How to Care for Betta Fish? Beginner’s Guide

Bettas are a staple in many aquariums, mainly because of their brilliant coloring. It is called the Siamese fighting fish and has its natural habitats in the rice paddies of Asia.

Bettas are categorized as a labyrinth fish since they have a lung-like organ that absorbs oxygen from the air.

They can, therefore, survive for a short time outside water, and in fishbowls without water flow for oxygen.

Betta Fish Care

Betta Fish Care

Bettas are also known to be aggressive. Males will conflict over territories, while even males and females cannot be kept together.

Betta Fish Aquarium Requirements

Your bettas will need the most conducive environment to be healthy. Their requirements include:

Tank Size for Betta Fish

Most beginner aquarists will contain bettas in small spaces like bowls and vases. Bettas, however, need swimming spaces as much as other fish species, and anything under five gallons will be constrictive.

Wild bettas are used to swimming around the extensive rice paddies of their natural habitats. Do not keep them in tiny tanks, especially because waste will quickly pile up.

Bigger tanks have a lot of benefits than small setups. Bettas are sensitive to ammonia levels, which can easily spike in a small tank. Smaller tanks also require frequent changes, which means setting aside more time for maintenance.

Large tanks will also tame your betta’s aggression. Bettas will rarely get aggressive if they have a lot of territory to themselves, and you can even couple them up with a semi-aggressive species in a community tank.

Bettas typically reach 2.5 inches in length, and a small tank will prevent them from growing into their full length.

If you have a large tank, provide densely planted regions to mimic the betta’s natural habitat. Your betta can get stressed in a large tank without any decorations or plants.

Bettas will thus be happy in tanks from five gallons and above.

Best Plants and Decorations for Bettas

Plants & Decoration for Betta Fish

Plants & Decoration for Betta Fish

Bettas love live plants since they provide hiding spots. There are a lot of plant species you can include in your betta tank, including Amazon Sword and Anubias Nana.

The java fern thrives in similar water parameters as bettas, and it will be a great addition to your tank. The plant will prosper in low light, although you should avoid burying the rhizome under the substrate. The java fern will easily float around, but you can tie it to a rock to keep it in place.

Another suitable plant for a betta tank is the java moss, which is quite hardy and will grow in any water parameters. You only have to maintain temperatures between 78 to 80 °F. The java moss grows incredibly fast, and you will need to trim it constantly.

The Amazon frogbit’s leaves will provide a floating lily pad for your pets. Ensure that the leaves do not overrun the water’s surface because your betta also needs to go to the surface. Bettas like equal amounts of light and shade and the Amazon frogbit can provide adequate cover.

Hornwort is popularly used in betta tanks because it is hardy and versatile. You can either leave it to float in the aquarium or anchor it in the substrate. The plant also removes nitrates and other toxins. Its bristles can, however, scatter across the water, which means you will have to spend time cleaning.

Other plants to include in a betta setup include Wisteria, Anacharis, Hygrophila, and Water Sprite.

You can also source for fake plants with the benefit of not having to maintain them. Opt for the silk types to reduce the chances of your bettas hurting themselves from the sharp parts in plastic plants.

Most betta tanks also have driftwood. In addition to having a place to anchor other plants, the driftwood can also become a focal point in your aquarium. It also provides hiding spots for the fish.

Driftwood should be used with care as it lowers the PH of water. Source it from a seller instead of collecting it, and ensure you wash it carefully.

You can also add rocks to your tank, provided they are rated as suitable for aquariums. When using decorations with betta fish, avoid anything with sharp edges and metal or glass items.

Substrate for Betta Aquarium

The natural habitats of bettas include rice paddies, marshes, and slow-moving drainages. These areas are characterized by silt, mud, dense vegetation, and soil. These substrates cannot be replicated in an aquarium, especially because the soil and silt will leave the tank murky.

The substrate choice will depend on whether you are going to use live or fake plants in your setup. Live plants will need nutrients from the substrate, which is why those with a sand or gravel top are popular. Substrates also provide anchorage for live plants.

If you are using fake plants, you will have more variety when it comes to substrates. These include rock and marble.

Gravel is quite popular with betta tanks. It comes in varied colors and is easily available in pet stores. It is also easy to clean gravel since waste does not accumulate as deeply as in other substrates. Plants will grow easily in gravel since it is not very compact. Gravel can, however, be sharp and harm your betta.

Sand is less harmful to your bettas as it has no sharp edges. It is always easy to clean since waste sits on its surface.

Filtration System for Betta Fish

Best Small Aquarium Filter for Betta Fish

Best Small Aquarium Filter for Betta Fish

A filter will maintain the quality of your betta tank and promote the health of the pets. Bettas are used to still waters, and the filter you select should not produce strong currents.

Sponge filters typically have low currents, although they are not very powerful filter. A hang on the back filter will be more effective, provided you get a model with adjustable flow rates. While canister filters are known to be very powerful, they can provide stressful currents for your bettas.

Whatever filtration system you use, ensure it has a low output rate, and it is easy to use.

Water Parameters

Bettas can be easy to rear if the appropriate water parameters are met, including:

Best Temperature for Betta Fish

The most suitable temperature range for bettas is 78 to 80 °F. The temperature should not drop below 74 °F, and you will need a thermometer and heater to control the range.

Although your bettas will survive in the range 72 to 82 °F, they will be prone to many diseases like the Fur Coat Syndrome bacteria.

Cold temperatures will make bettas lethargic due to slow metabolism, while hot temperatures will boost their metabolism and make the pet age quickly.

Best Water pH Level for Betta

Bettas thrive in a neutral environment. The appropriate PH range for the fish is 6.8 to 7.4. Use test kits to test the PH once or twice every week.

Betta Fish Water Hardness

Bettas favor soft water, and you should ensure the DH is less than 25. Add distilled water if the value is higher, which can be sourced from any grocery store.


Betta Fish Tank Nates

Betta Fish Tank Mates

Betta Fish Tank Mates

Betta fish are reputed as territorial and bad tank mates. The feistiness is, however, mostly targeted to other bettas, rather than other fish species.

In the wild, male bettas engage in territorial disputes, and less-dominant males are often forced to flee. Male bettas can cause injury and even death to each other, which is why you should keep them apart.

Avoid keeping bettas with species that are larger or those with similar fins. Additionally, do not keep bettas with fin nippers like red tail sharks or angelfish.

Some of the ideal betta tank mates are:

Mystery Snail

These peaceful aquatic species will keep your tank clean by eating algae and debris. The snail will quickly retreat to its protective shell if the bettas become aggressive.

The mystery snail does not reproduce asexually, which will help to keep its numbers in check.


Neon Tetra

Neon Tetra

Many tetras will make good tank mates for your bettas. Small species like the ember and neon tetras will out-swim your betta if it gets aggressive.

Most tetras are shoaling fish, and they will add color to your tank. Some ideal tetras include the diamond tetra, black neon tetra, silvertip tetra, cardinal tetra, and the rummy-nose tetra.


The Pygmy Corydoras grows to about an inch in length, and it enjoys similar water parameters as the betta fish.

It prefers to roam at the bottom of the tank and will stay away from the upper layers where the betta fish stays.

The cory catfish grows to 1.0 to 2.5 inches, and it will live peacefully with your bettas. Keep the cory catfish in schools of at least four.

Other cory species to consider include the albino cory and the panda cory.

Harlequin Rasbora

Harlequin Rasboras

Harlequin Rasboras

If you have a 10-gallon tank or more, consider keeping the harlequin rasbora. It is a shoaling fish that grows to 1.5 inches in length.

This fish co-exists with the betta in the wild, making it a fit tankmate.

African Dwarf Frogs

African dwarf frogs will tolerate similar conditions to those of your bettas. They are also hardy, and they reach 2.5 inches in length.

The fish are quite active, and you will mostly observe them coming to the surface for air. It also sheds and eats its skin every one to two weeks.

Kuhli Loach

Kuhli Loach

Kuhli Loach

The Kuhli loach is active in the evening and at night. It will, therefore, not run into the betta, minimizing the risk for any aggression on the betta’s part.

Other tankmates to consider are the clown plecos, ghost shrimp, nerite snail, and the galaxy rasbora.


Feeding Betta Fish

Betta Fish Feeding Schedule

Betta Fish Feeding Schedule

Bettas are naturally carnivores, and they should be sustained with a protein-rich diet.

You will need to source live and frozen food for betta fish. Be careful with live foods since they can harbor bacteria and other contaminants.

Bettas will eat frozen or live mosquito larvae, brine shrimp, bloodworms, wingless fruit flies, and Mysis shrimp.

Many betta-keepers give pellets to their pets, primarily because they are effective, available, and affordable. The ideal pellets for bettas will have more high-quality ingredients than fillers like wheat and corn. Pellets will typically have proteins, fats, fiber, moisture in varying quantities.

Your bettas will also eat freeze-dried food, in addition to fish flakes.

When it comes to feeding frequency, you should not feed your pets more than twice every day.

Overfeeding is a common problem with bettas, since it may appear like your fish is always hungry for more. Bettas have short digestive tracts, and their stomachs are no larger than their eyes.

Only give the pet food they will eat in two minutes. Some aquarists will even fast their bettas for 24 hours after about two weeks. This fasting period will decrease the chances of constipation for the fish.

Betta Fish Common Diseases


Betta Fish Diseases

Betta fish will be prone to illnesses if the water quality is compromised. Common betta diseases include:


An overfed betta is prone to get constipated. Dried foods can also trigger constipation because they are not easily digested. The affected betta will have a swollen stomach, refuse to eat, and show inactivity.

You will also not see any feces at the tank’s bottom. You can relive the fish by fasting them or feeding them one frozen pea.


Ich is caused by the parasite ichthyopthirius, which naturally occurs in aquariums. The parasite will be harmful to a fish with reduced immunity. It materializes as white spots on the betta’s body.

Other symptoms include clamped fins and inactivity. The betta will try to dislodge the parasites by rubbing on decorations. Ich is addressed by treatments and raising the temperature.

Tail and Fin Rot

These diseases occur in dirty water, and they target the fin and tail of your pet. The fin or tail tissue will disintegrate little by little, and the infection will progress to the betta’s body if left unchecked. If treated early, the tissue will regrow gradually.

Mouth Fungus

Mouth fungus will typically affect a stressed fish, and your betta will be susceptible if the water quality is inappropriate or if they are getting a poor diet.

Symptoms include a cotton-like growth around the pet’s mouth as well as white spots on its fins and mouth. The fins will become frayed as the infection advances.

Treatment will involve cleaning the tank and adding copper sulfate or an antibiotic.


Your betta will be vulnerable to contracting dropsy if you feed it contaminated live food. The fish will have raised scales due to the accumulation of fluid under the scales.

The bacteria is quite contagious, and it will eventually cause kidney failure.

Breeding Betta Fish

Breeding Betta Fish

Breeding Betta Fish

In addition to your aquarium setup, you will need a breeding tank for your betta pair. You can also invest in another tank for the fry.

Other aquarists will divide their tanks to separate the males and females.

The ideal age to breed bettas is when they are four months to one year. Source a breeding pair from a reputable breeder for the best genetics in your fry.

In the wild, female bettas pick the males they desire for mating. They look at a male’s coloration, energy levels, and the health of the fins. Once you get a suitable male, let him settle in the tank for at least two months and feed him live food to increase his carotenoid levels.

The breeding tank should be away from distractions, and it should be equipped with a filter, heater, moss, air pump, and Styrofoam cup.

The males and females will breed under optimum conditions, and the female will evaluate the bubble nest the male builds to ensure it is up to her standards. The males take care of the eggs and the fry, and you can remove them once the fry starts to swim by themselves.


Are Betta Fish Aggressive?

Bettas are known to be territorial and aggressive. People in Thailand even collected the species and bred them to increased aggression. The fights that ensued were quite popular, and villagers placed bets on the fish they favored.

This aggression is, however, more common between male bettas, which is why you should not keep two of them in a single tank.

Do Betta Fish Jump Out of the Tank?

Betta fish are jumpers, and will easily exit an uncovered tank. The fish will jump out of a tank that is small or one with poor conditions.

If the ammonia builds up in your tank, your betta may jump out. Keeping aggressive tankmates will also cause conflicts and lead to your betta jumping out.

What is the Lifespan of Betta Fish?

Bettas kept in a suitable environment will live for up to three years. Most aquarists will buy their bettas when they are six months, and you can thus expect them to live for two to two and a half years.

Is Betta Fish Good for Beginners?

Betta fish are among the beginner aquarium staples, primarily because of their vibrant colors. As long the right water parameters are maintained, the fish will thrive in a beginner tank.

Can You Keep Betta Fish in a Glass Bowl?

People commonly assume that you can contain bettas in small containers like fishbowls. The fish is, however, like any other fish, and it needs plenty of roaming space.

Keep bettas in a minimum of five gallons to ensure they are healthy.


Betta fish are common and colorful additions to any aquarium. They can be quite aggressive for territories, although you can provide hiding spaces in the tank by using plants, rocks, and decorations.

If you have a community tank, keep them with non-aggressive species.

Betta Fish   Updated: September 17, 2021
avatar Hey, I'm Fabian, chief editor at Aquarium Nexus. I really enjoy the aquarium hobby and love sharing my experience with others. If you have any questions feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

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