What Do Betta Fish Need? (Must Read)

What do betta fish need? You may have heard that you can keep bettas in a small bowl. Or that they can live happily in even smaller vases. Whatever, you heard, this article is going to show you exactly what your betta needs, as well as WHY they need it.

So keep reading to find out more!

What Do Betta Fish Need?

What we’re commonly taught that betta fish need, and what they actually need are two different things. If you’re keeping your betta in a small unheated, unfiltered bowl, then they’re probably not going to be too happy.

Here’s what they’re going to need to be happy and live a full life.

A Good Sized Tank

The first thing is a good-sized tank. The minimum tank size a betta should be in is 5 gallons. But that’s just the minimum. There’s no limit to how big the tank can be. In fact, the bigger it is, the happier your betta will be! AND the more fish you can keep with him.

Why Do They Need A 5 Gallon Tank?

There’s a common piece of information everyone hears when they get into betta fish keeping. That in the wild they can survive in small, dirty puddles and jump from one puddle to the other.

This is true. However, this is during the dry season, when resources are scarce and water dries up. During the rainy season, a bettas territory is normally about 3 feet in size.

They’re not built to survive long periods of time in barely any water. For example, a dog can survive a couple of days with no water, but would you let them?

Just because they’re able to survive for a time in small tanks or vases, it doesn’t mean they should, and it definitely doesn’t mean they’ll be happy.

If your betta is currently being kept in something too small then check out this article on the best 5 gallon tanks for bettas, or if you have the space to go bigger, the best overall tanks for bettas!

A Filter

The second myth is that they don’t need a filter either. People think they’re able to live in dirty water because they can breathe from the surface thanks to their labyrinth organ. Once again, this isn’t entirely true.

Why Do They Need A Filter?

While they can breathe through their labyrinth organ, they also need to breathe from the water as well.

On top of this, dirty water is a lot more likely to become infected with parasites, bacteria, and fungus that can infect your betta.

Also, if the water in your tank is filled with decaying matter and feces, then it’s going to produce ammonia. If the ammonia spikes too much it can result in ammonia poisoning which will end up killing your betta.

And lastly, if you need more proof that bettas need clean water then there’s also the fact they’re on the IUCN’s threatened species list. One of the reasons, they’re on this is because of human waste and pollution.

If you haven’t got your betta a filter yet, here are the best filters for a 5 gallon tank.

A Heater

As well as a good-sized tank, and a filter make sure you’re adding a heater to the tank as well. Bettas need to be kept in a tank that’s ideally 78°F however, anything between 76-80°F will be sufficient.

(I’d definitely recommend the Fluval M Series.)

Why Do They Need A Heater?

Even if you live in a hot country, it’s still a good idea to make sure that you add a heater to the tank.

If your betta lives in a tank that’s too hot or too cold then they’re going to end up suffering from temperature shock, which can often be fatal.

When they’re too cold they’re going to be lethargic and their metabolism will slow down dramatically. If they’re too hot, they’ll be too energetic which will put too much stress on their bodies.

And sudden temperature fluctuations are also going to be life-threatening to your betta. If you live in a hot country, you’re not going to be safe from this.

If you’re keeping them in a small tank, it will only be one cold day or one windy day that can drastically reduce the temperature in the tank.

Check out the best heaters for 5 gallon betta tanks.

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Plants And Decorations

You should also make sure that your tank has lots of plants and decorations in it. Bettas are a lot more intelligent than they’re given credit for and if you’re leaving them in a tank with no plants or decorations then they’re going to get bored.

While you can choose between live plants or fake plants, live are normally better. Live plants have the benefit of appearing more natural as well as adding more oxygen to the tank.

However, silk plants don’t require any maintenance therefore there a lot less hassle. Of course, it’s all down to what you prefer.

As well as plants you can also add other decorations as well. Some great decorations to add to your tank are driftwood, rocks, caves and other man-made ornaments.

Just remember when picking ornaments, make sure you’re not buying anything that can damage your betta. Here’s a full list of great decorations for your betta.

Why Do Bettas Need Decorations?

Bettas need decorations to keep them entertained. If they’re stuck in a tank with no decorations then they’re going to get bored and depressed.

And it’s not just boredom and depression they’ll get. If you keep your betta with decorations then you’re going to be providing them with hiding places.

When bettas have lots of hiding places they’re going to feel safe. And once they feel safe, not only are they going to be less stressed, but they’re also going to spend more time out in the open.

And of course, if you’re adding live plants to your tank, they’re going to be beneficial for your betta as well!

A Varied Diet

While varied diets aren’t as essential, they are going to increase your betta’s lifespan. If you’re only feeding your betta pellets isn’t your best bet if you want to give him a long life.

Why Do Bettas Need A Varied Diet?

The reason that your betta needs a varied diet is to make sure they’re getting all the nutrients they need. However, it’s not just because of that.

A varied diet is also going to be interesting for your betta as well. Eating the same food every day can quickly become boring for bettas. And as you know a betta who’s bored is more likely to suffer from many ailments.

Lastly, feeding your betta a mix of live food with his normal food is going to be extremely beneficial for him. It’s going to allow him to hunt like he’d be used to. Live food is also going to entertain him and stop him from being bored as well!


You’ll also need to make sure your betta is getting enough stimulus. Decorations, plants and feeding them live food are one way of doing this. However, they’re not the only way! You can also try playing with him, showing him his reflection in a mirror (there are times bettas love mirrors and adding tank mates!

Why Do Bettas Need Stimulus?

Bettas need stimulus for the exact same reason you need stimulus! To stop them from being bored. If your betta gets too bored then there are going to be a lot of problems. In some cases, they may even end up biting their own tails!

Frequent Water Changes

Lastly, your betta is going to need frequent water changes. While the filter is going to keep the tank somewhat clean and decrease the number of water changes you need to do, it’s still not enough.

Why Do You Need To Do Frequent Water Changes?

Frequent water changes are necessary for keeping the water in the tank clean, as well as replacing lost minerals. Because the water isn’t just there for your bettas to swim in, but it also provides them with the essential minerals they need.

Taking care of your Betta can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be. Click here to read an article with everything you need to know about Betta fish care.


These are all the main things your betta is going to need to live a healthy and happy life. If you don’t have all of these in your tank then you’re drastically reducing their chance of long term living and happiness.

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2 thoughts on “What Do Betta Fish Need? (Must Read)”

  1. Two of my bettas are in their own 9G Fluval Flex and one is in a 10G tank. How often do you recommend water changes and how much water should I change each time? I’d hate to underdo it but I don’t want to over do it either.

    • Hi heather,

      I kept my betta in the 9g Fluval Flex too, I used to perform a 30% water change every 2 weeks, and this was more than enough. If you’re ever worried about changing too much or too little of the water, you can just test it with the pH and ammonia testing kits, and if the parameters are fine you have nothing to worry about! Hope this helps!

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