If you’re anything like I was when I got my first betta fish, you’re probably thinking, “nitrate what?”
Rest assured, my team and I at Betta Source will help you determine the appropriate nitrate level for your betta fish, which is actually a simple component of aquarium care that has a lot to do with how often you clean your tank.
What Nitrate Level Is Safe for Betta?
Bettas can withstand unfavorable water conditions but not without consequences. To ensure the health and happiness of your betta fish, keep the nitrate level in your tank as close to zero as possible.
What Is the PPM for a Betta Fish?
For betta fish, the nitrate level should always be below 20 ppm.
A Note About Plants
If you have live plants in your betta tank, they will need some nitrate to survive. Live plants also serve as natural filters and can help reduce the naturally occurring nitrate levels in your betta tank.
Plants are an important part of the nitrogen cycle in your betta tank.
Understanding the Nitrogen Cycle in a Betta Fish Tank
When betta fish pee and poop, their waste becomes ammonia. Ammonia is bad for fish and your ammonia levels should always be under 0.5 ppm.
Fortunately, if you have enough oxygen in your tank, special bacteria will come and clean ammonia up. Unfortunately, these bacteria convert ammonia into nitrogen, which is also dangerous for fish.
As such, water needs to be refreshed and oxygenated regularly. Filters and regular partial water changes are helpful for this.
Plants can also be helpful for completing the cycle and turning nitrogen back into oxygen for your tank.
While you want to aim for zero nitrates in the water, don’t let perfect get in the way of good. Low levels of nitrogen are safe for betta fish and can actually help aquatic plants thrive (see the previous section).
Still, too many nitrates can harm your fish, so it is important to set up a nitrogen cycle before introducing your fish to a new tank, clean your tank regularly, and take other steps to keep the cycle balanced.
Watch this fun video to learn about setting up a new nitrogen cycle:
And read our blog about the nitrogen cycle for even more tips and tricks.
How Do I Measure Nitrate Levels in My Betta Tank?
Use aquarium test strips to measure the nitrate levels in your betta tank. These can be purchased online or at any pet store.
Aquarium test strips can also measure other important water parameters in your tank, including:
- pH (water acidity)
- NO2 (nitrite)
- NO3 (nitrate)
- KH (carbonate hardiness)
- GH (general hardiness)
Keep reading to learn what parameters you should be aiming for.
What Should Betta Water Parameters Be?
Most betta fish prefer warm, calm water. Aim for a tank temperature between 76 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH of 6.8 to 7.5.
Please keep in mind that different varieties of betta may need different temperatures and pH levels! The betta mandor, for example, prefers slightly cooler, more acidic water to mimic its rainforest habitat.
As for nitrogen, we’ve already discussed that nitrate should be below 20 ppm, and ammonia and nitrite should not exceed 0.5 ppm.
Hard water is bad for betta fish, so never use tap water (unless you filter and pre-treat it first) and aim for carbonate hardiness (KH) of 3 dKH (to keep pH stable) and general hardiness (GH) of 5-20 DH or 70-300 ppm.
How Do I Lower Nitrate Levels in My Betta Tank?
If you’ve tested your betta’s water and noticed the nitrate levels are a bit too high, don’t worry too much. Bettas are hardy fish, and they can withstand unfavorable conditions for some time, which is why they are often mistaken for starter pets.
Of course, you want your betta fish to be as happy and healthy as possible, and too much nitrogen can lead to problems over time, including fatal nitrogen poisoning.
To lower nitrate levels in your betta tank, simply:
- Install a filter.
- Clean or change your filter often.
- Add living aquarium plants to get rid of nitrogen.
- Remove betta safe tank mates or upgrade to a bigger tank to make sure everyone has enough room.
- Cut back on feeding if you are overfeeding.
- Remove uneaten betta food from your tank every time you feed.
- Change 10-20% of the tank water every 7 to 10 days to remove contaminated water and refresh the tank (you can change more water if needed, but be cautious and avoid 100% water changes, as these can cause stress, destroy your existing nitrogen cycle, and even harm your betta fish).
- Consider a nitrate remover.
All of these strategies can help you lower your nitrate levels over time. Regular tank maintenance can help make sure you don’t end up with too much nitrate in the first place!
If you remove uneaten food and other visible debris daily, refresh the water in your tank every 7 to 10 days, and clean your filter once a month, you should be in good shape.
Nitrate Level for Betta Depends on Maintenance
We hope you have a better understanding of nitrate levels now. I know I do!
Like other elements of your betta’s tank, your nitrate level depends on maintenance. Specifically, maintaining the nitrogen cycle in your tank.
Establish a nitrogen cycle before introducing a betta fish to your tank, and use aquarium test strips to measure the nitrogen in your tank and make sure the nitrites and nitrates stay at acceptable levels.
To keep your betta safe, keep nitrate levels below 20 ppm, remove debris daily, and refresh your fish’s water every 7 to 10 days.
Adding a filter (and cleaning it regularly) and live aquatic plants can help balance the nitrogen cycle, as well.
If all else fails, you can consider a more intense water change and/or a nitrate remover.
Before you go, check out these articles:
- Betta Tank Setup: Your Quick and Easy Guide
- What Kind Of Water Do Betta Fish Need?
- Basic Guide In Cleaning Your Betta Fish Tank
- The Best Betta Products To Keep Your Pet Healthy And Comfortable
We hope they help you set up your tank, keep it clean, and maintain ideal water conditions for your betta buddy.