Betta Fish Needs to Keep Them Healthy and Safe

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Betta Fish Needs

Although they are listed as one of the easiest species to care for in various articles and sources, betta fish needs must be appropriately looked at to avoid any hardship. Most of these complications occur due to the misunderstanding of their basic requirements.

Unfortunately, it is common to see betta fish often being misjudged as their behavior and characteristics can sometimes be misleading to aquarists. Without providing its necessities, it is possible that your betta can develop stress and eventually die if left unattended.

Every aquarist wishes to have a healthy fish with long life; to achieve this; it is essential to supply a suitable environment that matches its needs.

With my seven years of experience in keeping betta fish and breeding them, I have compiled this article which will highlight and elaborate on all the needs of a betta fish so that you can provide a thriving environment for your betta! Below are the topics which I will discuss to help you understand and clear out your jargon:

  • Type of tank and size
  • Lighting
  • Plants and decorations
  • Water temperature, level and quality
  • Appropriate nutrition
  • Recommended tank mates and the number of them
  • Ecosystem maintenance tips
  • Common diseases
  • Frequently asked questions

Betta Fish Needs: Select the Right Type of Tank and Size

Since betta fish are known to be less active and incompatible with most species of fish due to their aggression, they are frequently housed in small tanks. Tanks ranging from 1 gallon to 30- gallons could be used, but there are no limitations for tanks of larger sizes. Tanks above 20 gallons are only commonly used for bettas if occupied with several other fish, as keepers feel that their tank may feel empty. If you wish to have a tank larger than 30 gallons, feel free to go ahead, as their no issues with it whatsoever. When considering relatively smaller tanks, 1-gallon tanks could be used too, as it is possible to house a single betta. While it may not be the most recommended tank size, it can provide an excellent start to your hobby, and you can relocate your fish into a larger tank with time.

The suggested tank size for a betta fish is a 5-gallon aquarium. This tank size provides your fish with adequate swimming space whilst making it convenient for you to place it anywhere you like. When considering larger tanks, it is possible to introduce suitable tank mates for your betta fish.

When selecting the ideal type of tank, it is recommended to choose one with a lower depth, as bettas are mouth breathers. As a result, these fish tend to arrive at the surface regularly to grasp oxygen, and having a tank with a lower depth, will make it easier for your fish. Their natural habitat also consists of shallow waters, so it is always best to get a tank with more length than depth. Remember to get a tank with a roof or lid, as they are prone to jumping out. If you do not have access to a tank with a top, make sure to lower the water level by a few inches to ensure that they are incapable of jumping out of the aquarium.


Just like any other type of fish, bettas require a certain amount of lighting to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Since betta fish sleep during the night or whenever it is dark, it is advisable to provide light for up to 10 hours a day. In nature, these fish are exposed to the bright sun during the day followed by darkness during the night and depicting these lighting patterns in your aquarium will be beneficial. Placing your betta tank in a well-lit room will eliminate the need to invest in a lighting system.

So why exactly is lighting essential for betta fish? Firstly, lighting allows betta fish to determine their sleeping cycle and appetite. By having insufficient light, your betta could have a defective appetite which is likely to affect its growth.

Secondly, lighting affects their reproduction similarly to their appetite. When breeding bettas, it is a common practice to provide adequate light but not too much of it either. This is because bettas tend to be more active in a well-lit environment which may encourage them to engage in spawning.

Betta fish are brighter and more colorful in aquariums with ample light. Having bright lights will produce tan on the fish’s body surface, which develops its shinier look. In dull tanks with minimum light, the bettas will likely fade and lose their colors.

Insufficient light can also cause your betta to be sluggish and inactive. If your betta looks constantly unenergetic, it could be due to less exposure to light. In this case, it is necessary to provide adequate lighting, which can be chosen by from the following 2 ways:

Natural sunlight

Placing your tank close to a window or an opening which brings in sunlight will provide the necessary lighting for your aquarium. Natural sunlight will assist in developing your betta’s colors through tanning. However, there are a few drawbacks to exposing your aquarium to sunlight. This is because placing a tank under direct sunlight will boost algae and may result in greenish water. Algae is one of the most annoying factors for aquarists as it is difficult to control unless an ultraviolet (UV) filtration system is in place. Furthermore, direct sunlight could heat the water in your tank, which could cause harm to your betta. Especially during hot seasons such as summer, it is vital to monitor the temperatures as otherwise, it could end up deadly.

Artificial lighting

Artificial lighting can be the most convenient type of lighting as it can be controlled with ease, and some are equipped with timers for them to operate as scheduled. Artificial lights can be selected from various types and sizes that suit your aquarium and your preference. The limitations of artificial lighting are that some aquarists complain that lights often get damaged and therefore need repairs or replacement.

These also consume power, increasing your electricity bill as they are usually switched on for a significant amount of time during the day.

Plants And Decorations


As I mentioned earlier in this article, bettas are primarily mouth breathers, so having highly oxygenated waters is not mandatory. Due to this, plants are usually placed solely for the reason of decoration. Nevertheless, at times they may breathe through their gills which makes having plants useful. Below are some plants that you could consider for your betta tank.

Anubias Nana

This is a plant with relatively large leaves, and they often act as a surface for betta fish to rest on. These plants are easy to grow and do not get destroyed by snails, making them a great addition if your tank has bettas and aquatic snails.

Cryptocoryne Green Gecko

Native to the waters of Sri Lanka, these plants require less light for growth and do not need extensive care. The structure of this plant allows your betta to move around and hide within it.


Although they can grow to enormous sizes, with timely maintenance, this could be one of the most elegant plants for your betta tank. Its unique shape of the leaves makes it an eye-catching plant for any tank.

Cabomba Aquatica

While this is an easy plant to care for, this is ideal for betta fish because when it grows to the surface, it provides surface area for them to form bubble nests. If you plan on breeding bettas, adding this plant will be helpful.


This plant could either be rooted to the bottom or simply let itself float. Bettas love to snuggle through these plants as they offer hiding space to keep themselves calm.


Wood branches

According to your tank size, you can purchase wood branches of your preferred choice for your tank. Adding branches gives a natural look to your tank and fills up blank spaces in your betta tank.


Rocks are one of the most popular decorations used in aquariums due to obvious reasons. Stones are available in different colors, types, sizes and textures, which you can select from. Placing rocks will help to replicate the tank to betta’s natural environment, which could be pleasing to see.

Store bought decorations

Whether you purchase at a pet store or online, the range of artificial aquarium decorations is vast to the extent that it is challenging to choose one! Caves, shipwrecks, castles and cartoon characters are some of the most commonly available tank decorations. Not only do these add a unique appearance, but they may also provide space for hiding.

Water Temperature, Level and Quality

Bettas are hardy in nature yet to provide the most thriving conditions; there are some recommended water parameters which can be considered. A temperature ranging between 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit is considered optimum. These fish can usually withstand brief changes in weather conditions unless they become extreme or continuous.

If you live in an area with a cold climate, it is vital to place an aquarium heater to maintain a healthy temperature for your bettas. Even though it is valuable to avoid sudden changes in water temperatures, during short-lived conditions such as rain, it may not be essential to fit a heater as long as the bad weather only lasts for a short time.

On the other hand, if the temperature exceeds the above-specified range, it is best to take some precautions. If your tank is placed close to a window or under direct sunlight, make sure to relocate your tank, as the water temperatures could rise rapidly otherwise.

Regarding the water level, it is necessary to leave out an inch or 2 without water in your tank, as bettas are good jumpers. By having the water level to its maximum, you could risk your betta fish from lying on the floor as they tend to leap out.

Just like any other fish, bettas require a clean aquatic environment. Therefore, it is advisable to conduct regular maintenance to ensure good water quality. Ammonia and nitrate levels should be closely monitored, and swift action needs to be taken if found present in your betta tank.

Appropriate Nutrition

Bettas are omnivorous fish species whose dietary requirements require a significant amount of protein. To ensure that your betta has a healthy and long living lifestyle, its diet should meet the required nutrition. Following are some nutritional foods which you can include in your betta’s diet;

Store bought fish pellets and flakes

These can be the most popular food for bettas due to their convenience. Pet stores have a variety of flakes and pellets but before purchasing, make sure you select pellets of tiny sizes which would fit a betta’s mouth. Certain types and brands of fish feed are manufactured explicitly for betta fish. Such specialized betta pellets or flakes contain the nutrition for growth and color development.


 Frozen food

These include bloodworms, mosquito larvae, shrimps and brine shrimp which are frozen to extend storage time. Frozen fish food needs to be thawed before being fed, so there is some effort that has to be put in every time you feed your betta fish. Typically, any seafood falls under the frozen category because bettas are light eaters, and they can’t completely finish a single shrimp or fish. To prepare your own frozen food, it is advisable to use tank water when freezing out any food as it ensures that the water being used is safe.

Live food

The most common live food given to betta fish are micro worms, bloodworms, larvae, brine shrimp and daphnia. If you find it easier to feed pellets or flakes routinely, it is possible to substitute live food whenever you feel it provides a balanced diet. It is important to note that collecting live feeders such as bloodworms or larvae from unknown places is not recommended as they may contain harmful parasites which could affect your betta fish. It is best to grow your live food, but if it is too troublesome, stick with frozen food and pellets.

Recommended Tank Mates and Number of Them

It is often misunderstood that betta fish are not compatible with any other fish due to their aggressive temperament. However, it is possible to add certain fish species when considering a few factors, such as their aggression and tank size. For some aquarists, having just a single betta fish in their aquarium may not be interesting enough, which makes them consider other varieties of fish that can be housed together. Below is a list of suitable tankmates for your betta fish:

Mystery snail/ apple snail

Not only do they scavenge for algae and leftover food, but they are also great tank mates for betta fish. Since these snails are slow in movement, they are highly unlikely to grab the attention of your betta, making them a safe companion to share their home. It is recommended to add up to 3 pairs of snails as they tend to reproduce and grow their population rapidly.

Cory catfish (Corydoras)

This is a calm type of fish that stay together in schools. When housed with 4 or more of these fish, it is unlikely that a betta may approach to cause any threat. Make sure not to overstock these fish based on the size of your aquarium!

Ghost shrimps

Their translucent color and large size keep away betta fish, making them ideal tank mates. They also help control algae and may devour any leftovers from your betta’s meals. Since they are small in size, you can keep about 2 shrimps per 5 gallons along with your betta.

Harlequin rasbora

These are another shoaling type of fish that can be kept with bettas. They usually grow to an inch, and keeping at least 3 pairs of these fish is recommended if your tank is small. The more you add, the better it is, but the quantity of fish should be decided based on the size of your tank.

Bristlenose plecos

Plecos are probably the most commonly used scavenger fish while being compatible with almost any type of fish, including bettas. Their rugged, leathery armor makes it impossible for the betta to bite through, just in case it has caught its attention.

Ecosystem Maintenance Tips

Maintaining a betta tank is relatively easy, but a specific procedure will help sustain a healthy ecosystem. The most crucial factor to note is the amount of food you provide. When provided with excessive food, your betta will struggle to swallow them, causing them to spit out. The food particles that have been spat out would contaminate the water, bringing the need for regular water changes. If your betta seems to be spitting out any food or if there is food lying around, make sure to scoop them out with a net.

It is advised to conduct water changes of 25% weekly. This will allow your betta to enjoy clean water whilst preventing sudden changes in water conditions. When performing water changes, it is best to use a siphon to suck out all the debris from the bottom of the tank, as they are what affects the water most. During water changes, make sure to use an aquarium water conditioner which may eliminate any chlorine in the new water being added.

If you have a filter, make sure to clean them at least once every 3 weeks, as it will help to minimize the circulation of dirty water and may also boost the power of filtration. When cleaning, it is best to wash any filter media with the water from your aquarium.

Common Diseases


This is a common disease which can be diagnosed easily. Symptoms are a lack of appetite, scales sticking out and a swollen belly. Generally, this occurs due to bad water conditions or poor-quality food. Unfortunately, this disease is not easy to cure as there are no exact remedies. However, some medications available at pet stores may help battle dropsy to a certain extent.


If you ever notice any white spots on your betta fish, it is probably due to ich. This is a parasite-based disease which can be transmitted to other fish. Therefore, it is essential to isolate your betta and start treatment immediately. For treatment, anti-parasite medications are sold at aquarium stores which can be used according to the instructions mentioned. If not, you can add some aquarium salt, but this should be done attentively, as too much salt can be deadly for your betta.

Swim bladder disease

Noticed that your betta fish is staying sideways or upside down near the water surface? This is caused due to constipation or poor water conditions. Avoid feeding your betta for a few days and increase the water temperature to treat this illness. Some medicines are given for betta fish to relieve constipation, which you could also use.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I keep a male and female pair of betta fish together? 

No, unless you intend to breed, a pair cannot be kept together as the male could attack or even kill the female.

  • My betta is not very active. Is there anything I can do?

Typically, bettas are inactive, but this does not mean they always stay in one place. Check the water temperature and parameters if your betta responds infrequently. Also, keep an eye on any other symptoms.

  • Should I let my betta flare?

Betta keepers usually conduct flaring exercises by holding a mirror or making other betta fish visible to their tanks. This may act as a good workout and will build its natural instincts, but it is recommended to stay within 2 minutes per day as it could stress out your betta. Letting your betta flare a few minutes per week is encouraged.

Wrap-Up Thoughts

The above article consists of the key requirements of betta fish, and by considering each factor, it is possible to have a thriving environment for your betta. The article might sound a bit overwhelming if you are new to this hobby, but don’t worry since, once you get the hang of it, you will enjoy every step of this hobby!


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