How to Set up Betta Fish Tank – In-Depth Guide

How To Setu[ A Betta Fish Tank
By Pranay Das Updated

When it comes to magnificent aquarium creatures, you can’t miss the sheer beauty of a Betta. Owner of one of the most intricately designed fins, Bettas add a sense of aesthetics of your aquarium that can hardly be matched by any other fish. This should not come as a surprise that they are one of the highly sought-after species by aquarists across the globe.

However, this doesn’t mean that they can be pet easily by just about anyone. Without a proper knowledge of their requirements, you will find these beauties not living up to their fullest. Therefore, in order to help you regarding it, we are providing our in-depth guide to Betta fish tank setup.  So, let’s see what it is all about.

How to Setup a Betta Fish Tank?

To ensure that they have a healthy lifestyle in captivity, you need to create an environment that reflects its natural habitat. Therefore, while creating the perfect Betta fish tank, you need to keep a sharp focus in these following areas.

Tank Requirements

Home is where is reside; creating a liveable, comfortable, and healthy ambiance is therefore very important. Something similar applies to an aquarium when it comes to caretaking a Betta. The first sector that you need to focus on while building a tank for your Betta is to make sure that your tank meets the following requirements.

Size of the Tank

Now, we know what you are thinking. A small fish like Betta can be kept literally anywhere, even in a bowl or in those fancy flower vases, right? Well, you couldn’t be any more wrong! Despite their tiny stature, they need a large space to thrive. Since they love swimming around, you need to provide adequate space so that they don’t feel claustrophobic.

Also, in a cramped up space, Bettas will continue to hit themselves against the wall accidentally, which may severely damage their fins. It will also cause stress to them, which may reflect in discoloration of their fins.

Keeping all of these aspects in mind, we suggest you to buy a 5-gallon for a single Betta. A clear acrylic or glass tank rectangular in shape is recommended for them.


Substrate plays a vital role in the functionality of your tank because not only do they add a naturalistic ambiance to your tank, but they also help in housing beneficial bacteria to the ecosystem of the tank. Basically, beneficial bacteria that help in breaking down waste products that gets accumulated in your tank reside in the substrate you provide.

Ideally, it is suggested that you choose sand or fine gravels instead of large gravels since the latter might hurt your Betta. The depth of the substrate is dependent on whether you are using live plants or artificial plants in your tank. In case of live plants, you would need at least 2” (5 cm) of substrate so that it is easy to root them. When it comes to artificial plant, 1” (2.5 cm) of substrate will suffice.

Try and pick natural colored substrate such as brown, black, and white since they would not only blend easily with the tank environment but these natural colors would help to pop up the bright colors of your Betta.

To help you understand the amount of substrate you need for your Betta tank, we have made this following table that shows the amount of substrate needed for different sized-tank.

Tank Size (in gallons) Amount of Substrate Needed (in lbs.)
5 5-10
10 10-20
20 20-40
50 50-100
75 75-150
80 80-160
100 150-300

Filtration System

Despite Bettas primarily living in slow-moving water, Bettas need a strong filter to survive. Basically, three types of filtration system can be used in a Betta tank. Let us try to understand them better here.

Biological Filter – This filtration system allows for beneficial bacteria to grow and develop.

Mechanical Filter – It pulls waste materials and debris from the water.

Chemical Filter – This filter media is made up of activated carbon that removes impurities from the water, making it non-toxic.

Based on the filtration media, the best filters for a Betta tank are a Hang-On-Back (HOB) filter since they provide both biological and mechanical filtration along with supplying additional aeration. You can also opt for a canister filter since they clean huge volumes of water every hour. They also provide all three filtration types. Sponge filters with power-heads provide biological and mechanical filtration as well. Try and avoid under-the-gravel filters since most Bettas use sand as a substrate.

Water Heater

Keeping a submerged water heater will ensure that the temperature is always maintained. Also, you might have to regulate the temperature during the spawning and breeding process, which plays a vital role in the Betta fish tank setup.


One of the most striking features of Bettas is their color. Therefore, when you are hosting them in your aquarium, you would want to highlight their color with a proper lighting system.

In the wild, Bettas live in the dark water of the lower lake bottoms. If you want to go for this natural lighting, you won’t be able to highlight the bright colors of your Betta. However, if you want to go for the bright light system, there are ample choices for you. You can go for fluorescent lights, compact fluorescent, metal halides or LED lights, as you desire.

One thing that you need to make sure is that the lighting system is automated. Bettas would need periods of darkness for their body to function normally. Having an automated lighting system will ensure that the lights stay on for 12 hours a day, and stay off for the rest of the day.

Presence of Flora

The presence of flora, i.e. plants will help the Betta feel that it is living in its natural environment. It is advised to choose artificial plants since natural plants make the tanks dirtier and require regular trimming. However, the leaves of your artificial plant must not be rough and sharp because that may tear off the fins of your Betta.

The next focus area should be the water for your fish tank and what all things you need to keep in mind to make sure that your Betta adjusts easily to the new environment of the aquarium.


The next plan of action is to decorate your Betta tank. Now, as much as plants are important in a fish tank since they help in controlling the nitrate level, sadly you won’t be able to host most plants in a Betta tank. This is because the high pH level is not suited for the survival of most aquarium plants. Besides, Betta often eats or uproot plants, thereby jeopardizing your efforts. Very few plants, such as java moss or Amazon Sword plant, can co-exist with a Betta.

But don’t be too sad, since there are still a bunch of items that you can use to decorate your aquarium. Pick up some aquatic caves and rocks since they will serve as hiding spots for your fish. Bettas also love to excavate and move rocks around, so don’t stress yourself about arranging and re-arranging the rocks. Just place the larger rocks at the back and the smaller rocks in the front since that will create a sense of depth.

Try to use small white limestone rocks as they will help maintain proper pH level. You can also use small clay pots and coral pieces. Do not use driftwood as that would change the pH level and hardness of the water.

Water Type

Air is to us what water is to a fish! Therefore, maintaining a good quality of water is vital. Now, although we have said that Siamese Fighting Fish can survive in low-quality water that has less oxygen, it does not mean that they need less oxygen than other species. This cannot be a permanent scenario. Please keep the following this in mind when selecting the water for your tank.


Betta needs generally warm water since it mimics the tropical climate. A temperature of 74°-80° F (23°-27° C) is ideal for them. Keeping a submersible water heater ensures that this temperature is always maintained. Try to avoid heat lamps since they may overheat the water that may burn the fish.

pH Level

The pH level of the water should be around 6.8-7.4, and it should be checked on a weekly basis. Although not mandatory, you can buy a pH testing kit from your nearest pet store.

Mineral Level

If your tap water has a high amount of chlorine and/or chloramine in it, you need to use a water conditioner to remove them, since they are harmful to your fish. In addition, if the levels of nitrite (0 ppm), nitrate (<20 ppm) and ammonia (0 ppm) are off, it might jeopardize the health of your Betta. To correct this situation, you can use buffers or liquid acids to adjust their level.


The general hardness of the water should be around 7-9 while its carbonate hardness should be around 5-8.

Cleaning Method

Try to clean your tank ornaments on a weekly basis. Do not use any harsh chemicals or soap to clean them. Plain lukewarm water should get the job done. You can use a gravel vacuum (siphon) to suck uneaten food and waste products from the bottom of the tank. Use a sponge to clean off the dirt accumulated on your tank walls.

Replacement Procedure

About 25% of the tank’s water should be replaced every two weeks. The new water should be dechlorinated and be of roughly the same temperature as of the water in the tank. Changing all of the water at once will not only remove the beneficial bacteria from the water, but also suddenly change the pH and mineral level. It will become extremely difficult for your fish to adjust to the new water.

Tank Setup

Under the Betta fish tank setup, you need to bear in mind the following points.


The tap water that we use to fill our tank has a lot of components in it that are harmful to your fish such as Nitrates, Chlorine, Fluoride, Chloramines, Phosphates, and even metal coppers. Some homes even have old copper pipes that are extremely harmful.  Therefore, de-chlorinating your water is very important.

Fishless Cycling Your Tank

This step essentially involves adding beneficial bacteria to your tank before introducing the fish. In this process, ammonia is added continuously, which gets turned to nitrogen and nitrate in the presence of these bacteria.  It usually takes 4-6 weeks for the tank to become healthy enough for the fish.

To do an aquarium cycling, you need to fill up your tank with everything apart from the fish. After that, keep on adding fish food and household ammonia (janitorial ammonia) to the water. Buy an ammonia and nitrate test-kit and make sure that the level of ammonia stays at 2 ppm for the first 2-3 weeks. After that, bring down the level of both ammonia and nitrate to 0 ppm. After another week, replace 50% of the water with tap water. Two days, replace 50% of the water with tap water again. Your tank would then be ready to host your fish.

Introducing Betta to Your Tank

Before adding the fish, acclimatizing them to the tank’s environment is vital. To do this, start by dimming the tank lights and floating the bag (in which the fish is kept) in the tank for 15 minutes so that it gets used to the temperature inside the tank. Now, open the bag and pour a bit of water from the tank into the bag and keep on repeating it every 10 minutes. If you see the fish is reacting normally to it, then release the fish into the tank water by using a net.

Choosing the Type of Betta

Pick the right type of Betta that suits your requirements. Siamese Fighting Fish are an aggressive freshwater beast that can be beautiful and magnificent to look at despite their fierce temperament.

The male Siamese Fighting Fish comes with bright radiant colors and long, wavy and attractive fins. They are territorial in nature and fight against each other when put in the same tank. So, it is advised to keep them separated, far away from each other’s sight. Which variant you pick, is completely up to your discretion, but if you want to see active and brightly-colored Betta, you need to go for the male ones.

Familiarizing the Betta to its New Environment

Siamese Fighting Fish does not require your constant attention. They are moderately easy to take care of and do not require a lot of effort apart from the breeding procedure. They are pretty adaptable. As long as you give them enough space to live, they are easy to pet. The only downside is their aggression, which generally prohibits them to co-exist with each other.


A Betta fish is a magnificent creature – splendid by appearance, feisty by nature. Keeping them at home elevates the aesthetics of your interiors. But, it should be noted that they come at a price – the price of your care and attention. Consider them to be like an investment; the more you take care of them, the more they will flourish. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you need to be a watch-duty for 24*7.

As long as you are fulfilling the requirements mentioned by us and setting up their tank in the manner we suggested, we can assure that your Betta will live healthily. So, keep a note of the aforementioned Betta fish tank setup and enjoy fishkeeping with this beauty.

Similar Betta Fish Guides

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