How to take care of a betta fish

Below is our list of recommended conditions for keeping a healthy betta.

Bettas are hardy, so they can survive in lesser conditions, but it won’t be comfortable for the fish and will increase its chance of illness. Oft said is the phrase “there’s a difference between ‘thriving’ and ‘surviving’.”

Throughout the content below we link to our more detailed betta fish care guides. There is also a hub at the bottom of this page that links to all of our betta care content.

Our recommendations for keeping a healthy betta

These conditions are recommended as a minimum. For example, a 19L tank is ample, but a larger tank certainly won’t do the betta any harm!

Please understand that our intention with this page is not to alienate nor discourage keepers that are using setups lesser than our suggestions below.

We appreciate that some people are keeping bettas on a small budget, or that they are not currently in a position to upgrade their betta’s home. Our suggestions should act as a guideline only.

As a betta keeper you will have your own opinions – we hope that you take our opinions into account, but also carry out further research and come to your own decision about how best to keep your betta.

Get an adequately sized tank

The betta’s aquarium should be at least 5 US gallons (20 UK Litres) but if you are an absolute beginner when it comes to keeping an aquarium we recommend a minimum of 8 US gallons. Tank size is often contested amongst betta keepers, but we feel 5 US gallons is a good minimum to aim for.

In 2014 the Anabantoid Association of Great Britain (AAGB) released recommended betta keeping requirements that stipulated 5 litres as a minimum, but this is too way too low in our opinion. The betta may survive in these conditions, but it’s unlikely to be comfortable.

Cycle the aquarium

Ideally the betta should be introduced into a cycled aquarium, with adequate water conditions – the water MUST be treated/dechlorinated.

It MUST be sitting at a pH level between 6.8 to 7.4, we highly recommend you test the pH of your water before introducing a betta to the aquarium.

Measure the water temperature

The betta aquarium must be heated to a consistent temperature between 78℉ and 82℉ . Read more about heating here.

Cover the aquarium

Your betta aquarium should have a hood or some kind of covering. We have seen people successfully keep bettas in an open top aquarium – but these are usually experienced keepers that know how to create a perfect environment for a betta. A betta can leap out of the water when they feel stressed, threatened, uncomfortable, scared – the list goes on. Keeping a betta in an open top aquarium is all about creating an environment it won’t want to abandon. That said, bettas have still been known to leap from an aquarium even if it seems to be the perfect environment. Is it worth taking the risk?As a rule of thumb, any aquarium below 30 litres should have a hood – even if a manufactured tank comes without one, you should consider adding it.

Use a filter & learn about filtration

The betta will need a filter. Please take this into consideration when planning to keep one of these fish. Too many people think it’s okay to keep bettas without filtration. Having no filter can actually be a serious health risk to your fish – most novice keepers end up buying a filter anyway (usually because their fish has contracted an illness from poor water conditions). Read more about filtration here.

Do regular water changes

The size of your aquarium will entail how often and how much you need to do water changes. But basically the smaller the aquarium, the more often the water will need changing.

Going by the idea that your betta should be housed in an aquarium no less than 19 litres,  a 19 litre aquarium, housing ONE male or female betta, with an adequate filtration unit, should have a 40% water change done MONTHLY, if not 20% every 2 weeks. Then (we recommend) every 6 months do a 60% water change – no matter what size your aquarium is. Read more about water changes here.

Don't keep 2 males together

NEVER keep 2 male betta fish together — they will fight each other. You can keep some other tank mates with your betta, though.

Feed your betta daily

Your betta should be fed an adequate portion at least once a day. Ideally, it would be better to feed a split portion twice a day.

To keep your fish happy and healthy, feed it a mixture of food, maybe a mix of pellet food and live food – or even better – purely live food (bettas are carnivorous).

The only time you should not feed your betta on a daily basis is if it’s been previously overfed and is encountering issues like constipation, or if it’s on a scheduled fast (often betta keepers will fast their fish one day a week). Read more about feeding here.

Additional Considerations

The sections above describe what we would regard as the minimum requirements for keeping a betta, but you can of course go beyond the minimum!

Some additional things that could improve your aquarium further include:

Decorating your tank & Adding Plants

Decorating your tank with plants or ornaments is a good way to personalise your tank and it also stimulates your betta. Plants are also great because they can help to balance water conditions and prevent algae growth. See our pages on betta aquarium decorations and plants for betta tanks for more ideas.

Adding tank mates

Betta fish are solitary creates, so there isn't particularly a need to add tank mates for them. That being said, you may want to add some other life for your own enjoyment, or for the benefit of the aquarium. Just make sure you have enough room, and that you pick suitable tank mates for your betta. See our guide on betta tank mates for advice and recommendations.

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