The Real Truth About betta Tank Size and Life Expectancy
So, you have a new betta and you are going nuts reading all the posts and internet talk on how your betta needs 300,000.00 worth of gadgets and a tank large enough for you to take a swim in. Below we will provide you with the real truth and we do not own a pet shop selling bowls or tanks or in alliance with any sponsors we need to plug to get more hits.
First, some basic info on where your betta comes from. You fancy betta has it genetics and its ancestors from Thailand. Thailand is a beautiful country filled with small rivers and shallow swamps. Rice fields are every where and it rains for 4 or 5 moths of the year. During the rainy season the bettas do not breed they grow and school and move to new locations with good food source and lots of weed cove less than 1 meter deep. After the rain stops and the rice is growing they move to the flooded rice fields and shallow ponds to breed. The on exception to this rule is Betta smaragdina; call the “Guitar from the Lao border. It lives in clear water most of the year in the river only moving to rice fields to breed and returning to the river. This is the only wild betta in Thailand with shining scale and living in clear stream water.
The wild bettas all live in very shallow dim lite weed covered low oxygen and low PH water that some times can reach a average temp over 90F for months at a time and in the very northern areas 100F is common. One thing to not here is the betta grows at amazing rates in the wild and higher temps and lots of food is the key. You will never find a wild betta in open deep water and never in full sunlight. They will nest in plastic cups, bags, broken plastic and vegetation to be honest almost any item that floats are fair game for a male to nest in. One of the best spots to collect wild bettas is where farmers let the water buffalo rest. They walk in the soft mud and as the water dry’s out the betta move to the holes and call it home for a few months. Here they will breed and when the rain comes the fry spread out to the field to grow. When they breed in the fields the fry and younger fish will school. As the mature they will pair off and nest. It is not uncommon to collect a male, female and extended family members all in a 3-foot area.
So, that was a little info on the wild and not we will talk about the fancy you see in pet stores and online social sites. Bettas in Thailand are bred in either buckets or Styrofoam shipping boxes now days. Most find 5-gallon buckets to work perfect and easy to use. So, the breeders are placed in the bucket and as soon as the breeder see’s a nest with eggs the female is removed and the male is left to care for the fry till day 3. On day 3 the male is removed and the fry are fed water fleas at most breeder’s farms. Green water is easy to produce and water fleas grow easy and fast and offer a great food for growing bettas. When the fry reaches 4 to 6 weeks they are either moved to a large cement grow out tank. This tank will be about 800 gallons and hold 300 to 400 young betta for about 3 months and then will be sold or the young fish will be moved to whisky bottles with about 5oz of water and grown there for the same time length. Fish not sold will be kept in the bottles or jarred to 1-gallon jars for breeding later. The fish will live its whole life like this which is about 3 to 4 years. There are no filters and 100% water changes are every day or every other day and feeding is 1 to 2 times a day very heavy. You will hardly ever see sick fish when kept like this and they grow very fast.
The betta will do better in a tall 2-gallon tank that gets at least 50% of a water change a day. The water in the tank and the water you use to change the tank should all be the same PH, and temp. No rocks, no fairs wheels and no air but you can use a stalk of bamboo or other water loving plant to give them a feeling of hiding when afraid. In tropical climates this works great and bettas have been known to live as long as 5 years. For non-tropical climates you need to heat the water with a micro heater or a reptile heat pad under the jar. For lighting you can use just room lite or indirect sun lite. Never bright light as bettas hate bright light and will become stressed and sick. The one reason we are telling you not to give them a large tank is because in nature any area they have that is in full sun light and wide open mean a predator is waiting for them and they have learned to never go into the open areas. If you do not think this is true put your betta in a 10-gallon wide open tank in a lot of light and see the betta go directly to the corner and look awful. Larger tanks stress bettas. The fish you just got form the pet shop spent its whole life in a very small clean area. Now if you breed your own fish you can grow them out in a large tank and for a time they will all live together and be fine. As they mature and pair off it will be a battle ground and the males will need to be removed. Females most of the time can stay together if sisters.
We think bettas can remember about 3 months or so in their brain and will start to forget after that. So, another option would be to up the tank size every few months till you reach the size you want to be the betta permeant home. Think about it, all your life you lived in a bathtub and then you woke up in a swimming pool. You would be stress out some but might be OK. Now think about waking up in the middle of a lake…. When you were a kid how long did it take you to get up the nerve to swim across the pond? Yup, same for the betta! They need some time and slow changes are better if you need to put him or her in an un-natural setting. They need to forget where they came from first.
Now for the people that say you fish will not be happy in a 1 or 2-gallon jar? This is just BS and is only how the keeper feels and not the fish. A well-fed betta in clean water in a cup is just as happy as a betta in a larger tank and probably less stressed as well. In fact, a jarred betta has a life of 4 to 5 years and most betta housed in a large planted tank is 2 to 3…HMmmmmmm why is that? Stress is the major factor in sick bettas and life span. Food and water quality play the major role and not tank size. People say you need a filter and I say you do not. Do water changes the same as you take a shower (or not if you like to stink) and feed like you eat. If your house is above 80F you do not need a heater. If you can sit down and read a book the betta has enough light. So here is a idea for you to keep a healthy betta read the list below.
- 1-2-gallon clear plastic jar (glass has heat loss issues plastic does not) with a screen top or plastic top with air holes
- Water ready to do a water change with aged for 24 to 48 hours
- Quality pellets with above 40% protein and 5% fat
- A way to keep the water temp 80-84F
- When you eat feed the betta a few pellets
- When you take a shower change some water
- Do not tap on your tank because it is like sonic booms to a fish and will cause stress
- Do not over light your tank
- Keep medications only for when you need them
- Medicate and Quarantine all new fish for at least 2 weeks (yea, we thought you were not doing that and added it so you will remember)
****A note here would be a rule not an exception is to medicate with a wide spectrum ant-biotic and then worm your fish also. He is yours now and you want to give him a good life. And if you truly hate to see a bare bottom on your tank here is a option for you. Get some aquarium sealer and a hand full of play sand in natural color and put a layer of sealer on the bottom of the jar and add the sand. When dry was the jar and you now have a sand bottom that does not collect poop and is easy to clean.