Why They’re Easy…
In the wild, these brilliantly colored fish live in small, stagnant puddles. So a big bowl of treated tap water (at least one gallon and preferably three) will look like the Ritz-Carlton by comparison, especially if you add a plastic plant for your pet to hide behind when he’s feeling shy. Unlike goldfish, that other childhood standby, bettas can go to the surface for oxygen rather than drawing it from the water, so they’re not as bothered by less-than-pristine surroundings and they don’t require a filtered tank. In addition to their hardiness, bettas have other charms. When one male spots another, he’ll blow bubble nests and do some dramatic tough-guy posturing (called “flaring”); he’ll even put on the same show if he happens to catch sight of himself in a tiny “exercise mirror” in his bowl.
…OK, Not That Easy
“You’ll need to clean your betta’s home at least weekly,” says Kyle Donnelly, DVM, an exotic-animal specialist at the Animal Medical Center in New York City. (This is still far less involved than managing a full-fledged tank.) Male bettas are typically favored as pets for their attractive, longer fins and feisty antics. However, if you’re getting more than one male, they’ll each need a separate bowl. They’re known as “fighting fish” for a reason.
Life span: 3 to 5 years.
Start-up costs: You can bring home a betta, a shaker of betta food, and a big bowl for about $40.