Bettas are some of the most attractive and easy to keep of all aquarium fish. Yet, it’s still essential to provide them with the right environment if you want your bettas to thrive.
So let’s dive in and run through some key aspects of creating the perfect environment for your betta fish!
Understanding a Betta’s Natural Habitat
Knowing a fish’s natural environment is one of the keys to getting the tank setup right.
Betta splendens (their scientific name) are also sometimes known as Siamese fighting fish – their very descriptive origin name. Siam, known today as Thailand, is a hot, steamy, tropical country not far from the equator.
In their native lands, bettas like to hang out in the warm water of rice paddies, marshes, and shallow ponds. Because of these somewhat stagnant water conditions, bettas have evolved to breathe air from the water’s surface.
This gives us a whole bunch of clues about creating an ideal environment for bettas at home!
Betta Fish Like It Warm!
While some people have tried keeping bettas in a warmer part of their home without an aquarium heater, giving them an adequately heated aquarium is much better.
Bettas thrive best at optimal water temperatures between 78 and 80 Fahrenheit. If the water temperature falls to less than 74 degrees, your betta’s immune system may be compromised, and the chances of your fish getting sick increases with further temperature declines.
Do yourself and your betta a favor by getting your tank a reliable heater to keep the water at a consistent temperature throughout the year.
Give Your Betta Plenty of Space and Take Care of the Water Quality
While bettas can survive in stagnant conditions and breathe air from the surface of the water, there’s absolutely no need to take advantage of this fish’s amazing feats of evolution!
Bettas can sometimes be found living in atrocious conditions, with keepers even subjecting them to tiny, filterless bowls.
Experts like Dr. Krista Keller, a veterinarian at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital, advise that bettas should be kept in a tank with no less than five gallons of water and a filter. Regular water changes are also recommended to maintain water quality.
Choosing the right filter is also important. Fast-flow filters may create a current that’s overwhelming for your betta. Therefore, go for a gentler system such as those recommended here.
Choose the Right Substrate
There are many substrates on the market, but which is best for your betta tank?
Bettas are delicate fish, meaning large, sharp pieces of gravel may damage their fins or scales.
Aquarium sand poses less risk, but its compact nature might make it difficult for certain aquarium plants to thrive.
The best substrate for most betta tanks is fine gravel or aquarium soil. Consider choosing a darker substrate to make your betta’s vibrant colors stand out even more!
Treat Your Betta to Some Greenery!
Your betta will be much happier if your tank mimics its natural scenery. Remember, bettas live in rice paddies and marshes and like to swim among plants!
Live plants help keep your tank water clean and well-oxygenated and give your betta a place to hide or nap.
Some good plant species choices include Anacharis, Java Fern, and Anubias Nana. But, I also highly recommend you check out this in-depth guide for a more thorough exploration of which plants to grow alongside your bettas.
Driftwood and Caves Provide Safety and Seclusion
Natural driftwood and some rocks or stones stacked to create caves and crevices will also help your betta feel a sense of security.
A relaxed fish is a healthy fish, so it’s worth making the extra effort to provide exactly what they need. Apart from all these benefits, the natural decor will also make your tank look more interesting and can be great fun to set up!
Do note, however, that as well as rocks and plants, bettas need plenty of open water to swim around in at the water’s surface to breathe! As with the substrate, avoid sharp rocks or pieces of driftwood that may damage your betta’s fins.
Give Your Bettas Day AND Night!
Bettas are from the shallow waters of the tropics, so they’re naturally adapted to receive twelve hours of bright light followed by twelve hours of darkness.
While you needn’t replicate these exact hours, bettas require periods of darkness and light every 24 hours to remain happy and healthy. Consider a timer switch if you’re not always around to turn the light off in the evening.
As for lighting options, LED is the obvious choice; it provides a bright, attractive light with excellent longevity.
Keep Your Betta Alone or With a Careful Selection of Tankmates!
Bettas are famed for their ferocious fighting among each other and will sometimes attack other species. Not only that, but their long, trailing fins may provide too much of a temptation for other feisty fish to resist!
In my earliest fishkeeping days, I made the unfortunate mistake of introducing a betta to a community tank that included Dwarf gouramis. Though the gouramis were relatively benign with other species, they harassed my poor betta terribly.
Betta owners often keep their bettas alone to avoid these types of conflicts. There are, however, a few peaceful candidates that can sometimes be kept alongside your betta, especially in a larger tank.
Among fish species Corydoras catfish, Kuhli loaches, and White Cloud Mountain minnows are all potentially good neighbors for your betta. Interestingly, people also often keep other aquatic species alongside their bettas, such as snails, shrimp, and even African dwarf frogs!
Check out this fascinating in-depth guide for the best tankmates your betta here.
Bettas may be very undemanding fish, but they will be much healthier and happier if you provide them with an environment that resembles their natural habitat.
A happy betta makes a happy owner, so let yourself get creative and build a beautiful tank for you and your betta to truly enjoy!