How Big Should a Betta Tank be?

The rice paddies and shallow streams in the Southeast-Asian tropical countries are the natural habitats of Betta fish. The seasons are both the hot summer season and the wet rainy season. 

During the scorching summer months and water levels significantly drop, Betta fish can survive in small amounts of water. As long as they don’t dry out, they may survive. But, Betta fish in the wild don’t live their existence in such conditions. Rain brings plenty of water which restores the vast streams and rice paddies during the wet season. This cycles through the hot and wet seasons and the constant turnover of water let the betta thrive in such an environment.

Betta fish have evolved to survive very shallow water with less oxygen content. The Anabantoidei fish suborder to which the Betta fish belong has developed a labyrinth organ that lets them breathe air they gulp from the water’s surface aside from taking in oxygen from the water through their gills. Because of this adaptation, people think betta fish can live in slight amounts of water such as tiny bowls and plastic cups.

Here are some things to understand and know how big should a betta tank be.

What size tank does a betta need?

There are many things to consider when choosing the size of your betta fish tank. A smaller tank volume will be more difficult to maintain to keep water parameters stable. This is because a smaller amount of water will have an increased chance of sudden changes in parameters.

Any food you put into your betta fish’s water that they don’t eat will rot and produce ammonia. Your betta fish also produces waste which also increases the ammonia in the water. In a small container, this ammonia will increase fast and ammonia is toxic to fish. It causes ammonia poisoning damaging gills and internal organs.

Another consideration is the one gallon of water per inch of the fish guide. This is just a guide that helps fish keepers choose a tank size. The average length of an adult betta fish is 7.5cm or 2.95inches which roughly translates to 3 gallons if we follow the inch per gallon rule.

Consider too that betta fish are highly territorial and will constantly guard their surroundings. A small container will not let a betta to do this. Most betta fish enthusiasts mention 5 gallons as the minimum size for a betta fish to thrive.

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If you have a community tank, then you should take into consideration the 5 gallons for the betta fish then add to that the gallon requirements of the other tank mates. Putting a betta in a community tank is not advisable for a beginner unless you have done thorough research on the compatibility of the tank mates and all the requirements of each community member.

A betta sorority is a tank of all-female betta fish. A lot of hobbyists go on the safe side of providing at least 3 to 5 gallons per female betta. For example, if you want 4 female betta fish in a sorority it would be great to have a 20-gallon tank. This will let them set up their territories. Never put males together. They are highly territorial and may end up killing one through stress from constant territorial disputes.

Related: How to Decorate Fish Tank

Is 1 gallon enough for a betta?

how big should a betta tank be

Seeing betta fish being sold in small containers in shops will make us think they can live in such conditions. This is an unfortunate effect. Fish stores do this to conserve space and lessen operation expenses. Imagine if they followed the 5 gallons per betta fish suggestion. This would make them need to install so many tanks that will occupy so much space in a fish store which is not very efficient from a money-making point of view.

If a betta lives in a 1-gallon container or less, then this would require more frequent water change to keep ammonia levels as low as possible. It will also not give the betta enough room to explore and swim freely. Keep in mind the one inch per gallon guide. If you take that into consideration then 3 gallons is the bare minimum. As a betta fish keeper that wants to care for and give the best life to your pet fish, provide the best environment possible.

A beginner getting into the hobby of caring for betta fish can safely get a 5-gallon tank and have peace of mind that their pet betta will have a wonderful environment to live in.

Any decoration put into the tank such as gravel, rocks, and plants will displace water so do not make it too crowded if you get a 5-gallon tank. This will ensure that there are at least 3 gallons of water inside the tank. Always remember that surviving differs from thriving. We want our pet betta fish to thrive.

Related: Do Betta Fish Need a Lid on Their Tank?

How many bettas can live together?

Betta fish are highly territorial and they are fine living on their own.

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A male betta is very territorial and will chase away other betta fish. Two male betta fish will fight so avoid putting them in the same tank. Females of around 4 to 5 in number can make up a betta sorority. Breeding is an entirely different situation. The male and female betta fish never occupy the same tank for a lengthy period of time.

Can bettas live with guppies?

Male guppies have long vibrant tails and fins which may make a betta think it is another male betta. This can make the betta fish very aggressive towards the male guppies. Some female guppies are also very colorful too and the betta may attack them.

Betta fish love to hunt! This may pose a danger to guppies who find themselves in a betta fish’s hunting ground. As much as possible it is better to avoid such situations by not putting guppies with betta fish in small tanks. But, if the tank is huge enough with plenty of plants to act as sight breaks then it is possible to have them as a community. 

It is still very unpredictable what may happen though if the guppies stray into betta fish territory. This also depends on the temperament of your betta.

Each betta is unique just like you! Some may be more friendly and passive than others. Always stay on the safe side and see their behavior to avoid unwanted scenarios. Have a spare tank ready in case this attempt fails.