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The Physical Signs of a Healthy Betta Fish

Updated on September 2, 2013

It’s time for you to purchase your betta fish, but what should you look for to make sure you choose the right one?

Buying an unhealthy betta fish can cause a lot of future problems. Improving the health of your betta can become a time consuming and stressful process and recovery is difficult if you do not know what your fish has contracted.

Below are some helpful tips on how to ensure a healthy betta purchase:

Asking questions can help guarantee you a healthy and happy betta fish. Ask the pet store owner or seller how they have been taking care of the betta. Also, check the tanks to see if they’ve been neglected. The more you can find out about your future betta fish, the better.

Be attentive when you’re transferring your betta from the pet store to your home. In a plastic bag, it may seem like a betta is inactive when in fact it is really dead. A betta could also already be sick because of poor living conditions in the pet store aquariums. Visit only stores or dealers that have come highly recommended to help avoid this problem.

The Water

Investigate the tank or aquarium where the betta fish live to make sure it is a clean and healthy environment. If the water doesn’t look clear or fresh, or if you see food or debris leftover, it is an unhealthy environment. Also, check for odors around the tank. If there is any odor, it could mean a fish has died. You want all surrounding areas to be odorless. Lastly, execute a careful check up on your future betta fish.

The Eyes and Color of the Body

If your betta is healthy, his body will be bright in color without any discoloration. If he is unhealthy, he will appear pale and show signs of discoloration on his face and/or body. Also, if his eyes are bulging, sunken in, or glazed, do not buy him. If he is healthy, he will have clear eyes.

Betta Fish Care - Betta Behavior

Bettas are known to be very active fish. If they aren’t sleeping, they will float vertically. To test if your betta is alert, put your hand near the fish. Do not poke at the bag where your betta is being held or bang on the side of his fish bowl or you will scare him. Instead, gently move your hands toward the fish and watch his reaction. Do this subtly otherwise you will upset your betta. If your betta is healthy, he will be alert and respond to any movement he senses. If you follow these betta fish care guidelines you will enjoy a happy and healthy betta for many years!

The History of the Modern-Day Betta Fish

From the waters of Thailand, bettas have become one of the most beautiful and sought after fish all over the world. Originating from streams, rice paddies, shallow waters, and other polluted stagnant waters, they developed a way to survive in surroundings with low oxygen. Over 100 years ago, bettas were distributed to America and many other countries.

How Do Bettas Breathe Atmospheric Air?

There is a select group of fish that are called “Labyrinth Fish” because of the labyrinth organ they possess. This organ is very special because it allows these fish to breathe atmospheric air. Bettas come from places where the oxygen levels are very low which is why this organ is so important. Shockingly, there are some fish that can survive on dry land because of their ability to remain alive while inhaling air.

Betta Keeping History

In 1846, Cuvier and Valenciennes, two French biologists were trailblazers in the Betta fish industry. They were the first ones to study this amazing creature we all know and love today. In 1909, Betta fish traveled their way into America.

Betta fish, also known as the “Jewel of the Orient” were sent to America because of the brilliance and beauty of their colors. Even though there are so many spectacularly colored fish today, back then, most fish were plain looking. If a fisherman ever caught a betta, it was thought to be good luck. The fisherman would keep the betta as a pet and take care of him.

Presently, the vivacious colors that are common for betta owners are offspring of Asian lineage that were carefully chosen for breeding. An American by the name of Warren Young played a big part in helping develop these incredible bettas with long stunning fins. Even though their ancestors were dull in color, targeted intelligent breeding has created the magnificent and vibrant fish we see today.

Fighting and the Betta Fish

Contrary to bettas gaining the name “Siamese Fighting Fish” in the wild, they seldom fight. However, if they have to protect their territory or become aggressive during mating, then their aggression is evident. In any home tank or aquarium, this is not a usual situation. When a betta is in an aquarium, there’s a sense of confinement and an inability to escape, so the territorial instinct is significantly magnified. That is why it’s important to keep only one male Betta fish per tank or aquarium. If you would like to add tank mates, only add peaceful, meek fish. Two female Betta fish is usually okay, but you still will notice some aggression or fin nipping. However, this aggressive behavior doesn’t last very long.

Betta fish history is filled with a lot of myths, but also some wonderful true stories about the evolution of the fish we admire today. To know that this radiant, elegant and fascinating fish was once a normal, somewhat dull-looking species is mind-blowing. Thankfully, there were intelligent breeders with a beautiful vision that allow us to enjoy caring for betta fish.

Learn more about the beautiful betta by watching these betta fish care videos.

Find out if you learned something new. Answer the poll question!

What is a sign of a healthy betta fish?

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      4 years ago

      Does It Mean anything If At Night It Is At The Bottom Of The Tank Not Moving Only When I Touch Or Put My Hand Near The Glass I Just Got Him Today And He Was Fine Until I Turned My Light Out He Has Got A Little Light In His Tank That Came With The Tank

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Why would you want to keep a mirror in the bowl to keep him flared? That never sounds like a good idea

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      rory govostes 

      4 years ago

      it may not be a good idea to put a mirror in the tank. cems and or glues from it can leak out into the water and harm your betta. i would keep it out and use it for a few mins outside the tank. doing it to often may stress him out so go easy on the little guy.

    • profile image

      Lynn Ellis 

      4 years ago

      Does it shorten the life of the beta when you put a mirror in the bowl, to keep it puffed up?


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