How to Setup a Betta Fish Tank? (The Right Way)

Betta fish are known for their strikingly beautiful colors and long fins. They seem like they’re wearing underwater gowns and going to a party.

They’re also quite cheap to buy, going for as low as $2 each in certain markets.

But they are not a buy-it and forget-it kind of a pet. Being a betta owner means you need to make sure your betta has the right tank setup and it gets regular tank maintenance.

In this article, I will cover everything you need to know to successfully set the a fishtank your Betta would love.

Setting Up a Betta Fish Tank

You’ll need to begin by buying the fish a tank (if you don’t have it already).

Next, you’ll need to set it up with accessories, and third, you’ll need to slowly introduce it to the new environment.

Get the Right Size Fishtank for Betta

Even though a betta fish is pretty small, the size of the tank matters. You can’t simply get it a goldfish bowl and be content with it.

That being said, it’s common to see bettas floating around in plastic bowls. That’s not a good habitat for them.

I repeat – do not keep your betta in a fishbowl or a small tank. They won’t survive long, and the life they live would be hard and stressful for them

The idea of keeping bettas in bowls stems from the fact that they live in shallow streams, so they could live in fishbowls.

However, to keep them alive and comfortable, get a 5-gallon tank, at the very least. As a general rule, you should have 5 gallons for every betta you want to keep. So if you plan to have 2 bettas, you need 10 gallons.

5 gallons is also the lowest volume of water needed to keep the nitrogen cycle going. It’s possible in smaller tanks, but that’s a long process.

Betta’s are Sensitive to Temperature – So get a Heater

Bettas are usually found in tropical waters; hence you’ll need to buy a heater.

Go for a fully submersible heater that can keep the temperature between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

While betta can survive between the 72-75 degrees Fahrenheit range, it will be uncomfortable, stressed, and prone to diseases (such as Ich).

If the temperature rises above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll speed up the betta’s aging process.

Hence, you need to choose a heater that can maintain a strict temperature with a thermostat.

Also, use a separate thermometer to check the temperature on a regular basis. The readouts from the heater can’t always be trusted. And in case your heater breaks, you may not realize it right-away (but your betta will suffer)

Also, don’t put a heater in a tank that is smaller than 5 gallons. This can be dangerous to the betta’s health.

Water Filter

The next thing you’ll need is a water filter.

Since Bettas thrive in freshwater, you’ll need to decontaminate water constantly from bacteria and refuse.

The long flowing fins of a betta, however, can’t stand strong currents. So make sure to get a gentle filter.

If the tank or aquarium you choose comes with a filter, check to see if it’s primed for a betta.

At the very least, make sure it has adjustable flow settings.

Betta can survive without a filter, but it would mean more work for you to change the water and keep it clean. In the least, get a simple sponge filter that does the work.

Adding Gravel Helps

Bettas can cruise at the top and even at the bottom of tanks. Hence, getting some fine or smooth gravel can be beneficial for them.

Big pebbles or large pieces of rock will trap pieces of food and waste and can pose a danger to your fish.

Your gravel will help to regulate the ecosystem of the tank. Bacteria that can benefit the fish will grow on the surface and break down waste.

Betta Loves Plants and Decorations

Betta originates from Thailand. Hence, they live in rice paddies and slow-moving streams.

In their natural habitat, Betta is used to things where they can hide (such as leaves or logs).

Adding some decorations in your tank will make Betta happy (as it will get places to hide), and will also give them something to play with.

Make sure the decorations you add have no sharp edges, as it can damage/tear betta’s fins. Also, clean these decorations thoroughly before adding these to the tank.

If you’re putting in fake plants, refrain from using plastic ones and go for silk ones.


When it comes to lighting, there is a schedule that your betta fish will prefer. It will go to sleep when it’s dark and wake when it’s light.

If the aquarium you buy doesn’t come with its own lighting, buy one.

If you provide your betta with a schedule, it’ll stay healthier.

LED lights work best since you can control the intensity. Some even come with automatic timers which will make things easier.

Preparing the Betta Aquarium

First, you should clean out the tank. Just use water; using soap can upset the pH of the water.

Then choose a spot that is near a window, yet not exposed to direct sunlight.

Sunlight can heat up the tank water, posing danger to your fish.

Make sure the surface you place the tank on is flat and sturdy. Also, consider purchasing a stand that is designed to hold the weight of the tank.

Leave five inches between the aquarium and the wall to allow for the placement of a filter.

If you have other pets, particularly meat-eaters, then place the betta in a room they can’t access.

Filter Installation

Not all filters are built equal.

Hence, different ones will require different methods. It’s common that the instructions on the filters are less than apt.

So use YouTube to find clear tutorials to set up the filter. Don’t turn it on until the tank is full.

Adding Gravel

Give your gravel a rinse with cool, running water so that the dust is removed. This could clog the filter so it needs to be periodically cleaned.

Don’t use soap since it can raise the pH of the water.

After that, you can add gravel to the tank.

Remember if you’re using real plants, you’ll need at least two inches of gravel to propagate growth. Silk plants, however, only require a single inch.

Setting up Plants

Make sure all the plants you set up are rooted in the gravel.

All the decorations should be anchored in there as well so they don’t come loose.

Filling Up the Tank

Place a plate atop the gravel and pour water on top of the plate to fill the tank. Then use a plate to prevent the displacement of the gravel.

During the process, you’ll want to check for leaks.

Remember to not fill the tank to the top. Leave an inch at the top.

This will allow your betta to breathe better as the air that settles in the gap above the water settles.

Installing the Heater

After filling the tank, you can turn on the filter. When the water begins to circulate gently and quietly, you can start installing the heater.

Your heater can come with suction cups to attach to your aquarium. Follow the instructions and set the temperature at 78 or 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the thermometer inside to monitor the temperature constantly.

Perform a Fishless Cycle

If you’ve filled up the tank with tap water, it may contain chlorine. Add some neutralizer to raise the pH to neutral.

Then perform the fishless cycle; that’s just a humane method of the nitrogen cycle.

Beneficial bacteria become established in your tank and filter.

This allows ammonia to convert to nitrates. That propagates bacteria and algae and can kill your fish.

Introducing the Fish to the New Environment

Your betta will most likely come in a bag of its own water.

That’s going to be different than the water in your tank. Keep the bag closed, and float it into the aquarium until it reaches the same temperature as your tank.

This can take over an hour. So be patient.

After the water in the betta’s bag reaches the appropriate temperature, add small amounts of the tank water in the bag. This is to gradually introduce betta to the tank water.

After the majority of water is from the tank, you can let the fish swim freely into the tank.  

How Hard is it to Keep a Betta Fish?

While there aren’t any easy pets, fish, particularly betta fish, have a reputation for being low-maintenance (compared to other pets).

Hence, they’re often neglected. While they may be easier to care for than other fish, they need no less space or less care.

If you neglect any pet, they will eventually die.

They have a labyrinth organ that helps them gulp air from the surface.

Hence, they can survive in water with low oxygen levels by swimming to the surface for air.

They also live in freshwater, which requires a neutral environment in the aquarium. That’s easier to set up and maintain than saltwater.

Rumors of their ease are exaggerated though. They don’t thrive in very tiny puddles in the wild as may have been suggested to you.

The puddles have to be very large. Bettas also need filtration and warm water as well as plants and tiny caves to explore.

What Makes a Betta Fish Unhappy?

According to research conducted by scientists at Ghent University, Belgium; common issues with Betta fish have been identified.

Bettas can become stressed from sharing a tank with rival fish. These aren’t fish from other species necessarily.

They can see fish of the same species as rivals if they have to compete for resources.

Hence, very small tanks (<3 gallons) or those without environmental enrichment can seem like hostile environments.

Also, tanks that haven’t been properly cleaned can harm the quality of life of the fish. They can result in mycobacterium infections.

On the other hand, if a large enough tank is maintained right, betta fish enjoy living with fish that act as companions.

However, they should be species of fish that are compatible, and not hostile to the bettas.

If you follow these instructions, you can set up the perfect betta fish tank.

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