How To Transfer Betta Fish From Cup To Tank?

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Betta fish are gorgeous, hardy, and exotic fish that need a stable and comfortable living environment. Unfortunately, setting up the ideal aquarium conditions can take time and money. Many people will buy their preferred Bettas first and then worry about setting up the tank.

In the meantime, the Betta will spend some not-so-much-quality time in its cup or a temporary living setting in less-than-ideal conditions.

Moving the Betta from its cup to the main tank can be trickier than you might think. Today, we will discuss this very aspect, trying to shed light on how this environmental change can affect Bettas.

How To Acclimate Your Betta Fish?

You will always buy your Betta in a cup or a plastic bag which is fine for a short period. Bettas can withstand some environmental discomfort if necessary. Ideally, however, you should set up the tank fast to acclimate your Betta to its new living conditions.

An essential note here is that you can’t just fill up the tank with water and place the Betta inside. You need some preparations first to make sure your Betta experiences a smooth transition.

This process requires you to:

– Set up the tank

If you’re only getting one Betta, a 5-gallon tank should do. However, I would advise against that. Get at least a pair in a 10-gallon tank to provide your fish with some company. You can even set up a larger Betta population down the line, along with getting a larger tank setup.

Regarding the tank setup, here’s what you need to know:

  • No filtering necessary – As gorgeous as they are, Bettas typically live in murky and stale waters in the wild. Unlike guppies, they hate flowing, clean waters, as the current makes them uncomfortable. Also, Bettas don’t need a filtering system to breathe; they will get their share of oxygen from the top of the water.
  • Don’t fill the tank up – This is a key aspect to remember, especially if the tank has a lid. Like all fish, Bettas will get their oxygen from the water they live in. But they will also rise to the surface occasionally to get a fresh gulp of air. I recommend filling 80% of the tank and leaving the lid off, providing your Bettas with an unlimited supply of fresh air.
  • Choose gravel for the substrate – Neutral-colored gravel will calm the fish and serve as a breeding ground for bacteria. These organisms will feed on fish waste, keeping the tank cleaner for longer.

– Use a Water Conditioner

Water conditioning is essential for cleansing the water of chlorine, heavy metals, and other impurities. You should have a water conditioner in place no matter the fish species you’re breeding, Bettas included.

Just make sure you use the conditioner according to the instructions on the package. You should adapt the amount of conditioner you’re using to the tank’s size. As a side note, you need to use a conditioner weekly with every water change.

– Introduce the Betta to the Tank

You can’t just throw the Betta into the tank as soon as you’ve set it up. There are a few steps to focus on first, including:

  • Placing the cup into the tank – You take the cup containing the Betta and submerge it into the tank enough to prevent the tank water from going into the cup. Keep it like that for approximately 15 minutes. The goal is to equalize the temperature of the cup water with the tank water.
  • Add some tank water into the cup – Do it gradually, however. The purpose is to allow the Betta to get accustomed to the new environment. Your main tank’s tap water will contain different amounts of minerals, a different pH, and a different temperature. Allowing your fish to adapt to its new environment will make the transition easier.
  • Allow for some accommodating time – You should add tank water into the cup several times over a period of 15-20 minutes. This will ease the fish’s transition into its new habitat.
  • Transfer the Betta to the tank – Once the 15 minutes have passed, your Betta is ready for the transition. Empty the cup into the tank and see how your Betta behaves. If you did everything right, it should carry on its business as usual.

How Long To Acclimate Your Betta?

If you were to calculate the acclimation time, you’re looking at around 30-35 minutes based on all the steps I’ve provided. To be sure, I would recommend extending this period to an hour since that’s what it takes most fish to accommodate to a different environment.

This is much more important with Bettas, who can be affected by environmental fluctuations more than other breeds. One hour isn’t that much to ensure your fish’s safety and comfort during the transition, and it will all be worth it.

How Long Should You Wait to Put Betta in a New Tank?

If we are talking about moving the Betta from one tank to a new one, you have 2 aspects to consider:

– Allowing for a quarantine period 

A 1 or 2-week quarantine period will protect the fish population that already lives in the new tank (if any). Your Betta may have an infection, parasite, or disorder that you’re not aware of. If you ignore the quarantine period, the Betta may infect the entire tank.

You can even quarantine the fish for up to 4 weeks for a plus of safety. This should be enough to eliminate all concerns since, by that time, all disorders will begin to show visible symptoms.

– Always cycle the tank first

I recommend introducing the Betta to an already cycled tank instead of cycling the tank with them in. This is because the Betta are rather sensitive to radical environmental changes.

The goal cycling process’s goal is to drop the levels of ammonia and nitrites to zero, allowing the growth of beneficial bacteria and creating a safe and balanced environment. The good news is that the cycling process also lasts for about 2 weeks, which corresponds with the duration of the quarantine process.

How Long Can Betta Fish Survive in a Cup?

Bettas are meant to live in wide spaces with much water volume, vegetation, and preferably other aquatic creatures. Tight and very tight spaces like a cup are unfit for such a majestic fish. The Betta will survive some time in the cup, but it will begin to show signs of disease one month in.

In extreme scenarios, I only recommend keeping the Betta in a cup no longer than 2 or 3 weeks. Anything above that will affect your Betta’s health and shorten its lifespan significantly.

Can Betta Fish Survive a Tank Cycle?

Bettas will generally survive tank cycles, but the real answer depends on several factors. Your Betta must be in high health, the ammonia levels must be low, and you should always monitor your fish along the way.

If you notice any signs of discomfort, like rubbing against the tank, going to the water’s surface to breathe often, or showing lack of appetite, remove the Betta from the tank. It’s better to be more precautious than risking your Betta’s life in the process.

What is Betta Fish New Tank Syndrome?

The New Tank Syndrome is also known as ‘nitrite peak’ and, in simple terms, is defined by an increase in levels of ammonia and nitrites. These are toxic to all aquarium creatures in high-enough levels.

The reason why it’s called the New Tank Syndrome is that it occurs primarily in new tanks with little to no beneficial bacteria present. These microorganisms will feed on fish waste and decaying food leftovers, preventing the dangerous increase of ammonia.

For this reason, you should always cycle the tank, introduce the plants and underwater decorations, and only after that bring in the fish. If you’re doing it the other way around, the fish will find themselves in a sterile environment with no beneficial bacteria.

By the time the bacteria forms, the ammonia levels could increase to life-threatening levels.

The same thing can happen if you cleanse the filter. The tank’s filter will usually hold cultures of live beneficial bacteria, contributing to a healthier aquatic ecosystem. Cleaning the filter will destroy these cultures, triggering a nitrite peak as a result.

When that happens, your Betta will experience symptoms typical of ammonia poisoning.

What is the Betta Fish Old Tank Syndrome?

The Old Tank Syndrome is typically the result of a lack of long-term maintenance. Not changing the water occasionally, not having a filtering system, or malfunctioning filters will trigger the phenomenon.

Just as with the New Tank Syndrome, the effects stem from dangerous increases in ammonia due to the beneficial bacteria being unable to handle the surplus. This effect is more common in heavily populated tanks with a lot of fish, creating a lot of waste.

Overfeeding can also exacerbate the problem, especially when paired with poor maintenance and lack of water changes.


Bettas are hardy fish, but, like any other fish breed, they do have their weaknesses. They don’t like small and crowded environments, they react poorly to sudden environmental changes and hate flowing waters.

If you’re ready to introduce a Betta to your fish tank, keep in mind the essentials:

  • Quarantine the fish for 2-4 weeks to ensure it doesn’t have any health issues
  • Cycle the tank if it’s a new system with no other fish available
  • Introduce the Betta gradually, as I’ve explained earlier in the article
  • Always monitor the water’s ammonia levels
  • Perform regular water changes (once a week) and ensure proper oxygenation

Other than that, your Bettas don’t need special treatment compared to other fish breeds.

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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