Let’s make your betta fish happy and healthy.
IT’S NOT ‘JUST’ A FISH
Known for their bright, beautiful coloration and elaborate fin displays, betta fish, more accurately called “Siamese fighting fish,” are a common household pet. These little beauties require specific care to ensure that they stay happy and healthy. Dr. Krista Keller, a veterinarian at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana who is a board-certified specialist in zoological medicine, offers insights for owners of these pet fish.
Housing Your Betta
The first thing to consider for a betta fish is its environment.
“Betta fish are often seen living in bowls that are too small to allow for normal swimming and hiding behavior,” Dr. Keller says. “They should not live in bowls. Instead, they should ideally be in a 5-gallon glass or plastic tank or larger.” Having an environment of this size allows the betta fish to exhibit normal activity and have less buildup of toxins in their environment.
It can be fun to decorate a fish tank—there are so many different shapes, sizes, and colors of decorations found in pet stores and online. However, it is important to keep the betta fish in mind when choosing decorations.
“Decorations for a tank should never take up too much of the tank, pushing the fish to the periphery,” Dr. Keller says. Betta fish love to swim around and explore their entire tank. Many decorations also have sharp edges that can easily tear the delicate fins. Avoid these to keep the betta’s fins beautiful.
Water Quality and Temperature
Water quality is vital to the health of a fish. Toxins can build up over time from urine, feces, and break down of uneaten food in the water.
A filtration system that is low flow is preferred in their tank to keep the environment clean of toxins. A low-flow filter is vital to ensure that the fish’s delicate fins are not injured by the suction of a filter.
“Most people don’t realize that betta are tropical fish,” Dr. Keller explains. Their tank needs to be kept within a distinct range of 76°F to 81°F. Owners should measure the tank temperature with a thermometer. Because most homes are kept at a lower temperature, an in-tank water heater will be needed to maintain the temperature.
The type of water used in the tank matters too. Tap water contains harmful chemicals, such as chlorine and chloramine and sometimes heavy metals. These chemicals can cause immunosuppression or make the fish very sick.
“If tap water is used in the tank, it is recommended to use a dechlorinating product and test for heavy metals,” Dr. Keller explains. An alternative to tap water is bottled water, which is free of these harmful chemicals. However, distilled water should not be used as it lacks vital minerals that are important for fish health. All about water for your betta fish
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