How to take care of a betta fish in a tank? What do your betta fish need? Follow this article to figure out all you need to know about healthy betta care housing and safe decorations!
Housing for your Betta
It is recommended that you have at least one gallon of water per betta. This means that your betta must be kept in a fishbowl or tank that is one gallon or larger in size for optimal health. Bettas can be quite active and fun fish if you give them ample room in which to live. Many stores sell BettaHex houses or other tiny bowls for bettas, but this is not the ideal way for bettas to live. Deadly ammonia levels can build up very quickly in such a tiny tank and it would require daily water changes to keep your betta healthy. Even if you are willing to make this commitment, water changes can stress fish greatly and should be done regularly but not excessively. While it is true that some more experienced betta keepers do use smaller containers, this requires much more work on your part and is not advised unless you are prepared to do quite frequent water changes and extensive upkeep procedures.
Bettas CAN AND DO jump! A betta’s tank should always have a cover with air holes. Bettas are labyrinth fish so unlike other common aquarium fish, they breathe oxygen from the surface of the water and it is very important that fresh air is available to them from outside of the tank. If your tank or bowl does not come with a cover, there are various ways to make your own! An old CD can cover the top of a round fishbowl; hairnets or mesh material with a bow tied around the neck of a tank can also work effectively. Be aware that the lids that come with most small (1-2 gallon) commonly sold tanks block out too much oxygen and should not be used; while the label may read that the tank is “Perfect for Bettas,” the lid is not. Your betta will be healthier and happier with a steady supply of fresh air. Be creative and have fun with it; just make sure that air can pass through whatever lid you create.
If you choose to cycle your fish tank (setting up a working filtration system), it is usually recommended to attempt this in a tank that is at least 5 gallons in size. Otherwise, it may be hard to achieve stable tank conditions. There are two ways to cycle a fish tank: with fish in the tank or a fishless cycle. The process of “cycling” a tank will not be detailed here. As mentioned previously, if you choose to use a tank with a filtration system, make sure it is on the lowest setting possible to avoid current in the tank. Also, your tank should be set up in a manner in which your betta or his fins cannot get stuck to the air intake in the tank. Watch your betta carefully when you first begin running a filtration system; if you notice your betta appears stressed or frantic, it is best to remove him and place him in an uncycled tank or bowl. This will be beneficial for his stress level, health, and happiness.
There are many options available for decorations in a betta’s tank. One of the most important things to keep in mind for decorations is to make sure everything is smooth to the touch with no rough edges. An easy way to test this is by taking a pair of pantyhose and rubbing them along all surfaces of the object or plant. If the pantyhose catch or snag anywhere, it could potentially do the same to your betta’s delicate fins and should NOT be used in the tank! Also, be sure that all objects placed in the tank are aquarium-safe and will not leak their toxic coating into the water. If you are unsure if something is safe for use in your betta’s tank, it is probably best to avoid it.
Many people prefer silk aquarium plants for use in betta tanks. Generally, silk plants are soft and do not contain any sharp edges, compared to fake plastic plants. Be sure to use the pantyhose test and file down any sharp areas on the stems until smooth. Thoroughly wash plants with plain water (no soap should ever enter your fish tank) and all new decorations before adding them to the tank. Silk plants are easy to clean, durable, and keep their nice appearance for a long time. Many real plants can also be used in a betta’s tank if you choose to cycle the tank with a filtration system. Live plants offer benefits that fake plants cannot provide, such as giving off oxygen, absorbing toxins, and harboring healthy bacteria. Two of the most popular choices for betta tanks are Java Moss and Java Ferns, as they are very easy to care for. (Java Moss can even be kept in an uncycled tank.) Always make sure you get your live plants from a reputable source.
Note: By live plant, we are referring to a plant specifically for aquariums. This does not mean a Peace Lily that you will stick on top of the tank and have the roots in the water. This setup is unsafe for bettas for many reasons – lack of necessary oxygen at the surface, decaying plant roots, toxic carbon dioxide in the water, etc. For a more in-depth article about why Lily Vase setups are NOT ideal for bettas despite the “instructions” that come with the lily vase, please visit the Lily Vase Series.
Colored or natural aquarium gravel, polished river rocks, glass marbles, aquatic sand or other items can all be used in a betta’s tank as long as they are aquarium safe. Substrate should be thoroughly rinsed in warm water before adding it to the tank and during water changes.
Note: Colored aquarium gravel should only be rinsed in lukewarm water to avoid the color coating from leaking off into the tank.
Bettas appreciate having a place where they can hide and feel safe. This could be in a special aquarium decoration that is betta-safe (smooth edges) or other more creative objects such as hamster tubes, votive candle holders, small plant pots, etc. Just make sure the object is aquarium-safe. This can also be achieved through a heavily planted tank if your betta is able to hide and rest between plants.
See additional Betta Care articles for more information on heating, water changes, feeding, etc.