First-time betta owner? No idea where to start with your tank?
First things first, learn everything you can about the nitrogen cycle and how to keep an aquarium. Once you’ve absorbed as much information as you possibly can, now you can get to the good part: decorating your betta fish tank.
Betta fish tanks are often limited in space, so planning is crucial. Keep reading to find out some basics about betta tanks and the many different ways you can decorate them while keeping your betta happy!
Introduction to Betta Fish Keeping
Betta fish are one of the most popular tropical fish available in the aquarium hobby. These fish have beautiful colorations and can successfully be kept in smaller tank setups.
However, they’re aggressive fish that cannot usually be kept with other fish; some hobbyists keep female bettas in a betta sorority, but we don’t recommend this option to beginners.
Because of their aggression, bettas are often kept in nano tanks under 20 gallons in size. But a small tank doesn’t mean that your betta fish aquarium can’t fill up a room or complement a beautiful living space!
There are plenty of options for making a betta fish tank exciting to look at while providing proper betta fish care. The trick to a perfect tank theme is making your fish the star of the aquarium against a backdrop that accents their colors and finnage.
How To Decorate Your Betta Fish Tank
There are a few things to keep in mind when decorating a betta fish tank. First, your betta’s safety should be propriety number one.
While hardy fish, betta fish have long, draping fins that can easily get caught on aquarium decorations and on equipment. Unfortunately, betta fish are very prone to developing fin rot which can be deadly if left untreated. Keep aquarium water clean by performing regular tank maintenance.
Next, you want to decide whether or not you want a natural environment or a modern one. This will determine the best equipment, substrate, and even enrichment items that will fit your betta fish tank best.
A natural tank will incorporate live plants and understated decorations while a more modern aquarium might focus more on making the aquarium a fun experience for the fish.
Betta Fish Tank Size
The most important aspect of a betta fish’s setup is its tank size. Unfortunately, many first-time betta enthusiasts get this part wrong due to misinformation that’s been spread for a long time.
Just because betta fish are sold in plastic cups next to a section of 1 gallon tanks does not mean that they can be kept in these absurdly small aquariums! These fish need adequate space to forage and exercise. This doesn’t exactly mean they require a larger tank setup either, though.
The best betta tank setup will be between 5 gallons and 20 gallons. Some hobbyists have been able to keep their betta fish in the absolute minimum recommended-sized tank of 2.5 gallons, but this takes some experience with betta fish keeping. In general, 5 gallon tanks are the preferred size for most betta fish aquariums.
A 5 gallon tank is a good size for hobbyists wanting to keep only a singular betta fish. A 10 gallon tank will allow for more space for decoration and potential betta tankmates if the temperament of the betta allows it.
Anything larger than a 10 gallon tank will allow the most customizability but can be a big commitment for such a small fish. Some popular betta aquarium setups for a larger tank include keeping a harem of females or keeping multiple wild bettas that are less aggressive together.
Once you’ve determined the best appropriate-sized betta tank for you and your fish, it’s time to think about the style of tank you want as this greatly affects the overall aesthetic environment.
Betta Fish Tank Styles
Over recent years, the style of your aquarium has come to mean a lot. Hobbyists are obsessed with perfectly integrating their fish tanks into their home environment while providing the most natural-looking ecosystem – all while making it look easy!
Though one of these higher-end systems might look like a basic tank on the outside, a lot of work and thought goes into making these aquariums look seamless.
There are a few different betta fish tank styles to choose from.
First, you need to decide if you want a plastic or glass aquarium. Many manufactured betta kits and betta fish-designed tanks are made from plastic to reduce cost. While this can be a good short-term alternative, plastic is very prone to cracking and discoloring over time.
On the other hand, a glass aquarium is much more sturdy and will last indefinitely. Small glass aquariums are relatively cheap and can often be found on sale. We definitely recommend getting a glass aquarium every time!
The next decision you will have to make is whether or not you want a rim and hood on your aquarium – yes, this is a very important decision!
Aquariums with rims and hoods are currently seen as outdated, with open, rimless fish tanks allowing the most customizability for lighting and aquascaping. However, a hood keeps fish from jumping out and lessens evaporation rates which then cuts down on maintenance.
For whatever reason, rimless aquariums are considerably more expensive than ones with black trim. For the difference in price though, the silicone work and overall quality of the tank are usually higher.
Lastly, you will need to decide what shape you want your fish tank to be. Many plastic aquariums are available in bow front, circular, or even hexagonal shapes. We strongly recommend going with a simple rectangular aquarium as this shape is optimal for aquarium water flow, decorating, and fitting equipment.
Once you’ve envisioned the perfect empty tank, it’s time to start filling it.
Betta Fish Filtration
You might not consider filtration to be a way to decorate your aquarium, but filters are big, noisy, and can take away from the natural appeal of an otherwise perfect tank.
Most expert betta keepers use external filtration in the form of a sump or a canister filter; on the other hand, some extremely expert betta keepers use no filters at all and instead, rely on the natural input and output of nutrients between fish and plants.
The other three filtration options include an internal submersible filter, hang on the back filter, or a sponge filter.
An internal filter is a great way to keep water flowing without having any additional bulk on the outside of the aquarium. Internal filters can easily be hidden with background plants and other aquarium ornaments, but they’re often underpowered for tanks above 5 gallons in size.
In our opinion, a hang on the back filter is the best contained and compact filtration choice available. These filters are adequately rated for the size of the tank they’re meant to power but aren’t much bigger than internal filters.
Unfortunately, hang on the back filters do take up space on the outside of the system. But a backdrop of plenty of plants or other types of decorations can help block them from view.
Lastly, sponge filters are a very popular choice for betta setups not concerned with appearance. These are gentle filters that provide a lot of surface area for beneficial bacteria while aerating the water.
However, a sponge filter isn’t the most inconspicuous piece of equipment. The sponge is big and difficult to hide. The bubbles created are also big and make a lot of noise, which can take away from the still-water appearance of a natural betta tank.
Keep in mind that these bubbles can also disrupt bubble nests in a smaller tank!
Betta Fish Substrate
Once you’ve chosen your filtration, it’s time to pick a substrate that compliments the overall theme of your aquarium.
There aren’t many substrates to choose from, but picking the right one can make your aquarium feel like a piece of nature right in your very home. Popular substrate choices include sand, gravel, leaf litter, and no substrate at all.
Sand is arguably one of the most popular substrates currently. It allows for easy planting and for some customization for hills and valleys within the aquarium. There are many natural colors of sand to choose from ranging from light to dark.
For a long time, gravel was the leading substrate of choice, though. Gravel comes in almost every color imaginable, allowing for high customization. It also has weight that can’t be easily moved around in aquarium water flow.
Some of the downsides to gravel include trapping excess waste and preventing plant roots from growing freely; keep in mind that some cheaper gravel options also have sharp edges which can tear at long fins.
In between sand and gravel is another substrate choice, though. This includes substrates made from clay and other inorganic particles that are formulated for optimal plant growth, making these a top choice for planted aquariums.
If you don’t want a permanent substrate, then leaf litter can provide food and shelter to bettas as well as stain the water and lower acidity levels to match the preferred parameters of your fish. The most popular leaf litter choice is Indian almond leaves.
Remove the leaf litter altogether, and you could keep a bare-bottom betta fish tank. Though not regularly seen in betta fish setups, a bare-bottom display might just fit the aesthetic you’re going for!
Other possible substrates include aquarium soil, mud, and peat moss. Just do some research ahead of time as some hobbyists have had a bad experience with these due to nutrient output and unwanted particles in the water column!
Betta Fish Enrichment
Next, you’ll want to think about how to keep your betta fish entertained in its tank.
Remember, these intelligent fish are often kept alone in smaller tanks. Unless you have a larger tank that allows for multiple species at a time, then you’ll need some elements that keep your inquisitive betta interested. There are a few ways to do this.
Some of the best ways of enriching your fish include introducing betta fish toys and fun decorations into their tank. This could be a betta hammock, a mirror, or a ping pong ball. Many aquarium retailers have these items available specially made with bettas in mind.
If you want a natural setup, then you can enrich your betta fish with live plants, aquarium wood, and river rocks. Betta logs are also one of the more natural-looking toys you can use for shelter. Together, these elements can be used to create areas for foraging and shelter throughout the aquarium.
Additional equipment, like an air pump connected to an air stone, may also be added to give your fish something to do during the day. Live food may also be supplemented from time to time to encourage the natural predatory instincts of your fish!
Just make sure to avoid rough aquarium ornaments that could potentially injure your fish and lead to secondary infection.
Betta Fish Live Plants
Lastly, you’ll need to decide if you want your betta fish tank setup to have live plants or not.
It is a common misbelief that aquarium plants are difficult to care for and expensive. While some species can definitely be demanding, there are many aquatic plants that require little to no extra maintenance.
Live plants bring dimension and color to a betta fish tank. Live plants also lead to a healthy life for your fish as they take up nutrients and release oxygen in return.
Here are some of the easiest plant species to keep with bettas:
- Anubias spp.
- Java fern (Leptochilus pteropus)
- Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum)
- Amazon sword (Echinodorus grisebachii/amazonicus)
- Dwarf water lettuce (Pistia statiotes)
When adding plants to your betta tank design, make sure to leave plenty of swimming space so that your betta’s fins don’t get caught on stems and leaves.
If you don’t want to deal with the maintenance that comes along with a tank with plants, then there are plenty of safe silk and plastic plants that look just as natural.
There are many different approaches you can take to achieve a beautiful tank that fits your home aesthetic while providing everything you need to keep your betta healthy and happy.
Whether you pick a small 2.5 gallon tank challenge or have an oversized betta aquarium, there are a few important choices you need to make before adding your fish, like fish tank style, filtration, substrate, enrichment, and if and what kind of live plants you want to keep.
If you have any questions about setting up your first betta fish tank or want to show off your betta display masterpiece, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!