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Monday, August 28, 2006

Bowled over - Betta Article from Star-Telegram.com.

Bowled over

Popular bettas easy to care for

Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal

Bettas are enduringly popular pets.

All ages seem to like them, especially seniors. They are hits in nursing homes and hospitals. They are cheap ($3 and up) and easy to keep, but be warned: Tropical fish are like potato chips. It's hard to stop at one.

Here's how to get started in 10 easy steps:

1. Any basic setup is fine. A lot of tiny bowls are sold for bettas, but they are awfully small. Would you want to swim in a teacup? A gallon-size fishbowl is an attractive option.

2. Tap water is fine, but it must be conditioned. You can buy a conditioner, or let the tap water sit for 24 hours before using it. Unconditioned water will burn their lungs -- their labyrinth organs -- and kill them.

3. Temperature. Don't plop your new fish in the conditioned water. The fish needs to get used to colder temperatures gradually, and most homes are not as warm as pet stores. To do that, float the plastic fish bag with the fish still in it on top of the conditioned water in a large clean bowl. Leave the fish there for 15 to 20 minutes to get acclimated.

It is not a problem to move a betta from colder water to warmer. Keep your fish at no cooler than 70 degrees. Put the bowl on top of an electrical appliance like a TV, which will produce some warmth. Or get a small light and keep it over them. Fish are cold-blooded. The higher the water temperature, the more active they are.

4. Never fill the bowls all the way up. The smaller surface area limits oxygen. Oxygen can enter only on the surface. They will drown if they can't get air. Also, they can jump out if the water level is too high.

5. Purchase a water plant for the bowl and put an inch of aquarium gravel on the bottom. The plant should be healthy and removed or trimmed if it shows signs of discoloration. If you use gravel, wash it thoroughly with each water change.

6. Feed your betta once a day and remove any uneaten food after five minutes with a small fish net. Bettas are finicky. Some will eat only freeze-dried blood worms, but others want pellets or flakes. Some people offer their bettas live food. Talk to the seller.

7. Change the water at least once a week, sooner if it gets cloudy. Wash the bowl and decorations thoroughly. If you use soap, be sure to rinse it completely.

8. Don't put your fishbowl in direct sunlight or by a vent. This is not a fish fry.

9. Put your fish to bed at night (turn off the lights). Give them a period of darkness because fish sleep, too.

10. Buy a good betta book and/or consult Betta Talk at www.bettatalk.com when you get stuck. Keep in mind that even experts do not agree on the details.

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