All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Caring for Bettas

Dear Marie,
A dear friend of ours was recently married and used live Bettas in bowls on each reception table as a centerpiece. They were all quite lovely. When the reception ended, one family from each table “won” the bowl and the fish. My husband and I were the lucky winners. Our beautiful Betta now lives in a little aquarium in our living room and seems to be doing quite well. Our daughter thinks he is lonely and wants to get him a friend. But from what I understand, you can’t put Bettas with other fish or they will attack. Also, we really don’t know too much about how to take care of the little guy, so
any pointers you have would be greatly appreciated.
Sunset Beach

Dear Sandy,
I assume that when you purchased your aquarium, that the salespeople suggested a few basic rules for setting everything up. For example, if you filled the tank with water from your tap, you should have added a few drops of dechlorinator, per the instructions on the product’s label. It’s not the end of the world if you didn’t – most Bettas seem to be able to survive tap water fairly well, but in the future, when you clean your tank, or do a partial water replacement (which you should do once a week) I strongly recommend using it. It is a good idea to change your tank’s water completely whenever you begin to see signs of algae growth.

Bettas do in fact fight with other Bettas. However, they live quite peacefully with many other species. BUT, the other fish might attack Bettas! I suggest that you do not get any other fish buddies for your new pet because there is always a risk that new fish may carry diseases or parasites. Furthermore, without knowing the “personality” of a new fish, i.e., whether or not it is aggressive, you are taking a chance that it will hurt
your Betta.

There seems to be no indication that Bettas prefer living with other fish. Still, some Betta owners affix mirrors to their pet’s aquariums to give the illusion that there is another fish close by. When a male Betta (and I am assuming yours is a male since they are the more beautiful of the two genders) sees another male, it will flare its fins in an attempt to intimidate the intruder. It’s an awesome sight and truly shows how gorgeous these fish

Believe it or not, these fish do seem to enjoy the company of people. So please keep your tank in a location —out of direct sunlight—that you and your family frequent. Spend a little time each day near the bowl. Some Betta owners report that when they place their fingers in their pets’ bowls, that the Bettas will swim right up and actually enjoy being pet!

Bettas seem like they constantly hungry and will eat almost everything you offer them. Nevertheless, since they have no self-control, you need to feed them only what they can eat in about a three to five minute period. Generally, feeding once a day is plenty, however if your Betta looks at you pleadingly from his tank, a second feeding later on will be OK. Just don’t over-do the sympathy feeding. Aside from making your fish sick from overeating, the extra food will settle in your aquarium rocks and become a breeding ground for bacteria. These microorganisms will ultimately harm your pet.

A proper Betta diet is essential for good health. These fish are meat eaters and need to have food that is specifically labeled for Bettas. Some experts suggest skipping one feeding day each week to give the digestive system a rest.

If you ever plan on leaving for an extended period, Bettas seem to do fine for three or four days without food. I would suggest having a neighbor stop in to feed your fish if you plan on being away longer than that.

Your fish will live to be two to three years old, though some Bettas have been documented to live to four
or five years of age. The better care your provide, the longer its life will be. They are wonderful little pets and you will enjoy yours very much, I am sure. Best of luck.

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