How to Start a Betta Fish Tank?

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Betta Fish are beautiful and it’s not hard to take care of them at all. This is why it’s such a popular choice among fish enthusiasts.

They are the proof that you don’t have to be an expert to be an owner of some amazing fish species.

Before you take your Betta home, you need to set up an aquarium where it can comfortably live for years to come. The rule of thumb is usually to set up the tank in a way that imitates the natural habitat of the fish. Bettas are tropical fish straight from the basins of Thailand and Malaysia.

By the end of this article, you will see that it’s really not a big deal to set up the aquarium properly for this species. You just need to know what to buy, what not to buy and how to set up the water parameters. We are going to show you everything you need to know for setting up the perfect Betta Fish tank.

Choosing Aquarium Size for Betta Fish

People still have this idea in their mind that it is okay to just put a Betta Fish into a small bowl. The truth is that your fish is going to live a pretty sad life if you do this. It needs more space to swim around comfortably. Not to mention that in a small aquarium, the water quickly gets contaminated.

Poor water quality is the cause of most diseases among fish. If you decided to buy a Betta and you want to see it thrive, then the minimum tank size you should go for is 5 gallons. We encourage you to get a bigger one but if we have to say a number then that’s the minimum.

The reason why it’s exactly 5 gallons is because you are going to find it very hard to establish a healthy nitrogen cycle in a smaller one. On the other hand, there has to be some additional space where you can put some plants or rocks. Bettas love it when the environment around them imitates their natural habitat.

Aquarium Cycling Process

Cycling your tank without the fish in it is the smartest way to go about it. Although it is doable with your Betta Fish in the tank too, we definitely don’t recommend it. After you pour water into the tank, it will take time for all the bacteria to grow there.

The ammonia concentration of the water can quickly skyrocket if you put the fish in but the bacteria are not there yet. That can potentially kill your Betta so you better not risk it. Biological enhancers that provide your aquarium with all the beneficial bacteria can be bought at the fish store.

So basically the water is prepared when there is no ammonia in it, a very low amount of nitrate and lots of good bacteria.

Choosing Aquarium Plants for Betta Fish

In the slow-moving and shallow streams of Malaysia and Thailand, there are plenty of places where the Bettas can hide. These are typically shady places where they can use the plants or rocks for shelter. Therefore, your aquarium should be set up in a way so that there are plenty of shady spots and objects.

A Betta would be frustrated in a fish tank that is too open and filled with light. You can nicely decorate it with rocks, plants and caves so that the fish won’t feel so exposed. During the night, your Betta Fish will try to find a good spot for sleep and it is going to be some hiding place where there is no treat.

During the day, you are going to see them take a nap on one of the leaves. This is why plants are important, so that your fish can feel at home. You can make the aquarium look even better by putting ornaments into it. Your Bettas won’t mind it at all.

However, you need to check if the particular object has any sharp edges or anything that can damage the delicate fins of your Betta. Besides live plants, there is always the option to buy some fake ones. In that case, choose the ones that are made of silk instead of plastic.

Still, it is best to go for the live plants because those are going to help you a lot when it comes to keeping the water clean. It will come off as more natural for your Betta Fish too.

Artificial Lighting for Betta Tank

For a Betta Fish, it should be just as natural when to go to sleep and when to get up as it is for us humans. It is quite straightforward for us to go to sleep at night and get up in the morning. The lighting plays a huge part in this and Bettas respond to it pretty much the same way.

The only difference is that your fish are probably going to be somewhere in your room. It is not going to be obvious for them which part of the day it is. The solution to this is to install artificial lights to your aquarium. Then it is going to be your job to establish a healthy sleeping schedule for them by setting the lights on or off when needed.

There are plenty of adjustable LED lights available in the market that are easy to install and easy to use. Those are your best bet. If you want to save yourself some precious time, then you can buy one that comes with an automatic timer.

Adding the Betta to Your Aquarium

After you have installed everything on your aquarium, poured the water in and set the parameters, you can go ahead and buy your Betta Fish. It is important to set up all of it in advance because you really don’t want to expose the fish to fluctuations and other stress.

Once you brought the Betta to the fish tank, get ready to slowly transfer it to the tank. The fish usually comes in a nylon bag or a similar container filled with water. Instead of pouring it into the aquarium right away, float the container on top of the water surface until the temperature is the same.

Leave it like that for an hour or two. The next step is to start mixing the water from the tank with the water in the container. Do this for a while, then hold it in a position so that the Betta can swim into the tank from the bag. This way, it is not going to be a stressful experience for the fish at all.

If you think about it, the fish has to acclimatize to completely different water parameters and a different environment altogether. It has to be a slow and steady transition.

Maintaining Your Betta Fish Tank

The bigger the tank, the easier it will be to maintain it. Your Betta Fish will continually generate waste and it only depends on the amount of water in the aquarium how fast it will reach a toxic level. The bare minimum is to change 20% of the water weekly and to clean the whole tank every couple of weeks.

This applies to the 5-gallon tank we suggested for a single Betta. Keep the water clean and your fish will have a much lower chance of getting sick. If you buy a 10-gallon tank, then it is going to be enough to change 10% of the water every couple of weeks.

Also, you will only need to clean the whole tank only once a month. At a first glance, it might seem like there is a lot to do in order to clean the aquarium. In fact, you can do the job quickly with a brush, a sponge, a sink and a container where you can put your fish while you clean the tank.

You can even get a gravel vacuum and simply suck out the waste that got accumulated at the bottom. The first and last thing you will do is to remove the fish from the aquarium and then put them back when everything is done.

When they are out, you remove the decorations, then remove the water and clean everything one-by-one. Then, you put everything back in, pour in the fresh water and gently put your Bettas back.


Betta Fish look amazing and it’s a delight to look at how they thrive in a home aquarium and they are very intelligent pets. If you take good care of them, they are going to be healthy and energetic for a long time. We have show you what it takes to set up an aquarium where Bettas can live comfortably.

Now it is up to you to follow our tips and show how great of a fish keeper you are. What is most important to do is to change at least 20% of the water every week. There are countless diseases that can infect your fish if the water is too contaminated.

The second most important thing is to monitor the water parameters. Values such as pH, temperature and water hardness should be properly set at all times. If all these factors are in order, you only need to feed your Bettas with healthy foods and everything is going to be alright.

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.

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