My Experiences Owning Betta Fish
I am not a pet person. I don’t know the first thing about taking care of a dog or cat or how to clean a hamster cage. One thing I do know about, though, is fish. I’ve own four Betta fish in the past four years, and they are a quiet, low maintenance pet to own. Below are my experiences owning pet fish and taking care of Betta fish in particular.
Purchasing the Fish
I purchased all of my fish at Petco. They come in small vessels the size of a take-out container. Betta fish at Petco range in price from $1.39- $29.99. Mine are in the $2.00 range. I buy the veiltail Betta fish and always two at a time. My first two fish were males, and the two I have now are females. They are all named after Sesame Street characters so the guys were named Bert and Ernie, and my girls are Betty Lou and Prairie Dawn. Ernie lived about a year. Bert lived for over two years. The girls are almost a year old and are still going strong, having at least doubled their size in the past year.
The girls, especially Prairie Dawn, were so tiny when I bought them and had hardly any color. Now, they are both a deep blue color with Prairie Dawn acquiring a pretty turquoise color on the tips of her fins. Ernie was always a bold red, and Bert was purchased as blue as the girls are now. They grew into larger versions of themselves while the girls took on a more dramatic transformation, changing colors and tripling in size. The fish are not naturally the colors that they come in at the store. In the wild, this breed only changes colors when angered. Breeders have developed methods to create the permanent look that you see these fish acquire, and their eye-catching appearance has made them one of the most popular fish breeds in the United States.
Betta fish are also known as Siamese Fighting Fish, and the name is appropriate. They originate from presnt day Thailand, then known as Siam, Indionesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and China. They are tropical fish who can withstand warm water temperatures, though mine have braved the harsh winters of the Northeastern United States with flying colors. Children in their native lands used to collect the fish and make them fight each other to the death. The winner would have to continue fighting other fish until they were knocked out by an opponent, and the last fish alive was declared the winner. It’s a sad thought considering the steps that I take to keep them from tearing their fins off. All of my fish have acquired their share of battle scars by breaking free of my partition and going after each other. Bert was the biggest bully of them all. I’ve read that three Betta females can live peacefully in a tank together, but I never wanted to risk finding out. The average pet Betta lives about two years so if you make it to that point, you know you’ve done your job as a fish owner right.
There are special tanks that you can buy that will keep fish separate to avoid a fight to the death. My first two fish, Bert and Ernie, would tear at each other’s fins every time they encountered one another. I don’t have a special Betta tank so I had to section off my tank to keep the two roommates apart. I used a plastic cutting board (you can find them in the dollar store), and I cut it to fit tightly down the middle of my tank. I cut small holes in the middle of the homemade partition to help keep the water circulating from the filter on one side of the tank. I’m not absolutely sure that this works, but one side of the tank never seems to be dirtier than the other.
Each fish gets their own plant on each side of the tank, and I like to alternate sides so that each fish has a turn being on the side with the filter. When I first got Ernie and Bert, I used small, multi-colored pebble rocks for gravel. They were difficult to clean, and they didn’t secure the partition very well which was likely what led to their fighting incidents. When I bought the girls, I bought two bags of larger, bolder-colored discs and diamond-cut rocks. They are heavier and provide nice little crevices for the fish to explore. They also keep the partition steadier so the girls have almost never escaped to the other side of the tank. The rocks are also easier to clean and do not escape through the little holes in my colander.
Speaking of cleaning, is recommended to change out at least some of the water once a week. I prefer to empty the tank completely once a month, rinse out the rocks, and add totally fresh water. The water cannot contain chlorine. There are special solutions you can buy to instantly remove the harmful chemicals from your tap water before placing your fish in the tank, but an inexpensive method is to fill a container (or containers) with water and let them sit for a day. This can also help ensure that the water is at room temperature so that the fish are not dropped into water that is too hot or cold for the fish to handle, sending them into shock.
When my water is ready, I scoop some of it into the containers that the fish came in. Taking my net, I scoop out the unwilling fish and keep them in their bowls for the duration of the cleaning. I then take out my decorative plants and toss all of my gravel rocks into a colander. Using my sink hose, I rinse all of the dirt and debris from the rocks. Then, I rinse out the inside of the tank and wipe the glass dry with a paper towel. I also run water through the filter hose and use a damp paper towel to clean around the crevices of the tank. Then, I replace the rocks, plants, and partition, and I fill the tank with water. Finally, I relocate the fish to their clean tank.
Most of the dirt that I scoop out of the water is leftover fish food that my fish did not eat. When I purchased my first two fish, I bought a container of Betta food that looked like tiny brown pebbles. The directions said to give them a pinch of food several times a day. So, I used to feed them three times a day on average. When I bought my new can of food, they came as flat, red flakes, and it says to feed them a small amount once or twice a day so I have since cut back. It’s still hard to control how much food is going into the tank with each feeding so I grab as small of a pinch that I can and distribute it evenly between the two sides of the tank. I haven’t noticed a difference in their appetite or food intake so this proves that it’s best to follow the directions on the back of whatever particular package you buy. I also make sure to buy the food specifically for Betta fish. It’s easy to find at any pet store or even other stores where pet products are sold, including Walmart.
In the end, owning Betta fish is a very easy and enjoyable hobby that requires little time and attention. They do their own thing day after day and are fun to watch, even just swimming around in their colorful state. It’s always sad to see them grow old and die, but I give them a proper burial in my flower bed and hold off on getting a new one until the other half of the pair joins them. They need very little room, and their tanks double as a decorative piece of furniture in your home. It’s also saving the species from their original tortuous purpose of serving as entertainment value for children by fighting to the death. If you’re looking for an additional or introductory pet for your home, be sure to give them a try.