Whether you’re the proud owner of a new betta fish or your betta is already part of the family, you might be wondering—what kind of water do betta fish need?
Water plays an important role in betta fish health. In this article, we’ll guide you through everything you need to know to maximize your betta’s comfort and lifespan.
Optimal Water Parameters for Betta Fish
Being mindful of the water in your betta’s fish tank is vital for its well-being. In a study performed by Maryville College, poor water quality increased the risk of a betta fish developing tissue necrosis, among other unwanted side effects.
Therefore, we’ll cover the six parameters you must know to keep your betta fish healthy and happy.
1. Betta Fish Water Temperature
Bettas thrive in a warm environment—and it’s no wonder, given that they’re from Southeast Asia.
As tropical fish, bettas need a water temperature between 76° and 80° F.
That said, bettas can suffer within this range if they experience an extreme temperature shift. For example, if you bring your betta fish home from the pet store where it lived in 77° F water, and you put it in 80° F water, it’ll be a shock to its system.
For that reason, it’s important to let your betta fish gradually adjust to water temperatures between different tanks. You can do this by placing them in a plastic bag with their original water and setting the bag in the new tank. That way, the water in the betta’s bag will slowly adapt to the new temperature.
Since water temperature consistency is so crucial for betta fish, we recommend purchasing a heater and thermometer. The heater will help maintain the temperature, and the thermometer will let you do a quick check every day that it’s running well.
2. pH for Betta Fish
Betta fish prefer neutral water, with a pH of 7.0. However, they can survive in water with pH levels that range from 6.5 to 7.5.
The good news is that tap water almost always falls within a pH range suitable for betta fish. To test the pH of the water you’re using, purchase a pH kit from your local pet store. Then, soak one of the pH sticks in the water you want to use and check its color against the color-coded chart.
As you’ll soon learn, it isn’t enough to assume that a proper pH balance makes the water okay for your betta fish. Instead, you should run various other tests if you’re unfamiliar with the makeup of your water.
As a word of caution, you should avoid using distilled water, even though it often has a neutral pH balance. Betta fish need trace minerals and nutrients in their water, which distilled water doesn’t offer.
3. Ammonia Levels for Betta Fish
Ammonia is a naturally occurring gas that dissolves in water. Your betta fish produces ammonia in its excretions and when it exhales.
Because your betta fish constantly produces ammonia, it’s impossible to get the ammonia levels to zero. However, you want to monitor the tank’s water to ensure that the ammonia level doesn’t rise more than 0.5 parts per million (ppm).
Ammonia is devastating to betta fish health because it can cause ammonia poisoning. If your betta is displaying any of the following symptoms, it’s a sign that it might have this deadly disease:
- Surfacing to gasp for air
- Gills changing to a red or purple color
- Body and fins have red streaks
- Inflammation around the eyes and anus
- Refusal to eat
If you catch the symptoms early enough, you can save your betta by removing the ammonia from the water with an ammonia detoxifier that you can purchase from your pet store.
4. Nitrates in Betta Tank
Nitrates are water-soluble ions that are naturally occurring in a betta fish’s environment. However, it’s important to keep a betta tank’s nitrate levels between 10 and 20 ppm.
Unwanted nitrate build-up usually occurs when you don’t change your betta’s water frequently enough. Luckily, nitrate isn’t as harmful to bettas as its sister ion nitrite, but it’s still important to monitor.
An excellent way to keep the nitrate level in your betta tank low is by using live plants, as they consume nitrate to stay alive.
If you test your betta’s water and notice a ppm above 20, we recommend changing 25% of the water. After four days, your betta time should have had enough time to adjust to the new water, meaning you can try switching out another 25% again. You could also place a nitrate-reducing pad in the water for good measure.
5. Nitrite Levels for Betta Fish
If you did a double-take when reading this title, we don’t blame you. However, nitrite is far more dangerous for your betta than nitrate. Like ammonia, you should ensure the nitrite level in your fish’s tank stays under 0.5 ppm.
It isn’t only the stats that make nitrite and ammonia similar—typically, as ammonia levels rise in a fish take, nitrite levels follow suit.
Since ammonia poisoning in bettas usually occurs before or simultaneously with nitrite poisoning, it can be difficult to distinguish which one your fish is suffering from. However, you might notice your betta showing symptoms and behaviors such as:
- Lingering around water outlets
- Gasping for air at the top of the water
- Gills turning brown
- Rapid gill movement
To reverse the symptoms of nitrite poisoning, change your betta’s water and treat it with aquarium salt.
6. Betta Fish GH KH Levels
GH and KH are the final two levels you should keep an eye on in your betta fish’s tank.
GH determines the amount of dissolved magnesium and calcium in the water. In other words, it monitors the water’s hardness. On the other hand, KH is a buffer that helps maintain pH levels. Below are the levels you should aim to keep your betta tank within:
- GH: 70 – 300 ppm
- KH: Over 80 ppm
Although GH depends on the water quality itself, the KH of a betta tank will drop the longer you wait to change the water. For this reason, regular water changes are vital to maintaining healthy KH levels.
How Often Do You Need to Change the Water in a Betta Fish Tank?
All of the parameters we discussed here share one thing in common—you can prevent issues from occurring by changing the water in your betta’s tank regularly.
A common mistake that new betta fish owners make is changing out all the tank water at once. Unfortunately, that can be deadly to your betta, as their system is sensitive to even a minor change.
For this reason, and assuming you run a filter, we recommend changing up to 20% of your betta’s water every seven to ten days.
Alternatively, you can aim to change a larger amount of the tank’s water every two or three weeks. In that case, it would be okay to change out up to 30% of the water at one time. However, we don’t recommend this option as your betta fish will have to work harder to adjust to the new water.
The bottom line is that your betta fish should thrive provided that you gradually and consistently change your betta’s tank with water that’s within the range of the parameters we covered.