The male betta, also known as the Siamese Fighting Fish (or betta splendens, if you want to be scientific), is one of the most popular fish for people who can't afford, don't have space for, or simply don't want a large aquarium. You'll see them in peoples' offices, often in a vase along with an aquatic plant and some rocks. If you're younger, you've probably seen them in your friends' bedrooms or dorm rooms. Some people even have bubble-shaped bowls that hang on their walls.
Surely, betta is a beautiful fish. Their colors are astoundingly bright and varied, and the males have long, flowing fins that they use to dazzle their female mates as well as their human captors. They abhor other males of the species, or any other fish that even resembles another male betta, and they will battle each other to death if placed in the same water (hence the 'fighting fish' thing).
Yet, contrary to popular belief, a tiny vase is not an ideal environment for these fish. Sure, in the wild, they often have to live in tiny puddles, but they don't live in such confined spaces all the time. In their natural environment, they have plants and various microorganisms to keep the water filtered and habitable. A little vase in a typical 75-degree room isn't anywhere near 'natural' for these little guys, whose natural environment is much hotter.
Still, the myths about bettas persist, and people will continue to keep them in vases, where their lives will be shortened due to poor water quality or muscle atrophy. If you or someone you know has a betta in these conditions, here are a few simple ways you can improve his quality of life:
- Keep them in a minimum of two gallons of water.
- If you don't have some form of filter, you'll need to change 50% of the water on a nearly daily basis.
- Use a water conditioner before you add tap water to his bowl or tank. Our tap water has too much chlorine in it, among other harmful elements that can burn your fish's gills or strip his body of its protective slime coat.
- Keep his home away from direct sunlight. Sun plus water equal algae growth, and nobody wants that (except an algae-eater fish, which the betta is not).
Having a betta doesn't need to be expensive or difficult, but it isn't as easy as most folks think. If you properly care for your fishie friend, he'll live for more than a year, hopefully up to two or three! He'll be happy, healthy, and beautiful, just as any pet fish should be.