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Siamese fighting fish care~


Hi guys, I thought I would help a lot of people out by writing a small care sheet about Siamese fighting fish (Bettas). This is what I have learnt in my experience! Hope you find it helpful! Please give feedback :)

Siamese fighting fish care

Siamese fighting fish (bettas) originate from rice fields in Thailand where the water is extremely low in oxygen and full of nutrients due to tannins leaching from Indian almond leaves that fall into the dense fields.

Like all tropical fish, Siamese fighters are cold blooded and require an external source of heat. Without a heater in the tank, Fighters will not be able digest food as warm water is required for digestive function. Problems like digesting issues lead to swim bladder issues which are potentially fatal for the fish. It is important to always set up a tank correctly and thoroughly research your fish before buying it.

Setting up the tank:

Due to an organ called the labyrinth, bettas can extract oxygen from the surface of the water (If you watch your fish closely you will see him/her swim up to the surface and take a gulp of air). This means air stones are not needed at all and filters are not needed if the tank is over a certain size. If you wish to use a filter, you will need to cycle the tank without the fish in it. Cycling the tank means that you give the tank a period of time to build up nitrifying bacteria which eliminate ammonia within the tank. Weekly partial water changes take out the bi-product called nitrate, as well as other harmful bacteria that may be building up in the tank.

If you choose not to use a filter, than the tank should preferably be no smaller than 8 gallons, well planted, and cleaned weekly (from the gravel) with 50% or more water changes. When changing the water, just like any fish, you want to be matching the temperature and pH of the new water to the tank water to prevent any shock to the fish. A tank of 8 gallons or more, depending on how well planted it is, might not be able to maintain a cycle as a single betta will not produce enough waste. Despite the possible lack of a cycle, filters still maintain overall tank quality and aid in circulating the water which will allow for better oxygenation as well as temperature distribution (preventing having cold spots in the tank due to the lack of water circulation). Choosing to not keep a filter may mean you will need to be more thorough on maintaining a clean gravel bed to prevent the build-up of wastes and bad bacteria.

If a tank is 5 gallons or smaller and unfiltered, gravel should not be included in the set-up, and 100% water changes should be performed daily. Any tank under 5 gallons is not considered an adequate home for a betta, mainly for its lack of space and its inability to keep a sustained temperature even with a heater. Tanks of such a small volume of water (under 5 gallons) will not be able to maintain a constant, stable temperature.

Heaters are essential in all tropical fish tanks. When choosing a heater, a god rule of thumb is 1 watt per 1 litre of water, or 3-4 watts per gallon. Generally, the bigger the tank, the easier a heater will be able to maintain a constant temperature, so in a tank the size of 20L (around 5 gallons), you might be best to get 50 watt heater, although 25 watt will usually keep the water temperature stable depending on the sort of climate you live in.

In general, a simple list that you will need in terms of equipment should include:

- A tank no smaller than 5 gallons

- A simple, slow rate filter

- Filter media

- A tropical tank heater

- General d?cor such as gravel and plants

- Water conditioner

- Lighting

Tank conditions:

Generally, a pH of around 7 is best, however betta?s can tolerate a range from 7.0 up to 8.6 and will easily adapt to a higher pH. As long as the pH remains stable, it will be a lot better than a lower pH that fluctuates weekly. The main thing is to keep the water soft and warm. A temperature of around 26C is best, and will also keep a normal functioning digestive system which will lessen the risk of constipation and swim bladder issues.

As bettas are territorial, the more plants the better. A well panted tank will ensure safety as well as plenty to explore, and will aid in mimicking their natural habitats. Indian almond leaves are also great to have in tanks as they will release tannins into the water which aid in maintaining a well-developed immune system, and will soften and lower the pH. They are not essential, but still great to have!

Feeding- what should I feed my Betta and how much?

Being carnivorous, a high yet varied protein diet is best in order to gain the best nutritional value for your fish. This can include live or frozen foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, glass worms, beef heart, Mysis shrimp, etc. It is best to stay away from freeze dried foods, as these hold no nutritional value and will swell in the water. If freeze dried foods are to be used, they should be soaked for 5 minutes prior to feeding. When feeding live foods, only feed as much as the size of the bettas eye, which should translate to (example) 4-5 bloodworms per feeding.

A good branded commercial diet made for bettas usually will hold good nutritional value. Pellet formulas are best, and should be soaked prior to feeding. The same rule above applies for commercial foods, however with pellets and other forms of commercial betta foods, they can be fed twice daily. If the temperature is kept below 24C, the food should only be fed once daily.

Fasting once a week is never a bad idea, and will only benefit the fish. Fasting will allow for any undigested food to be digested, and aid in preventing constipation and swim bladder issues. Although not necessary, fasting is never something that should be overlooked as a weekly or fortnightly exercise.


Weekly water changes of 50% or less are enough to keep your tank clean and healthy. You will need a gravel siphon as you want to be removing the waste from the bottom of the tank. These are cheap and easy to use. Make sure the water you add back into the tank is the same temperature as the water in the tank. I like to test the water by hand, but you can use a thermometer. The water MUST be conditioned before adding it into the tank.

Again, with unfiltered tanks, upkeep should be a little more thorough and the gravel should be kept as clean as possible. If the tank is 5 gallons or smaller with no filter, daily 100% water changes should be performed, and if the tank is unfiltered over 8 gallons and well planted, 50% cleaning from the gravel should be enough to maintain a healthy environment, however the gravel should be removed monthly and properly cleaned under hot water to prevent the build-up of bad bacteria

On a monthly basis, it is a good idea to remove any ornaments or d?cor (not including live plants) and cleaning them under warm water only. The ornaments can be properly disinfected if need be using a 1:20 part bleach solution, however they should be thoroughly rinsed after and allowed to dry in the sun. Drying bleached products under the sun will break down the harmful bleach products into harmless bi-products.

The filter should also be cleaned monthly under dirty tank water, however if you use a python system to clean the tank, the filter can be rinsed under conditioned tap water. The media should not have to be replaced. If media does need to be replaced, only replace 10% at a time to prevent losing a large amount of your cycle.

Health issues:

When looking for signs of sickness, the main areas are eyes, skin, fins, shape, colour, and behaviour. Never treat your fish without knowing what it is as medications are very harsh. Generally if your fish is ill it will be a water quality issue. It is best to do a 50% water change if your fish is ill and to test your water for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. Depending on what is going on, medications will usually be unnecessary and should never be used as the first option. Water changes and salt should be the main basis of treatments, and if needed, medications can be used. For simple issues such as fin rot (not including nipping), water changes of 50% daily should show some improvement, however if no improvement is seen within a week, aquarium salt at the dose of 1tsp per 10 gallons can be added to the water. As bettas can have issues balancing the salinity levels within their bodies, it is best to start off with a low level of salt first, and observe for any reactions. If none are seen, the salt can be increased to 0.05% alongside daily to every second day water changes. Although this treatment method is simple, it is usually all that is needed. This is just an example, and does vary depending on the issue. In general, keep the treatments simple, and work up from the simplest of methods first.

Medications to avoid:

In general, you want to be avoiding any medication unless it is needed, however there are some that should be used with caution on bettas. API?s Melafix, Bettafix, and Pimafix all should be used with caution due to conflicting information in regards to their effect of the labyrinth organ. Being an accessory organ, the labyrinth is vital for life as without it, the gills alone will not be able to provide enough oxygen to the blood. As this is not a very marketable science, it is not known exactly whether or not oil based medications will coat the labyrinth, but due to the lack of scientific research and evidence provided by other betta keepers, it is best to avoid them or use with caution. If Melafix is to be used, it should only be used at the diluent as Bettafix (1/5th the dose)

I hope this brief summary provides some benefit for people considering keeping Siamese fighting fish as pets in the future, and also highlights that all fish species will require different conditions.

User Feedback

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  • Regular Member

Thank you for this! It is definitely helping my decision on how I want to set up my tank.

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  • Regular Member

I am not the expert with Bettas, but I thought they need a filter, not for the sake of oxygen but for taking care of fish waste? Also, if they get thier oxygen from the surface then what are their gills for and why does it matter if we give oil based meds?

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  • Regular Member

I just wanted to add, that if you choose to not have a filter, you need to do a 100% water change every other day.

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  • Regular Member

I am not the expert with Bettas, but I thought they need a filter, not for the sake of oxygen but for taking care of fish waste? Also, if they get thier oxygen from the surface then what are their gills for and why does it matter if we give oil based meds?

The labyrinth is an accessory organ, and despite that name, it is essential for bettas to live. Without the labyrinth organ, the gills alone could carry sufficient oxygen into the blood. We too have accessory organs, and they are also essential to life. Melafix and other oil based medications seem to coat the labyrinth organ, and I mentioned a few weeks ago on the LOTP post that after using melafix even at a reduced dose, my betta went pale, was breathing rapidly, and seemed lethargic. After a 90% water change and carbon added to the filter, he seemed a little better. Many people don't recommend it, and I don't either. It is not worth the risks. If the labyrinth is blocked then they cannot simply get enough oxygen alone with the gills, and vice versa.

Filters are not exactly needed if the tank is 10 gallons or more ( I personally would always keep them filtered), well planted, and houses a single betta. Bettas do not produce much waste at all, so in a tank such as 10 gallons that is well planted, it is very possible that there will not be enough waste produced to maintain a cycle. As long as weekly water changes are carried out (say, 50% weekly), a filter is not needed, however what I should have mentioned is that waste will also build up over time, so unfiltered tanks really require a lot more care and proper cleaning to prevent ammonia forming, as well as other bad bacteria. I have a filter in my bettas 10 gallon, however it is only because I think filters are better for overall water quality. I mentioned that if a tank is not filtered, best to keep it as empty as possible to aid in more effective cleaning.

I didn't make it clear, however this sentence"An unfiltered tank should really have partial water changes every three days..." was the only line referring to unfiltered tanks- communication error on my part, sorry.

Overall, filters should definitely be something in every tank, but some people will choose not to have them. I see no issues not having them in a large tank that is well planted and only housing a single betta as long as the tank receives partial 50% changes weekly cleaning from the gravel using a siphon. I do want to add more in terms of unfiltered tanks as there is more to be covered as well as altered.

Edited by Narny105
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