How to choose a healthy betta fish
Bettas are one of several species of freshwater fish that have a relatively short lifespan, averaging only a couple of years. Because they are so short-lived, it is particularly important to choose your Betta carefully. By making a well thought out choice, the fish you take home one is more likely to have a long and healthy life.
Where to Buy
Where the Betta is purchased is important, as not all sellers carry the same quality of fish. Typically, retail outlets offer inferior Bettas, at least in terms of genetic lines. However, if you aren’t planning to breed pure lines or specific traits, that isn't quite so important. What does matter is the overall health and longevity of the fish. That is where choosing a good quality pet shop becomes a key factor.
Chain Style Pet Shops – These are better than all-purpose department stores, but all too often carry lower quality stock. The majority of Bettas offered in these stores will be the common veil tail variety, and they may be less brilliantly colored than better quality stock. There are some notable exceptions to this, which will vary regionally. So check out your local chain stores to see what they have.
Privately Owned Pet Shops – These shops are generally the best bet, and that’s where I would go if I were to go to a brick and mortar store. Private shops usually obtain their stock from a reputable breeder, possibly even a local one. It is common for a private shop to have a good idea of how old the fish are, and something about their background.
Mail Order Fish - There are a number of reputable sellers online that specialize in Bettas. That said, there are also lower quality sellers as well, so do your research before you buy. Find out if the seller also breeds Bettas, as breeders will be more knowledgeable about the fish. More importantly, find out how long they have been in the breeding and selling business. Avoid sellers or breeders who have just started the business, and focus on those who have years of experience. Ideally, find ones that provide customer feedback, so you can determine how satisfied their customers are.
Obviously it is not possible to check out the habitat the fish is kept in if you mail order your fish. However, if you go to an actual shop, take a good look at the environment the Betta is being kept in.
Bowls vs Tanks - Small cups or bowls are commonly used to house Bettas in shops. However, heated tanks are preferable, so if you can find a pet store that keeps their Bettas in tanks, that’s the best place to shop.
Clean & Warm - Stores that do keep their Bettas in bowls aren’t off limits, but only choose one that keeps the area where the Bettas are kept warm, and the water changed frequently. The bowls should be kept clean, if they are dirty take your business elsewhere.
Check Other Fish - Examine all the fish to see if any appear to be sick or injured. Although it’s expected that a few fish may not be well, if large numbers of them are sick, don’t buy from that shop.
Careful examination of the fish you are interested in will help avoid choosing a sub-standard or sick fish. Consider the following factors when choosing a Betta.
- Coloration Males should be brilliantly colored. Avoid pale fish, as lack of color is often a sign of disease.
- Fins. Example all the fins thoroughly for damage. Avoid fish that have torn fins, or fins with ragged edges.
- Eyes. Eyes could be clear. Avoid fish with cloudy eyes, or eyes that seem to be bulging out of the socket.
- Body. Examine the body for spots, sores, and areas of discoloration, missing scales, or any signs of injury. The body should be sleek and smooth without lumps, bulges, or a sunken belly. Do no purchase fish that have any of these issues.
- Activity.Observe the fish to see if it exhibits normal activity. Fish should react if your hand is placed next to the glass. If the fish appears to shake, or clamps the fins tightly against the body, avoid purchasing that fish, as it may be ill.
The last part of the healthy Betta equation lays in the owners hands. Even the healthiest Betta in the world, won’t live long and remain healthy, if not cared for properly. Bettas require warm water, which is filtered and free of toxins. Regular partial water changes are important for continued good health. Lastly, Bettas should be fed a meaty diet patterned after the insect diet they would eat in nature. If well cared for, your Betta should live at least three years, and possibly much longer.