Housing is one the most critical aspects of taking care of a betta fish. The tank is literally where he or she will spend mostly all of their time. So it is crucial that it is set up in a way that allows them to live their best fish life. I recommend having proper housing set up before bringing home a new betta.
This way you can be sure that you have all the proper equipment and you won’t harm the fish as you rush out to get any forgotten items.
The first item on your shopping list should be a petsmart aquarium . This brings up one of the most highly debated and controversial topics in the betta community.
What size tank does a betta need?
Some enthusiasts claim that since bettas have a history of surviving in puddles, that they can live comfortably in a tank that size of a wine glass. As
I mentioned before, they only survived in these conditions during droughts and it was not the norm. Also, why would you want your beloved fish to live its life under these circumstances?
Most of the petsmart fish tanks you see marketed towards housing a betta are terrible options. They are much too small and the pre-existing decor they contain can be harmful to their fragile fins. I find the absolute bare minimum size tank for a betta is one that holds 2.5 gallons (9.5L) of water. The more optimal choice is a tank that holds 5 gallons (19L) or more. This may sound like a large tank for one small fish, but it cannot be understated that they absolutely need the space.
A tank of that size won’t break the bank, and it will help keep your betta happy and healthy for as long as possible. Very determined betta owners may be able to get away with a 2.5 gallon tank, but it will take more frequent water changes and conditioning. Decor will also need to be expertly planned out to provide proper housing. Generally, a 5 gallon tank or larger is the most suitable option.
“Cycling” a tank describes the process of forming friendly bacterial colonies in a new tank. This allows the fish to have a healthy environment to live in, without high levels of toxic ammonia and nitrates. The process can take some weeks to complete, so be patient to be sure that your betta enters the correct environment.
Cycling requires you to add pure ammonia or fish food to a tank. The bacteria will feed on this ammonia and the natural “cycling” process will begin.
Depending on your location, certain tap waters will contain enough compounds for your tank to naturally undergo the cycling process. I recommend for you to test your water so you can see if your water is properly conditioned to house a betta. A completely cycled tank will have measures of 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and around 5 nitrate. You can easily pick up some items from your local pet shop to help jumpstart the cycling process. Follow the instructions on the back of products and speak to a shop assistant.
So what else will you need?
When getting a betta, our aim is to replicate optimal conditions they would have in the wild for them inside their petsmart aquarium. To best do this, we need to remember where they originally come from. In Southeast Asia they lived in still, warm waters, with plenty of foliage or places for them to hide.
Betta fish thrive in water temperatures between 76-82°F (24-27°C). This means that depending on where you live, you may need to purchase a water heater. I recommend at least getting a thermostat so you can properly monitor the temperature for your fish roommate. If you live in an area that is cold or has cold winters, a water heater is definitely something to consider for the wellbeing of your fish. An alternative may be to place your petsmart aquarium in a room that remains at a consistent temperature, or close to a radiator (not too close). Keep an eye on the thermostat, so you can be sure the tank remains in the right temperature range.
A filtration system is very helpful to have when you own a betta. It helps keep the water clear of debris, and toxic buildup. It is possible to keep a betta without a filter, but this requires you to perform a water change almost every other day. Yes, every… other… day! Not only is this a lot of work for you, but this routine of being captured every other day for a water change can be traumatizing for your betta. Purchasing a filter is definitely a worthwhile investment. I recommend getting an adjustable sponge filter. They are relatively cheap and as they are adjustable, make them a perfect solution for bettas. Betta need calm waters with no strong current, so a filter will need to have a “low flow” option. Their typically long fins don’t make them the best swimmers. Bettas look their best and feel happiest when the water is still, warm and peaceful.
A lot of the decor possibilities in your bettas tank come down to your own personal preferences, however, there are some things to keep in mind. Betta fish have fragile fins, and they can be quite clumsy swimmers. It is best to get decor that has no sharp edges, hard plastic materials, or holes where they can get trapped in. Fake plants can be a great option, as they don’t require a lot of care. It is best to get to get silk fake plants, as they are soft and cannot hurt your betta. A setup that contains both some plants that root at the bottom of the tank and some that float on the water’s surface is optimal. Your betta will have plenty of places to hide and rest towards the top and bottom of their home.
Live plants are a great option to add to your bettas tank. They are beautiful additions, and bettas love to lounge on the leaves and hide in them. Plants also help keep the water clean and with excellent oxygen levels. If you do decide to get live plants, it is important to also purchase an appropriate lighting system. Plants need specific lights to grow and continue to live.
Without good lighting for the plants, the tank can become rotten and toxic fast.
With live plants will also come a need for substrate. Substrate is the material (sand, gravel, etc.) that sits at the bottom of a tank. Not only does it create a better looking scene in a tank, it is also practical. It helps filter water, and it traps waste and debris from freely flowing around. Bettas do not have a preferred substrate as they rarely hang out at the bottom of their petsmart fish tanks. They don’t burrow or bottom feed as some other fish do. The most important thing to keep in mind is to have the substrate be a smooth material. I will continue to repeat it, these little guys and girls are fragile and easily find their way into all sorts of trouble. Sharp rocks won’t be a good solution.
One important addition, that is often overlooked, is a lid for the tank. Bettas are great jumpers, as they were sometimes required to jump from one puddle to the next for survival. Although it is not something you will see often, it is still something to be prepared for. Some kind of cover is great to have, or you will need to lower the water level in the tank.
Prepare The Water
You will not need to purchase any special water for your betta’s tank. Tap water is fine to use, and you will only need to add some water conditioner or a de-chlorinator. Standard tap water usually contains some chlorine and other properties that can harm bettas. Adding some water conditioner (by products specifications) will be enough of a treatment to the water.
Some beginners have asked me if bottled water is a good water source for their petsmart fish tanks. It may sound like a great idea, but bottled water doesn’t have many of the minerals that are great for fish. Simple tap water is the best solution, it turns out to be a lot healthier for your betta, and cheaper for you.
If your tank has a lid, it is fine to fill it up to almost maximum capacity. If you do not have a lid yet, remember that bettas are prone to jumping. Without a lid, I recommend not filling up the tank past 80% of its capacity. This way, you won’t risk your new roomie accidentally hopping out of the house.
Adding a betta to its tank
Moving homes can be a stressful experience, and it’s no different for a betta.
He or she will need to get acclimated before entering their new residence.
This simply means that the temperature of the water they are currently in, will need to match the temperature of their new tank. This is a very important step, as just dumping your betta in a new tank can shock the poor guy or gal.
When you get your betta in a cup or bag, you can begin acclimating it by simply “floating” the cup or bag in their new petsmart aquarium . After 15 to 20 minutes the temperatures will match and your betta won’t experience an intense shock. Also, never add the store water your betta was in into the new petsmart aquarium. This old water can transfer infections and diseases to it’s new environment. It is best to net them out of the old water, and then very gently place them into their new home.
Cleaning & Water Changes
If you have a filter in your tank, cleaning and changing water won’t be a lot of work. You will only need to change around 20% of the water every week.
This number changes depending on the size of your tank. The smaller the tank the more water you should change.
Depending on how thoroughly you want to clean the fish tank, you can decide to leave your betta in the water as you perform a water change, or you can remove it. I recommend performing a more thorough cleaning every month or two, and then smaller water changes every week.
It can be helpful to get some test strips which will help evaluate water quality. This will allow you to know exactly when you will need to perform water changes. You can test the water weekly and then decide if a water change is necessary or if the filtration along with plants are doing a good job of keeping the betta tank clean. Some enthusiasts also purchase a tank cleaning siphon. This works like an underwater vacuum cleaner. It will allow you to remove old food and waste at the bottom of the fish tank, and so lower ammonia levels.
Make sure that the water you are changing is the same temperature as the old water. It can be deadly to shock your betta with highly varying temperatures.
Monitor your thermometer and if necessary, use a water heater.