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How Much Space Do Betta Fish Need? Vet-Approved Tank Size Guide!

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By Lindsey Stanton

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Dr. Luqman Javed

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Betta fish are currently some of the most popular aquarium fish out there. They are tropical freshwater fish that come from the warmer parts of Asia. These fish often live in very slow-moving waters and are regularly found living in rice paddies.

Yes, they can live in relatively small aquariums when compared to other fish, but they do of course prefer a more extensive habitat. You should not house a lone Betta in anything less than a 5 gallon heated and filtered aquarium.

Read on as we explain the space requirements of Bettas.

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How Much Space Do Bettas Need?

DIY Low Tech Planted Tank for a Betta Fish
Image Credit: Buceplant

It is a common misconception that a betta fish will be happy in a really small tank with just a few inches of water. While they do often reside in rice paddies that are shallow, it doesn’t mean they should be housed in a small aquarium. Rice paddies, though shallow, are very extensive and stretch for several miles. Indeed, wild Bettas are not short of swimming space.

Rice paddies are also all connected to one big body of water. Betta fish do like their space, so a really small bowl or vase will certainly not suffice.

For a single betta fish, the tank should be 5 gallons in size (about 20 liters) for the betta to be comfortable and happy as an absolute minimum. You should probably look into getting an even bigger tank of around 10 gallons (roughly 40 liters).

Betta fish do like plants, rocks, and driftwood, all of which require space. If you want to create a truly beautiful and comfortable habitat that feels like home, you need to add these plants and other items. To make sure that everything fits and that the betta has enough space to swim around freely, 5+ gallons is good tank size.

betta tank set up
Image Credit: Pras1107, Shutterstock

When buying aquariums, it’s also important to remember that you never truly get the volume on the label of the aquarium itself. For example, an inch or two of substrate, and an inch or two off the top so that the water isn’t spilling at the brim takes away from the amount of water available to the fish.

Filters, heaters, decorative ornaments, and the aforementioned plants, rocks, and driftwood need their space too. For these reasons, a 5 gallon tank should be considered a minimum for a Betta, with many enthusiasts springing for larger homes for their fish. If you’re ambitious and up for it, you can even opt for a Betta pond!

If you wish to keep your Betta in a community setup, you will need a larger aquarium. A 20 gallon aquarium can house a betta with some compatible community fish. A 20 gallon is also the recommended  minimum size for a sorority of about 5 to 6 female bettas.

Elephant ear betta fish
Image Credit: Brad Rice, Shutterstock

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The bottom line is that the absolute minimum tank size for a betta is 5 gallons being sufficient and around 10 gallons being the ideal. Remember folks, it is up to you to provide a nice and habitable home for your new betta fish!

Feature Image Credit: Magdalena Teterdynko, Shutterstock

Lindsey Stanton Profile Picture

Authored by

Lindsey discovered her passion for fish keeping after a junior high school field trip to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Prior to becoming Editor-in-Chief of It's a Fish Thing, Lindsey studied marine biology at the University of California-Santa Cruz. She loves goldfish, tetras, and mystery snails, and recently began experimenting with a saltwater aquarium.

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