If you are thinking of getting a Betta fish I hope you are also putting a little thought into what kind of tank will be right for him. I have several articles that discuss best tank size and setup for Bettas, and my unambiguous and unwavering advice is to choose a tank of at least five gallons for a single fish. If you expect to have tankmates for your Betta, you will need an even larger tank.
Betta are tropical fish that need swimming space and proper water conditions just like any other fish. They must have clean, filtered water that maintains a consistent temperature of 75-80 degrees. They need a hiding spot so they can feel secure when they need to, and they need a lazy current that doesn’t push them around the tank.
Even though I think I'm pretty clear about it, I still often get questions that read something like this:
Comments like these are as frustrating as they are heartbreaking. I have lost enough fish over the years to know how much it hurts when you try to do the right thing but your fish dies anyway.
The solution is usually simple: Get your Betta into a better living situation ASAP!
The industry is partly to blame. Betta fish are churned out in huge numbers, and marketed as disposable pets you can keep in a plant vase or a tiny cube on your office desk. In my mind this is both inhumane and unethical, but sometimes people don’t receive or understand the message until it’s too late.
But, instead of complaining about questionable marketing ploys and the poor reading comprehension skills of some humans, I intend to spend the rest of this article explaining why Betta fish need to be in tanks larger than one gallon, and preferably at least five gallons.
Betta are Tropical Fish
The first thing to realize is that Betta fish are tropical fish, just like guppies or a platies or Angelfish. This means they need the correct living conditions in which to thrive, and anything less will gradually (or perhaps rapidly) lead to their demise.
However, they do have adaptations that allow them to survive in situations where most other fish would perish. They are anabantids, and this means they can take oxygen from above the water surface as a well as breath through their gills like other fish. In the wild they have the ability to survive drought by living in stagnant, muddy puddles.
This is why people erroneously think Betta are best kept in very small tanks, plant vases, cubes and other ridiculous living situations where they would never try to keep another fish. But just because your Betta can survive such conditions doesn’t mean it is ideal.
Remember that wild animals only need to survive long enough to breed in order to be successful. If you only hope your Betta experiences the short and difficult life of a wild fish, by all means keep him in the worst possible conditions and wish him luck. If you want him to live a long, healthy life, opt instead for ideal conditions.
Tropical Fish Require Proper Filtration
Clean, healthy water is extremely important for tropical fish, and a decent filtration system is vital. Very small tanks typically come with air pumps as filters, with the intention of creating some kind of under-gravel system. This simply isn’t good enough for keeping the water clean, especially in such a tiny tank.