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The Fighting Betta

When it comes to remarkable, beautiful fish, few outdo the betta fish (AKA Siamese Fighting Fish). These tropical fish are as adventurous as they are feisty, requiring the right environment to roam and thrive. Historically, betta fish were prized for their fierce fighting matches with another member of its kind, and even kings made bets on the winning betta fighter. Nowadays, they are more prized for their beautiful fins and unique traits, and they make great pets in the right environment. There are many different species of betta fish, and each kind has its own characteristics.

Taking the advice of veterinarians, here are some factors to bear in mind when bringing the fighting betta fish home.


One of the main considerations is having enough space for a betta fish to swim, hide, and explore. Your betta fish’s tank should be large enough for it to explore its environment, and this means a tank that is no smaller than three gallons. They need a large habitat to thrive, and as carnivores, cannot subsist on plant roots. (A good-sized tank also allows them to absorb fewer toxins from their environment. It’s also very important to keep the tank clean since the ammonia from defecation buildup is harmful to betta fish. To remove the toxins from the tank, it’s a good idea to install a filter. However, it’s any filter you choose must be slow-moving and gentle, since fast-moving filters can easily trap their fins.

Betta fighting fish are known to live well on their own, so it’s not imperative (or even advisable, depending on the other companions in the tank) to get other fish to live with it. Bear in mind they are independent fish in the wild and do not travel in schools like many other fish species.

If you choose to find company for it, though, make sure the tank is large, and the fish are the type that won’t come into conflict with the fighting betta. Suitable tankmates could include less colorful fish with small fins (bettas don’t like competition) and the African dwarf frog and ghost shrimp. Whatever you do, avoid putting two male betta fish together in the same tank, as they will likely battle each other, fighting to the death in some cases. While not all male betta fish fight one another, it’s certainly a gamble as their natural instinct is to assert and claim their territory.

As tropical fish, betta fish do well in warmer water that ranges between 76°F to 81°F. However, the optimum temperature level is 79°F. Anything less than that and your betta is going to feel uncomfortable. To maintain optimum temperature levels, you may need a water heater depending on where you live and how much or little you turn up the heat in your home. If you use tap water in the tank, make sure to use a product that removes chlorine and other chemicals/metals, as these can be toxic to your betta fish.

A unique trait of the betta fish is that it can take in oxygen from both the water and air. When they come up for air, which they often do, they are breathing. This is an evolutionary trait that makes them very special indeed, and it’s not uncommon for a betta fish to survive out of the water for many hours. Some bettas may even leap out of the tank on their own!

Mating ritual

When ready to mate, betta fish send out signals. They typically flare out their gills to attract the other. (They can also do the same thing when they feel threatened, but this will most likely occur between males.) Vertical lines will also appear in females when they are ready to mate.

Also, watch for bubble nests on the surface of the water. These bubbles are the clearest way males attract females. Interestingly, the male will usually reject the female after eggs have been laid and protect the bubble nest and the spawned eggs. The female, on the other hand, will proceed to eat the eggs if given a chance. Unlike males, female bettas can live together more peacefully than their male counterparts. As long as their tank is large enough, which should be calculated around 3-5 gallons for each betta fish, many females can be kept in the same tank. However, their fighting instinct is still in place, so the group will need to be monitored. If a fight breaks out, it’s important to identify the more aggressive female and place her in another tank.

Betta fish are carnivores that need a high-protein diet. In the wild, their main sources of nourishment include shrimp, bloodworms, insects, and small fish, and they will relish an insect that falls into their tank. Beware of overfeeding them, though, as their stomach is tiny. Only a few flakes and pellets should be poured on their tank, just enough for it to consume it in a few minutes. Leftovers would only lead to obesity and a dirty tank. An obese betta fish won’t be able to swim as well, and it puts them at risk of developing swim bladder disorder (SBD). With this in mind, be mindful of how much and often you feed your betta fish.

A female and male betta can coexist until they mate, but will most likely fight after that as well. If you are considering breeding them, make sure to separate the male from the female afterwards. If you don’t, be prepared for surprises.

While there are many fascinating fish out there, the fighting betta certainly counts as one of them. If you are considering getting one, make sure you learn as much about them as you can and observe them closely all the while. They are sure to be a delight for your family to watch!

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