The Perfect Betta Fish Tank Setup Guide – Get Your Bettas Aquarium Right The First Time

Bettas are one of the most popular Tropical fish available. They are well known for their vivid colors and patterns, beautiful fins, and aggressive personalities. But what do you know about caring for a Betta?

Before getting a Betta fish of your own, it’s important to research to make sure you can give them the environment they need to thrive and live a long, healthy life with you. There are a lot of myths surrounding their care, so that’s why it’s important to gather information from reputable sources.

Here is our guide for preparing the perfect tank for your Betta Fish.


Aquarium Size for Betta Fish

Betta Fish Aquarium Size

Forget what you might have learned about Bettas preferring to live in confined, shallow spaces. This isn’t true. The recommended size of aquarium for housing one betta fish is 5 US gallons, with the absolute minimum being 2.5 US gallons. This will give your betta enough room to swim, hide, and have different spots to explore.

Not only will your Betta live a happier life, larger aquariums are easier to cycle and maintain, with more wiggle room for small errors. We’ll talk more about aquarium cycling later.

Popular aquarium brands are Marina, Aqueon, Fluval, and Tetra. All of these companies produce kits that come with an aquarium, heater, filter, and accessories.


Betta Fish Tank Lighting

Betta fish tank light

Betta fish are naturally well accustomed to a daytime/nightmare light cycle. For optimal health, they need between 8 and 12 hours of light and 12 to 16 hours of darkness.

Bettas are easily stressed in environments with too much light. This can lead to a weakened immune system, making them more susceptible to contracting diseases. Too much darkness can impact their coloring and make it difficult for them to develop a normal wake/sleep schedule.

The preferred lighting for aquariums is LED. They don’t give off heat unlike incandescent, don’t encourage algae growth, and they are cheaper to run too! If you can’t find LED lights, fluorescent lights are a suitable second choice and are easy to find in most pet stores.

Unless you are growing plants with intense lighting requirements, you shouldn’t need to worry about buying strong lights for your betta’s tank. A rough guideline is 1 watt or less per gallon of water for LED lights and 1.5-3 watts for fluorescent lights.

You should avoid using natural light as your primary lighting source because it can encourage the development of algae and the rays can overheat small aquariums.


Water Temperature & Quality For Betta Fish Tanks

Betta Fish Tank Heater

Betta fish are tropical fish that require a warm environment to thrive. The ideal temperature for a Betta fish is between 78 degrees Fahrenheit and 80 degrees Fahrenheit so you will need to include a heater in your aquarium setup.

Aquarium heaters have the important task of warming water to a specific temperature and avoiding harsh fluctuations. For this reason, you will want to buy a high-quality heater that has enough wattage for the size of your aquarium.

Eheim, Hydor, and Cobalt Aquatics are known for selling high-quality aquarium heaters in a variety of wattage options.


Betta Fish Tank Filter

A filter is important for maintaining water quality in your Betta’s tank. It reduces ammonia, nitrites, and nitrate levels while providing a suitable environment for beneficial bacteria growth. Filters are important to promoting oxygenation and reducing the amount of maintenance you’ll need to do.

The downside to using some filters is the amount of current they can create. Bettas prefer gentle movement and will struggle to swim in strong currents. If your filter produces a strong current, you can slow it down by using the lowest setting or making a filter baffle.

When choosing a filter, you want to make sure it is designed for the size of your Betta’s tank. Luckily, most packaging will say what aquarium size it has been rated for.

Popular choices for Betta tank filters are Penn-Plax Cascade Hang on Aquarium Filter, Aqueon Quiet Flow Internal Power Filter, and Whisper In-Tank Filter.


Betta Aquarium Water Quality

Like all fish, Bettas thrive in specific water conditions. If conditions aren’t met, your Betta’s quality of life suffers, and they are more at-risk for contracting diseases like Ich and Fin Rot.

Water quality involves pH Range, Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrates.

Bettas prefer a pH Range of 6.5 – 7.5, 0 parts per million (ppm) Ammonia, 0 ppm Nitrites, and 40 ppm Nitrates. You can easily monitor all of these components using a freshwater aquarium testing kit like API Freshwater Master Test Kit.

Like with water temperature, you want to avoid drastic changes in water quality. This can happen from overfeeding, disrupting substrate, adding too many fish, and improperly cycling the aquarium.

Before adding water to your Betta aquarium setup, you always want to condition it with an appropriate conditioner/dechlorinator like Seachem Prime.


Substrate / Accessories / Plants For Betta Fish Aquarium

When choosing substrate, accessories, and plants for your Betta’s tank, it is recommended that you mimic their natural environment. This will reduce stress and strengthen their quality of life.

Bettas like to have places to hide and you can encourage this by offering plants, untreated driftwood, and manufactured aquarium hide-outs.

Live plants are preferred over fake plants because they reduce Ammonia levels and are safe for a Betta’s delicate fins. If live plants aren’t an option, silk aquarium plants are a suitable replacement.

You can purchase untreated driftwood directly from most pet stores or by finding them in nature. You will need to be sure that they are free from pesticides and other contaminants before putting them in your Betta’s tank. You can learn more about preparing driftwood here.

You can purchase aquarium-safe hide-outs from most pet stores. Always check for rough edges before putting anything into your Betta’s Tank – their delicate fins can snag and tear easily.


Fishless Cycling

After carefully setting up your Betta’s new home, it is crucial that you cycle the aquarium. But what is cycling, exactly?

Cycling refers to The Nitrogen Cycle. It involves the production of beneficial bacteria that is needed to breakdown Ammonia (waste) into less toxic forms. The first form is Nitrites followed by Nitrates. Once a cycle is completed, the water parameters will be 0 PPM Ammonia, 0 PPM Nitrites, and no more than 40 PPM Nitrates.

For Fishless Cycling, most people use a pinch of fish flakes or measured doses of ammonia. This will start the cycle. From here, you have to monitor ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels and continue to feed the beneficial bacteria as necessary. This is a slow process; taking around 3 weeks to complete.

Fishless Cycling is the safest way to perform a cycle because you aren’t putting any lives in jeopardy. You can learn more about fishless cycling here.


Betta Fish Aquarium Cleaning & Maintenance

Water changes are an important aspect of aquarium maintenance. The size and frequency of water changes depends on the size of the aquarium, the amount of fish, and filtration.

Small aquariums (5 US gallons or less) require water changes more often than larger aquariums because it doesn’t take long for toxic levels of ammonia to build up in smaller volumes of water. This could mean performing 1-2 25% water changes per week and one 100% water change per week.

Betta tank brushFor larger tanks, especially ones with a well-maintained filter, you will most likely only need to do one 25% water change per week. You should make a habit of monitoring water parameters using a freshwater test kit.

You should keep your Betta in the tank while performing partial water changes, an abrupt change in water conditions can be incredibly stressful for them. Always use room temperature water that has been conditioned to remove chlorine and other harsh chemicals to replace the water you are removing.

To clean algae and other gunk off of the sides of the tank or decorations, it’s recommended that you use an algae scrub brush. You should never use soap to clean your aquarium because leftover residue is deadly for Bettas and other fish. If you are following correct lighting recommendations, you shouldn’t have much algae develop anyway.

To remove loose gunk, waste, and uneaten food it’s recommended that you use an aquarium vacuum. They are great for picking up loose material and shouldn’t cause too much of a disruption.

To disinfect decorations or an aquarium, you can use chlorine bleach, but you will need to rinse it several times and soak in conditioned water to remove any remnants.


Betta Fish Food & Feeding

Betta fish are carnivores requiring protein-rich food. This means you need to ensure that you are choosing food that is formulated to suit their needs. Do not choose food that is formulated for other tropical fish because their nutritional needs will vary.

Betta food will come in different forms: flakes, pellets, freeze-dried, and live. The main ingredient will be brine shrimp, fish, or another type of meat. Freeze-dried brine shrimp and bloodworms are popular with Bettas and can be found at most pet stores.

Overfeeding is a common problem when it comes to feeding Betta fish. Most Bettas only need to be fed a maximum of four pellets per day. This should be split up between two separate feedings to avoid bloating, constipation, and problems occurring with the swim bladder.

Additionally, overfeeding can pose a threat to the delicate ecosystem inside of your Betta’s tank. Uneaten food will decompose and convert into Ammonia. This increased buildup of Ammonia will cause an imbalance with water parameters and might be life threatening for your Betta or other tank inhabitants.

Don’t feed your Betta extra food if you are going away for less than 3 days. In most cases, Bettas will be fine without food until you get back. If you are going away for longer than 3 days, it’s recommended that you have a trusted friend feed your Betta in your absence.



Setting up the perfect Betta Fish tank can take a lot of planning and patience but luckily, once your betta tank setup is established and ready to go, you shouldn’t have to do much in terms of maintenance.

It’s important to remember that small tanks are more work in the long run, so it’s worth it to spend extra money on a larger tank and your Betta will be happier too!


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