Betta fish should never be housed in anything less than 5 gallons (18.9 L) unless a 2.5 gallon (9.5 L) tank is set up specifically with a betta in mind. However, 1 gallon (3.8 L) tanks can make the perfect aquarium size for some plants, invertebrates, and even corals! If you’ve made the mistake of buying a 1-gallon tank or bowl in hopes of keeping your betta fish in it, then it’s best to either return it or repurpose it for another setup.
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about 1-gallon betta tanks and better options for maintaining the health of your betta fish!
Can bettas live in a 1-gallon tank?
No, betta fish cannot live in a 1-gallon tank even if you have plans of upgrading in the future; too many times, hobbyists buy fish that need larger aquariums with hopes of upgrading in a few months. Unfortunately, this upgrade never comes and goldfish and bettas are often left in unideal tank and water conditions.
What is the minimum recommended size for a betta tank?
That being said, it is important to know what size tank bettas need to stay happy and healthy over their entire lifespan. In general, 5 gallons is the bare minimum tank size recommended for keeping one betta, with possibly a snail or two. Some hobbyists have made 2.5-gallon tanks work, but your fish will definitely appreciate the extra space.
Otherwise, setting up a betta fish tank is relatively straightforward. Like other tropical fish, they need a cycled aquarium with regular maintenance. They do best with a gravel or sand substrate, quality filtration, aquarium heater, thermometer, and live plants. Their colors will be brightest against dark substrates, LED lights, and with a high-quality, well-varied diet.
To have a truly happy betta, these fish will also need regular filter maintenance, gravel vacuuming, and water changes that have been treated with a water conditioner.
Is it cruel to keep betta fish in small tanks?
In short, keeping a betta fish in a small tank is cruel and unfair to the fish. Many beginner fishkeepers believe that just because these fish are sold in tiny cups in the pet store means that they don’t require the same space as other fish. Sadly, many people are misinformed and do not take the time to research everything that goes into keeping a betta fish and just how beautiful they can be given the right conditions.
Just because bettas come from the trenches and puddles and shallow waters throughout Thailand doesn’t mean they can be kept in a small, dirty fish tank. Bettas are rarely collected from the wild anymore, and their ability to adapt to unideal conditions and cramped spaces has been bred out to be comfortable in freshwater aquarium standards instead; this involves 0 ppm ammonia, 0 ppm nitrite, and <20 ppm nitrate with a stable water temperature between 76-80° F (24.4-26.7° C) and relatively neutral pH (7.0).
However, even with intensive selective-breeding, bettas have not lost their signature personalities. These fish are inquisitive and love to explore the full extent of their tanks. When placed in a small tank, they are limited in swimming space and being able to exhibit their natural behaviors. As a result, this can cause stress and lethargy, which can lead to disease and eventual death.
Even if the tank is filled with enrichment items with properly fitted equipment, 1 gallon of water is extremely difficult to keep water quality up. With fewer gallons of water comes more volatility in parameters as those elements and nutrients are that much more concentrated as opposed to diluted. On top of that, 1 gallon doesn’t give too much space for plants or decorations that will make your betta fish feel more at home!
Why are bettas kept in cups at pet stores?
Nothing is sadder to see than a dead betta in a few inches of water at the pet store. Unfortunately, most stores still believe the myth that these fish can survive in these horrible conditions with insanely high levels of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates just because they are labyrinth fish that can breathe atmospheric air when needed.
These cups also make it easier to have more than one betta fish for sale at a time as each fish would need its own tank due to aggression; from an economic stance, it is probably more worthwhile to lose a few fish in cups than to give each fish its own tank, taking away space from other tropical fish.
As a result, customers also feed into this myth and believe that they can happily keep their betta fish in just a few gallons of water without any filters, heaters, or regular tank maintenance. It doesn’t help that undersized and cheap betta tanks are usually placed alongside these fish, misleading beginners even more so about their true requirements.
While betta fish do not need top-of-the-line products to survive, they do need more than just a cup of water or a few gallons to live out their potential 5-year lifespan.
The best 1-gallon fish tanks
While much more difficult to maintain than larger tanks, many hobbyists venture into the world of nano and pico tanks to test their aquarist abilities and to cultivate a mini-ecosystem; many hobbyists have had success maintaining both saltwater and freshwater tanks, but none that include a betta fish in the picture.
Tetra Bubbling LED Aquarium Kit 1 Gallon, Hexagon Shape, With Color-Changing Light Disc (29040-00)
- aquarium KIT Hexagon-shaped aquarium kit is perfect for betta fish
- COLORFUL Bubbling disc automatically cycles through a rainbow of LED light colors
- INCLUDES FILTER Includes air pump-driven Tetra Whisper Internal Power Filter to keep your tank clean and provide a healthy environment for pet fish
One of the cheapest and most available 1-gallon starter kit tanks for betta fish you’re like to come across is the Tetra Bubbling LED Aquarium Kit 1 Gallon. These hexagonal tanks are regularly advertised with betta fish in mind but can make the perfect display for a mix of plants, shrimp, and snails instead.
This aquarium is plastic and includes a plastic cover with a feeding hole cut out, one LED color-changing bubbling disk, a Whisper internal filter with included small Whisper Bio-Bag, and an air pump to facilitate both the bubbler and the filter; the LED color-changing bubbling disk can help with filtration and add excitement to the tank but will cause too much water disruption for most aquatic species. The dimensions are 7.5 W x 7.5 D x 7.7 H inches (19.1 W x 19.1 D x 19.6 H cm).
These tanks come with everything needed to sustain a mini-ecosystem, besides an aquarium heater; some hobbyists find that the filter and bubbler take up a lot of room and/or aren’t needed and end up removing them from the tank; the filter also tends to be loud and the air pump can be difficult to set up and control as a controller is sold separately.
On top of this, the filter and air pump tend to be unreliable, turning themselves on and off spontaneously throughout the day. The feeding hole on the lid is also large enough for small invertebrates, such as snails and shrimp, to find their way out.
For this tank, we recommend purchasing new lights and housing larger snails and shrimp as well as easy-to-care-for plant species.
What we like:
- Includes lid, filter, filter media, air pump, and bubbler
- Modern design that can fit in most open spaces
- LED color-changing light
What could be better:
- Made of plastic that can easily crack
- Unreliable and loud equipment
- Large feeding hole that invertebrates can escape through
FREESEA 1.4 Gallon Betta Aquarium Fish Tank with LED Light and Filter Pump
- 🐠 Best Small Fish Tank on amazon: The 1.4 gallon office desktop square small fish tank can raise betta, guppies, angel fish and other ornamental fishes. The fish tank is equipped with led lights and two decorative plastic aquatic plants, and you can also buy other decorations by yourself. What's more, the small fish tank would be make you more happy and relaxed even in day or at night.
- 👍 [Free Aquarium starter kit]: there is a free complete filtration system hidden well behind the fish tank .This filter system can be removed and the space will larger after removed(Attention: According to our guests' experience, betta fish is easier to survive without a filter.This filter system can be removed and you can use it in ponds or other fish tanks. )
- 🔌 Power supply：The power bank or computer terminal are available for charge supply as it is 5V USB power. if the water pump doesn't work after the fish tank installation, the reason for that the voltage is not enough.You can use power bank or phone power plug to have a try.
While a little bigger than just 1 gallon and specifically labeled as betta fish tanks, the FREESEA 1.4 Gallon Betta Aquarium Fish Tank with LED Light and Filter Pump is more suited for small invertebrates and plants. These plastic tanks come in black or white and include an internal filtration system, LED lighting, and two fake plant decorations.
The main appeals of these tanks are their hidden filtration systems and sleek, self-contained design; these aquariums measure 7.8 L x 5.5 W x 7.8 H inches (19.8 L x 14.0 W x 19.8 H cm) but keep in mind that the filtration takes up a few inches of that space. The pump power is rated at 2W and the LED light is rated at 2W.
This tank can also be perfect for shrimp, smaller invertebrates, corals, and live plants. However, hobbyists have found the overall package to be expensive for the materials you are getting, especially since the light needs a USB adapter to be plugged into the wall. The filter also tends to be overpowering for the size of the tank, but can easily be baffled given the space in the internal filter; many hobbyists have also been able to fit a heater in this space, which can otherwise take up a significant amount of room in the aquarium.
What we like:
- All-in-one seamless design with internal filtration
- Bright LED light for viewing
- Adequate filtration for tank size
What could be better:
- Plastic material
- Light USB adapter not included
- Usually an overpowering filter for the tank size
- Above average price for what you get
Koller Products Panaview 1-Gallon Globe Fish Bowl (BL10RPET)
- Fill with fresh flowers, silk flowers, potpourri, glass beads or decorative marbles.
- Panaview 360-viewing, perfect for home decor, weddings, crafting and centerpieces.
- Manufactured of shatterproof plastic, unlike glass fish bowls that can shatter when dropped this durable bowl puts to rest any concerns about possible accidents and glass all over.
Last but not least, we are including a standard 1-gallon fishbowl, the Koller Products Panaview 1-Gallon Globe Fish Bowl. While goldfish bowls have a bad reputation, some hobbyists have been able to use these limitations to create an amazing mini-ecosystem; some so much so run only on a light source without a filter, heater, fertilizers, or carbon dioxide.
These shatter-proof plastic tanks offer 360° viewing and measure 8.0 inches in diameter by 7.0 inches in height (20.3 cm diameter x 17.8 cm height); only the tank is included and all other accessories will need to be purchased separately.
Some customer reviews have found that while these tanks are advertised as being seamless, there are obvious seams between the two pieces of plastic, which can potentially disrupt viewing; it is also important to keep in mind that the curvature of the plastic will cause objects within the tank to be magnified and sometimes distorted.
Otherwise, these tanks can be modified to accommodate invertebrates, live plants (both submersed and emersed), and even corals. In order to create a self-sustaining ecosystem, it is recommended to follow the Walstad method where all nutrients are recycled within the aquarium without anything needed to be added besides a light.
What we like:
- Classic goldfish bowl design that can transform a living space
- Shatter-proof plastic for preventative measures
- Can be modified to support an assortment of life
What could be better:
- The plastic can sometimes be thin and may come dented or with a foggy appearance
- Seams in the plastic and the curvature of the tank can disrupt the viewing
What can you do with a 1-gallon fish tank?
While you can’t keep male or female bettas in 1-gallon tanks, you can have an assortment of other self-sustainable aquatic life. Some hobbyists even use these small containers to transplant mini-systems into their homes by collecting water and/or substrate from local areas. These ecospheres are fun to watch and filled with unexpected life.
However, many hobbyists also use these small tanks as actual aquarium setups. Some popular pico setups are:
- Shrimp and live plants. Many hobbyists like to fill their small tanks with a species of shrimp, usually a Neocaridina sp. like cherry shrimp (Neocaridina davidi), and surround them with live plants. This is an ideal setup for those looking to cultivate a self-sustaining system.
- Live plants. Keeping a tank of only live plants can be just as beautiful and exciting as keeping a tank full of fish or with a betta. Plants need to be cared for, especially when there aren’t fish or other invertebrates to create food for the plant, and fertilizer is usually needed; carbon dioxide may also be needed if keeping especially demanding plant species.
- Corals. While it might seem crazy to keep corals in a betta-sized tank, many hobbyists have succeeded at doing so. It definitely takes a lot of work, and the initial setup can be just as expensive as some larger tank setups, but a pico marine coral reef is really a sight to behold!
- Pest tanks. Lastly, hobbyists use small tanks for pest tanks, be it freshwater or saltwater. Some aquarium keepers intentionally stock their tanks with unwanted hitchhikers and hobby-oddities, while others use them for excess snails or grow-out tanks. It is incredible the amount of life that can sustain itself in just a couple of gallons of water!
Remember that nowhere on this list are bettas! They need at least a 5-gallon tank or more!
Betta fish should never be kept in 1-gallon tanks. These fish need space to swim and exhibit their natural behaviors. However, there are plenty of other ways to make a 1-gallon tank work, including getting shrimp, plants, or even testing your experience with a pico reef tank.
There are a few inexpensive 1-gallon options available, each allowing a different potential setup. Make sure that you have a goal in mind as smaller tanks can sometimes be just as expensive as larger tanks!
If you have any questions about 1-gallon tanks, how many gallons betta fish need and their preferred tank setups, or have had experience keeping a pico tank before, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!