By Michelle Wong, Columnist

The day I got a Betta fish was probably one of the most exciting days in my college career. When I woke up that morning, I could just feel that that day was going to be the day. I pounded on my friend’s door and forcibly removed her from her cave to come help me pick out a fish.

Once at PetCo–after about an hour of debating between the different fishes’ personalities–we found my pride and joy: a red Betta with teal stripes. He was dubbed Freddie Mercury due to his flashiness. I talked to him daily like an old chum, but even my intense appreciation for my little friend could not save him from my lack of knowledge about Betta care.

In an attempt to reform my ways, I came across some common errors to better inform all people interested to owning a Betta on how to avoid the whole “untimely demise” thing.

Unlike humans, fish can’t just pop on little coats, so keep your Betta’s water warm enough. According to BettaFish.com, Betta fish are meant to be kept in water above 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Since they’re known as Siamese Fighting Fish, and come from the tropical rice patties of Asia, you need to make sure they’ve got the warm climate they crave. You can tell that your fish is too cold if they act slow and unresponsive.

A room can drop an average of eight degrees overnight, which can lead to a dead fish. If your room doesn’t seem warm enough, try an inexpensive water heater from your local pet store.

Choosing the right tank itself is equally important. Though it might be a pain to clear all that crud off your desk to make room for your new friend, it will be worth it.

Having at least a two-gallon tank is recommended. Bettas can survive in smaller habitats, but they will live longer and stronger in more roomy environments.

Try adding some non-toxic plants or a tiny house to your tank. Your Betta will feel more comfortable with something to hide behind, which decreases stress, another cause of Betta sickness and even death.

Most importantly, make sure your Betta has plenty of room to swim to the surface for oxygen, even with all your cutesy decorations. Without this access to the surface, you will ironically “drown” your fish.

Last but not least, do not use the Bloomington tap water for your fish. Many Betta kits come with water cleansers to help condition the water specifically for your fish.  Against the better judgment of my floormates, I made the mistake of messing up the water to conditioner ratio, leaving little Freddie Mercury defenseless against the harsh waters of BloNo.

Don’t risk it with your Betta. Unless you’re a clean water engineer, a gallon of water from the Dollar Tree does the trick and you don’t have to mess around with pesky chemical levels.

These are common mistakes I initially made as a Betta owner. While it may be a pain to exert effort to properly care for such a tiny animal, seeing your bright little fish swimming happily along (and avoiding those costly fishy funerals) will make it worthwhile.

For more important tips to help your Betta thrive, visit BettaFish.com or BettaTalk.com.