Top 7 Betta Fish Myths – Don’t Make These Common Mistakes with your Fighting Fish


Betta – Front, originally uploaded by Rhizae.

1. Betta fish are lazy and don’t do much.

A healthy betta is an active betta. Bettas constantly explore their surrounding and spend most of their day swimming all around their aquarium. They often respond to their owners by begging for food and wiggling their tails too. If your betta just lays around not doing much, perform the standard water tests checking the ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH levels. Make sure the aquarium water is warm enough for your betta. Water that is too cool will slow the cold-blooded bettas’ metabolism down making him more sluggish.

2. Betta tanks don’t need heaters.

Whether or not you need a heater depends on the ambient air temperature of the room and the likelihood of temperature fluctuations. Bettas are tropical fish and need a warm, stable water temperature of about 78 F (25.5 C). A couple degrees warmer or cooler is fine as long as it is stable. Large fluctuations in temperature can be stressful for fish, which don’t have the ability to regulate their own temperature.

3. You should feed your betta as much as he can eat in 3 minutes.

You can often find this statement in the directions on a package of standard fish food; however, betta fish if given the chance will eat 3 Big Macs, a double side of fries, a chocolate shake and an apple pie in 3 minutes if you give them the chance. Bettas are easy to overfeed and the result is usually a bloated abdomen. The stomach of a betta is about as big as one of his eyeballs. Feed your betta an eyeball-size amount of food one to two times daily. For an adult male betta, that is about 3 or 4 small pellets or bloodworms. Observe your betta for a healthy weight. Bettas constantly overfed will look fat throughout their entire body and underfed bettas will look too thin.

4. Live and frozen fish foods are too rich for daily feeding.

What does this even mean? Too rich? It’s not chocolate cake. In fact, live and frozen fish foods are closer to a betta’s natural diet than factory made pellets or flake food. There are pros and cons to both but there is no evidence that frozen or live fish foods need to be fed sparingly. As long as you offer your betta a variety of live and frozen foods to ensure a balanced diet, these foods can be fed every day if you want.

5. Keeping a betta in a small container makes it feel safe.

Have you ever asked a betta what makes it feel safe? I guarantee it won’t answer you. This myth comes from a misunderstood idea of their natural environment in the rice patties, rivers and shallow streams of Asia. Bettas have a natural adaptation that allow it to breathe in shallow, low-oxygenated water. This does not mean that it’s natural environment consists of just a few cups of water. Many of these shallow areas spread on for miles. They are also a complete ecosystem capable of breaking down fish waste as it is being produced. Keeping a betta in too small of a container puts him at risk for toxic poisoning from his own waste. I have yet to find a container large enough to frighten my betta, but when I do I will certainly let you all know.

6. Bettas don’t need filtered tanks.

Bettas don’t have any special powers that make them impervious to toxins from decaying organic matter (fish waste, food, plant matter, etc.) They are really no different from any other fish in this matter. To be honest, with their thin fragile fins, I think they are more susceptible to environmental stressors than many commonly kept tropical fish. Whether or not you decide to install a filter depends on how you want to handle your maintenance routine. Unfiltered, uncycled tanks will need more water changes and water testing then filtered and cycled tanks.

7. Bettas can’t be kept with other fish because they will fight to the death.

Male bettas shouldn’t be kept with other male bettas because they will fight to the death… well, not the death… but they will fight to the missing scales, open wounds, inflamed gills and stress-induced secondary infection. It doesn’t sound as dramatic as “fight to the death” but ultimately it can end the same way. This doesn’t mean that bettas can’t be kept with fish of other species though. Many bettas can do well with other small tropical species of a gentle nature. Female bettas can often be kept with other females or with other species of compatible fish. Research each species before establishing a community tank.

Written by

Christie F is a Betta splendens hobbyist that enjoys spending time caring for her fish and helping new betta keepers learn the ropes. More posts by:

16 Comments for this entry

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hello – I am a novice betta owner and I have a question for you. I was cleaning my betta's fish tank yesterday and he jumped out of the net when I was transferring him to his temporary home. He landed on the floor and seemed no worse for wear when I got him into his temporary house. When his tank was all clean and ready for him again, he jumped out AGAIN when I wanted to put him in it! Now his right eye is HUGE. It looks like popeye (cloudy/puffy/enlarged), and I'm wondering if I should treat him like he's got that. But if it's just the fish equivalent of a black eye I don't want to treat him unnecessarily. Can you give me any suggestions on what I should do? Thank you, Christie!

    Concerned betta owner…

    • Unknow says:

      He could have a black eye depends I would take mine to a store like I got mine at so maybe petstore or something maybe they can help you my friend did that and her fish survived the falls she fell 38 times over and over again

  2. Anonymous says:

    The very same thing just happened to me. My betta fish jumped out of the net while I was cleaning the tank and it landed hard on the floor twice before I could get her back in her tank. She does not seem OK at the moment. I got so attached to her. It would be horrible if she will not survive.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Why not transfer your betta in a cup of water instead of a net. Most betas are purchased in a cup (which is why I got mine to get him out of the cruel cup). But I use the cup to transfer him when needed. It's easy to just put it in the tank and move him toward a corner and in he goes. I put the lid on. When I put him back in his tank I float the cup and then remove the lid. By the way, my betta now live in a 10 gal tank with plants and "furniture". He prefers to lounge near the surface of the tank so I arrange the furniture and plants so that he has areas to lounge up near the surface.

  4. Anonymous says:

    In my experience, the "keeping bettas with other fish" thing is somewhat subjective. I have had bettas which did well with other fish, and others who were absolute terrors. I think a great factor to consider is the size of the tank, and what are commonly accepted "compatible species". So it basically resolves to two things: bigger tank is better (as usual), and worst case scenerio, have a backup plan/tank.

    A seperate 10 gal tank setup at "a very popular retailer" (starts with "W" and ends with "mart") can start for as little as $50, and I believe this is a small price to pay for the possibility that your betta will not get along with other fish in the case that the betta needs to be permanantly seperated from the main tank. If not, then you've got yourself a nice auxilary tank for breeding, plants, quarantine, etc…

  5. Christie says:

    Great points Anon. I completely agree.

  6. katy says:

    it’s early spring here and the house temperature ranges from 20-22 and i just got my male fighting fish. He moves only when i wave my hand in front of him, but other than that he just sits on the bottom. I had a mirror to keep him amused but he started attacking the glass so i took it away and now he won’t move or eat. I put two pellets in this morning and my friend put 2 in yesterday. I am worried as he hasn’t touched any of his food and he very rarely moves. What is going on?

  7. I posted this on my facebook since so many people are buying bettas and don’t know how they’re suppose to take care of them. I rescued my from my niece because he was so sick I couldn’t let him go on living like that. She doesn’t mind. She’s into fashion now.

  8. bryan says:

    I like to think of bettas as the “puffy kings” of the aquarium; as long as his subjects don’t out shine him (longer or fancier fins, larger size, or brighter colors), he won’t put them in the dungeon (chase them and terrorize them until they hide in a rock cave or log) or execute them. it’s just my creative way of deciding what kinds of fish to put in my community tank with my betta.

  9. Avery says:

    My mama has recently won a new betta in some sort of contest about a week ago. She’d been keeping him in a jar until I got home and got the both of us to the store to purchase a real fish bowl, more food, and other supplies. However, he doesn’t seem to be eating much, and after a full day I see much more food at the bottom than I think I should. He’s not bloated, but I can’t tell the difference between a normal and an underfed betta. If he isn’t eating, should I take him to the vet?

    • Ladii says:

      to Avery…fish don’t eat much he is not a shark… as written in the passage above, the betta stomach is about the size of his little eye. So, dont over feed him… your worry should be if your Betta is not making any little bubbles in his tank, the bubble cloud is a sign of happiness and healthiness.

  10. Mary says:

    My betta is so fat wat should I do

  11. Mary says:

    My betta is so fat wat should I do

  12. Rolinda says:

    I cant find the fish food for my male betta fish, is there ANY THING else that i can feed him (like lettuce or other common household foods) in the meantime?

    • Ladii says:

      Feed your Betta, Mysis, Daphnia, and Blood worms; you can find them in your local pet store and it’s inexpensive and it’s as close to the food they will get in their natural habitat. Also I like to give my Betta, live fish (game) but really small baby fish from the nursery of other tropical fish… He’ll love it!!!
      I have not heard of feeding your betta lettuce but he will use it as a comfortable bed like sitting, some time betta like to rest close to the surface of the water; when they do rest. Bettas are very active fish.

  13. Lola says:

    Okay, so the other day I came home and I saw that my male beta fish has escaped and slip through his divider to the other male betas home. At first I was very scarred hoping nothing will happen. But it turns out they are very friendly to each other and don’t even care. Both stay somewhere else and look calm. I know this is dangerous but is it possible they are okay with each other? Please answer back quickly cause if its not I would like to know right away!!!

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