Betta Fish Care Guide: Food, Tank Mates, Lifespan, Tank Setup & More

Betta fish make beautiful and unique pets, but they require special care. Learn about how to care for them in this comprehensive guide.

Betta Fish – Quick Facts

In a rush? Check out the quick facts about Betta Fish below.

Fish Info

Scientific NameBetta splendens
Common NamesBetta fish, Siamese fighting fish, labyrinth fish
AppearanceVery colorful. Come in blue, red and many other variations. Large flowing fins.
DistributionAsia: Mekong basin – China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Lifespan2 – 6 years
TemperamentAggressive to certain fish
Keep in Groups ofMales alone. Females 2-4.
Tank MatesHarlequin rasbora, feeder guppies, some tetras, ghost shrimp, mystery snails, huhli loach.
Length5 – 8 cm
Sexual Dimorphism
  • Females are smaller with less vibrant colors.
  • Males are larger with bigger, more extravagant fins.
Breeding Difficulty Difficult

Water/Tank Recommendations

Water TypeFreshwater
Water Temperature 75 – 86 °F (24 – 30 °C)
Water pH 6.0 – 8.0
Water Hardness 5 – 19 GH
Tank size5+ gallons


Betta fish are a common and widely available freshwater species. There’s a reason for this. They’re gorgeous!

They’re quite popular among aquarists of all experience levels, and the care requirements for this fish aren’t too complicated (although there are some things you need to know).

This guide will teach you everything about betta fish, from their basic info to recommended habitat setup. By the time you’re done reading it, we think you might want one!

About Betta Fish

Betta fish come from shallow rice paddies in Southeast Asia. They are endemic to Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. These areas are known for their lush vegetation and natural beauty.

Lush vegetation means plenty of places for betta fish to hide if they want some alone time or feel threatened. This makes it essential to create quality hiding spots, even in small tanks!

Even though there are many different kinds of bettas out there, all species originate from a single genus: Betta Splendens. The difference between types lies mainly with coloration and markings.


The appearance of Bettas is very distinct and beautiful. They have long flowing fins which are typically colored in shades of iridescent blue, red, or green.

The coloration can vary between specimens as well. Some may be more vibrant than others, while some will feature a mix of colors that blend into each other (which is sometimes referred to as “marbling”). Whatever the case may be, these fish take on an eye-catching appearance!

Their Length

The average size of an adult Betta fish is about 5 to 8 cm long when fully grown. While this might seem small, it’s still big enough to need enough room in their aquarium (more on that below).

TIP: The typical growth rate for betta fish is somewhere around one inch per year. However, there are instances where they’ve exceeded this range. If your fish is exceeding the average size range, it’s important to monitor their health closely and make sure they have an adequately-sized tank.


The average lifespan of a Betta fish is between two and six years.

While there are no guarantees with any fish, the life expectancy of your Betta will largely be determined by their living conditions and the overall quality of care they receive while in your aquarium.

Bettas kept in substandard conditions or those who have been bred and kept solely for fighting tend to live shorter lives. However, those who live in well-maintained environments can often exceed the five-year mark by several years.

Sexual Dimorphism

There are subtle differences between the male and female betta fish. For one thing, the males tend to be more ornate with long flowing fins.

There are other signs of sexual dimorphism for male and female betta fish, but those often require practice and experience before you can identify them accurately. The easiest way is to look at the size and shape of their bodies. Females are smaller and less vibrant in color than males.

When these fish are highly stressed, it’s not unknown for them to experience sex reversal.


Betta fish are from shallow ponds and rice paddies in Southeast Asia, so they should be kept in similarly warm environments. The best bet for a thriving habitat is to mimic their natural habitat as closely as possible.

TIP: This means keeping the water temperature around 80 degrees Fahrenheit (if you want them to thrive) and your tank’s pH level at 6.0 – 8.0. There’s some minor wiggle room here when it comes to this number range, but try not to stray too far outside of these limits if possible.

Caring for Betta Fish

Caring for a Betta fish is not as tricky as some people believe it to be. They are relatively hardy and often adapt to standard tank conditions without any issues.

However, there are still things you need to do if you want them to thrive. The first thing owners tend to forget about Bettas is the importance of water quality. Like all other freshwater fish, these creatures require pristine and clean water for their immune system to function correctly (which means they’re less likely to get sick).

A good way of testing this is by seeing what color your water looks like after removing waste from the aquarium with a reliable filtration system (more on that later). Slight discoloration or yellowing could indicate high levels of ammonia (or nitrites) which would cause serious harm if left unchecked.


Betta fish aren’t too picky when it comes to diet, but you must be aware of the potential for aggression. Bettas are carnivores out in the wild and will often try to eat any animal they can get ahold of.

Because of this, betta fish do best on a high-protein diet that is soft enough for them to eat whole. Frozen foods like brine shrimp, bloodworms, and plankton work well because there isn’t anything your fish can choke on.

Dry foods such as flakes don’t offer much nutritional value compared to frozen ones, so we recommend avoiding them if possible (if not, go with small pieces). Pellets are also fine for Betta fish to eat.

How Often & How Much to Feed Them

The recommended amount of food to give your betta fish is a whole portion once per day. If you like, you can split this into half portions, twice per day.

TIP: A good rule of thumb is that they should be able to eat all the food in about 3 – 4 minutes each time you feed them (this isn’t exact, obviously, but it will at least give you an idea).

It’s also important to be aware of the food you give them. Stick with high-quality frozen foods, flakes, or pellets and avoid anything that could cause digestive problems (this means no corn, raw meat, etc.)

Possible Diseases

The best thing about betta fish is that they’re pretty hardy. These creatures can adapt to most conditions and aren’t susceptible to many diseases.

However, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have to worry about their health at all! Betta fish still need your attention when it comes to staying healthy and avoiding illness. Otherwise, they may develop Ich.

Ich is a common condition among betta fish caused by parasites that latch onto the fish’s body. It results in white spots on the fish and is highly contagious if not treated quickly. Luckily, ich isn’t life-threatening, even though it does look serious. Treatments for ich are also easy, thanks to over-the-counter medications available from pet stores or online retailers.

Tank Setup

The most important thing to remember when it comes to setting up a betta fish tank is that you need to replicate their natural habitat. Use rocks and plants to mimic their river homes.

To perform this task effectively, you can use live plants from the wild as we do in our own tanks. These will be the perfect environment for these little guys and play a major role in keeping conditions stable for them too!

You can use some artificial plants, too. Make sure your bettas have places where they can hide whenever needed or desired. Bettas should never feel trapped into remaining visible with other fish due to lack of cover.

Aquarium Size

The ideal betta fish tank size is between five and ten gallons, but this can vary based on the needs of your fish. Some aquarists have gotten away with keeping their bettas in smaller aquariums (and some larger ones too).

There are no downsides to providing a large habitat for your fish. It won’t cost you much more money or time to set up compared to an aquarium that holds less water.

Water Conditions

Betta fish are hardy and can adapt to varying water conditions. Thus, it’s not too difficult to find a suitable habitat for them if you want to keep one in your tank.

The main thing that you need to pay attention to when setting up the tank is making sure that the water is clean and well-maintained. Betta fish live in warm tropical waters filled with plants and vegetation. They require good filtration systems, but these should never force the pH balance outside of acceptable ranges (which we’ll cover next).

Here are some key parameters you should aim for:


Betta fish need a water pH level that’s between 6.0 and 8.0. Below this range, the aquarium water becomes too acidic for your Betta to survive comfortably.

If you have multiple Bettas living in one tank, try to keep the pH levels as close as possible since each fish has its own individual tolerances.

A pH tester can help you maintain the right water parameters. This handy tool enables you to accurately test and monitor levels so that your fish are living in an optimal environment.


The ideal temperature for betta fish is 75 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Some aquarists and breeders have had success keeping their fish in temperatures towards the top of this range without any health issues.

TIP: Many new owners are under the impression that maintaining a higher water temperature will increase your Betta’s color. This isn’t true!

Higher water temperatures can, however, impact their behavior. It might make them more confident and lively. That’s why some owners prefer to keep theirs in warmer waters (although it isn’t necessary).


Hardness is one of the most misunderstood aspects of betta fish care. Many owners assume that hard water is the best for their fish and make changes to accommodate this, but it’s not always necessary.

The optimum range for water hardness is 5 to 19 GH. Your bettas should thrive with hardness levels anywhere within this range.


When it comes to maintaining water quality, a good filter is essential for any tank. Betta fish are not an exception. There are plenty of superb filters out there that you can use with your betta tank.

Most standard aquarium filters will work just fine as long as you don’t push them too hard or make them go above the recommended flow rate.

TIP: Keep in mind that many breeders say never to use internal filters due to concerns over stressing female betta fish during the breeding season.

Aquarium Plants

Adding plants is a big part of betta fish care. Not only do they help with the aesthetic appeal, but they also add to their overall health and well-being!

Betta fish prefer slow-moving waters that are rich in oxygen. Plants serve as one of the best ways to achieve this without causing problems for your other tank inhabitants.

TIP: In our opinion, live plants offer so much more than plastic ones do. Live plants actually benefit the water by taking waste and turning it into usable nutrients! There’s a reason why we recommend them over everything else.

Behavior and Compatibility

Betta fish are very active and playful. They’re known to dart across the tank, explore every nook and cranny of their habitat, and even play with objects that fall into the water (like leaves).

They have an interesting relationship when it comes to behavior in groups as well. While most species will get along fine if they stay out of each other’s way, betta fish tend to group up from time to time for games or exploration. You might see them swimming together before going off on their own adventures again!

The biggest issue you could encounter is aggression between males over females. Males can be very territorial around females, which can lead to fighting between some specimens.

How Many to Keep Together

The recommended maximum number of male betta fish you should keep together is one. Males kept with other males are prone to territorial behaviour and fighting, and this should be avoided. There’s a reason they call bettas “Siamese fighting fish!”

Females can be kept in groups of 2 to 4. As long as your aquarium is sufficiently sized, three or four can live together without any issues.

Betta fish are not schooling fish, so don’t expect to see them swimming together. They will usually stick to their own individual space and mind their business!


Female betta fish are generally peaceful and get along well with other most non-aggressive species of the same size. They prefer to keep to themselves, avoiding any trouble in the tank! However, there is an exception to this rule.

Bettas are territorial creatures that like to have a defined space within the tank where they can relax without having others encroach on it (this is why you need a decently sized tank). This means it’s important to choose compatible tank mates if you want your betta fish to remain stress-free.

Male bettas can be aggressive, especially when kept with other males. So you should avoid keeping multiple male bettas together.

Tank Mates

Something to consider when planning a betta fish tank is finding suitable companions. You’ll need to consider several factors, so let’s go over them one by one.

  • The first thing to look out for when choosing tank mates for your Betta is size and temperament. Betta fish are quite small compared to many other freshwater species on the market.
  • Any large, aggressive fish can pose a problem, and even some smaller ones might accidentally hurt your Betta due to their physical stature relative to each other. This includes the likes of gouramis or cichlids.
  • When it comes down to temperaments, you need something more timid than feisty. A non-aggressive peaceful community type of fish works great because they tend not to make any moves against another creature, whether intentional or accidental.

A list of tank mates which are compatible with betta fish are as follows:


Betta fish are quite tricky to breed in captivity. Betta fish are very picky about their mates, and the male can often behave aggressively.

Breeding usually begins when the water temperatures reach about 80+ degrees Fahrenheit. The male will turn the female fish upside down to fertilize her eggs. They then fall to the bottom of the tank where the male retrieves them and takes them to a bubble nest that he would have previously made.

There are usually between 20 to 200 eggs laid, often towards the lower end of this range.

Should You Keep Betta Fish Fish?

The decision to keep a Betta fish is ultimately up to you. However, there are some things you should consider first.

Male bettas are known for their aggression and territoriality. There’s no getting around this! Some will claim that it’s possible to have a reasonably-peaceful male betta if you do everything right, but this isn’t always the case.

Aggression is part of their nature (just like how flammability is part of the nature of fire). You can manage or mitigate it somewhat with the correct setup and care, but don’t expect them to be sweet, cuddly creatures!

If you have an understanding of what owning a Betta means in terms of aggression, then go ahead and own one if that appeals to you. If not, then we recommend either keeping only female bettas or looking at other species instead.


Betta fish have a lot going for them. They’re beautiful and fun to observe in the aquarium and they are relatively low maintenance. They can thrive in most standard tropical freshwater tank setups.


Despite their beauty and popularity, betta fish aren’t without their drawbacks. These are the most common issues that owners have to deal with regularly:

  • Male Betta fish tend to be aggressive towards other males within a confined space.
  • They don’t do well in cold temperatures at all.
  • They can be sensitive to an inconsistent environment, so you’ll need to keep changes to a minimum.


Betta fish are a pleasure to own when you know what you’re doing. They’re beautiful, active, and fun!

But if you don’t have the knowledge or experience necessary to provide them with good care, then it doesn’t matter how much you like them. The best course of action is always to learn as much as possible about your pets before bringing them into your home.

Leave a Comment