Secrets of the Siamese Fighting Fish

The Siamese fighting fish otherwise known œBetta is one of the most popular of all aquarium fish. They have been bred to have fantastic colors and sweeping, flowing fins and are in the family of fish called Anabantoids. This family has a labyrinth organ that enables them to get oxygen from the water surface as opposed to using their gills to extract oxygen from the water. Because of this unique feature they are able to be kept in a small container or very shallow water, unlike other tropical fish that need a larger aquarium with well oxygenated water.

Do it Right

Keeping the Betta is relatively easy. Just because a Betta can breath in small confined spaces does not mean it can live healthy in a small confined space. It needs biologically cycled water and room to move just as any other fish. The idea that it can live in a vase feeding off the roots of a plant is also ridiculous. In the wild, Bettas feed on insects (i.e. mosquito larvae) not plant roots and need to be fed on a daily basis with a little variety.

Kick start your Betta aquarium with œaged or conditioned water found in existing aquariums. You can also purchase live bacteria to start your sponge or media filter. Bettas live in slow moving waters on the edges of rice paddies. Tap water must be first treated to remove chlorine and chloramine.

A bacteria bloom (cloudy water) will occur 2 to 4 days after fish are added to the tank. The cloudiness is from initial bacteria growth. It is not harmful to the fish, and will clear on its own within a few days. You must allow it to run its course in order for the nitrogen cycle to complete. Do not worry! If it takes longer than ten days to clear, then there may be a problem and you should do a water change.


Bettas naturally feed on insects at the surface, so floating pellet food or live, frozen, or freeze dried worms (such as tubifex or blood worms) will be quickly devoured. While entertaining to watch, avoid the temptation to feed more than they can easily consume. Over feeding pollutes the water and creates more of a bio load.


Do regular maintenance and water changes as you would with any other freshwater fish. Remember not to keep more than one male in the same aquarium. Females may be kept together with or without one male, but will still establish a hierarchy for dominance and you may have to remove the female who is getting picked on the most. In general these fish may also be kept in a community tank of peaceful fish. They will be more aloof if there are very active fish near the water surface.