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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Help Support the Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami

It's been about a week or so since the devastation in Japan and across the Pacific.

If you want to help please follow the link below to the American Red Cross site listing Donation sites available to everyone.
Pick a link of your choice and make your donation.

Thanks for the support!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How to Select a Healthy Betta Fish

How to Select a Healthy Betta Fish

by James Jonas

As Betta fry tend to be very, very thin and small for the first 5-6 months, the age of most of the Betta Fish found in pet stores are around 6 months or older. By this point, the store should have the males and females separated. They must do this because the males will continually become more aggressive as they age and mature. An entire tank filled with maturing males and females is a recipe for disaster.


So What Do I Look For In a Healthy Betta Fish?

1. Betta Color
2. Betta Gills & Scales
3. Betta Fins
4. Betta Eyes
5. Betta Beard
6. Betta Behavior


1. Betta Color

One of the reasons why Betta fish are so popular in pet stores today is due to their intense, vibrant coloring--especially on the males. Of the two sexes, the males are indeed the more colorful. Around 6-7 months of age (the typical age of most Betta found in pet stores), the coloring will just be starting to be evident on both the male and female. It should intensify with maturity.

Most pet stores will not bother trying to sell Bettas before their colors have intensified to the point of being 'sellable'. Therefore, any Betta you select from a pet store should have enough coloring to make selection easy. The colors need to be vibrant and distinct.

While many pet stores will not purposely sell defective fish, it is not uncommon to find Betta with pale coloration. Such Bettas should be avoided at all costs. They may be suffering from some sort of fungal infection or may simply have inferior genes.

2. Betta Gills & Scales

Healthy Betta fish have a very smooth and streamlined appearance. The gill area should be smooth and free of begin neither too thin nor having any bulges.

If the gill area is too thin, the Betta may be malnourished or not eating due to being overstressed or sick. When the gill area is bloated or has bulges, constipation or some other factor is at work. Although Betta with thin or thick, bulging gill areas may turn out to be fine, it is best not to risk it.

The scales of a Betta can also tell you a lot about the overall health of the fish. Like the gill area they also should be flat and smooth. There should be no loose or missing scales. Loose or missing scales may be the sign of some disease at work or it may be due to a lost battle against another Betta. In either event, loose or missing scales are not a good sign and should be avoided.

Dropsy is a common problem with Betta and their scales. Dropsy is characterized by a bulging of the scales making it take the form of a pine cone shape as the condition worsens.

3. Betta Fins

Aside from the vibrant coloring, the fins of the Betta are the other most attractive feature of the fish. When selecting a Betta Fish you want to pay particular attention to the fins. They should spread fully when flaring. Some Betta will have fins that bunch up and do not fully spread open either because of some fight with another fish or because of a genetic defect.

Betta fins also need to be free from any holes, rips, or tears.

Fin rot is a common problem for Betta and it has several potential causes, including genetic predisposition. However, the most common source of fin rot is dirty, unclean water. When the pet store is lax in its cleaning duties, the tank will become filled with too much feces and uneaten food. When feces and food are left in the water for too long, they will begin to rot. As with any decaying matter, this will cause bacteria populations to increase. The increased numbers of bacteria attach to the fin and tail of the Betta and cause rotting.

Fin rot causes little pieces of the fins to break off. In time, the fin will look incomplete and entire strands will be missing. It is not uncommon to see this condition in tanks with too many Bettas or in poorly maintained tanks. The smaller the display tank, the quicker fin rot becomes a potential problem.

Vases, or perhaps small jars, are commonly used in pet stores to store and sell male Betta fish -- even females as well in some cases. These small vessels have low oxygen content which naturally cause the Betta to come to the surface more often for air. This will increase the activity level, and the metabolism of the fish. In turn, this will increase the toxicity of the tank faster as waste will accumulate faster. Plus, with such a small vessel, it takes less time for bacterial levels to rise to dangerous levels for the Betta. Therefore, be especially sure to look carefully at the fins and tail of any Betta sold in smaller containers as they have a greater chance of developing fin rot.

When looking for fin rot, you also want to be checking for recent signs of the condition as well. There will be clear or whitish tips on the fin or tail as these are signs of recent regeneration. Avoid any Betta with tears or potential signs of fin rot if you can.

4. Betta Eyes

Betta fish have a bulging eye on each side of their head and they are unable to blink so be very concerned if you happen to catch one winking at you! The iris should be pitch black but the remainder of the eye can be a wide range of colors. You want to be sure that the eyes are not cloudy or hazy and that they are proportional and not protruding too much from the body.

5. Betta Beard

Although both the male and the female technically have the infamous 'Betta beard', it is really only noticeable on the males. On females, the beard is transparent but can be seen if you know where to look.

The Betta beard is found directly beneath the gill plate cover and is actually a membrane. When the gills of the Betta are closed, the membrane will protrude and be visible. This is when it will look like a beard. The beard is also prominently displayed during flaring.

The beard does not necessarily match the rest of the Betta in color--at least not exactly.

The Betta Fish should be willing to display its beard when reacting to external stimuli, so lightly tapping on the side of the aquarium or glass should be enough to get the Betta to flare and show you his goods. Once you know where to look, be sure that the female also has a good-sized membrane.

6. Betta Behavior

With Betta Fish you don't want a lazy fish.

The Betta you select should be active and responsive to external stimuli. In the wild, the Bettas live and die by being alert for potential predators. Any possible threats will cause the Betta to hide and wait for the danger to pass. The Betta you choose should become more alert and agitated by your presence. If possible, the Betta should seek a hiding spot and wait for you to leave. If the activity of the Betta does not noticeably increase by your presence, it is probably best to find another.

About the Author

James Jonas has been a Betta Fish enthusiast for well over a decade. With contributions to many Betta publications including the popular Betta Breeding Ebook, 'Taking the Mystery Out of Betta Breeding', and Betta blog at Betta Fish and You!.