Many fishkeepers house their bettas in small tanks. They often don’t contain a heater or filter.
Worse still is the fact that some people house bettas in small bowls. Even people who buy tanks for bettas rarely provide heated water. The bettas barely survive, for the most part, and live in sub-optimal conditions.
Their hardiness is what makes the betta so popular. Bettas are fairly low maintenance creatures that fish hobbyists don’t have to pay much attention to. But we can all do better than that – our bettas deserve better after all.
Without a heater in their tank to adjust the temperature, bettas may live in stress. Imagine living in a perpetual state of stress with no way out. Your betta may survive in stagnant water, but they’re not thriving.
Cold and suboptimal temperatures will cause your bettas to die earlier before their natural lifespan. This doesn’t mean you can’t keep your bettas in an unheated aquarium. However, you should learn more about your betta’s requirements before deciding if you need one.
An unheated tank will require more work from you to maintain the tank.
In this article, we’ll deep dive into whether you should buy a heater for bettas.
Does Betta Fish Need a Heater?
As a general rule, if you don’t have a heater for your bettas, get one! That should be your first priority since all fish are sensitive to temperatures.
A cold wind or draft could prove to be fatal to your betta. The best way to ensure the longevity of your betta is to control the temperature.
So is there a situation when your betta can live without a heater?
There actually is. If, and only if, you can guarantee that the temperature will remain constant.
Your room may even hover at a certain temperature – based on how you feel. But have you ever accounted for temperature drops at night? And of course, what about temperature drops in the winter?
You will need a heater to ensure your betta survives. In fact, heaters aren’t that expensive and are worth every penny.
The Ideal Temperature for Bettas
Your goal should be to mimic the natural habitat of Bettas. Going by this standard, the ideal temperature for bettas is about 76-81°F. At this temperature, your bettas will not only survive but also thrive.
They will remain active and happy at 75-82°F. But it’s dangerous if the temperature drops too low or goes too high.
If the temperature exceeds 85°F, it’s going to severely hurt your betta’s health.
What Happens to Bettas if They Get Too Cold?
If the tank’s temperature drops under 74°F, bettas will enter into a state of agitation.
Your betta will become more sluggish and its movements will slow down. This is happening due to a lower rate of metabolism. The betta is trying to conserve his energy to survive the cold spell.
However, it’s a losing battle. The betta will eventually get even more distressed and stop eating.
As this happens, its immune system takes a turn for the worse. At this stage, the betta’s colors begin to fade from his scales and skin.
He’ll stay closer to the substrate or areas of the tank that are comparatively warmer.
But the tide is slowly shifting against your betta. His compromised immune system will make him more prone to bacterial and fungal infections.
He could get diseases such as fin rot, which is easy to cure. However, the betta may just as easily get something more serious such as dropsy.
As you can imagine, leaving your betta in a cold tank is unbelievably cruel. Don’t leave your betta without a heater unless you’re absolutely certain of the temperature.
What Will Happen if the Temperature Gets Too Hot?
Anything over 85°F will cause your Betta fish to slowly begin overheating.
When this happens, your betta starts to swim erratically.
As cold-blooded creatures, bettas seek the same temperature as their surroundings. The heat will imbue them with more energy. This may sound like a good thing, but it’s not.
All this heat will induce stress in your betta and weaken their immune system.
Is your tank getting too hot? Don’t worry – you’re not without options. One quick and cheap solution is to blow a fan over the water. This will increase the water’s rate of evaporation and keep the tank colder.
Getting a Bigger Tank
It is recommended to keep bettas in 3-gallon tanks. However, the larger your tank, the better.
This is because smaller tanks are more susceptible to changes in temperature conditions. As a rule, never keep your bettas in tanks smaller than 3 gallons.
At higher volumes, it becomes easier for the aquarium to maintain its temperatures. A 3-gallon tank, by comparison, may undergo sudden changes in temperature.
How to Administer Heat to Bettas in an Emergency Situation
It isn’t uncommon for heaters to break down due to a power failure.
Most heaters are also prone to breaking. Whatever the reason it is, you need a contingency plan to keep your bettas warm.
Your best bet is to secure a larger tank. The water will take longer to change temperature, giving you more time to fix things.
Below are a few solutions:
- Increase the temperature in your house. This only works if your tank will quickly heat up again, in small tanks. By heating your entire house, you’ll prevent the room from lowering the tank’s temperature.
- Remove your aquarium away from windows and place it closer to the center of your house. Heat exchange commonly takes place through windows.
- You can leave the tank in the sun for it to get warmed up. Just make sure it doesn’t get too heated up.
- Fill a bag with hot water, place it over the tank, and let it float. The water will exchange its heat with the tank.
- For open-topped tanks, place a towel over the top to retain the heat. The towel prevents heat from leaving the tank.
- In the same vein, you can wrap several towels around the tank. Just make sure the sudden light change doesn’t stress your betta.
- Use household objects to create heat. For instance, you could move a lamp closer to the tank. You could use a hairdryer to provide some quick heating. Keep in mind that these are all temporary solutions. You’ll still have to find a more permanent solution.
- Buy an electric blanket and wrap it around your tank. Carefully monitor the temperature to ensure it doesn’t skyrocket too much.
- Place candles around your aquarium. If you put enough candles around your tank, the surrounding heat will keep it warmer. Plus it also looks aesthetically pleasing.
How to Choose a Heater for Bettas?
The market has been flooded by an abundance of high-quality aquarium heaters. It may feel a bit overwhelming to choose the right one if you’re a beginner.
But don’t fret! Here’s a quick rule to help you find the right tank: you need 3 to 5 watts per gallon of tank size.
If your room tends to get cold very quickly, consider 5 watts per gallon. This will account for the occasional swings in the temperature.
Remember, a sudden cold shock is all that it takes to cause bettas to die.
So do bettas need a heater?
The long and short of it is a resounding yes!
However, you should make sure to keep the temperature between 76-81°F. A heater is your best shot at getting closer to this temperature range.
Here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Bettas thrive in a temperature range between 76-81°F. This is the ideal temperature for them. Deviate too far off this range and their health starts to fail!
- If the temperature goes under 74°F, your betta will start to suffer. Their metabolisms just don’t have the vigor needed to fight off easily treatable diseases. Opportunistic infections like fin rot and ich will find it easier to latch onto your betta. So it’s better to invest in a small, affordable heater.
- If the tank goes higher than 85°F, then your betta will begin to overheat. This will cause them undue stress that could result in death.
- The best way to keep your tank at a stable temperature is to go big. Buy a large tank (at least 5 gallons). With so much water in the aquarium, it’s harder for the temperature to fluctuate.
- If the heater breaks down, your betta won’t get sick right away. There are several factors that contribute to your betta’s longevity. This includes age, the current strength of the immune system, and quality of food they eat.
The more you learn about your betta fish, the better. Instead of watching your betta die miserably in cold water, buy a heater.
This way, your betta will become healthier and stronger! You may even be able to breed your betta with a suitable female!
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