Betta Care Guide: All About Bettas!
The “Betta Basics”
-2.5+ gallon tank
A More Comprehensive Guide
The absolute minimum, I do not recommend keeping a betta in anything less than this because even in a cycled 2.5, keeping a *stable* cycle is very difficult, and requires more frequent water changes. In a tank this small, you’ll most likely need to buy an adjustable heater as well, since the smallest (trustworthy) heaters on the market are 7-7.5 watts, and depending on where you live or how hot/cold you keep your house/room, the heat will fluctuate too often, or be too hot or too cold since the volume of water is quite small. A 2.5 gallon betta tank is doable.
A great median for those who want to give their bettas a wonderful environment, but may be cramped on space, move around often, or whose living arrangements have aquarium-related restrictions. A cycled 5 gallon tank with a betta generally requires a water change 1x a week. A 5 gallon is also easier to heat and keep a stable cycle with a 5 gallon than a 2.5 gallon. I still recommend an adjustable heater (I’ll always recommend an adjustable heater), though, as I’ve found that even with an appropriately-sized preset heater/non-adjustable heater, the temperature fluctuates too often and by too much. A 5 gallon is a perfectly good choice!
A palace! Your new betta would love to have a 10+ gallon tank! They’ll swim over every inch of it, I promise its not too big. A fantastic choice for those that have the space and can afford to set up a 10 gallon or larger with all the bells and whistles (décor, filter, heater, etc.).
note: If you feel you can’t give your betta a 10+ gallon tank, and you can only afford a 2.5 or 5 gallon setup (or something in between), that DOES NOT mean I (or anyone else) think you’re a bad fish parent ❤ as long as you can provide the basic necessities your fish requires and keep on top of water quality, then do what you can when you can! Maybe it’ll be a few months before you can buy your fish that new hide or a few extra plants, or maybe you’ll have to wait ‘til xmas or your bday to be able to afford a larger tank if that’s what you want, and that’s okay. As long as you do the best within your means (provided your animal’s basic needs are met), that’s all your fish would ask of you ❤
Bettas are tropical fish! That means they require temperatures of 76-82F.
Why do they need this temperature range, though? Well, fish are ectothermic (“cold-blooded”) meaning that they depend on their surrounding environment (the water) to regulate their body temperatures! Your human body also requires a certain body temperature to optimize all those bodily functions it performs. Think about frostbite (affects circulation) or hypothermia (affects body temperature and bodily function). Your fish can suffer similar effects when its water is kept too cold. A cold betta will be more prone to fin rot/melt (the tips of the fins become necrotic) because their circulation is affected. A colder fish will also have a slower digestive process and slower metabolism, meaning that it will become lethargic because it’s organs can’t work fast enough to produce energy it needs to be healthy and active. You wanna see a bright colorful active betta? Give them a heated tank! 😃
Even if you have an adjustable heater, you should invest in a thermometer (1.50$, glass, Walmart)! I personally use an adjustable thermometer, which has an internal thermostat which tells it when to shut off/on, but when I set the heater to 79, my tanks stay around 82F, but I wouldn’t know that unless I had a thermometer to let me know what the actual tank temperature is! I definitely recommend spending the extra buck for one :)
Also, those sticker ones that go on the outside of the tank are not reliable, seeing as they go on the outside of the tank, and show a range of temperatures more or less. They cost about the same as a glass one (which is much more accurate), so I recommend either glass or digital, but not the stickers.
Bettas aren’t fond of tons of flow, which can present some challenges to your friendly neighborhood aquarist. Luckily, there are plenty of options when it comes to betta-safe filtration.
Hang-On-Back style filters. Some have an intake pipe, which should be covered with a sponge to keep your bettas fins (or the betta itself) from being sucked up and shredded/injured. You can search for “pre-filter sponge” or “intake filter sponge” on amazon, google, or find a fluval prefilter sponge at your local petsmart/Petco. You can also DIY one out of cut-to-size filter foam/sponge. HOB filters can also have a strong out-flow. Some have spray bars, some have spickets, and some just have a wide-mouth waterfall-style opening. If you find that the flow is pushing your betta around, or your betta is struggling to swim against the current, you can baffle it! Some common techniques for baffling filters are the “water-bottle baffle”, using a shower loofa/pouf, covering the out-flow opening with filter sponge/floss, or an intake sponge. I have the fluval spec v and I use an intake sponge on the out-spout since it’s a short spigot.
These are block sponges which usually sit on the bottom of the aquarium and are hooked up to an airline tube and air pump. They push air through the sponge, creating a vacuum and pulling water through. The air bubbles that come out of the top of the sponge don’t create much horizontal flow that pushes bettas around, but instead the water flow is directed upwards. The bubbles provide oxygenation and surface agitation as well.
Bettas like to feel safe (as do all fish and other pets) and giving them at least one cave to retreat to will give your fish that sense of security. You can buy something from the fish store, a local pet store, or a pet chain store. Besides the pre-made ones (logs, rock caves, skulls, etc.), you can buy terra cotta pots for around a 1$ or so. Just make sure that the pots aren’t just painted brown, but that they’re a terra cotta material all the way through. Fish have also gotten stuck in the small drainage holes at the bottom of these pots, so be sure to plug it up with some aquarium-safe silicone or something. Also, be sure to make sure that your hides don’t have sharp edges your betta could tear his/her fins on, and that the hide doesn’t have holes that your betta may get stuck in. Usually you can sand down rough edges though :)
Plastic plants are generally a no-no, as they can tear your bettas fins. Usually, if they pass the “panty-hose” test they are deemed “betta-safe” but it’s still better not to chance it when there are plenty of gorgeous silk plants out there! “silk” plants are made from material (not necessarily silk) instead of plastic. Silk plants may have plastic stems, but that’s ok so long as there aren’t any sharp seams; the silk leaves are what’s important here!
Live plants are also an option. Anubias, anacharis, java fern, moss, and banana plants are all low-light plants which require no CO2 and no special substrate. However, this is not a plant guide so you’ll have to research how you can plant them or add them to your tank on your own.
There are lots of food which is marked specially for bettas, but don’t fall for marketing gimmicks! Know what’s in your pet’s food before you buy. If the first few ingredients are “meal”s (fish meal, wheat meal, etc.) or the first few ingredients are plant-based, then this is not the food for your betta.
What you want to look for is whole ingredients, or specifically-named ingredients (whole fish, halibut, salmon, krill, etc.). New Life Spectrum and Omega One are good brands to check out. Hikari is ok, but their ingredients are not as quality as they used to be, and if you read the ingredients on their current “Betta Bio-Gold” you’ll see what I mean. Foods with fillers/freeze-dried foods don’t have a lot of nutritional value, and while a freeze-dried food may make a tasty treat, it shouldn’t be your fish’s staple diet. You can also feed frozen/live blood worms, mysis shrimp, etc. Bettas are insectivores, and cannot digest plant matter, so they should not be given any type of algae wafer or vegetables (this includes peas; an alternative to feeding peas for bloat is to feed daphnia!!).
I’ll preface this section by stating that bettas don’t need tankmates! :) Tankmates are more for you than for your fish, and should be chosen carefully.
Tankmates in General:
-please remember to make sure that your tank is suitable for the tank mates you wish to house; you wouldn’t keep your betta in a 1 gallon unfiltered/unheated tank, so don’t do the equivalent to your betta’s tankmates your fish are all equal, so please, please, please make sure that you put in the same amount of research and care for the tankmates that you do for your betta! make sure your tank mates have the same requirements are your betta, and their temperament won’t put your betta at risk.
-ALWAYS DO RESEARCH ON THE SPECIES YOURE CONSIDERING BEFORE PURCHASING!! :)
-always have a backup plan in case your tankmates don’t get along with your betta, or your betta doesn’t get along with his tankmates
-a 20 gallon is the best minimum choice for a community-style betta tank, as it opens up more options and gives your betta and his/her tankmates plenty of space!
-be prepared to separate/rehome/etc. “problem fish” or a “problem betta”. if your betta isn’t really the community type, don’t try to force him/her to be; it won’t work out well for anyone. Get that betta an individual setup as soon as possible, or if your tank is large enough, divide it so that your betta has his/her own space.
Good Tank Mates:
shoaling, 6+ to a group - keeping them in groups smaller than this will stress them to death…literally sometimes
10+ gallons (dwarf/pygmy), 20+ gallons (regular)
tropical, lots of species to choose from
sand/barebottom is a MUST - p they have soft bellies and sensitive barbels, and gravel can scratch up their bellies (which leads to stress or infection) or damage their barbels o.o also, they sift through sand to find little bits of food naturally, so sand lets them display this natural behavior and you get to see it too!
schooling, 6+ to a school – keeping them in schools smaller than this will stress out the fish
10-15+ gallons – depending on the species
tropical, lots of species to choose from
note: “galaxy rasboras” are NOT rasboras (rasboras belong to the boraras genus). Galaxy rasboras are actually a species of danio (other common name: celestial pearl danio) and are not tropical.
under 10 gallons: nerites, ramshorns, horned nerites, and other small snails
10+ gallons: mystery snails & other snails listed above – mystery snails get quite large and have a bioload as large, if not larger, than your betta’s, so a mystery snail is more suited to living in a 10 gallon tank than in something smaller
not all bettas are “shrimp-safe”, meaning that if you want to try shrimp, you should be prepared for the worst case scenario: your betta eats them! if youre okay with the possibility that you may lose some shrimp, then i suggest starting out with a few shrimp.
Amano shrimp are larger, great for algae, should be kept in groups of at least 3-5
cherry shrimp (and other neocardinia sp.) are hardy, but small (most likely to be a tasty snack), colorful/many variations to choose from!
ghost shrimp can actually be nippy, so I’d recommend against them, even though they’re pretty cheap~
putting shrimp in a 2.5 gallon tank is doable, but a 5 gallon tank would be much better
do best in groups, 3+ - they’re not traditional shoaling or schooling fish, but are still social
20+ gallons - otos are sensitive to water quality
if your tank doesn’t have a ton of algae for them to eat, then I suggest supplementing their diet with cucumbers/zucchini/algae wafers/etc.
tank size depends completely on the species your considering, there are a ton!!
I suggest supplementing their diet with cucumbers/zucchini/algae wafers/etc.
schooling, 6+ to a school – keeping the in schools smaller than this will stress out the fish
10+ gallons – they do ok in a 10, but would prefer a 15 (long) or a 20 gallon! 😊
Bad Tank Mates:
NOT tropical (max temp is like 74F), they’re schooling (6+ fish in a group), and are insanely active! this means they need at least a 20 gallon, and need to be with other cooler/temperate water fish like other danios and minnows :) Also, even if they could do ok in a heated 10 gallon, their active nature tends to stress bettas out :/
White Cloud Mountain Minnows (or any other minnows):
NOT tropical (max temp is around 74F), they’re schooling (6+ fish in a group), and are insanely active! They’re smaller, around 1”, but they need at least a 10 gallon, and should only be housed with other cooler/temperate water fish such as other danios and minnows :) Also, even if they could do ok in a heated 10 gallon, their active nature tends to stress bettas out :/
they’re tropical, could do ok in a 10 (but would do better in a 20). Enough people have had fin-nipping/aggression issues that they’ve made this list. Not everyone who houses bettas with neon tetras will have these issues, but if there’s a possibility of putting your fish’s health and wellbeing at risk, why take the risk? There are plenty of other safer, more suitable tank mates out there 😊
all other tetras not mentioned:
tetras tend to be nippy in general (black skirt tetras, for example) and there are safer options out there; dont risk it! <3
get too large to be housed safely with bettas
can be aggressive/attack/bully your betta
some peoples bettas seem to do ok, some do not, as they can be nippy or aggressive towards your betta
their flowing tails and bright colors also tend to bring out aggression, and since they have such pretty tails, they may be nipped at by your betta, or vice versa
/*Thanks for giving that book a read! If you feel as though I’ve provided inaccurate information, could make an improement, or have an addition to suggest, feel free to let me know! :3*/