Everything You Need For Your First Betta


While it is possible to house a betta in a tank smaller than 5 gallons, such as a baby fish or a disabled fish, 5 gallons is really the minimum recommendation for a happy, healthy betta, and 10 gallons is even better. Also please note that King bettas require a 10 gallon minimum tank. If you go up to a 20 gallon tank, make sure it is a 20 gallon LONG as bettas need horizontal swimming space vs. vertical swimming space. Part of the reason why 5 gallons is the minimum size is due to what bio-load the tank can handle. The smaller the tank, the harder it is to cycle and keep cycled, the more frequently you have to do water changes, and the less tank mates you can potentially add (though that's another topic - scroll down). 

All of these tanks are glass, which is our recommendation. We have experience with acrylic tanks, they're lighter, less risk of them breaking or chipping, and less expensive, but they get cloudy over time and are easily scratched during cleaning. Also, it's very important to have a lid on your tank. Bettas are jumpers! They can jump 3 inches or more. Unless your tank is big enough to have the water level too low for them to jump out, you need a lid. A lid also keeps other curious animals away like cats, and helps decrease water evaporation, and evaporative cooling since bettas need 78-82 degree water.

Our Favorite Tanks:

  • Fluval Flex 9 Gallon | $$$ | ♥♥♥♥♥
    This is our favorite tank! It stays super clean thanks to the false back with wonderful filter media (sponge, carbon, biomax), space for a heater and thermometer, and a powerful pump with two flexible outputs so you can disturb water surface tension without blasting your fish across the tanks (bettas need a slower filter flow than most fish). It also looks beautiful, and has Fluval lights built in that are great for growing live plants (and it's remote controlled!). We have 2 of these tanks today and wished all our fish could live in this tank. It's also a great size for bettas, being almost 9 gallons, without taking up too much width with its footprint like most 10 gallons. It comes in black or white. It's a little pricey, but well worth the investment. Watch for sales and sometimes you can buy them used (never use soap to wash a used tank, just water and vinegar).
  • Fluval Spec V 5 Gallon | $$$ | ♥♥♥♥♥
    Another great tank by Fluval. A little pricey again, but look for sales or buy them used. It's actually more expensive than the Fluval Flex, and it's smaller than that tank! Like the Fluval Flex, it has great filter media, a great pump, a false back to hide all those things including your heater. Solid quality tank.
  • Top Fin Easy Clean 5 Gallon | $$ | ♥♥♥♥
    My favorite thing about this tank is you can hack it to be like a Fluval! That's what we've done with 2 of our personal tanks. It's pretty affordable compared to other all-in-one glass tanks. It has a pump and waterfall feature similar to Fluval and I personally haven't seen my bettas struggling with the output. It also has a false back to hide all of the unsightly components. It comes with a carbon filter, but what I do is use one of the empty compartments to stick in a piece of Fluval filter foam media, a bag of Fluval Carbon, and a bag of Fluval Biomax. Boom. Fluval hack! There's also space in the back for the heater and thermometer. The only downfall of this tank is it doesn't give the fish a full 5 gallons because of the false back, so it doesn't seem very deep. For this reason, I prefer the Fluval Spec V for a 5 gallon tank, but the Top Fin Easy Clean is almost half the cost.
  • Top Fin Starter Kit | $$ | ♥♥♥
    This is a solid little starter kit. The only thing it doesn't come with is a heater. That said, many bettas struggle with the filter that it comes with, and I'm not a huge fan of the carbon filter media pads it comes with. If you can, replace the filter with a sponge filter, like our favorite one from Aquarium Co Op (even better, add an air stone to it like this one, here's how. Don't forget an air pump like this one). Another plus for this tank, it's the same as the very inexpensive open-glass tanks, except it comes with a lid. While the light in the lid isn't ideal for growing plants (you can easily replace it with something low-cost like this Hygger light), once you get the inexpensive open glass tank and add everything to it that you need, you're usually better off getting a starter kit like this one.
  • Top Fin or Aqueon Standard Open Glass 5G or 10G | $ | ♥♥♥♥
    This is by far the most inexpensive tank. They're trustworthy and reliable, and every few months they go on sale, usually about 50% off (close to $1 per gallon). The only down side is you still have to purchase a lid, filter (cheapest solution is a sponge filter per above), heater, etc...and lids alone are pretty expensive! However, if you want to go a really economical route, you can use a piece of mesh, a piece of plexiglass, or even a piece of cardboard as a makeshift lid! This is what we do, and what we use, for our temporary hospital tanks. Nothing wrong with doing it this way. If you have live plants and need a light, you can purchase a light that doesn't require a lid, or you can set your tank near a window to receive natural light (just beware of algae growth due to sunlight).


In general the filter that comes with your tank will be just fine! Unless your betta is a female or a Plakat with shorter fins, their long heavy fins mean they need a slower flow filter or they get pushed around too much and this can cause stress. If your filter isn't adjustable or is too strong for your betta, you can baffle it. Often you can find custom baffle options for your filter on Etsy, or you can clip a piece of sponge to the intake (their fins can get sucked up and damaged) and output to slow the flow. Alternatively, you can ditch the standard pump filter and use a sponge filter like our favorite one from Aquarium Co Op (even better, add an air stone to it like this one, here's how. Don't forget an air pump like this one). The purpose of a filter is to clean the water, make sure it isn't stagnant, break the water's surface tension, oxygenate the water (just because bettas have a labyrinth organ to breathe surface air doesn't mean they don't need oxygenated water for their gills too!), limit algae growth by agitating the water around surfaces and décor, and more.

Heater + Thermometer:

Bettas require a heater. They are a cold-blooded tropical fish! They thrive in water that is 78-82 degrees. While they can survive in colder water, it will decrease their immune system and can result in medical symptoms like fin clamping. Keep in mind that our body temperature is on average 98.6, so the water will still feel cool to our touch. An inexpensive and space-saving pre-set temperature filter like the ones from Top Fin work great (pay attention to the gallons they can heat, there are different wattages), and others prefer a heater they can adjust like the none from HITOP. But, don't forget a thermometer! This is the best way to ensure your water is the temperature you think it is. If you have a really hot or cold day, if your power goes out, or if the heater malfunctions or stops working unexpectedly, this is your safety fallback. I prefer a digital thermometer like this one, while others prefer a glass thermometer like this one. Avoid the sticker thermometers as they are known to be inaccurate, look shabby over time, and leave sticky residue when you pull them off.


Everyone's favorite topic! There are SO many substrates to choose from, and not many "wrong" options. Though please avoid the painted substrates like the neon glow substrates. Over time (6-12 months) these can start chipping and leaking toxins into the water. You can purchase an "inert" substrate, like river rocks and pebbles, sand (not our personal favorite, and it can be hard for live plants, we recommended this Chichlid sand for live plants), or a substrate ideal for live plants like Fluval Stratum (look up how to not make a mess of your tank with this, it can get very cloudy and requires patience) or CaribSea EcoComplete (our personal favorite especially for live planted tanks). You can even use certain kinds of potting soils capped with gravel, but that's not something we have personal experience with, and comes with some risks. Since our preference for long-term tanks is always live planted, we recommend checking out this article from Aquarium Co-Op:

Water Conditioner:

Water conditioner is necessary for fish tanks to treat tap water before adding it to the aquarium in order to remove harmful substances such as chlorine and chloramine and heavy metals. This can also decrease stress to the fish while changing out the water. Water conditioner should be added any time water is added to the tank, be it the first time you're filling it, or during your weekly 25% water changes. Ideally you can add it to water (that is the same temperature as the tank so you don't rapidly change the temperature) before adding it to the tank, but you can also add it to the tank right before adding new water. Our favorite water conditioners are Seachem Prime and API Stress Coat

Water Parameter Test Kit

This is a crucial tool for any fish keeper. While strips are tempting because they're inexpensive, they are also often inaccurate, especially when it comes to ammonia (often they don't test for ammonia), which is arguably the most important thing to test for. I also don't recommend the stick-on tests, they also have accuracy issues. Take a deep breath and purchase the API Freshwater Master Test Kit. It's $30-$35 depending on the sale and when you get it. I know this is steep, but it lasts FOREVER! I have 16 tanks in my house at the time of writing this and I've only had to replace the Ammonia and Nitrite tests (the ones I use the most) once.

Nitrifying Bacteria Source

This is necessary for cycling your tank. You can use Seachem Stability (a necessary stable no matter how you decide to cycle your tank), Fritz Turbo Start 700, a pre-seeded filter from Angels Plus, or a filter from an established tank. Please note that if you use a live active bacteria source like a pre-seeded filter or Fritz Turbo Start 700 you can typically cycle a tank in 7-10 days. Any shelf-stable bacteria source, like Stability, takes closer to 6-8 weeks. Please click here to read my whole blog about cycling to learn more!

Rests and Hides

Here's where it gets fun! Decorate to your heart's content. But, there are a few important things to keep in mind.

  • Plants:
    • Live Plants: Live plants are amazing for so many reasons! I'll write a blog topic about this another day, but a great place to start is this video from Aquarium Co Op. I love to purchase plants from them as well, but you can also purchase some standard Amazon Swords, moss, and Anubias at your local fish store or PetSmart.
    • Fake Plants: There's NOTHING wrong with fake plants. But please invest in silk or silicon plants, They are more expensive, but plastic plants have a tendency to shred and tear betta's fins and this can lead to secondary issues like fin rot and infection. Choose at least one fake plant that goes up to the surface of the water and provides a good hide or resting place.
  • Hides: Bettas love hides, somewhere private they can go to get away. Always keep in mind how sharp something is. You can do a panty hose test - run something fragile like a  panty hose over the hide or piece of décor and if it snags, it can also tear your fish's fins. My bettas all LOVE their coconut hides from SunGrow, and the coconut adds beneficial tannins to the water without darkening it. They also all love these Aquazoo rock hides. Try to avoid low-cost plastic feeling hides (especially those cute and popular but unsafe SpongeBob hides) as these can break down and leach toxins over time.
  • Rests: While bettas breathe through their gills, they also breathe surface air thanks to the fact that they have a labyrinth organ. This means they spend a lot of time resting near the surface of the water so they don't have to work so hard to swim up there. All bettas that I have known have loved a betta leaf like this one, and I always spoil my bettas with a floating log.


Bettas are obligate carnivores. They cannot digest plant matter. Always check the ingredients of your fish food. if you see fillers like wheat flour, gluten, corn, soy, etc...especially in the first 5 ingredients, then it is full of fillers that bettas cannot digest, which can cause bloat, constipation, blockages, even infection and death. Always look for whole sources of protein as well vs. "meal" like fish meal.

Bettas thrive on a variety of food, particularly live (or frozen) foods. Since this isn't accessible or realistic for everyone, our favorite base food that we mostly feed all of our fish is Ultra Fresh Betta Pro Shrimp Patties. Another option is Fluval Bug Bites or Finsect betta pellets. 

If you can, it's also great to have some frozen foods on hand such as frozen mysis shrimp or blood worms (you can purchase these at your local fish store), and as a last resort you can introduce freeze-dried foods like blood worms and daphnia for variety, though these contain the lowest amount of nutrients and should be used the least often. 

Over-feeding a betta is one of the leading causes of illness in bettas, so please feed cautiously. I will write a whole blog about feeding, but a good thing to consider is that a betta's stomach is about the size of its eye. If you're using the Ultra Fresh food, start out with 4-6 pellets 1-2x per day and watch their stomach. If it looks distended, back off and even fast for a day until it goes back to normal. You'll find what works best for your betta this way. All my bettas eat a little different quantities of food depending on thie age, size, and what type they are.

Tank Mates

As a general rule, I do not rehome bettas to community or sorority tanks. Also, please know it is NEVER appropriate to house a male and female in the same tank.

Please know that unless you have a specialized wild type betta, they are territorial, aggressive, and solitary. They do not school. They prefer to be alone the vast majority of the time. Bettas were not meant to be community tank fish. They are easily stressed by tank mates, especially those who are faster than them and known fin-nippers like tetras, guppies, and mollies. Stress is a leading cause of disease in fish. Bettas can also see the full spectrum of colors, and are likely to be aggressive towards any tank mates, especially colorful or flashy tank mates, and can end up killing or bullying them to death. While there are exceptions to every rule and some people swear their bettas are fine in community tanks, it's usually a "it's fine until it's not" situation. While short-finned bettas like plakats and females do best in community tanks since they are stronger swimmers and can navigate deeper waters, even they aren't immune from a bad community tank experience.  The same applies to sororities. Most sorority tanks (unless they are genetic siblings) fail after 3-6 months. For every female you have in a tank (5 minimum is a sorority), you need that many backup tanks ready to go if and when they get sick or start to fight. So 6 females means 5 backup tanks. Females are also aggressive. In fact, females are so aggressive that they don't raise their own young, male bettas do! Of my own personal bettas, my females have always been the most aggressive bettas, not even being able to have a snail for a tank mate without killing it.

I have received enough sick and injured bettas from community and sorority tanks whose owners couldn't or wouldn't separate them into their own tank to ever risk this situation. If you do decide to attempt a community tank, a betta plus a schooling fish requires a 20 gallon long minimum tank size, that is extremely heavily planted so there are a lot of places to hide, and a lot of things breaking up the bettas view of the tank mates. Chili Rasboras, Ember Tetras, and Khuli Loaches can be a good place to start in terms of tank mates if you are prepared to take the risk.

That said, snails are usually a safe tank mate. 1 nerite snail in a 5 gallon , 2 nerites or 1 mystery snail in a 10 gallon is a good rule of thumb. Watch for aggression from the betta towards the snail. Shrimp are also a possibility, though they require heavy carpeting plants to hide in, and be prepared for them to be an expensive (and bloat-inducing) snack for your betta.

Stating The Obvious: Cost

Fish keeping is NOT an inexpensive hobby. You can easily spend several hundred dollars setting up one single tank, especially if you purchase high-quality live plants. But it only has to be as expensive as you make it! If you purchase the most inexpensive materials listed on this page, you can set up an appropriate betta tank with all the bells and whistles for around $100. But please make sure you have the financial stability to invest in what your betta needs before you start making compromises and bring one home before you're prepared.

What I didn't Mention: Medicine

Fish get sick. I don't know about you, but I don't know a lot of residential fish veterinarians. When you are the owner of fish, you are also their veterinarian. I will post more about illnesses and treatments in the future, but for now, I highly recommend the Facebook group Betta Fish Keepers. There are amazing moderators in that group who are experts in fish diseases and treatments. It's good to have some staples on hand though, if you want to stay ahead of the game, such as:

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