Bettas—these tropical fish have become one of the most popular and well-recognized species of fish. With their vibrant “plumage” and their sassy personalities, bettas are a perfect addition to any aquarium, as long as the conditions are right. Not only are they one of my favorite pets, but they are also one of the easiest pets to take care of. Surprised? Unlike so many of the other fish in the sea…uh, aquariums, bettas are not overly picky about their environment. Follow these steps for a happy and healthy fish.
One of the most important decisions you will make is the tank. After scouring the internet for several hours, or rather, days, I concluded that no one seems to agree and everyone has viewpoints that are miles apart. While some do not believe in anything smaller than 10 gallons, others believe a betta is most content in a tiny bowl and vase. Story time…
When I was a child, I bought my first betta. With a limited budget, I bought a simple one-gallon fish bowl. I filled it with some gravel, a hiding house, and a single plastic plant. The water was fully changed once a week with distilled water. My sweet little guy lived for almost 3 years, and that is a good life span for a betta. While this is not the optimal setting for bettas, he lived a long, happy life.
Some of you may think this is the best option, and you’ll go with it. I will caution you: do not go less than 1 gallon and do not overcrowd the bowl with plants and other decorations. Your fish will need room to swim.
However, this is not my recommendation. There are a lot of different aquarium sizes out there and a lot of differing viewpoints on what a betta needs. First, you will want to consider if you are housing a single betta, or if he will have tank mates. If you intend to have the betta alone in a tank, I would suggest 2-5 gallons. “But wait! Bettas in the wild swim for large distances so they need plenty of room. Get the biggest tank possible.” I would love to buy a 1500 gallon tank for my one betta too, but this really isn’t reasonable. Understand that you have to put a limit on how big you go. If you can (and really want to) buy a 20 gallon aquarium for your one fish, go for it. But a good estimate for a beginner is somewhere around 2-5 gallons. This will give your betta plenty of room to swim, sleep, and explore. It also gives you the chance to put some cool things in the tank, like plants, decor, and so on. If you intend to house other fish with your betta, you will have to keep that in mind when deciding on the aquarium size. (The tank shown below is 3 gallons, in case you’re wondering.)
Oh, and in case any of you decide to put your betta in a vase with the plant growing out the top, just remember, that bettas are carnivorous, so they will not be feeding off of the plant or roots at all. Not to mention, these vases are too small for your fish.
So what does it come down to? Do not, I repeat, do not stick a betta in a small container. But don’t feel the need to buy an enormous tank either. 2-5 gallons is a good starting point for your betta. And be sure to put a lid on your fish’s home. Bettas are known to be jumpers. While my first several never had this problem, my current one does. As a precaution, make sure you have a lid.
Another aspect would be glass or plastic? It really doesn’t matter too much. The main thing is the quality of the tank you buy. Just remember, that plastic can get scratched a little easier, which can look bad over time. However, glass will be much heavier. Once you’ve picked out your aquarium, have fun deciding where to put it. My betta gets to sit on my counter—a perfect vantage point to watch both the living room and the kitchen.
The first point to consider with a filter is whether to have one or not. There are countless people on both sides of the argument, and it can be very confusing to know what to do. As mentioned above, my first betta lived in a bowl. He didn’t have a filter or any of the other accessories. Nowadays, my betta’s tank is fully equipped with just about everything. After being on both sides of the fence, I can say that either can work. If you are willing to change the water every week, you may be able to go without a filter. But this will make your life more difficult.
Using a filter is so much easier! By doing this, the water stays crystal clear all week long. I use a gravel vacuum to do partial water changes once a week, and a full water change once a month. Not only is this healthier for you fish, but also it makes your life easier. I really do suggest getting a vacuum. They’re cheap and you won’t regret it.
And don’t forget that water conditioner! It’s an inexpensive cost that is well worth it. Follow the package directions, and your betta’s water should be clean and safe in no time.
As for the filter, they’re cheap too. If you followed my advice on the 2-5 gallon tank, I would recommend you buy the Tetra Whisper 3i filter. This is the only filter I found that would work well for a betta. Due to a betta’s large, flowing fins, they can easily get swept away in a strong current. As a result, the filter’s current must be slow and gentle. The 3i is also made for this size tank. See how it all works together?
The filter cartridges are also easy to find. You can buy a pack of them for just a few dollars. Considering each cartridge will last you a month, you don’t have to worry about spending a lot of money on these.
So is a filter necessary? No. Will it improve the life of your fish and make your life easier? Yes, yes it will. I strongly recommend you buy a filter.
Lighting—is it necessary? Nope. But let me explain. Many people like to have a light on their fish’s aquarium because some fish need it. On top of that, if you decide to have live plants in your tank, you will need it. Bettas are a little different from your average fish though. Light is not necessary for their overall health; they do, however, live on a daily cycle. In the wild, bettas will be active during the day, and rest at night. You may notice your betta following a similar pattern. Mine does.
However, my current betta does not enjoy the light on top of his tank. Due to the construction of his aquarium, the light caused him to see reflections of himself on the tank walls. Obviously, bettas are territorial and it caused him to get a little crazy. I determined it was best to not use it. If you are like me, my house has plenty of natural light. I simply open the blinds during the day to let him enjoy the natural light. (Not direct sunlight!)
You may use a light if you like, but it is not necessary for bettas.
Let me start of by just saying: Bettas are tropical fish. Key words being tropical and fish. Obviously, fish are cold-blooded. Also obvious—tropical means warm climate. You will want to keep the water at 76-80°F. This is a good median range that will help to keep your betta at a comfortable temperature.
Finding the right heater was another struggle I had. Let me take some guess work out for you, and just say that I love my 25W Hydor Submersible heater. There are several tiny heaters “made” for bettas and small tanks/bowls. The problem is that these heaters are not adjustable—they are meant to heat the water evenly and keep it around the appropriate temperature. The problem is that if there is any type of malfunction, it can easily overheat the water or not heat it at all! With the Hydor heater, you have the ability to adjust the temperature, which is a major plus.
If you would like to add a thermometer to the tank, feel free. It may be good just so you can always check what the current temp is. If you’re looking for a good little thermometer, I purchased this one. I will warn you that this one, as well as some other ones on the market, have a slight problem with the suction cup. It will cause slight etching/marks on a plastic aquarium. You may have better luck with either a different thermometer or a glass tank.
Plants are a great way to add fun and variety to any aquarium. This is where your creativity can come into play. Just be sure that you get something that will fit in your tank without overcrowding your betta.
As far as plants go, you have two major options—real or fake. If you decide to buy a real plant, you will have to make sure you keep it alive. Each plant will have its own specifications for it to be healthy. Real plants offer beauty and are a good choice for a betta’s home due to its soft texture and oxygen; however, a real plant may be more prone to polluting the water if not properly cared for.
My personal preference is to go with fake plants. I do not have to worry about keeping them alive and they are often times more fun and colorful. Just be careful about which ones you buy. Any plants that have sharp points or rough textures can injure your betta, especially his delicate fins. Looks for plants that are soft and smooth.
Another fun aspect of setting up a fish tank is the decor. It’s really interesting to see what people come up with. Some decide to create nautical themes, while others put some of their favorite characters in the water. It is pretty much endless what you can do. Once again, just be sure not to go overboard with the decor or your fish won’t have room to move. Also make sure that, just like the plants, any decor in the tank has smooth edges and will not cause any harm to your fish.
Please do put some different items in the aquarium—variety is good! Bettas enjoy sleeping/resting on things and swimming through holes, tunnels, and plants. I will often times find my betta sleeping on the heater suction cup. Bettas like to rest on things 🙂
Unlike some of their herbivorous friends, bettas a carnivores. Feeding them is very easy and cheap! Simply buy one of the containers of fish food marked for bettas. Do not be alarmed, most of the foods available are labeled as color enhancing. This is perfectly normal and helps to keep your betta looking his best.
You may get a little confused as to which one to buy. I recommend the TetraBetta Plus Floating Mini Pellets. There are several reasons why I love this product. First, I would recommend pellets, instead of flakes. There are some bettas who do not like eating flakes and sometimes a betta is more attracted to a pellet-type food. The other downside to flakes is that they can get soggy a lot faster. If your betta doesn’t eat them soon enough, they will break down faster which affects the ammonia levels in the water.
Another benefit of using mini pellets is that, well, they’re mini. For the first few months of owning my betta, he seemed to spit the food back out and try to eat it again. This can be a sign of the food being a little large for the betta’s mouth. Some bettas will struggle with this while others won’t. Just keep an eye on him to see how it goes. If your betta seems to be struggling, you can try switching his food.
The big question is how much do you feed him? And how often? Some people feed their fish twice a day, and others feed their fish twice a week. Once again, there is a lot of variety. I recommend feeding a betta twice a day, 3-5 pellets per meal. If you notice a lot of leftover food in the tank, decrease the amount you are feeding. The important thing is to not overfeed. A betta’s stomach is the size of his eye! Overfeeding can cause serious health issues and problems. If you keep your betta on a regular feeding schedule, he will come to know when he is supposed to be fed. My betta looks like he’s doing happy dances waiting for his dinner 🙂
This has been just a quick overview to care for a betta. I cannot recommend them enough. They are fun and easy to care for and you’ll love having them in your home. If you have decided a betta is right for you, I hope these care tips will be helpful for you in keeping a happy and healthy betta.