Myth: It is best to keep bettas in cool temperatures as it results in a longer lifespan.
Reality: Because bettas are exotherms, it is true that their metabolism is directly related to the temperature of their environment. As such, there is some foundation to the suggestion that colder temperatures will reduce metabolism and thus, in theory, lengthen lifespan. However, what this theory neglects to consider is that cold temperatures are correlated with susceptibility to parasitic infestations and illness, which shorten lifespan. What's more, colder temperatures result in lethargy, and low levels of physical activity are closely linked to fatty tissue degeneration - one of the number one killers of bettas.
Myth: Because bettas do not use their gills, there is no need to oxygenate their water.
Reality: While bettas do have a labrynth organ that permits them to breathe air, this does not mean that they do not gill breathe, nor does it mean that there are not risks to keeping them in oxygen deficient water. While healthy bettas do not demand aeration to stay healthy, aeration should always be provided during medical treatments, if the fish is suffering gill distress, or if the fish is having trouble surfacing. Oxygen poor water contributes to anaerobic bacterial blooms, stresses the gills, and in extreme cases of weak fish who can not surface, may result in death. The adaptations bettas have evolved to survive in stagnant water are not an excuse for improper care during sickness.
Myth: Bettas are inactive fish and thus demand minimal space.
Reality: Most bettas who are inactive are behaving as such because they are cold or ill. When provided with appropriate space and temperatures, they are an extremely active, inquisitive fish. Some heavier finned fish may be less active, but a betta who is inactive is most likely unhealthy.
Myth: Bettas must be kept in distilled water.
Reality: Because bettas come from soft-water, acidic environments, many pet stores incorrectly recommend keeping bettas in distilled water. While there is some debate over this topic, a general consensus is that distilled or R/O water must be conditioned with some degree of trace minerals; purely distilled water is not healthy. Bettas do demand a certain ammount of essential trace minerals in the water, and unconditioned distilled water is prone to fluctuations in pH as it often has a poor buffering capacity. In short, unless you have the resources to properly condition R/O or distilled water, your betta is safer in dechlorinated tap under most circumstances.
Myth: Bettas only need to be fed once or twice per week.
Reality: This myth comes from stores that keep bettas in extremely cold conditions, resulting in a sluggish metabolism and a minimal requirement for calories. A betta kept in a properly heated and appropriately sized tank demands feeding most days (typically daily with 1-2 fasting days per week), even if fed a wholesome diet of quality pellets and live/frozen food. Tropical temperatures and the naturally active nature of this inquisitive species mean high energy demands. For in-depth information on nutrition and feeding schedules, please refer to the following sticky topic: Betta Nutrition 101.
Myth: Bettas only bubblenest if they are happy.
Reality: Bubblenesting is not an expression of joy or pleasure; it represents the betta's urge to mate. Mating is the ultimate instinct of any creature outside of survival; even in unfavorable conditions, most young male bettas will still bubble-nest. Water changes, temperature spikes, or viewing other bettas will also often encourage bubble nesting behavior. In other words, a betta blowing bubbles in a cold, dirty gallon bowl isn't doing so out of pleasure, but out of instinct. Do not use such a behavior to excuse improper care under the pretense of the animal being "happy."
Myth: Bettas are too stupid to require behavioral enrichment.
Reality: It is a common misconception that fish are unintelligent. This assumption has resulted in bettas and other fish being kept in dull environments. For an intelligent species like bettas, an environment void of behavioral enrichment can result in neurotic stress behaviors such as pacing, excessive hiding, tail biting, etc. It is strongly suggested that in addition to plants and hides, a betta should be offered a variety of non-threatening stimuli to keep them active, engaged, and entertained.