Commonly Asked Questions About Bettas

Siamese Fighting fish swimming against a white background.

Sarayut Thaneerat / EyeEm / Getty Images

Bettas are one of the most popular and easily recognizable freshwater aquarium fish. These FAQs cover the most commonly asked questions about them, including why they sometimes spit out their food.

What Is a Siamese Fighting Fish?

Siamese fighting fish is a name often used to refer to betta fish in general, but the name is specific to the species Betta splendens, which is the species most often sold in stores.

Species of Betta

There are approximately 70 species of Betta, a genus in the gourami family (Osphronemidae), but almost all of those sold in pet stores are the species Betta splendens.

Colors of Betta

Bettas are available in a wide variety of colors, including red, blue, orange, yellow, green, purple, brown, white and black. They may be solid, bicolored, multicolored, marbled, piebald, or variegated. There are many fin types as well.

How Long Bettas Usually Live

Bettas typically live for about two to five years, but they can live longer than that with good care. Male bettas may be as old as a year when they're sold in shops, allowing for full color and fin development. Female bettas are generally about six months old when they're offered for sale.

What Do Bettas Eat?

Bettas are carnivores. They require foods high in animal protein. Their preferred diet in nature includes insects and insect larvae. In captivity, they thrive on a varied diet of pellets or flakes made from fish meal, as well as frozen or freeze-dried bloodworms. Live brine shrimp and bloodworms make an excellent supplemental food on occasion and are ideal when you're conditioning breeding pairs.

What If the Betta Refuses to Eat or Spits Out Its Food? 

It isn't uncommon for fish to not eat when they're first brought home. This is particularly true for bettas who have a reputation for being picky eaters. Feed small portions of a variety of foods, and eventually, your fish will eat. Don't be alarmed if the betta spits out its food. This, too, is common behavior and it's believed to be a mechanism for breaking down and softening the food. Try some live bloodworms or live brine shrimp as treats if all else fails, either one will almost always entice your betta into eating. Take care to avoid feeding live foods too often, however, or your betta may begin to refuse to eat anything else.

Can a Betta Be Kept in a Vase?

Bettas should not be kept in a plant vase, because they require good water quality and warm water temperatures to thrive. Those conditions are more readily provided by keeping them in a filtered and heated aquarium.

Water Temperature for a Betta

Bettas should be in water that is between 76 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal health. When you're breeding bettas, the water temperature should be above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Bettas will become lethargic as water temperatures get lower, particularly when the temperature drops below 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

How Often Should the Water Be Changed?

The water should be changed every other day if the betta is in a small container that isn't filtered. Weekly partial water changes are recommended if kept in a filtered tank. It's also important to remove uneaten food promptly, so it doesn't foul the water. Bettas are sensitive to water conditions and they often fall prey to fin rot if conditions deteriorate.

Can You Keep Several Bettas Together?

Male bettas can never be kept together because they'll fight with each other, often to the death. Males will also attack females to a lesser degree and should only be kept with a female for a brief time for breeding purposes. Multiple female bettas can be kept together as long as there is plenty of room for each to establish her own space.

Male and Female Bettas

Males are more vividly colored than females. They have much longer fins and they're more aggressive. Females are shorter and have wider bodies. They'll display an "egg spot" between the ventral and anal fins when they are mature. Females lack the distinctive "beard" that males display when flaring.

What Is a Bubble Nest?

A bubble nest is a floating bundle of bubbles blown by male bettas. The bubbles are created from saliva, making them more durable and also slightly sticky so they adhere to each other at the surface of the water. The purpose of the nest is to incubate eggs and young fry after spawning. Males will often blow bubble nests even when no female is present. Generally, the blowing of a bubble nest by a lone male is a sign that it is healthy and comfortable in his environment.

When bettas breed, the male entices the female under his bubble next, wraps his body around hers, and fertilizes the eggs as she lays them. The eggs will start to sink and the male gathers them in his mouth and blows them into his bubble nest. After they are finished spawning, the male chases the female away and will attack her if she is not removed from the breeding tank. The male will care for the eggs in the bubble next and also cares for they fry when they hatch. Once they are old enough to swim around on their own, the male should be removed. Feed the babies powdered fry food, infusoria, and newly hatched brine shrimp. Separate the males once they become aggressive to each other.

Article Sources
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  1. Bettas Need More Than Bowls. University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.