The Betta Fish Myth: Uncovering The Best Tank Size For A Betta Fish

Showcased in pet stores around the globe, betta fish are often marketed as the ‘easy’ choice when adding a pet to your home. However, many of the popular betta-specific products fail to meet their basic needs! What is the best tank size for a betta fish? You may be surprised!

 

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There is no doubting the fact that betta fish are one of the most popular aquarium fish. Their vivid colours and long fins dancing about them as they move, they are certainly eye-catching!

Combine that with the low cost to purchase and the promise of how easy they are to care for, and you have a recipe for disaster!

 

You may be wondering, ‘why would it be a disaster’? After all, there are so many little starter kits. It can’t be that hard! Right?

 

A quick internet search will reveal a wide assortment of betta fish tanks ranging from the super common little 1-gallon plastic starter kits to elaborate plants with a fish in the vase.

Unfortunately, these products are a perfect example of one of the biggest myths relating to betta fish care. These small tanks and kits fail to provide their basic needs.

But don’t worry, armed with the correct information, you can raise a happy, healthy betta fish!

(Yes, a fish can be ‘happy’ or experience pain. In fact, scientific studies have found that their perception and cognitive abilities actually match or even exceed other creatures!)

small blue and orange betta fish in a fish tank

 

The Ideal Tank Size For A Betta Fish

As with any myth, the idea that a betta fish can survive in a tiny space like those that are often marketed originated from a fact… Just a misunderstood and misinterpreted one.

Native to Asia, betta fish generally live in shallow bodies of water like ponds, marshes or streams. During the dry season, however, they will (at times) survive by living in a puddle. Therefore, it IS true that they can survive in a small space – but only for a short period of time as a means of survival!

If you’re looking at adding a betta fish to your family, the ideal tank should be at least 2.5 gallons in size. That being said, they love their space and some specialists will recommend 4-5 gallons at a minimum.


Not only does a small tank create unnecessary stress and deprive a naturally active fish of the space necessary to swim around, but it can also encourage toxic conditions.

The smaller the space, the quicker a mycobacterium infection can take over the tank. This can have a significant impact on your betta’s health and in many cases is fatal.

blue and purple betta fish in a tank in front of a map

Other Needs and Considerations

The tank size isn’t the only misconception when discussing the care of a betta fish. In fact, nearly every piece of information commonly shared about these fish is incorrect. They aren’t the ‘easy to care for starter fish’ that pet stores love to market them as!

For best care, a betta fish requires filtration, warm water, routine tank cleaning, regular feeding, and enrichment in its tank in the form of plants and/or caves.

Sounds a lot more complicated than the pet stores would lead you to believe, doesn’t it?

 

Related: ‘Tips For Setting Up Your First Aquarium’

 

Let’s start with the regular feeding…

Many first-time betta fish owners choose to go the plant vase root due to the belief that the roots of the plant will provide the fish with a source of nutrition.

Their natural diet consists of larva and insects. In addition to commercial betta pellets, there are a variety of live or frozen food options available including:

  • Brine shrimp
  • Mysis shrimp
  • Blood worms
  • Daphnia

Note: If you do select a frozen option, be cautious when thawing your betta’s food. Never use hot water to speed up the process as this will ‘cook’ the food, ruining its nutritional value.


In addition to enough space, the ideal environment for a betta fish should include a filtration system (to help keep the water clean) and potentially a small heater.

The water in a betta fish’s tank should be kept in between 78 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit (25.5 – 26.5 degrees Celsius). However, room temperature water generally ranges from 68 – 72 degrees Fahrenheit (21 – 23 degrees Celsius).

 

Finally, use tank decorations like plants, rocks, driftwood, and caves in order to create an ideal environment.

Avoid any decorations that include a mirror or reflective surface. Betta fish (in particular, male betta fish) can be highly territorial and the site of ‘another fish’ can cause unnecessary stress.

Don’t forget to always keep your betta’s space for movement and exercise in mind. The more decorations you add, the larger your tank will need to be! Don’t over-fill your tank.

blue and red betta fish in an fish tank with aquarium decorations behind it with the title uncovering the best tank size for your betta fish

Have you ever owned a betta fish? If so, I’d love to hear your tips and tricks!

In addition to ensuring that you have the best tank size for a betta fish, what other important information would you share with a first-time betta owner?

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41 Comments

    1. There are definitely some easier to care for fish that one can start with. Unfortunately, the betta fish is often marketed as just that and then people wonder why their pets aren’t living as long as they should. If you’re not given the correct information, you’re likely going to fall short, right?

  1. I’ve only ever had goldfish in the past but I’d love a big aquarium with more different fish – they’re so beautiful to watch. But there’s so much research that goes into it to make sure you’re buying the right things for the right type of fish. Really informative post x

    1. I have been wanting an aquarium in my office for a while now but I’m not ready to commit to the cleaning involved lol So, for the time being, it’s just houseplants in there lol

  2. I had some fish when I was younger and honestly they can be such a lot of work to maintain especially with he cleaning of the tanks – thankyou for sharing this!

    1. They definitely can be! I love them but we’re at a point where I’m not sure that I want to put all the time in, so we haven’t added an aquarium to my office despite my temptations!

  3. This is such a great post and I wish every parent would read it before buying one. We purchased a beta after downsizing a very large fish tank (which was a nightmare to clean!) Believe it or not, the big fish tank was necessary because we “won” a goldfish at the fair and that little guy lived for years. Betas and all fish need room to swim and lots of clean water, which can’t happen in a coffee cup sized bowl – even if it has a cute little plant in it.

    1. I’m floored by how tiny some of the tanks are that are being commercially marketed for bettas. They barely have room to move in them. I can’t imagine how sad of a life that would be… I would eventually love to have a betta in my office, but I know that I need to wait until I can make time for the work that it will require. I do have the perfect space for a nice 5-6 gallon tank for it though!

  4. I had a relative that had Betas in a bowl as the centerpieces at their wedding reception. My son got one and it lived longer than the marriage did.

    1. That’s one wedding phase that I’m happy to see dying out… I’ll take photobooths and donut walls over using live animals as decorations any day!

  5. So interesting to learn what is best for these types of fish! I’ve never had a fish of my own, but anyone I’ve known with a Beta fish has always had a small bowl for them.

    1. It really is sad to see that the myth is so widely accepted. Unfortunately, it is largely pushed by the pet supplies industry selling all the kits and tiny bowls marketed specifically for bettas.

  6. I have never had a fish, but i do intend to keep a few in the future. Will definitely keep your tips in mind for that. Thank you so much.

    1. The good news is that there are many great options that will fulfil everything your future fish needs without breaking the bank! You just have to know what you’re looking for. Just don’t trust the ‘betta kits’. Those kits with small little tanks are nothing more than a money grab.

  7. Wow..it is quite interesting and amazing…look at the fish it looks so cute and lovely..i haven’t any fish at my home..but love to have any…

  8. This is such a great post. I used to have a beta fish growing up, but I haven’t ever had one since. They sure are pretty though!

    1. They are, aren’t they? I had one for a few years before I moved in with my husband, but haven’t had a tank since. I would love to have one in my office again some day though!

  9. I don’t have any pets,because they are not allowed by my landlord, but you made me think of getting a fish. This is a gorgeous looking one! Thanks for the care tips. I’ll think about it.

  10. Super informative I didn’t know all of this. It’s crazy I wouldn’t even think I actually had to fish them like shrimp. I actually would love to get a to get an aquarium for my house when I move but I Def wouldn’t even know where to start I’m going to check out your other article. The most I’ve ever had were goldfish lol

    1. Aquariums can be so beautiful and a great life for a fish as long as they are given everything that they need. Just do your research into whatever types of fish you are planning on bringing into your home.

  11. What a gorgeous fish! I’m a firm believer in having big tanks, even for small fish. It’s the same with hamsters and rodents. I hate seeing them in small cages, especially those sold at local pet stores.

    1. I agree! I hate seeing how many of them are kept in the stores. It made me wish that I could adopt them all and give them a better life.

  12. Although I don’t have a betta fish in my aquarium, I do have other types of fish that can be difficult to take care of. It’s so important that you do your own research before buying any pet and it annoys me how so many pet stores give out the wrong information. Thanks for sharing such a useful article.

    1. Yes, doing your research is SO important! I hate that the industry is pushing this misconception about betta fish, but proper education can help to avoid that.

  13. Flora has a fish tank and a few freshwater fish but I’ve said no to tropical because I’ve realised how much more work they are! You’re so right about the tank size, but I’d also add that not overcrowding the tank with too many fish is also important. Once you get the balance right, the tank pretty much looks after itself, hers only needs a water change every so often as the shrimps, snails, molys and coolie loaches keep on top of the algae. Great post, Britt! Lisa x

    1. Yes, not overcrowding is definitely important! I LOVE the look of tropical fish but I know that we don’t have the time for the work required right now.

  14. They definitely sound hander to care for than they’re marketed. I’ve never had fish other than a goldfish when I was a kid but it’s so important to check what your pet needs before you bring it home, even if you think it’s going to be simple. I’m not really a fish person but they’re pretty! x

    Sophie

    1. I don’t understand why they are marketed as so easy to take care of. It’s not just individuals either, it’s the whole pet industry with all the ‘betta starter kits’ and betta tanks that fall short of what’s needed. Why would one question whether or not a tank is big enough if it specifically states it is marketed for bettas, right?

  15. I’ve never owned a fish, but this is really useful information to know if I ever decide to get one. Who knew there were so many things to think about for such a tiny fish!

  16. What fish would you recommend for a beginner? We’ve never had fish before and my 14 year old has her heart on a beta, but if there is a better/easier fish for her, we’ll go that way!

    1. Guppies are one of my favourite to recommend for first-time fish owners. They are low maintenance, readily available, and you can get them in a lot of different beautiful colours.

  17. Another thing to remember is that over feeding is a big problem for first time fish keepers. Beta have a stomach roughly the size of one of their eyeballs. Over feeding them can cause swim bladder issues not to mention affect your water quality, causing more cleaning with all the excess waste.

  18. I couldn’t resist splashing my thoughts into the comment section of your “Best Tank Size for a Betta Fish” post. Seriously, you’ve got me feeling like I’ve just joined a Betta fan club, and I’m ready to don my underwater goggles for this aquatic adventure! Your post is like a treasure trove of fishy wisdom, and I’m here for it! Who knew that picking the perfect tank size for our Betta buddies could be such a crucial decision? Your insights had me nodding along like I’m in a deep-sea agreement frenzy.