5 Gallon Betta Fish Tank Setup Guide (Step By Step)

So you’ve decided that you want to get a betta fish, however, you don’t have much space for a tank. In this 5-gallon betta fish tank setup guide, you’re going to get a step by step walkthrough of how to make the best home for your betta!

And remember, although 5 gallons is the minimum tank size for bettas, bigger is always better. If you have the space for a bigger tank, then you should definitely consider opting for a 10 gallon fish tank or bigger.

It will only cost you a tiny bit more, however, it will make your betta a lot happier. You’ll also have a lot more tank mates to choose from as well as many more options for plants. And lastly, the bigger the tank, the easier it is to look after.

Bigger tanks require fewer water changes and cleaning. And the chances of something going wrong are a lot smaller in larger tanks. However, if you’re deadset on setting up your own 5-gallon tank (which can still be a great idea) then keep reading!

Key Takeaways:

  • A 5-gallon tank is the minimum tank size for bettas, but larger tanks are better for their health and well-being.
  • When setting up a 5-gallon betta tank, you’ll need to place it in an area with stable conditions and add essential equipment like a filter, heater, gravel, light, and decorations.
  • Properly prepare the tank, acclimate your betta, release them into the tank, and monitor their behavior when introducing a betta to a new tank.
  • After setting up the tank and introducing your betta, maintaining stable water conditions and performing regular water changes is crucial for their well-being.

Can Betta Fish Live In A 5-Gallon Tank?

Yes, Betta fish can live in a 5-gallon tank, but it is important to keep in mind that a larger tank is always better for the fish’s overall health and well-being.

Betta fish are often sold in small containers, but in reality, they need ample swimming space and clean, well-filtered water to thrive. A 5-gallon tank can provide a suitable environment for one Betta fish, but it’s important to make sure that the water is kept clean and the tank is filtered correctly.

It’s also important to decorate the tank with plants and other objects to provide hiding places and stimulation for the fish. Betta fish are territorial and can become stressed if they feel exposed or bored.

How To Setup A 5 Gallon Betta Tank (In Short)

To setup a 5 gallon tank in short you’ll need to:

  1. Place the tank in an area away from any fluctuating elements.
  2. Add a filter, heater, gravel, light, and decorations.
  3. Fill the tank with water and add biological enhancer, and cycle the tank.
  4. Wait 4 – 8 weeks, and consistently check the ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates.
  5. When they’re all at acceptable levels, add your betta to the tank ad continue to monitor.

Picking A Tank

When picking a tank there are two main choices. You can either purchase everything individually, which can sometimes be cheaper and give you more choice, or you can also buy aquarium kits.

The benefits of aquarium kits are that they’re generally cheaper and you also get most of the things you need to get started. If you’re going to pick a 5-gallon aquarium kit then the Marina 5 Gallon is one of the best choices for beginners.

Not only are you going to get a tank, light, and filter (which is standard for aquarium kits) but you’ll also get fish food, water conditioner, biological supplement, a fishnet, and care guide. This is a lot more than other aquarium kits offer and the tank itself is fantastic.

And remember, when picking a tank ideally you want something that has a lid and something that favors length over height.

What Else Will You Need?

If you plan on buying the Marina 5 Gallon then you’ll only need to buy a heater, thermometer, substrate, and decorations. Once you have all these things in your tank then you’re going to have the perfect home for your betta!

However, if you’re not buying the Marina 5 Gallon then you’ll also need to buy water conditioner, biological supplement, and fish food (find out what kind of food your betta needs to stay healthy).

Whatever, you decide to do it’s always best to buy all of these things before you start setting up. If you don’t buy it all at once, then you may end up waiting longer. There’s nothing worse than thinking you’re ready to get started, realizing you’re missing something, then spending another 3 or 4 days waiting for the rest of the stuff to arrive.


What Plants Should You Buy For A 5 Gallon Betta Tank

If you’re buying a 5-gallon tank then you’re choices are a bit more limited when it comes to plants. However, there are still some great choices for you to choose from.

When you’re buying plants for such a small tank you’re going to want to avoid big plants. Not only are they going to fill up the tank, but they’re also going to draw a lot of attention, taking it away from your betta. Here are some of the best plants you can choose from.

Plant NameCharacteristics
Java MossEasy to care for; requires light; grows quickly
Marimo Moss BallsLow-maintenance; slow growth; provides aesthetics
Anubias NanaStays small; works well as a background plant
AnacharisCan be used with trimming; suitable for smaller tanks
DuckweedSmall and easy to remove; keeps tank open for betta
Cryptocoryne ParvaSmall and suitable as a background plant

Java Moss

Java moss is one of the best plants for any sized tank. It is extremely easy to look after. In fact, as long as you make sure it’s getting a little bit of light in your tank it’s going to grow just fine.

If you’re going to add java moss, remember in the beginning, less is more. Java moss grows quite quickly so you’ll need to start trimming it over time.

When adding java moss to your tank, you can choose whether you’re going to let it float, or if you’re going to attach it to something. Just make sure you don’t bury it otherwise the parts you’ve buried will begin to die.

Marimo Moss Balls

Marimo moss balls are great for beginners as once again they require next to no work to look after. They grow extremely slowly and they’re also the closest a plant can get to indestructible. As long as you’re looking after your betta right, then your moss balls will be just fine.

However, not only do they look nice they’re also great at helping keep your tank clean as well as being a great source of food for tank mates, such as shrimp (who eat food debris caught in the moss ball).

Anubias Nana

While some species of anubias grow to huge sizes, anubias nana stays relatively small. In fact, it definitely stays small enough to fit in a 5-gallon tank.

If you’re going to add Anubias nana to a 5-gallon tank then make sure you use it as a background plant, and not place it at the forefront. It works well as a background plant because it’s quite leafy, however, if you place it near the front of your tank it’s going to block a lot of your view.


Anacharis is normally used in bigger tanks, however, if you’re prepared to spend a bit more time keeping it trimmed, then it can make a great tank plant.

It’s important that you’re trimming anacharis when it starts growing too long as otherwise, it can grow up to 3 feet in size. If you’re going to use anacharis, it also works great as a plant on either side of your tank, as it’s quite slim, and doesn’t take up much space (as long as it’s trimmed).


Bettas absolutely LOVE floating plants. They help them to feel safe but also don’t take away from their swimming space. In a 5 gallon tank, it can be difficult to figure out which floating plants to add. A lot of them simply grow too big. However, duckweed is a great choice.

It’s incredibly small, and when there’s too much of it in your tank it’s incredibly easy to remove. If you plan on adding duckweed to your tank, just make sure you still leave lots of open space for your betta to breathe.

Cryptocoryne Parva

Cryptocoryne Parva is another great choice as it’s small and makes a great background plant. If you’re going to buy Cryptocoryne you need to make sure that you pick Parva or something similar. If you don’t then you may end up purchasing a species which grows up to 20cm in length which is too big.

Cryptocoryne Parva on the other hand only grows up to 5cm in size. If you’re going to buy some it’s best to buy 2 or 3 and space them about an inch or two apart to really fill up the background of your tank.

(Find out about toys you can put in your betta’s tank to entertain them!)

Decorations For A 5 Gallon Tank

As well as plants it’s also a nice idea to have some decorations for your tank as well. Some people like to keep their tank natural-looking, whereas others like to add ornaments. It’s entirely up to you what you add, however, there are some things you need to remember.

  • Never buy anything that’s too sharp or rough. If you do, then there’s a good chance that your betta will end up hurting himself on it.
  • Also, you should never add glass to your tank. Glass on its own is fine. However, if it smashes in your tank, then you’re going to have a very hard time trying to remove it all. And it only takes a small bit to do some real damage to your betta.
  • Make sure you don’t add any decorations that are going to leech paint or chemicals into the tank. When purchasing them get them from a reputable seller.
  • If you want your tank to look natural, never use anything you find out in the open. Driftwood and rocks etc you buy in the shop have been treated to make sure there’s no dangerous bacteria or parasites on them.
  • Lastly, make sure there’s nothing your betta can get stuck in. Bettas are weird little fish that sometimes like to squeeze into small areas. The only problem is they can’t get back out.

(If it’s time to upgrade your tank, here are the best 5 gallon tanks on the market!)

Also, watch this video below by Casual Pro on how to setup your 5 gallon betta tank!

Tank Mates For 5 Gallon Tanks

At 5 gallons in size, you’ll also be able to add some tank mates to your tank. While your choices are limited they can still add a bit more life to your tank!


Certain types of shrimp such as cherry shrimp and ghost shrimp can make great tank mates for a 5-gallon tank. If you’re going to add them make sure you know your betta isn’t aggressive. If you’re not sure add ghost shrimp first. They are also known as feeder shrimp and they’ll make excellent live food for your betta (if he doesn’t take to them), and won’t cost you a lot of money!

Find out more about the best shrimp for bettas.


As well as adding shrimp to your tank you can also add snails. However, caution should always be taken when adding snails to your tank. After all, many species love to eat plants, so they may end up eating any live plants you have in your tank.

If you’re going to add snails then your best bet for a 5-gallon tank are nerite snails, Malaysian trumpet snails, and ramshorn snails. If you’re looking for the best algae eater then nerite snails are definitely the best choice.

Learn more about snails for your betta.

(Find out more about how to keep other fish with your betta.)

betta care facebook group

Setting Up Your 5 Gallon Tank

Now that you’ve got everything you need for your betta, the next step is setting up your tank. This is the fun part, as it’s the part where you’re going to shape exactly how you want your tank to look.

Wash The Tank/Check For Leaks

First thing you want to do is check for leaks and clean all the dust out of your tank. To do this place it in a bath or somewhere you don’t mind emptying water everywhere and fill it up. Use a clean cloth to clean the inside of your tank and check to see if there are any leaks.

If there’s not begin emptying the tank. To empty the tank use a gravel vacuum or cup to remove all the water.


Place Your Tank Where You Want It

Next step is to place your tank wherever you want it. When placing your tank make sure that you don’t place it in direct sunlight. This will increase the amount of algae growth and in the summer months could heat your tank up.

Also, make sure you don’t place it anywhere with too much wind or near a heater. Once again 5-gallon tanks are very prone to temperature fluctuations so you want to place your tank where the temperature is going to stay stable.

Add The Substrate & Decorations

Now that you’ve found the spot where you want your tank to be, the next step is to add your substrate and decorations. You want the substrate to be 1.5″ – 2″ for planted tanks.

When you’re adding plants to your tank make sure that you keep them wet with a spray bottle. If they dry out when you’re arranging your tank then they could become sick and die.

Fill Your Tank With Water

Now that you’ve got everything placed exactly where you want it to be it’s time to fill your tank up with water. If possible use a hose too, so you don’t disturb the substrate and decorations or move them around. If you can’t use a hose, then place a plate in your tank, fill up a bucket and slowly fill your tank by pouring water onto the plate.

Make sure that you add a water conditioner to your tank during this stage as well.

Add Your Filter And Heater

Once you’ve filled the tank with water, it’s time to add your filter and heater. Attach them somewhere they don’t draw too much attention to themselves and turn them on.

Most filters and heaters need to be submerged in water before you turn them on. If you don’t do this there can be adverse effects and in some cases, they can even break.

Once you’ve added your filter and heater, turn them on. You should notice your filter working straight away, however, the heater may take some time to warm up the tank. In a lot of cases, however, they normally have a light to show that they’re on.

Find out why you need a heater and why you need a filter.

blue betta splenden

How To Introduce A Betta To Their New Tank?

Introducing a Betta fish to a new tank can be stressful for both the fish and the owner. However, with the right preparation and care, the process can be smooth and successful. Let’s go over a few steps to follow when introducing a Betta to their new tank:

Prepare the Tank

Before introducing your Betta to their new tank, make sure that the tank is properly set up and has been running for at least 24 hours to ensure the water temperature and quality are stable. The tank should also be decorated with plants and hiding spots for the fish to feel secure.

Acclimate your Betta

To prevent shock, float the bag with your Betta in the tank water for 15-20 minutes to allow the water temperature in the bag to gradually match the water temperature in the tank. After 15-20 minutes, add a small amount of tank water to the bag and repeat the process every 10-15 minutes until the bag is almost full of tank water.

Release your Betta

Once the bag is full of tank water, use a net to gently transfer your Betta from the bag into the tank. Avoid dumping the water from the bag into the tank, as it can introduce potential pathogens or pollutants to the new environment.

Monitor your Betta

After introducing your Betta to their new tank, monitor their behavior for the first few days. Betta fish may take a few days to acclimate to their new environment and may appear shy or lethargic. Ensure that the water quality and temperature remain stable and that the fish eat and swim normally. If you notice any changes in behavior, it may indicate that the water quality or temperature needs to be adjusted.

Maintain the Tank

Maintain the tank by performing regular water changes and monitoring the water parameters. Keeping the tank clean and healthy will help the Betta thrive in its new environment.

Cycling Your Tank

You can cycle your tank in two ways. A fishless cycle or an in-fish cycle. Fishless cycles are recommended, however, they can take a month or two before your aquarium is ready.

Fishless Cycle

If you’re going to do a fishless cycle then it couldn’t be simpler. Simply add some biological supplement to your tank with a source of ammonia. You can either use fish food to increase the ammonia, or ammonia directly. However, I’d recommend using fish food.

The ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels in your tank will rise as the food begins to rot. Then the bacteria (biological supplement) you added will begin removing them. Once the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate have stayed at the same level for a good amount of time (I like a couple of weeks) it’s safe to add your betta!

In-fish Cycle

Or you can do an in-fish cycle. This is a little bit riskier and can be quite cruel on your betta. If you’re going to do an in-fish cycle add a biological supplement for 3 days (or the recommended amount of time) before adding your betta. Perform frequent water changes to keep the ammonia levels low.

As well as performing water changes you’ll also need to keep adding biological supplement and in some cases an ammonia detoxifier. Ammonia detoxifiers make ammonia harmless but still lets the good bacteria in your tank grow.

Over time, the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels will become stable and you won’t have to check them so much!

Looking for a comprehensive guide about how to take care of your Betta fish? Click here!


Do Betta Fish Need a Heater?

Betta fish generally require a heater in their tank, especially if the ambient room temperature tends to fall below the recommended range for bettas.

Do Betta Fish Need a Filter?

Your betta fish will benefit from having a filter in their tank as it helps maintain clean water, promotes biological filtration, and oxygenates the water.


As you can see a 5 gallon betta fish tank setup doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, if you follow the advice in this article it’s going to be a breeze! Here are the main things you should remember:

  • When picking a tank you have the choice of starting from scratch or getting an aquarium kit, just make sure you’ve bought EVERYTHING before you start setting your tank up.
  • Some great plants to add to your tank include java moss, marimo moss balls, anubias nana, anacharis, duckweed, and cryptocoryne parva.
  • Shrimp and snails can make great tank mates.
  • When setting up your tank check for leaks and wash it, find a spot and add the substrate and decorations, fill the tank with water then add a heater and filter, and lastly cycle your tank.

If you do all of this you’re going to have a happy and healthy betta for years!



About the author

Hey there! I'm Antonio, the passionate owner and chief editor of Betta Care Fish Guide. With over half a decade of hands-on experience, I've become your go-to expert for all things betta and tropical fish.

Over the past 5 years, I've not only kept bettas and other tropical fish but also connected with a diverse network of hobbyists, seasoned fishkeepers, and even veterinarians.

Now, I want to help other beginner fish keepers who had the same questions as me when they were just starting out! So they can save themselves a ton of time and keep their fish happy and healthy!

2 thoughts on “5 Gallon Betta Fish Tank Setup Guide (Step By Step)”

  1. Love your site. However, my problem is water changing. I bought a kit so has filter and things and I bought a thermometer. But Ricky which I bought in February died. The only thing I did different was to use water conditioner BUT I used tap water that I let sit in metal stock pots. I have a two sided tank and then Elvis began to get sick! I took him out immediately. He’s not dead yet, but he’s not eating much at all. I used bottled water and water conditioner and let it sit for a day.
    It ok to use bottled water out distilled water with the water conditioner? Do I need the filter and those ceramic beads things?
    Please help!! QUICKLY!!
    Also I’d love to put tank mates for Elvis if he recovers. Like I said,, tank is divided, has a waterfall but only 5 gallons. So each side would not be 5 gallons.

    • First off, I’m really sorry to hear about Ricky and what’s happening with Elvis. Quick action is crucial in fishkeeping, so let’s get right into it.

      Water Conditioner & Tap Water
      Tap water often contains chlorine, which is harmful to fish, so using a water conditioner is a good idea. However, letting it sit in metal pots might introduce other contaminants.
      Quick Tip: Use a plastic bucket designated only for fishkeeping to store and treat your water.
      Bottled vs. Distilled Water
      Bottled water can be used but check the pH and mineral content, as fish need certain essential minerals.
      Distilled water is too pure and lacks these minerals, so it’s generally not recommended unless you’re mixing it with tap water to achieve specific parameters.
      Filter and Ceramic Beads
      Yes, you need a filter for biological and mechanical filtration. The ceramic beads serve as a place for beneficial bacteria to grow, helping in breaking down fish waste.
      Next Steps
      Check Water Parameters: Use a water testing kit to check ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, pH, and hardness.
      Immediate Water Change: Replace 25-30% of the tank water with dechlorinated tap or properly balanced bottled water.
      Potential Tank Mates
      For a 5-gallon tank that’s divided, the space is quite limited. Remember, smaller tanks can have quicker changes in water parameters, making them less stable.

      Suitable Tank Mates
      Shrimp like Cherry or Ghost shrimp are less demanding on space.
      Snails are also a good option.
      What to Avoid
      Avoid putting in any more fish, as the tank is already quite small, and this could cause stress and increase waste.

      Have you thought about upgrading to a bigger tank for more stable conditions and diversity?

      I know this is a lot to take in, but the health of your fish is a priority. Always remember, in fishkeeping, the devil is in the details. So, make sure you’re checking those water parameters frequently, especially when introducing new elements like water conditioner and new tank mates.

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