Betta splendens (also known as Siamese fighting fish) are an incredibly popular freshwater fish who’s beautiful and vividly coloured tails can be found elegantly swimming in aquariums all around the world.
Their wild, eye-catching coloring has made them one of the most popular fish in the aquarium hobby and a lot of misinformation is available online. It’s easy to be misled if you are a beginner.
That’s why I decided to write this betta fish care guide – to teach you absolutely everything you need to know about caring for these beautiful freshwater fish.
This guide will cover everything you need to know from the size of the tank, the filtration system, the water temperature, their diet, and even how to decorate your aquarium to accurately replicate the betta fish’s natural environment.
But first, let’s start with the basics.
This is an intensive, in-depth guide covering several topics. If you are looking for a specific piece of information, you can head straight to that particular section:
The Betta Fish Care Basics
To take care of a betta fish, you need to have a clear understanding of its particular requirements. The most important things to remember when caring for a betta fish are:
- Betta fish are tropical fish. They require tropical climate water between 75 – 80 degrees. Water pH should be neutral (around 7) and ammonia and nitrates should be as low as possible (ideally zero).
- Betta fish are carnivores and eat a protein-rich diet. Don’t feed them flake food.
- The lifespan of a betta fish can reach up to 10 years, despite the average being 3-5. If you look after your fish, they will be around for a long time.
The most important part of looking after a betta fish is to set up their tank correctly.
It’s their home. You want to make it as nice as possible!
Betta Fish Tank Setup
In their natural habitat, betta fish are typically found in small, shallow streams and rice paddies in Thailand. These are usually vast and with the tropical climate, the waters are generally quite warm.
Our goal with our betta fish tanks is to simulate their natural environment as closely as possible. Things like temperature, water parameters, filtration, lighting, and diet all need to be consistent and natural for your fish.
The biggest issue I see with beginners trying to care for a betta fish is keeping them in tanks that are far too small. Betta fish don’t belong in fishbowls.
What Size Aquariums Do Betta Fish Need?
Don’t be fooled into thinking betta fish can live happily in a fishbowl. The minimum tank size for a betta fish is at least 10 gallons, but that’s a bare minimum. More is always better.
If you are serious about caring for your betta fish, the size of your tank should be one of your biggest considerations.
Now we all know this isn’t the cheapest hobby, so it can sting a little to see the price of some of the larger tanks, but it’s a necessary investment if you want to succeed in building a beautiful tank while simultaneously keeping your betta fish healthy.
With that being said, it’s true that betta fish are often found in insanely small tanks or a ridiculous half-moon-shaped fish bowl in the pet store, but that doesn’t mean they enjoy being there. Like all other fish, bettas love as much space as possible.
My number 1 tank recommendation:
If you already have a betta fish tank, then please continue full-steam ahead with this guide. If you haven’t, then I would highly recommend this one (Amazon).
They are the best-value beginner aquariums on the internet in my opinion. They are also a 20-gallon tank, making them the perfect size for a betta fish but with enough room to add tank mates or different plants and decorations. I’ve also written an article dedicated to choosing the perfect size aquarium for your own needs if you need further help.
How Big Do Betta Fish Get?
Betta fish will generally grow to around 2.5 – 3 inches (not including the tail). The size of the tail will vary from fish to fish but generally speaking, healthier fish tend to have bigger tails.
Fish that are sick will tend to curl up their tails whereas healthy, vibrant fish will have long, widely opened tails that flow smoothly.
What Temperature Should My Betta Tank Be?
Hailing from the tropical waters of Thailand, it is CRUCIAL not to have your water too cold when keeping bettas. A tropical temperature of 75 – 80 degrees is optimal.
Betta fish become withdrawn and lethargic when their surroundings deviate from the warmer water temperature and they are highly sensitive to changes in water parameters.
Keeping an eye on your water temperature with an aquarium-safe thermometer is necessary to maintain steady temperature control. Unless your household temperature is consistently above 75 degrees, you’re going to need a heater.
When looking for an aquarium heater, there are a few things to consider:
- Different sized tanks will require different heaters. A 100W heater will be ideal for smaller tanks (up to 20 gallons) but larger tanks may require a 300W or a 500W heater depending on the size.
- Choose a heater with a built-in thermometer. This makes life so much easier.
- Make sure your heater has an automatic cut-off mechanism if the water level drops. The heater needs to be submerged completely in the water. If the heater isn’t submerged when it’s on, it could potentially be hazardous.
- Good heaters will auto-regulate the temperature by turning it on and off when required. It will also have an external remote to set the temperature. Again, this makes life so much easier. No more wet hands!
The one that I use and recommend is this one from Amazon. It ticks all of the boxes above and is genuinely the best quality heater I have used in this price range. You simply set the temperature between 75 – 80 degrees, and it will auto-regulate the temperature of the water to make sure your bettas are comfortable 24 hours a day.
A quick note on water level:
A quick note on water level:
Bettas are labyrinth fish, meaning they have the ability to breathe oxygen from the surface of the water. Because of this, you should aim to leave some space at the top of the tank for your betta fish to breathe.
The Labyrinth bladder that allows them to breathe at the surface requires frequent use in order for the fish to be healthy, so it’s an important factor to consider.
Betta fish are also great jumpers! I would recommend keeping a lid on your aquarium or at the very least, leaving plenty of space between the water and the top of the betta’s tank.
Filtration & Lighting
What’s The Best Filter For a Betta Fish Tank?
The best filter for a betta fish is one that can filter the entire tank multiple times per hour without creating too much flow. Sponge filters or internal filters are generally the best choice.
My number one recommendation for a betta fish filter is this Tetra Whisper (Amazon). It’s ideal for aquariums up to 70 gallons and it provides multiple forms of filtration while barely disrupting the water surface.
In their natural habitat, betta fish live in shallow, slow-flowing rivers and beds of water. They aren’t equipped with the strength to constantly tackle the fast-flowing current that some other fish are. Hence why it’s so important to choose a filter with a low flow rate.
There are several choices for filters, but not all of them are ideal for every aquarium. There are two main kinds of filters that I would recommend for betta fish tanks:
|Water is filtered slowly and smoothly so there’s no disruption to the aquarium.||They aren’t the most powerful. A larger tank may require two running simultaneously.|
|They are inexpensive and filter media is easy to change.||They only provide mechanical filtration. There’s no biological or chemical filtration.|
|They make almost no sound.||The sponges aren’t exactly nice to look at.|
|Cleaning is quick and simple.|
|They typically have more room for multiple kinds of filtration such as biological and chemical.||Some are too powerful and will create too strong of a current.|
|They are more powerful than sponge filters, meaning they can turnover water faster.||Different kinds of filter media means more maintenance and slightly higher cost to replace.|
|You can find internal filters for aquariums of any size.||They can be quite loud. Although quiet ones are easy to find.|
|Having the output above the water level will help to circulate oxygen around the tank more efficiently.|
How Often Should I Change Betta Fish Water?
Changing too much water at once can disrupt the balance of your aquarium and cause stress to your betta fish. It’s recommended to change 25% of the water, once per week, allowing the filter to do the rest of the work.
REMEMBER that fish become accustomed to the parameters of the water they have been in, so drastically changing the water at once, can lead to shock, and sometimes death.
Make sure to use distilled water that is treated with a water conditioner to remove chlorine and other harmful chemicals.
A quick note on water quality:
It’s crucial that you keep an eye on your aquarium water by periodically using a test kit to monitor the water parameters. Your goal is to keep everything consistent, with ammonia and nitrites being as close to zero as possible. You can find the best betta fish water parameters at the beginning of this article.
For more general information on setting up a fish tank correctly, check out our Starter Guides.
What Lighting Do Betta Fish Need?
Betta fish require plenty of light during the day and darkness at night. The lighting can be natural, or artificial, but natural light is hard to control and too much sunlight can accelerate algae growth.
A good set of artificial aquarium lights will provide your betta fish with the lights they need during the day, without fluctuations. Artificial light is consistent and controllable.
Any live plants in your aquarium will require adequate lighting too in order to synthesize and produce oxygen. Live plants also provide hiding places if your betta fish decides it wants some shade.
What Do Betta Fish Eat?
Betta fish are carnivores by nature and require either a high-protein pellet or frozen food such as brine shrimp and bloodworms. The healthiest diet would be the closest to their natural diet of small insects and insect larvae.
The key to a proper food diet is that it’s rich in protein and varied.
You can use a betta-specific floating pellet such as this one from Amazon as their daily food source. You need a pellet that floats, allowing your betta fish to feed on the surface. For an occasional treat, you can try your betta with a few of these:
- Brine shrimp (Frozen or dried)
While offering your betta fish a diet of live food can be exciting to watch, and an occasional treat for them, it’s generally recommended to stick to frozen or freeze dried foods, since the risk of a parasite breakout with live food is higher.
How Much Shall I Feed Them?
Overfeeding is a huge issue with betta fish since their stomach is no bigger than one of their eyeballs! One feeding per day is more than enough.
Just 2 or 3 betta fish pellets can be enough to keep them satisfied. If you feel like they need feeding twice a day, then that’s fine too, just be wary of overfeeding.
Only feed your betta as much as they will actively eat. It may take a while to be able to gauge this, but it’s worth paying attention to. Uneaten food will build up at the bottom of the tank, and start polluting the water.
Are Betta Fish Good With Other Fish?
Is it just a coincidence that these fish are also known as ‘Siamese Fighting Fish’?
Unfortunately, it’s not. Betta fish were once bred as fighting fish, and some of this aggression has kept its roots, making them one of the more aggressive freshwater fish.
How Many Betta Fish Can I Keep Together?
It’s not recommended to keep a male betta fish in the same tank as other male bettas. Fighting to the death is not uncommon, and the stress from being placed in an unwanted environment is often enough to kill them if the battle wounds don’t.
However, not all hope is lost. There are certain types of fish that can live harmoniously with male Siamese fighting fish, but there are certain criteria that the tank mates have to meet;
- No overly bright colors, or colors that resemble another betta. These types of fish can intimidate a betta, and as you can imagine, that’s not a great idea!
- They must not take all of the room. Betta fish are solitary fish, so they like their space. Make sure there is enough for everyone. Try and aim for at least 5 gallons of personal swimming space for your bettas.
- They do not nibble. Nibbling a fighting fish is a recipe for disaster. Never mix biting fish with a betta.
As with all fish, personalities will differ, so knowing your betta fish before adding them to an aquarium with other fish, is a good idea. If they show signs of aggression, it’s common sense to keep them away, but if they don’t show any hostile behavior, then feel free to experiment with other species.
What About Female Betta Fish?
You can keep multiple female betta fish in the same aquarium. Female betta fish are not as solitary as males, and they would prefer to establish a sorority. That’s why I recommend keeping 3 – 5 female betta fish if you have the space for them.
Recommended Tankmates for Betta Fish
Tetras in general, can have a tendency to nip, but Neon Tetras usually stick to their groups and keep to themselves, making them a good mate for bettas.
Blue Gouramis are another compatible fish for betta fish since they are closely related and they share the same dietary requirements and tank environment. Blue Gourami will require at least 20 gallons, so as long as you have a proper tank with enough space, these two will most likely live in peace.
African Dwarf Frogs
Although not necessarily a fish, the African dwarf frog is definitely a recommended tank mate. They do share the same diet, so make sure they both get enough to eat.
Pictus Catfish (and other bottom feeders)
Female bettas are generally fine with other fish species, and will happily live in a community tank with different species as long as they have their own group of female bettas around.
Females prefer to live in groups, so we recommend at least 5. Try to stick with odd numbers, as female bettas tend to try and dominate each other, so having an odd number allows them to establish a hierarchy.
Betta Fish Common Diseases
Diseases are a natural part of the underwater world as they are a part of our world. They can’t be completely avoided. We all have to deal with outbreaks of them from time to time.
Learning about the different kinds of common betta fish diseases will equip you with the knowledge to understand betta behavior before death, quickly identify issues, and do further research into how to treat them. Pretty much all diseases in an aquarium can be cured with simple adjustments and medication.
Here are a few of the most common betta fish diseases to look out for:
|Disease Name||Common Symptoms|
|Fin Rot||Frayed, damaged fins. Lethargy.|
|Ich||White spots emerge on the body. Fish becomes agitated and rubs against objects.|
|Cotton Fin Fungus (aka Fish Cotton Wool Disease)||White cotton-like growth on body and fins.|
|Bacterial Infections||Scales become red and inflamed. Cloudy eyes and lack of energy.|
Fortunately, all of the common betta diseases mentioned in the graph are all treatable with a commonly available medication and a few changes being made to your maintenance routine. We have a specific guide for each of these diseases with step-by-step treatment methods in our Diseases & Cures section.
How Do I Know If My Betta Fish Is Healthy?
Common signs that your betta fish is healthy and thriving include:
- A large appetite
- Vibrant colors
- Fast, energetic movements
- Interacting with you at the surface
- Healthy, flowing fins
- Aggressive reactions to unknown stimuli
- Builds a bubble nest (males only)
Common signs that your betta fish is sick include:
- A loss of appetite
- Lethargy and a general lack of energy
- Curved, withering fins and tail
- Abnormal swimming
- Irregular marks, growths or damage to the body
- Their colors are duller
Betta Fish Care Made Easy
In order to care for your betta fish, you need the right products to keep your aquarium thriving. Here are our favorite recommended products for beginner fish keepers:
- TetraColor Fusion 20 gallon Aquarium: LED lit aquarium that transforms the mood with each color change
- MQ Immersible Water Heater: 300W aquarium heater for 50-60 gallon tanks to keep your betta comfortable
- Tetra Whisper Filter: Silent water filter for 45 to 70 gallon tanks with easy set up
- Betta Pellet Food: Betta food designed to bring out the striking colors in your betta
Following the information in this betta fish care guide will give you everything you need to maintain a healthy aquarium for your betta fish to help prevent (or at least limit) the health issues listed above.