, it’s not a good idea at all to tell people that very small setups are okay, even if it’s technically possible in some situations. It ruins the hard work many betta keepers have done to raise awareness on betta care.

  • Reply Sharon March 17, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    I love Bettas and a newbie! I have 7 now. I unfortunately lost one yesterday :(. I have been reading articles about Bettas because I just love looking at their vibrant colors! I currently have 4 juvies and not sure if they are males or females. Love your site! Keep it up 🙂

    • Reply Mari March 17, 2014 at 2:12 pm

      Thank you! And wow, 7! That’s a lot of tanks, haha, or are you working with dividers? 🙂

  • Reply Al Boone January 9, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    I own 5 Bettas, and when I found this website I was so happy. Keep updating, I love to read them!

    • Reply Mari January 9, 2013 at 8:49 pm

      Thank you! I’m loving running the site so far, so I’ll definitely keep updating.

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