How to keep Bettas in small tanks

How to keep Bettas in small tanks

  • Author goplecos
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Disclaimer: I am by no means advocating for this. But as Lucy said it is better to have information on the best way of doing it than none at all. I also hope that this article is important because most people are not going to dig through old forums trying to find the answer. And if you have the space for 2+ gallons that really would work better. I also know this article is going to be very controversial but this is just my experience and if had you different one, please tell me about it. I do not want to negotiate with anyone who is just quoting the opinion that Bettas need 2.5+ gallons without actually keeping the fish in a one gallon tank. I do not think that Bettas should be in anything less than a gallon.

Setup: The tank should be long and low, not high. Bettas like horizontal swimming space, not vertical. It should NOT be a bowl. Bowls are the wrong shape since Bettas like to swim side to side, not in circles. Therefore the tank should be rectangular. Most good one-gallon tanks have a built in filter so that’s not an issue. If the tank does not come with a filter a small sponge filter will do the trick or a small internal filter. Most small tanks do not come with a heater and small ones are notoriously expensive. But an Aqueon Adjustable 10 Watt Heater will do the trick. But really any 5-10 watt heater will work.

Maintenance: Frequent water changes are a must. I would do a 50% water change twice a week.

Tank Mates: No other fish would work. 1-2 snails or a few shrimp would work.

Getting the Right Fish: You should get a full-grown fish that is a smaller type of Betta. A Dwarf Veiltale or Crowntale rarely exceeds one inch and is appropriate for a one-gallon tank. A small female Betta would also work. A Placket or Dragontale needs a much larger tank.

Thank you so much for reading. Again if you had a bad experience with keeping Bettas in a one gallon tank, then tell me about it, and why you think it didn't work.
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Bettas should NOT be kept in such small tanks. I disagree with Lucy, this info should NOT be posted.
Ok- so I actually kept a betta in a 1 gallon tank out of inexperience. This was early on before I really knew anything about fish. I was able to upgrade him to a 3.5 gallon, where he lived his 4 year life. After keeping a female betta in a 10 gallon, however, I realize even that 3.5 gallon was not ideal.

Once seasons changed, our room temperature dropped significantly, so of course I needed a heater for him. Since the weather change was sudden and I had to ship the heater he went about 2 weeks without it. He was absolutely miserable. His water hit very low 70s. His appetite hit rock-bottom, he was hardly active, and his color went from a beautiful blue to a dull navy. When I got the heater, he was definitely a lot happier with the warm water, but then came the inevitable: how do you keep such a small body of water heated without cooking the fish? On cold days it worked out, but the moment the house got warm I had to unplug it immediately- or the temperature would soar. It once went to near 90. A small body of water is prone to sudden temperature swings

There really is no way to fit a good filter in a 1 gallon without creating so much current the betta is at the mercy of the water, or taking up all the swimming room in the tank

Bettas love to explore, and cramming them into such a small space only gives them so much to interact with. How many times are they going to swim around the same cave or swim between the same fake plant? Also you can’t fit much without taking up all their swim room

Live plants
The moment a leaf dies, the ammonia is going to spike because the body of water is so small

Bettas are not a small fish. They can grow to be 3 inches, and now with the king variety out there some will grow even larger. My betta was physically stunted in my 1 gallon. He stopped growing and his body looked completely unnatural. The moment I moved him to the 3.5 gallon, he had a growth spurt and grew to his full, healthy size almost instantly. His body looked so much more natural and fluid.

Bettas are not lazy fish. Their fins often exhaust them because they weigh them down, but that does not mean they are lazy. Just because a fish seems to rest more does not mean he is lazy or going to stop moving. My betta was so restless in his 1 gallon. He looked so miserable. He would pace the walls of the tank and frequently bump into them while swimming. In the 3.5 gallon, all though even that is not big enough for a betta (a 5 or 10 gallon is sooo much better) he was so much happier. His color brightened, he flared more and became more responsive- so much so I was able to teach him to jump for food. This is just my opinion, but I feel like similarly to toddlers, fish exceed cognitively when they have more to do and interact with. They engage more with their surroundings, using their minds to find new hiding spots and navigate their surroundings

Healthier water
In a tank as small as a one gallon, you’d have to do water changes that are so large and so frequent, your fish would be constantly stressed. In a larger body of water, there is still a need for water changes of course, but you won’t need to make frequent large changes, just weekly 30% or so

So from my experience of keeping a betta in a 1 gallon, sure, your fish will live. But your fish will be miserable. If you can’t give a fish, a living, breathing creature who feels pain and has emotions, why would you even own one? Just because they are cheap and replaceable, that does not mean they are disposable or that we can demean their existence for our own pleasure of having them
As everyone's said, please don't even keep a betta if you're going to put it into something less than 2.5 gallons. Female bettas are an even bigger no for smaller tanks. They are far more active than long tailed males.
As i read this article, it appears that you are relying on nothing other than ill opinion. I think the best example i have is when you stated "bettas like to swim side to side, not in circles". Do you think a betta really likes swimming side to side, or maybe it doesn't matter. While this is just a simple acknowledgement of the lack of experience this article was written with. i suggest you look at some of the studies done with bettas in small aquariums. You can find these by typing scholarly articles about fish bowls into google. The main issue with what your are doing is stunting your fish. this is when the body and skeleton of the fish cease growing due to cramped conditions, however this doesn't deter the organs from growing. this causes pressure and death eventually.
I really think that if you CAN get a better tank, you should, and if you CAN'T then you shouldn't get a betta at all. This would be really bad for the betta. You should never put one in a one-gallon tank.
I agree with that advice.
Please do not keep bettas in a one gallon, because they come from rice patties in Thailand hundreds of miles long. It is simply not natural. Also, if I tried heating a one gallon to 80 degrees the only result would be fish soup in my experience. Bettas shouldn’t have any Tank mates in a tank less than 10 gallons, and even then only snails and shrimp are acceptable. I would reccomend a 2.5 gallon bare minimum.
I get that your just trying to help the bettas, but this is really very short. There isn’t much explaining as to why, despite what most recommend, a 1g is suitable. Others who have the opinion of 2.5g have reasons as to why only 2.5/5g are the minimum, but I don’t see that here. I’d also be pretty nervous trying to heat a 1g tank to 80F, seems like one small mistake or heater malfunction could easily kill the fish.
A one gallon tank shortens the life of the fish. I think we have to think longterm needs when we take on care of animal, and this piece is too shortsighted.
I can see your point of view that there will be people inevitably in the future who will buy a betta and have it live in a 1 gal, however what you should have done was at least try to inform them that this is wrong and ways they could improvise. For example a 3 gallon high tank would have virtually the same footprint as a 1 gallon long tank so they occupy the same space but at least the betta has more room to swim in if said people absolutely only had the space for a 1 gallon. This would be the bare minimum at least for trying to keep a betta in anything under a 5g
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