So maybe you got snookered by a Walmart employee. Or you saw a vase with a plant and a betta in it at the craft store and were thrilled that you could get a fish that only needed as much care as a plant.
But that was then. Now, somebody took you aside and quietly let you know there’s a problem. Or maybe you googled your new betta fish on a whim, and now you don’t know what to do, because your setup is a fishy torture chamber.
Whoops. Now what?
Here’s my quick and dirty guide to a better life for your betta without breaking the bank.
Note: prices and availability shift and change. Prices are accurate as of writing, but look around a bit. Things change.
Basically, the minimum things your betta needs to have a decent life are:
- Enough room to move around
- A filter so he isn’t swimming in his own shit all day
- Warmth — ah, sweet warmth
- A secure lid so he doesn’t commit suicide (no, really)
- And this one is for you… a light so you can actually see him as he’s acting all happy and cute in his amazing new home
Sounds expensive, doesn’t it?
Well, the good news is that it doesn’t have to be. You can do all this without breaking the bank.
Get a (5 gallon minimum) fish tank kit. Plastic or glass, doesn’t matter. Both are fine. The good news is that there are a lot of reasonably priced options here.
A good aquarium kit will come with a tank, a lid for the tank, a filter, and a hood light.
Wow, that was easy! That knocks off most of the items you need: room to move, light, filtration, a lid — all in one fell swoop.
So the bottom line: price.
If you want to get the least expensive option, you can get a 5 gallon kit like this for $40 on Amazon right now. Not bad, eh? (You might get a slightly better deal at a big box pet store, so don’t be afraid to look around.)
If you want to go for something a little higher quality (as I would personally recommend), add just another $20 to your budget — like this or this. Of course, you could also spend tons of money if you really want to!
Try typing “5 gallon fish tank” into Amazon. Or again, visit a big box pet store.
Note: If a five gallon tank sounds kind of big to you, it really doesn’t take up that much room, and five gallons is considered the tipping point where it becomes much, much easier to keep the water stable and clean in general. (In other words, way less work for you, and way safer for Mr. Betta.)
If the footprint still seems too much, try a “tall” 5 gallon tank instead of a long, short one. That’s only about a square foot of shelf space.
Ok, now that we’ve seen it won’t break the bank to get a tank, that still leaves us with one major item: warmth.
Because you have a 5 gallon tank instead of a tiny bowl or box, you can get a heater that actually does a decent job. Here’s a good option in my opinion (I have the 50 watt version of this for my little 8 gallon betta tank).
This heater is rated for 2-7 gallons, based on the second product image that Amazon shows. I would personally not put it (or a betta) in anything smaller than a 5 gallon tank, because keeping temperature stable in a smaller tank is harder and there’s some risk of injuring your betta with accidental over-temperature.
The way a heater like this works is you twist the knob to change the heat setting, and then give it a few hours and consult your tank thermometer to see how the results actually relate to reality. Don’t believe the numbers printed on the heater. They are guesses, not accurate.
So… you do need a thermometer. Here’s one. (Currently $3.99)
There are a few more things you may want, but aren’t truly necessary at this point — like gravel, silk or live plants (danger: don’t get plastic ones!), or other “betta-safe” decor. (Translation of betta-safe: if panty-hose would snag on it, so can your betta, and cut his delicate fins).
You can do without these things, though your betta will be much, much happier with some things in his tank to interact with. (Plus, it’s funny to watch him.) But we’re trying to not break the bank today, so you can always add these things later.
So that’s it! Let’s add it up:
$39.99 (5 gallon tank kit with light, filter, and lid)
That comes to a grand total of $59.27
Not a bad price for taking a sad song and making it better, so to speak.
I hope this article has shown you that doing right by your betta fish doesn’t have to be intimidating, or even that expensive. You can do it on a budget, and you can do it in a way that means you’ll even get to enjoy watching your little guy more. A win all around. So take the plunge today — un-bowl your betta!
One last note: if you don’t have it already (I assume you do, but you never know), you need a basic water conditioner to make your tap water safe to add to a fish tank. You also need betta food, of course, the kind with lots of good quality protein. (Bettas aren’t vegetarians, they aren’t designed to eat plants or roots!) I’m hoping you already have these things, though, since you should have gotten them at the same time as whatever container Mr. Betta has been living in.
If you are just preparing to buy a Mr. Betta, go google “fish-less aquarium cycle” first. If you already have a betta, that is a fish-in cycle (that one can be googled too), and basically you will need to keep doing a bunch of water changes at first until the filter gets up to speed, which could take a while. Cheers!