How to Properly Care for a Betta Fish (Siamese Fighting Fish)

New FishI purchased a Betta fish for my oldest boy last week and I’ve really been enjoying watching it swim around. Since purchasing it, I have been searching online to see how to take care of it. Boy is there a ton of information online! I decided to summarize some major points of Betta care here on this blog so people can reference it.

How to Properly Care for a Betta Fish

  1. Many people think that the primary habitats for Bettas in the world are muddy puddles in Thailand.  That’s not true!  Bettas primarily live in aquariums.  There is a myth going around that Bettas are “low maintenance” fish that require very little attention.  Nothing could be further from the truth!
  2. As a result of the above misunderstanding, many cruel individuals put Bettas in small, crowded cups and tiny desktop aquariums, almost never changing the water.  These individuals should be dragged out of their offices and savagely beaten.
  3. Bettas need tanks, and the bigger the better!  Some suggest 10 gallon tanks, but I find this to be far too small.  It is much preferred to put Bettas in bathtubs, or even better, outdoor swimming pools.  They will be very happy!
  4. Bettas are loving, gentle creatures, that will brutally attack, maul, and kill any other living thing that you place in or near its tank.  Please do not do that.
  5. As far as habitat goes, you should include several live plants, a cave, some decent furniture, a washer/dryer hookup (AT LEAST) and place the tank near a window so the Betta can look pensively to the outside world from which it was cruelly taken.  Whatever color decorations you choose, please keep in mind that Bettas like it when its habitat is modern, but “pops.”  Do not attempt to use Feng Shui  to arrange the habitat, not because the Betta doesn’t like Feng Shui, but because you’re likely to do it wrong and Bettas feel that if you can’t do it right you shouldn’t be doing it at all.
  6. You must take special care not to stress out your fish.  Bettas are especially stressed out when touch the glass, tap the glass, look at them, say things about them behind their backs, discuss sensitive political or religious topics when near the tank (Note: Bettas are usually Libertarians and Methodists, but DON’T want to talk about it), when the water is too warm, when the water is too cold, if there are too many bubbles on the sides of the tank, if they don’t have a little cave to swim in, if you under- or over-feed them, and during major holidays when it is unable to see its family.  (Note:  DO NOT attempt to reunite the Betta with its family, as it will probably attempt to kill them)
  7. A stressed-out Betta is likely to commit suicide by leaping out of the aquarium onto your carpet.
  8. You can check to see if a Betta is stressed by looking for the following behaviors:  blowing bubbles, hyperventilating, swimming, looking around, and hiding in its cave (if you even thought to buy one, you insensitive jerk).  If your Betta is stressed we suggest putting on some West Coast Jazz (Note:  NOT EAST COAST JAZZ) and making an appointment for a local therapist who specializes in one of the following clinical modalities:  DBT, ACT, or CBT (Note: NOT PSYCHODYNAMIC – PLEASE DO NOT MENTION PARENTS TO THE BETTA AS THIS IS A RATHER SENSITIVE ISSUE).
  9. Bettas should live in unfiltered, uncycled tanks.  Anything else stresses out a Betta.  As such, you will need to completely change your water every two hours to ensure that your water is not stressing out your Betta.  I suggest having a second, larger backup tank to move the Betta to when you are cleaning the first tank.  Then switch and clean the second tank.
  10. You need to check your aquarium hourly for the presence of these toxic chemicals:  too much iron, calcium, phosphorus, uranium, ammonia, bleach, radium, kryptonite, stones, dissolved noble gasses, bubbles, dust, water.  If you detect the presence of any of these substances please drain your tank, and take your Betta back to the store because you are unfit to own a Betta.
  11. After checking for toxic substances, you need to test the pH of the water, the temperature, how hard/soft it is, how much air is in it, how much water is in it, how much has evaporated since you began testing, and how much current there is.  Keep a log book to track all these factors over time.  Use Excel to create charts of these factors if you wish, but remember to use plain colors and stay two-dimensional (Note: creating 3D charts is tacky and will cause your colleagues to hate you – this is not strictly Betta advice but applies more generally).
  12. The Betta does not like it when you walk away or turn your back on it.  Please place your bed next to the tank so the Betta does not feel abandoned while you sleep.  Bettas want you to ask how their day went and they can tell if you’re not really interested.  Please ask the Betta how it is doing and don’t be a “fixer” – sometimes the Betta just needs to vent and doesn’t need you always trying to fix its problems.
  13. Under no circumstances should Bettas live in unfiltered, uncycled tanks.  These tend to stress out the Betta.  In order to make a proper habitat for your Betta, you will need to cycle your tank.  There are many resources online that have several methods for cycling your tank, but the most reliable one is to fill your tank, let it sit in your room for eight weeks, then take your tank to Thailand and bury it in a rice paddy.  Allow the natural water to mix with your water gradually over the next week and then introduce your Betta into the tank very gradually (give this about eight more weeks).  Your Betta will then be very happy in its natural habitat, surrounded by its natural foods and predators.

Now some might look at all these rules and think, “That seems like a lot of upkeep for a $8 fish.”  If you are thinking this, you will never be worthy to keep a Betta, or even for that matter a human relationship.  Please do not purchase a Betta if you are not willing to put the time and effort into keeping it alive.

Good luck!

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