Selecting and Setting Up a Betta Fish Tank

How do I select and set up my Betta aquarium?

To answer this question, I will use Marineland Eclipse 5 as an example, because it's such a popular fish tank. But you can substitute any other brand or type, if you wish.

1. Size

Would an Marineland Eclipse 5 gallon Aquariums be right for your Betta fish? How can you be sure? Exactly how big should your Betta's home be? Let's get really scientific. There is a simple guideline to follow: you will need one gallon of water per one inch of adult Betta fish.

Since adult Bettas are generally about 2-3 inches long, a minimum Betta fish tank will be two to three gallons. Most "good Betta parents" add a gallon for good measure and that's how we arrive at a 3-4 gallon tank. That's an adequate Betta fish tank size.

If you really love your little finned friend, you get more generous with his living space and decide for more than a "minimum" - a size which will allow him plenty of room to exercise his fins, find places to hide and discover and never get bored. Remember, his tank will be his whole life. He doesn't get to take walks in the park. So, the ideal Betta fish tank size is 5-gallons. Marineland Eclipse 5 gallon aquariums are therefore an ideal starting tank for a single Betta.

There are some things you will need to do in preparation for your Betta's arrival. That's why it's best to get all your supplies about a week before you actually get your fish.

Besides size, there will be other choices for you to make.

2. Glass vs Acrylic

For example, should you get a glass or an acrylic tank? There are the pros and cons to both. Glass tanks are heavier and they can break when struck with a heavy object (not recommended!). Glass is also the most hygienic of materials. It is non-porous and that's one of the reasons it's been traditionally used by many aquarists for so many years. It is also cheaper than acrylic. It's scratch-resistant which makes for a beautiful, clear view of the interior of the aquarium for many years to come.

Acrylic does have its advantages, however. Besides being lightweight (it weighs half of what glass does), it also insulates about 20% better than glass and can thus save on your electric bill. That's why popular models such as Marineland Eclipse 5 use acrylic.

3. Ideal Site

    * Presumably you won't be moving your Betta fish tank around much once you set it up. Water is heavy. One gallon weighs about 8 pounds... So decide where you will put it with some forethought.
    * Put it where it will have enough space to comfortably fit on. You don't want it where it can be easily pushed off or ran into.
    * Don't place it in direct sunlight, heating or air conditioning unit. Also avoid areas that are drafty. Remember, consistency of your Betta's water temperature is one of the most important factors in Betta care.
    * Place it where there will be enough light during the day and dark and quiet during the night. Your Betta will need its rest and yes, Bettas do sleep...
    * Avoid also any sources of constant vibrations, such as washing machines or stereos.

4. Gravel and Sand

If you are thinking of using live plants, you may need a layer of sand at the bottom of your aquarium for the plants to grow their roots in. Also, check out whether your Betta's future tank mates like to burrow in the aquarium floor. In that case you will also need sand for them. A good mixture of gravel and sand will usually be best.

You must get your sand and gravel from a pet store (online or near you). If you don't get the stuff that is "approved for aquarium use", it most likely will poison your Betta. Most products contain additives and chemicals your Betta would not be able to handle.

5. Tank decorations

Don't use any metallic objects in your Betta fish tanks. Most metals leech chemicals into the water which will poison your Betta. Also, do not use fabric plants in your Betta tank. All decorations need to be smooth as not to pose danger to your Betta's fins.

Make sure you place some decorations in the tank for your Betta to hide behind. Bettas love privacy!

Watch for any small holes in the tank decorations that Bettas might get stuck in. They need to be encouraged to explore, but without any such risks!

6. Tank set up before acquiring fish

This is the most important thing of all - get your tank, set it up and age and condition your water at least a week in advance of bringing home your fish, if not longer. Trying to do it all at once is the most common mistake new aquarists make.

More on the Betta fish tanks in later articles.

Happy Betta keeping!