How to Clean Your Betta Fish Tank


fish tank for betta

Did you know owning fish can ease a person’s anxiety? And if you choose a betta fish, you’re in for quite an interesting breed. But like any other fish, you’ll need to provide them with a clean tank to live in. If this is your first time owning a betta, here’s how to properly clean your betta fish tank, to help extend your pet’s lifespan and continue bringing you feelings of calm and enjoyment.

About Betta Fish

Before you get into cleaning their tank, you should know a few facts about your pet. First, these are a breed of tropical fish. Betta fish originate from rice paddies and shallow streams in Thailand, so they need a water temperature of 75 and 80 degrees. The water in their natural environment moves slowly, allowing them to maneuver in the water with their long, flowing fins.

In their fish tank, nitrate and ammonia levels should be as low as possible, and the water should have as neutral of a pH as possible.

Typically, this variety of fish will live three to five years, but it’s not unheard of for them to reach 10 years of age. Therefore, proper care is essential if you want to extend their lifespan.

Read our full betta fish care guide to understand more about these fish to keep them healthy and happy.

Choosing your Tank Size

If you don’t have your fish yet, or they’re currently swimming in a fish bowl, purchase a tank for them. The small size of the bowl isn’t large enough for them. With a tank, they’ll have more room to swim, and you’ll have fewer issues with the pH level changing drastically and rapidly when they’re in a tank. Bear in mind that the average betta fish usually grows about 2.5 to three inches, not including their tails.

Ideally, opt for a tank that’s a minimum of 5 gallons, even if you only have one betta fish. As a general rule, bigger is better in terms of fish tanks for bettas.

If you haven’t picked out your fish yet, choose carefully. Betta fish are highly territorial. The males are particularly aggressive toward other males of the same breed. If you don’t want to risk it with more than one betta, try adding a cory catfish to your tank. Either a male or female of this type will keep your betta fish calm since they’re a non-aggressive breed.

Decorating the Tank

Having decorations in your betta fish aquarium provides areas for your fish to hide. Not to mention, they supply enrichment opportunities.

While artificial plants serve these purposes, live plants provide a more natural environment for your betta. Not to mention, live plants move more than artificial ones, making them more stimulating for your fish. And when your live plants are taken care of properly, they can help remove pollution from the tank and add oxygen to it. Certain plants will even emit nutrients into the water, which are beneficial to your betta. Some examples of live plants that work well for a betta tank include the following:

  • Java fern
  • Marimo balls
  • Anubias nana
  • Hornwort
  • Anacharis
  • Dwarf waterlily

Due to their long, delicate fins, these fish are prone to injuries from sharp plants. So, if you choose artificial flora, select ones made from silk, not plastic. These are soft, and silk plants are easy to take care of, reducing the time and effort it takes to clean your betta fish tank.

Consider caves, tunnels, or logs for your betta fish. These fish like to hide to feel safe and secure, and these create the perfect environment to let that happen. Make sure you opt for ones without rough or sharp edges when you choose these items. It helps to feel them before you purchase. Additionally, your betta fish may appreciate a place to rest like a hammock.

Gravel isn’t a necessity, but it can create a better, healthier environment for your betta. And if you want plants or other decorations, the gravel can ground them. In addition, it makes for a prettier tank. Whenever you place down gravel for the first time, pour at least two inches of it across the bottom, especially if you have live plants.

How Often to Clean Your Betta Tank

As a general rule, do a 25% water change once per week and a full cleaning once per month. A tank with a high-grade filter, however, can go longer without being cleaned.

Betta fish get a reputation for being resilient, because of their labyrinth—an organ that allows them to take in air from the surface and use it when underneath the water. It’s particularly beneficial when they’re in water with poor oxygen content. Despite their extra breathing organ, however, dirty water is dangerous for them. Ammonia excreted from their urine and gill membrane can build up in the water and harm them. Therefore, cleaning a betta fish tank routinely is essential.

If you notice a betta bubble nest, don’t instantly clean the tank. It’ll look like a clump of bubbles at the top of the water in an area free from dirt and debris. In this case, you’ll want to wait a little bit before you clean the water. It’s healthy and normal for your betta fish to build this nest, particularly the males. They construct it when they’re ready to mate. Interfering with this process is psychologically harmful to the fish.

Only watch this process from a distance if you catch the male in the act. It’s neat to watch, but you could frighten the fish if you interfere, then he won’t feel safe to build. If you watch, you’ll see the fish blowing bubbles from his labyrinth and using saliva to adhere them.

How to Clean a Betta Tank

Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of how to clean a betta fish tank.

Preparing for the Task

Getting all the items you need beforehand ensures you can continue the process without having to stop to grab equipment. Some items you need to gather are:

  • Gloves
  • Toothbrush
  • Clean bowl
  • Algae scrubber
  • Gravel vacuum
  • Plastic razor

You don’t want to take the fish out of the tank water unless you have to. A net can injure the fish’s fins and touching them can spook them or introduce harmful pathogens or substances, among other issues. Instead,, use a clean cup to scoop the fish up and place him in a clean bowl of warm water (only if you’ll be changing 80% or more of the water)

Next, wash your hands with soap to protect against contaminating the tank water. Rinse your hands thoroughly so you don’t get the soap in the water. This is even helpful when wearing gloves, which we recommend you wear when cleaning out a fish tank. The tank water consists of millions of bacteria. While some of it is beneficial bacteria to your fish, some can cause issues for you. This is especially the case if you have any open sores or cuts on your arms or hands.

JOR Aquarium Gloves will protect your arms and hands when cleaning your fish tank. 

Remove All the Decor

The next part of betta fish tank cleaning is removing all the tank adornments. This allows you to clean the water more easily and gives you a chance to clean the decorations. Take all the items out of the tank slowly so you don’t scare the fish. Then, place them in the bowl.

Turn Off All Devices

Turn off the heater, filter, and any other electrical devices running in your tank. Place any items not meant for submerging in water away from the tank area.

Eliminate Any Algae

Use your algae scrubber and razor to remove any visible algae from the tank. The NEPTONION Magnetic Aquarium Fish Tank Glass Algae Scraper is our recommendation. It comes in four different sizes, making it suitable for various tank sizes.

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The Continuum AquaBlade P Long lets you scrape without putting your hands in the tank.

Although algae are beneficial to your fish, seeing as how they can help regulate nitrates and provides nutrients, an overabundance of them is a sign of a neglected tank. When it’s a serious problem, algae begins taking nutrients away from your fish.

Removing the Water

After, remove the water from the tank. Aim to drain between 10 and 30 percent. For tanks with a large algae problem, you’ll want to remove more. If you’re leaving your fish in, never take out more than 80 percent of the water. Use a gravel vacuum for this process. Try the QZQ Aquarium Gravel Cleaner.

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To vacuum the water, position the end of the device above the gravel and suck it up. The gravel is too heavy for the vacuum to pick up, so it’ll remain on the floor of the betta tank. 

If you have sand at the bottom of your tank you’ll need to hold the vacuum further away from the bottom of the tank to prevent it from being sucked up. The granules of sand are light enough for the vacuum to pick up, and as you can imagine, this could become quite a messy process.

Clean the Decorations

Anytime you have noticeable algae growth or the decorations become dirty or stained, you’ll want to clean them well. If you have a high-grade filter, you may only need to do this once every few months. 

You may want to turn on the heater to your fish tank at this point. This is a lengthy process, and you don’t want the temperature in the tank to drop too low for your betta fish.

To clean the decorations, put a pot of water on the stove and wait for it to boil. Tap water is fine for this process. Just don’t add any cleaners to the water, even if they’re organic. Once the water comes to a boil, add your decorations to the water. Allow them to remain there for 20 minutes. In this length of time, you’ll kill any bacteria on them. You’ll also loosen up any algae, which makes the scrubbing part easier. After the decorations have soaked for a long enough length of time, use the toothbrush to scrub them.

If you have any algae on decorations you can’t boil, you may want to toss them in the garbage. You don’t want to risk contaminating the freshwater you added to the tank. If you’d like to keep the decorations, though, you may prepare a warm water solution consisting of 5% bleach and 95% water. This is a last resort, however, and you shouldn’t use it unless completely necessary, since getting any bleach in the tank water is dangerous.

Let the decorations soak in this solution for five minutes. Once you do, remove them from the water and begin scrubbing them with a toothbrush. Rinse all the decorations under warm water for two to three minutes until all the bleach is off the items.

Clean the Filter

After all that work, you may wonder “should I clean my filter?” Never clean both your filter and the rest of your tank at the same time. This may lead to a spike in ammonia or unsafe depletion of healthy bacteria, either of which is potentially dangerous for your betta.

When it’s time to change or clean the filter, check the user manual to see how often you need to replace the cartridge. In some cases, you may want to replace the entire filter. If you plan to clean the filter, you’ll need to take a few cups of water out of your tank and place it in a bucket. Use this water to clean the filter and swish it around in the water to remove any debris. You may use a clean cloth or sponge to scrub the inside of it.

After you finish, remove it from the water, and set it back up.

Refill the Tank

When you consider their ninja-like fighting skills, it’s no surprise these fish are excellent jumpers. Therefore, when you refill the tank, stop the water about two or three inches below the top. Always place the lid back on your betta fish aquarium as soon as your fish are back in it.

Add warm water back into the tank. You may refill it with tap water, but you should condition the water to minimize the heavy metal and chlorine levels.

Frequently Asked Questions

To help you further with taking care of your betta tank, we’ve compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions and answered them for you.

How Do You Clean a Betta Fish Tank Completely?

It’s a comprehensive task that requires you to remove all decorations, scrape any algae, and refill it with warm water.

How Often Do I Clean a Betta Fish Tank?

This depends on whether you have a filter and its quality. A high-grade filter in a smaller tank may do an adequate job, and you’ll only need to clean the tank completely every few months or so. If you don’t have a high-quality filter, you may need to clean it more frequently, about once every month.

Do Betta Fish Need Their Tanks Cleaned?

Yes, you’ll need to clean your betta’s tank to keep them happy and healthy.

How Do You Change a Betta Fish’s Water?

Although the easiest way to change your fish’s water is to use a gravel vacuum, you could also scoop it out using a clean cup or another container. Then, add warm tap water. Ideally, use a water conditioner on it.

Happy Cleaning

While it may sound like a lot of work to clean a betta fish tank, once you know how, it’s a simple and necessary process. The time is well worth it when you consider the reward you’ll have: a pet that lives a long, healthy life. Just remember to refill it with warm water, and take precautions not to shock your fish when you clean its tank.

Please let us know what you think about the article in the comment box below. And don’t forget to share it with all your betta-loving friends!

Logan Price

I created this website to help fellow fishkeepers get accurate and helpful information at the click of a few buttons. I've always loved caring for fish and their aquariums, but I've certainly made mistakes along the way. So I'm hoping to help people avoid common fishkeeping mistakes so they can enjoy this satisfying hobby alongside me!

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