The first thing to do if you want to keep a Betta fish aquarium is to think about the tank setup. An ideal Betta fish tank or aquarium setup takes into account all your fish’s needs and ensures both a practical and stylish addition to your home or office. It also allows you to keep the water clean and clear. Even though Betta fish are one of the easiest tropical aquarium fish to keep, it can be difficult knowing what to do at first, here’s a five step guide to make the process easier.
Step 1: Decide what Betta fish to keep
First you must decide what Betta fish you are going to keep, whether you want a male or female and how many of them you would like to keep. This may be restricted by the amount of space you have available. Your aquarium must be suitable for the number and gender of fish.
Remember that male Siamese fighting fish must be kept apart or else they will fight each other. If in a confined space then this can result in the death of both fish. However many fish you are planning to keep, the maximum number of fish allowed in an aquarium is generally determined by the following rule:
Max number of fish = one square inch of fish per gallon of water
Step 2: Finding the right aquarium tank
A good rule to follow is no less than three litres per fish, although more would be better. A tank of 15 cm by 15 cm by 15 cm is the minimum size you should consider, anything smaller is simply not large enough to be considered as a suitable aquarium for Betta fish.
If you wish to keep just one fish, a small tank of one gallon or so will suffice, however for keeping a Betta with other fish or several females you will need a larger tank, aim for about one fish per gallon as an absolute maximum.
You can buy nano tanks with built in filters and lighting which are ideal for Betta fish and especially good for those that want a simpler fish-keeping experience. There are also Betta barracks on sale which do allow for more than one fighting fish to be kept in the same tank, although filtration can be difficult in these exceptionally small types of aquaria.
Step 3: Filtration, lighting and oxygen
Your Betta fish needs clean water, not necessarily crystal clear but free from pollutants such as ammonia. For very small fighter tanks and bowls, regular water changes may be a more viable solution than filtering, providing that you condition the tap
water you use, or use rainwater, distilled water or RO water mixed with tap water.
The best form of filtration for small Betta aquariums is the humble sponge filter which works on the uplift principle and draws water through a sponge, allowing for mechanical and biological filtration. This requires only an air pump, a sponge and some airline tubing to set up, and is one of the most economical solutions. Variants include box filters, corner filters and the under gravel filter, all of which use the same air uplift mechanism to draw water through a filter medium. These tend to be relatively cheap yet often quite obtrusive in the tank. Sponge filters do have the advantage of oxygenating the water; an important consideration even if Betta fish have the labyrinth organ. Sponge filters are also great when raising fry as they are not too powerful and do not produce a powerful water flow.
Larger Siamese fighting fish aquariums can make use of power filters which are very simple devices that use a water pump to push water through a sponge or two and then shoot it back out again, a very simple concept though perhaps not very suitable for smaller aquariums as the water flow would be too great.
Lighting is an easier consideration than filtration. A Betta fish tank really doesn’t require any special lighting unless you are planning to grow plants in the same tank. The ambient light of its location is normally sufficient although you could add a USB light or small lamp to your Betta aquarium to enhance its appearance. An aquarium light that is too powerful will promote algae growth, as will too much direct sunlight so do make sure you do not provide too much light. Both sunlight and artificial lights will cause the water to heat up, this should not be a problem as Betta fish can tolerate temperatures up to 80F. A clamp-on aquarium light is probably the best solution if you wish to see your Betta Splendens looking as magnificent as possible.
You may wish to consider a heater for your tank if it is placed somewhere with a temperature of less than 70F. Room temperature will however suffice for a healthy Betta fish in most instances.
Oxygen is provided at the water’s surface, where gas exchange takes place. While Betta fish can breathe air thanks to their labyrinth organ, it is still necessary for there to be a good surface area for this gas exchange to take place. An air pump with an air stone can aid oxygen diffusion by increasing water flow and by moving the surface of the water. Hardy plants are also very useful to this effect such as elodea or Hygrophila, though please do check which plants are legal to buy or stick to a reputable source for aquatic plants – Hygrophila Polysperma is illegal to import in the U.S.A.
Step 4: Betta fish tank décor
Now this is the easy part: it’s now time to decorate your tank. Start with the substrate, which can be gravel, pebbles or just left bare. No substrate should be used when breeding Betta fish. You can also use sand although this can leave the water slightly hazy for a while. Whatever you choose, make sure you rinse it thoroughly as to wash away any dust or fine particles which could both irritate your Betta fish and turn the water in your Betta aquarium a funny shade. The substrate should be about an inch deep and it’s always a good idea for it to slope upwards towards the back, which gives a sense of the depth of the tank when viewed from the front.
Ornaments are always a nice touch to any Betta fish aquarium and the best ones to buy are silk plants and resin ornaments. Never buy plastic plants as these have a high tendency of harming the Betta’s fins. There are many great ornaments to choose from for your Betta tank although its best not to overcrowd the tank. Allow your fish some room for manoeuvre and remember to take out some water before putting an ornament in.
Live plants can be used to create a more natural display whilst taking in nitrates, acting as a medium for micro-organisms and providing oxygen for the fish. Even without co2 injection and fertilisation, there are many plants suitable for a Betta fish aquarium. Anubias and Java ferns are amongst the most popular and mosses are generally more hardy than other plants.
Step 5: putting it all together
Once you have considered all of the above steps, its time to put your Betta fish tank together.
Start with the tank, placing it in its final location and filling it with substrate. Next is the filter which must be weighted down or attached to the sides using suckers.
After decorating your Betta fish aquarium, add some tap water that has been conditioned to remove chlorine and then any live plants or ornaments. Once the water has settled, and the filter established, you can add your Betta fish.
Your tank is now complete, though the joy of rearranging and adding to your tank will never be over.