Betta fish (betta splendens), also known as Siamese fighting fish, are among the most beautiful and fascinating finny creatures imaginable. Their brilliant colors and gorgeous shapes make them look like they come from another world. It’s no wonder that they’re such popular aquatic pets.
Unfortunately, a lot of misconceptions and urban legends seem to be floating around when it comes to the requirements of keeping betta fish. This is why we think it’s time to do some serious myth-busting.
In this article, we’ll tell you what you really need for a great betta fish tank. You might be in for a surprise.
Size Matters for a Betta Aquarium
You just saw an ad that wants to sell you a tiny bowl barely the size of your coffee mug or even a clock that can be filled with water as a betta fish tank? If it makes you suspicious how a pet fish could live a happy, healthy life in such an environment then you’re absolutely right. They can’t.
It’s a myth that bettas can live a happy life in a tiny bowl. They can certainly survive in one for a short time but it’s absolutely not a suitable long-term home for your finny friend.
The natural habitat of betta fish is the standing waters and puddles of rice paddies, river deltas, and canals in Southeast Asia. But that doesn’t mean they stay in the same place all the time. In the wild, they can and do change their homes if their environment isn’t ideal for them anymore, for example by crossing over to larger sources of water. This way, they can move around across huge spaces.
So, yes, betta fish do need a certain amount of space to thrive in the long term. As a responsible fish parent, you should keep your betta in a fish tank that has a capacity of at least 5 gallons. A 5-gallon aquarium is sufficient for a single betta. When their aquatic home has an ideal size then your finny friend will be able to thrive and engage in natural behaviors like swimming, hiding, and playing.
Another important reason for a suitable size is the fact that a large betta aquarium can be maintained easier. It doesn’t have to be cleaned as often as a small one. It’s also easier to keep a healthy chemical balance and avoid ammonia spikes in a large fish tank.
Talking about chemical balance, for bettas, the pH level should be ideally neutral at around 7.0. And naturally, you should clean your betta fish tank and change the water in it on a regular basis.
A Betta Fish Tank Needs a Filter
We’d like to bust another myth that bettas don’t need to be in clean water and thus don’t need a filtered fish tank. This is not true!
In the wild, betta fish live in standing waters and puddles. Because of this, the myth says that bettas can live in dirty water.
Well, bettas can survive for a short time in small, oxygen-deprived water spaces. And they’re labyrinth fish which means they can breathe air. That’s important in the wild as the water in their natural habitat can dry out due to changing seasons. But that doesn’t mean that an unclean environment is a suitable long-term home for your betta.
The natural living environment of betta fish is a diverse, complex and well-balanced eco-system. There are, for example, plants that clean the water and provide it with oxygen.
This is why betta fish tanks need to have a good filter with gentle water flow. The filter flow should be gentle because bettas live in rather still waters in nature.
Even when you get a filter with adjustable flow, the flow might still be too strong for some betta. In this case, you could add a pre-filter sponge or put a betta hammock leaf in front of the filter nozzle to weaken the flow.
Another important reason for a clean aquarium and a good filter is that an unclean environment could cause diseases such as fin rot in betta fish.
A Betta Fish Tank Should Have a Lid
Talking about unsuitable environments, as mentioned above, in nature, bettas actually ditch their home when it doesn’t provide them with good living conditions. They do that by jumping into a more suitable water source.
Yes, betta fish can jump!
They have the ability to jump a few inches to move into a more suitable living environment, for example, a larger source of water. This is why it’s ideal to get a betta fish tank with a lid.
It’s not an absolute must and bettas can also be kept in open fish tanks. But with an open tank, there’s the risk of your betta jumping out of their tank. A lid provides the necessary security and keeps betta fish safely inside their home.
Another important function of an aquarium lid is keeping unwanted visitors out. After all, you wouldn’t want your curious kitty to get too close to your finny friend.
Lastly, a lid also helps to keep the water warm.
Betta Fish Need to Be Warm
Bettas are tropical fish that thrive in a warm temperature. That’s no wonder. After all, their natural home is in Southeast Asia. The ideal temperature of their watery home should be around 75 – 82°F (24 – 28°C).
That’s why you also need to get a heater for your betta fish tank unless you live in a tropical paradise yourself or your aquarium is placed in a room with a constantly high temperature.
To make sure that the temperature of your aquarium is right, you should add a thermometer. The best place to put it would be opposite the heater.
What Else to Do for a Perfect Betta Fish Tank?
After setting up a new aquarium completely, it’s important to let sit for a few days before adding fish. The new environment has to settle for a few days and balance each other out before being ready to welcome the new master of its aquatic home.
You should add some nice plants or decorations to make your new aquatic treasure even more beautiful and interesting and, most importantly, turn it into a happy home for your finny friend. Remember that in the wild betta live in environments with plenty of vegetation.
But watch out to not overcrowd an aquarium with plants. Also, one word of caution regarding plants as well as fish tank decoration, be careful to only add pieces that don’t have any sharp tips or edges. Bettas have very delicate fins that can get torn easily.
Just like any other animal, betta fish also need a certain environment to thrive and live a happy, healthy and long life. An ideal betta fish tank should fulfill the following conditions:
- a size of at last 5 gallons for a single betta
- a filter with a gentle flow
- a lid
- a heater
If want to take a look at some aquariums that would make awesome homes for bettas, we’ve done extensive research on the best betta fish tanks available.
Please keep in mind that getting a pet always means taking on responsibility for that pet’s well-being. When you’re thinking about getting a pet, you should always do some research first and try to create a home that’s suitable for your new best friend.