Guidelines to Setting Up Your Tank

When setting up your Betta’s tank, it’s important to remember they need room to swim as well as clean water. The minimum size tank for your Betta should be ten gallons unless you decide to set up an individual Betta bowl which can be much smaller. Your Betta’s house should be at least 3 or 4 Betta body lengths in diameter and have all the tank equipment necessary to keep him healthy.

“Betta in a Vase”

Bettas are enjoyable to watch if they are happy with enough room to live comfortably. The “Betta in a Vase,” a recent fad, which involves placing one Betta in a vase along with a peace lily and some marbles, should be considered inhumane and avoided. Although beautiful to look at, this fad is very unhealthy for the Betta and usually the fish dies after a short period of time.


Betta in a vase

Betta fish can jump and will jump when the opportunity presents itself. It is a good idea to place a cover (with sufficient air holes) over the Betta tank to prevent this from happening. Bettas obtain oxygen from water, but also from the atmosphere. For this reason, it is important they have access to fresh air and oxygen from outside the tank.


The filtration system in your tank should not pose a threat to your Betta’s safety. Be careful upon setup, that your Betta cannot get its fins stuck at the point of air intake and that the filter is set at a fairly low level. The fish get stressed when there is rapid movement in the water because it is very unlike the betta’s natural habitat.

Water Temperature

Bettas thrive in waters that are between 76 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a thermometer frequently to ensure to maintain an optimal temperature range for the water. Rapid, drastic temperature changes stress Bettas and make them prone to fin rot and other diseases.

There are many types of thermometers available. Floating or submersible glass thermometers are alcohol-based and easy to use. There are also liquid crystal strips that stick on the tank which are also a good choice. The advantage of this stick-on thermometer is that it is placed outside the tank, but the disadvantage is that it is not as reliable. The immersible or floating thermometers are very precise and accurate and are placed inside the water in the tank. The only downside is that it must be regularly cleaned as you would any other tank decoration or ornament.

Another possibility is to use a hand-held thermometer. This is particularly useful in ensuring that the fresh water added to the tank during a water change is the right temperature.

Gravel and Sand

You will need to add a layer of gravel at the bottom of the tank, and a medium-sized pebble is best. Waste-absorbing gravel or just a regular substrate will do, but be sure to wash it thoroughly before putting it in the aquarium.

If you plan to use live plants, you’ll also need to add a layer of sand to give the plants a place to take root. Make sure the sand is approved for aquarium use. Sand from the hardware store or beach can introduce harmful chemicals and contaminants to the tank.


You know how when you move into a new place, it doesn’t feel like home until you have some artwork on the walls and a few pictures on the shelves? That’s what it feels like to a betta fish living in a tank without plants.

Although your betta has never seen a rice paddy, that’s it’s natural habitat, so adding plants can make your betta feel more safe and secure in his new home. You can use plastic, silk or live plants in your aquarium.

Plastic: Plastic plants are easy to use and require less attention than live plants. Local pet stores offer a wide variety of styles and colors. However, plastic plants can grow fungus more easily than live ones, so it’s important to clean them often. Because plastic plants are harder and less forgiving than real plants, your betta’s fins can sometimes catch and tear on the leaves.

Silk: Like plastic plants, silk plants provide a low-maintenance option for your aquarium. They are made of softer material than plastic plants, which can reduce the risk of your betta snagging its fins or tail on the faux leaves.

Real: You just can’t beat the benefits of using live plants. Live plants are recommended because they can help stave off algae infestations and make your fish feel more at home. Using live plants means you’ll need a layer of sand at the bottom of your aquarium to give them a place to take root.

Just like landscaping, there are some tricks to use when decorating your aquarium with plants, whether live or fake. Place larger, taller plants toward the back of the tank and shorter, bushier plants near the front. Doing so creates a nice effect without blocking any views of your beautiful betta.


Rocks and bogwood provide beautiful, natural decorations for your tank – no need for the skeleton in the treasure chest, although those are kind of great, too.

Rocks: Some rocks are suitable to use in aquariums and some aren’t. Here’s an easy (and fun) test to tell the difference: Using an eyedropper, place a few drops of distilled vinegar in several places on the rock. If the vinegar bubbles, it is not safe to put in your tank – so don’t do it.

Types of rock that are suitable for tank decorations include:

  • Granite
  • Quartz
  • Jade
  • Lava rock
  • Onyx
  • Slate
  • Petrified wood

Bogwood: Adding a piece of bogwood to the tank gives your betta a place to hide, so he doesn’t feel stressed or threatened. It can also provide minerals and live food in the tank and reduce fungus and bacterial disease in your fish. Bonus: You can even grow live plants on a piece of bogwood.

If you decide to add bogwood to the tank, be sure to waterlog it outside of the aquarium by securing it at the bottom of a small bowl and covering it with water. Don’t try to waterlog the bogwood in the aquarium because it can release chemicals during the process.

Properly setting up an aquarium takes some time and effort, but if you follow these steps, your tank will be ready and waiting for its new betta tenant. Now you just have to just choose your fish!

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Do you have any other tank setup tips?