Betta Fish Aquarium Setup: All You Need To Know

Last Updated on October 8, 2020

If you’re interested in taking care of betta fish and turning it into a hobby, then you need to know how to take care of them. And it all starts with your betta fish aquarium setup.

Knowing which decorations to include and accessories to use for your betta fish aquarium will ensure the safety, health, and happiness of this beloved fish.

But if you don’t know what these are, you’re in for a treat. Below are things you need to include in your betta fish aquarium setup. Also, we will run through the accessories that will work best for your preferred setup.


But before we talk about what to include, we need to discuss the size of the tank where you will put these things.

A 3-gallon tank is a minimum size for a Betta fish but this may still be too small especially when a beginner will handle it. A 5-gallon betta fish tank is the recommended choice.

Before we go further, let us first tackle the myth that Betta fish can live in tiny containers. This idea came from the Betta fish’s ability to survive in small amounts of water during the hot summer season. Betta fish originated from Thailand in the Mekong Basin and this country experiences both dry and wet seasons. As the water level drops during the hot dry season, Betta fish survive by keeping their bodies wet in small puddles of water. They then hop or jump to the next puddle in search of more water.

You can tell that this is a survival mechanism of Betta fish and it doesn’t live its whole life in such conditions. The wet season brings the rain and restores the water in the habitat of the Betta. You would not want to keep a Betta in a small cup for the whole duration of its life. That is just cruel and unfair to the fish.

Pet stores sell these magnificent fish displayed in the small containers to attract buyers who are mostly children or parents wanting to buy a pet for their child.

The reason you can find the fishes in such small containers is more of an economical one. You can’t put several Betta fish in one aquarium, unlike other less aggressive species.

Imagine a pet shop having one 5 gallon tank per Betta fish. That would take up too much space and require a lot of maintenance.

Pet stores just need to be practical to make a profit. Once you buy the Betta, transfer him or her to a bigger suitable tank.

Why big tanks are better for betta

Bigger is better in choosing an aquarium to be the home of a Betta. Here are the reasons a bigger tank with a larger volume capacity is a better choice.

Fewer chances of sudden fluctuation of water parameters

A container such as a bowl or a vase has less amount of water compared to a 5-gallon betta fish tank. Fish waste and uneaten fish food will pollute small water volumes more quickly.

Ammonia spikes happen when Ammonia and Nitrites quickly increase and these are toxic to fish. Ammonia burns the gills and internal membranes of fish. A larger water volume can dilute these substances more giving you more time to manage it through monitoring using a test kit and doing water changes.

Note: when cleaning your fish tank, you can temporarily transfer them to a vase. Here’s what you should do to take care of them while in the vase.

Maintaining aquarium temperature will be less of a hassle

A small container cannot fit in a good heater. Betta fish are tropical fish. They prefer the water temperature range to be between 78 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit or 25 to 27 degrees Celsius. You must never use heaters on small fish bowls as water temperatures can fluctuate quickly, causing temperature shock leading to more stress and may even kill Bettas.

Betta fish need to swim around too

Swimming space in smaller containers is too limited. Adding a heater and a filter is important. Adding decor, plants, and substrate will even constrict the space even more. It’s not just right. Your Betta has to swim and move around.


That Betta fish can live in dirty water is also not true.

People may think the habitat where Betta fish came from is muddy dirty bodies of water. Rice paddies, marsh areas, irrigation canals, and shallow streams are the original homes of betta fishes in Southeast Asia.

These were part of a big network of water which had constant turnover. These huge networks of water systems diluted whatever wastes and rotting material were present.

Betta fish may be hardy fish but they can still succumb to ammonia poisoning. This happens when ammonia levels increase in an aquarium. A filtration system will prevent ammonia spikes from happening.

Filters have components called filter media which act as a sieve to filter out big waste particles such as fish poop and uneaten food. This media also has a huge surface area in which beneficial bacteria will proliferate.

Beneficial bacteria provide biological filtration. Nitrosomonas consume Ammonia and convert it into Nitrites. Nitrobacter consumes Nitrites and converts into Nitrates which are less toxic to fish. Nitrate levels should remain between 20 to 40ppm. Water changes reduce nitrate levels.

Sponge filters and hang on back filters are great options for Betta fish. The flow it generates is gentle enough for a Betta fish. Choose the size of the filter compatible with the size of your fish tank. Some aquarium kits sold by pet stores already feature the filter. Too strong flow and water current will blow away your Betta around the fish tank. This will exhaust your Betta fish, which may cause more stress and even death.


If you live in a country with a tropical climate then you can skip this part.

Betta fish are tropical fish. The optimal water temperature range is 78 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit or 25 to 27 degrees Celsius. This will allow your Betta to thrive.

A low temperature will cause your Betta fish to become lethargic, lose appetite due to slow metabolism, and even make it prone to disease. A high temperature will speed up its metabolism and this may shorten its lifespan.

Choose a heater wattage that coincides with the water volume of your chosen tank. You should also place an aquarium thermometer at the end of the tank opposite the heater. This ensures that the tank water has an even warm temperature.

Glass or Acrylic?

A glass aquarium is cheaper and will provide greater clarity compared to an acrylic aquarium.

Also, a glass aquarium will be more prone to breakage while an acrylic aquarium is more impact resistant.

An acrylic fish tank will be more prone to scratching especially when you’re not careful during aquarium cleaning and maintenance.

An acrylic tank will be lighter compared to a glass tank of the same size.

It is better for beginners to choose a glass aquarium.

Type of Light

LED lights are the way to go and the technology has been improving a lot. These can provide beautiful tank illumination and can even grow live aquatic plants. You may find an aquarium kit with LED light fixtures included.

These stock lights are enough to light up your Betta fish’s home and provide a good light source to low-light low maintenance live aquatic plants.

Take note that Bettas need to sleep too! You can turn on the light for around 6 to 8 hours per day. Allow your Betta to sleep in the dark too so it can restore its energy. A day and night cycle is essential. Keeping the lights on too long will stress out the Betta and will also encourage algae growth.

Live Plants

betta live plants

Live plants provide shelter to fish. This also enhances the aesthetics of your fish tank. Betta fish are great inhabitants for planted tanks because they are carnivorous fish and will not even think of the aquatic plants as food. If you take care of live aquatic plants then do some research about their needs too. You should also take substrate and lighting requirements into consideration.

A beginner can enjoy live plants known as low-tech plants which are low maintenance. These plants do not require too much care such as carbon dioxide injections and fertilizers. They will thrive with the light that comes with the usual aquarium kit.

Examples of easy to care for live aquatic plants are Anubias, Java Fern, and Java Moss. These will give your tank a more natural look too.

Live plants will keep water parameters in good condition because they also use the ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates for growth. They also release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide when performing photosynthesis during light exposure. They will however need oxygen too at night.


Creating the aquarium setup possible for your betta fishes is in your best interest. You want to keep them safe, happy, and healthy and can’t do that if you just figure things out along the way,

As early as now, you need to know how you should proceed with your aquarium before buying betta fishes to put in. Hopefully, this article covered those for you.