5 Facts About Betta Fish

Updated Aug. 30, 2023
blue and yellow betta fish in a tank

Betta fish (Betta splendens), also called Siamese fighting fish, are one of the most popular freshwater aquarium fish in the world due to their beautiful colorations, various fin shapes, and their relative ease of care. If you are looking to get into the hobby of keeping ornamental fish, bettas can be a great and interactive beginner fish. There are over 70 different types of bettas that have been selectively bred for specific traits, including fin appearance, pattern, and coloration.

Fish Tanks for Bettas

To keep betta fish healthy and happy, it’s important to keep them in an environment that is similar to their natural habitat. Recreating a betta’s environment should be the top priority when keeping them in a habitat within your house. It’s important to consider a large enclosure when planning to keep a betta. The minimum enclosure size for a single betta is 10 gallons. 20-gallon tanks will allow you to provide lots of decorative enrichment for bettas in as well as additional fish. 

Depending on how many bettas you keep in an enclosure, each fish should have about five gallons of space. Planted tanks with decorations such as rocks and driftwood can provide a great ecosystem for your betta. It’s not recommended to keep bettas in bowls.

How Long Do Betta Fish Live?

Betta fish can live anywhere between 5–7 years of age. Some of the oldest betta fish ever recorded lived to the age of 10. Betta lifespan can be maximized when they are kept in ideal environments with proper care. With improper husbandry, bettas are more susceptible to developing diseases or illness. This can shorten their lifespan considerably.

Why Bettas are Also Called The Fighter Fish

Bettas are also known as fighting fish due to the territorial nature of male bettas. Territory aggression commonly happens in the wild when ponds containing bettas dry up. Bettas become isolated within smaller ponds and fight with one another.

Bettas are native to Southeast Asia and can be found in Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Maylasia. When their aggressive nature was discovered, humans used betta fish as a form of entertainment. Similar to cockfighting matches, people would bet on these matches and the fish would often fight to the death. Bettas continued to be bred for these aggressive traits. Fighting became so popular that the King of Siam started to regulate these fights to collect some of the winnings­, and owned personal fighting fish.

Bettas were one of the first fish species to be domesticated about 1,000 years ago. During the 19th century they were introduced to western civilizations and became one of the most popular ornamental fish species. 

What Fish Can Live With Bettas?

Bettas are considered one of the most aggressive freshwater fish. It is not recommended to keep male betta fish together in the same tank. If males are kept together, they will likely fight until the death. Female bettas can be housed together since they are not territorial like males, and will often form docile groups. Depending on the space you provide, pet parents can keep three to five females together. Females should be kept in odd numbers because they often develop a dominance hierarchy within their group.

Keeping other fish with bettas depends on the size of the tank. The larger the tank, the more fish can be kept together.

Species that can be kept with bettas include:

  • Neon tetras

  • Blue gourami

  • Pictus catfish

  • Other bottom dwelling fish

Other animals that can live harmoniously with bettas include African dwarf frogs.

Betta Fish Food

Bettas are carnivores so their diet should be high in protein. In the wild, they eat small insects and larvae. In captivity, high protein floating fish pellets are recommended for betta fish. It's recommended not use fish flakes to feed bettas because many fish may not accept them as food and they may not eat enough flake to support themselves.

Occasional treats can include brine shrimp (dried or frozen), krill, shrimp, and bloodworms. Bettas should be fed once a day to prevent overfeeding. Bettas generally may be fed two to three pellets per day. Overfeeding a betta can have adverse effects on the water quality within the environment, as any uneaten food builds up on the bottom of the habitat. Filtration systems can help remove some of this waste.

Betta fish are great pets for people who can ensure their fish has a large enclosure, with the right type of fish friends in their tank. Remember to keep male bettas separated and to provide a high protein diet for your fish. These fish are beautiful to watch and are generally easy to care for as long as they are given the space to roam and explore in their tank.

Featured Image: iStock.com/CmErsoy

Sean Perry, DVM


Sean Perry, DVM


Dr. Sean Perry completed his undergraduate degree at the University of California, Santa Cruz, earning a Bachelor of Science in...

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