Without your family dog or pet hamster around, dorm rooms can get pretty lonely. A popular pet college students often turn to is a betta fish. Also deemed siamese fighting fish, bettas are colorful and lively additions to your dorm. However, there are many misconceptions about how to properly care for a betta. Here’s how to ensure your fish friend is healthy and happy.
1. Bettas don't belong in small bowls
Bettas are hardy fish and are often kept in bowls. It’s possible for them to survive, but they will be quite unhappy. Bettas typically need at least a 2.5 gallon tank. These can easily fit in a dorm room and aren’t large. A large bowl is better than a small bowl, but tanks are cheap and much healthier for your fish.
2. Bettas need heaters
Bettas are tropical fish. They need their water to stay around 74-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Small heaters are cheap, and along with a heater pick up a small thermometer that goes inside your tank. This will help you make sure your fish isn’t too hot or cold. If your water is too cold, your fish will be lethargic, not hungry, and possibly get sick.
3. Bettas do best with filters
A common misconception is that bettas don’t need filters. They can survive without filters, unlike most other fish, but they do best when they have a filter with a light flow. Make sure to change their water often if you don’t have a filter. Their water can get dirty quickly, and a buildup of waste can harm or even kill your fish.
4. Bettas don’t generally do well in groups
Male bettas are solitary fish-- they cannot be housed with other males OR females. Males will fight males and kill each other. Males will also fight females and potentially kill them. They also may breed with the female, which will leave you with around 50 baby bettas. Good luck finding out what to do with those.
Female bettas can occasionally be housed together, which is known as a sorority, but you need at least a 15-gallon tank, at least 5 female bettas, a large number of plants and decor, as well as an extensive knowledge of betta diseases and proper water care such as pH and nitrite levels. This is for very experienced betta owners only and can get expensive quickly, so it’s not something you want to try in your dorm room.
5. Bettas can get constipated easily
A betta’s stomach is roughly the size of its eye, so make sure not to overfeed your betta. This can cause bloating and constipation and can be quite harmful to your betta. Research the appropriate feeding amount for your sized betta.
6. Bettas can contract various common illnesses
Fish can get sick just like us. Some common illnesses for bettas are fungus, fin/tail rot, and parasites. Bettas can also acquire stress stripes if not cared for properly. Do your research on betta illnesses and make sure to watch them closely. Common signs are dull color, lethargy, and not eating. If your fish does get sick, inexpensive medications can be purchased-- just make sure to follow the instructions.