siamese fighting fish

Fighting Fish Care Guide


This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Nicole Wynne BSc BVMS MANZCVS (Unusual Pets)

Our little fighting fish sometimes get the short end of the stick as they are commonly touted as easy, low (or no) maintenance pets, and unfortunately have a reputation for being able to live in a jar. They're actually surprisingly interactive and complicated little animals, and they need at least an 11 litre tank to live comfortably.

Are betta fish and fighting fish the same?

Yes, another name for fighting fish is betta, which is short for their scientific name, Betta splendens. You may see varieties of fighting fish such as crowntails, plakat, halfmoon, and dumbo - these are usually related to their fin shape and length.

Despite the misleading myths regarding fighting fish, it can't be denied that they're beautiful little fish and are a lovely addition to any home.

How to look after a fighting fish

blue siamese fighting fish

Do Fighting Fish Fight?

Yes, fighting fish do fight, and while female fish can be kept in groups, the majority of fighting fish kept as pets are males. It is easy to tell the males from the females, as the males are the ones with the classic vibrant colouration, showy fins, and spunky attitude. The females have a similar body shape, but have basic, short fins, and plain colouration. Males must be kept separately, and if multiple males are kept in adjacent tanks, an opaque divider must be used to prevent them from seeing each other.

What kind of tank do I need for fighting fish?

red fighting fish

Fighting fish require a minimum tank size of 11 litres, and the larger the tank, the better. As they are a tropical species, they also require a tank heater, and ideally a thermostat to automatically keep the water temperature between 25 and 26 degrees Celsius.

Fighting fish have an erroneous reputation for being able to live in small amounts of water as they can live in shallow water and puddles in the wild. However, shallow water such as rice paddies can still stretch for kilometers, and puddles are temporary refuges during the wet season. These fish still require a larger tank size to dilute waste and provide enrichment.

Do fighting fish need a filter?

Yes! Fighting fish do require a filter, even just for one fish.

Prior to getting your fish, you need to get your tank, filter, and water heater so that you can cycle your tank appropriately. Plan to get these items about 4-6 weeks before getting your fish.

What do I need to put in the tank for fighting fish?

fighting fish tank

You don't have to install tank furniture, but it is recommended for environmental enrichment and can make your tank into an art piece! Hides are a great way to provide your fish with a refuge. Planted tanks are gorgeous, but they take more maintenance and planning. Artificial plants are a great alternative that can fool even the most eagle-eyed observer! Finally, there are a whole range of whimsical items that can add a bit of fun to your tank.

Bubblers can also be used to increase the oxygen content of the water. Although bettas can breathe air, sufficiently aerated water will reduce stress on your fish.

You can also add substrate to the bottom for a more realistic look.

For all you ever need to know about tank decoration, check out our guide to setting up a fish tank.

What do fighting fish eat?

fighting fish

Fighting fish are ideally fed a tiny amount of floating food 2-3 times a day, and have a range of miniature pellets specifically designed for them! Each feed should only consist of 2-3 pellets, and your fish should finish everything within 3-5 minutes. They can also have brine shrimp and bloodworms as an occasional treat.

How often do I need to clean my fighting fish's tank?

fighting fish

Tank cleaning should be done based on water quality testing. Test your water quality weekly until a steady tank cleaning schedule is achieved. After that, water quality should still be tested at least fortnightly. Any levels of nitrates or ammonia should prompt a water change. A change of 20-25% of the water every 1-2 weeks is normally sufficient, and after a few months you should have a good schedule going for your tank. Water changes of 50% or above should only be reserved for dangerous spikes in ammonia or nitrate content.

How long do fighting fish live for?

white fighting fish

The average lifespan of a fighting fish is about 2-5 years, but some individuals have lived up to 10 years! The best thing to do to maximise your fish's lifespan is to ensure that your water quality, water temperature, and feeding is as good as possible.

Further Reading

Want to read more? Check out our other articles:

Setting Up a Fish Tank

The Complete Fish Feeding Guide

Best Fish for Small Aquariums

Common Aquarium Problems

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