How To Set Up Your First Betta Fish Tank

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Thinking of getting a betta for yourself? Well, one of the things you should consider is how to set up a betta fish tank. This is without a doubt one of the common questions people ask when acquiring these water creatures.

Just like any other aquarium fish, setting up your tank properly matters a lot. Not only will this affect the overall health state of the fish, but it will also determine the beauty of your fish. And if you are getting your first ever betta, then here is the full guide on how to set up your first betta fish tank.

Before we go into how to set up your first betta fish tank; First, congratulations on getting your first betta fish. It won’t be patronizing to say that you’ve just acquired one of the most special aquarium creatures out there. They are stunning appearance-wise. As a beginner though, we’ll recommend the Betta Splendens as its one of the most attractive, easy-to-breed fish right now. Just make sure you have a stunning fish tank to match its beauty.

We will be breaking our guide down into different sections. Now, in the first section, we will be explaining in detail everything you’ll need to create a conducive home for your betta. In the second section, we will highlight the right way to set up a betta fish tank. Lastly, we will talk about special things that you can do to your betta happy. First, let’s talk about everything your betta fish needs.

Things You Need To Set Up A Betta Fish Tank:

When it comes to setting up a home for your new betta fish, there are some necessary things you need to shop for. These components are key to making your betta feel as if it was in its natural habitat. So, before we dive into how to set up your first betta fish tank, what are these things? these items are:

1. The Fish Tank (Aquarium)

When it comes to setting up the first betta fish tank, Top of our checklist is the aquarium. Getting a fish without considering its home is like adopting a 10-year-old kid without preparing his/her room. A fish needs a place to stay. Rather than getting a small bowl, you should opt for a 5-gallon tank. In fact, our recommended tank size is a 5 – gallon tank for 1 betta fish.

Bettas are very territorial and need more space than any other aquarium fish so you should get a big tank for your betta fish. And that’s why we are advocating for a 5-gallon tank for 1 betta fish. This will give your betta fish the freedom it needs and the space it requires to exercise and play (swim) around. Also, a big tank helps the water stay cleaner more often than not; what this simply means is that you will only need to change the water a few times.

2. Tools (utilities)

Keeping a fish at home is a big deal (in a good way of course), but that’s on a lighter note. Bettas love to jump out of the water, so you will need an aquarium hood or lid to prevent that from happening. Asides getting an aquarium lid, you will also need an aquarium light to make your fish tank look stunning at night.

A small filter will be perfect for your betta. Bettas have huge fins so you need small filters. Betta fish are tropical fish that thrive in water temperatures between 78 degrees to 82 degrees Fahrenheit, that’s why you need a proper water heater.

3.  Supplies

So, you’ve gotten the tank and the equipment you need. But there are other supplies you need. Asides getting the materials that are meant to be in the betta’s tank, you also need other supplies such as the siphon to help clean the tank, de-chlorinator to help remove the toxic chlorine from the fish tank.

You also need good food. Speaking of fish feeds, you need freeze-dried bloodworms and betta pellets. Finally, you need a water test kit, it will help you know the right time to clean the tank. Once the nitrate levels and ammonia level goes up or the nitrate level goes above 40 ppm, its time to do water treatment and management as a whole.

4.  Decorations.

Speaking of making your betta feel at home, getting aquarium décor is a great way to enrich your betta’s environment. What you want to do is to come up with something that will make your betta explore. While some prefer to use sand, you can also use gravel to cover the bottom part of your tank.

You can make use of fake plants or ornaments to beautify your tank, that way it looks more natural. But avoid the fake plants and ornaments with sharp edges as those could hurt your betta.

Speaking of plants, you can opt-in for java fern, Marimo moss balls, and Anubias are plants that work fine if you are new to all of these. These plants don’t require any form of lighting or substrate to grow in the tank. Asides being great plants, they also help keep the water clean thanks to the biological filtration feature they add.

You need to line the bottom of your pet’s tank with a tank with the substrate. Most of the time, the best thing to do is to make use of the substrate. However, you can also use aquarium soil, sand or don’t use it at all. It all depends on what you want.

Substrates help to hold down the plants placed in the tank. The substrate should be used in your tank. Fill it with the right amount of substrate, and you’ll be good to go.

To change the outlook of your tank, you need to add plants and decorations. Remember, the goal is to make your betta really feel at home in its new tank. When trying to choose the right plant, reiteratively, choosing a live plant is the best thing.

Driftwood, caves, and large plants provide enough room to explore, reducing the chance of your betta getting bored and depressed. But remember, silky plants aren’t so great for your tank.

5. Food.

It’s one thing you need to consider while setting up your betta fish tank. Bettas, like every other fish, are carnivores. They do not eat lots of food. Their health tends to depend more on their environment, much more than what they consume. Creating a conducive is not the only thing that makes betta grow well, eating the right food also plays a role in their entire health including their growth.

Not trying to deviate from the actual point, but bettas are not so picky when it comes to food. They enjoy a whole lot of food. From brine shrimps to bloodworms. However, the proper food to start with is the betta pellets, not only are they popular, but they are also the appropriate feed for your betta at an early stage.

To avoid swim bladder disease which is usually a result of overeating and constipation. Your betta should be fed at least 1 time daily. Meanwhile, you should opt for live foods or frozen, as these two are way better than freeze-dried feed. Less processed feeds are good for bettas. You should give your fish more of that, rather than feeding it with highly processed feed.

How To Choose The Right Betta Tank

While learning how to set up the first betta fish tank, there are few things you need to look out for. People often get misinformed about the things to look out for when taking this sort of decision. If you don’t want to end up buying a betta tank filled with harmful objects which could hurt your precious betta, then you should look out for these things.

The betta fish tank size

This is one thousand and one time we are reiterating the importance of tank size. Just simply go with our recommendations which is going for a 5-gallon tank for one betta.

Recommended Size – 5-gallon tank for one betta fish.

  • Remember, the bigger, the better. This doesn’t just apply to bettas; it also applies to every other fish that you’d love to house. why do you need a bigger tank? Well, because;
  • It gives your betta a better room to explore, exercise and grow.
  • it ultimately reduces the number of times that you’ll need to change the water. Owning a big tank means you won’t have to change your water frequently.
  • You will have fewer cases of pH and temperature fluctuations.
  • Lastly, you will have more space to add all sorts of decorations and plants for your betta’s entertainment, and also a hiding place.

The ‘Not-so-good’ Tank – Making use of Divided Tanks

There are few false information and articles out there encouraging the use of divided tanks. Judging by what I’ve read, it’s safe to say that this is a bad idea. Making use of a divided tank is a bad idea. One of the few problems of using this sort of tank is that even though it seems that the two bettas are separated, the fact that they still share the same water means both bettas aren’t safe.

Being a territorial fish, this could turn out to be fatal for one of both bettas. Also, it’s easy to share infections; when one gets infected, it is pretty easy for the other to get infected too. This is why we don’t recommend this kind of tank size and setup.

Community Tank

The name of the tank even suggests that this will be bad for your betta. This is so bad; I’d rather you go with the divided tank (which is also not good). That is why it’s a bad idea to opt for either a divided tank or a community tank. Next to the divided tank, the community tank is a bad idea.

It works just like the divided tank, but rather than having a divider in the tank, your betta will share the same tank with a bunch of other fish which are usually smaller in size than the bettas. Remember, bettas are aggressive, they hate the idea of having to share the same tank with another fish (these guys don’t even like the idea of sharing the same habitat with their kind.

Consider length over height

Remember, when choosing a betta tank, you should always consider the length and not the height. As long as you are choosing a 5 gallons tank or even bigger, you will be creating a conducive state for your betta. But, tank with more length should come first.

Why do I think length beats height when picking a tank, especially if it’s for a betta fish? well, simply because bettas don’t swim up to down, they swim from side to side. However, this shouldn’t be an issue if you are not going to go with our recommended 5 gallons and above.

How To Set Up a Betta Fish Tank

If you’ve gotten your tank, supplies, equipment, and decorations ready, then what you need is a guide on how to set up your first betta fish tank.

1. Find The Perfect Location

You need to make sure that the tank is closer to an electrical outline. Being closer to the source of water and the equipment makes it easy to maintain. Cleaning and managing the water becomes easy at this point.

When picking out the right spot you need to consider a spot that will ensure the decrease of algae growth. How do you ensure this? By putting your tank in a location that’s farther from the sun. Being exposed to too much sunlight ensures the overwhelming growth of algae which is a bad idea if you wish to create a conducive environment for your water pet.

Avoid spots that are close to the air conditioning system, the heating unit, or places that are in direct sunlight such as the windows. Aquariums are made of acrylic or glass, whichever one your tank is made of, being crashed into is a bad idea. You don’t want a 5 – gallon of water in a glass or acrylic come crashing or leaking all over your room.

2. Use the right aquarium stand

When you think of getting a stand that would hold a 5 – gallon tank, it must be something strong. Aquariums are very heavy with or without water (mostly with water). The stand has to be a sturdy one coupled with a flat surface which will allow it to support your fish tank’s weight. Finally, you also have to make sure that the stand is water-resistant to avoid warping over time.

3. Clean the supplies thoroughly

You need to clean the supplies thoroughly. From the tank, the substrate, equipment, decorations to make sure that dirt is removed completely. You should avoid using soaps to clean the equipment let alone a cleaning detergent.

Soaps and Detergents are very harmful to your fish. In case it’s a used aquarium, look out for leaks. To find out if its leaking or not, let the tank sit for 24 hours and look out for dampness.

4. Fixing the supplies

Once you’ve properly cleaned the tank, equipment, tank, and substrate, the next thing to do is to install these supplies. This is the interior part where you get to fix everything in the tank to make betta feel right at home. Do not plug these things yet. Not until they are all fully fixed.

You can put the decorations in the tank in the way the pleases you. You should also make sure that you place ornaments in the tank to help shield your betta from fast currents. Asides placing ornaments in the tank, you should also try out some plants. Place the plants or ornaments right in front of the filter to help reduce the current.

5. Fill the tank with water.

At this stage, the final thing to do (so to speak), is to fill the tank with water. Once you are done filling it with clean water. To remove the toxic chemicals in the water such as chlorine, you should add de-chlorinator. As the name rightly suggests. Dechlorinator wicks out the harmful chemicals in the water, making it safe for your betta.

Once you are done filling the tank with water, you can now plug the filter in. Meanwhile, wait for at least 30 minutes before turning your heater on, this is to make sure that it acclimatizes to the tank’s temperature.

6. Cycling the betta tank.

Before placing your betta in the tank, you need to make sure that the tank is cycled properly. There are two ways to cycle the tank. The two ways to go about it are the fishless cycle which is the recommended method, while the other one which is in-fish cycle is not recommended.

–  In – Fish Cycle

One of the ways of cycling the betta tank is the in – fish cycle method. Both methods require a biological enhancer to help kickstart the tank. As soon as you’ve dosed the tank with enough bacteria, you should check all the parameters to make sure the nitrite and ammonia stay at 20 parts per million. Don’t forget to get a test kit to help with this.

Once all the parameters are met, you can then put your betta in the tank. An ammonia detoxifier is needed to help wick out and neutralize every ammonia present in the tank. When ammonia builds up in the tank, it is toxic to your betta fish. Even though we must explain this form of cycling, we don’t recommend it in any way.

The best form of cycling is the Fishless cycle which will be explained next.  Meanwhile, in – fish cycle tends to stress your betta simply because the fish will be in the tank while this process is on.

–  Fishless Cycle

Just as we’ve mentioned earlier, the fishless cycle is the recommended form of tank cycling. It will give your betta tank enough time to grow the needed bacteria, but the difference is that your betta fish will not be in the tank while the process is taking place.

One of the most important things to do when performing this form of the cycle is to add the needed bacteria to the tank. Some of the best bacteria is that which is capable of breaking down ammonia. Always opt for the best.

7. Maintaining Water Quality And Temperature

Adding a water conditioner ensures that toxins are wicked out from the water completely. Filters and heaters are both necessary. While heater help to keep the tank temperature where it ought to be, the filter helps to wick out dirty water.

To make the water acceptable for your betta, you should consider getting a water heater, as these creatures are very delicate and tend to react to sudden temperature change. If you live in a house where the temperature is steady, or you reside in the ‘warm’ part of the world, then maybe a water heater would only be an option.

But their temperature must be monitored properly to ensure that they don’t fall sick or damage their immune system. In the winter, getting a water heater is more of a necessity.

If you reside in the part of the world where the climate and weather are both erratic, then we’ll advise that you get your betta a heater. At the end of the day, making sure that the betta’s environment is in a stable condition is key to the betta’s health and growth.

Do Bettas Need A Filter?

For those wondering if a betta needs a filter, well, it does. But you may have seen pictures of bettas in bowls. Truth is, just because you’ve seen betta in a fishbowl doesn’t mean your betta can live a happy and healthy life in a fishbowl. Please take a look at our other article on why betta fish need a filter.

You should keep your betta in a tank with a filter installed in it. Installing a filter allows you to take care of your betta. If you don’t have a filter installed in your tank, then you should prepare to spend more time changing and cleaning the tank.

With a filter tank, your tank stays clean most of the time. Tanks without filters become dirty too quickly and you will need to change the water frequently. With a few bucks, you won’t only be saving yourself some valuable time, you will also be saving your fish from the stress of changing the water frequently.

When it comes to choosing the right filter, there are certain factors to note to help you choose the right filter. Installing the non-suitable filter in your tank could push around your fish.

  • You should look out for filters with 3 stages of filtration. These stages include the biological, chemical, and mechanical stage. Even though there are other options like the filters with cartridges, but they can’t be as functional as the filters with three stages of filtration.
  • Filters with an adjustable flow are perfect for the job. These are the filters that create a conducive environment for your betta.
  • Lastly, if you own a filter that does the job ‘way too much’ by causing a strong current in the tank, then you can slow things down by installing plants, filter sponge, and decorations to slow things down a little.

No filter – More Maintenance

You will need extra maintenance in case you don’t buy a filter. But you have to understand that ammonia and dirt tend to pile up so fast in small tanks especially one that has no filter. So, if you choose to go with a small tank, then you should also be prepared to do more work maintaining the neatness of the tank.

You’ll need to get used to performing full water changes regularly. In case you have a 2.5 to 4-gallon tank instead of the recommended size, then changing the water and doing all other things to make it clean should be done 2 to 3 days a week. But you have to make sure that the water quality is maintained.

This is why we advocate that betta owners upgrade their water management skills, as it will be needed as far as nurturing betta is concerned. To maintain the 5 to 7 days maintenance schedule, you have to make sure that 25% of the water is replaced once within that same period. Next on how to set up your first betta fish tank is learning to maintain water the right way.

How To Maintain Water Quality Properly

When it comes to changing your water, you should take everything out and make sure that the whole water in the betta’s tank is changed completely. Unlike what you have with the tropical fish, bettas fins are delicate. So delicate that their fins react to dirty water. When we said you should change the water, we mean changing the water completely. When the old water is drained out completely, you should replace it with aged water.

Before putting your betta back in the tank, make sure to add a water conditioner. Do not add tap water directly into the tank as it tends to contain elements that may be harmful to your betta including chlorine. You shouldn’t forget the de-chlorinator.

How To Pick The Right Substrate For Your Betta Tank

Picking the right substrate for your tank is as choosing the right heater and filter. Substrates aren’t supposed to be too much in the tank, rough or even sharp. To avoid making your betta hurting itself on the substrate, you should avoid filling the tank with more than the needed amount.

When you place large gravels in the tank, it can be counterproductive. Gravels trap food, which later rots and produces ammonia in the tank. You don’t want your betta in a tank filled with that toxin. The best way to avoid this is to make sure that your tank is not filled with lots of these substrates.

If you’ll be adding plants to the tank, then its better if you avoid sand altogether. Because of how compact sand tends to be, the plants may have a tough time digging their roots through it. You should choose between aquarium soil and gravels.

It’s always good to choose a substrate that is natural. We recommend using Fluval Stratum if you’ll be opting for a planted aquarium. It makes your tank look natural and homely for your betta to live in.

Does your betta need lighting?

Knowing how to set up the first betta fish tank requires in-depth knowledge of adding the perfect lighting. You should ensure that this is the case. Just like humans, bettas also need the right amount of lighting. But you should draw a line. Even though bettas need lighting, they also need the right amount of darkness too.

Your bettas should be able to spot the difference between nighttime and daytime. If this is not the case, your betta will be affected. In a situation where your betta finds it difficult to differentiate between daytime and nighttime, it will become stressed, which ultimately leads to loss of appetite.


Basically, you need to digest this detailed piece completely. Remember, to make sure your betta stays healthy and happy, you need to provide a big tank for your betta. Make sure the top of the tank is covered to reduce the chances of your betta jumping out (trust me, bettas are very active). When selecting a tank, the length should always (and will always) triumph height.

Your betta tank should be filled with lots of decorations and hiding places to let your betta explore, swim, and exercise. Your betta tank should not be placed closer to the tank to avoid been too exposed to the sun. Fake plants should be avoided. You should always opt for live plants. If you still want to go for fake plants, make sure they are silk – made. In all you do, make sure your betta’s health is of topmost priority to you.

Follow this guide and you will be able to set up your first betta fish tank. Please do share and ask your questions in the comment section.

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