How to Setup a Betta Fish Tank? (All You Need to Know)

How to Setup a Betta Fish Tank

Betta fish are known for their iridescent, flashy scales and long fins. They seem like they’re wearing underwater gowns and going to a party.

They’re also quite cheap to buy, going for as low as $2 each in certain markets. However, they’re not as easy to keep. It’s not an ‘easy’ pet to keep, as some may tell you.

If you want to keep your betta fish for long, here’s how to set up a fish tank for Betta.

How to Setup a Betta Fish Tank

You’ll need to begin by buying the fish a tank (of course).

Next, you’ll need to set it up with accessories, and third, you’ll need to slowly introduce it to the new environment.

Step 1 – Choose the Betta Fish Tank and Accessories

Even though a betta fish is pretty small, the size of the tank matters. You can’t simply get it a goldfish bowl and be content with it.

That being said, it’s common to see bettas floating around in plastic bowls (please don’t do this). That’s not a good habitat for them. The idea stems from the fact that they live in shallow streams, so they could live in fishbowls.

However, to keep them alive and comfortable, get a 5-gallon tank, at the very least. That’s the lowest volume of water needed to keep the nitrogen cycle going. It’s possible in smaller tanks, but that’s a long process.

Also read: How Big Do Betta Fish Get?

Water Filter

The next thing you’ll need is a water filter. Since Bettas thrive in freshwater, you’ll need to decontaminate water constantly from bacteria and refuse. The long flowing fins of a betta, however, can’t stand strong currents. So make sure to get a gentle filter.

If the tank or aquarium you choose comes with a filter, check to see if it’s primed for a betta. At the very least, make sure it has adjustable flow settings.


Bettas are usually found in tropical waters; hence you’ll need to buy a heater. Go for a fully submersible heater that can keep the temperature between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

If the temperature drops below that, you can expose the betta to diseases like Ich. If the temperature rises too high, you’ll speed up the betta’s aging process.

Hence, you need to choose a heater that can maintain a strict temperature with a thermostat. Also, use a separate thermometer to check the temperature on a regular basis. The readouts from the heater can’t always be trusted.

Also, don’t put a heater in a tank that is smaller than 5 gallons. This can be dangerous to the betta’s health.


Bettas can cruise at the top and even at the bottom of tanks. Hence, getting some fine or smooth gravel can be beneficial for them.

Big pebbles or large pieces of rock will trap pieces of food and waste and can pose a danger to your Betta. Your gravel will help to regulate the ecosystem of the tank. Bacteria that can benefit the fish will grow on the surface and break down waste.

Plants and Decorations

Betta originates from Thailand. Hence, they live in rice paddies and slow-moving streams. They can even live in particularly large puddles.

Hence, you should get your betta a tank that contains caves to hide in as well as plants. Bettas enjoy leaves that they can lounge in and hide in comfortable places.

Also, check the ornaments you place inside for places that can snag or tear your Betta’s delicate fins. If you’re putting in fake plants, refrain from using plastic ones and go for silk ones.


When it comes to lighting, there is a schedule that your betta fish will prefer. It will go to sleep when it’s dark and wake when it’s light. If the aquarium you buy doesn’t come with its sown lighting, buy one.

If you provide your betta with a schedule, it’ll stay healthier. LED lights work best since you can control the intensity. Some even come with automatic timers which will make things easier.

Step 2 – Preparing the Aquarium

First, you should clean out the tank. Just use water; using soap can upset the pH of the water. Then choose a spot that is near a window, yet not exposed to direct sunlight. Sunlight can heat up the tank water, posing danger to your fish.

Make sure the surface you place the tank on is flat and sturdy. Also, consider purchasing a stand that is designed to hold the weight of the tank. Leave five inches between the aquarium and the wall to allow for the placement of a filter.

If you have other pets, particularly meat-eaters, then place the betta in a room they can’t access.

Filter Installation

Not all filters are built equal. Hence, different ones will require different methods.

It’s common that the instructions on the filters are less than apt. So use YouTube to find clear tutorials to set up the filter. Don’t turn it on until the tank is full.

Adding Gravel

Give your gravel a rinse with cool, running water so that the dust is removed. This could clog the filter so it needs to be periodically cleaned. Don’t use soap since it can raise the pH of the water.

After that, you can add gravel to the tank. Remember if you’re using real plants, you’ll need at least two inches of gravel to propagate growth. Silk plants, however, only require a single inch.

Setting up Plants

Make sure all the plants you set up are rooted in the gravel. All the decorations should be anchored in there as well so they don’t come loose.

Filling Up the Tank

Place a plate atop the gravel and pour water on top of the plate to fill the tank.

Then use a plate to prevent the displacement of the gravel. During the process, you’ll want to check for leaks.

Remember to not fill the tank to the top. Leave an inch at the top. This will allow your betta to breathe better as the air that settles in the gap above the water settles.

Installing the Heater

After filling the tank, you can turn on the filter. When the water begins to circulate gently and quietly, you can start installing the heater. Your heater can come with suction cups to attach to your aquarium.

Follow the instructions and set the temperature at 78 or 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the thermometer inside to monitor the temperature constantly.

Perform a Fishless Cycle

If you’ve filled up the tank with tap water, it may contain chlorine. Add some neutralizer to raise the pH to neutral. Then perform the fishless cycle; that’s just a humane method of the nitrogen cycle.

Beneficial bacteria become established in your tank and filter. This allows ammonia to convert to nitrates. That propagates bacteria and algae and can kill your fish.

Step 3 – Introducing the Fish to the New Environment

Your betta will most likely come in a bag of its own water. That’s going to be different than the water in your tank.

Keep the bag closed, and float it into the aquarium until it reaches the same temperature as your tank. This can take over an hour.

Be patient. After the water in the betta’s bag reaches the appropriate temperature, add small amounts of the tank water. After the majority of water is from the tank, you can let the fish swim freely into the tank.

How Hard is it to Keep a Betta Fish?

While there aren’t any easy pets, fish, and particularly betta fish, have a reputation of being ‘easy’. Hence, they’re often neglected. While they may be easier to care for than other fish, they need no less space or less care. If you neglect any pet, they will eventually die.

They have a labyrinth organ that helps them gulp air from the surface. Hence, they can survive in water with low oxygen levels by swimming to the surface for air.

They also live in freshwater, which requires a neutral environment in the aquarium. That’s easier to set up and maintain than saltwater.

Rumors of their ease are exaggerated though. They don’t thrive in very tiny puddles in the wild as may have been suggested to you. The puddles have to be very large. Bettas also need filtration and warm water as well as plants and tiny caves to explore.

What Can Stress Out Betta Fish in a Fish Tank?

According to research conducted by scientists at Ghent University, Belgium; common issues with Betta fish have been identified.

Bettas can become stressed from sharing a tank with rival fish. These aren’t fish from other species necessarily. They can see fish of the same species as rivals if they have to compete for resources.

Hence, very small tanks (>2.5 gallons) or those without environmental enrichment can seem like hostile environments. Also, tanks that haven’t been properly cleaned can harm the quality of life of the fish. They can result in mycobacterium infections.

On the other hand, if a large enough tank is maintained right, betta fish enjoy living with fish that act as companions. However, they should be species of fish that are compatible, and not hostile to the bettas.

If you follow these instructions, you can set up the perfect betta fish tank.

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