Do Betta Fish Like Small Tanks?

Gorgeous betta fish with flowy fins in a small bowl– that might be your imagination in the first place. It’s a popular myth that Betta fish enjoy small space. After observing unfortunate deaths, betta lovers often ask in betta forums- do betta fish really like small tanks?

Despite their hardy nature, Betta fish do not like small tanks. Water conditions stay more stable in a larger tank. Additionally, your betta fish will have more space to swim and hide in a larger tank.

In this article, I’ve explained the consequence of keeping Betta fish in a small tank. Also, you’ll get to know about the advantages of keeping Betta fish in a larger tank, factors to consider, etc.

So, let’s delve into this article to find out whether Betta fish like small tanks.

Key Takeaways

  • The minimum tank capacity should be 5 gallons for one Betta fish.
  • The larger the tank, the more comfortable home for Betta it will be.
  • You must provide a 10-gallon tank to ensure a happy life for your Betta.
  • A larger tank will ensure good water quality. Also, more swimming space, and fewer fluctuations of parameters.
  • A betta may survive in a small space for a short period. But, it’ll not thrive there with a happy life.

The PETA site recommends at least a 5-gallon tank, noting that “more is always better.”

It’s pretty obvious to get attracted by the gorgeous color and flowy fins of the Betta species. To house this gorgeous fish, you need to choose a tank of the perfect size.

If you are wondering about the ideal tank size, you should consider a few factors. Such as the number of Betta fish, age, tank mates, décor items, etc.

According to the experts, the least tank requirement for Betta fish is 5 gallons. It is the least demand for the survival of your Betta fish.

But, you should not run to buy off a 5-gallon tank for your Betta. To make your Betta happy, you can provide as much space as you want. It’ll be a cozy home for your Betta in a larger tank than 5 gallons.

If you want your Betta fish to thrive well, you should pick up a 10-gallon tank.

Besides, you must add 5 gallons to include each Betta fish. Also, it’s a major concern to consider the size of equipment and décor items in the tank.

According to Bettafish.org, bettas “require lots of space to swim for optimal health and happiness, with a minimum tank size of 5 gallons.”

Can A Betta Survive In A Small Tank?

You might have noticed that the stores sell Betta fish in small bowls or cups. So, it’s not impossible to survive for Betta fish in a small tank.

These Betta fish can survive in small spaces to an extent. But, these fish may not live a quality life in small tanks. In consequence, it’ll be harder to thrive in those small bowls for Betta fish.

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Moreover, congested places may stress your Betta fish. Due to all these facts, Betta fish can not complete their full lifespan in a small tank.

What Can Happen If You Keep A Betta In A Too-Small Tank?

You might be familiar with the popularity of Betta fish for their hardy nature. People have a misconception that Betta fish can live well in a small tank. But, this is completely a wrong perception.

You should remember that a betta tank is also its toilet. So, these fish poop and urinate in the same space. When the space is small, the tank water gets foul fast. Let’s see what else can happen because of keeping a Betta in a too-small tank.

  • There will be a fast buildup of toxins. So, there are higher chances of ammonia spikes in a too-small tank.
  • Smaller space in small tanks doesn’t allow Betta fish to swim comfortably. There will not be enough swimming space in a too-small tank.
  • The water parameters fluctuate faster in a smaller tank. So, it’ll be hard to maintain optimal temperature and good water quality in a small tank.
  • When you add the required elements to the tank, the space will be more congested. Your Betta fish may get hurt by décor items.
  • Your betta fish can quickly get stressed in a too-small tank.
  • Due to bad water quality, your betta fish will be prone to illness in a too-small tank.
  • Since the water gets foul too soon, you should make higher maintenance for small tanks.
  • It’ll be harder to clean a small betta tank. If you do not add a filtration system, you should make a full water change.

One 2023 study published in the Journal of Fish Biology found that bettas kept in 2-gallon tanks had higher cortisol levels than similar fish in 5-gallon tanks. This suggests their welfare may be better supported in larger environments.

Here is a table listing the minimum tank sizes recommended by different betta fish care organizations:

OrganizationMinimum Tank SizeReason
Petco Betta Care Sheet2.5 gallonsBasic space and water quality needs can be met as stated in the “Betta Care Sheet” source.
Adelphi University2 gallonsThough they can survive in smaller, the temperature should be kept at 75-80°F as stated in the “Betta Fish Care” source.
Change.org petition5 gallonsAsking Petco to raise their minimum from 1 gallon to 5 gallons for optimal living conditions as stated in the “Petition · Petco — raise the recommended minimum Betta fish tank size from 1 gal to 5 gal” source.
Veterinary Medicine at Illinois5 gallonsThey should not live in bowls and ideally be in 5+ gallons for space as stated in the “Your Betta Needs More Than a Bowl – Veterinary Medicine at Illinois” source.
National Betta Society5 gallonsProvides more swimming space and easier water maintenance.

Why Are Betta Fish Sold In Small Containers?

You might have seen Betta fish to be sold in small cups or bowls. Some people often consider keeping Betta fish in a bowl mimicking from the stores.

But, it’s inhumane to keep Betta fish in such a small space. So, you might wonder why Betta fish are sold in small containers. I’ve shared 4 major reasons behind this act. Let’s take a look.

1. Commercial Purpose

The dirty secret behind selling Betta fish in small containers is to gain more profit.

Betta shop owners have enough space on their shelves. Instead of keeping Betta in a tank, the sellers use the space to stock more Betta fish.

Keeping each Betta fish in a small bowl will help the sellers display more Betta fish. In short, it’ll save a lot of space in the pet stores. To gain more profit, Betta sellers do not hesitate to put the health of Betta fish at risk.

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2. Cost Efficiency

Small cups cost less than larger tanks. Betta owners can display lots of Betta fish in small spaces. Also, these small containers are easy to maintain.

Besides, these small containers require less amount of water. Compared to large tanks, the Betta owners can smoothly clean these small bowls or cups. Thinking about cost-efficiency, Betta sellers choose small containers to keep Betta in stores.

3. Lack Of Knowledge

If you look up to Betta sellers for proper information, you may be wrong. That’s why most Betta owners keep their Betta fish in small cups or containers. Aside from profit purposes, the reason can be their lack of knowledge and information.

Some Betta owners believe that Betta fish can tolerate poor water conditions. That’s why they do not hesitate to keep Betta fish in a small container.

4. Territorial Nature

Due to territorial temperament, Betta sellers choose to keep Betta fish separately. If you keep two aggressive Betta fish together, these fish may end up ripping each others’ fins. That’s why the Betta sellers keep each Siamese fighting fish alone in a small container.

4 betta collage
Owner: Ibrahim

11 Advantages Of Keeping Betta Fish In A Larger Tank

To keep your Betta fish healthy, you must provide a comfortable home with the required items. It’s pretty obvious to keep a filter, décor items, plants, and other things in the tank. So, a larger tank will provide more space to dwell happily for your Betta fish.

The bigger the tank, the better the life of your Betta fish.

Let’s check out the following 11 advantages of keeping Betta fish in a larger tank.

  1. A larger tank refers to a larger space. Since Betta fish are active fish, they will remain playful in a larger tank.
  2. No wonder, a larger tank will provide a large room to swim for Betta fish.
  3. You’ll have more room to decorate your Betta tank with a larger space.
  4. Due to higher water density, the water will take less time to become foul than a smaller tank.
  5. Your Betta fish will get a healthy environment. After all, there is less possibility of water parameter fluctuations.
  6. The leftover food, decaying matter, and poop of Betta fish add ammonia to the tank. It’ll create an ammonia spike that is toxic to Betta fish.
  7. A larger tank will reduce the risk of ammonia spike than a smaller tank.
  8. There will be less hassle of maintenance in cases of larger tanks.
  9. Since the water volume is higher in bigger tanks, there will not be a scarcity of dissolved oxygen.
  10. A larger tank provides a larger area. So, you can keep lots of hideouts for your Betta fish.
  11. In larger tanks, your Betta will be less likely to be stressed.

Betta Fish Tank Size: 4 Things To Consider Before Buying A Tank

Before running to the store, you should decide what type of Betta tank you’re looking for. There are a few things that you need to keep in consideration. Otherwise, your chosen tank may not be a comfortable home for your Betta fish.

Here are 4 things to consider before buying a tank.

1. Shape Of The Tank

Fish aquarium comes in a variety of sizes and shapes. You might notice Betta tanks of rectangular, cylindrical, circular, trapezoid, and other shapes. Now, you need to choose the perfect shaped tank for your Betta fish.

Sometimes, these tanks may have special features like a feeding hole. Some of these tanks may have an opening for easy maintenance.

Among these shapes, a rectangular shaped tank has a larger horizontal space. Due to its larger space, gas exchange will be easier in a rectangular-shaped Betta tank.

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2. Number Of Betta Fish To Keep

Before buying a tank, you must remain concerned about the number of Betta fish. Also, the number of their tank mates is another significant factor. Depending on the number of inhabitants, you should choose the right-sized Betta tank.

3. Things That You Add In The Tank

Another thing to consider is the number of elements to add to the tank. You might want to add a filter, plants, and décor items to your Betta tank. So, you must consider keeping some extra space for these things.

4. Having A Tank Lid

Finally, you should keep the consideration about having a tank lid. Since Betta fish are great jumpers, these fish often jump out of the tank. If you do not buy a tank with a lid, you should buy a separate tank lid for your Betta.

Can a betta survive in a small tank?

While betta fish can survive in small tanks or bowls for a short period of time, it is generally not recommended as their ideal habitat.

Bettas need a minimum of 5 gallons of water volume to thrive long-term.

In small containers under 1 gallon, bettas are more stressed and have a lower quality of life. They produce more waste in smaller volumes of water, which can lead to poor health.

Long-term confinement in small tanks or bowls is considered inhumane by many fishkeeping experts.

Bettas have been known to live 3-5 years in appropriately sized tanks of 5 gallons or more. However, in containers under 1 gallon their lifespan is typically much shorter due to issues from poor water quality.

While bettas have a labyrinth organ that allows them to breathe air as well as water, this is only an emergency adaptation, not a replacement for clean water conditions.

Overall, for the health and welfare of betta fish as living creatures, the recommended minimum tank.

white betta fish
Owner: SonicPavement

Betta Fish Behavior vs Tank Size

Here is a table comparing betta fish behaviors and temperaments in small vs large tanks:

Behavior/TemperamentSmall Tank (2-5gal)Large Tank (5gal+)
Displaying/FlaringPossible but limited spaceMore likely with more horizontal swimming space
Swimming/ExploringLimited movementMore active swimming and exploring territory
Interacting with tankmatesNot recommended/more aggressionPossible to keep peaceful tankmates
Building bubble nestsPossibleMore likely to nest with more secure space
Coloring up/fin displaysMay display colorsMore likely to fully display vibrant colors
JumpingMore likely due to confinementLess likely with more swimming room
Stress/AggressionMore stress and aggression risksLess stress, less aggression in spacious tank
Healthier overallBasic needs can be metThrive with more swimming space and stable water params

Suitable Tankmates For Betta Fish According To Tank Size

Suitable Tank MatesSmall Tanks (<2.5 gallons)Larger Tanks (5 gallons and up)
Snails (e.g., Nerite)PossibleSuitable
Shrimp (e.g., Ghost Shrimp)LimitedSuitable
Small Peaceful FishNot RecommendedSuitable (e.g., Harlequin Rasboras)
Corydoras CatfishNot RecommendedSuitable (in larger tanks)
Other Betta FishNot RecommendedPossible (with caution, e.g., female bettas in larger tanks)
African Dwarf FrogsNot RecommendedSuitable (with caution)
Loaches (e.g., Kuhli Loaches)Not RecommendedSuitable (in larger, well-planted tanks)

It’s important to note that bettas can be territorial, and not all tank mates are suitable regardless of tank size.

Water Changing Schedule According To Betta Fish Tank Size

Here is a chart comparing typical betta water change schedules for different tank sizes:

Tank SizeRecommended Water Change Schedule
2-3 gallons50% 1-2 times per week
5 gallons25-30% 1-2 times per week
10 gallons20-25% 1 time per week
20 gallons15-20% 1 time per week
30+ gallons10-15% 1 time per week

The smaller the tank volume, the more frequent and larger percentage water changes are needed to maintain adequate water quality parameters for betta fish. Large partial water changes are required in nano tanks 2-5 gallons 1-2 times weekly. As tank size increases, less water needs changing less often to balance the bioload

Do betta fish get bored in small tanks?

Yes, betta fish can become bored if kept in tanks that are too small and lack sufficient enrichment and stimulation.

While bettas can survive in small spaces like bowls or tanks under 5 gallons for a period of time, they may exhibit signs of boredom or stress if their environment does not provide enough interest and activity.

In small bare tanks or bowls, bettas do not have much to explore or interact with. Providing more decorations, live or silk plants, hides, and occasional rearranging can help prevent boredom in smaller homes according to this article.

Bettas are very active fish and enjoy exploring, so a more stimulating environment keeps them engaged. This Reddit post also confirms that bettas can experience stress from boredom if not given enough stimulation.

Overall, while bettas may survive in small spaces, tanks 5 gallons and up are better suited to meet

Do betta fish like being in small spaces?

Most evidence suggests that betta fish do not actually prefer small spaces, and typically do better with more room to swim.

While it’s often claimed that bettas like small spaces, this is likely a myth perpetuated by their ability to survive in small containers temporarily. In nature, bettas live in densely vegetated rice paddies and ponds that provide plenty of room to explore. 

Bettas do best in aquariums of at least 5 gallons with regular water changes, though larger tanks are preferable.

Bettas are active fish that enjoy swimming, building bubble nests, and exploring their environment. 

Before You Go…

I hope this article gave you a broad idea about why Betta fish do not like small tanks. If you have an artistic mind, you may appreciate the inspiring Betta tank design. To get more details, let’s take a tour at the following article.

35 Inspiring Planted Betta Tank Acquascaping Ideas [Underwater Paradise]

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Muntaseer Rahman

About Author

Hello, I’m Muntaseer Rahman, the owner of AcuarioPets.com. I’m passionate about aquarium pets like shrimps, snails, crabs, and crayfish. I’ve created this website to share my expertise and help you provide better care for these amazing pets.

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