Male Betta of yellows, creams, oranges and purples swimming in a 20-gallon long tank with plants and rocks.

What You Need for a Betta Fish Tank

What You Need for a Betta Fish Tank

Seymore. A handsome Betta Splenden fish displaying the full spectrum of reds in nature. He lived on the large pass-through between kitchen and dining room in our apartment. He lived in a large glass vase filled with water that displayed rooting vine and bamboo. He swam between the roots. He was magnificent. I was a jerk. A selfish uneducated Betta fish owner. What I know now, I wish I'd known then.

The pet and breeding trade sell the idea that Betta are an easy fish, great for a child or first pet. Which is the idea I bought and thought twenty years ago. This sales pitch and handling inside stores shortens their lifespan when ten years could be expected under the right environment setup. A flourishing Betta is a beautiful, playful, intelligent fish. A gem of a personality. Knowing their natural history in the wild is the key to creating and keeping Betta fish happy, healthy, and long. They aren't complicated, but they do have intriguing habitat needs and habits as a fish.

Their wild lifestyle is low in oxygen, because they prefer slow moving streams, rice paddies, stagnant ponds, marshes and shallow freshwater areas filled with plants, roots, and organic material. They do best in warm water averaging 80º Fahrenheit. Cold water can kill a Betta by slowing down its immune system. In the wild they feast on plankton, crustaceans, and larvae. Because of their low oxygen shallow water habitats, Bettas have evolved to breathe air at the water’s surface. Hatchlings rely on their gills, while adults gulp and capture oxygen using their labyrinth organ. Attached to the gills, this organ functions like a lung. 

What you need for a healthy Betta Tank.

  • Bettas flourish in horizontal space. A single male Betta does best in 5 to 10 gallons. For a pair (male and female), at least 20 gallons long or better works best. You'll want a mesh lid in place. There is no such thing as too big of a tank, though.
  • An aquarium heater.
  • Adding a filtering system delivers benefits to fish, plants, and the tank mates you add. You'll want a low volume flow for slow water movement. Sponge-filter systems work best for Betta water movement needs. Water quality should be a pH between 6 and 7.5.
  • Live plants and organic materials create a natural water quality improving habitat. Plants, rocks, caved shaped rock formations provide shelter and interest for your Betta. Consider Anubias Barteri, Vallisneria, Hairgrass, or Java Fern. Hardscapes are great to add extra shelter, and wood adds tannins to the water, benefiting good bacteria. Consider pH requirements when choosing rocks and pebbles. The chalky types of rock will raise pH.
  • Betta friends. Everybody benefits from the buddy system. Consider shrimp, tetras, cory catfish, or rasbora as tank mates. Bettas do well with these types of fish.
  • Provide a close to nature nutrient rich wafers or pellets. Add in insect larvae proteins.

Finally, check out this great video as example of an outstanding Betta tank.

We're planning on hosting a Betta and friends' tank in our home, again. And this time, I'm going to do it right, plus a bit of extra right for fun. Bettas are phenomenal fish and offer beauty as well as intrigue for an aquarium lover.

You can find a complete curated Betta product collection here.

Kathy LaFollett is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

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