Friday, September 28, 2012

Understanding Proper Water Conditions and the Nitrogen Cycle (Article)

Unlike cats or dogs, fish are hard to take care of in that their entire world depends on the quality of their water. Different chemicals naturally build in water and depending on the water and its source, different toxins can be present. Betta fish, like many fish, are considered hardy and able to thrive in nearly any condition. This is a false sentiment because thriving is not the same thing as surviving and poor conditions are severely cut the lifespan of a betta.

The first thing to understand are the different chemicals to look out for, some of which are more important to be concerned with in regards to different tank sizes. It is important to have a water test kit that can test for these chemicals--it can save a betta's life!

The first and easiest way to remove these problems is for tanks that are 5 gallons or more, which can establish a cycle. A water cycle is the control of chemicals and bacteria in the water through the use of a filter, making water changes easier. The following contains basic information only.

Ammonia (NH3)

This chemical is the most common cause of betta death. Ammonia develops from natural waste, the build up of not eaten food, and from the excretion from gills; in the same way humans breath out Co2, betta breath out ammonia. Ammonia poisoning comes in many forms including red/purple gills, lethargy, and red stripes appearing across the body, among symptoms.

Ammonia can be removed from the water in several ways. First is through a water cycle. If the tank in question is under 5 gallons or establishing a cycle is not a possibility, then the second way to remove ammonia is through water changes. Changing the water is the quickest, most effect, way to rid a tank of most problems.

NitRITE (NO2-)

Nitrite is a chemical excretion of good bacteria that eat ammonia. These bacteria do not have time to appear in a non-cycled tank, so those who cycle must pay careful attention to this chemical. Nitrite can harshly poison a betta, with some symptoms including rapid gill movement and extreme lethargy. It can also cause "Brown Blood Disease," which is the imparement of a betta's ability to carry oxygen and circulate blood, causing gills to appear brown. This can lead to the suffication of the fish.

The only way to get rid of nitrite is do water changes. Some live plants can help decrease nitrites in the water but water changes are still required.

NitRATE (CO3-)

Nitrate is a chemical excreted by nitrite-eating bacteria. Although this chemical cannot harm a betta as much as nitrite or ammonia, it can still poison the fish and kill it. Nitrate poisoning includes spastic swimming, bent spine, curling of the body, and twitching.

Nitrate also can only be removed through water changes.

A liquid water test kit, essential for monitoring water conditions. Photo by Petco

The Dangers of Hard Water

In addition to toxic chemicals, water hardiness can harm betta fish as well. Hard water is water that contains high and/or concentrated amounts of minerals. Betta fish can tolerate a water hardness of 5-20 dH or 70-300 GH ppm, preferably with conditions in mid-range. Water hardness is not a usual problem in most areas. Some places like Las Vegas, Nevada have very hard water that is not good for any animals, let alone fish. This is not typical as most water systems contain water softeners, making water safer for consumption.

Because most places have water softeners in the system, it is often not necessary to worry about this but if there is a need to lower the water hardness, there are products that pet stores and fish stores sell to lower the hardiness. It is important not to just place these conditioner into the water but to carefully read the instructions on how to mix them in.


There is always some level of chlorine in water supplies in order to kill harmful bacteria that would otherwise be present in it. However, chlorine is very deadly to a betta fish and any level above 0.5 ppm will result in death. Water conditioner is needed as a result.

The types of water conditioners vary and treat different things. Thus, it is important not to purchase just any water conditioner at a store. Sometims the cheapest product will not remove every harmful element in the water, for chlorine is not the only purpose of conditioning treatment. The Seachem Prime conditioner brand, for example, is one of the best brands of water conditioners for that it covers everything that can make water toxic for fish. API Stress Coat, Aqua+Plus, and other conditioners are recommended as well. It is important to read labels before purchase in order to ensure that what needs to be removed from the water will be.


Water pH is not hard to mantain. pH is the balance of acidic or base content in water. It is not good to be too high in acid or base, so test kits are essential for mantaining proper water for betta fish. The range of pH measures from 1-14, with 1 being acidic, 7 being neutral, and 14 being basic. It is ideal to have a pH of 7 for a betta fish, as a pH of 6 is ten times more acidic than a pH of 7.

Betta fish can survive in a pH range of 6-8 but it is important to try and mantain a pH of 7 in order to give a more neautral condition of the water, in case of pH spikes.

Total Alkalinity (KH)

This is a measurement of how well water can resist pH changes. This is a good reason not to use distilled water for it has a total alkalinity of 0 KH, which means that any change to the acidic or basic content in the water will be easily  increased of decreased. This can stress the fish and sometimes kill it in extreme situations.

Tap water has a total alkalinity buffer added to it already, making it ideal for tank water. There are some products on the market that can help increase alkalinity, if need be.


This is a combinition of chlorine and ammonia. Chloramine tend to be unstable and can evaporate over time. Water sanitation plants have begun adding chloramine to water in order to kill harmful bacteria, as it does a better job than chlorine. This is a very harmful additive or a betta fish and must be removed from the water to ensure a healthy life.

Water conditioners that remove chlorine will only remove chlorine and not chloraine, unless otherwise specified. Prime water conditioner was specifically mentioned earlier because of its coverage of this chemical as well. If only chlorine is removed from the water, then ammonia is left behind. This can cause an ammonia spike which, as stated earlier, can be deadly.

The only way to remove chloramine is through a proper conditioner.


Phosphate in addition to sunlight cause algae growth. Phosphates get into water through food or through previous presence in tap water. Water changes are the best way to remove phosphates from a tank, although there are products to remove them if they get to extremes. Additionally, some live plants remove phosphates as well.

Water Change Schedules for Best Tank Health

As can be seen, water changes are the best solution for tackling most problems. A clean source of water is an assurance of better betta health. However, water changes are dependant on tank size. This next section is a basic guide to the most popular tank sizes used for betta fish. Bigger is always better and means less changes, especially if cycled.

1 gallon: Do a 100% water change every other day. This sized tank cannot establish a water cycle as it is too small.

2 gallons: 50% water changes 2-3 times a week and one 100% water change weekly. Another tank size too small for cycling, it is important to maintain regular water changes. Gravel vacuums will make cleaning easier and help maintain better water.

5 gallons: This is the first tank size that can be cycled and thus is has two different water change schedules. For cycled tanks, perform 50% water changes weekly. For non-cycled tanks perform 50% water changes twice a week and one 100% water change weekly. Non-cycled tanks are much harder to clean and it is recommended that a cycle is established for the this purpose.

10 gallons: For cycled tanks, perform 50% water changes weekly if there is only one betta inhabiting it. If it is a community tank, add another 50% water change to its schedule. For non-cycled tanks 50% water chanes should be performed twice a week and a 100% water change bi-weekly.

20 gallons: Tanks this size should only be cycled. 50% water changed should occur each week.

There are many other tank sizes but these are some of the most common. For in-between sizes, adjust the schedule to your best judgement. Although these are not absolute, strict, must-have schedules, they are recommended for the best health of betta fish.

What is cycling?

A diagram of the nitrogen cycle. Photo by PetSmart

When referring to a "cycle" aquarists are referring to the Nitrogen Cycle, which is created by a series of chemicals and bacteria that are naturally present and created in water. Cycling is not easily possible in smaller tanks and generally can only be established in tanks of 5 gallons or more, even if the small tanks are equipped with a filter. The cycle begins with ammonia, which is a toxic chemical created from fish and food waste that gets dispersed into the water the animal pumps through its gills. The cycle's purpose is to convert ammonia into safer substances for your fish through creating good bacteria. The beneficial bacteria turns ammonia into nitrite, then nitrite into nitrate. Although these substances are still harmful to the fish, they can be tolerated for longer periods of time and cause less harm as a result.  On average, a cycle can be established between 4-8 weeks, depending on the method you choose to use.

Note: Unless an aquarium is filled with a certain eco-balance of live plants, partial water changes are still required. This article will not cover live plants.

The Fishless Cycle
This cycle is performed without the fish in the tank. This is the preferred method of cycling by many aquarists, for ammonia will not be able to harm fish while establishing the cycle. The following are needed to begin a fishless cycle: A fish tank, a filter, non-treated water, a water-test kit, and an ammonia source. The ammonia source commonly used by hobbyists is either fish food or pure ammonia, with pure ammonia being the preferred choice due to more precise accuracy and measuring abilities. Follow the steps for completing a fishless cycle:

1. Prepare a clean, empty, fish tank that has not been washed with any chemicals. Clean and add substrate if desired; substrate provides a home for the beneficial bacteria to live in and although it is not always necessary since beneficial bacteria tends to house itself within filter media, substrate can help with this process.

2. Add non-treated water to the tank. It is essential not to add conditioners to the water at this time since no fish will be present and water conditioners can alter test reading results.

3. Connect and add filter to the tank. The type of filter is not important but depends on preference. If filter media from a previously cycled tank is available, it can be added at this time in order to help jump-start the cycling process. If not available, proceed to the next step.

4. Add the ammonia source. If the source is fish food, the amount added should be noted so when replenishing the ammonia source a similar amount is used and the cycle becomes easier to monitor. If the ammonia source is pure ammonia, then use an eyedropper to measure the amount being added to the tank.

5. Allow the filter to run and preform a water test within the first week. Sometimes it is needed to replenish the ammonia source for the beneficial bacteria and so testing the water is critically important throughout the cycling process. Eventually the ammonia will be eaten into beneficial bacteria and nitrite readings will begin to show up, followed by the same process eventually resulting in nitrate readings. Once the levels are at a safe range, the cycle is complete.

The fishless cycle can vary in length of completion depending on many factors such as tank size, filter, ammonia source, live plants, and so forth. It can take from several weeks up to a two months to cycle, usually with the average one month.

The In-Fish Cycle

Sometimes aquarium hobbyists will cycle their tanks with their fish stock as the source of ammonia. This can put the fish at danger because ammonia levels will not be at a safe range and can harm their gills and general health. However, it is still do-able and fish do not always get harmed or die in the process. Like the fishless cycle, the same materials are needed to begin the cycle except this time the water will be treated and the ammonia source will be the fish itself.

Water changes must be completed on a regular basis to help reduce harmful chemical spikes and maintain balance in the water. It is important to test the water regularly during the cycling process because any spike can hurt the fish or kill it and testing the water can indicate a need for a water change. Once ammonia and nitrite levels begin to read at 0 ppm and a nitrate reading become available, the cycle is complete.


Bahamut285. "Water Chemistry Basics." Water Chemistry Basics., 30 Mar. 2011. Web. 28 Sept. 2012. <>.

F., Christine. "Water Changes." Water Changes | Betta Fish Care. Nippy Fish, 01 Mar. 2011. Web. 28 Sept. 2012. <>.

Nippy Fish. "Nitrogen Cycle." Nippy Fish., n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2012. <>.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Betta Fish Disease and Illness: Preventions, Causes, and Cures (Article)

Although most people do not think of disease and illness when it comes to aquatic life, Betta fish are no more immune to harm than other animals. There are many health-oriented issues that can ail Betta fish and most are preventable. However, sometimes fish do fall sick and it is important not to panic and rush to buy medicine to put in a tank. Diseases and illnesses can be identified, which makes figuring out treatment a more manageable task.

Bacterial Diseases

Bacterial diseases are diseases that are caused either internally or externally by bacteria. These diseases are common among aquarium fish predisposition to them include factors such as poor water quality conditions, stressful living conditions, hypoxia (when a whole body or part of a body is denied a proper supply of oxygen, temperature changes, and the handling and transport of fish. High amounts of bacteria, both good and bad, are normally found in aquariums. A lack of proper nutrition and traumatic injuries can also make it easier for an otherwise healthy fish to fall ill due to bacterial diseases.


The bacteria usually enter through an open wound, mouth, or gills. Commonly happens in stressful living conditions such as a high bioload, not enough oxygen, and over-crowding. The bacteria can live in the water for up to 32 when water hardiness if at 50 ppm or more.

Symptoms: Ragged and frayed fins, usually followed by skin ulcers within 24 to 48 hours. Identified by cotton-like fungus covering wounds. Gills may change color, becoming light or dark brown, and fish will breath rapidly as a result of gill damage.

Columnaris in a goldfish. Photo by

Cause: Bacterial infection.
Fatality: Infected fish will die between 48 to 72 hours if no effort is made to cure. This is a rapidly moving disease.
Cure: If the fish is still willing to eat, feed with food containing oxytetracycline. If unable to eat, treat with antibiotics. Medications such as Tetracycline are recommended as well as those including drug combinations of TMP Sulfa, Sulfa 4 TMP, and triple sulfa.  Increase aeration in order to help fish not suffer from gill damage. Also treat secondary fungal infections.


This deadly ailment is not a disease itself but rather a symptom of a disease. It is usually the result of kidney problems and appears to be contagious because fish in the same tank will share the same living conditions but most cases are non-contagious. Dropsy can be the result of viral, parasitic, and nutritional problems, especially vitamin deficiencies.

Symptoms: High swelling of abdomen, due to large amounts of internal fluid. Scales appear to stick outwards, like a pine-cone. Sunken eyes and a tendency to stay at the top of the aquarium are also common but less definite symptoms of dropsy.

A betta with pine coning scales, a symptom of dropsy. Photo by

Cause: Bacterial infection of the kidneys and viral, parasitical, and nutritional deficiencies also cause dropsy.
Fatality: Very High. Most fish that show signs of dropsy do not survive.
Cure: Can try medications aimed at dropsy or kidney failure, however, there is no known cure. Euthanizing fish to prevent suffering is common.

 Enteric Redmouth (hemorrhagic disease)

This disease, more commonly known just as redmouth disease, is a bacterial infection that can occur in both freshwater and saltwater fish. Symptoms: Serious bleeding (hemorrhaging) from broken blood vessels inside a fish’s mouth, body, fins and eyes. Can be clearly seen as bloodshot appearance on fins.

Cause: Bacterial infection from the bacteria Yersinia ruckeri.
Fatalitiy: Low. Very treatable.  
Cure: Antibiotics such as ampicillin.

 Eyecloud (cloudy cornea)

Symptoms: White, hazy, film on eyes.
Cause: Bacterial infection commonly caused by bad water quality.
Fatality: None. Can harshly impair vision.
Cure: Antibiotics such as Fungus Clear and Metafix. Also, be sure to clean and improve water conditions.

Fin and Tail Rot

Not to be confused with tail biting. This disease will slowly eat away at the fin and tail of a Betta fish and if it reaches the base, the fin and/or tail will not be able to grow back. It may also attack the fish’s body if left to worsen at this point. 

Symptoms: A ragged rotting of the fin or tail. Infected areas appear to be melting away.

A male halfmoon betta with fin rot. Photo by Google Image 

Cause: Bacterial or fungal infection, sometimes with both together.
Fatality: Medium, depending on effectiveness of treatment.
Cure: Antibiotics specifically labeled for fin/tail rot, such as Tetracycline.


Symptoms: Open red sores, skin abscesses, and ulcers around sores.
Cause: Bacterial infection due to poor water conditions.
Fatality: Medium to high.
Cure: Antibiotics such as Fungus Clear.

 Mouth Fungus

This disease appears to be fungal disease but is actually bacterial.

Symptoms: Grey or white line around lips, later as fungus-like short clumps around mouth.
Causes: Bacterial infection.
Fatality: Medium to high. Fatality occurs if not treated in early stages.
Cure: Antibiotics such as amoxicillin.

A betta with mouth fungus. Photo by
 Pop Eye

 This is another disease that is actually a symptom of a disease. The real cause is difficult to determine but can be generally guessed.

Symptoms: Swelling or bumps on one or both eyes. Eye may pop out of socket.

A male betta with popeye. Photo by
Causes: Could be viral, a tumor, parasitic, or tuberculosis infection.
Fatality: None to Low
Cure: Antibiotics such as Tetracycline

Fungal Diseases

Fungal diseases are usually secondary diseases that are the result of a previous health problem. However, such is not always the case. There are many fungus treatments that cover a wide variety or symptoms and disease, so treatment is not difficult. It is important to keep fish separated when fungal diseases are present, so a quarantine tank is recommended.

 Fin and Tail Rot

Not to be confused with tail biting. This disease will slowly eat away at the fin and tail of a Betta fish and if it reaches the base, the fin and/or tail will not be able to grow back. It may also attack the fish’s body if left to worsen at this point.

Symptoms: A ragged rotting of the fin or tail. Infected areas appear to be melting away.
Cause: Fungal or bacterial infection, sometimes with both together.
Fatality: Medium, depending on effectiveness of treatment.
Cure: Antibiotics specifically labeled for fin/tail rot, such as Tetracycline.

Fish Fungus

Fish fungus is almost always a secondary infection, meaning that it commonly follows other infections such as an injury or bacterial infection. It often appears as white strings from external injuries. Eggs infected with fungus can infect other eggs with this disease.

Symptoms: Clumps of dirty, white, cotton-like growth on skin or fins.

A male veiltail betta with fish fungus. Photo by

Cause: Secondary infection.
Fatality: Low to Medium. Fatal if not treated relatively early.
Cure: Antibiotics such as Fungus Clear and Methylene Blue.

Parasitic Diseases

Parasites are one of the most common and problematic diseases for freshwater fish, especially betta fish. They are, as the name suggests, caused by parasites that can enter the water through the introduction of a new fish (which is why it is important to quarantine new fish before placing into community tank), contaminated water, and other ailments. They are treatable, like most diseases, and medication can be used but is only recommended if the problem is properly identified. Like with all diseases, try asking on an online community before treatment and care suggestions.

 Anchor Worms

Anchor worms are commonly found in aquarium fish. While more common in cold-water fish such as goldfish and koi, it may infect other fish species such as Betta splendens as well.

Symptoms: Commonly attach to base of tail and/or fin as a worm-like extension. May also appear anywhere else on body. Swelling and redness may appear at site of extension.

A male veiltail with anchor worms protruding from his body. Photo by

Cause: Parasite infection. Can spread to other fish if new infected fish is introduced into tank.
Fatality: Medium
Cure: Antibiotics such as Parasite Clear and Methylene Blue.

Hole in the Head Disease

Symptoms: Fish will develop small pinhole-like abrasions at first. As disease progresses it will travel down the lateral line. May appear, as the name implies, like the fish has holes in its head.
Cause: Parasites. However, causes are sometimes debated.
Fatality: Medium to High Cure: Antibiotics such as Parasite Clear. Removing carbon from filter may also help improve condition.

 Ich (Ick or White Spot)

This is one of the most common Betta fish diseases. The best prevention is clean, regularly changed, water kept at a steady tropical temperature as needed by this species. Although there are preventative medications specifically for ich and often pushed by stores onto consumers, this disease is highly preventable with proper care.

Symptoms: white spots appear on body of fish, generally with even distribution. Spots usually look like a grain of salt.

A male betta with very visible ich spots. Photo by

Causes: Parasitic infection.
Fatality: Low to High, depending on when treatment begins. Usually it is very easy to deal with. Cure: Antibiotics. Many exist specifically for ich but some recommended ones include Malachite Green and Fish-zole. Sometimes salt baths are also used in treatment.


Symptoms: appears to be gold or rust colored dust sprinkled on fish.
Causes: Poor water conditions, cold water, and stress leave fish susceptible to parasite
Fatality: Low to Medium. Very treatable.
Cure: First isolate fish, as velvet is very contagious. Parasite lives in dirty places, like gravel, so a 100% water change is a must. Clean tank thoroughly. Medicate fish and keep water conditions without fluctuation.


Some Betta fish healthcare issues are not diseases or illnesses. Here are some common problems Betta fish keepers face with their pets:

 Lethargy (lack of energy):  Can be symptom of most diseases but may also be due to cold water. Make sure water temperature is between 72 to 85 degrees, preferably ranging from 78 to 85 degrees.

Not Eating: Most common with new fish, often Betta fish will not eat when introduced into a new living environment. They do this because they are adjusting to their new home and may be stressed. Behaviour usually lasts anywhere from a few days to a week. If the problem persists, try soaking food pellets in garlic water. Do not begin to feed bloodworms, as they are like junk food for betta fish and have almost no nutritional value while causing health problem if primarily fed. Some fish are very picky and will only eat flakes, in which case the best to get are ones easy to measure in size and leave the least mess so ammonia does not spike. Betta fish that are otherwise situated in an environment and stop eating may be exhibiting a symptom of a disease but it is important to determine what could be the cause as it is a common behaviour for multiple problems.  

Tail Biting: See article here. 


 Budiardja, Ray. "Fish Disease - Fish Medication." Fish Supplies. Web. 6 May 2012.

 F., Christie. "Velvet Disease." Nippy Fish. Web. 08 May 2012. Merck. "Merck Veterinary Manual."

Merck Veterinary Manual. Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. Web. 06 May 2012. Merck. "Furunculosis - The Disease." Merck Animal Health. Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. Web. 06 May 2012.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Betta Splendens Tail Types (Article)

Betta splendens is the proper name for the domesticated betta fish species commonly sold in stores throughout the world. Wild type betta species are neither brightly colored nor long finned like the b. splendens variety and had to be selectively bred for the fish many hobbyists covet today. Within the betta splendens species, there are many different tail types that make each breed visually unique. Although often not called by their proper breed names by pet stores that may simply label them as “betta” or mislabel their type altogether, these are the officially recognized names for the domesticated betta fish.

1. Veiltail (VT)

A young male veiltail betta. Photo by Betta Fish Awareness Day

Veiltail bettas are the original betta splendens, meaning that they are the first variety of the domesticated betta fish as a pet. Bred from a variety of wild betta types, these fish were sought after due to their colorful and long, flowing, fins. The veiltail’s most distinctive feature is its asymmetrical caudal fin that flows from its body, often in a variety of lengths and shapes. Despite their common availability and ease of breeding, official International Betta Congress shows no longer have a veiltail category and the breed is seen undesirable.

Yet the veiltail strives on, often finding itself defended by lovers of the breed. It is the most common type available in pet stores, sometimes are the only variety, and is often simply referred to as just a regular betta rather than by its tail type.

2. Spade tail

A male dragonscale spade tail. Photo by AquaBid

The spade tail is very much what it sounds like, a betta with a tail in the shape of a spade. Often confused with the veiltail, the spade tail has a long caudal fin that comes into the shape of a point.

3. Round tail

A male round tail. Photo by

The round tail betta has a circular shaped single tail that has round edges and is often confused with delta tails. Round tails are common but often mislabeled or ignored as a variety.

4. Crowntail (CT)

A male crowntail. Photo by Betta Fish Awareness Day

The crowntail is a popular breed that is more commonly found in pet stores in recent years than it has in the past, perhaps popular due to its unique look. The long strands stemming out from the base of the fish’s fins easily identify the crowntail. Severely reduced webbing causes this spiky appearance. The crowntail was originally identified as a breed in Indonesia in 1997.

5. Halfmoon (HM)

A male halfmoon. Photo by AquaBid

The halfmoon is a wildly popular breed commonly found in breeding shows. Its long, symmetrical, anal fins and full dorsal and caudal easily identify it. A halfmoon betta spreads its fins out at 180 degrees. Any span more than 180 degrees is referred to as an “over halfmoon” or OHM.

6. Rosetail (RT)

A female rosetail. Photo by Pedro Emidio

This breed variety is similar to the halfmoon and is often identified as such, except it is visually distinct from the halfmoon. The rosetail has overlapping rays, which produce a folded, rose-like, look to the fins.

7. Delta tail

A male super delta. Photo by

A true delta tail betta is not merely a single tail betta, as they are often confused. Delta betta fish have straight caudal fin edges that unlike the halfmoon betta do not arch straight upwards. An enhanced version of the delta is known as a super delta and this version describes the fins to be just short of a full 180 degrees required for halfmoon status. Delta tail betta fish carry a dominant gene and breeding them can result in more delta tails, super delta tails, and sometimes halfmoons.

8. Double tail (DT)

A female double tail. Photo by AquaStar71

Double tails are a coveted breed, spawned from a mutation. Double tail betta fish have a dorsal and anal fin of the same length in addition to their most defining feature: two caudal lobes. Double tails are often bred to create a single tailed spawn due to the beautiful length of their fins and the fact that many double tails bred with other double tails can result in deformities.

9. Combtail/Half-Sun

A male half-sun. Photo by BlackRoseDarkDragon

The combtail, sometimes referred to as the half-sun, is a combination of crowntail and non-fringed single tailed genes. The result is fringe on the fins with minimum webbing. While crowntails have long spiky looking fins, the combtail has a slightly spiked looking appearance. The half-sun is a combtail that bred specifically with crowntail and halfmoon genes.

10. Plakat (PK)

A male plakat. Photo by Daniella Vereeken

Plakat betta splendens are very popular due to their short fins, a look most similar to their wild counterparts. Without the weight of heavy fins that the other breeds have, the plakat is generally more active. It is often sold in pet stores under the name “dragon scale” but that title is not mutually exclusive to being a plakat. Rather, a dragon scale is not a fin type but a scale mutation type defined by a heavy metallic look to the scale caused by being thicker scales than normal and can be found in varieties other than the plakat.


Setsuna. "Tail and Fin Forms In Betta Splendens." Tail and Fin Forms In Betta Splendens. Aquatic Community, n.d. Web. 06 Sept. 2012. <>.

F., Christie. "Veil-tail Betta | Betta Fish Care." Veil-tail Betta | Betta Fish Care. Nippy Fish, 10 Aug. 2011. Web. 06 Sept. 2012. <>.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What it Means to Truly Rescue a Betta Fish (Editorial)

Rescue- to free or deliver from confinement, violence, danger, or evil.

A male mustard gas veiltail for sale at Walmart. Photo by Betta Fish Awareness Day.

What it Means to Truly Rescue a Betta Fish

Rescue is a word that gets thrown around a lot amongst betta fish enthusiasts. Some betta fish lovers start a rescue and adoption group, others expand their personal collection of fish by going to stores and taking in the most neglected fish. No matter the intention, many betta hobbyists see taking a neglected fish from a store as rescuing it from death either from its condition or euthanization for no longer being a desirable product. However, “rescue” is a much heavier word than most people realise and has many implications. Unfortunately, many of these so-called rescue missions contribute to the cycle of betta fish abuse and neglect within local and chain stores.

The word "rescue" itself is an easily understood; to rescue something is to save it from an undesirable or dangerous situation. However, when it comes to rescuing living animals from poor situations created in stores, there is a harsher side to this word. To truly rescue an animal, whether it is a betta fish, cat, gerbil, or dog, the seller must not receive any compensation or profit from the condition of the animal. Essentially, the rescued creature must be given to the rescuer for free.

Why this is the case is simple: The seller exists solely to make a profit and no matter the intent behind buying an animal, a final sale is a final sale. While a good Samaritan may save one betta fish from Walmart, for example, by purchasing the fish the store will only see a successful product even if complaints are made. Thus, a continued cycle of abuse will occur. For every betta fish “rescued” through payment, another is replaced and forced into the same poor living conditions. Similarly, the no-pay policy is strongly advocated for puppies. Puppy mills have been strongly voiced against because of their horrible and abusive treatment of dogs, leading to many boycotts of store-bought puppies and emphasis on adopting instead of encouraging the cruel condition. If a puppy lover decided to “rescue” a puppy from a store by purchasing it, despite the intention behind the purchase the store will flourish from such as sale and order in a new puppy from a mill. The same scenario goes for betta fish. As kind-hearted and caring as it may seem to buy a sick fish, it is much better to draw attention to the fish and demand it for free because of its sickly state. This way, the store does not profit off of bad treatment, loses a sale knowingly over said treatment, and the fish is saved without contributing to the mistreatment of its successor.

Photos taken from Google image search and Tumblr. Created by Betta Fish Awareness Day.

While the store may continue to treat the betta fish poorly, it would not profit off a truly rescued betta. Some stores may not even be aware that their conditions are bad for fish and need it to be pointed out to them. Offering advice on the care of betta fish with supported facts and sources, such as an SPCA organization, show stores that a person is a true betta advocate and not somebody who is demanding change based on hearsay. Many stores have changed their treatment of betta fish because of concerned and knowledgeable customers. Many times, this information is spread through a true betta rescue, which is most valuable type of rescue of all. A rescue that stops profit from abuse and initiates change is every betta saver’s ideal scenario.

Be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Ask to speak with a manager when wanting to rescue a betta and explain, kindly and patiently, how the fish is sick and how it got this way. Because of its condition, it must be emphasized for a successful rescue, it will NOT sell and most likely die from its ailment. Offer then to take it, to rescue it, and nurse it back to health. The store would not profit off a dead fish and often managers agree to this sort of arrangement.

Stop betta cruelty by not rescuing through payment.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The True Cost of Buying a Betta (Article)

Why Cheap Products Are Not Always Good Products

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Like all animals, betta fish are creatures that have very specific needs in order to live healthy, proper, lives. Although many pet stores may sell the idea that betta fish will thrive in any small space and are easy to take care of, this is a false gimmick used to sell products. In fact, many products labelled "betta" are often harmful and abusive to the fish. Some companies even go as far to market products such as "betta water," which is not only small in portion but is also no different than properly treated tap water. 

So what products are the right products? If companies cannot be trusted, then how can a new betta owner possibly know what is and is not meant for the fish?

It all comes down to research, essentially. While many betta purchases are made on impulse, usually alongside these dangerous or useless betta-marketed products, it is not hard to correct care mistakes and help the creature live a proper life. Do not, however, think that a betta fish will be an inexpensive pet to keep. Think carefully before purchasing this and all other animals. They are more costly than often what is expensive.

Betta Must-Haves 

Betta fish need more than just a tank, food, and water to thrive. They should only be kept in certain tanks, the larger being better for both fish and owner. As for food and water, both of those things need be of certain standard or else they will risk killing the fish. Here is a list of what is appropriate, why, and rough cost estimates.

The Tank

Photo by Betta Fish Awareness Day

Despite what stores may advertise, it is cruel to house any aquatic animal in a tank less than 1 gallon. The small the gallon size, the quicker dangerous chemicals such as ammonia build up inside the water. The only way to combat these chemicals is by doing water changes. As a result, larger tanks need to be cleaned less often than smaller tanks. It is recommended to purchase a 5 gallon tank with a filter, so the water can be cycled. If that size does not fit budget or living situation, then the next lowest recommended size is 2.5 gallons. For more information about water chemicals, cycling, and water changes, please see our upcoming water conditions article.

Ideally, the tank should have more horizontal space than vertical. 

2.5 gallon tanks can range anywhere from $15 to $35, depending on store and brand. Some may cost less, but this is the average estimated price.

5 gallon tanks can range anywhere from $15 to $50, usually toward the higher end of the scale. Again, it depends on the store and the brand.

If you cannot afford a tank that holds at least 1 gallon or more, do not purchase a betta at all. These tanks are abusive and even illegal in countries that more strongly regulate animal abuse laws.

A Tank Lid/Cover

Betta fish jump. They can jump half a foot into the air. Jumping kills many betta fish, as they usually go discovered until it is too late. Having a lid on a tank can save betta lives. Even though a fish may not start out as a jumper, there is a good chance for spontaneous leaps out of water. 

Lids/covers usually come with tanks. Stores sell them as additional parts for varying prices.

Water Conditioner

Seachem Prime, one of the many recommended water conditioners.

This is one of the most important things to purchase. Water conditioner makes water safe for the betta to live in and removes harmful chemicals in it, such as chlorine. Prime is one of the best conditioners and removes some of the most harmful elements.

Conditioner goes from around $3 to $5 and lasts a long time.

The Heater

Elite brand heater, a highly recommended and reliable product. 

Betta fish are tropical fish and need to remain in water between 75-85 degrees. Water can easily drop 10 degrees over night, which can cause very uncomfortable living conditions for the betta fish and even cause lethargy. Again, this is something a betta cannot be without. The only exception to the rule is if location of the household the betta will live in is very warm, with room temperature not dropping below 78 degrees at night. Some places during summer time can get like this but during other seasons a heater may be needed. Having a light on a tank is NOT a substitute for a heater.

The best heater to purchase is one with adjustable levels and the appropriate watts for the size of the tank it needs to heat. The product usually says on the package up to how many gallons it will work for. Heaters can be in the form of pads or wands, usually wands being the better choice.

Heaters can cost anywhere from $15 to $30, depending on the brand and size tank they must heat.

Hiding Places and Decor

While most people do not consider a decoration like a cave to be essential, betta fish actually need these to mantain good stress-free health. These fish like to explore and feel secure in hiding spots. A cave, tunnel, pot, or other similar decoration that is aquarium-friendly makes for a good hiding spot. All openings in hiding spots must be larger than a quarter or else the betta risks getting stuck, ripping apart fins, or even dying from suffication.

Plants are also good additions to tanks as betta fish do need stimulation and will enjoy exploring plants or hiding in them. Fabric plants are most recommended for betta fish because they have delicate fins and tails, which can tear and shred easily on harsher decorations.

Prices really vary depending what style the fish keeper enjoys most.


A suction-cup aquarium thermometer.

This is a cheap, much needed, tool that helps monitor the proper conditions of a betta fish's tank. These come either as floating or suctioncup attachable. Ones with suction cups are generally better for reading.

Thermometers can rang from $4-$7, depending on brand and store.

Water Testing Kits

A liquid-based master water test kit.

Depending on whether or not the tank is cycled, certain water test kits can be needed. Some only test pH while others test for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, and total alkalines. The second is what a betta needs. Water conditions are what determine the quality of life for a betta and knowing what the conditions are can save a betta's life. 

Water testing kits can cost anywhere from $5 to $30. This gap is due to what the tests check for, the brand, and whether or not strips are used for the readings. 


One of the many gravel variants. 

This is essentially a fancy word for gravel or any floor-covering substance. Some people use gravel, others use sand or rocks specifically meant for aquariums. Substrate not only makes the tank look nice but it also traps the poop down at the bottom and keeps dirt from constantly floating around. It also holds down decorations and plants, in some cases.

Substrate can rang from $5-$10 depending on how much, and what kind, is desired or needed.

Cleaning Supplies

A gravel vacuum, one of the many cleaning supplies that may be needed to keep your betta tank clean.

Tanks need to be cleaned whether they are cycled or not. A betta holding container, fish net, gravel vacuum, bucket, and many other supplies are needed to clean a tank, depending on cleaning method and size.

Cleaning supplies can range from $10 to $30, depending on many factors.


Betta food needs to be high in protein, with Omega One brand and Hikari brand often being a betta keeper's brand of choice. No matter the brand, the food should contain at least 38% crude protein. Pellets are recommended over flake food because flakes cause the water to get dirty faster, leading to higher ammonia build up. It is also harder to judge how much food to give if not using pellets, which is why they are recommended.

Food costs around $2 to $5 and lasts a very long time.



An aquarium sponge filter.

Not all tanks can use a filter but it is HIGHLY recommended that any tank 5 gallons or more be equipped with one in order to cycle the tank, making water changes easier and removal of the fish during changes no longer required. Filters need to gentle, so one that produce high currents are not recommended. Some tanks come with filters but they may need to be replaced for this reason.

Filters can range vastly in price depending on tank size, brand, and store.


Many tanks come with lights. A betta needs a light source but an artificial one is not needed. As long as the tank gets light and give the fish adequete light to see and enjoy, it will do fine. Lights are nice to have and add extra character to aquarium set ups, as well as being useful during rainy days or early winter nights. Just make sure to turn the light off before bed--a betta will not sleep properly with a light on.


Freeze-dried bloodworm treat by Tetra.

Many people consider this a critical food source but that is false. Bloodworms are like chocolate for humans; too many lead to health problems and pure reliance will lead to death. Bloodworms are great treats for betta fish but should be used sparingly.


Betta fish do play and interact with toys. Ping pong balls, properly washed, are often favorites. Betta logs and hammocks are also products that the fish will enjoy using because they give it a place to hide and explore. Interaction is a great benefit for betta fish and helps bring out their pesonaalities. Toys can be store bought specifically tailored for fish or items as simple as floating objects.