Lessons I Learned from Adopting a Fish as a College Student

I love animals, and it has been a mission of mine to adopt a furry friend to take care of in my dorm. As a student at Bentley University, however, there are limitations to having pets for allergy and other health concerns. Bentley students can have fish, though!


I decided to take a trip to PetSmart to adopt a dragon male betta fish. Before purchasing this exotic bright red and silver scaled creature, my roommate and I were so excited that we already named him Pablo. (Short for Pabby). 


I am very appreciative that PetSmart helped guide me through some of the main components of taking care of a Betta fish. The rest of the information I had to research and learn along the way with experience. Here are lessons that I learned about Betta fish that may help you decide if a Betta is a right fit for you to take care of as a student. 


How to Feed a Betta

Betta fish eat fish pellets, as opposed to fish flakes. One pellet is equivalent to a hamburger's size, so it is essential to feed your fish with the right proportions. I feed Pabby two to three pellets in the morning and one to two at night. 


I also recommend switching up their diet to get the necessary nutrients to live longer life spans. They can have defrosted brine shrimp or defrosted bloodworm once per day (if accessible). 


Betta Fish Are Independent

Betta fish cannot live with other Betta fish. This is more so the case for males because males become aggressive around others. There are a few types of water creatures that Bettas can live with, such as Tetras, Rasboras, and Guppies. Female Bettas are less aggressive and can tolerate living with one another in small groups and enough water space. 


Rules for Keeping a Healthy Tank 

They say for every square inch of fish to provide three gallons of water. When looking to purchase a fish tank, it is better to anticipate more space where they can swim around than a confined area. 


Bettas are a unique fish with a particular organ called Labyrinth that allows them to breathe from the surface, but they also survive in the water from their gills. Ensure your tank has either an air pump or an opening that allows airflow for your fish to breathe. 


I prefer keeping my Betta in a filtered tank. Although filtered tanks are a little more expensive than a traditional fishbowl, filtered tanks allow you more legroom to replace water and filters. With my filtration system, I change my fish's water every three weeks and clean the filters around the same time. With a traditional bowl, it is encouraged to switch the water every other day to filter out the bacteria that grow. 


It is also essential to do weekly water tests to make sure the chlorine and pH levels are standard for the Betta's environment. Betta fish can tolerate slightly higher pH levels of 6.5 to 8 if you gradually expose them to water level changes. Bettas also love warmer water, so setting the temperature at around 78 degrees is ideal. 


I noticed that Pabby loves the three plants that I purchased as tank interior decorations. He always swims around his two small purple bushes or perches on top of a large green plant on the other side of the tank. Researching this tendency, I learned that Betta fish naturally live in an environment with plants. Live plants are preferred to decorate your fish tank as they help clean excess bacteria within the tank that can be harmful to your fish.