AquaLife Club- Get Your Fish On! Plus tips for keeping your pet Betta happy and healthy

Aquarium“No pets except for a 10 gallon fish tank.” For many UConn students this was a sad thing to see when first going through your housing requirements. The thought of leaving fluffy the bunny or max the dog at home is almost too much for some students. Even for me, an animal science major, the thought of not being able to bring my collection of feathery and scaled creatures was daunting. But I wasn’t too nervous, as setting up and running different aquariums had been a hobby of mine for many years. So much so that I decided to capitalize on UConn’s pet rules by starting a club that educates students about the aquarium hobby by building its presence on campus. By October of freshman year I was submitting my constitution and other required paperwork for my new organization. Not much later AquaLife club was born with a stellar executive board made up of a few of my recently made friends and none other but Dr. Steven Zinn, the head of of the Animal Science Department, as our advisor.

Aqua-Life Club LogoIn the past semester our club has grown into a fully functioning student organization with almost 30 active members, weekly meetings, and our first fish tank project on the schedule. One of the main goals of the club I hoped to achieve when I first formed it was to install and maintain aquarium of different kinds around campus. Almost like the Animal Planet show Tanked but on a smaller scale. I thought the tanks could help with stress relief on an already hectic campus, as fish are proven to help calm humans and ease anxiety, all while increasing knowledge of the hobby. Our first tank will be a 29 gallon freshwater community tank and will be placed in the Animal Science Department.

I’m hoping AquaLife club will continue to grow and long outlive my career at UConn. It’s a great example that at UConn you can start a student organization from nothing if you have the passion for it and it is not already offered.

Aqua Life Club PosterBetta fish (also known as Siamese fighting fish) are the most commonly kept fish on campus!

Here’s some easy tips on how to keep your Betta fish happy and healthy!

  • Tank Size: Contrary to popular belief, Betta fish, should not be kept in a tank/bowl smaller than two or three gallons. They are often advertised as being able to live in containers or cups less than one gallon but these smaller tanks limit swimming space, cause ammonia levels to rise more quickly, and are more susceptible to temperature changes. A bowl or aquarium larger than 2 or 3 gallons is a must! Please note when setting up an aquarium a fish water conditioner should be used if using tap water to help remove harmful chemical from the water.
  • Heating: Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens) originate from tropical stagnate freshwater in South East Asia. It is very warm in these areas and Betta fish have adapted to the specific climate parameters present in these areas. This means Betta fish need to be kept warm in order to be healthy. So unless your house or dorm remains in the 72°-78° range you should install a submersible fish tank heater In your Betta’s home.
  • Filtration- Betta fish are members of the gourami family. This means they have a special organ called the labyrinth in addition to gills used for breathing. Comparable to lungs in humans, the labyrinth allows these fish to take a breath of air directly from the surface of the water and absorb oxygen. This allows members of the gourami family to thrive in oxygen deficient stagnate waters. That being said a filter is NOT needed in a Betta fish aquarium. However, having a filter is always a good thing to help with the breakdown of harmful substances found in a fish tanks such as ammonia.
  • Tank Mates- It is often thought that Betta fish must be kept by themselves. This is not true. Though Siamese fighting fish get their name from the fights that occur between males for dominance and to impress females, they can happily be housed with other species of peaceful tropical fish. Members of the tetra family, platys, guppies, and even african dwarf frogs can be safely housed with Betta fish. If you have a large enough aquarium (10 gallons or more) it is also possible to keep more than one female Betta together. Male Betta fish CANNOT be kept together. Please note that if you plan to have a community tank with multiple species your tank should be larger depending on the number of fish you plan to have and should definitely have a filter to support proper aeration for fish that only have gills. Live plants are also a great addition to any Betta tank and improve water quality.
  • Cleaning- The size of your aquarium and the equipment used in your aquarium will determine the frequency and amount of work you will need to put into cleaning your Betta’s home. Small aquariums of 2-5 gallons need to be cleaned more often. A small water change of about 25% of the aquariums water once a week is sufficient. Water changes in larger tanks can take place less often but you should replace a larger amount of water. If you do not have a filter, water changes should be much more frequent to prevent toxic levels of ammonia. Algae growth should not affect your Betta’s health but scraping it will improve the aesthetics of your tank.
  • Feeding- Betta fish do fine on any commercially available frozen, or dried fish feed available at local pet stores formulated for tropical freshwater fish and Betta fish. Once or twice a day in small amounts is sufficient. The rule of thumb is feed as much as the fish can fully eat in one or two minutes. Overfeeding can lead to ammonia spikes and death. Fish can go for long periods of time without eating so if you need to leave your fish unattended for a weekend or slightly longer they should be fine.  
  • Health problems- Like any pet, fish get sick. Common diseases in Betta fish include ich, velvet, dropsy, swim bladder disorders, popeye, and fin rot. Please refer to reputable veterinarian approved websites or documents to find the correct treatment options for your fish or to figure out exactly what problem is affecting your fish.