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What to Know Before Getting a Betta Fish in College

Why a Betta Fish?

Betta fish are the perfect low maintenance fish for a busy college student. They don’t require a lot of space, which is a commodity in small on-campus living spaces. They are also very pretty and can give a pop of color to your drab dorm room. For many college students, especially at Belmont, it’s about the only pet you can really get without breaking housing rules. (For clarification, I learned sophomore year, when I originally wanted to get a hedgehog that Belmont doesn’t allow you to have any pets that could drown).

Betta Basics

When you get a betta fish it’s important to note that they are solitary fish. So you can’t have anything else in the bowl with them, sometimes you can get a snail but there is a strong possibility that your fish will kill it. They are very territorial so just get one fish, you don’t want a fish murder on your hands. Betta fish don’t require a lot of upkeep. They need a bowl that is a gallon minimum (they sell smaller ones, but your new fish really doesn’t want to be crammed into one of those for the rest of it’s life). If you really want to treat your fish Petsmart has 2-3 gallon tanks (with filters) that are specially made for bettas. In my experience you only have to clean the bowl 2-3 weeks or until it starts looking grungy. 

Betta’s do best when you feed them twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. They don’t eat a lot so you won’t have to buy food often (my betta is a glutton and I still haven’t had to buy more food since last year). Additionally, they are sensitive to temperature, so when you do clean their bowls and change the water make sure that it is room temperature. If you put them in water that is too warm on accident they may change colors (they’re dying) or be unable to swim correctly, scoop them out into a cup of treated water that is cooler. You can wait for the water to cool down some and put them in later.


Price Point

When you get a new fish, assuming you don’t have any of the supplies that go along with it, you can expect to spend anywhere from $20 to $50 dollars. This of course depends on what kind of bowl you get, what the grade of the fish is, and what accessories you get. Basically you’ll probably want to get the following: the fish (of course), a bowl or small tank, betta fish food, water conditioner, a net so you can catch the fish when you clean the bowl, your pebbles of choice for the bottom of the bowl, and some kind of decoration. You may also need to get a heater depending on what temperature you keep your apartment/dorm at.

You’ll have to come up with a plan for breaks

Your new betta can’t go without food for all of Christmas break if you’re going off campus. You’re either going to have to take the fish home with you or have someone who is local babysit it. If you drive home, transporting the fish won’t be a big issue and I suggest putting them in a cup like the one they come in from the store because it’s hard to drive with a bowl full of water. If you live far enough away that you fly home for breaks then you need to have someone babysit your fish, otherwise you’re not going to have one when you get back. For shorter breaks (3-4 days without feeding) you can get food tablets that release food for them, but these only last a week max and your fish might not know what they are/won’t eat them.

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Madeline is a senior at Belmont University in Nashville and a lifelong Tennessean. She is majoring in Entertainment Industry Studies with a minor in Business Administration. She loves binge watching dramas on Netflix, going to Predators games, and spending time with family and friends.
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