PH for Betta fish

June 28, 2012
Enrico Richter

Now that you have read the Home Sweet Home page and have a nice tank to put your fish in, we need to discuss the water that goes into the tank and the food you will be feeding. For us, water is usually just water, unless you live where the water is really hard. If you come from a hard water area you know about mineral deposits and a high pH that makes your skin dry and itchy. Or maybe your area has a high iron content and you deal with a reddish stain on things. Since your fish lives in the water it is going to be a lot more important to him, so we will discuss water parameters and how they relate to your new friend. All fish, and especially Bettas, love to eat. A good quality and well balanced food will keep your fish healthy. There are many types of food on the market and some are better than others for your Betta so we will also be discuss them in this article as well.


For a person keeping a fish tank there are three parameters that are separate yet related. For years I blew off knowing anything about them because I thought that stuff was for more geeky types. But I have found an understanding of your water will go along way to being successful in keeping tropical fish of any kind. Knowing what you have out of the tap, how it relates to the type of fish you want to keep and what possible ways there are to change it will make you more successful with your tank and may save the lives of some fish. And it really is not that difficult, though if you are like me you may have to read it through a few times to really get it. The three parameters we will be discussing are pH, gH and kh. Now before your eyeballs roll back into your head.. lets ease into what each of these are.


The first thing everybody tells you to check is your pH. Most living things depend on a proper pH level to sustain life. The blood flowing through our veins must have a pH between 7.35 and 7.45. Exceeding this range by as little as one-tenth of a pH unit could prove fatal. Pure water is a clear, colorless, and odorless liquid that is made up of one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms. pH is a measurement of the hydrogen ion concentration measured on a scale from 0-14. Increasing the number of hydrogen ions result in a drop of the pH or more acidic water. A pH of 7 is neutral and values below 7 are acidic and those above are basic. pH has a logarithmic function, meaning in lay terms, ten-fold. In every day language, that means a change in pH from 7 to 6 makes your water is 10 times more acidic than it was. If you drop another point to pH 5, you now have water 100 times more acid. This is a drastic change for fish, so anytime you want to change your pH, you must do it gradually.

The pH in you tank is not fixed but changes over time. Throughout the course of a day, it rise during the daytime and typically will drop at night. The pH will also change as new fish are added or removed from a tank, as water is added or changed, and as the biological processes change in the tank. Though tropical fish originate in waters with different pH values, aquarium fish can adapt to and live happily in most pH levels if they not too far out of their range. What they will not adapt well to is bouncing values. A common cause of fish fatalities is rapid changes in pH values.

In general, the best pH for your fish is what ever happens to come out of your tap. When testing your water allow it to sit over night to let the excess carbon dioxide gas, which temporarily lowers the pH reading, to escape.If your water has a pH value between 6.5 and 8.0, it is acceptable to keep and even breed most common tropical fish, including Bettas. There are some that do have special needs, like Discus or Chichlids, but other factors such as Water Hardness and Total Dissolved Solids appear to be much more influential than the pH itself. The reason you should live with what you have is because tap water is often heavily "buffered". Buffered water contains chemicals that resist changing pH because they absorb either acids or bases. Usually adding a chemical to change the pH will result in a change for a few hours or even days. But with the buffers eating up what you just added it will jump back to its original value. This stresses fish and just makes you crazy. If you come to the conclusion you just HAVE to change your water, there will be some articles soon that we will link to to help you with that.

Hopefully that wasn't so bad and you are still with us. The next two parameters most people don't talk about like they do the pH and when they do, they sound so much the same you kinda tune out a when you hear them. These next two deal with something called the hardness of water. Water hardness is related to the amount of dissolved minerals in contains. The total hardness of water consists of two components: general hardness (GH) and carbonate hardness (KH). Water hardness can be measures in several units. The unit dH means ``degree hardness'', while ppm means ``parts per million'', which is roughly equivalent to mg/L in water. Now lets take a look at each one separately.

General Hardness or gH

General hardness (GH or dGH) refers to the dissolved concentration of magnesium and calcium ions. When fish are said to prefer ``soft'' or ``hard'' water, it is GH (not KH) that is being referred to. For proper internal osmotic processes in fish, both Calcium and magnesium are important. Other ions can contribute to water hardness, but compared to calcium and magnesium, they are usually insignificant and difficult to measure. General hardness is often referred to as permanent hardness, or non-carbonate hardness

0 - 4 dH, 0 - 70 ppm : very soft 4 - 8 dH, 70 - 140 ppm : soft 8 - 12 dH, 140 - 210 ppm : medium hard 12 - 18 dH, 210 - 320 ppm : fairly hard 18 - 30 dH, 320 - 530 ppm : hard higher : liquid rock (Lake Malawi and Los Angeles, CA)

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