Housing Fighting Fishes from Thailand 
One to a tank please.  

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Here's how we house our roundtail bettas.

Why call them “Siamese Fighting Fish?”  Reason #1.  Bettas originally came from Siam  -- which we call Thailand these days (Anna changed the name a while back).  About 98% of the bettas we sell still come from Thailand.  Occasionally we get some from Indonesia and Malaysia.  A few we get from breeders here in Des Moines.  Reason #2.  Bettas like to fight each other.

Here's how they house them at a wholesale distributor.  Note the "lids."

Kept like this, they cannot jump out.  And they're easier to feed.

They're housed in very tiny cups with no lids.

Not a whole lot of room in these cups.

Siamese Fighting Fishes Fight.  Some people do keep male bettas together.  On the average though, do not try to keep two bettas together -- not even a male and a female.  Bettas rarely kill each other.  However, they will tear each other’s fins off for entertainment.  You usually wind up with two ragged, badly colored bettas.  Wounds encourage diseases.


We stock lots of bettas at Aqualand.

What are Roundtails?  In many parts of Southeast Asia (and Des Moines), the bets get pretty serious on the outcomes of betta fights.  The main betta type wagered on is the “roundtail” – a heavier built, short-finned betta.  Most tropical fish keepers prefer the prettier, longer finned (and also less expensive) “normal” bettas.

What are Double Tails?  If you dig around enough, you can also find a heavier bodied “double tailed betta.”  This thick-bodied variety carries twice as many rays in its top and bottom fins and has two tails.  You can find several other betta types if you check around -- including comb tails, crown tails, butterflies, half moons .. the list goes on and ....

Here's a box of 150 roundtail bettas from Thailand.  Note the small size of the bags.

Thailand long fins bettas.  Small bags enable them to stuff 150 in a small box.

Indonesian double tail bettas come in these flat bags stapled in sets of five.

Bettas from U.S. sources come bagged individually.

Temperature.  Since bettas come from Southeast Asia, they hate our winters.  They need a minimum of 75o.  They prefer 80o.  If you intend to breed them, provide the 80o. 


Anabantids.  Warm water contains less O2.  Many fishes that live in extremely warm waters possess a “labyrinth” or auxiliary breathing organ.  Our native dogfishes, for instance, can live in shallow, extremely warm, muddy water for a similar reason.

Small Java lance ferns help keep their water clean.

Clean Water.  The bettas’ labyrinths enable them to breathe atmospheric oxygen.  They prefer clean water but will endure bad water for brief periods.  Dirty water encourages a nasty disease called velvet.  Change their water often.

Velvet Diagnosis.  Each scale appears trimmed in the tiniest gold, talcum-powder-sized flecks.  Sick bettas clamp their fins and drop to the bottom.  Velvet-infected fish cease swimming and look obviously sick.  Baby bettas frequently die of velvet or starvation (or both).

Prepared Foods.  For years bettas refused all commercial fish foods.  Now, you can find several commercial betta foods.  We carry the versions by:

  1. HBH

  2. O.S.I.

  3. Hikari

  4. San Francisco Bay

Preferred Foods.  If you can find them, bettas love mosquito larvae.  Bloodworms (freeze-dried or frozen) are a close approximation to the skeeters they eat in nature.  They also love house flies, tiny earthworms, frozen brine shrimp, and California blackworms (especially live ones).  They also eat the freeze-dried versions of these critters and beef heart.  They love white worms and always eat way too many of these tasty morsels.

You'll find all kinds of support supplies for bettas.

Feed lightly.  Feed your bettas sparingly.  Bettas burn up little energy compared to most fishes.  For instance, a zebra danio needs about 10 times more food because it never stops swimming.  Bettas stop swimming all the time.  They swim even less in small containers.

Since they came in these tiny bags, you know you can keep them in bowls.

Several companies make "betta bowls."

Small Containers.  Bettas need little room because they breathe air.  Unfortunately, most small containers pose heating problems.  You can find “betta barracks“ that attach to the inside of your community tank with suction cups.  These house up to four bettas.  Small 21/2 gallon tanks divide into three separate compartments and will accept small heaters and filters.  Metal-framed seven-compartment betta tanks used to be quite common.  You rarely see these anymore -- except in garage sales.

More betta bowls.

Lotsa Bettas.  Glass drum-shaped bowls make great betta containers.  They’re easier to get your hands into when cleaning.  However, you can often find free jars – the bigger the better.   Store extra water in a large plastic trash can to age it.  Avoid netting the bettas when cleaning.  Even the softest nets encourage fungal growth on their tender skin.

Quickie Shelves.  You can easily and quickly knock together a series of 1x4 shelves to hold your bettas.  Tape a sheet of clear plastic over the front and back of the shelves and heat your betta biotope with a 60-watt light bulb on the bottom shelf.  Use a larger bulb and/or more bulbs to increase the temperature to between 75o and 80o.  LA.

Kirsti Hanna, June 15, 2006
Your article 'Housing Fighting Fishes from Thailand' is one of the most depressing, cruel things I've ever encountered. Encouraging people to keep bettas in tiny bowls? Showing photos of bettas in such cruel, little plastic bags? Do you really find this suitable? It makes me sick.
This 'article' begs to encourage cruelty towards these beautiful creatures. I implore you to change it and encourage people to find their fish more humane housing.
owner of over 30 bettas, who all live in FISH TANKS (imagine!)

A:  The small bowls are temporary homes.  The plastic bags are shipping containers.  LA

Shin Shien, September 27, 2006
On your keeping bettas page, I read the complaint from Kirsti Hanna, and I disagree. I keep well over 100 bettas, and they live 1 per quart mayonnaise jar. My bettas have never enjoyed living in even a 5-gal tank. 1 male living in a mayo jar breeds 4 times per year. Tell me, was he not healthy living in the jar? BTW, I clean their water weekly.

A:  I agree with you.  Once you see one of the Thai betta farms with 10,000 bettas living in fifth size whiskey bottles, you know that very few bettas are captured from the wild.  I keep ours in even smaller containers.  They're still happy enough to build their bubble nests.  LA

Ryuzaki Hideki, Colorado Springs, CO, December 13, 2007
I was browsing your web pages and stumbled across your awesome betta page.  I read the complaint from Kirsti Hanna, I'm surprised that she would say that.  I have about 50 bettas, and a friend who breeds bettas. I tried keeping mine in a 10-gallon, and he was miserable. He always seemed overwhelmed and jumpy. I moved him back into a 1 qt jar and he was happy as could be.  My friend keeps all his fish in 1 qt jars, and I have seen him produce some really great looking fish. Keep up the great site and info!
Cruelty is stressing bettas out by making them live in large tanks, kinda like sticking someone in a huge warehouse and expecting them to be happy. ^_^


Justine Dumain, Canada, March 8, 2008
I read the complaint from that Kirsti Hanna and I think it's obvious she doesn't know much about bettas. I'm not a very experienced fish keeper, but I know for a fact that they don't do well in big tanks. I kept one in only a 1.6 gallon tank and he was miserable. He wouldn't even come out of his little castle except to eat! I have found this website to be incredibly helpful with all of my other aquarium fishes and it's been great for figuring out which ones I should purchase next. Keep up the good work!
PS. I keep my new betta in a small bowl with a tiny lamp that comes over it, and he couldn't be happier or more active!

A:  Rightyo.  LA

Rachel Beaver, Austin, TX, February 23, 2009
Hello, Your website has been very helpful to me! If you could, I would love for these two comments to be posted on the guinea pig and betta page.

I understand the small bags for shipping, but the small tanks are just not ok. Yes, bettas can survive in smaller tanks because of their labyrinth organ, but surviving is far different from thriving. To truthfully thrive a betta needs a steady temperature, which can only be achieved with a heater. I have never seen an unhappy betta in a large tank. All of mine are in tanks of at least 2 gallons with filters and heaters. The number one cause of early death in bettas is liver disease which is caused by small tanks. This is because they have no room to swim around, another reason why larger tanks are beneficial in the long term health of your betta. Another thing I should add is that a bubble nest does not mean they are happy. It is simply instinct. We have to be real here and understand that yes bettas can feel pain, and stress, but happiness is another whole thing. I have seen bettas on the brink of death building bubble nests in pet stores. They where not happy at all. I do not understand why you would want to put pictures of bettas in those tiny bags on your website, maybe one or two to show people how they are shipped, but it saddens me to see them like that. I truly hope you will take what I have said into consideration and change your webpage. I love these fish and yes, I in fact have bred them before and own many. I can safely say that I have never had a betta happy in a small tank, or all ones I have seen in small tanks have had clamped fins and look sickly, I will never put a betta in a small tank.

A:  Of course some prefer larger containers.  However, I'll post your comments.  LA

Teresa Oakley, February 24, 2009
I may not be a particularly experienced fish keeper, however even I
understand that my betta is best in a small-medium sized aquarium. He
is happy, relaxed and healthy. My previous betta who lived in the same
tank lived for 3 years. I highly doubt that any betta subjected to the
stressful, cruel confinement of your suggested housing ever live
longer than a year after purchase.
Please use your brain. Yes, Siamese fighters can survive in small
quantities of water, but surviving and thriving are very different. In
the wild they are caught in small pools of water during the dry
season, but during the wet season they move more freely. Bettas should
be kept in a moderate sized heated, filtered tank with a light, a
range of foods to avoid constipation and IF they are to be kept in a
community tank, tank mates need to be slow, non-threatening and not
too frilly or exuberant.
If you think I am a weirdo off my nut on animal blah blah, try
checking out this popular online forum, full of experienced, long term
betta keepers, who all agree that bettas need to be kept in a
stress free, spacious environment.  www.ultimatebettas.com
While I am pleased to see your temperature and other information is
generally correct, this needs to be corrected to save fish's lives and
improve your retail on betta foods and accessories (the longer they
live the more money your company makes, also the fewer deaths you have
before fish are sold or in transit.)

A:  Am I detecting a trend?  I'll add your comments to my betta housing page.  LA

Fresh shipment -- just arrived.

Tiny Java ferns feel right at home in betta bowls.

A:  People whose bettas live in glass houses should not throw stones.  I'll add your comments to my betta housing page.  I've started adding java ferns to all our betta bowls.  LA

Wendy Parish, FCBA.org, July 29, 2009
It seems that you are very misinformed about betta housing.  I’ve been keeping bettas for years and have never kept one in anything less than a 2.5 gallon tank.  I also use 5 gallon tanks and I also house bettas in my large community tanks.  They are not “scared” in larger containers – they swim about all day exploring and patrolling their homes.  Why on earth would anyone think it’s OK to keep a living creature is such small accommodations as what you advocate?  That is no different than puppy mills keeping dogs in small crates their entire lives.   I’m really disappointed with the info you are giving out – I wish there was a way for me to have your website shut down!

A:  I'm fairly well informed about betta housing.  Are you writing your criticisms on company time?  LA

Wendy Parish, FCBA.org, July 29, 2009
I emailed you during my break.  However, I don't see what that has to do with the topic of betta housing.  If you're going to respond to my email please stay on topic. 

A:  Speaking of off topic, bettas are not puppies.  I am not recommemding that you or anyone else keep your bettas in small containers.  You can use whatever size you want.  I reported on real life -- not some imaginary world where every betta lives in a 2.5-gallon tank.  Why not a 50-foot bong in Thailand?  What entitles you to keep your bettas in captivity?  Anyway, you're entitled to your own provincial opinion.  LA
I'll probably keep my website.

Pandra, San Diego, CA, August 19, 2009
I have been keeping bettas for over 20 years. I kept them in the little betta cubes that used to be so popular, and my fish were happy and healthy for around three years. Recently I decided to get a betta again and tried to do some research on the Internet. I found such a bewildering number of conflicting opinions on size of tanks, whether or not to use a filter, what kind of food to feed, etc etc etc, that I decided to just continue with what I had been successful with in the past. Keep the fish in a small container, condition the water and change it regularly, and feed it pellets. I did keep surfing and found your webpage, which I thought was very interesting and unlike many others, informative. I now have the fish in a quart container, with a couple of plastic plants and a seashell, and he's zipping around and blowing bubbles and seems very interested whenever anybody walks past. I think he'll live a long, healthy, and happy life like my other bettas did, and I'm grateful to have found a good source of information on these fish. Keep up the great job!

A:  Thanks.  I'll add your comments to my betta housing page.   Coming soon -- Lobster Roaches -- for roach lovers everywhere.  LA

Ariel, Atlanta, GA, September 5, 2009
Re: isolating bettas in small spaces
I could keep you in my 1x1 closet and throw you some food every now and then and you'd live.  In fact, your skin would become more beautiful than others because you'd have no sun damage.  Of course, you would become mentally retarded (from lack of social contact) but you would be ALIVE!!!  You might even smile at me now and then (Stockholm syndrome) and I would determine you are happy in your 1x1 cage.  You wanna try it out for a few years?  Then you can actually speak from experience...
Try raising bettas in a pond like I have...it's a beautiful experience.  You might make an earth shattering discovery like--fish like to swim!!!  They also need to socialize.
What a concept.    FISH_LIKE_TO_SWIM
Isolating any animal in a small space--including snakes--is cruel.  

A:  How long have you had this fantasy of keeping me in your closet?  LA

Susan Todd, October 18, 2009
Wow! After reading all the opposing views of Betta bowls I just felt compelled to write my own experience with these fish. My own blue female just  passed last week. I had her for two years . She was a Wal-Mart rescue. I had an extra 10 gal tank with nothing but plants in it, so I bought her and put her in it. She recovered quickly and within two weeks killed a wild caught pond minnow. I have two ponds in front of my apartment with native fish and koi in them. I caught the minnows to try out in a 50 gal container pond on my patio (another story). She didn't  kill him outright,  just worried him to death. I work 7 days a week so other than feeding and changing water I was not hovering over the fish.
This female lived happily in her tank with only snails as tank mates. She did set up her territory inside an octopus ornament which had chain swords planted around it. When food sank to the bottom, she came out to investigate. She always seemed aware of her surroundings when I spent time watching her behavior. Bettas can move their eyes  independent of moving their bodies which makes these fish seem human and intelligent (for fish anyway -- a step up from platys and guppies). I fed her TetraMin pellets or flakes, occasionally I crushed the tiny snails for her. She colored up beautifully -- like a  blue jewel on a background of green.
Occasionally I did have to move her to ornamental bowls for varying periods of time. I always put a piece of hornwort in the bowl because it stands up the best in bowls. (I moved from one apartment to another --needed more fish and computer space.) She adjusted beautifully. (I kept) the water clean and put in the hornwort -- just a 3 inch piece will do) I don't like to keep bettas in bowls during the winter even in coastal Georgia without supplying some means of heat. I don't think that putting a male betta in a bowl and putting the peace lily plant on top of the bowl and never feeding him is a healthy practice either (looks great for a while but they tend to like a little meat in their diet).
I have kept fish since I was five and even managed a pet store for 6 years when I was attending UGA (1980s). I usually keep at least one betta at all times. They are just so pretty. All of my bettas have had slightly different personalities. Some have lived in community tanks. Others were just too aggressive. Don't put them with long fined fish like fancy guppies. They will snack on guppy tails. Don't put bettas with tiger barbs. Betta tails will be the snack. Fish are like children as they mature their personalities changes somewhat.
All this being said, breeders and shippers have thousands of fish to house and clean. You would not be able to buy these fish at 3-6 dollars if each fish got his own 2 gallon  heated bowl. Shipping costs are expensive.  Fish are flown into airports around the country and the dealer has to be there to pick them up and get them into the tanks in pet shops ASAP. Many was the time I lost an entire shipment because of summer heat with guppies or cold weather with the neons. My shop was part of a chain so my fish went to a central warehouse in Atlanta where they were stabilized and then shipped again. My fish were bagged early that morning or the night before and did not get unpacked by me until 7 or 8 pm that night. Since my store was in Athens, Georgia I was last on the route so the fish might be in bags for 12 hours .
Bettas are shipped exactly like you see in the pictures -- tiny bags so a lot can be put in a box and flown to the US. I don't know what the cost per box is anymore, but it is not cheap. Thankfully bettas are not an endangered species and can withstand individual losses in the population.
Any reputable pet shop tries really hard to house their fish humanly and attractively until sold. They have to put more fish in their tanks than what you can keep in your home aquaria. Use the one inch of fish per gallon rule as a guideline, then tweak according to your species of fish and their specific requirements. I personally try to understock the tank rather than push the limit because I know I can't change 100 gallons of water in all my tanks every week. I don't have the time.
I hope this helps someone in the "Tank Size War."

A:  I have found that logic and reason rarely change anybody's mind.  LA

Heather Sexton, Carlisle, IA. October 28, 2009
I've had my betta for 3 years now, his name is Russell, and he's a red half-moon betta. he gets Attison's betta food and a cooked chopped up pea every other Sunday. He lives in a half gallon tank and is very happy. I keep him in my bathroom with the door closed so the temp stays about 78 degrees.
He gets a full water change every five days, and has water conditioner, a little aquarium salt, and Attison's betta spa added to his water. He is my best friend, and I think that big tanks can be dangerous. It is very easy for bettas to get sucked into filters because of their long flowing fins. And they stress very easily if there is turbulence in their water. Many bettas are bred in small areas, and are used to being in those conditions. I think Aqualand does a really good job with all their animals. Keep up the good work :)

A:  Thanks for the endorsement.  I'll add it to my betta housing page.  Next time you're in, bring in that Attison's stuff.  I've never heard of it.  LA

Brian Rhmi, California, March 13, 2010
Actually, I have a few things to address.
First of all, I want to let you know that I love your site! It's usually one of the first ones I go to when I'm researching new fish or plants.
I just want to let you know that Java fern does not just send out plantlets from the tips of its leaves, one of mine has three plantlets running down the length on one of the leaves. I have (hopefully) enclosed a photo for reference.
Also, I would greatly appreciate it if you add a page (it would be my wish if the link was bold and easy to see) about the Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle. Most fishkeepers (including me) started out without properly cycling a tank, and suffered heavy losses as a result (I lost half my population the first week). Other fish just seemed to drop dead without any apparent reason, though this is actually a result of ammonia poisoning. If you had a page dedicated to the Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle and ways of fishlessly cycling an aquarium, it would greatly reduce the deaths of the fish from newcomers reading your site; the nitrogen cycle is truly one of the most essential aspects of fishkeeping.
I also disagree with your Betta page; in my opinion (note: opinion), bettas should be kept in tanks of at least 2.5 gallons; again, having a too small tank will easily experience ammonia and nitrite spikes that may injure the fish. Despite the common belief, bettas do not come from mud puddles, they originate from spacious but shallow rice fields. Heating and filtration are required; a filter should be used to harbor colonies of beneficial, nitrifying bacteria; a heater is to retain the warm, tropical environments that the bettas were once from. Too small of a tank makes filtration, and especially heating, difficult.
Again, congratulations on such an incredible site! Keep up the good work!

They clone from lef ends ...

And they clone from the middles of the leaves.

A1:  Yep, they come from all parts of the leaves.
A2:  I wrote How to Start a Successful Aquarium  back in 1980.  (It's in the left-hand column.)  The quickest way to short circuit the nitrogen cycle -- add a gallon of water siphoned from a crowded African cichlid under gravel filter.  Voila -- instant aged tank.
A3:  Today's bettas come from individual fifth-size whiskey bottles with twice weekly water changes.   They are housed in unheated pole buildings similar to our egg-factory chicken houses (which I used to build last millennium).  They walk across the bottle tops to feed and make water changes.


We keep our bettas in small bowls with every other day water changes by Kellie .  I added a mini-Java fern to every bowl except the roundtails just before lunch today,  I added your report to our betta page.  LA

Victoria Murphy, June 21, 2010
Hello, I stumbled on your web page. I read the info about bettas and while it did have some true information on it, it sort of left a lot out. I'd like to point out a few things that I think you could add to your page, and a few things that need corrected/clarified.
1.  The minimum tank size for a betta is 1 US gallon, and that should be cleaned out 100% every 3-4 days. It's much more convenient to keep them in at least a 2.5gal, since that only needs to be changed 100% once a week and is easier to heat. I realize you point out that their water should be cleaned often, but you never specify what often is.
2.  Water is going to be cooler than the air around it, so keeping your room at 75F is not going to keep your fish tank at 75F, just thought I'd point that out.
3.  I agree that keeping bettas in small spaces is fine temporarily, the way they are shipped and the way they're kept in stores is FINE so long as the water is changed accordingly and it's a temporary situation. Pet stores never keep animals in containers that they should be in for the rest of their lives. Number one, that would be impractical, and number two it's only temporary. But I would also like to point out that bettas are not scared of large spaces, that is a myth
Usually when people have issues with putting bettas in larger tanks has something to do with the other fish in the tank. They take the betta from the bowl to, say, a 20gal with tiger barbs. Then the betta cowers in a corner and tries to escape being attacked by the barbs. This behavior is seen as being scared of a larger tank. Another common problem is not cycling the tank before the fish goes in. Thus stressing the fish and quite possible making him/her lethargic. There is no real logic behind a betta being afraid or stressed out by a larger aquarium. In the wild, bettas have territories spanning 1 square yard or so. Yes, this water is shallow but there is a lot of horizontal space.
4.  Wild Betta splendens aren't half as aggressive as domestic bettas. When they were first bred, they were made for fighting. Then they were bred for looks, but the aggression was never bred out of them. It is possible to keep wild Betta splendens together, but 99.9% of the time it's going to end up with you having dead fish if you try it with domestic bettas. It almost always goes wrong in the long run. Just thought that was an interesting factoid that you could add.
5.  Bettas do have a labyrinth organ, and yes they can tolerate low oxygen environments. But that is an adaptation to deal with life threatening conditions. Not something you want to re-create in your aquarium. They do not, however, have any adaptation that helps them deal with high ammonia levels. Which is what you really have to worry about in small tanks.
6.  Bubble nesting is not a sign of happiness or health, it is an instinct. Breeding is also not a sign of being healthy, look at puppy mills. Those dogs breed even when they're sick/starving.
So, that's just a few suggestions of stuff you could put on your page/alter on your page. Bettas are my passion and I really like letting people know the truth about their cage, so when I saw your page I couldn't help myself. lol.

A:  Lots of good info here, so I'm adding it to my betta housing page.  Couple of comments.
2.  Water is usually 2 degrees F cooler than room temperature due to evaporation.
4.  Wild bettas are naturally aggressive.  They weren't bred to fight.  They want to fight.

Pretty good clue as to condition.

6.  Sick and starving critters usually won't breed.  That's why we "condition" them -- also known as pamper them.  LA

Bronwyn Deyzel, South Africa, July 1, 2010
Hi there from South Africa. While I'm sure you are tired of hearing about this I felt I should add my own experiences. I have a male crowntail who started off in a 40L community and then graduated to my 1.2m community and I had no problems with him. He enjoyed the space. He now has a 70L that I had especially made for him and that is slightly shallower than a normal tank. I have scaped it with a rock 'mountain' with many caves and live plants including Amazon swords, java fern, Anubias nana and java moss. I will be adding a wood feature as well. I know that there are people trying to get legislation passed in Australia for a minimum requirement of 2 gallons per fish for betta tanks and I think it is a move in the right direction. There is also an activist group campaigning for betta rights. They said it better than I ever could. Would you like to live in your cupboard? Bettas are intelligent and have definite personalities how then can it be justified keeping them in such small quarters. I have found your site to be useful, informative and has great pictures but I think it is up to pet stores like yourself to lead in encouraging people to buy proper tanks for their bettas with filters and heaters. People look to their stores for information and guidance and the stores could help improve the lives of countless bettas in the process. Just because they can live in small bowls and jars doesn't mean they should. Most pet stores don't do the required water changes needed to maintain healthy fish and thousands die for no other reason than laziness. it is sickening.  Regards

A:  I never get tired of hearing from people (from all over the world) who want to provide the best for their fish (and other pets).  That's why I do this web site (besides amusing myself at the same time).  My other purpose is to educate other pet store owners.
I oppose two groups:  1)  Those that equate people with pets (including fish) and 2) governments that feel they have to tell everyone in the world how they should treat their pets.
I encourage everyone to treat their pets as well as they can.  We tell our customers "the bigger the better" on nearly everything we sell.  I started out keeping fish in gallon jars as a kid because I could get them free from restaurants.  Happily, I can provide more room these days.  At last count we had 471 tanks with live fish in them.  I really need/want about three times that many -- the larger the better.
Ditto on the other pets.  You might say I like them.  I also realize not everyone can have all the equipment they want.
Thank you (and others) for your input.  I like hearing from you.  I also enjoy visiting hobbyists who've gotten carried away with fish and other pets.  I'm glad to know there are others out there almost as obsessed (not really the best word) as I am.  LA

Ripple Takakumo, Taiwan, August 1, 2010
Hi there from Taiwan, first of all I would say that your website has been very helpful and informative which helped me a lot during my 14 years of fishkeeping times. After reading about this "Betta Housing War" I felt that I'd share my experiences with Bettas.
First of all we all know that this fish can survive in small containers. Indeed this is the case, but, they are often in sickly conditions due to poor water management. I've kept many different bettas before, and I have generally concluded that a 5 gallon (roughly 20 litres) tank suits them the best. Whilst they do just fine in small containers, they often appear somewhat dull and inactive. The water also fouls quickly in the tiny cubes. It is fine, although unnecessary, to house them in massive tanks. Surely it provides them space, but from my experience some of them (especially males) get stressed out and hide in the corner all the time. I would recommend betta keepers to offer each fish about 5 gallons of water if possible, which doesn't take up much space (about a 20 cm aquarium) and will house the betta just fine. Smaller containers may be used temporarily, but if you wish to keep your betta healthy it is more ideal to provide them with a reasonable sized container. After all, if you buy a fish, it is your responsibility to keep it healthy and happy. Tiny cubes are, in my opinion, not the ideal container for these fishes.
Concerning the shipping in small bag part, I feel that it is completely okay to ship them in small bags, as long as they are given fresh water and a larger space upon arrival. It is unfortunate to see many betta keepers still retaining the concept "The larger, the better". We should look for an aquarium that is suitable for the betta itself, as a tank too large would be unnecessary. (Just like living in a grand mansion alone.) I'm not saying, however, that small cubes should be encouraged. Simply imagine you living in the toilet room for a week. Surely it wouldn't be a pleasant experience. Finally, I would advise people to think beforehand using some common sense and logic before criticizing others. Regards,

A:  Thanks for your input.  When keeping fish in very small containers, you need to make daily water changes.  If you feed live foods you may change the water as seldom as every three or four days.  It helps to have a handy service cart (Rubbermaid makes a good one) and large reservoirs of aged water.  Keepers of large quantities of bettas also need to "card" them.  You put opaque sheets between the males and pull them a couple times a day.  Another suggestion is to rotate the jars so they have new neighbors to flare at every day.  There's no real betta housing war.  It just that keepers of two or three bettas will always keep them differently than people who keep 50 or 100 bettas.  LA

Peg, Ontario, Canada, August 8, 2010
First of all, I'd like to say you have a very nice and informative site. You must have put a lot of work into it and I, for one, really appreciate it, as I own a lot of different types of fish.
But, wow, the conflict on Betta housing seems to be a big deal on your housing page, when it really shouldn't be. I am, by far, no betta expert but I really enjoy owning them. Of course, as with any fish, their environment is important. But these guys seem to have individual personalities as well. Some I have had did not seem happy by themselves in smaller bowls and I did then introduce them to the larger community tanks, where they thrived. I had this one betta who just loved being in my 25 gal tall tank, and when he (sadly) passed away, I later got another one who just didn't want to take to it at all! He ended up being much happier in a bowl, on his own.
I think people ought to realize, with these fishes, that what works best for the owner and the fish, is the way to go. And just keep a watchful eye and an open mind. There's no need for putting down someone else's choices that seem to work for them just because they don't work for others. There's a reason it's suggested that bettas are housed in small containers, and that's because of how their natural environment is. My sister had one that was only happy in very shallow water!
Thanks for your very lovely site. It has helped me a lot over the years as I have learned long ago to never ever listen to the employees at the stores.


A:  It stands to reason that people who keep Siamese fighting fish might be a bit belligerent themselves.  Bettas are really flexible.  There are few absolute standards in the hobby.  No need to thank me for the amount of work -- it's a compulsion.  LA


Caleb Ott, Australia, August 23, 2010
Hello LA, I'm in Australia but I love your website, and especially researching on it. Well, you say bettas (commonly called fighter fish over here) live for about 2 yrs. My Nan's fighter, which has a 1 gallon bowl with gravel, java fern and moss, has lived for 5 yrs this year and is still going strong. She has fed HBH betta pellets, dried bloodworms about every 2 months, and very, very occasionally, live blackworms. The tanks gets completely cleaned out every 2 months and the water is surprisingly cool. She got him from a humble Asian breeder in a quite poor suburb. Apparently this one thrives on neglect. Thanks for having a great website :)

A:  Her betta certainly helps their average lifespan records.  I'll add it to the betta housing page.  Thanks.  LA

Mike Tonge, November 4, 2010
Hi LA, There certainly seems to be wide spread opinions regarding how to keep bettas. Your comment, "keepers of two or three bettas will always keep them differently than people who keep 50 or 100 bettas", says it all. I only have a few male bettas and I can afford the space to keep them in 2 gallon bowls. This seems to be the optimal size to keep individuals. They are also large enough to create decorative scenes in. Of course, clean water, proper feeding and constant temperatures are important too. Making these fish happy is no trick, just don't ignore them. I like to play with my bettas by wiggling my fingers at them. I have one betta who likes to strike at my finger tip when I dabble it in the water. If you follow play time with treats, your bettas will always get excited when they see you ;-)

A:  I couldn't agree with you more.  Here's a bit more info.  At one time I tried putting 50 bettas in 50 individual ten gallon tanks.  Okay in theory, but since the 50 tanks were mixed here and there among 500 other tanks, there was no way I could keep track of where they were when customers were looking for a specific color.  LA
I added your comments to the betta housing page.

roger crouch, February 20, 2011
An observation on something you keep pointing out about betta and are dead wrong about.
The bubble nest has nothing to do with the health of the fish, I've had dying Betta build bubble nests when it was way too late for them to survive long enough to even fertilize.
I've even seen a female in the store kill herself trying to say "hi" to me because the breeder cupped her too young and her fry growth hadn't stopped.
Betta spl. is a domestic animal with a large amount of reinforced in-breeding in much of the world now, just because they do things doesn't mean those things only happen from natural reactions.
I try to teach all my Sorority (tank of females) names with much success, use a stick to separate them when they get too aggressive and have even seen one go insane from lack of rest trying to keep another dying one at the surface so she could breathe. 
What we have in the United States is a rapidly increasing stock of localized Betta that are drifting genetically from the original source, they're becoming domesticated animals.
 I have NEVER had a Betta that was afraid of any size tank. Their natural habitat has almost no circulation at all, if the Betta you handled at the store didn't like large tanks it was the failing of the keeper to comprehend the environment or the neurotic breeding of the supplier doing simple breed selection to reduce their bottom line resulting in creatures unable to cope with open spaces.
Defending the tiny cup scenario is simply defending your profit margin and reinforcing the supplier's cold stinginess, it isn't a universal fact.
You might as well be stupidly referring to all dogs liking to be carried in a purse.
Been getting rich off your Betta mill sales then?

A:  Not quite rich but I do own my own car.  LA

Danelle, Midland, TX, February 20, 2011
First of all, I love your website. I came across it a few times before my husband and I became fish addicts last year, but since adding more and more fish to our lives we have really spent a lot of time reading your information! Thanks for all the work you do.
As for betta housing I wanted to add one thing which might help out people desperately trying to figure out what to keep their betta in. There is so much animosity from some betta keepers that it can be hard for someone who is new. Here's the scoop. Charlie was a beautiful, bright blue regular finned betta who was given to me when I was 16. His owners were finally retired and they wanted to travel the nation and didn't want to leave Charlie while they were on the road, so they gave him to me. They thought he would croak before they actually retired because they had him four years. Not only did he live four years with them, but he lived another two years with me! He was huge and seemed to love his vase. Yep, his vase! He was housed in a 1 gallon vase with a peace lily in it. He was fed cheap betta pellets and dried brine shrimp. Regular water changes were done, but he wasn't kept perfectly since as a 16 year old girl I had very little clue as to how often I should be changing his water and forgetting was easy to do. Charlie swam around a lot, interacted with others, and loved having things placed near his bowl. He was also a frequent bubble nest builder.
I really have a hard time saying that such and such a fish is happy. Fish don't seem to have human emotions even with different personalities. This leads me to think that the argument that a person wouldn't want to live in the bathroom or a small closet is just silliness. After all, a fish isn't a person and even with a personality doesn't have the complexity of thought or mental powers of a person. I haven't been keeping fish or inverts long, but most don't seem to breed if the conditions aren't right. You need to condition them with good foods, have optimum water quality, and meet their optimum needs in order to make it happen (unlike the puppy mill dogs which produce puppies when ill and poorly cared for).
Overall, I have now kept bettas in small betta cubes, 1 gallon vases, a 1.5 gallon tank, a 5 gallon tank, a 10 gallon tank, and a 25 gallon community tank. More work is required for good water quality in a small space. Heating and filtration is always a plus. But it isn't really necessary. I don't think most bettas are afraid of large spaces, but in most cases they don't appear to hate small ones either as long as the water is good, isn't cold, and they are well fed. Our current betta is a crowntail male who lives with ghost shrimp, assassin snails, and African dwarf frogs in a 10 gallon tank...he seems happy though I debate about putting him in a smaller space so I can keep more fish in that tank. :-P
Anyway...that turned out to be long and rambling! Keep up the good work and thank you for all of your time and energy.
1-55 gallon brackish water tank, 2-29 gallon freshwater tanks, 1-25 gallon freshwater tank, 1-10 gallon freshwater tank, and 1-5 gallon freshwater tank...owner of a variety of fish, snails, crayfish, and shrimp


A:  Thanks for the kudos.  The site is not like real work.  I've tried real work and I can tell the difference.  LA

Chris Skelton, London, ON, February 21, 2011
Hello LA, I enjoy your web page and the vast amounts of educational material and information that it has provided me with (which probably saved me a lot of time and money as well in terms of compatibility and other fish characteristics).  Although I have never owned a fighting fish, what is the deal with some of the keepers that send you emails about the size of the container that they should ideally be kept in?  Would they criticize my 45 Gal hex amazon river tank as being cruel towards my fishes (grumpy banjo catfish included) because it is not 6,800 km long or that it doesn't displace 7.38 million cubic feet of water per second? therefore not ideally satisfyingly my fish and making me a cruel snow shoveling Canuck of the north?   Anyways, I think people should stop and think about criticizing your information and experiences in keeping fighting fish and ponder whether they know of (or seen) the natural habitat of said fish in the wild before jumping to wild estimates of the ideal volume needed to contain said fish to live its full, if not extended, life expectancy. 
Keep up the great work and I wish you great success with your new renovations.
Gratefully honored to correspond with you,


A:  I haven't actually seen the original natural habitat from whence bettas came.  But I have seen 35m slides of several Thai betta farms taken by my longtime betta buddy, Gene Lucas.  The 10,000 whiskey bottles with maintenance workers walking on top of them were very impressive.  I also saw pictures of the bongs (that's what they call them) that pla kats (bettas) grow in naturally. I have seen in real life the fish rooms of several IBC members and can definitely say there's more than one way to skin a pla kat.  LA


Alyssa, Texas, November 15, 2011
I keep bettas, and I have for years. My first betta started in a 1 gallon bowl, and let's just say, he appeared very depressed all the time. I eventually moved him  up to a 2 gallon, and he got happier. He had a bubble blower he played with, plants to hide in,  and enjoyed making faces at me. He was in a 10 Gallon tank for a short while, and loved it. There is such a thing as too much room for a betta, and they cant live in deep tanks, but they like the stimulation of things to do. Very small places lead to a bored, depressed fish. I have a female right now in a 10 gallon with a couple of mollies and she is having the time of her life! Just yesterday she was giving herself a belly massage with the bubble blower! Each betta is an individual and likes different things, but I don't think you should encourage small spaces.
I hate how they are shipped, because it is very stressful. But at the same time I know that due to their single housing requirements it is unavoidable. Same as the in store containment. But those little white cups are awful, they cant even move. The larger cups used in most pet stores are better because at least they can move. But even those fish seem depressed in such small quarters. Again though, obviously you cant give each fish elaborate housing. But as far as people who own bettas as pets, They should be encouraged to give him housing that allows for proper mental stimulation. They are smart, and interactive fish if you get to know them. My bettas know me versus my mom. Give them a chance to be happy. ^^


A:  Probably the best way to stimulate bettas in small containers is to "card" them.  Bettas get used to their neighbors when they see the same ones every day.  Pulling the cards causes them to flare and strut their stuff.  Do this a few times each day and you'll grow better looking and healthier bettas.  I'm adding your comments to my betta housing page.  LA

Elizabeth Song, Pennsylvania, December 20, 2011

Hi, so I wanted to comment on how everyone is talking about betta tank size. Its very understandable why pet stores keep them in small containers. It would be ridiculous to give each betta a tank. But I don't think betta owners should continue to keep them in small containers. In my opinion, 1 gal should be the minimum. And to the scenario Ariel gave about you living in a closet, I don't think you will become retarded just really bored like a betta would. I hope this doesn't offend you.
Interesting fact. Female bettas can be tankmates. This grouping is called a sorority. It's recommended to have at least 5 females if you are going to do this, because if you have 2 females, one may bully the other to death. For the first 3 days, they will fight to sort out the hierarchy, but they should be fine afterward, unless you have a really aggressive fish. Also for sororities, its better to get females that were hatched together because they already have a hierarchy set up.
PS. I think the main reason people freak out about tank size is because of your pictures. The picture of the shipment of bettas from thailand was a little upsetting. My first thought when I saw those pics were that they must be really stressed out and all of them probably have stress stripes. Of course, how Thailand manufacturers ship out their fish is not your fault.


A:  Thai betta "factories" ship their bettas in very compact bags because air freight from Bangkok is very expensive.  While in Los Angeles a few decades ago, I saw perhaps 60 male and female adult bettas kept in a tall 18.  They were housed in there since birth and the water was pink with vitamin K.  The males did not develop the expected long fins and all seemed to get along fine.  Housing choices are limitless.  LA
Female bettas housed separately have almost as much desire to fight as the males.  Males housed in colonies (fraternities) usually develop their finnage slower than average.  They're also on the pansy side. 


Rennea Caves, Oskaloosa, IA, April 7, 2012
RE  Betta housing page
Oh my, this page took a long time to read lol. And I'm going to make it longer :). I love your store and your website. I'll keep my opinions to myself and just share my experiences. I'm no expert, but I have been keeping bettas for several years and I've tried lots of housing arrangements. To have healthy bettas in small spaces you must obviously be vigilant on water changes. Some bettas are perfectly content in small spaces, which for me i prefer not to go smaller than 1 gallon. I have gone much smaller but that does not sit well for me in my home because I like to give them the opportunity to swim. While on the subject of small spaces, as far as shipping and housing them in stores I see no other way to go about it, it's just not reasonable to house them in larger spaces, and that is why I have 'rescued' so many and at one time had 20 bettas in 1 gallon bowls, jars and vases lol! That was a bit nuts. I now have 2 in 1 gal bowls (1 male & 1 female), 1 in a 2 gal bowl (male), 1 in a 5 gal tank(female), 1 in a 10 gal community tank (male), 1 in a 20T community tank (male) and a bunch of females in a 20L community tank.
I agree with parts on both sides here, but each fish is different with some preferring solitude and some thriving with company and this can only be discovered by trial and error.
They do not seem to like fast moving water regardless of tank size. But they do like to swim all around the bigger tanks patrolling and making sure the other fish remember who is boss. But they also like to rest, regardless of tank size. I have found many a betta wedged in the leaves of plants napping. In my sorority tank one girl in particular loves to swim down the under gravel filter tube to snuggle in for a nap...I finally stopped freaking out and rescuing her, thinking she would die (I have experienced several Cory cats getting stuck and dying...they don't seem to have the ability to back out?), now I know it's her favorite spot so I leave her be. In my 20T the male loves hanging out with his tank mates, but he also loves curling up in, you may laugh at this and that's good :)  but I found some shell shaped napkin rings at a garage sale and put them in the tank for decorations, and he loves to curl up in them at nap time. I love my bettas, they have great personalities, unlike many fish. In my sorority tank I often put my whole hand in the water and they cannot stay away. They swim in and out of my fingers and when I cup my hand they swim right in. I let them nibble away at me as well as it does not hurt. Having a tank of females is rewarding and I'm glad to see that a few other readers have experienced it as well, but that's a whole other article.
Now here is where I will get up on my soap box, not with opinion but with fact. Nearly every one I cross paths with pronounces the word betta incorrectly and it bugs me lol! Dust off your dictionaries and crack them open people! Or better yet use an online dictionary that will pronounce the word for you. It's not beta! Like alpha, beta... It's betta. A totally different word with a different pronunciation! Do what works right for you as far as housing them goes as long as you give them proper care...but please call them by their proper name! LOL!
Peace out :)

A:  Right on, sister.  LA

Murasaki No Ryuu, September 17, 2012
I couldn't find a comment section, but I see many comments posted below your article on betta "facts", so I am emailing you instead.
A plethora of people have already expressed how upset they are that you are encouraging inappropriately small bowls for bettas... so this is extremely repetitive, I know. But I wanted to give you another way to look at it. Do bettas sometimes live in puddles? Sure, when there's a droubt (it's not their choice). Do people breed and sell them in incredibly small cups? Yeah! (hey, I understand fish have lots of babies and you need to put a lot of fish in a little space).
The thing is... you are all over the place. First you say if a betta can live in an itty bitty bag, a small bowl is fiiiine! .Hey, I once took a ride in the open trunk space of the car for fun! That sure as heck doesn't mean I want to live in a 5'x5' house for the rest of my life ;)
THEN you answer a comment with "well that's just temporary" THEN you agree with someone and say you think they should have more space... THEN you agree with someone and say you don't think they need more than a little space. Geez... will you make up your mind already?
But anyway, this is the way I look at it... Let's look at the tens(hundreds?) of thousands of prisoners in tiny cells. They have very similar lives to fish. They lived locked up in this tiny room, they get fed regularly (Im refering to us prisons here) and they are generally kept pretty healthy. You have jail mates that might be lucky if they can stretch out the length of their cell. Let's take away their communication skills (since fish can't talk and they have much more limited body language than a person). I mean, prison life is hard and anything in the world but fun... but you don't see them sitting their crying 24/7. They exercise... They eat... they sleep... a lot of them are perfectly healthy... and I'm pretty sure they have sexual desires even when they are locked up and can't do anything about it *cough cough*... most of the time. Does that mean they are happy to live in that tiny cell?
My point is,
YES... they can live in small bowls.
YES... they may live a year or two in that bowl.
YES... most pet stores and breeders keep them in insanely small cups.
YES... people that keep them in small bowls sometimes change their water frequently
NO... that doesn't mean the ideal betta tank size is a mayonaise jar. It just means that bettas are great creatures that can survive in some pretty tight spots.
You said yourself that you both agree and disagree with the ideal betta tank size... which is it? You said that small bowls are only good temporarily, and that they are good permanently. Really, do you even KNOW your own opinions? You're seem as confused as a cat on anesthesia.

A:  You almost tempt me to re-read my comments.  Maybe later. There is no single perfect size for a betta bowl or container.  If you look around you can find several companies that make betta bowls of all different sizes and shapes.  Ditto on cars.  Keep reading and commenting,  LA
Everybody is entitled to their own opinion.  I, however, am entitled to several.

Jess Austin, Kellogg, IA, December 5, 2012
I just wanted to say the black betta, which I've forgotten the name of...is one of the healthiest little active bettas I've ever seen. Absolutely stunning. Might just be a betta but just wanted to say you have some really amazing fish and your commonly overlooked bowl fish really are stand out! We will certainly be back (for the white one eventually!). Just wanted to say good job, nice stock.

A:  I'll pass the word on to Kellie.  She's the one who takes care of them.  In fact, I was surprised to learn we had three black bettas.  Unfortunately, another betta leaped into one of their bowls and instead of two remaining, we now have 1.5 black bettas.  LA

Zach Booth, Pittsburgh, PA, January 7, 2014
My honest opinion of your betta knowledge is a amateur. For someone who has been in the business for as long as it seems you have, you know less than my 5 year old niece about keeping betta fish. When you get fish from Thailand they do that because they have no regard for the animals they are only after the money. You could probably even find a local breeder that will give you much better fish than what you are getting from overseas. Many of the fish that are shipped like they are shipped to you probably die before they leave. I'm not saying that happens often to you but many of them die. Also keeping bettas in small cups is one of the most cruel and inhumane things you can do. If you really were concerned about managing all the cleaning you would have built a betta drip system many of the breeders use these all around the country. Because 1) they allow space for the fish to swim around, unlike you tanks. 2) it allows for less maintenance, unlike yours which need cleaned multiple times a week and is not safe for the fish, betta barracks only need cleaned 2-3 times a month. And 3) it is much more efficient than dumping hundreds of gallons of water out every week. I would suggest getting in contact with a breeder since they know more about keeping betta and they can tell you about the betta barracks

Just received January 3, 2014.

A:  Oddly enough We just received these Thai bettas a few days before I got your email.  I've been to several betta breeders in several states.  I've been to wholesale suppliers in several states.  I've been to IBC shows in several states.  I've also been to betta fights (and found them boring).  You may not like how everyone else rears their bettas, but that's real life.  LA

25 received January 17, 2014.

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Misc Mini-Fishes
Misc Odd
Misc Odd II
Misc Odd III
Misc Odd  IV

Misc Odd V
Misc Odd VI

Chinese Hi-Fin Banded
Siam Algae Eater

Pond Info 
Blank Park Zoo
Bob Humphrey's Ponds
Maffett Reservoir
DMACC's Pond
D.M. Botanical Center
D.M. Water Works
Dr. Ervanian's Garden

Dwarf Lily
Ewing Park "Pond"
Jan & Chris's Water Garden
John McDonald's Pond
Hall's Four Acres
Klines' Water Garden
Landscaper Effects
Mini-Pond Pics
Pioneer Corn's Pond
Pond Fish Predators
Pond on 38th Street 
Pond Pics
Pond Plants
More Pond Plants
Pond Plants III
Reiman Ponds
River Scenes
Riverview Island
Selin's Water Gardens
Selin's Japanese Garden
Tom's Used Cars Pond
Urbandale Duck Pond
Water Hyacinth
Water Lettuce
Wild Ponds