What Kind of Tank Does a Betta Fish Need?

What Kind of Tank Does a Betta Fish Need?

Getting a new pet always comes with questions. For fish, you have added questions of tank size, tank type, tank mates, plants and other care aspects that are unique to aquatic pets. There are also many widely circulated myths that lead to mistreatment of betta fish, and these definitely do not help.

There are many different types of tanks available, and betta fish are not that picky. The majority of bettas do need a tank of at least 5 gallons, and some dimensions work better than others. Luckily, they allow you a wide variety of choice when it comes to picking out and decorating your tank. The only things they absolutely need is a completed cycle, a heater, filter, and love.

In this article, we will discuss size, filtration and cycling, rimless tanks, heaters, planted tanks, myths, solitary tanks, and community tanks.


While the number of gallons is a major factor in cycling and dilution, it is not the be all and end all in terms of what a betta needs. The length, width, and height are also major factors to consider.

Fish establish territories based on horizontal length and width, not vertical space. They do still need vertical space to move around in, and bettas even prefer hanging out in the upper half of their tank.

Many different betta tanks exist on the market, but most are not suitable for housing any fish. Long-finned bettas are impaired and cannot swim properly, so they are one of the few fish that can be housed in a tank as small as 2.5 or 3 gallons, but any smaller is cruel.

The good news is that 10- and 5.5-gallon tanks are often much less than 2.5-gallon tanks. The 2.5-gallon kits normally range from $15-50, but a 10 gallon is normally just $10, while 5.5’s are typically closer to $15.

In addition, their standard lengths and widths are much more favorable to bettas than other tanks that may have taller dimensions, such as column tanks. Column tanks are not a bad choice for bettas, but they should be at least 10” wide and long.

However, if you do pick a column tank, they do not have enough room to house any schooling fish or any other fish with your betta. Standard 5.5 and 10 gallons also only have enough room to house a betta, with a snail or some shrimp, so if you want other fish with your betta, you should get a 20-long.

Filtration and Cycling

A cycled tank is a healthy tank. The nitrogen cycle greatly impacts aquariums and fish keepers and is one of the leading causes of fish death, especially for beginner keepers. With single betta, is it luckily very easy to keep a healthy tank?

Fish waste breaks down into ammonia, then nitrite, then nitrate. Different strains of bacteria are needed for each leg of the journey, and it takes around a month for their numbers to grow enough to turn ammonia to nitrate in a few hours.

This cycling process is essential, as ammonia and nitrite are lethal in very small doses, even just 0.25ppm. Nitrate is safe up to 20ppm. During the cycling process, you will need to change your water every day to every other day.

The filter houses nearly all of the bacteria that keep your cycle. The best type of filter for bettas is a sponge filter. This filter needs to be connected to an air pump by airline tubing. Air enters the filter and rises, which displaces water and draws outside water into the sponge, where it is mechanically and biologically filtered.

Sponge filters are also the easier filter to clean, as you only need to remove the sponge in squeeze it in old tank water. It has to be rinsed in tank water or dechlorinated water, as the chlorine in tap water will kill your bacteria.

Bettas appreciate low flow filters, which sponge filters provide. However, if you pick another filter, you may have to baffle it to prevent excess flow. The easiest way to do this is to add an intake sponge over the intake and add some sponge over the outtake to reduce the current without reducing the filtration.

Rimless Tanks

Rimless tanks are gorgeous tanks that most new aquarists are not aware of. Do you know how most tanks have globby silicone around all the corners and a black rim on the top and bottom? Doesn’t look the best.

However, rimless tanks do not have any sharp corners or braces and appear to just float in the air. They have a much more aesthetic design than the standard tank, so they are better for displaying around your house.

These tanks typically cost more, and some have to be placed on a special pad, but aside from this, they are not different from your typical tank. Your betta does not have a preference for or against these tanks.


Betta fish are tropical and cold blooded, which means they require warm water to function properly. Without warm water, you fish will be constantly sick and listless, so you need a heated tank for your little friend.

The heater can be any brand and type, as long as it keeps the water between 78 and 82 degrees. Adjustable heaters are better in the long run, as room temperatures often change depending on the time of year, and you may have to adjust it up or down to keep the temperature consistent.

Planted Tanks

If you google pictures of planted tanks, you will be met with breathtaking examples of professional aquascaping. While it may take some time to develop your skills and reach that level, you can still create your own masterpiece.

Some fish are notorious for destroying magnificent planted tanks, but bettas are not on that list. Imagine a perfectly gardened tank as the background for the main attraction: your colorful betta.

If you have a red betta in a planted tank, you should ensure that most of your plants are green, as the red really pops against that green background. If you have blue or green betta, throw in some red plants to compliment your fish.

You can also just go crazy and throw together all sorts of different plants. The betta doesn’t have to complement the tank, and the tank doesn’t have to compliment the betta to look good.

For plants, you will need to buy some better lighting, which will cost anywhere from $15-200 depending on how much you are willing to spend and what kind of plants you want to grow. You should also invest in some micro and macro fertilizers. The easiest way to do this is to buy a fertilizer that has both, such as Nilocg Thrive.

Some awesome beginner plants are ludwigia, vals, rotala, anacharis, pennywort, scarlet temple, frogbit, duckweed, red root floaters, bacopa, crypts, banana plants, anubias, java fern, java moss, Christmas moss, subwassertang, dwarf sag, stargrass, and blue hygro.

These plants will grow in most lighting with minimal fertilizers. Some of these, like the crypts, are prone to melting, which looks like the leaves just melt away. However, if the base of the plant is intact, it will grow back more beautiful than ever.


Some common myths have unfortunately led to the deaths of many bettas. Many of these relate to tank size and maintenance. For example, I’m sure you’ve heard that bettas live in dirty puddles in the wild.

This myth is used to justify those dinky 0.25-gallon betta “tanks” (aka death traps), as these cups are far too small to hold a cycle, which means ammonia and nitrite will burn and suffocate the fish to death.

In the wild, bettas do live in shallow water, often only 8 or 12 inches deep. However, this water extends for miles upon miles and is free from ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate.

Another common myth is that bettas will drown if kept in too large of a tank. Most people are unsure of where exactly this myth came from, but it is likely related to a betta’s labyrinth organ.

Bettas have both gills and a labyrinth organ. Since they come from still, slow moving waters, the oxygen content is often very low. Luckily, evolution gave them an organ to extract oxygen from the atmosphere.

Since they also have gills, and since aquarium water isn’t still, they aren’t going to drown in a deep aquarium. Feel free to keep them in a giant three or four-foot-deep tank; they will still thrive.


Betta fish are primarily solitary fish and cannot live with others of their own kind unless you have a sorority (see the “Female Betta” article for more information on sororities). Keeping your betta alone is perfectly acceptable.


A community tank is a tank that houses multiple species of fish. However, these do not always work with bettas, as some bettas are simply too aggressive to be housed with other fish. You should start with a tank that is at least a 20-long for a community tank.

Several species can be housed with bettas, such as marble hatchetfish, microrasboras, corydoras catfish, bristle nose plecos, rubberlip plecos, tetras, and Kuhli loaches.

In conclusion, bettas do not have much of a preference in terms of the type of tank you get, as long as it is filtered, cycled, heated, and has room for them to swim around. There are several types of tanks that you can have with a betta, including gorgeous planted community tanks.

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