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Can Betta Fish Live in Cold Water?

If you’re looking to get a betta, you must familiarize yourself with what makes a perfect living environment for the species.

One critical thing to know is that betta is a tropical fish that thrives in warm water temperatures.

This leads us to the question of whether betta fish can live in cold water or not? This guide will give you a comprehensive answer.

Can Betta Fish Live in Cold Water?

In short, betta fish can’t live in cold water. Even if they do, they won’t be able to survive for long.

The reason is simple: they’re tropical fish that prefer warm water. Keeping bettas in cold water is like you’re trying to freeze them.

If you place them in cold water, your betta will become considerably slow or even stationary.

Just imagine yourself in a very cold environment with nothing more than ordinary, thin clothing. You will certainly be alive but for how long? That’s exactly how it goes for betta fish.

If you don’t transfer them to warm water soon enough, they’ll die within 6 months.

To avoid this, you must ensure that the water temperature in your betta tank is reasonably warm.

Since the ideal temperature requirement is higher than room temperature, you can’t rely on room temperature too.

The room temperature not only stays slightly higher than the required levels in most areas, but it’s also subject to constant fluctuation.

Just as cold water is harmful to betta, constant temperature changes are dangerous for its health.

To prevent the water temperature from falling below acceptable levels, you must think of ways to heat the betta tank.

So, what’s the acceptable water temperature range for betta fish? Let’s find out.

What’s the Ideal Water Temperature Range for Betta Fish? 

Every living species needs an ecosystem to survive and grow. Messing with the natural ecosystem of a betta inevitably puts the fish in danger.

Bettas thrive best in a temperature range of 78 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. This is because their immune system and metabolism function efficiently at this temperature.

A wider temperature range of 65 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit is okay for survival.

However, since their health will keep on deteriorating close to extreme temperatures, you should do your best to stick to the ideal temperature range.

But why do bettas require low temperatures to stay healthy and survive?

The underlying reason being that unlike us, fish rely on external conditions to generate the required levels of heat for them. Humans are capable of producing their own heat, but bettas aren’t.

Dangers to Your Betta in Cold Water

Bettas kept in a temperature range of 65 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit remain susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections.

They are also known to have more digestive issues than those kept in the best temperature conditions.

Moreover, in low temperatures, the digestive systems of bettas function slower than usual, resulting in bloat and constipation.

These conditions continue to exacerbate until they become serious enough to kill the betta.

Moreover, it’s their strong immune systems that help betta fish fight off the various pathogens that are always present in aquarium water.

In low temperatures, this system gets impaired and it becomes less effective. When that happens, they become highly vulnerable to different types of diseases.

One serious disease they might encounter is Popeye. This might have led you to imagine the popular American cartoon character Popeye, the sailor man. It’s something entirely different. The Popeye disease causes a fish’s eyes to protrude out its head.

Also, when your betta loses the energy to move, it may not even come up to eat.

Thus, it tends to eat inadequately in cold water. Without sufficient food intake, it will starve to death in a matter of weeks.

Another daunting issue with cold water is that it lacks the amount of oxygen betta fish requires to breathe. When your betta tank lacks sufficient oxygen, you will see the fish gasping for air at the water surface.

If the oxygen levels drop too much, you will notice your betta resting for longer periods than usual.

That’s because it’s not getting the required amount of oxygen to stay active. When your betta is in need of more oxygen, you’ll also notice their gills moving faster than usual.

Another serious disease that your betta might fall prey to includes fin rot. This is a common bacterial disease in which the betta’s fins appear ragged or torn as if they are rotting away.

It may sound less severe, but if you don’t treat the disease, it can permanently damage the fins, and even prove lethal for your betta.

On top of that, fin rot is a highly contagious disease. If you don’t track and take action, the disease will quickly spread to other fish in the tank. You certainly don’t want that happening, right?

Furthermore, the most damaging impact of an extremely cold environment is that your betta goes into a coma.

Apart from cold, a lack of oxygen can also cause this. If you fail to take the necessary initiatives such as maintaining warm water temperature, it can become extremely difficult to save your betta from going into a coma.

Signs that Aquarium Water is Too Cold for Your Betta

You should certainly have a thermometer to keep checking water temperature from time to time, but what if the thermometer fails?

Continuing to rely on it could prove dangerous for your betta.

Therefore, you should be aware of some other ways to tell whether the water is too cold for the fish. The behavior and appearance of your betta are good indicators in this regard.

If the fish appears dull and gray, you should take caution and consider checking and managing the water temperature.

They may also get fatter without a change in their consumption patterns because the cold water will slow down their metabolism rate.

If they continue to get fatter, they may become obese, which will also impact their behavior. They’ll become extremely sluggish and drift near the bottom of the tank to obtain some warmth.

Hence, if your betta is gaining weight over time, looks dull and gray, and/or is lethargic or less active, the aquarium water is probably too cold for the fish.

Should You Use a Heater in Your Betta Tank?

This is a common question from betta owners in particular. To keep your betta warm, happy, and healthy, installing a heater in the aquarium is a good idea.

If you’re very particular about the aesthetics of the aquarium interior, you need not worry because a heater is often hidden in the embellishments or decorations.

Hence, the answer is yes. You should certainly use a heater in your betta tank.

This should ensure that your fish lives an exciting and extended life. It should live up to 5 years in a tank with a heater.

Also read: How to Tell If the Aquarium Heater Is Broken?

Ways to Keep Your Betta Warm Without Using a Heater

Here are some tips to make sure your Betta fish stays warm even when you don’t have a heater.

Use a Small Fish Tank

Instead of keeping your betta in a large fish tank, choose a smaller one. This is because a large aquarium takes longer to warm up, while a smaller tank warms up faster.

However, do not use a container that’s too small. It should be no smaller than a 3-gallon tank.

Arrange Stronger Lights

Another alternative to installing a heater in your betta tank is to use strong lights in it. Intense light provides warmth to the aquarium water.

However, keep in mind that lights aren’t as effective in delivering warmth as a heater.

Hence, there’s no way they can replace a heater, which is primarily designed for keeping the water temperatures warm.

If you do decide to use strong lights, though, be sure to turn them off during the summer, when room temperature tends to be higher.

Install a Filtration System

A filtration system installed to maintain aquarium hygiene also helps keep aquarium water somewhat warm.

As long as the system is in operation, it will keep the environment warm.

Also read: Can Betta Fish Live Without a Filter? 

Simply Cover the Betta Tank

Finally, depending on the climate of the area you’re located in, simply keeping your betta tank covered with a firm lid can help keep your betta fish warm.

It may sound ineffective, but many betta owners have found this tactic useful, and they have been practicing this for years.

Final Thoughts

In summary, your betta fish won’t immediately die if you keep it in cold water.

Yet, since you’re depriving them of their ideal living ecosystem, they won’t stay healthy or survive beyond 6 months.

As tropical fish, they become vulnerable to different life-threatening diseases when kept in cold water.

Hence, as a responsible betta owner, you should consider installing a heater in your aquarium, especially if you live in colder climates.

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