How to Set Up a Betta Fish Tank: Starter Guide for Beginners

Japanese Fighting Fish is reader-supported. When you purchase through one of our links we may earn an affiliate commission (at no extra cost to you).

Getting the perfect set up

Setting up your first betta fish tank can be somewhat intimidating, but it shouldn’t be scary! In fact, it is good if you do feel a little worried, it proves you care and want to learn. This post will cover important steps you should take in order to create the perfect setting for a betta fish tank, it will state the importance of water cycling and give you tips for taking care of your new fish.

The tank

Have you chosen your bettas home yet? We have selected and reviewed some of our favorite betta fish tanks in the linked article.

Here are a few tips on choosing your own…

We recommend 5 gallon (20 – 25 litre tank) or more, this will ensure you have the healthiest and happiest betta fish – which is what having a pet is all about.

Another tip is that is is also good to have an aquarium that is longer than high. This isn’t too important but if we were to think of the betta fish’s natural environment – shallow streams – you will see that water depth isn’t too important but longer horizontally swim areas would be of benefit.

Some recommended tanks include, Fluval Spec V Aquarium Kit and biOrb FLOW.

Fluval Spec V
Fluval Spec V
BiOrb Flow
BiOrb Flow

Position the tank where there is no direct sunlight, but still remains open and visible. Bettas like attention and don’t like dark corners of the room.

Do I need a filter for my betta fish?

A filter is a must to help keep the water cleaner for longer. However betta fish do not like strong flowing water/currents. So what is recommended is a gentle aquarium filter, or one that has an adjustable flow. The filter will keep the water clean and healthy for the fish. Take a look at our reviews of the best betta fish filters.

The filter should have a manual that shows you how to set it up. After adding it to the aquarium make sure that it works and hopefully it won’t be creating too strong of a current. If you think the filter is too strong and your filter isn’t adjustable you could create a baffle from an inexpensive tank divider or make sure there are a few plants in the way to break the current.

Does a betta fish need a heater?

An ideal water temperature for a betta fish is around 77 – 80 degree Fahrenheit. Remember they are from tropical waters! This means that in most countries, yes you should have a heater on your tank.

It is important to keep temperatures at a constant. Fluctuations can be dangerous to your fish’s health. This is the job of the aquarium heater, it includes a thermostat ensuring a constant correct temperature even if the temperature in your house goes up and down. We have reviewed some ideal aquarium heaters and for larger tanks like 20-gallons heaters and produced a guide here.

On very small tanks having a heater can be dangerous to the fish’s health due to the temperature of the water warming and cooling too fast. (But we know that betta fish should not be kept in small tanks anyways. )

Setting up a betta fish aquarium
Photo by gud2thosegud2me

Adding substrate / gravel and plants

Next add some substrate or gravel to the bottom of the tank.

Beginner betta fish tip: When using large gravel uneaten pieces of betta fish food fall and place themselves down the gaps of the pieces of gravel. This is hard to clean and leads to dirty water. Smaller finer gravel substrate will help combat this.

If you want to use live plants you may have to look into the substrate so that the plants can grow and flourish. Before adding any live plants it is advisable to half fill your tank with water as it helps you to place the plants.

Live plants are recommended. Check out our guide for more detailed information on how to add live plants to your aquarium – this offers step by step instructions.

Adding some decorations

This is a great step! 🙂 Now it is time to make the betta fish aquarium that you have set up look great and be a fun home for your fish buddy.

Add some fun aquarium decorations or maybe create a themed tank with the use of some ornaments – there are unlimited possibilities. It is always good to think of whose home it is and cater for their needs though. Betta fish love little hidey holes, nooks and crannys to swim to and from. The traditional and iconic aquarium castle actually makes a great feature to the betta fish tank – and they love hiding in them. Or how about a SpongeBob themed Aquarium?

A few things to avoid –

Plant pots – there has been a small craze of putting terracotta plant pots in fish tanks. This has led to many fish injuries! The drainage hole of a terracotta plant pot has very sharp edges, and fish (especially betta fish) swim quickly through this hole which can lead to huge and deep grazes.

Sharp fake plants – quite often fake aquarium plants are made of plastic. If you buy plastic plants make sure that the leaves do not have sharp edges. Betta fish fins are very delicate; any sharp edges can easily tear a betta fish fin. (Keep this in mind for all your decorations).

Don’t put your betta fish in the tank yet…

So your tank set up is ready and the decorations look great. Now you have to make sure that what it’s filled with is the kind of water betta fish will be happy in:

  • PH – an ideal PH is 7
  • Temperature – 77 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Ammonia – should be 0
  • Nitrite – should be 0

A fishless cycle is what is required next.

Without a fishless cycle your betta could experience ‘new tank syndrome’ – it can kill fish.

Basically what this cycle does is build up beneficial bacteria in the tank / filter. These beneficial bacteria are used in the tank to break down harmful fish waste (ammonia) into a less toxic form, first to nitrite and then down to nitrate. Once this cycle is established your tank should stay at a steady Ammonia reading of 0 and Nitrite reading of 0.

A lot can be written on this subject and it’s a whole other blog post but it is important to know! That’s why I have to point you towards another page on the web that says it all. (Yes, I’m pointing you away from my site. Not many other bloggers would do that, but this is a great page that includes a calculator). (opens in a new window)

And now you have set up a betta fish tank! It’s time to choose your new betta fish from the local pet store and add it to the newly setup aquarium.

If the aquarium you have chosen is larger than 5 gallons you may also be able to add a tank mate or two, however there are a few things you should know…

Firstly, add fish slowly to the newly set up aquarium (not numerous fish in one day), this links back to the nitrogen cycle.
Secondly, betta fish have another name that you may be aware of, Siamese fighting fish, they get this name for their aggressive and territorial nature.

Betta fish tank starter kit

It is important to know what fish can live with bettas, this blog post will go through the details, but in summary no two betta fish should live together, you should avoid colorful fish with flowing fins and your tank needs 5 gallons of personal space for your betta fish.

And remember, please don’t use tiny tanks or vases – the water gets dirty / poisonous fast and limiting the movement of the fish is unhealthy and just plain cruel. Yes, betta fish have evolved to survive in small areas of water for periods of time before finding their way back to a stream but the keyword there is survive – they are not happy or healthy, that isn’t a life!

Betta fish need a 5-gallon tank – minimum!

Hope you now have your betta tank set up perfectly with many happy years of friendship ahead of you :). Leave a comment describing your betta fish tank or even better a picture or video and let me know what you thought of the article – or if you would like to add to it.

Beginners Guide to Setting Up Your Betta Fish Tank -

Last Updated: February 20, 2022

Subscribe today and receive a FREE Betta Fish Care for Beginners eBook

Betta fish crazy? Yeah? Join our 10,000 subscribers and get betta fish fun, updates and our betta fish care eBook sent direct to your inbox for free.

Thank you for subscribing.
Check your inbox for instructions

Oops... Something went wrong.

Comments 21

  1. Kevin October 7, 2013
    • @BettaInfo October 7, 2013
    • Lynda August 4, 2015
    • Ella August 7, 2019
  2. Mike October 9, 2013
    • @BettaInfo October 9, 2013
      • sophie November 13, 2013
  3. sophie November 13, 2013
  4. diane December 18, 2013
  5. tina July 13, 2014
  6. Amethyst August 19, 2014
    • @BettaInfo August 22, 2014
  7. Animal Lover At Heart ~ :D February 11, 2015
  8. sia February 24, 2015
  9. Rob July 12, 2015
  10. Miranda January 3, 2016
    • Sandra April 8, 2017
  11. Ashley August 8, 2016
  12. jess November 22, 2016
  13. GEneral finn and General Bubbles May 2, 2017

Leave a Reply