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Setting Up A Male Betta Tank


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This content came from a thread a while back. I thought it would be helpful to post it separately, as a sticky, as it's a question likely to come up often from people new to bettas. I think that it's a good summary of a method that will see the betta living in conditions least likely to cause finrot etc.

Remember that when you set up a new tank you have to allow for the ammonia cycle. There are articles about cycling (not the Lance Armstrong kind) in the Library forum.

Here's a link to the original thread for reference if you're interested.

Is there any where on this site I can see a step by step set up to house a Betta?

Not really, as everyone does it slightly differentlly. My personal step by step would be:

Buy a 10 litre tank at PetBarn. It must have a lid - bettas jump and end up crispy. Here is the inside of one of my male bettas' "stables". Messy, but functional. You can make yours look pretty!:

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Buy the littlest heater you can get

Buy a small sponge or PennPlax filter.

Sponge filter:

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Penn Plax filter:

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Buy a little air pump, some silicone airline and (important!) a check-valve (to stop water siphoning into the pump) and a little valve that you can adjust to slow the air flow down - bettas don't like huge bubbles turning their tank into a hurricane!

Backflow valve:

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Airline bubble rate valve:

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If you like, buy some plastic decorative tank backing to make the back of the tank look nicer.

Buy a thermometer - Very IMPORTANT!

Buy whatever colour SMALL sized gravel you like (don't use those big glass beads, poop and food falls in and rots).

Buy some SMOOTH driftwood and java fern. Java fern is a genuine aquatic plant and will not die underwater, but lots of other tank plants sold at an LFS will. That is why it costs a little bit more. It is a good investment if you want Mr Betta to be happy.

Take these ^^^ things home and set them up in the possie you want them in.

Wash the gravel before you put it in the tank to get rid of sediment/dust that will make your tank water cloudy.

Soak the piece of driftwood for a few days to get rid of the excess tannins (they stain the water dark brown). Once you do add the driftwood to the tank, it will slowly release tannins, which makes the water more like Mr Betta's native water, so he will be healthier. You can position the driftood to obstruct the filter if you think it looks messy.

After all the gravel and driftwood is in place, fill the tank with water and add 3 x the neutraliser dose that it tells you on the label to add.

Add the java fern. Java fern is not planted in the gravel, it does not have actual roots. Just put it somewhere in the tank that you think looks good *lol*

Switch the airpump/filter on. Use the twisty valve to adjust the bubble rate until it is about 2 - 3 bubbles per second.

Switch the heater on. Wait 24 hours and monitor the temperature using the thermometer to make sure that the heater is at the right setting. Adjust it if necessary. The tank should constantly be about 28*C

Leave the whole thing to settle for at least 2 more days (that ensures that all the chemicals from the tap water are gone.

Then the tank is ready for Mr betta.

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  • 3 years later...
  • 4 months later...

Thanks! Since I posted it (like, 4 years ago, time flies!!) we have been able to source excellent IAL from Jeff and Wan, so I would add to the above post that I would recommend adding an IAL to the water as well.

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  • 1 year later...
  • 1 month later...

Hi Lilli, I really liked your post and will definitely attempt to replicate it and add some katapang leaves before I get my hands on some new bettas.

Just a few quicks questions though, hope you don't mind:

Are you using 2 filters in your tank, a sponge and a penn plex filter(i'm assuming its a 10 litre tank)?

Will a female betta be happy in this same setup?

and now for my last question:

I have a tank that is ≈20 litres or so (pic below) housing 2 betta's with no filter. The tank is currently filled with exactly 15 litres and I do a 70 to 80% water change once a week (is it healthier to do small water changes more often?) and at the same time I clean up their excrements and general gunk off the bottom of the tank.

Now i don't have gravel because I don't know how to properly care for gravel :( I noticed that you said no glass beads because poop rots in it, so I'm naturally inclined to assume that your not supposed to clean gravel very often? Am i correct?

I've read around this forum and searched around and have learnt a lot about the need to clean gravel, BUT, i've seen alot of betta fish setups whare the bottom of the tank is all gunked up with brown spongy debris, sometimes even the java moss is partially covered by it. Even your pictures shows some of the spongy thing, what is it? Do I clean it up? Please help :(


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Going to answer some of these for you since A) I'm not sure if Lilli is around these days and B) I'm bored :D

Are you using 2 filters in your tank, a sponge and a penn plex filter(i'm assuming its a 10 litre tank)? - Both are sponge filters, just different styles (the penn plex looks like the sponge is just encased in plastic, they're commonly sold around here as 'little world' filters or something like that. Same principle of biological filtration either way, and you'll only need one or the other.

Will a female betta be happy in this same setup? - Absolutely

Your tank looks great by the way :D The plant you have in there looks like a pothos (See Matty? I'm learning garden stuffs real gud) and might do better with only its roots in the water since its a terrestrial plant.

Water change wise, I think you'd only need to change a maximum of 50% of your water each week combined with a hoovering of the bottom.

Gravel is a personal choice, not a neccessary one. A small grade gravel will form an even substrate and dirt/debris will mostly sit on top where you can siphon it out, while a large grade or the glass marbles Lilli mentions will have big gaps, allowing dirt to hide underneath very easily - More difficult to clean, but not impossible. How often you clean is up to you, gravel arguably harbours some good bacteria for your tank, but so long as you're only cleaning it in tank water it won't do any harm.

Lastly, the gunk issue. Again, personal choice. Most seem to prefer the sterile approach, gunk free. But you see pictures of thai breeders and their tanks are simply encrusted. Nature is not a bad thing for your betta, just not always very pretty for you and me :D

Edited by Pyrefly
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Hahahaha, Hi Pyrefly.

I really appreciate your reply :) Thank you.

Yes those are Pothos, I realise they are terrestrial plants, mum has them all over the house, lol, so once a month I put them back into a pot and put new ones in the tank, my betta's seem to enjoy sleeping on the large leaves :D Just to bloody cute! <_< ...

So the gunk isn't part of betta excrements? Thats good news, I thought they would break down like poop and adds to the ammonia content of the water :)

I really want a tank that looks like it is a literal "slice of nature" :D A project i have to complete before i leave this earth.

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Well looks like you're on the right track - I have plenty of philodendron plants (similar concept) and while they're happy in water for a while, you might find it more rewarding to get some Java Fern or Anubias (sort of depends on your lighting setup)

They look amazing tethered to driftwood, and introducing hardscape is a good step to aquascaping your tank into a believable slice of nature

http://showcase.aquatic-gardeners.org/ - something to whet your palette

I'm a bit of a bare bottom kinda gal - all my tanks have plenty of plants and driftwood and xxl rocks, but I've steered away from substrate as young fry in my grow-outs can't get to food - and I can't get to that "gunk" that builds up in the tank.....

I do a weekly change (in a tank like that) and even use an airline hose to pick up the gunk gently without disturbing the fish or risking sucking them up.

They look very happy in that tank - how do you keep temperature stable? They generally tend to get a bit ill if the temp swings in the day/night - best kept around 25-28



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I forgot to mention, Its a pleasure to meet all of you :D

Hi Ness,

Thanks for the advice on Java fern, ill see what i can find at the LFS here. Im currently in Malaysia you see, my parents have a permanant home here, I'm doing a degree in Brisbane and plan on permanantly settling in Sydney.

So to answer your question on how I keep the temperature at 25-28 degrees C, the fish are in Malaysia, so they benefit from the naturally tropical climate :) The temperature here fluctuates between about 26 during the night to 31 during the day (extreme case... usually it only fluctuates by 2 to 4 degrees -26 to 29-). HOT and HUMID.

I don't like keeping fish in an absolutely temperature, they seem to go very hyper, then become very sluggish, even during meal times:( In my last aquarium with neon tetras (a few years back) I purposefully kept there tank in my bedroom, where I turn the air-conditioning on at night, and off during the day and it gives a nice temperature in my tank, imitating day-night cycle not only via lighting but also temperature (hope that makes sense??? or am i just being silly? Cuz they did seem to be happier.). I am doing the same thing with my betta's, so the ambient air temperature gets down to about 22 ~ 23 degrees and the water gets down to about 24 at night, during the day it reaches a high of 28 and never reaching 30.

But Im only guessing that they are happy from their behaviour :( they seem really healthy and active, even during water changes they will eat bits of floating plants that have broken off and not seem stressed at all that my entire hand is in there tank... Im going by happy fish = healthy fish. Please let me know if what im doing isn't healthy for them.

Oh and another quick question, I've seen heavily planted aquariums and the cleaning instructions are 50% water changes within a certain time frame that is dependant on aquarium size and snails to assist decomposition of waste. So how would you remove the poop from gravel/soil? Or is this some sort of self contained mini-ecosystem? Is that even possible? or sustainable?



Edited by Yule
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