Tiny Mud Puddles and Other Lies:
Myths and Misperceptions About our Beloved Bettas by RandomWiktor
Like goldfish before them, bettas are fast rising in the ranks of America's most popularly owned aquarium fish. Hardy, attractive, and capable of surviving in smaller quarters than most species, bettas have surpassed the goldfish as the "ideal" bowl buddy for the office, dorm, and home. However, this widespread popularity has come at a high price: many bettas suffer horrendous abuse and neglect at the hands of their owners. Perhaps the greatest tradgedy about this unfortunate situation is that the majority of bettas who are mistreated are harmed unintentionally, out of ignorance or even misinformation.
The key to helping improve the lives of bettas is to dispel the myths propagated by pet stores and industries about this fascinating and unique species of fish. Most betta owners would never keep their fish in sub-standard current conditions if they were made aware of proper betta husbandry, and the first step to this is calling the misinformation for what it is. This article hopes to serve that purpose, so please share it with everyone you know!
Dispelling the MythsGeneral Husbandry Myths
Myth: Wild bettas live in tiny mud puddles and thus do not require clean water or space.
Reality: The wild ancestors of today's domesticated Betta splendens yield from rice paddies, swamps, wetlands, and shallow ponds in South East Asia. These bodies of water, though shallow, are quite expansive; rice paddies typically span many acres. Male bettas form sizeable territories during breeding season, sometimes as large as a square meter, and are only found in "puddles" during the dry season - a time of year where many bettas will die due to crowding, poor water quality, and inadequate food supply. It is also noteworthy that these bodies of water, though dark from taninns in fallen leaves, are not unclean - plant life provides a sort of natural filtration, and the replenishing of water during the wet season maintains a healthy, clean aquatic environment. The suggestion that bettas or any fish thrive in filthy water is contradictory to logic.
Myth: Bettas prefer tightly confined spaces and will "freak out" or die in larger containers.
Reality: Most owners who report bettas becoming distressed or dying in larger tanks had this experience because of something done wrong during acclimation, set-up, or husbandry while in the tank. In a well-planted tank with appropriate filtration (or lack thereof), compatible tank mates (or, again, lack thereof), proper acclimation, and suitable water parameters (including temperature), there is no reason that spaciousness should stress or kill a betta. Indeed, a slightly larger tank, in the range of 2.5-10g*, may even be beneficial; one of the leading killers of bettas is inadequate physical activity, resulting in fatty liver.
Myth: A cup or bowl is the ideal habitat of a betta.
Reality: In a room of the appropriate temperature, and with frequent enough water changes, it is true that bettas can survive short-term in a cup or bowl. However, this is far from being an "ideal" home for a betta. Cups and bowls are prone to temperature fluctuations, rapid declines in water quality, and generate stress during the frequent 100% water changes typically required to prevent fin rot and dangerous waste build-ups. They are also positively correlated with curled fins and obesity, both of which can be caused by insufficient physical activity.In actuality, the ideal habitat for a betta is a heated tank of 2.5-10 gallons, that is longer and wider than tall. It should have live or silk plants and at least one hide for the sake of the betta's sense of security, and water quality should be maintained through cycling, filtering, or frequent water changes. And it should certainly be covered to prevent jumping - a problem we often see in cups and bowls.