Aquariums, Freshwater fish, Information

How to Set Up a Betta Fish Tank (Step-by-Step Starter Guide)

Photo of author

by Jason Matthews



If you just got your first betta fish and are unsure how to set up a fish tank, the process is easy. Betta fish are beginner friendly; therefore, they need a simple tank that meets all their needs to flourish.

In this article, I’ll walk you through the essential steps you need to take to create a perfect tank environment for your betta fish.

1. Choose the Tank

When keeping betta fish in captivity, you need to mimic the conditions in their natural habitat. Although you might notice that Betta fish are stocked in bowls in pet stores, it’s advisable to get them a sizeable tank that allows them to swim freely. The minimum tank size is 2.5 gallons, but you can get 5 gallons or bigger more space.

A bigger tank is better because it lowers the risk of your fish getting sick and having a poor quality of life. Additionally, the water won’t become contaminated as fast. The water can be heated safely to establish the nitrogen cycle.

When choosing a tank, you can also go for a longer aquarium instead of a tall one. This is because betta fish live in shallow streams in the wild and are more likely to swim horizontally.

2. Get Your Accessories

You need key accessories to set up a tank for your betta fish. Here are some of the important ones:


You need a filter in your tank to keep the water cleaner for a more extended period. When choosing a filter for a betta tank, keep in mind that betta naturally lives in bodies of water with gentle currents because of their long-flowing fins. Therefore, you should choose a gentle filter or one with adjustable flow settings for better tank management.

Related article: How to keep a betta tank without a filter


Since they come from tropical waters, the ideal water temperature for betta fish is 78 – 82F. To maintain this temperature, get a heater for your tank.

Ensure that you get a fully submersible heater for your tank with a thermostat to make it easy to monitor any temperature changes. This is important because if the water is too cold, your betta fish become susceptible to diseases.


Although betta fish swim at all levels in the tank, they like spending time at the bottom of the tank. For this reason, you should get smooth or small gravel that can’t hurt your fish. In addition, the gravel should be free of rocks; otherwise, food residue, fish, and organic waste could get stuck in the rocks contaminating the water.

If you plan to add live plants to the tank, you should add about two inches of gravel to help the plants root. However, if you’ll add artificial plants, an inch of gravel is enough.

Plants and Decorations

How to set up betta tank
[Photo Credit: Huy Phan, Unsplash]

To liven up your tank, add some plants and decorations. Betta fish commonly lounge in hidden places; plants and decorations provide an excellent hiding spot.

You can occasionally add new decorations or reorganize them as you perform water changes. This will keep the tank environment interesting, especially because betta fish get bored easily. As you pick decorations, ensure they are safe because bettas have long and delicate fins.


Although some fish tanks come with lighting, others don’t. Your betta fish will need lighting; therefore, ensure that you factor this in.

Bettas prefer light when they are awake and like darkness when resting, so you need to have a lighting schedule to keep them comfortable. Get LED lights with automatic timers that allow you to choose the light intensity and change the lighting.

Related: LED Lighting that makes the color of your fish pop

3. Prepare the Aquarium

Once you purchase the fish tank, you need to clean it properly. Ensure you place it in a stable place to prevent falling. You can get special stands that are designed for aquariums.

You can keep the tank in a separate room if you have other pets in the house, like cats and dogs. As you place it, leave some space between the wall and tank, about five inches for the filter.

4. Install the Filter

Once the tank gets placed in the right place, you can install the filter. Since every filter is different, you should follow the manual from the supplier with directions on how to mount it properly. If you can’t find the proper instructions, you can also consult the internet for general instructions on filter installation.

5. Put in the Gravel

[Photo Credit: Timothy Dykes, Unsplash]

Run the gravel under cold tap water to remove any dust. Adding the gravel without rinsing it could make your tank dirty and block your filters.

6. Add the Plants and Decorations

Pick live or artificial plants and decorations for your tank. There’s no specific requirement for these accessories, so you can choose according to your preference.

As you set up the plants, ensure that the roots are buried in the gravel and anchor the decorations as well. Place these accessories in a way that you can still view your betta fish as they swim.

7. Add Water

Once all the accessories are in, fill up the tank. Avoid filling the tank to the top and confirm there are no leaks.

You should leave this space because betta fish are anabantoid – they have a special breathing organ known as a labyrinth. Leaving about an inch and a half at the top allows the betta to breathe when they jump.

8. Turn on the Filter

For proper water circulation, you can now turn on the filter. Adjust the settings until the flow is correct. At the same time, you can also install the heater and confirm that the temperature is right.

9. Add a Neutralizer

If you are using tap water, you need a neutralizer to eliminate the chlorine in the water. After this, you can perform a natural cycle without the fish. Cycling can take four to eight weeks before you can introduce your fish.

10.  Introduce Your Betta Fish

[Photo Credit: Jaya Surya Karthik, Unsplash]

Once the setup is done, you can introduce the betta fish to their new tank. As you choose the betta species, ensure that you;

  • Confirm that they are healthy
  • Check for any deformities
  • Confirm that the fish can swim properly
  • Check whether the betta has damaged fins which could be a sign of disease

After the cycle is complete, you should only add the betta fish to the tank. This reduces the chances of bacterial infections. Additionally, when you get the fish from the pet store, you need to acclimatize the fish to the new environment. This is important because it helps the fish adjust to the water temperature and prevent stress.

When your betta becomes stressed out in the beginning, it might not survive for long. Once it adjusts to the new environment, you can add it to the tank and start your journey as an aquarist.


Setting up a tank for betta fish is pretty straightforward. Although it requires you to follow some steps, it’s worth it in the long run for the survival of your fish.

Choose the right tank and accessories to ensure that your betta fish survives. In addition, you also need to follow the steps outlined above to introduce your betta fish to its new home.

If you stick to these steps, your betta fish will stay disease-free and be happy.

Featured image credit: Worachat Sodsri, Unsplash


Jason Matthews

My name is Jason Matthews, and welcome to my website. When other kids were bragging about how their dog could sit and roll over, I was bragging about my latest Betta Fish and the cool sea castle I just added to his aquarium. 

Jason aquariume

🐠 Get Your Free Ebook: A Beginner's Guide to Aquariums - Sign Up Now!

Learn everything you need to know to keep fish, including setting up your tank, choosing the right fish, and maintaining water quality. As a subscriber, you'll also stay up-to-date on the latest aquarium products, special offers, and discounts.

Your privacy is important to us. You can trust that we will never share or sell your information, and we'll only send you relevant content.

Leave a Comment