Why Your Betta Deserves More Than A Little Bowl

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Betta fish are one of the most popular tropical aquarium fish and for good reason. They are hardy, beautiful and come in a wide variety of colors and fin types. I for one have to practice self-control at the pet store lest I end up with more bettas than I need!

Also known as Siamese fighting fish, male bettas are aggressive and will likely attack other males if given the chance. This is why we see them most often kept alone. 

Due to their solitary nature and hardiness, they are often kept in tiny “betta bowls”. While these are cute and convenient for us humans those poor bettas are miserable!

So what is the best betta fish tank? Read on and I’ll discuss some important considerations.

Natural Habitat

In order to understand what makes an ideal tank for your betta, we first need to understand its natural habitat.

Bettas are native to Thailand where they live in rice paddies and other shallow bodies of water. While shallow these bodies of water are normally quite large. These pools of water are warm with an abundance of plant life and other organic material.  

In the dry season, these water bodies get smaller and bettas are often stuck in small pools. This water is stagnant and low in dissolved oxygen. But not to worry, those bettas have a little trick up their sleeve! It’s called a Labyrinth organ. This allows the betta to breathe air from the surface of the water.

Unfortunately, people take advantage of the adaptations bettas have developed in the wild. While they can survive in small tanks with poor water quality and little dissolved oxygen this is not acceptable.

Why Shouldn’t You Keep Your Betta in a Small Bowl?

As we just discussed bettas are very hardy and adaptable. So, while they can survive in these little betta bowls it is far from ideal. Kept in these containers bettas will have a shortened life span and lower quality of life. This is due to a variety of factors.


Betta bowls almost always lack heaters. Bettas do best in a water temperature of 78° F but the average room temperature is only 68-72° F. The best aquarium heaters are able to easily maintain a proper temperature. Unfortunately, most betta bowls are far too small for most of these heaters. 

In addition to not being warm enough betta bowls are prone to temperature fluctuations. Such a small amount of water won’t hold a consistent temperature if there are changes in the room temperature. This could be due to a breeze or fluctuations in the day or night time temperature. 

All of this leads to a stressed fish which is not good for long term health.

Water Quality

Have you ever wondered why any real fish tank always has some type of filter attached? Water quality of course! If a fish tank of any size needs a filter then why wouldn’t a betta tank?

Not only do filters mechanically remove crud from the water they also serve as habitat for good bacteria. These bacteria aid in converting toxic ammonia into the relatively benign nitrate.

A small bowl doesn’t really have the option to install a quality filter. Without one, ammonia levels will rise quickly and water changes will need to be done multiple times a week!

Sad Bettas

I feel bad for saying this but when I was young I did have a betta in a small one-gallon bowl. I had a few artificial decorations and some stained gravel but that’s about it. While he would move around a bit he seemed slow and sluggish. Needless to say, he didn’t live more than a couple of years.

Fast forward to today, I have a betta in a 10 gallon planted aquarium. He is very active, curious and spends time in every part of his tank. He even rewards me with the occasional bubble nest! It makes me feel good knowing I have a healthy, happy betta fish.  

Bettas are naturally curious fish and like establishing a “territory” of their own. They also need places to hide and lay down to sleep (yes, bettas “lay down” to sleep). With a larger tank you can provide all of this. I also absolutely recommend live plants if possible as well.

So What is the Ideal Betta Tank Size?

This topic is up for some debate and differs depending upon who you ask. The absolute minimum should be 2.5 gallons but I recommend a minimum of a 5-gallon tank. A 5-gallon tank is still small enough that you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a place to put it. It’s also just big enough to ensure a healthy happy betta. 

An “ideal” size is 10 gallons and this is what I use for my betta. As I mentioned earlier, he uses all of this space. This larger tank also gives you the option of adding carefully chosen companions if you so wish.

With a larger tank you can also create a “sorority tank” of multiple female bettas. While not as showy as male bettas they are attractive in their own right. 

Final Thoughts

I hope I have convinced you to put the needs of your betta first and invest in a proper aquarium. While cute and convenient “betta bowls” should be avoided. 

So give that gorgeous little betta the tank it deserves today!

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