Brilliant Bettas: Fighting Fish Make Good Pets For First-time Hobbyists

You’ve seen them in pet stores displaying their brilliant fins to passersby. With their bright colors and fluid movement, Siamese fighting fish are simply stunning. What’s more, they make the perfect pet for beginning freshwater hobbyists, which has sent their popularity soaring in the past few years and opened a whole new world in the pet industry.

It started in early 2000 with vases of water lilies and brilliant bettas swimming beneath. These pint-size pets suddenly became a sensation showing up on kitchen counters and office desks.

Since then, the betta craze has shown no signs of waning. In fact, a host of new and innovative enclosures has brought the betta out of the fishbowl and into the realm of living decor. From classic fishbowls redesigned with pedestal stands to ones that hang on the wall, the latest tanks take bettas beyond mere pets. These fish, known for their brilliant colors and subtle personalities, are even working their way into the office thanks to freshwater setups scaled down for desktops.

“A betta is not the same commitment or the same amount of work as an aquarium,” said Nick Kornblith, senior brand manager for nutrition and water care at Tetra, a leading manufacturer of aquarium fish supplies. “What makes it appealing hasn’t changed. People are time-starved, but spend more time in the office and at home. They want more beauty in their home and office. The lifestyle trend fits with the betta.”

Bettas require minimal housing, moderate maintenance, and little previous fish-keeping experience, which has helped propel them into the mainstream.

“They’re really easy to fish to care for,” he said. “You don’t need much of a setup, and because they are labyrinth breathers, they don’t need filtration.”

Anabantoid fish, or labyrinth fish, like bettas have specialized organs that extract oxygen directly from the air in addition to gills that take in oxygen from the water. When the water quality drops, the fish simply head to the surface.

For betta owners, this means they don’t have to bother with filters, air stones, or even large aquariums. Simply change the water once a week or so and a betta will thrive.

“Because bettas can breathe air – they don’t have to get their oxygen from the water – they are not as susceptible to poor water quality,” Kornblith explained. “The beauty of that is that you don’t have to keep the oxygen level of the water as high as you would with other fish.

“You really just need a bowl or a vase, gravel, water, and a water conditioner,” he said. “Like any fish, they are susceptible to chlorine, chloramine, and heavy metals in tap water. A conditioner detoxifies the tap water.

“It’s an inexpensive set up – the whole kit could be $20 including the fish.”

The ideal betta bowl should provide enough room for the fish to move around freely and, because bettas breathe air, the water should have a decent surface area. After those considerations are met, the rest comes down to personal preference. Gravel or river rocks make a fine substrate, while live or artificial plants will give the betta a place to hide.

Additional decorations, though attractive, aren’t necessary. In fact, there are a few hard and fast rules to keeping bettas. However, it’s wise to keep just one male betta in each tank. After all, there’s a reason they’re called Siamese fighting fish. The same posturing that makes them appealing as pets is meant to drive opposing males away, by any means necessary. Male bettas are notoriously aggressive and two males in one enclosure is a recipe for disaster.

“You really do want to keep just one betta per tank unless you want to breed them,” Kornblith said. “It’s not a fight to the death in quite the way you might think, but they would stress each other out.”

© Copley News Service

By Chandra Orr
Copley News Service

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