Commonly Asked Questions About Bettas

Questions About Bettas -- Why Do They Spit Out Food?

Male Betta. Chris Hudson

Bettas are one of the most popular and easily recognizable freshwater aquarium fish. These FAQs cover the most commonly asked questions about them -- including why they sometimes spit out their food -- but feel free to email me at freshaquarium@aboutguide.com if you have others. 

  1. What is a Siamese Fighting Fish? Siamese Fighting Fish is a name often used to refer to Betta fish in general, but the name is actually specific to the species Betta Splendens, which is the species most often sold in stores.
  1. How many species of Betta are there? There are approximately 70 species of Betta, but almost all of those sold in pet stores are the species Betta Splendens.
  2. What colors of Betta are there? Bettas are available in a wide variety of colors, including red, blue, orange, yellow, green, purple, brown and black. They may be solid, bi-colored, multi-colored, marbled, piebald or variegated. there are a variety of fin types as well.
  3. How long does a Betta usually live? Bettas typically live about three years, but it's possible for them to live longer than that with good care. Male Bettas may be as much as old as a year when they're sold in shops, allowing for full color and fin development. Female Bettas are generally about six months old when they're offered for sale.
  4. What do Bettas eat? Bettas are carnivores. They require foods high in animal protein. Their preferred diet in nature includes insects and insect larvae. In captivity, they thrive on a varied diet of pellets or flakes made from fish meal, as well as frozen or freeze-dried bloodworms. Live brine shrimp and bloodworms make an excellent supplemental food on occasion and are ideal when you're conditioning breeding pairs. 
  1. What if my Betta refuses to eat or spits his food out? It isn't uncommon for fish to not eat when they're first brought home. This is particularly true for Bettas who have a reputation for being picky eaters. Feed small portions of a variety of foods and eventually your fish will eat. Don't be alarmed if the Betta spits his food out. This, too, is common behavior and it's believed to be a mechanism for breaking down and softening the food. Try some live bloodworms or live brine shrimp if all else fails -- either one will almost always entice your Betta into eating. Take care to avoid feeding live foods too often, however, or your Betta may begin to refuse to eat anything else. 
  1. Can a Betta be kept in a vase? Bettas are not well suited to keeping in a plant vase because they require good water quality and warm water temperatures to thrive. Those conditions are more readily provided by keeping them in a filtered and heated aquarium.
  2. What water temperature does a Betta require? Bettas should be in water that is at least 78 F for optimal health. When you're breeding Bettas, the water temperature should be above 80 F. Bettas will become lethargic as water temperatures get lower, particularly when the temperature drops below 75 F. 
  3. How often should the water be changed? The water should be changed every other day if the Betta is in a small container that isn't filtered. Weekly partial water changes are recommended if kept in a filtered tank. It's also important to remove uneaten food promptly so it doesn't foul the water. Bettas are sensitive to water conditions and they often fall prey to fin rot if conditions deteriorate.
  4. Can I keep several Bettas together? Male Bettas can never be kept together because they'll fight with each other, often to the death. Males will also attack females to a lesser degree and should only be kept with a female for a brief period of time for breeding purposes. Multiple female Bettas can be kept together as long as there is plenty of room for each to establish her own space. 
  1. What is the difference between a male and female Betta? Males are more vividly colored that females. They have much longer fins and they're more aggressive. Females are shorter and have wider bodies. They'll display an “egg spot” between the ventral and anal fins when they mature. Females lack the distinctive "beard" that males display when flaring. For more about gender differences, including photos, see How to Determine Betta Gender.
  2. What is a bubble nest? A bubble nest is a floating bundle of bubbles blown by male Bettas. The bubbles are created from saliva, making them more durable and also slightly sticky so they adhere to each other at the surface of the water. The purpose of the nest is to incubate eggs and young fry after spawning. Males will often blow bubble nests even when no female is present. Generally, the blowing of a bubble nest by a lone male is a sign that he is healthy and comfortable in his environment.