Betta fish tank: How to set it up properly

If you have or thinking of getting a Betta fish, you will definitely need a tank and below, you will learn what you have to look after before getting one. Before we move on, I have to let you know that this kind of fish is NOT suited for small bowls, although some people treat it that way. They need plenty of space and sufficient decoration to live up to their maximum lifetime and prosper. Their aquarium needs to have several components in order to be complete and provide an environment close to their natural habitat. It doesn’t matter if someone likes or prefers a tank over another, because it might fit their home decoration better. You must always have in mind the requirements of your fish. Thus, your Betta will be able to live a healthy life, free of diseases!

Ready? Let’s go!

Tank Heater

This is the first and most important tool a Betta tank *must* have. Bettas are tropical fish and must be kept in heated tanks. The temperature of the water is very important and it should be between 72 and 820 F. To be more precise the water temperature should never go below 680 F and ideally should be kept around 80-820 F. I have found that the best heater for this job for a small to medium tank is this one:

Top-Betta-Tank-Heater-for-a-small-to-medium- tank

Top Betta Tank Heater for a small to medium tank


All heaters have a thermostat, which will allow you to put the desired temperature and these devices will keep the water consistently at this temperature. However, before using it, you should always read the instructions manual for the precautions that must be taken. It uses electricity after all!

Although the heater will keep the temperature at the same temperature, regardless of the environment, water temperature should be monitored with a submersible thermometer, because the heater might break down and you should notice this (if it happens) as soon as possible. Low temperature affects the immune system leading to susceptibility to parasites and bacterial infections. It also slows the metabolism leading to digestive problems and other health problems, so it should be avoided at any cost. 2.5 gallons or larger tanks are best heated with submersible and adjustable aquarium heaters. A 25 watt is sufficient to heat a 2.5 or 5 gallons tank,while a 50 watts heater suitable for 10 gallon tanks. The heater in the image above is 50 watts, but there is also a 25 watts one offered by the same company.


In nature, Bettas are constantly surrounded by overhanging plants and aquatic vegetation. These plants provide a dark environment, where these fish can feel safe from their predators.  Bettas are quite often seen in many homes and offices, in either bowls or aquariums, although a bowl is far from an ideal place for this fish to live in. Aquariums are far better for these fish and they should be well filtered and decorated. A Betta must have a variety of hiding places to use as shelter, in order to feel safe.

These hiding places can be provided by aquarium plants. These plants fall into either of 2 categories:

  • Natural, live plants
  • Artificial plastic plants

-Natural, live plants

Natural live plants are the best plants for any kind of fish to have in an aquarium, since they provide the closest natural environment possible. They are essential to make an attractive environment, because not only they provide the required shelter, but they also help to keep the aquarium water stress-free. Live plants can remove toxins and enhance the oxygen levels of the tank’s water. Live plants should be quarantined prior to introduction into your tank.

Now, these plants are real plants, so they need some light to grow and live, right?

Well, in most cases yes, but there are some “hacks” you can do. First of all, the most ideal plants for this type of situation are Java ferns and Java moss. They are ideal and are safe for betta tanks, part of the reason because they are easy to grow and require low to medium light. You can see them below:


Java ferns are ideal for environments with low to medium sunlight



Java moss are also ideal for aquariums with medium or low sunlight

If you have no problem regarding sunlight and your tank has regular sunlight you can also opt for other plants. There are many to choose from such as Philodendrons, which are very popular and their roots provide sufficient hiding places. Anacharis plant has beautiful, needle like leaves that are safe for Bettas to eat.   Floating plants such as Water Sprite, Hornwort, Elodea and Tiger Lotus are also very good for Betta tanks. They provide hiding places and are also used as a place for the attachment of bubble nests.

Natural plants will also wave as your Betta swims swiftly through them!

-Artificial, plastic plants

Artificial plants are also used in many aquariums and they are easy to be taken care of, since maintenance is not required. However, there lies the danger that your fish might harm its body or fins by swimming near or through their plastic leaves, so most of them are not recommended. If you have to buy plastic instead of natural plants, ideally choose the ones that I link to as “Artificial plants” at the start of this paragraph.

Additional decorations such as many plastics toys are used in betta tank because they look wonderful and create a beautiful coordinated environment to match the beauty of these fish. However, some of them might leach toxins and/or damage the beautiful fins of your beloved Betta, so they are not recommended.

Decorative Gravel or rock is another important item for good aquariums, which makes the tank or bowl look more attractive to humans and natural for Bettas. The gravel might also provide some biological filtration in an aquarium setup. The surface areas of the gravels or sand enhance the growth of beneficial bacteria that are vital for removing toxic nitrites and nitrates from the tank. These toxic elements are produced from fish waste and decaying organic material such as uneaten fish food and plants in the tank. Glass marbles or smooth stones are also used as a good alternative. Before adding the gravel to the aquarium, it should be cleaned properly.

-Water Filter

The water filter is a very important, vital you could say, piece of equipment in a Betta’s aquarium setup. It removes most of the solid waste, various dissolved chemicals that exist in the tank’s water and provides a sufficient surface area that is ideal for beneficial bacteria which can detoxify most of the harmful compounds in the water. Most Betta keepers unfortunately house their fish in unfiltered tanks, without an aerator or bubbler and change 100% of the water often and wash the tank and decor each time. This is a not very good, but easy way of treating your fish because they are labyrinth breathers and they are adapted to take oxygen from the atmosphere at the surface of the water. This is why they can survive in such small tanks without filters. However, this is not extensive care and they will live a much shorter lifespan, instead of prospering.

-Tank’s Water

Water is a very vital factor for fish in any aquarium. For Bettas, tap water is ideal, as long aso you mix it with a water filter. Bottled water can be equally ideal, but it is more expensive for no extra benefits. Distilled water is generally a bad option, because it has been devoided of its nutrients. If you use distilled water, start changing it gradually to tap water, but don’t change it immediately, or your fish might die. The change must be gradual! Now, a lot of people argue on the internet on what’s the ideal amount of water for a Betta fish. The most handy calculation I came across was 5 galons of water per fish. For example, 1 Betta will need 5 gallons, 2 Bettas will need 10 gallons etc.

Fish in aquarium produce waste substances such as ammonia, nitrites and nitrates which lead to a decline in water quality and fish health. The ammonia and nitrites for a Betta fish tank should be less than 0.01 ppm while specific gravity and carbonate alkalinity should be ranged from 1.022 to 1.026 and 8 to 120 respectively. They prefer slightly acidic pH which ranges between 6.5 and 7.0.  For 1 gallon tank (although it is small for this fish), 100% water should be changed at least 3 times per week while for a larger tank it should be changed 25-50% a week.

-Bonus items

Two bonus items you could add to your aquarium and more specifically its water, are:

  • Aquarium Salt: This magic salt has double benefits! One is Bettas are used and like to have a little salt in their water and two is that salt helps preventing or at least keeping low the presence of fungus and parasites!
  • Aquari-Sol: This magic liquid will prevent both velvets and ich from developing and harming or even killing your Betta!

Also, don’t forget to not leave your tank’s roof totally open, or the fish might jump out of it! They tend to do this particular thing :)

Overall, these beautiful fish are a bit hard to been taken care of, but the end result is totally worth it! Especially if you manage to choose a great Betta fish type, with nice colours and good mixing with the aquarium, the effect can be marvelous, both for you and your fish! Remember they need plenty of hiding places to feel safe. Multiple hiding places are very important to create a good habitat. Unhygienic and improper tank triggers the growth of parasites and others, leading to diseases. Proper care should be taken to create an ideal home for a Betta fish.


About Alex

Alex is fascinated by rare, exotic and tropical fish not only living in aquariums, but also their natural habitat and their breeding. Loves to write about them and offers information on how to take care of your beloved fish.

Speak Your Mind


Like What you Read?

Get More Articles Like This