COMMON MYTHS ABOUT BETTAS
True or false: In nature, bettas live in tiny puddles and actually prefer to live in small spaces?
Answer: False. Bettas are native to Asia, and are found in rice paddies, ponds, and slow moving streams. It is true that betta fish may sometimes be found in puddles as larger bodies of water start to dry out, but this is not their ideal environment. Like most living creatures, they prefer to have plenty of room to move around. If you transfer a betta from a small cup to a big aquarium, they will happily explore every inch of their new tank and you will see their color improve dramatically. There is some debate as to the minimum amount of space that a single betta requires, usually ranging between 1 to 5 gallons. I wouldn’t keep mine in less than two, with five being preferable.
True or false: Bettas can breathe air, therefore, they don’t need a filter?
Answer: This one is a bit more complicated. Bettas possess a labyrinth organ which allows them to breathe air from the surface of their tank. This helps them to survive in low oxygenated waters. So, it is true that bettas can breathe air to some degree, and in fact NEED to breathe air from the surface of their tank in order to survive. But this does not mean that your betta does not need a filter. We must make a distinction between surviving and thriving. Just because your betta is surviving in two cups of water with no heater or filter, does not mean that he is thriving. Bettas are very hardy fish who can survive in poor conditions much longer than most other fish species, but it is inhumane to keep them in such a stressful environment.
Here is another consideration: because of the betta’s long, flowing fins, they do not do well in the strong currents that some filters create. This is especially a risk in smaller tanks where it is more difficult to escape from the current. Under-gravel or sponge filters work very well in these set-ups. It is also important to remember that bettas are tropical fish and unless you keep your home at a constant 80 degrees, he will need a heater. It is generally unsafe to heat less than five gallons of water—another argument for giving your betta more room to roam.
True or False: Male bettas will fight to the death if put in the same tank?
Answer: This one is true. Male bettas are very aggressive with their own species and should never be housed with another betta, male OR female. They are called Siamese Fighting Fish for a reason! In fact, putting a male betta in a tank with any other fish is a bit risky. They can be aggressive towards other fish, especially anything resembling another betta. On the other hand, they have a tendency to get picked on by fast moving and/or nippy fish.
Bettas are one of my favorite fish species. There are several different tail types in many different colors, making it hard to choose just one. I've been pleasantly surprised with my female bettas, who tend to look dull in the small, dirty cups they are typically kept in at the pet store. Once they are in a better environment, they brighten right up, easily rivaling the males in terms of color. Bettas are beautiful, hardy, and easy to care for. When kept properly, they can provide years of enjoyment.
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