So you just bought a beautiful new Betta fish and wondering how to care for it?
With the proper tank setup your Betta will live a happy, healthy and long life. But with the wrong setup your Betta may become depressed, lethargic, and short-lived.
There are a lot of misconceptions out there about caring for Betta fish.
Poorly-educated pet store employees may tell you to keep them in a small fishbowl or vase. Or, that they originally lived in shallow puddles so they prefer small tanks. Or, that they’re very hardy and you don’t need to pay much attention to temperature or water quality.
Check out the following infographic for more common misconceptions:
These misconceptions are a recipe for an unhappy fish. In this article we cut through the myths and present you with the 7 fundamentals of the ideal Betta fish tank.
1) Tank Size: The Bigger the Better
One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding Betta fish care is that it’s perfectly okay to keep them in a small fishbowl or vase.
That’s often how they’re kept in pet stores, and those stores can sell you a fish more easily if they tell you that you won’t have to buy a large tank and other equipment for your beautiful Betta fish.
But even though Bettas can survive in smaller tanks, it’s not ideal for the fish. If you want a happy, healthy and long-living Betta fish, you really shouldn’t have a tank smaller than 2.5 gallons, and 10 gallons or more is better.
A larger tank will give your Betta more room to swim and get exercise, and there will also be more space to add in plants and other hiding places that will make your Betta more comfortable.
It’s also easier to maintain a larger tank because you won’t have to change the water as frequently and you can add a filter to help maintain your water chemistry and filter out debris.
2) Maintain the Ideal Tank Temperature
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Betta fish originated in the streams and rice paddies of Southeast Asia, so they naturally prefer warmer temperatures.
To create the ideal Betta fish tank environment, you’ll need a heater and thermometer setup to monitor your tank temperature and keep it at a consistent level.
If the temperature is too low, your Betta’s immune system will suffer and he’ll be more prone to disease. Too high a temperature and your Betta’s metabolism could accelerate, causing him to age too quickly.
The ideal water temperature for Betta fish is between 78° and 80° F (25.5° to 26.5° C). To keep your fish healthy, the temperature should never go below 74° F (23° C) or above 84° F (29° C).
Adding a heater to your tank will help you keep the temperature consistently in this range so your fish won’t be too stressed out from sudden temperature changes.
Maintaining the right temperature will go a long way towards keeping a healthy, energetic Betta fish.
3) Pay Attention to Water Quality
Like all fish, Bettas should not be exposed to chlorinated water. When you’re filling your tank, make sure to use bottled water or apply a water conditioner to your tap water.
The next thing to consider is the pH level in your tank. Bettas prefer a neutral pH with an ideal range between 6.5 and 7.5.
It’s important to make any changes to your Betta’s water gradually. Even if your tank is outside of the ideal range, it’s better to adjust it over time than to make an immediate change.
Sudden fluctuations in temperature or pH will stress out your fish and could potentially cause harm.
4) Include a Lid and Space at the Top
— Akvaristan Akvaryum (@Akvaristan) May 17, 2016
Bettas are a type of fish known as labyrinth fish, which means they can breathe oxygen directly from the air as well as from water.
Your Betta will enjoy coming up to the surface for a quick breath every so often, so you’ll want to leave 1-2 inches of space between the top of the water and the edge of your tank.
Your Betta will thank you for this breathing space, especially if the oxygen level in the water is getting low.
But Bettas are also jumpers and they can make it surprisingly far out of the water if you let them. You’ll want to make sure you have a good lid or hood on the top of your tank to prevent your fish from making a run for it.
Otherwise, you may find your beautiful Betta flopping around on the floor, and that’s definitely not good for it.
5) Use An Aquarium Filter
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While Betta fish can survive in smaller tanks without a filter, they’ll be much happier in a larger, filtered tank and you’ll have less maintenance as a bonus.
Unfiltered tanks require frequent water changes to keep the water quality up and remove toxic debris.
Adding a filter will reduce the frequency and volume or water changes and will help keep the tank clean and cycle in beneficial bacteria.
There are a few things to consider when choosing the right filter for your Betta fish tank.
Bettas don’t produce a ton of waste, so a small hang-on-back filter is perfectly adequate. A large canister filter is usually overkill.
Bettas also prefer an environment with little to no water movement, so make sure to choose a low-flow filter or place a sponge in front of the output to lessen the water flow.
6) Include Plenty of Places to Hide
— Bettaboxx (@bettaboxx_) September 20, 2016
The Betta’s natural environment are the marshes, rice paddies and streams and Southeast Asia, which are filled with vegetation and places to hide.
Including plenty of “soft cover” like aquarium plants will make your Betta much more comfortable in his tank.
Live plants are best, but if you go with artificial plants avoid plastic ones, which have been known to slice Betta’s fins. Plants with large leaves will also give your Betta a place to lay on and rest.
Your tank should include plenty of plants, but driftwood and other fish tank structures can also add some variety and give your Betta more places to swim around and explore.
To create the ideal environment for your Betta fish, most of the tank should be composed of plants and other hiding places, with very little open water.
7) Select the Right Tank Companions
— Kifri (@l1ght3n) September 5, 2016
While Bettas are generally solitary and can become aggressive around other fish, it’s definitely possible for them to coexist peacefully with other fish in a community tank.
Some tank companions will even help keep your tank clean and free of debris, increasing the overall health of your tank and decreasing maintenance.
When deciding to introduce companions into your Betta’s life, first make sure that your tank follows the fundamentals of the ideal Betta fish tank outlined here.
- Your tank should be at least 10 gallons,
- Have plenty of vegetation and places to hide.
- Avoid fish that are brightly colored, have long, flowy fins, or that have a reputation for nibbling on the fins of other fish.
- Two male Bettas should never be put in the same tank together.
Some of the best tank companions for Betta fish aren’t even fish. Freshwater snails and ghost shrimp, for example, won’t raise the ire of your Betta, and they’ll even do double duty by keeping the tank clean.
Final Thoughts On The Ideal Betta Fish Tank
Betta fish aren’t difficult to care for, but there’s definitely more involved than the average pet store employee will tell you.
Sure, you can keep your Betta in a vase and not pay too much attention to water quality. But don’t be surprised if your fish becomes depressed and lethargic, or even dies after just a few months.
Below is a helpful video with step-by-step instructions on how to set up your ideal Betta tank. It goes over putting in sand and gravel, filters, heaters and lights, and acclimating your fish to his new home.
How to set up a Betta fish tank
If you follow the fundamentals in this article, it’s easy to create a healthy environment for your Betta fish. Your fish will be happier, he’ll live longer and you’ll get joy out of seeing him swim around his tank.