Betta fish have a reputation for being fairly hardy pets, but diligent care is still essential for transporting them safely from a pet store to your home, or when you’re moving house.
Some key principles when transporting a betta are to provide a safe, steady, darkened environment, with adequate insulation to keep the water temperature stable.
Here we’ll be sharing how to achieve that, and also touch on how to transport an entire betta tank from A to B.
- For short trips, transport betta fish in plastic bags. For longer journeys, consider using a Tupperware box with a half-gallon capacity.
- To minimize stress, keep the container in a dark, insulated environment in a steady, safe part of the vehicle.
- If you’re transporting an entire fish tank, you’ll need to transport most of the tank’s water, gravel, and filter media with you to ensure a seamless transfer at your destination.
Betta Fish Trip Gear
If you are planning any sort of trip by car, take a look at this list of betta-approved necessities:
- Clear Plastic Container
- Pre-treated water
- Water conditioner
- Aquarium Salt
- Fish Net + Small cup
- Cloth and Paper Towels
Number of Fish
If you’re traveling with more than one male betta fish, it’s important to keep them in separate containers, or at least with a solid barrier or divider keeping them apart.
Male bettas are notoriously aggressive and could easily shred one another’s fins if kept in the same container.
Traveling with a filled aquarium is never a safe or smart idea. This is especially so for glass aquariums. Water shifting and sloshing back and forth in a standard betta aquarium can not only spill, but it may also cause the glass to shatter.
The main rule of thumb is to go for a plastic container that holds around a half-gallon of water and place it in an insulated, darkened environment. Blankets or towels are excellent for this.
Avoid solid ornaments and check on your betta every hour or so to make sure he’s traveling well.
For Short Trips – Plastic Baggie
For trips of less than two hours, a thick zip-lock plastic baggie is best. You will still need to use the half-gallon size, and you must double-bag them.
If you choose this option, make sure the bag is placed inside a more stable, rigid container and padded by towels. Make sure there is sufficient air inside the bag and open it every hour or so to aerate the water.
For Longer Trips – Tupperware Container
Option one is an unused or fish-only half-gallon Tupperware or other plastic container (we don’t want any soap or food scraps in there). Screw-on tops are best because they help prevent leakage. Poke a few holes in the top to let in the fresh air. Alternatively, you can stop to remove the lid every 30 minutes or so to accomplish the same thing.
Options one and two should be left empty aside from water and your fish. Any decorations may get moved around and pin or crush your fish.
For Multi-Day Trips – A Travel Tank
For trips taking more than 12 hours to a few days, we recommend a travel tank.
These generally have clasps to keep the top on securely, along with some holes to help with aeration. It’s still best to go for something that’s about a half gallon as tanks that are too large can be messy and dangerous for your fish.
If you will be going for multiple days, you may want to add a plant (live or made from silk–not plastic). Don’t add solid ornaments as they can injure your betta in transit.
Preparing for Betta Fish Travel
To Feed or Not To Feed?
Some people prefer to skip feeding their betta the day before their trip begins. Many people allow their betta one fasting day in a week to prevent bloating and constipation anyway.
Fasting your betta for a day before your trip can mean less fish waste in the container. On the other hand, some people prefer not to disrupt their betta’s normal feeding routine. The choice is yours.
Don’t make the betta’s travel water too much different than the water he/she is used to normally.
Our recommendation would be to do a partial water change a day or two before you travel. That way, your fish should have relatively clean but still familiar water to travel in.
The Day of the Betta Trip
Transferring Your Betta Fish to the Container
Allow plenty of time to calmly and gently catch your betta with an aquarium net. Usher it into a corner before gently lifting the net and capturing it with the least stress possible.
Gently place it in your chosen bag or container. If you’re using a bag, ensure the top part of the bag is fully inflated with air to make the bag rigid and firm.
It’s important to remember that betta fish need a stable water temperature of between 77-81°F to remain healthy.
While you can help to achieve a constant temperature by wrapping your plastic bag or container in towels and blankets, it’s also important to keep your vehicle warm inside.
If your car doesn’t have an internal thermometer, consider traveling with a small thermometer to check that your car is within the correct range.
Transporting a Fish Tank
If you’re moving your fish tank to a new house, it’s important to empty the tank of all water, ornaments, and accessories before transportation to prevent them from damaging the tank.
Secure the tank in position and use as much padding as possible to ensure safe transit.
Transporting Your Tank’s Water
When moving your fish tank to a new location, it’s important to note that tap water varies considerably in different regions.
To prevent shock to your fish when you move your tank to another house, it’s recommended to take at least two-thirds of your tank’s water with you. Many fishkeepers have found 5-gallon buckets useful for this.
This water is filled with beneficial bacteria, healthy water chemistry, and the same pH and water hardness parameters that your betta fish is used to.
When setting the tank up again at your destination, some people prefer to add the new treated tap water gradually over several days to prevent a sudden change in water parameters that could cause stress or shock.
Transporting Substrate and Filter Media
In addition to using some of the old tank water in your new tank, it’s also important to transport the same substrate with filter media to your tank. Because these are the two places where beneficial bacteria live in the greatest abundance, it’s vital to transport them in good condition to maintain the colonies.
Keep gravel and filter media moist and avoid cleaning them thoroughly to preserve a healthy tank ecology. When you set up your tank again at your destination, the tank’s biology should stabilize quickly, allowing you to reintroduce your betta fish with minimal delay.
When arriving at your destination, you need to install your fish tank, substrate, and water before adding your filter, heater, plants, and décor.
Turn on your tank’s equipment and wait for the water to reach the same temperature that you usually maintain for your betta.
Once complete, test your water for ammonia and nitrites. If they’re at zero, wait another hour to make sure they’re stable. If either test shows any ammonia or nitrites, give your tank another 24 hours to stabilize before testing again. Repeat until ammonia and nitrites are consistently at zero.
While you might be in a hurry to get your betta fish back into its tank, it’s essential to wait until water chemistry is safe for reintroduction.
While you do this, keep your betta’s container warm, and change 25-35% of the container water regularly with treated water of matching temperature to ensure the most stable, healthy environment possible.
Traveling a short distance with a betta fish doesn’t usually cause many issues, but longer journeys require significant planning and preparation to ensure a smooth transit.
To learn more about acclimating a betta fish to a new tank, check out our dedicated article on the subject here.