How to Setup a Betta Tank – A Short Beginner’s Guide

Betta fish are quite demanding, and they need a lot of special care, including warm, slightly acidic water, lots of space and solitude. If you put more than one in a tank, you'll quickly find out why they're also called Siamese Fighting Fish.

They're beautiful though, and if you go through the effort of accommodating them, you'll have one of the best-looking pets around!

However, once you get the best betta tank you can find, there's still another thing you need to do – set it up. Today I'll tell you all you need to know about how to set up a betta tank.

How to Properly Setup a Betta Fish Tank

1. Choosing the Right Betta Tank and Accessories

You can find more details on this topic elsewhere, but here I’ll give you a few quick tips on the matter.

Firstly, make sure the tank is large enough. A 5-gallon container is the perfect size. Tanks of 2.5 gallons will suffice as well, but anything smaller than that is bad.

Make sure the tank has a lid since the betas can and will jump out if given a chance.

Pick a gentle water filter or a tank with an inbuilt one. You'll also need a heater that can go to at least 78 degrees F and has a thermostat. Don’t use the heater if the tank is smaller than 5 gallons.

Get some tiny, smooth gravel as well so the betta doesn’t hurt itself and so waste can break down quickly. Choose some larger plants that provide a bit of shade and some cave-like areas that the fish can hide in. Check all the accessories you buy for places where the bettas fins could get stuck and get torn. Use real or silk plants instead of plastic ones.

2. Choose the Right Spot for Your Betta Tank

How to Setup a Betta Tank3

How to Setup a Betta Tank

The right spot for a betta tank should be near a source of sunlight, like a window, but not directly exposed to sunlight.

Since the betta swim and jump around a lot, make sure you place it somewhere stable, so it doesn't topple. You might also want to invest in an aquarium stand.

Make sure the tank isn't directly next to a wall – leave at least five inches of space between the two.

3. Clean the Tank and Install the Filter

Clean out the tank thoroughly with water – don't use any soap. Make sure there is no dust or dirt left in the tank.

Next, take your filter and follow the instructions carefully to install it. Each filter model is different. Just don’t turn them on until you fill the tank with water.

4. Add Your Gravel

Rinse the gravel with clean water to get rid of any excess dirt or grime that could back up your filter – don’t use soap.

Add the gravel to the tank – if you're using live plants, pile up at least two if not three inches. Place a clean plate on the gravel before you begin pouring water to avoid displacing it while filling the tank. Once the tank is one-third full, you can remove the plate.

5. Set up the Plants and Decorations

Place all your plants and decorations in the desired spots at this point, but don’t put your hands in the water too much and use sterile gloves if you do.

If you're using live plants, make sure the roots are properly buried in the gravel and substrate. Place the taller plants at the back and the shorter ones near the front so you can see your fish. Anchor the decorations in the gravel and check if they're stable enough.

How to set up a Betta fish tank (Basic planted Betta tank)

6. Fill up the Tank and Turn on the Filter

Start filling the tank with water and stop once there’s an inch remaining to the top, so the betta can occasionally breathe the air – yes, it can and needs to do that.

Once it’s filled, turn on the filter and make sure it runs properly and the current is not too strong.

7. Install the Heater

Most heaters go on the inside of the tank, and you should place it near the mouth of your filter, so the water is evenly heated. Install the thermometer as well so you can check the temperature – the right temperature for a betta is between 78 and 80 degrees F.

If you have a tank light, turn it on now and check if it affects the temperature so you can properly adjust your heater.

8. Add the Dechlorinator and Cycle the Tank

You need to add the dechlorinator to remove the chlorine and any other chemicals common in tap water but harmful to the fish. At this point, you might also want to add a bacterial catalyst to promote a good, healthy environment.

Next, perform a fishless cycle to build up some useful bacteria and neutralize the toxins in the water, so you don't kill your fish instantly. Test the water afterward and see if the environment is right – you need a pH of around 7, ammonia and nitrate at 0 and less than 20 ppm.

9. Introduce the Betta to the Tank

How to Setup a Betta Tank1

How to Setup a Betta Tank

This is the final step, and you need to do it right. Don't just toss the fish in – place the bag or the cup with the fish in the tank and float it there for at least thirty minutes or up to an hour. This allows the fish to acclimate to the temperature of the tank slowly.

Once it’s time, open the bag or cup and release the fish into the tank.

The Wrap-up

Once you're done setting up your tank, you can sit back and enjoy watching your betta frolic in its new environment. Feed your betta properly, clean your tank regularly and the fish should thrive and enjoy being in the tank. Rearrange the decorations from time to time as well, so it doesn't get bored.

If you’re unsure of something or you want a bit more info, feel free to comment and ask. Or, you could just share your experiences with betta fish. Either way, I would love to hear from you.

Jennifer Wood

Hi there, my name is Jennifer Wood, founder of - a great resource for pets lovers.

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