To answer a few of the questions that I am finding are coming up a lot on the forum and while you are always most welcome to ask anything you need to this is just a small guide to those of you who just want some quick information from all the time I have answered questions from the thousands of owners I have known and loved and all the problems from all the bettas I have owned personally and loved.
To begin with when you go to purchase a betta
, there are several options, none of which are wrong, just different from each other.
1. Purchase from a local petstore or chain pet store. Chances are unless you are lucky the bettas will be found in cups with lids that have small holes to allow for breathing access but no filtration or heating. Let me state that this is NOT because the fish do not not need to be in filtered tanks or have heaters but because it is inconvenient for the store to provide this as they are not usually wanting to put one betta
per tank and the betta is not compatible with many of the fish that they want to keep in the main tanks. It is for their staff convenience to keep them in the cups and unless the store is very good to them a lot of time they do not get the daily water changes and sometimes not get fed every day. So it is well worth your time to start shopping every day there to see when the new bettas are put out on the shelves to get the day in your mind to go and get the betta on a day when the new ones are put out so you get one which has not spent two weeks in the cups. Pick a betta that has some life in it when you pick the cup up and look into it at eye level. Don't go by what they look like sitting on the shelf. They should move in the cup and not just with the motion of the water. they need to show some spunk like they are aggravated by being picked up and stared at or like they are wondering what you are looking at. If they seem to have an attitude they have some life left in them. Don't pay much attention to the color of the betta as the cool temperature of the water in the cup and the dirty or muddy conditions in the cup or the blue water that some stores keep in the cup to try to forstall disease will not show you much and I have seen the grayest and most colorless of bettas turn into real beauties when given good food and a warm water tank with clean conditions and lots of room to move about and play. Some have come close to being show quality and I have wondered why the breeders have culled them out to go to the chain stores.
2. The second place and sometimes a better place to go is the internet. While this is not the best time of the year to do so, it is the way I generally get my bettas but while this is a way to get some beautiful and good quality bettas. Time of year and quality and reputation of breeder is the whole name of the game and NO reputable breeder will ship to you during the extreme heat or cold of summer or winter even with heat or cool packs due to the undependability of the shipping methods used. While they are supposed to be shipped overnight, there are many areas of the country (mine included) that overnight means nothing. It generally takes 2 days minimum in rural or outlying areas of even larger cities and fish are at risk. During real extremes of weather the fish stay overnight in warehouses inside of trucks that are neither heated or cooled and temperatures are brutal. So do not please depend on the fish being safe during this time of year or during the winter, and actually you will be hard pressed to find a really reputable breeder unless they are within a very short distance from you that will allow a fish from them to be shipped to you.
I would never take a fish from Thailand at this time of year as they go through a grueling journey to get to the transshipper and then have a 24 hour or less turn around time and get a meal and are rebagged and shipped again and have another shipping process. Double stress for the poor fish in a matter of a very short time and a lot of them suffer dreadfully with illness from this stress. Also you will find that the total cost of this process is so much higher by the time you add in the cost of what you pay the seller to ship from Thailand and then the Customs fees and the transshippers fees and the repacking fees and all the other things added in it is very expensive.
3. Buying from a DEALER on ebay or aquabid. There is a difference from a dealer or breeder that resides in the US on either of these two sites than the #2 above. First of all there is no transhipper and it cuts the price of shipping and handling by almost half. You also will not have the wait for the next shipment and the wait for your fish will be shorter. Then you will have fish that have already been quarantined one time and not sent to you without a time between being shipped in from a foreign country and arriving at your door. Transshippers receive the fish on one night and keep them one day and ship them out the next day. (NO quarantine and if the fish is ill...it is your problem)
Dealing with dealers or breeders in the US means that the fish have been kept in the US for several weeks or months and will not be put for sale until they have been watched for problems for a period of time usually. You also will not have the problem of who to reach if there should be a problem with the fish.
4. Find a local breeder or dealer...In a larger community or where there are Local fish clubs, you have the best of all options. Local breeders are usually available or small clubs will know of dependable people who if they do not do the breeding themselves are dealers who carry healthy fish who are kept in healthy circumstances or who are willing to be on the lookout to order fish from dependable local people who take the breeding process seriously and do treat their fish in a manner to which they approve. I know of a lot of these people in several areas of the country as they sent me fish when I was dealing online and while I paid for every fish I received they sent them as they wanted me to see what type of fish they offered and I was not disappointed by any I ever received.
Okay we have covered the purchase of the bettas but first you need to start getting a home ready for your betta. It is going to have to be a filtered, heated and cycled home and if possible should be fishless cycled before you put fish into your tank. It can be done with the ammonia, fish flake or raw fish method. But if you choose you can cycle with hardy fish and just perform the water changes that will protect the fish while they are in the process of cycling the tank for you. There are articles all through this forum about different ways to cycle tanks.
The first consideration is whether you are going to make the betta a fish with or without tank mates. It will determine what size tank you will need and what you will need to put in it. The tank for a single betta is probably the cheapest and more simple tank you will ever need as the filter can be a very cheap sponge filter with an airline and control device and airpump with a small device called a check valve unless you want to fix the airpump to sit above the level of the water surface to keep the water from backing into the air line if the power fails. You then need a small heater of some type and I usually suggest that if there is anything you do not skimp on it is the heater as if you buy a good heater it generally means that you will not be replacing it in a year. A heater with a lifetime warranty generally will last you longer than anything else so I buy Visitherm Stealth heaters and keep the box and receipt and can sleep at night knowing that I am covered for heaters.
You really do not have to have a substate but if you do have bettas are not able to have sand or any type of sandlike substrate. (they are used to being able to eat things that look like pellets and I have indeed lost a betta who ate EcoComplete that was sandlike) While a betta is pretty smart about a lot of things when it comes to food or anything about anything that looks like food they are pigs and there is not doubt about it. Please do take my word on this. Just plain aquarium gravel is fine but if you want to protect those fine fins from dragging on gravel...glass gems or smooth glass marbles or ovals are wonderful but more expensive and I have gone to building stores and gotten glass gravel from them by the pound if you can find it. They generally have it in the tumbled type and sell it by the pound and it makes for a spectacular aquarium floor. You can buy it online if you want one color and want at least 10 pounds of one color.
Now for tank size. If you are keeping a betta alone, you can get by with a 2.5 gallon and a 25 watt heater with a small spong filter in the background although I always have an extra sponge filter in the background in case I even need a quarantine or hospital tank ever. (two filters in one tank) Although I will say that you or anyone will note a marked difference in the behavior and activity level of your betta if you give him or her a lot more room in which to "stretch thier fins" and get a good swim on. My present little guy is in a 12 gallon and has not ever been in less than 9 gallons since he got here. He has been active and happy and very much an on the go betta. I have had bettas in as little as 3 gallons and have noted a marked difference in the amount of action and setting on the floor of the tank with them. So if you note that your betta is not really active and moving about it could be that he is wanting more room or his temperature is too cool or he is just not content.
While I am on the subject of temperature, bettas are Tropical fish and it is a mystery to me why the petstores do not think they need to be kept warm. This means that the really optimum temperature for these fish is 78 to 80 degrees fahrenheit or about 25 to 26 degrees celsius. They are cold blooded like all fish and have some of the worst digestive systems in the world of fishdom. If they get too cold the food they eat is not digested correctly and they can not pass it through their system. This means constipation and many bettas that I have known of have died simply because they were either too cold to digest their food and became constipated or overfed causing them to become constipated and constipation in a betta is not a matter to be overlooked as it is fatal more often than we want to think.
There are things we can do about constipation if it is caught early.
1. The first thing to do is to stop feeding the fish entirely. NO food at all.
2. Slowly turn the temperature of the tank up to 82 degrees fahrenheit (1 degree every other hour) or 28 degrees celsius (1 degree every 2 hours) and leave it there for a period of 2 to 4 days to see if it help your fish to regain his metabolic rate equalibrium.
3. If he has not been able to pass any food in 48 hours then start to feed nothing but pea treat meals for at least 48 hours or up to 72 hours to see if the vegetable matter will help clean your fish out. (Instructions for pea treats below)
Take one frozen pea and place on a saucer and put in a microwave oven for 20 seconds on HIGH with no water.
Remove from the oven ... it will not be cooked but defrosted only. Allow to cool completely.
Remove the outer skin from the pea and seperate the halves of the pea.
Cut small chunks from the half of the pea that are about one half of the size of the eye of the fish and take two or three of the chunks and attempt to feed to the fish on the end of a clean fingertip by sliding into the water in front of the fish's face where he can see them. He should chase the pea piece to catch it so if he won't do it with the first one don't keep trying as he will not probably do it with the second or third. Just try again in a few hours.
This is not going to be something that I can finish in one sitting so this is the first of a few postings but will help get you started. Hope this has helped. I intend to help get those of you who have not ever had bettas taught about some of the basics.
Hope this is going to help.