Betta fish, also referred to as Betta Splendens, Siamese Fighting Fish and/or Japanese Fighting Fish, are one of the most colorful and elegant freshwater fish around. These fish have brightly colored bodies and long flowing fins and are also one of the easiest fish to take care of. Their beauty and their ease of care have made them favorites for many people; unfortunately, there are many myths and misconceptions about betta fish and I figured it might be time for me to clear some of the confusion. Here are some of most common betta fish myths that you have probably heard and that I get questioned about on a regular basis.

Myth # 1 – Japanese fighting fish prefer to live in dirty water

When you look at the natural habitat of the fish, for example, the pond, swamp or stream, the water looks dirty to you. The organic particle, tanning from plant decay and mud gives the water a dark and murky appearance. For this reason, some people believe that it’s ok to let them live the same way at home in an aquarium. However, in an aquarium, it is extremely important to maintain clean water to have a healthy thriving fish. Remember, the wild ecosystems are carefully balanced with organisms and processes that maintain ideal conditions for the fish to survive. When it comes to an aquarium, the organisms & processes work differently, so it is crucial that you keep the water clean, or else you will introduce disease into your betta aquarium. Having a filter and doing regular water changes will go a long way.
Japanese Fighting Fish

Myth #2 – Japanese betta fish will panic or die when placed in larger aquariums

In the wild, betta fish can survive in ponds and rivers that contain millions of gallons water without dying. An aquarium that has a larger capacity of water is nothing compared to their natural habitats. In their natural environment, bettas live around clusters of plants to protect themselves from predators. When you put your betta in a big and open aquarium, they will start doing the same thing, which is to look for plants and other areas where they can hide. As long as you have enough places for them to do so, they should do just fine.

Myth #3 – Japanese fighting fish do not require a heater

Betta fish are tropical fish that are found in Southeast Asia, where the water in these regions is shallow and warm. Although bettas can survive at temperatures below 75 degrees F, the ideal temperature is between 76-82 degrees. Even if the room where your tank is located generally keeps the temperature around that level, I would still recommend a heater. Why? Because if there is a fluctuation in temperature for some reason (i.e.: room gets cold all of a sudden, etc.), this can cause additional stress on our little friends, which can lead to sickness. With a heater, you can set the temperature at a specific degree and it will always keep it around that level.
One of the reasons why you need to provide a heater in your betta’s tank is that the fish can’t regulate their body temperature and they depend on the temperature of their environment to maintain their body temperature. Your room might have a warm ambient temperature, but it might not be good enough for your betta. It’s better to place them in a small tank with a heater that can maintain the water temperature irrespective of the fluctuations in room temperature. That way, you reduce the amount of stress the fish is forced to endure, and it will be happier and healthier for it. For more information, read our post called Importance of Having a Betta Fish Heater.


Myth #4 – Japanese fighting fish prefer to live in small/mini tanks

In the wild, these fish live in a variety of habitats including rice paddies, shallow ponds, swamps and streams. In the dry season, most water in these habitats evaporates trapping them in small pockets of water, then the betta fish will live there until the rain comes again, providing them with more water. Although they can survive there, it is not the best living habitats for the fish. The same goes when putting them in an aquarium. Can they survive in a 1-2 gallon aquarium? Maybe, but that’s not the point. Just like any other animal, they need room to move around in order to have a full and happy life.
The betta fish releases its excreta in the tank, increasing the toxins and impurities in the water. A small tank contains less water and is unable to dilute the toxins to a level that will be tolerable to the fish, which can lead to diseases and many other problems that could reduce the life expectancy of the fish. Whereas, a large tank has enough water to dilute the toxins in the water to a level safe for the fish to thrive without any issues. The tank should also be equipped with a filtration system to keep the water as healthy for the fish as possible. So, if you are going to go small, I wouldn’t recommend getting anything under 3 gallons, but larger is definitely better. For more information, read our post 4 Important Tips For Choosing The Best Betta Aquarium.

Myth # 5 – All betta fish are aggressive

Betta fish are famous for being an overly aggressive species, which is why they are known as the Japanese fighting fish. But this assertion is not true because not every betta is aggressive. Male betta can be fiercely territorial and aggressive, but you can curtail these aggressive behaviors. To avoid aggressive behavior in your betta, it’s advisable to keep them in separate tanks. If a betta is going to share a tank with another fish, provide a lot of hiding places where the betta can establish his territory in the tank and make sure you don’t keep them with a fish that will nip at their long fins. As for female bettas, they are not aggressive towards other female bettas, although they can also become aggressive but not as fierce as males. You can prevent aggressive behavior in female bettas by keeping them in odd numbers so that they can develop a hierarchy where one becomes the dominant female. Plenty of hiding places should also be provided to allow each fish to establish personal territories.


Myth # 6 – Japanese fighting fish are not good beginner fish

Many newbie aquarium hobbyists wrongly assume that bettas don’t make good beginner fish because of their aggressiveness. However, the reverse is the case. Betta fish are extremely hardy, making them the perfect beginner fish. Betta fish will do well in a wide variety of tanks and can withstand minor changes in water chemistry. They are also a low-maintenance species, which is ideal for a novice aquarium hobbyists and people who prefer using a small tank that won’t take up much of their time.


These are just some of the misconceptions that I often hear about japanese betta fish. If you are planning on owning one soon, it is important that you educate yourself on their care. You won’t regret it. And remember, the best betta tank is a clean betta tank!
Until next time.
Need a new aquarium? Check out our reviews on the Fluval View, Fluval Chi and/or Fluval Edge 6 Gallon. They are fantastic tanks to get started. 

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4 thoughts on “6 Popular Myths About Japanese Fighting Fish

    1. Totally agree Mark. If you can go bigger (5-10), for sure go for it. But 3-gallons is definitely acceptable and usually a popular choice because it doesn’t take up too much room.

      Thanks for the feedback.

  1. I’m sorry to bother you again, but when I get a heater (my tank is really cold) is it ok to have such a durrastic water temp change?

    1. I would not recommend heating it too fast. Maybe 1 degree every half hour or so if possible. Depending on the size of your tank, you can start with just a ziploc bag with warm water in it. Make sure it’s sealed and then place it in the tank. That should warm it up slowly and then you can use the heater. Unless you have an adjustable heater, then just put it up slowly.

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