When learning about how to pick a betta fish, you’ll find that the whole process isn’t a hard thing to do. Even without any training in how to pick a healthy one, a quick glance at the fish itself can be enough for you to instinctively determine a healthy betta from an unhealthy betta. There are a few simple tips and trick to help make your choice a more informed one, and also a few things that you should look out for.
How to choose a betta fish
You may want to bring along a small flashlight and a small mirror.
This guide will be covering how to pick out a healthy betta from a pet store. There are a few other options out there to purchase betta fish from. You could look online to see if there is a reputable betta breeder near to you. There are websites that ship betta fish directly to your door. Ebay has many different betta breeders looking to sell their fish. You could look for an online betta fish forum and ask around. In general though, most people will visit their local pet store and pick from their selection.
Picking a betta fish to bring home in person that you can actually see swimming around in it’s tank allows you many advantages over buying a fish that you have only seen a static picture of online. That’s not to say that there aren’t some really nice looking and healthy fish to be bought online, but you can’t really argue that seeing the betta live lends to a more informed decision overall.
You may want to bring along a small flashlight and a small mirror. The flashlight is just for a better view of the betta if your pet store has dim lighting. Just try not to be overly invasive to the betta with the light. You wouldn’t want someone pointing a flashlight at you for very long either I’m sure. The small mirror is so that you can get the betta to pose for you. This basically means that the betta will extend it’s fins and sometimes flare it’s gills.
If by chance you have a ultraviolet flashlight, like the kind they make for inspecting hotel bedrooms, bring that along as well. By the way, if you click the link back there and look at the last image, you’ll see someones “pet” glowing. Unwanted betta conditions like “ich”, fin rot, slime coat fin and gill damage will highlight itself when you shine a ultraviolet light on it. Really high bacteria levels in the water will glow a bright green color as well with UV lighting.
Bringing along a brightly colored item, or wearing brightly colored clothing is also a neat trick. Betta fish respond to things that are shiny and bright. By wearing a brightly colored shirt, or switching your smartphone’s screen to a bright red background, it will be easier to get a response from the betta. This just helps you gauge the overall health of the betta and a better view of its flared fins and gills.
Take a look at the container
Water clarity and leftover food can be a good indication of how long the pet store has had the betta sitting on the shelf.
Starting out the process of how to choose a betta fish, the container that the betta is housed in at the pet store should be the first thing you check out. Most pet stores will sell their betta fish in small plastic containers that look like something you put yesterdays lunch leftovers in. Barely big enough to hold more than a cup or two of water, these temporary fish containers are often filled with water that has been colored blue. Most of the time, there is also a sedative added to the water to keep the fish calm and not stressed.
When choosing a betta, you should look at the clarity of the water itself. Although it will most of the time be colored blue, the water should still be inspected for clarity. Clear water is a good indication of how long it’s been since the water was changed. There should also be no uneaten food laying at the bottom. Water clarity and leftover food can be a good indication of how long the pet store has had the betta sitting on the shelf. There are pet store out there that do not preform regular water changes and let the waste and uneaten food accumulate. All that being said, clear water is something to look for.
Taking a quick sniff test of the container is recommended as well. The bettas container and water should be free from foul odor. An overabundance of unhealthy bacteria will cause the bettas container to smell pretty bad. Finding a betta living in water that is clean smelling is something that you will want to look for in choosing a betta fish.
Are the fish being sold kept in a warm environment? Betta’s natural habitat stays around 76-82 degrees Fahrenheit and pet betta fish should be kept in water that is between 78F-80F. If the pet store you are considering buying a betta from keeps the ambient temperature down and does little to keep it’s betta fish warm, you may want to look elsewhere. Prolonged cold temperatures make for unhappy and unhealthy bettas.
Take a look at the other bettas being sold there. If you find that there are a large number of sick or otherwise unhealthy bettas being sold at the store you are visiting, it’s a pretty sure sign that something is wrong. Some pet stores have quite a large selection of bettas to choose from and it is common to find a few that are sick. Having a few sick fish out of many is normal.
Physical appearance of the betta
Stress by itself can cause a betta to temporarily lose some of its full coloring.
Most people interested in betta fish are so because of their bright, vibrant colors. While there are some betta fish that are not naturally very bright or vibrant in color, the vast majority of betta fish for sale in pet stored are. Or rather, should be anyway. Looking at how bright and vibrant the betta fish are in their containers at the store can help you identify how healthy a fish is.
Bettas are often stressed living in the small containers at the store. The high foot traffic at pet stores and constant fondling of the containers that the bettas are in doesn’t really help with betta stress. Stress by itself can cause a betta to temporarily lose some of its full coloring. Once you bring your new betta home and it has had time to acclimate to it’s new surroundings, you will probably see an improvement in color depth. Keep this information about color loss and stress in mind for when you have had your betta at home for some time and suspect that there may be something wrong. It’s a good indicator in general.
Keep an eye out for horizontal running “racing stripes” on the betta’s body. While having a fish with racing stripes may sound cool, for the betta it’s not. These lines, or racing stripes, are signs of a stressed betta. Betta’s that are naturally lighter in color have these stress stripe stand out more than darker color bettas. Stress stripes are something that go away once the fish is brought home and living in a decent aquarium.
Take a look at the betta’s fins
Betta fish while still at the pet store are likely to have ripped or torn fins. While this is very common, it’s still sad to see.
A healthy betta’s fins look bright, whole and full when posed. Betta fish while still at the pet store are likely to have ripped or torn fins. While this is very common, it’s still sad to see. A common cause of betta fin damage is a result of poor handling during transportation. Some pet store house their bettas in aquariums with other fish that nip at the bettas attractive fins. Also, bettas are know to bite at their own tails when stressed.
When the fins of a betta become ripped or torn, the risk of infection to the fins increases. Bacterial infections such as fin rot can cause serious complications to the fish if not dealt with quickly. If you end up bringing home a betta with fin damage, there are informational guides on this site on how to encourage regrowth that you can follow. In general though, you just want to provide a warm and clean aquarium with plenty of room for your betta. Good, clean and warm water alone will work wonders on an otherwise unhealthy betta.
Betta that are feeling unhappy or sick will often clamp their fins. Clamped fins look like the betta is pulling it’s fins closer to the body. Betta’s often clamp their fins when the temperature of their aquarium is too cold. It can also mean that the fish is living in unhealthy water, or the fish is unhealthy itself.
It’s also a good idea to check the betta’s gills. You are looking to see if they are functioning properly or not. If you see that one or both gills don’t seem to close right, the fish may be dealing with an inflammation. Most of the time inflamed gills look red around the edges. Betta’s often open and close their mouths as part of normal fish life, but if you see a betta that appears to be overly gasping for air, that betta may be having a hard time getting oxygen. This could be caused by poor water quality, possible inflammation of the gills or injury. In any-case, gasping for air isn’t something a healthy betta does. You can take a look at the other bettas nearby in the pet store to compare habits to if you are able.
Look at the betta’s body
You want to watch out for small white spots on the body.
A healthy betta’s body, belly and scales should appear smooth and flush without protrusions. If you notice any thing other than what should be a smooth fish body, such as bumps or lumpy areas, the fish may be unwell. Abnormally lumpy areas or swelling on the betta’s body may be indicators of an ulcer or tumor. If the betta is missing some scales, the fish may have endured physical injury at some point.
You want to watch out for small white spots on the body. There is a very contagious (to other fish) parasitic condition called “ich” that resembles a sprinkled salt like appearance. Betta Ich is treatable, but probably not something you want to bring home with your betta fish on day one. Larger fuzzy white patches on the body or the fins would most likely be a fungal infection. Also not something you probably want to have in a new pet fish.
If the betta’s scales are protruding, or raised from flush, the betta is most likely suffering from a life threatening disease called dropsy. People also refer to a pine cone like appearance when talking about dropsy.
An overly round belly area is a symptom of bloating and/or constipation. If the betta is listing to one side when swimming, or unable to swim properly in general, the fish may have a swim bladder issue. Swim bladder issues are most commonly caused by poor water conditions, and can be corrected once brought home and placed in a properly setup aquarium. Swim bladder issues can also be caused by other, more serious conditions that you may not want to take on.
The betta’s eyes should be clear. A betta that has cloudy or milky eyes may have an infection of sorts or may have sustained an injury. While a betta’s eyes naturally stick out to a small degree, if the betta you are looking at has eyes that are outright bulging in their sockets, that betta may have an aptly named bacterial infection called “popeye”. As a general rule, bacterial infections can and should be treated. Most people would rather choose a completely healthy betta to bring home though.
All done choosing a betta
Well, that about wraps things up. Now you should be pretty knowledgeable in how to pick a good betta fish. All things considered, picking out a healthy betta for you to bring home is not that hard of a thing to do. Sure, there is a lot of scary sounding things for you to watch out for, but the vast majority of the time it won’t be difficult. For me, the most difficult task involved in bringing home a new betta is naming it! You are on your own for that one though. Make sure that you have your tank set up before you choose a betta fish to bring home. You need to let the aquarium have time to settle and heat to the proper temperature. Oh, and don’t forget the betta food!
How to pick a good betta fish video!
I found a pretty neat video that covers some of what was talked about here in this “how to pick a betta fish” guide. It’s posted here at the bottom in hopes that you will have read the guide before hand. Have you ever watched a movie after reading a book and thought “the book was better “? While my writing may not be very fun to read, it is very thorough. Enjoy the clip below and click through to like and subscribe to the creators channel if you felt that the presenter did a good job!