How to Set Up a Betta Tank

Three Parts:Choosing a Tank and AccessoriesSetting Up the TankIntroducing Your Betta

Since betta fish can survive in many different types of environments, people think it's a good idea to keep them in decorative bowls or vases. In reality, bettas need plenty of space and filtered water in order to thrive. When you set up your tank, keep the health and happiness of your betta in mind. Don't forget the golden rule for bettas: never house two males in the same tank, or they'll fight to the death.

Part 1
Choosing a Tank and Accessories

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    Pick a sizable tank for your betta. You may see betta fish housed in tiny plastic bowls in stores, but bettas actually need more space to thrive. For a happy, healthy betta, choose a glass or clear acrylic tank that holds five gallons of water. Bettas can jump, so make sure the tank has a lid. This will give the betta plenty of room to swim, and the water won't become contaminated as quickly as it would in a smaller tank.
    • It is possible to keep bettas in smaller tanks or jars, but they require at least a weekly cleaning and water change. If you want to house your betta in a smaller tank, choose one that holds at least 2.5 gallons of water; any less, and the betta will be likely to get sick.
    • Bettas cannot live with other bettas. This is always true for males, and it's usually true for females, too. Your best bet is to house each betta separately, so you'll need a tank for each betta you want to own.
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    Provide a gentle filter. Bettas naturally live in streams with a gentle current. Their long, flowing fins make it difficult for them to fight stronger currents, so it's important to choose a filter that is labeled "gentle" or comes with adjustable settings. Choose a filter that is designed to fit with the tank size and type of you have chosen.[1]
    • If you have a stronger filter, it is possible to create current buffers using plants. However, it is advisable to get a gentle filter instead, so you fish won't have to expend energy straining against the current.
    • Betta fish can survive in unfiltered water, but you will have to clean the tank frequently to remove their waste and uneaten food. Leaving the tank to get murky is unhealthy for betta fish.
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    Get a water heater to regulate the tank temperature. Betta fish are tropical, and they do best in water that stays between 74 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Choose a water heater that comes with a thermostat so you can monitor the temperature of the tank water.[2]
    • If you live in a place where the climate is warm enough to keep the water temperature high, you don't need a water heater; however, it's important to make sure the water temperature never drops below 74 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • If you have chosen to use a tank smaller than five gallons, it can be dangerous to use a water heater, as the tank can overheat. This is another good reason to get a sizable tank for your betta fish.
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    Purchase gravel to line the bottom. Gravel is an important part of the tank environment. Beneficial bacteria grow on the surface of the gravel, helping to break down waste. Choose small gravel, rather than gravel made with larger pieces of rock. Food and waste can get caught among the larger rocks and hurt the health of the tank.
    • If you are using live plants in your tank, you will need two inches of gravel so the plants can root. If you are using fake plants (silk plants only), one inch is sufficient.
    • Choose gravel in natural-looking blues, greens and browns to line your tank. Brighter colors like pink and orange will make the environment feel less natural for your bettas.
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    Get plants and other decorations. Live plants help to clean the water and provide a natural environment for your betta. If you want to include live plants, choose plants that grow well in the conditions of the tank, taking the temperature, current and substrate type into account.
    • Remember that the gravel should be at least two inches deep to support live plants. Using real plants creates a more natural micro-ecosystem in the tank, with the plants filtering out waste for fertilizer and adding oxygen to the water as they "breathe". Willow Leaf Hygro, Ruffled Sword, and Brazilian Pennyroyal all do well in freshwater tanks.
    • If you want to use fake plants, make sure they're silk and do not have sharp edges. Bettas' long, fragile fins can be injured when they swim near the plants.
    • Choose other decorations to keep your betta happy. Structures that allow them to hide, such as caves or tunnels, are excellent choices for ensuring that your fish feels safe and secure in its home. Be sure that the decorations you choose do not have ANY sharp edges or rough surfaces that could snag your betta's fins. Use fine grit sandpaper or an emery board to smooth down troublesome spots.

Part 2
Setting Up the Tank

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    Place the betta tank in a secure part of your home. Choose a spot that is near a window, but not exposed to direct sunlight. Be sure to set the tank on a very sturdy surface so that it isn't likely to topple. Finally, if you have other pets, you may want to consider placing the betta in a room they don't have access to.
    • You may want to get an aquarium stand designed to hold the weight of the tank you have chosen.
    • Allow five inches between the aquarium and the wall to accommodate the filter and heater.[3]
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    Install the filter. Different types of filters require different installation methods. Check the manufacturer's instructions for the filter you purchased and make sure it is installed properly.
    • If you have an external power filter, set it up on the back of the tank. Your tank lid may have come with a cut-out to make installation easier. Wait until the tank is filled with water before turning it on.
    • If you have an undergravel filter, put the filter plate in first and make sure the tubes are correctly fitted. Don't turn it on until the tank has been filled with water.
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    Add gravel. Rinse the gravel thoroughly under cool running water (no soap) to remove all traces of dust, which can clog the filter. Pile one to three inches of gravel into the tank. Slope it gently toward the back of the tank. Place a clean plate on top of the gravel and begin pouring water on top of the plate to fill the tank. The plate will prevent you from displacing the gravel as you pour the water. Continue until the tank is one-third full.[4]
    • As you add water, check the tank for leaks. If you see a leak, it's important to repair it before you finish filling and stocking the tank.
    • Remove the plate when you're finished adding water.
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    Set up your plants and decorations. For live plants, make sure the roots are properly buried beneath the surface of the gravel. Arrange the plants so that the taller plants are in the back of the tank and the shorter plants are near the front. This will give you a better view of your betta.
    • Make sure all decorations are properly anchored in the gravel, so they won't come loose.
    • After you finish filling your tank, it's best not to put your hands in the water again, so make sure you like the positioning of your plants and decorations.
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    Finish filling the tank and start the filter. Fill the tank within an inch of the top with water, then plug in the filter and turn it on to make sure it works properly. Check to make sure the water is circulating, gently, smoothly and quietly. Adjust the settings if it seems to be moving too powerfully.
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    Install the heater on the inside of the tank. Most heaters attach to the inside of the tank with suction cups. Position the heater near the mouth of the filter, to ensure that the water gets evenly heated. Plug in the heater and install the thermometer so you can begin monitoring the temperature.
    • Adjust the heater so that the temperature rises to between 78 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • If you have a tank light, turn it on to see whether it affects the temperature of the tank. If the light seems to drastically affect the temperature, you'll need to get a better light before you introduce fish to the tank.
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    Add neutralizer to the water. Neutralizer is a dechlorinator that removes chlorine from the water. It's necessary to add this if you filled your tank with tap water that contains chlorine. Add the amount of neutralizer instructed for the amount of water in your tank.
    • If you used distilled water, which does not contain chlorine, you may skip this step.
    • You may also want to add a dose of SafeStart, which is a bacterial catalyst that will help promote a healthy environment in the tank.
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    Cycle the tank without fish. Doing a fishless cycle gives the tank time to build up a beneficial bacteria population. If you don't do a fishless cycle, your fish can be "shocked" by the water and die, so don't skip this step. See How to Do a Fishless Cyle to learn exactly how to cycle your tank to meet your betta's needs. You will need to use a water testing kit to monitor the water pH, ammonia and nitrate to make sure the levels are safe for your fish.
    • The ideal pH is 7. Ammonia and nitrate should be at 0 before you add fish.
    • You may need to add ammonia remover to bring down the ammonia level.

Part 3
Introducing Your Betta

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    Purchase a betta fish. It's best not to actually bring a fish home until your tank is set up, cycled and ready to go. That way you'll be able to help the betta make the transition to its new home as soon as possible. Go to the pet store and choose a new betta to bring home. Remember, every betta needs its own tank; even females.
    • Look for a healthy betta with a brightly-colored body and undamaged fins.
    • If a betta seems to be floating aimlessly, it may be sick. Choose a one that swims strongly.
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    Introduce the fish to the tank. Place the bagged betta in the tank for an hour. Keep the bag closed and set the bagged betta into the tank so that the water inside the bag comes to the same temperature as the tank water. This will prevent the betta from getting a temperature shock when it enters the tank. After about one hour, it's time to release the fish. Open the bag and let the fish swim freely into the tank. From now on, care for the betta as follows:
    • Feed the betta once a day. Only get food that has been approved for bettas.
    • Do not overfeed, or the betta tank will become contaminated with old food and waste.
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    Change the tank water when necessary. If you have a filtered betta tank, you will need to change out 20 percent of the tank water every week to maintain a healthy tank. If you have an unfiltered bowl, you will need to change out 50 percent of the water to keep the tank clean enough for your betta. To change the water,
    • Prepare the amount of new water you need by filling a clean container the day before and letting it come to room temperature overnight. Add water conditioner if you're using tap water. Distilled water also works well.
    • Siphon some of the old water into a clean bowl. Net your betta and place it in the old water.
    • Siphon out the amount of water you need to change, according to the size and type of your tank.
    • Pour in the fresh water. Add a little fresh water to the bowl with the betta to help it get used to the new water.
    • After a few hours, reintroduce your betta to the tank.
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    Clean the tank regularly. Your cleaning method will depend on the type and size of your chosen tank. A filtered tank should be cleaned once every couple of weeks, while an unfiltered tank should be cleaned once a week. Vacuum the gravel to remove chunks of food and waste. Vacuum the sides of the tank to clean the glass or acrylic. Scrub any decorations that have collected waste and debris.
    • This can be done each time you add new water to the tank, or less often if you're using a filtered tank.
    • Use your good sense to determine whether a thorough tank cleaning is needed; if the tank looks filthy, it's time to clean, no matter when you did it last.
    • Monitor the pH, ammonia and nitrate levels as well, and make changes to the tank to alter the levels when necessary.


  • If you have live plants, make sure you have the proper lighting.
  • Also, get a bacteria supplement. This kills bacteria that can be harmful to your fish.
  • Even though the water conditioner is cheaper at the dollar store, don't get it there; buy it at walmart or any kind of petshop because at the dollar store it is not a good quality and may harm your betta fish.


  • Be wary of advice you get at the fish store. Do your own research and/or join a forum dedicated to fish.
  • Never put two male bettas in same tank, they will fight till death. Putting 2 or more females together is sometimes possible. A male will also kill a female if he is not breeding with it.
  • Don't put your betta in a bowl or vase! Bowls and vases are not large enough to heat safely, don't provide filtration, and limit your fish's movement.

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Categories: New Pets