Betta Fish Care Sheet

Maria Zayas, DVM
By Maria Zayas, DVM on Apr. 27, 2023
Red betta


In This Article

Species Overview

Betta Fish Species Overview

Betta fish are great first-time pets for anyone. They are calm, slow-moving fish that don’t require the space that many other fish do.  

Here is everything you need to know about caring for your new betta fish!

Characteristics of Betta Fish

Difficulty of Care 


Average Life Span 

3–5 years with proper care 

Average Adult Size 

2.5 inches long, not including tail 



Minimum Habitat Size 

1 gallon or larger 

Water Temperature 

72–82 F 



Betta Fish Supply Checklist

To keep a betta happy and healthy, keep these basic supplies on hand: 

  • Appropriate size aquarium 

  • Appropriate food (dry and frozen) 

  • Decor 

  • Water Test Strips 

  • Water conditioner 

  • Net 

  • Freshwater substrate 

  • Filter 

  • Heater 

  • Freshwater aquarium salt 

Betta Fish Habitat

Betta Fish Tank

Single betta fish should be kept in an aquarium with at least a 1-gallon capacity. Bettas need to be able to breathe from the surface of the water. Keep in mind, betta like to jump out of aquariums, so there must be space at the top of the aquarium below the lid for them to surface and breathe.

What Fish Can Live with Bettas?

Male bettas need to be kept individually and do best in habitats that are 1 gallon or larger. Male bettas can live successfully in a community aquarium that's 10 gallons or larger if the tank 
does not have aggressive fish species or fish that bettas may become aggressive toward (such as fancy guppies).  

Female bettas can be housed with other community fish or other female bettas of a similar size. If deciding to keep female betta fish in a small group, make sure that the aquarium’s capacity is at least 15 gallons (depending on the number of fish) and provide numerous hiding places within the habitat.  

Tank Filter

You may be wondering—do betta fish need a filter? Even in smaller aquariums, betta fish can benefit from the addition of a filtration system to their habitat. Aside from keeping tanks looking clean, filters remove harmful toxins like ammonia from the aquarium's water and add oxygen to the water so fish can breathe.

An aquarium’s filter should be powerful enough to process all the water in the tank at least four times an hour. For example, a 5-gallon tank should ideally have an aquarium filter with a flow rate that’s at least 20 gallons per hour (GPH). If only a 10 or 30 GPH filter is available, purchase the 30 GPH option.  

Bettas aren’t fans of a ton of movement in their environment, so look for a filter that allows them to control the flow rate so they can keep current speeds low in the tank. 

Betta Fish Water Quality

An aquarium’s water should be tested regularly to ensure its pH, ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels are stable and within a safe range. An aquarium test kit can be used to measure key water parameters quickly and accurately. 

Betta Fish Water Temperature 

To keep a betta fish healthy, ensure the water temperature is maintained at 72–82 F.

Do Betta Fish Need a Heater?

An aquatic heater should be installed in the tank to ensure that water temperatures stay within an ideal range and do not fluctuate more than +/- 2 F in a single day. Heaters should be paired with a thermostat to regulate the aquarium’s temperature and prevent the water from rising above the ideal range.

Check the water temperature of the tank daily using an aquarium thermometer.

Decor and Accessories

The bottom of a betta fish’s aquarium should be lined with at least 1–2 inches of freshwater substrate.  

Aquariums need about 1 ½-pounds of substrate for each gallon of water in the tank. For example, a 10-gallon tank will require about 15 pounds of substrate to create a 1- to 2-inch layer.  

Be sure to rinse the substrate with clean, running water before adding it to the tank. 

Hiding Places and Caves

Bettas are territorial so provide them with hiding places and caves in their tank. All décor should be rinsed thoroughly before being added to the tank.

Cleaning and Maintenance of Betta Fish

Pet parents can maintain the condition of their betta’s tank by performing routine water changes (no more than 10-25% of the aquarium’s total water volume) every two to four weeks. Avoid draining and replacing all the water. Removing all the water will also remove the beneficial bacteria in the tank that helps keep the habitat’s ecosystem healthy.  

Most aquariums will need a full cleaning once a month, depending on the number of fish in the tank. To fully clean a fish tank, take these steps: 

  1. Before cleaning or performing any maintenance on an aquarium, wash your hands thoroughly, to remove any traces of lotions, perfumes, or other toxic chemicals that can harm fish. Do not remove the fish from the aquarium because it will stress them out and possibly injure them. 

  1. Use a soft sponge or scrubber to scrape the inside walls of the aquarium. To prevent unsightly scrapes and scratches, acrylic tanks should only be cleaned with specialized cleaning tools designed for acrylic aquariums, such as the API Extra Long Algae Scraper for Acrylic Aquariums or API Algae Pad for Acrylic Aquariums

  1. Remove the aquarium’s accessories and any artificial plants that have significant algae growth. Use an algae pad and hot water to scrub any build-up or debris.  

  1. If the decor is still visibly dirty after being scrubbed, use a 3% bleach solution to remove the stubborn build-up. Accessories should soak in the diluted bleach solution for 15 minutes before being rinsed thoroughly with running water until there are no residual smells from the bleach. After cleaning, leave the accessories to air-dry fully. 

  1. Inspect the aquarium’s filter to ensure it’s working properly and doesn’t have any algae buildup. If the filter needs to be cleaned, follow the manufacturer's instructions. 

  1. Use a siphon vacuum to remove waste or old food from the bottom of the tank. This step will also drain water from the tank and prepare the aquarium for a water change. 

  1. Once the aquarium’s gravel is vacuumed, check on the cleaned décor to ensure that all furnishings are fully dried and do not have a bleachy smell before adding them back to the tank. 

  1. Add new, dechlorinated water to the tank to replace the water that was siphoned out. The new water must be detoxified with a water conditioner to remove toxic chemicals like chlorine, chloramines, and heavy metals. The added water should be at the same temperature as the existing water in the tank. 

  1. Use an aquarium-safe cleaner to clean the outer walls of the aquarium. Household cleaners should be avoided, as they often have ammonia and other chemicals that are toxic to fish. 

Betta Fish Food

Betta fish are prone to obesity and bloating, so only feed them once a day.. Overfeeding can also cloud and foul tank water (especially in smaller, unfiltered aquariums). Uneaten food should be removed to prevent excess nitrite and ammonia in the water. 

A well-balanced betta fish diet consists of: 

  • A variety of meat-based fish foods, including flakes, pellets, freeze-dried bloodworms, daphnia, and frozen foods. 

  • Frozen foods should be thawed before feeding. 

  • Baby betta fish should be fed a smaller pellet or finely crushed flake food. 

Treats, including frozen/thawed or live blood worms or brine shrimp, offered in limited quantities; feed treats in moderation to prevent obesity. 

Betta Fish Care

Change 10–25% of the total volume of the water evert two to four weeks, or more often if needed. The tank’s water quality should be tested at least once a week for two months (with any new fish/plants/equipment) and then monthly thereafter to check the pH, nitrite, nitrate, ammonia, carbonate, and general hardness levels. 

Before being added to an aquarium, water must be treated with a water conditioner to remove toxic chemicals like chlorine, chloramines, and heavy metals. The added water should be at the same temperature as the existing water in the tank. 

Check an aquarium’s filter, water temperature, and other equipment daily to ensure they’re working properly.  
Filter media should be replaced monthly or rinsed in water tank changes, depending on the water condition and the number of fish in the tank. Check an aquarium’s filter, water temperature, and other equipment daily to ensure they’re working properly.  

Filter media should be replaced monthly or rinsed in water tank changes, depending on the water condition and the number of fish in the tank. 

Betta Fish Health

Annual Care

You can perform your own water quality tests and water changes weekly, and to only utilize a veterinarian if there is a problem with your betta. Almost all bettas first introduced to your home will likely have at least one health issue, so it is recommended to have them and your setup assessed by a veterinarian within a week of establishing them at your home.

A veterinarian will assess your fish if they are moved from a quarantine tank to a larger tank with other fish. While a betta can be transported to a vet, it is recommended to find an aquatics veterinarian who will make house calls or can chat via telehealth.

Signs of a Healthy Betta

  • Bright coloration

  • Full range of motion of fin movement, equal on both sides

  • Intact fins all the way to the edges with no discoloration

  • Regular and active swim pattern

  • Large appetite

When to Call a Vet

  • Changes to the betta’s coloration: becoming dull, focal spots of change, stripes or bands of color change

  • Lethargic swimming when the fish is circling, listing to the side, staying on the top or bottom of the tank, etc.

  • Receding fin edges with or without discoloration at the edges

  • Decreased appetite for more than a day

  • Itching

  • Rapid breathing potentially with flared gills

  • Gill color changes

  • Presence of lumps/bumps/masses

  • White growths/spots of any kind

Common Illnesses in Betta Fish

  • Fin/tail rot

  • Dropsy (fluid filled body cavity)

  • Parasites

  • Bacterial infections

  • Cancer

  • Ich

  • Pop eye

  • Fungal oral or skin infections

  • Swim bladder disorders

Betta Fish FAQs

Are betta fish easy to care for?

Bettas are extremely easy to care for! Once you have their tank set up and arranged appropriately, they have minimal daily and weekly care needs.

What do betta fish need in their tank?

Betta fish need a minimum 5-gallon, ideally 10-gallon tank size with a filter and a heater. It’s recommended to opt for live plants rather than plastic ones for decorations because the plastic plants can hurt and damage their fins.

Can betta fish live in tap water?

Bettas are freshwater fish but can live in tap water. Keep in mind the tap water must be treated first.

How do you know a betta fish is happy?

A happy betta fish will have an active and curious personality, eat well daily, have gorgeous colorful intact fins, and swim comfortably around their tank with no odd behaviors.

Maria Zayas, DVM


Maria Zayas, DVM


Dr. Zayas has practiced small animal and exotic medicine all over the United States and currently lives in Colorado with her 3 dogs, 1 cat,...

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