Betta are incredibly popular in the aquarium trade, and its no wonder, with their long colourful fins and loveable personalities they make great fishy companions. There are over 70 recognised species of Betta, which come from Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam and Laos. The more common in the aquarium trade is the Betta splendens which originated in Thailand’s Mekong and Chao Phraya river basins.
Wild Betta are very different from what we see in the aquarium trade. They are mostly grey and nowhere near as splendid and colourful.
There are many aquarium shops that will sell aquariums labelled as Betta tanks that are as small as a few litres. This, in my opinion, isn’t very fair, as the unexperienced aquarist would take that advice as true. Really though, a Betta needs at least 25-litres/5 gallons, but double that would be much better.
It is almost impossible to correctly cycle anything less than 20 litres anyway, and maintenance would be required extremely regularly.
Betta come from shallow, slow moving almost stagnant pools in the wild, but they do need a little space to move around. A 40-50 litre aquarium will provide them with plenty of space to swim around showing off their beautiful colours and will mean the tank is far easier to maintain.
Whilst Betta are slow swimming, they are capable of jumping from the water if they want to, so a lid is a must to prevent them ending up on the carpet.
Betta’s long flowing fins do not allow for fast swimming, infact, they are terribly slow, so the current in the tank needs to be kept pretty low. Your filtration needs to be able to cope with the waste produced whilst keeping current low.
Many Betta keepers opt for a hang on the back (HOB) filter for a betta tank. One that is adjustable is ideal, this means that the flow rate can be slowed down to suit your Betta and allow him to swim easily against the current. Here is an example: Link
Another alternative is to use a spray bar, this can spread the flow of the filter meaning it is not a single, powerful current. A spray bar extends the filter outlet over several small openings and spreads the flow of water across the tank. Here is a good example: Link
Another option is to use air powered bubble filters. Bubble filters creat very little flow and these would replicate the Betta’s natural environment the best. Despite the low flow rate, bubble filters have become increasingly popular amongst aquarists due to their excellent bio filtration capability. Whilst they wont perform massively well with mechanical filtration, a sponge bubble filter provides lots of space for bacteria to colonise and a slow flow of water means it then deals with waste very effectively. Here is an example of a great air powered bubble filter: Link
Betta tank Heating
Betta come from Thailand where temperatures get pretty high. Despite a few myths I’ve heard recently, Betta are tropical fish and the tank requires a heater. Heaters come in a range of sizes, one rated for the size of your chosen aquarium will do the job, see our review of the Eheim Thermocontrol heater here, these come highly recommended by Seriously Fishy.
The ideal temperature to keep Betta is between 24.5 and 27 degrees Celcius. Various places give varying ranges of ideal temperatures, but these are the figures from bettafish.org, who seem to be the experts.
Betta tank water parameters
Betta like soft, slightly acidic water. If you are from a hard water area you may need to top your tank up with reverse osmosis (RO) filtered water to decrease the general hardness (GH) of the water to keep a Betta at optimal health.
pH should be between 6.5 – 7.5, adding a peat soil can help to bring the pH down if your water comes out of the tap higher than 7.5, but most tap water is neutral anyway so should be ok.
As with all fish, Ammonia and Nitrite should be zero and Nitrite kept below 10 parts per millilitre (ppm) and always use dechlorinator.
Betta Tank mates
Whilst your Betta will be the show stopper of your tank, many keepers keep them with tank mates. Tank mates need to be chosen carefully with Betta. The long flowing fins are an easy and tasty looking target to faster-moving fish and Betta can quickly become incapacitated, or killed, due to their fins being destroyed.
Female Betta can live together, a tank of female Betta is often referred to as a sorority. Whilst females can live together, there are some things to know before you attempt it. Female Betta are a little more sociable than males but they can be territorial, you will need at least 5 or 6 of them in a sorority but no more than 10 unless the tank is huge! 5 or 6 would be the limit for a 50-litre tank but bigger is better. They will need lots of cover, like plants and other decorations, this will allow each fish to select her territory as they establish a social hierarchy. It is possible you may need to remove bullies if they don’t settle down.
Male Betta are far more territorial and cannot live together. Betta fish originated in Thailand (then Siam) where they were bet upon as they fought. So males cannot live together, this is why they are often separated in tiny boxes in the fish shop.
Some ideas for tank mates would be fish and inverts that will not nip their fins, won’t look like another Betta, and therefore won’t be attacked. Some examples are:
Corydoras Catfish (Schooling fish so require a larger tank for 6 or more)
Khulli loach (a small peaceful loach)
Neon tetra (keep an eye on them though as they can nip fins)
Snails (most tropical snails get along fine with Betta)
Shrimp (Shrimp are very peaceful, just make sure they are not small enough to be snacks)
Betta tank demo
Here is a great example of how to set up your Betta tank with some additional tips from Regis aquatics: