A betta fish swims.

With their unique and beautiful appearance, Betta fish tend to catch the eye of any visitor to a pet store. Once entranced by the betta, particularly after watching them bob along in such a small cup, it is hard to avoid bringing one home to add a little more aesthetic appeal to your interior while giving a needy animal a home. This impulsive purchase can actually be harmful to the fish, however, especially if you do not know the proper way to care for these special creatures.

If you’ve left the store with an unexpected betta fish for your home, The Pet Experts at Elmhurst Animal Care Center are here to offer important tips on keeping the betta safe and healthy.

How to Keep Betta Fish

Most people think that fish are easy pets to own and require very minimal care. Betta fish actually have high-maintenance needs for their environment and nutritional needs. Unlike other pets, these fish cannot be kept in a small tank and fed every few days. Bettas need a lot more attention to survive and thrive in a home tank.

Betta fish should absolutely not be kept in a tank with other betta fish, but they do need some company once in a while. Other species like tetras, African dwarf frogs, and ghost shrimp can safely coexist with the betta fish. Not only do they keep the fish company, but they also can improve the state of the entire tank. 

A Tank Makes a Home

When it comes to their home base, betta fish like to see a certain panache with their tank. Adding some decor (that is properly spaced out to provide room for swimming) can help your betta fish feel more at home in a tank. Betta’s have very delicate fins that can easily snag and tear on sharp edges of tank decor so run your hands over all toys to ensure smoothness. Fish seem bored? Add a ping-pong ball to the tank or use a dry-erase marker to decorate the outside of the tank (think Tic-Tac-Toe). 

In addition to giving the tank a little aesthetic appeal, you need to have at least a 5-10 gallon tank for your betta fish habitat. If you are planning to add some tetras or ghost shrimp for company, you will definitely want to get an even larger tank. Bettas need plenty of room to swim in order to remain healthy and fulfilled throughout their lives.

Keep the water temperature in the tank comfortably between 76-81’ F. If you have other species in the tank with the betta fish, be sure to check if they have any temperature needs as well. Betta fish are tropical, though, and their water temperature needs to reflect that.

Water quality is another important consideration for betta owners. Bettas absolutely need water with a consistent pH of 7. If you use tap water, you must filter it (and treat it) before you use it for your betta fish. You should also avoid using distilled and/or bottled water. Expect to perform ⅓ water changes every few weeks to maintain safe levels of ammonia, nitrates and nitrites in the water that can be toxic for your fish if unaddressed. Utilize water-testing strips to better monitor changes in the water. Fish feces and uneaten food at the bottom of the tank can quickly contribute to toxic water quality.

Set up a low-flow water filtration system to ensure the tank is properly equipped for your betta fish. Just watch the edges of the filter, which can harm the betta’s fins if placed too far into the tank.

Betta Fish Nutrition

Unlike many other species of fish, bettas are carnivores and require special dietary considerations. Bettas can thrive off of pellets made with fish or shrimp, but be sure to avoid tropical fish flakes. The occasional freeze-dried worms or frozen block of bloodworms are nutritious treats that your betta fish will also enjoy.

Do not overfeed your betta, however, or it can gain too much weight. Be sure to read all instructions on the food and consult your veterinarian to understand how much food your betta needs.

The team at Elmhurst Animal Care Center wants to make pet ownership as easy and rewarding as possibly. Please don’t hesitate to ask us more about caring for betta fish. We want the whole animal family to be healthy and happy!