A little while back, I was debating whether or not to get a betta fish. Having done a lot of research initially, I made the plunge and brought one home. I thought I would share my experiences with others who may be considering bettas as pets.
So, do betta fish make good pets? Bettas make great pets, particularly for first-time fish owners. They are beautiful to look at and are full of character. As with any pet, they require some time and effort in order to care for them properly but they are relatively low maintenance compared to some.
While I highly recommend keeping betta fish, there may be reasons why they are not suitable for everyone. I will try to outline some of the pros and cons in the rest of this article to help you decide if they are the right pet for you.
Pros of Owning a Betta Fish
So, starting with the good stuff. This was an easy list to compile as there is a lot to love when owning a betta fish.
1. Bettas Are Relatively Low Cost
Betta fish are fairly inexpensive. They only cost a few dollars to buy and the ongoing costs are minimal for things like food, water conditioner, and medication (if you should need it).
The biggest expenses when getting a betta fish are for the aquarium and other equipment. On the bright side, you should only need to buy this equipment once and I was actually surprised at how cheap you can find what you need.
With all of this taken into account, betta fish are still relatively low cost, particularly when compared with other types of pets.
Another bonus is that you can be certain of no surprise veterinarian bills for hundreds if not thousands of dollars!
2. Bettas Are Easy To Care For
Betta fish are often recommended as excellent fish for first-time fish keepers due to their ease of care.
They are relatively clean fish, especially when compared to others such as goldfish who produce a lot more ammonia. This means a betta’s tank should stay cleaner for longer, especially if you have a filter, which I would highly recommend.
Just be sure if you are buying a filter that you find one which has a low flow rate as bettas long fins make it hard for them to swim in strong currents.
As with most other fish, you will need to feed them once or twice a day and do regular water changes and tank maintenance, but compared with a lot of other pets, they are very little trouble at all.
3. Little Space Is Required For A Betta
If you don’t have a lot of free space at home then a betta fish is a great choice for you.
The recommended tank size for one betta fish is 5 gallons. An average tank this size measures around 16″ x 8″ x 10″ (40.64 x 20.32 x 25.4 cm). This means you can keep them anywhere you have a bit of free surface space, making them ideal bedroom pets.
You could get away with an even smaller tank although I personally wouldn’t recommend it. Smaller tanks actually require more upkeep to maintain good water quality.
Being that bettas are self-contained inside their own little world, you don’t end up with a lot of mess around your home such as pet hair or feathers. Additionally, there’s no house training required so your furniture and carpets should be safe!
4. Bettas Can Be Left Home Alone
One of the biggest issues many pet owners have is not being able to leave their pets unattended for long periods.
Dog owners, in particular, often need to return home during lunch breaks in order to take their dog out for a walk. Many pet mammals and birds generally require regular social attention also.
Betta fish can learn to recognize their owners and be happy to see them but for the most part, they prefer solitary time alone. This makes them ideal if you have to leave you’re home throughout the day to go to work, school or college.
You can also purchase vacation feeders which can last up to a week should you want to go away. This is a luxury that most other types of pet owners cannot afford, at least not without arranging care for their animals beforehand.
5. Bettas Are Beautiful And Interesting
Fish tanks can be quite entertaining, particularly for young children. Betta fish with their long flowing fins and bright colors are especially beautiful fish and are quite fascinating to watch as they go about their daily business.
Male bettas will often build bubble nests at the water’s surface. This strange behavior is actually the males first step in courtship.
Even if there is no female present, male bettas will still build a nest, which is also an indication that they are happy and healthy. Some females will strangely exhibit this behavior also.
As the name suggests, the bubbles act as a nest, in which betta offspring will live in until they are mature enough to swim.
6. Bettas Have Plenty Of Personality
Most people who have owned more than one betta fish will tell you just how different they can be from one another. Some can be very laid back or timid while others can be quite assertive or even aggressive.
This is the main reason that some people say that bettas are perfectly fine in a community tank, despite the best advice being that you should always keep them separate.
One thing you can be sure of is that betta fish are definitely not short of character.
7. Fish Tanks Make Great Decorations In Your Home
One thing that I love about owning fish is that a well set up tank can look fantastic. A well-decorated tank is far more pleasing to the eye than the unsightly look of a cage or pets bedding lying around the house.
I would recommend purchasing substrate, plants, and ornaments for your betta tank. Not only do these look good but they will also serve a more functional purpose.
The substrate will harbor beneficial bacteria to help maintain water quality in the tank. Bettas will also really appreciate ornaments and plants as it will give them somewhere to hide when they are feeling shy which will really improve their quality of life.
With many substrates and decorations to choose from you should easily be able to find some to your liking. Some good tank lighting will really bring all the colors to life too.
Once you are all set up, you should have quite the focal point in whichever room you decide to keep your betta in.
Cons of Owning a Betta Fish
This list was a little harder to come up with but as promised, here are some of the things about owning a betta fish which you may find unappealing.
1. The Initial Investment In Betta Equipment
So, although I believe the cost to be quite low when compared with many other pets (hence low-cost being on my list of pros for owning betta), there is still an upfront cost for equipment which may be a little offputting.
Here are some of the things you should at least consider investing in if you are serious about getting a betta fish.
- Aquarium Heater
- Water Filter
- Gravel vacuum
- Ornaments & Plants
As mentioned before, I was surprised at how little most of this stuff actually costs, but it does add up so it’s just something to consider before committing to getting a betta fish.
2. Betta Tank Maintainance
Betta fish, like all fish, require clean living conditions inside of their tank. Regular water changes and filter maintenance are a must if you want your betta to live a full and happy life.
The size of your tank, number of inhabitants and whether or not you have a filter will dictate just how often you need to make these water changes but to give you a general idea, you are looking at around 20% of the water every 7-10 days for a filtered 5-gallon tank with one betta fish.
You will also need to clean the tank walls, plants and ornaments from algae from time to time. My favorite solution to this is to get a couple of snails in your tank. Snails should not bother a betta fish at all and they should do a pretty good job of keeping algae at bay.
3. Bettas Don’t Mix Well With Other Fish
Having a diverse community tank with lots of variety can be very appealing. When keeping other types of fish, adding more fish is usually quite straight forward so long as your tank has the capacity.
Unfortunately, most bettas, particularly the males, have rather aggressive tendencies and will tend to fight with one another (they’re not called Siamese fighting fish for no reason). This means adding bettas to a community tank or introducing tank mates into your betta’s tank will usually not end well.
This is not always the case, as mentioned before, bettas temperaments can vary wildly from fish to fish. you may find some betta are not bothered at all by others but then there are some who attack almost anything that moves.
4. Bettas Have A Short Life Span
One of the hardest things about owning any pet is coming to terms with the harsh reality, you will have to say goodbye at some point. Betta fish are no exception to this.
Unfortunately, in captivity, betta fish only live around 3 years on average.
You will also have to take into account that bettas are usually at least 6 months old before being sold so that their colors and fins have time to properly develop.
Keeping your betta in ideal conditions may help to prolong their life and there are documented cases of bettas making it to 10 years in captivity but this is exceedingly rare.
5. Fish Tanks Are Not Easy To Move
While having your betta enclosed in its own little tank can be a bonus, it does come with its own logistical difficulties also.
If you ever have to move the fish tank, particularly if you are moving house it can be stressful for you as an owner but also for your fish too. When fish become stressed their immune system drops and they can often become ill or even die.
There are techniques when moving a tank to make it less stressful for your fish and it can be accomplished quite successfully with a little planning. However, just bear it in mind if you have to move a lot then a pet fish may not be a great choice for you.
6. Bettas Require Feeding Daily
While feeding your betta fish should be quick, easy and actually quite a pleasurable experience for most, this can be a bit of a deal breaker for some.
If you have a very busy lifestyle and you are not at home very often then you may have to reconsider as bettas will require feeding once or twice a day.
That said, to those who already own a pet, feeding your betta should be a breeze in comparison with most.
7. You Cant Give A Betta A Hug
Many pet owners will be looking for an animal which can be petted or which may show physical signs of affection.
While your betta may be excited to see you around feeding time and will most likely come up to the glass to greet you, I’m afraid that is about as far as it goes.
If it’s hugs and cuddles you’re looking for, you may have to go elsewhere as there is no such thing as a “lap fish” (at least as far as I’m aware).
Betta fish are hardy, beautiful creatures. So long as you are willing to make a little commitment, they make the perfect pet, especially for 1st-time fish owners. I thoroughly enjoy owning one and I hope you will too.
If you are considering getting one then I would highly recommend reading this article on recommended tank size and other requirements. It will give you a good idea of what you will need to get set up so your betta has the best habitat possible.
Where do betta fish come from? Betta fish originate from the marshlands, streams and rice paddies of Thailand and Cambodia.
How long do betta fish live in the wild? In the wild, betta fish have an average life span of 2 years. This means that contrary to popular belief, betta fish actually live longer when kept in captivity, with an average lifespan of around 3 years.