housing your betta 

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so many choices, such a  little betta  :)  

 

Bettas are so flexible when it comes to their environment that betta owners are confronted with one big problem: So may choices, such a little betta, how can I chose? :) Which way to go: Tank, jar, barrack, bowl? Which is best? Since a betta can live in a number of different set-up, people often mistakenly assume  they can safely further improvise by inventing the most absurd set-ups, set-ups which are bound for total failure. After getting literally hundreds of emails about this topic, I decided to include the info on this page. Read, learn and make a sound decision, one that will not cost you your betta's life. :)

Bettas can be kept in a number of suitable arrangements. I will list them below, starting with the best set-up to my knowledge, and going down hill from there. Then at the bottom, I will list my Guinness Book of Records of most idiotic ways to set-up your betta, you can consider this my list of NO-NOs (don't-you-even-think-about-it list) ;)

 

good set-ups to pick from


u Set-up #1: The individual small tank.

Very best betta set-up! This is like the crème de la crème accommodation for bettas. Sorta like your resort hotel. A small tank, from one to 5 gal is set-up with a gentle filter to insure water quality remains optimal between water changes. You can add some gravel and plants (plastic or live) which will provide your betta with a natural looking environment he will thrive in. 

In this set-up you can house one male betta. Ok, let me repeat this: In this set-up you can house ONE male betta. OK. Stop right here. Which part of ONE did you not understand?? ONE as in "less than two". OK? Male bettas will shred any other betta (male OR female) you add to the set-up. Bettas are not human. They think, act and react differently. By trying to give him a "friend" you are only pissing him off and he will attack, sooner or later, the intruder and kill it. Now, don't get me wrong, bettas like to see other fish, so what I do is I make sure they have "neighbors" in an adjacent tank, or I place a mirror near by to give the betta a little "action" every now and then. Or else they might really get bored and even get depressed (I have seen it happen time and time again). 

Here are a few pointers when using this kind of set up:

 
bulletAvoid built in top filters (such as eclipse systems etc) because you cannot regulate their water flow and their water flow is too strong for bettas. 
bulletPower filters can be used if the set-up if 3 gal or above and only use power filters that have flow control (as in you can reduce the water flow). There also are mini power filters out on the market that can be used for very small tanks :).
bulletCorner filters are OK.
bulletUndergravel filters should be avoided unless you are using a larger tank (say 5 gal) which will not necessitate your doing a complete water change and breaking down the tank to clean it. Undergravel filters don't like being disturbed (as in, pulled out and cleaned) so with a small tank it will be a problem. I say: stay away from them.
bulletNo filter: You don't have to use a filter in your tank, but that means you will then have to be very religious about doing your water changes so to keep the water quality optimal (no slacking!). If your tank is small enough it will be easy enough to pick it up and dump the water. but if your tank is bigger (3 gal and up) picking it up will become impossible, making water changes a real hassle. My advice? If your tank is 3 gal or up, use a filter for sure. 
bulletHeaters should not be used for set-ups smaller than 5 gal, unless you use the micro heaters, which are specifically designed for very small tanks (tanks under 5 gal). Even a 25 watt heater (small heater) can kill fish quickly when it overheats a 2 or 3 gal tank and cooks the tenants ;). Don't make betta soup! >8[

 

u Set-up #2: The individual jar. 

Second best betta set-up. Here we have a large jar, one gallon or more, housing ONE (yes, as in "less than two") betta (male or female). The jar can have some gravel and a live plant, for as long as you rinse and clean gravel and trim plant regularly. Plants that are rotting will pollute the water instead of cleaning it. Gravel where uneaten food accumulates can be a wonderful bacteria hatchery!! So there you go. Clean clean clean. This set-up does not necessitate a filter, but you will need to make a full water change weekly. A MUST. Having two jars with a betta in each, right next to each other is best, so the bettas will flare at each other and be more active. Also remember that BETTAS CAN JUMP (unlike white men :)) ) and so always keep a cover on your jar or tanks. Especially jars. Being a smaller environment, bettas are likely to want to bail. Bettas who jump out and lend on the carpet may survive for a long while, so always place them back promptly in their jar if you find one on the floor, even if it looks dead, they often come back to life. But if it is crispety dry, like a potato chip, then adding water isn't gonna work. Bettas are not, after all, powder milk ;).

Bettas 2002 051.jpg (48953 bytes)

 if you don't keep a lid on your bowl, your betta will jump! And you'll come home to find him crispety dead. :(((

 

DIsplay tanks.jpg (7005 bytes)   
these set-ups may look pretty but they are way too small and also don't have lids. Bettas WILL jump out and perish :(((

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 this bowl is secure, the nice
lid will keep Mr. betta from
committing bettacide. However
the plant has taken over all
the space! :/

 

u Set-up #3: The smaller individual jar. 

The smaller jar (half gallon or so) may also be a suitable betta home but will require constant cleaning. bettas in this type of set-up will tend to deteriorate and more than likely will end up getting fin and tail rot and other bacterial diseases, especially if overfed. Hence I do not recommend this set-up unless you can perform full water changes every 4th day. The smaller jars mean more pollution so beware to not overfeed!! Uneaten food rots promptly and turns into betta disease pronto.  Also, remember that water change remain stressful for the bettas so avoid doing them daily, because you will probably weaken your betta's immune system that way. A good balance between too much handling and not enough water changed must be achieved. And it basically sits at a water change every 3 to 4 days no less, no more. Oh and once again: REMEMBER TO COVER ALL JARS AT ALL TIME. A must.

Third best, but small cups are not included. Would YOU like to live in a closet? I think not. So why should your betta be any different!  For heaven sake, spend $5 and get him a decent size jar!! OK. If you have a bunch of bettas, and not a whole lot of space, you might need to make those jars smaller. I do not recommend anything less than 1/2 gallon. 1/4 can be used but only as a temporary housing (say you just jarred a bunch of young juvenile males and are taking them to the pet store in 3 weeks or something) (by the way pet stores are often TERRIBLE with their pets, so I never take my bettas to a store, ever.) Get the idea? With 1/4 jars you need to do a full water change every third day, if you don't want those bettas to get tail rot, and other bacterial diseases. With a 1/2 gal jar, a weekly water change should suffice, although twice a week is still best. I keep all my jars bare, because it is cleaner and easier to make the water changes. Remember I have hundreds of them. If you can add a live plant, do. 


u
Set-up #4: The divided tank. 

Fourth best, this set-up regrettably has one big flaw: It is very easy for diseases to spread from one betta to all the others, since they share the same water. If one betta gets sick, more often all the others will, too. I have always, on and off, had problems with divided tanks. This is very frustrating since bettas seem otherwise to do best in such a set-up. As long as no one is sick everybody is flamboyantly happy. Then disaster strikes and down everyone goes. Agh.... I swore them off and gave them up :/. Anyway, in a divided tank set-up, the tank has partitions, preferably clear ones so bettas can see each other, and the partitions must have wholes or slots to allow water to flow from one compartment to the other. There should be a good filtering system which allows the water to flow through the partitions. In this case, undergravel might be best. If a corner filter is used (for a small tank), then remember that the betta that is furthest from the filter will have poor water quality, while the one nearest the filter might have too much turbulence. Beware, most divided glass tanks on the market will have glass dividers, through which the water cannot flow. Basically useless, cause you don't get the filtration but you still get diseases to spread through the compartments. A divided tank can house males or females, or a combination of both. It cannot however be used both for housing and for spawning at the same time (trust me, it just WON'T work - see below).

 

u Set-up #5: The community tank.  

Fifth best, this set-up has some flaws, because in the community tanks reside other species of  tropical fish which might or might not be compatible with the betta. Bettas are aggressive towards each other, but usually gentle with other species. However, because they are slow movers and have such long fins, they make a great target for all fin nippers such as tiger barbs and other pests. Your betta might not do well in a community tank. Ask your local fish store expert to indicate which species he thinks might be safe for a betta to live with. The only fish I have in my large tank are my bettas, but I have had some plecostomus to clean the algae, and bettas didn't seem to mind them. They basically ignore each other. Since I have never added other species to my tanks, I am not the right one to advise you on what to put in your community tank with our betta. Sorry, but I am not an encyclopedia (last I checked). At any rate, watch your betta closely. At the first sign of attack or damage on his fins, remove him. Also, if he is lethargic, hanging at the surface in a corner of the tank, that means he is unhappy with his situation. Remove him. Community tanks also mean more fish, more traffic (fish being added to the tank on a regular basis), and more chances of introducing an infection which can prove fatal for your betta. You'd be surprised what some of those pet store fish carry!! Remember water is a GREAT medium for bacteria and parasites. So add a sick fish to your tank and *pop* there goes Mr. Betta belly up. So be careful and avoid adding fish to your set-up. Try to quarantine them whenever possible (if you have an extra tank) before adding them to your community tank.

 

u Set-up #6: The betta barracks.  

Betta barracks are small (and I mean small) clear plastic containers with small removable dividers and 2 suction cups. You affix them to the inside of your community tank, so they become a tiny divided tank inside your tank. You can see the bettas through the front glass of your tank, the bettas can't get picked on by other fishes or pick on each other. You don't have to clean them, since they share the filtered water from the community tank. All of which may sound pretty darn good to you. But (oh yeah, there is a BUT) I hate to burst your bubble but I will :)). This set-up has some major flaws. For starters it is wayyyyy too small in there for a betta to be happy, let alone 3 or 4. They can barely move in there. Come on!! That is not a life. Then there is the little technical problem which turns into a major disaster: With time, the suction cups will give in (they get old, or you didn't install them right) and the barracks detach from the tank's glass, releasing all the bettas into the tank. The bettas then swiftly proceed to beat the crap out of each other and you come home from work to find two of them all torn up and half dead and the last one stuck in the power head intake tube. So forget this set-up, it just stinks :)). The only option is to build your own barracks, which I have successfully done, but that is very time consuming, costly and also if you make any engineering mistakes, your bettas will sneak out of your defective home made barracks and we're back to the "you come home from work to find two of them half dead and the last one stuck in the power head intake tube" scenario!!  Last but not least, bettas kept in barracks can also infect each other or get infected by any other sick fish in your tank. Something to think about twice.

u Set-up #7: The decorative novelty betta displays.  

Not on the top of my list but some of them will do the job (while others will KILL your fish). There are quite a few of these novelty betta displays on the market and more pop up each day. Many of these novelty betta bowls combine betta housing with either a picture frame, a wall mounted bubble, a lamp, a bamboo plant, etc... You name it, people have done it. As I said some of these set-ups are OK to use and will do a semi decent job at housing your bettas (but may require a few alterations). I promise to review these products here very soon so to provide you all with much needed guidance. So check back soon. 

While everyone tries to capitalize on our betta's beauty and ability to live in confined quarters, expect that many of these novelty betta displays are FISH KILLERS! I once bumped into a website that sold handbags that had a small betta display built in! CAN YOU IMAGE THAT? The poor fish being tossed around (and completely freaked out) while the person walks around with her silly handbag dandling from her arm or hand, then she forgets it in her car and the betta cooks, or someone sits on it at a party and the betta gets crushed and the list goes on and on and on... No, your betta is not a dog and does NOT want to go for a drive or go shopping with you! This is complete and alter animal cruelty and should be illegal. BOYCOTT, BOYCOTT, BOYCOTT !!! And if you find such set-ups, email or call the seller and tell them what you think about their cruel #%&*# product! Some of these set-ups will kill your betta within days. Others may kill them slowly (but ever so surely). Please make sure to read my betta display review when it is finished, so to make the right choices.

 

u About housing female bettas

You can keep several females together in a tank BUT ONLY IF they have been acclimated to community living first. There is something lovely about a variety of betta females of different colors, swimming around in a nice tank.  I do sell such female package deals and when you order them from me you know they have already been living together and have been properly acclimated to living in a community tank together. Click here for more details. This is the safest way to go. Otherwise, if you just buy individual females and stick them together, you might be in for a nasty surprise! "the female of the specie is deadlier than the male" :) (says the song). Although female bettas are a little less aggressive than their male counterparts, they too will fight. They will display at each other and flare and attack and pull each other's hair out LOL. You can take your chances and you may be lucky but if you do, remember to keep a very close eye on your gals as you might have to separate them, jar them, or pull a bully out. Remember the pecking order has to be established, so a little bit of picking at first is normal, but if it doesn't stop soon, or if there is too much fin damage, then you will have  to remove any trouble maker. If bettas continually pick on each other, the stress it causes will make them sick. 

So unless you really want to have a display female betta community tank, I recommend using the other individual housing methods I listed above as safer alternative to keep your females. Oh and remember: NEVER PUT A FEMALE WITH A MALE!! Only when you spawn them should they both be in the same tank, and even still, remember to read my section on breeding your bettas to learn how to prevent the male from killing his mate or, the female from giving your male a nasty buzz cut. ;)

 

BAD set-ups to stay religiously AWAY from ;)

(AKA: IDIOTIC BETTA SET-UPS) :)

WARNING!! The following set-ups are baaaaaaaaad so DO NOT use them (" do not try this at home" :))) ).


u
Idiotic set-up #1: a bowl with a couple of bettas. 

Amazing concept! Put two fish who are named "fighter fish" in a small confined environment and hope they will suddenly become little finned Mother Teresas. Yeah, right!

u Idiotic set-up #2: a tank with a couple of bettas. 

People think: "well, there is lots of room in here and lots of plants and rocks for them to hide, I am sure they will be OK". No, they will not be OK. furthermore, are you people OK in your heads? ;). Seems if you can think that two siamese fighting fish can share a tank (even a BIG tank) together, you need to see your therapist (or find a new, better, one) LOL.

u Idiotic set-up #3: a spawning tank with a betta pair and their fry. 

People figure they will spawn the bettas in the tank, but don't think about where to put the bettas once they are done spawning. They don't think/know that the female has to be removed immediately after spawning, and that the male needs to be removed after the fry start free swimming. They think the bettas will be OK in there all together as a happy little family. NOT!!! The adult bettas will fight with each other while snacking on the fry. Result? Double failure.

u Idiotic set-up #4: a divided tank used to house and spawn bettas at the same time.

Wow! Now that's a concept. One tank does it all. Saves space and money. Little problem though: Betta fry are so minuscule they will get through any divider, end up on the wrong side of town and promptly get devored. Further more, the tank filtration might not work anymore, since you need to fill a spawning tank only halfway. Or if you leave the full water amount, the filter might suck the fry in and kill them. If you reduce the air flow, then the other adult bettas housed in there will pollute the water so bad they will get sick, and the fry (who are very very susceptible to catching anything lurking in the water) will more than likely all die before they reach free swimming stage. You can't place a heater in a divided tank, and a spawning tank MUST have a heater in it (water must be at 80F). See? It just won't work. It was a lousy idea, give it up and go on with your life :)).

u Idiotic set-up #5: a betta in a vase with a plant and instructions to not feed the betta nor change the water EVER.

I want to know one thing: Who came up with that one???? 

A)- bettas are carnivorous and although out of despair they might eat roots (hey, you would eat a cockroach if got hungry enough!), they cannot survive long that way.

B)- ecosystems only work when they are large enough to allow a safety margin for fluctuations. Meaning that if one of the components of the ecosystem fluctuates, the whole system will not come crashing down. In such a small amount of water (hey, we are talking about a BOWL people!), how does one plan on preserving the ever fragile balance between: fish eating, fish pooping, plant eating fish poop and plant then cleaning water, plant being healthy enough to grow roots just enough to feed betta the perfect amount of food daily, etc... Assuming bettas would survive in such a vegetarian diet, you can see how one small change could radically affect the system and invariably cause the betta's death. I am against such set-ups. Every time I have seen one for sale on a store shelf, the betta was sick and dying, and it broke my heart.  Boycott!!! Boycott!! Oh and did I mention: BOYCOTT ??

For more info on betta vases and how you can still enjoy them when used properly click here.

u Idiotic set-up #6: a handbag with a built in betta bowl

I rest my case. ;). (boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott and boycott)

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Well my friends, this concludes our "housing your betta" page. When all is said and done, the only important thing to remember is this: Always put Mr. Betta's welfare, health and happiness first. The best betta set-ups are not the most decorative ones. Wise Faithyoda spoken has.