Following is an article courtesy of Diane Schickerowsky owner of Tails pet store in the Beach. Diane is very knowledgeable about a range of pets and the best diets and living conditions for them and here shares a story about the needs of Bettas and Goldfish to assist you in figuring out which pet might be best for you or your child. Diane will be sharing stories each issue with us online at Local. For an easier read, download the pdf of this article – just click on it at the upper right on this page. Enjoy the education and the fish
Goldfish vs. Betta
Fish-keeping is both a fun as well as educational hobby and fish can be a very low maintenance first pet. They can take up as little space as a • gallon bowl, or be as big as you can imagine. Typically people want to start with something easy, small, and relatively inexpensive until they are comfortable with their growing interest in the hobby. Here I want to discuss the betta, as the first fish of choice for Tails customers and explain why it is a much easier first pet than the goldfish.
Popular culture has us all thinking that every child’s first pet should be a goldfish. Ask almost anyone who has tried to keep a goldfish in a bowl, and they will tell you it mostly involves scooping out the dead fish and trying to replace it before their child realizes it has died.
Keeping a goldfish in a bowl is not recommended for a number of reasons.
The first is that the goldfish you buy in a store is a baby. It will grow over eight inches if given the appropriate conditions. The story that a fish grows to the size of its environment is misleading, since it really means that the health of the fish is compromised, its growth is stunted, and it dies well before its time. It has been documented that some goldfish have lived for decades – always in a very large tank, or pond.
The second reason not to put a goldfish in a bowl is that the fish can only breathe air that is dissolved in the water. A bubbler or filter allows oxygen to be absorbed into the water, and allows harmful gases to dissipate. Goldfish are not adapted to living in stagnant water and will often suffocate in a bowl, or alternatively, they will jump out looking for a better environment.
The third reason is that goldfish are very social creatures and live longer and healthier lives if there is more than one. Since each fish grows very large, two fish would require at least 20 gallons of water to stay healthy.
The fourth reason is that keeping a bowl at the proper temperature for either a common goldfish or a fancy goldfish is very difficult.
Common goldfish like cold water. Room temperature is often too warm for them, and since the amount of oxygen that can be dissolved in water decreases as the temperature increases, this also contributes to their distress. In fact, at Tails we recommend common goldfish for ponds only.
Fancy goldfish are far less hardy that the common ones. They have been bred over many centuries to have very round bodies and large flowing fins. This makes them very ornamental, but not very hardy. They have very twisted internal organs and are prone to constipation and swim bladder problems. Heating their water a couple of degrees above room temperature helps to keep things moving through their digestive system and reduces the risk of these problems. Only the best water quality in an appropriately sized aerated aquarium will allow fancy goldfish to thrive.
For these reasons, Tails does not sell goldfish to live in a bowl. We want our customers (and our fish!) to be happy with the first fish they have as a pet.
(Siamese fighting fish)
|Adult size||8” or more||8” or more||2 •”|
|Lifespan||At least 10 years||At least 10 years||2 • years or more|
|Water volume required||10 gallons or more per fish||10 gallons or more per fish||• – 5 gallons|
|Number of fish required||2 or more||2 or more||Must be alone|
Let’s compare the goldfish to the Siamese Fighting fish, betta splendens.
This little fish belongs to a family of fish called labyrinth fish. They have adapted to living in very stagnant shallow water in the wild by developing a lung-like organ. This allows them to take gulps of air at the surface, thus not depending on the oxygen levels in the water. The fish are only about 2 1/2” as full-sized adults and actually prefer stagnant or very slow-moving shallow water. They have been bred to be violent with each other, and are naturally loners in the wild. For this reason, only one can be kept in a single bowl.
When looking for a suitable vessel to house your betta, the more surface area the better. Anything over • gallon is preferred. Glass is the best idea since it can be cleaned with white vinegar and water, with no residue or leaching chemicals.
Another reason Tails recommends a betta as pet is that caring for your betta is relatively simple. Water changes are done with room temperature water every one to four weeks depending on the water volume of the bowl. Remember to use a betta-specific water conditioner. They eat about three pellets of betta food a day, but if you forget, or go away for a long weekend, they will be fine. Most of the ailments they get are a result of eating a rotten piece of food, or fin rot due to poor water quality so if you watch out for these two areas, your betta can live for years!
Make sure to keep the bowl in an area where the temperature will not fluctuate too much, and out of direct sunlight to prevent algae growth. A live plant such as a peace lily, lucky bamboo, or other plant that enjoys wet roots and indirect light can help keep the water clean, and as a bonus, the fish will fertilize it! Wash off the roots of all potting soil and submerge the lower half in the bowl, using gravel or marbles to anchor the roots. This also creates a stimulating environment for the fish.
When purchasing a betta, look for one that seems interested in you. If they spend all of their time on the bottom and do not have vibrant colouration, they are not at their healthiest. If the fish builds a “bubble nest” which looks like a frothy or bubbly thing on the surface, he is very happy and wanting to breed. This nest will dissolve over time and is not a cause for concern.
THE BETTA CHECKLIST
Below is a checklist of all that you need to buy at Tails in order to make sure your betta and you enjoy a long, happy time together!
High quality Betta food pellets
Glass bowl of at least 1/2 gallon size
Betta specific water conditioner
Decorative ornament or plant
Small fish net
We hope this information helps you see why Tails recommends bettas to everyone who wants an easy fish to keep, and why we encourage people to only keep goldfish if they are prepared to keep them in the type of environment they thrive in. Happy fish keeping!
Visit us at 1953 Queen Street East in the Beach area of Toronto to pick up your own betta, bowl and supplies. Feel free to call us at (647) 436-2529 with questions!