Betta Fish Care Guide: How to Setup Your First Betta Fish Tank (Infographic)

Betta fish are awesome, with their vivid colors and glorious fins they deserve a home that allows them to flourish and live a healthy life.


In this article, you’ll be walked through a simple 3-step guide to setting up the ideal environment for your Betta.


Let’s get started.

Table of Contents

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Outer Anatomy
Inner Anatomy

Step 1: Choosing Your Betta Fish Tank and Accessories

Picking Your Betta's Tank: Size Matters!

Unfortunately, it’s common to see betta’s housed in tiny plastic bowls. The reality is, this results in betta’s becoming sick and living a poor life.


Just because betta’s come from shallow streams doesn’t mean they can be kept in tiny bowls or tanks.


But, that’s not you, you want to own a happy and healthy betta – you want it to thrive.


Your chosen tank should be no-less than 5 gallon – the BIGGER the better.


And 5 gallon tanks are the lowest volume of water needed to easily establish the Nitrogen Cycle. Yes, it’s possible in smaller tanks, but it’s a long and infuriating process.


If you’re still looking for a suitable tank, check out this post for our recommendations. 

Do Betta Fish Need a Filter?

Even though bettas come from still waters, you must use a filter. A filter will help keep your tank clean and reduce the amount of harmful bacteria which can lead to disease.


Betta’s long, flowing fins make it difficult for them to swim in strong currents. So you’ll need to purchase a ‘gentle’ filter.


Check to see if your chosen aquarium comes with a filter. If not, purchase on that’s suitable for your tank. Look for a filter with adjustable flow settings. This way you’ll be sure you can create the optimal currents.


You can see our filter reviews here.


Pro Tip: To get the best filtration for your tank, use a filter with a GPH 4 times greater than the size of your tank. GPH stands for gallons per hour, and it’s how much water it will filter every hour. Example, a 5 gallon tank would be a filter with at least 20 GPH.

Do Betta Fish Need a Heater?

Yes, you’ll need to buy a heater because Bettas come from the tropical waters of Thailand.


You should buy a fully submersible heater which can keep the temperature between 78-80 degrees Fahrenheit. And you need to be able to easily monitor the temperature.


If the temperature drops too low, you open the door up to diseases such as Ich. Too high, and you’ll speed up your Betta’s ageing process.


Choose a heater that comes with a thermostat so it’s easy to monitor. And always use a separate thermometer, the readouts from heaters aren’t always accurate.


Never put a heater on a tank under 5 gallons. It can be dangerous to your betta’s health, due to the water temperature warming and cooling too fast. But that shouldn’t matter… you’re not going to keep your awesome betta in a tank under 5 gallons, are you?


Getting Your Gravel

Betta’s love to swim at all levels, and it’s common you’ll see your betta cruising along the bottom. You’ll need to buy small or smooth gravel so your betta doesn’t hurt itself.


Your gravel will also play an important role in your tank ecosystem. Benefical bacteria will grow on the surface, helping to break down waste. If you buy gravel made with large pieces of rock, food and waste can get stuck among them and hurt the health of your tank.


Pro Tip: If you’re using live plants, you’ll need two inches of gravel to ensure they root. Fake plants (silk only), you’ll only need one inch.

Plants and Decorations For Your Betta

Betta originate from Thailand, inhabiting rice paddies, slow-moving streams, and large puddles – all shady places with plenty of hiding sports.


Your Betta will love swimming in a tank which contains caves to hide in and plants that provide plenty shady areas. Betta’s enjoy lounging on leaves and have comfortable places to hide and sleep.


It’s important you check ornaments for spots that could snag or tear your Bettas delicate fins. And if you’re going to use fake plants, don’t use plastic ones, use silk plants.


Live plants are always good because they’ll help clean the water and provide your Betta with a natural environment.

Pro Tip: Your Betta can become bored and depressed easily. It’s a good to rearrange the decor when you clean the tank. This will help keep things interesting for your Betta.

Lighting for Your Betta

Your Betta fish is just like you when it comes to lighting. It prefers a schedule: wake up when it’s light, go to sleep when it’s dark.


If your chosen aquarium doesn’t come with its own lighting, I recommend buying one. You’ll be able to provide your Betta with a regular schedule it needs to stay healthy.


LED lights work best because you can control the light intensity. And some will come with automatic timers so you don’t even have to think about it.


Step 2: How to Setup Your Betta's Tank

1. Preparing and Placing the Aquarium

Start by cleaning out your tank with just water, no soap! Then choose a sport that’s near a window, but not exposed to direct sunlight.


Make sure the surface is nice a sturdy – you may want to consider purchasing a stand designed to hole the weight of your tank. Leave five inches between the aquarium and the wall to allow for the filter.


If you have other pets, you may want to consider placing your Betta in a room they don’t have access to.


2. Install Your Filter

Not all filters are the same, so different types will require different installation methods.


It’s very common that the instructions on filters are terrible. I’d actually recommend using Youtube to find clear tutorials on how to setup your filter.


Make sure you don’t turn your filter on until your tank is filled with water.


3. Add Your Gravel

Give your gravel a thorough rinse with cool running water to remove dust which could clog your filter. Don’t use soap.


Then add your gravel to the tank. Remember, if you’re using real plants, you’ll need at two inches of gravel. For silk plants, one inch will be enough.


4. Set up Your Plants and Decorations

Ensure the roots of your plants are properly buried in the gravel. And all your decorations are anchored in the gravel, so they won’t come loose.


Pro Tip: To get the best views of your Betta, arrange your plants so the taller ones are at the back of your tank.

5. Fill it up!

Place a plate on top of your gravel, and pour water on top of the plate to fill your tank. Using a plate with prevent you from displacing the gravel.


During this process you’ll want to check for leaks.


Don’t fill your tank all the way up, leave about an inch and the top. Your Betta’s an anabantoid, meaning it’s able to breathe the same air as you and me by using a unique organ called a labyrinth. Cool, right?


If your Betta is unable to use its labyrinth from time to time, it can be very bad for it’s health. That’s why you leave a gap.


Your Betta is also a surprisingly good jumper, so filling your tank to the brim is risky.


Pro Tip: Remember to remove the plate after you’ve finished!

6. Turn on Your Filter and Install Your Heater

Now that you’ve filled your tank with water, it’s safe to turn on your filter. Make sure the water is circulating gently, soothly, and quietly. You may need to adjust the settings (that’s why is good to buy an adjustable one).


It’s common your heater will come with suction cups to attach it inside your aquarium. Following the instructions, you’ll want to set to temperature so it’s between 78 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.


Place your thermometer so you can easily monitor the temperature.


Pro Tip: Placing the heater near the mouth of your filter will help the water in your tank heat evenly.

7. Add Neutralizer and Perform a Fishless Cycle

If you’ve filled your tank with tap water, it’ll contain chlorine. So add some neutralizer (follow the products instructions), to remove the chlorine.


This is important because chlorine will stop you from being able to perform the most important step – the fishless cycle. If you don’t do this, when you add your Betta it will die.


A fishless cycle is a humane method of the Nitrogen Cycle.


beneficial bacteria will become established in your tank and filter media. Allowing ammonia (toxic) to convert to nitrite (toxic), then nitrite to nitrates (non-toxic).


That’s why you can’t skip this step. The beneficial bacteria will supplement your fish’s environment by neutralizing their waste.


For an easy-to-follow guide on how to cycle your tank, read this guide.


Step 3: How to Introduce Your Betta to its New Tank

1. Buying Your Betta: How to Choose a Healthy Betta

Don’t buy your Betta until your tank have finished cycling. It will just make the whole transition smoother. When your tank is ready, it’s time to go buy your Betta!


Here’s how to tell if a Betta is healthy:

  • Bright body and undamaged fins
  • The Betta is active and swimming well
  • If it's flaring at another Betta or you
  • No deformities (missing eyes, fins, or scales etc.)
  • No white dots or fuzzy substances (signs of disease)

2. Finally Introduce Your Betta to its New Tank

Don’t go plopping your new Betta into your tank. It will stress your fish and is likely to end in tears.


You need to acclimatize it to its new environment.


Your Betta is going to come in a bag of it’s own water, which is going to be different from the water in your tank. Keeping the bag closed, float it in your aquarium until the water in the bag reaches the same temperature as your tank.


This can take around one hour, so be patient.


Once the water in your Betta’s bag reaches the same temperature in your aquarium, begin to add small amounts of your tank water into it’s container.


When the majority of the water is from your tank, let your fish swim freely into the tank.


Final Thoughts

Betta fish are fantastic pets and they deserve to be treated right. After going through the correct method of preparing its tank, make sure you care for it properly.


This means, feeding it Betta approve food once a day, being careful not to over feed it. Perform 20% water changes once a week to maintain a healthy environment.


Monitor your the pH, ammonia, and nitrate levels, correcting any issues. And clean your tank regularly. If you’re using a filter, you’ll need to do this once every few weeks.


Follow this guide, and you’ll have a vibrant happy Betta as a friend for years!


Leave a comment, let me know about your Betta tank or if you have any questions or suggestions.

Christopher Adams

Hey there, my name is Christopher and I'm the creator and editor of this site. I've owned successful aquariums for the past 23 years. My mission is to educate, inform, and entertain on everything that's fish.

11 thoughts on “Betta Fish Care Guide: How to Setup Your First Betta Fish Tank (Infographic)

    • Thank you for your comment. Yes, my advice would be to bag him with his old water and introduce him gradually to the new environment. Happy fish keeping!

  1. I’m saving a betta thats been in a tiny, filthy, plant vase at my office for a year! They don’t feed it everyday, and its left alone on weekends. I finally got the person to give me the fish and I want to get it into a 5 gallon tank ASAP. I’m worried it might die before I can cycle the tank. Do you have any tips on how to keep it comfortable in its vase while i wait for the cycle to be complete? i don’t want to shock it.

    • Hello Michale, thank you for your comment. Oh my, that’s a situation. I would say keep a very close eye on the Betta, keep doing water changes, give it some plants to rest on, and just try to keep the conditions as stable as possible. Try to avoid overfeeding because you’ll risk ammonia spikes. Is the Betta in bad condition? If so, a epsom salt bath will do it some good. If the Betta has survived for a year in worse conditions, it sounds like a champ, hopefully it will be able to make it through the last bit before you introduce it to paradise. You can check out our article on The Nitrogen Cycle if you’d like: there are some great tips in there for speeding up the process–might be you best option.

  2. I’ve never owned a beta before, so I’m trying to do as much research as I can before I actually get one. 2 questions: When it comes to heaters, which is better, one that fits on the tank or one that fits on the bottom? I found one heater that fits on the bottom of the tank that you can cover with gravel. That seemed like a good way to do it, but your recommendation is one closest to the filter. And my second question is tank size. I live in a one-room apartment. I honestly don’t really have a space for a 5 gallon aquarium. Would a 2. 5 or 3 gallon tank be sufficient?

    • Hey Kat, thank you for taking the time to comment. It’s always a great thing to do research before you buy. I hope my answers can help you 🙂

      1. I would recommend having your heater installed by the filter because it will help distribute the heat evenly throughout your tank.

      2. Look, Betta’s can survive in a 2.5/3gallon tank. However, I don’t recommend it because I’ve read the studies and it does have a negative impact on the fish’s health. You may also have issues other because when you own a smaller tank, any sudden changes (like your heater malfunctioning) will have a much greater and faster effect on your tank’s ecosystem. Have you had a look at the Fluval 5 gallons? They have a pretty small footprint, so you can fit them into tighter spaces. Here’s the Fluval Chi II and the Fluval Edge.

      I wish you all the best. Happy fishkeeping.

  3. I have a betta in a 10 gallon with a filter, heater and lighted cover. I put live plants, a castle, dragon and moss ball and he loves it all. At first he was upset and even puffed at me and would hide near the pump but now he swims through the castle and dragon’s mouth, looking at me like look mom! I’m having fun. Today I introduced 2 albino Cory fish and he seems happy with them! Thank you for the tip about the heater near the pump filter! I’m still learning and talking to knowledgeable people. Most people in the pet stores don’t have any idea!

    • Hey, tank you for taking the time to comment. Awesome, super happy to hear you’re enjoying the hobby and you found my site useful! I’m sure you’ll be 10 tanks deep soon. Unfortunately this most pet stores, this is the case. No point getting mad at the workers though, they’re likely just trying to make ends meat and probably don’t get the proper training needed. I always recommend taking anything they say with a pinch of salt, politely accept their advice. Then go home, ignore their advice and do your own research :D. If you have anymore questions or have any thoughts on information you’d like me to write about, feel free to let me know!! Happy fish keeping!

  4. Hi my sister is going to get a Betta fish soon and wants to know what supplies she needs in order to help it stay alive and live a happy life! She has a 10 gallon tank she will put him in and that’s about it. Do you have any recommendations on what filter, heater and light she should get?
    Also this article was really helpful! Thanks so much!!

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