Common Betta Fish Myths

Betta fish, also known as Siamese fighting fish, are popular pets known for their vibrant colors and flamboyant fins. Despite their popularity, there are several misconceptions about their care and behavior. Addressing these myths is crucial for ensuring the well-being of these creatures.

Here are five common myths about betta fish, debunked:

betta fish myths

1. Betta Fish Can Live Happily in Small Bowls

One of the most pervasive myths is that betta fish can thrive in small bowls or containers. This misconception likely stems from their ability to survive in low-oxygen environments thanks to their labyrinth organ, which allows them to breathe atmospheric air. However, surviving is not the same as thriving.

Betta fish require adequate space to swim and exhibit natural behaviors. A small bowl does not provide the necessary space or environmental complexity that betta fish need for a healthy life. Furthermore, small containers can quickly accumulate toxins from waste, leading to poor water quality that can harm the fish.

Experts recommend a minimum tank size of 5 gallons (about 19 liters) to provide a suitable environment for a betta fish.

2. Betta Fish Do Not Need a Filter or Heater

Another common misconception is that betta fish do not require a filtered or heated aquarium. While bettas are adaptable to a range of temperatures, they thrive in warm water, ideally between 76°F and 82°F (24°C to 28°C).

Without a heater, the water in a betta tank can become too cold, especially in cooler climates, leading to stress and health issues for the fish. Similarly, a filtration system is crucial for maintaining water quality by removing toxins, waste, and uneaten food.

While bettas can survive in unfiltered water due to their labyrinth organ, a filter significantly improves their quality of life by keeping their environment clean and stable.

3. Bettas Prefer to Be Alone

Bettas are often thought to be solitary creatures that must be kept alone to prevent aggression. It is true that male bettas are territorial and can be aggressive towards other males. However, this does not mean they must be isolated. Bettas can coexist with certain species of fish and aquatic animals.

The key is choosing tank mates that are not aggressive, do not resemble bettas (to prevent the betta from viewing them as rivals), and do not have long, flowing fins that a betta might mistake for another betta. Suitable companions include snails, shrimp, and certain peaceful fish species.

It is essential to research and carefully consider any additions to a betta’s tank to ensure compatibility and prevent stress.

4. Bettas Eat Plant Roots and Do Not Need Regular Feedings

Some believe that bettas can sustain themselves by nibbling on plant roots or decorations in their tanks. While bettas may occasionally graze on algae or biofilm, they are primarily carnivorous and require a diet rich in protein. In the wild, they eat insects and larvae.

In captivity, they should be fed a variety of high-quality betta pellets, frozen, or live foods such as brine shrimp or daphnia. Regular feedings, typically once or twice a day in small amounts that they can consume within a few minutes, are necessary for their health and well-being.

5. Changing Water Stresses Bettas

Frequent water changes are often viewed as stressful and unnecessary for bettas. However, regular water changes are vital for maintaining water quality, especially in smaller tanks without sophisticated filtration systems. Toxins such as ammonia and nitrites can build up quickly in an aquarium, harming the fish.

Partial water changes (typically 20-25% of the total volume) every week help keep these toxins at manageable levels, provide fresh minerals, and can reduce stress on the fish by improving their living conditions. Acclimating the betta to the new water temperature and chemistry gradually can minimize stress during water changes.

In summary, proper care for betta fish extends beyond the simplistic views many hold. Understanding their specific needs for space, water quality, temperature, diet, and social interaction is crucial for their well-being. Dispelling these myths is the first step towards providing betta fish with a healthy and enriched life.