The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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Betta fish are one of the most entertaining starter pets to own in an aquarium. They’re colorful, extremely active, and have unique and complex personalities.
However, bettas need plenty of space and certain conditions to thrive. Aquarists often keep the bettas in small tanks, which subjects them to immense stress and has detrimental effects on their health.
Since betta fish live in shallow waters, even larger tanks and aquariums might not be suitable. This leads us to our question: can betta fish live in a pond?
In this article, we’ll take a look at the natural habitat of betta fish and how we can mimic the same conditions in their new environment.
The short answer is yes! Betta fish are found in shallow waters with slow-moving streams. This includes marshes, canals, floodplains, and ponds.
In this wild, bettas are captured in small bottles and kept in breeding farms in Southeast Asia. They’re usually sold to the U.S. in small plastic tanks with barely any room for swimming.
This created a common misconception that betta fish can thrive in a few ounces of water.
The truth is, bettas should be kept in artificial ponds that mimic their natural habitat. You can keep them in a large tank or an aquarium, but the ideal environment is a pond built indoors or outdoors.
Outdoor ponds can be challenging because there are several factors that you may not have any control over. Indoor ponds are tricky because they take up a lot of space. However, they’re significantly easier to maintain.
Bettas are hardy fish, but they don’t tolerate things like temperature changes or the accumulation of pollutants in the water.
Here are four crucial elements to keep in mind when setting up a betta pond:
Here’s the thing about outdoor ponds: no matter how much effort you put into maintaining them, your pond will always be at the mercy of the weather.
If the temperature falls dramatically during the winter, the bettas’ immune system will be compromised. They’ll also stop moving and have lowered metabolic functions, making them susceptible to disease.
Conversely, if the pond becomes too hot, the bettas will start having manic episodes, fall ill more frequently, and die earlier. Hot climates also promote algae growth, which can be detrimental to the fish’s health.
This is the most challenging aspect of maintaining an outdoor pond. Betta fish have an extremely narrow temperature range of 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
This doesn’t mean the bettas will die if the temperature drops a few degrees; it’s just that they won’t be as active or healthy.
If the temperature drops below 70 degrees or exceeds 90 degrees, the bettas can only survive for a few days before optimal conditions are restored.
For indoor ponds, the process is much easier to control. You can check the water’s temperature with a thermometer and use a heater in cold climates to keep the fish healthy.
Since bettas originally come from tropical countries, many aquarists don’t associate heavy rainfall with any negative outcomes.
The truth is, too much rainfall can quickly cause the water temperature to drop and in a drastic fashion.
The issue here isn’t necessarily the cold temperature, per se. Rainfall can cause the water temperature to dip a few degrees without becoming too cold for the fish.
The sudden and drastic temperature change is the detrimental aspect for betta fish. Bettas prefer to live in warm waters and some rainfall can change that in seconds.
Frequent rainfalls can make the living conditions become unbearable for bettas in outdoor ponds. The same goes for prolonged sunlight exposure during hot summer days.
If you have an indoor pond, you won’t run into this type of problem. However, anything that may cause a sudden shift in balance will ultimately have the same effect.
For example, you must be cautious during cleaning and changing the water. Never transfer the betas to a separate container with a drastically different temperature.
Cleanliness is especially important with betta fish because they’re sensitive to ammonia, nitrates, accumulating waste, plant matter…etc.
The key to ensuring proper cleanliness is to invest in an external filter for your pond. Depending on the location and type of your pond, you may need a submersible filter or more than one filter.
Betta fish need a filter that can effectively remove ammonia and nitrates from the water through biological filtration. Ponds, especially outdoors, will also need mechanical filtration to get rid of the larger debris.
Ponds with no proper filtration will quickly accumulate toxins and harbor algae. If you have an outdoor pond with no filtration system, you’ll need to make sure there’s a nitrogen balance between the live plants and the aquatic inhabitants.
You may also need to use chemical filtration, like resins and activated carbon, if you can’t control the algae growth.
Male bettas are territorial and will always fight to establish dominance and win over female bettas. This means that males shouldn’t be placed near each other and the female population should be enough to keep all the males occupied.
Betta fish are well-known for their aggression in the aquatic world. However, bettas have quite a few predators, too, like birds and insects.
If there are trees near your pond, some birds may take an interest in your bettas and snatch them from the shallow water. It may be a wise idea to keep your outdoor pond away from any trees or bird feeders.
Beetles, flies, mites, and other insects are also problematic for bettas. A pest infestation can potentially wreak havoc on your betta population.
Finally, larger fish species, like Sturgeons or Catfish, shouldn’t be mixed with bettas because they can easily eat them.
PETA advises aquarists not to buy bettas as pets, and we’re not surprised. Bettas need constant maintenance and a lot of responsibility to properly care for them, unlike other fish species.
There’s no doubt that setting up a pond is a complex and time-intensive process, but if you’re adamant about giving your bettas the best possible life, the outcome is well worth the effort.