Understanding Betta Fish Water Issues

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Betta fish water. A rather mundane but critically important topic when it comes to proper betta fish care. Because the quality of the water you keep your bettas is makes all the difference. Good water equals healthy fish. Poor water equals listless, lifeless, lethargic fish that will likely check out well before their time.

Which perhaps is why so many new betta keepers have so many questions about the topic of the kind and quality of water you keep your beta fish in. Along the lines of

  • Can you keep fighting fish in distilled water?
  • What about tap water?
  • Is water at room temp good? If not, what’s the ideal betta fish water temperature?
  • What does it mean when you see the term “aged water”?

Let’s see if we can’t clear these up one at a time, okay?

Now as far as can betta fish live in tap water that answer would be yes. Aged tap water is probably your best bet when it comes to the type of water you keep your fish in. (Aged water being water that has sat at least 24 hours to let the chlorine escape.) Especially if you don’t use a heater. Since it will be the same temp as the water you are replacing – room temperature.

Or you can use water you’ve conditioned to get the chlorine and other bad stuff out. That should be okay too. Again if you give it a chance to warm up some before dumping it in because water straight from the tap can be on the cold side sometimes.

So unless there is something seriously wrong with your tap water, you know something that keeps you from drinking it, by all means use water from the tap.

Bottled water works thought too for some.

Just not distilled water. Distilled water lacks minerals essential for a healthy fish. So long term you fish would actually be worse for wear if you were to keep them in distilled water. Sure it sounds perfect and all. Pure water. But it’s not perfect for your bettas.

Now the ideal water temperature for beta fish is 75-80ºF (24-27ºC). Betta Splendens, being tropical fish and all, prefer water in the warmer temperature range. Temperatures too cool and you’re exposing your fish to disease. Higher temps and your fish will begin to show signs of distress.

Changing Betta Fish Water – How Often?

How often you need to change the water depends on the size of the tank (note not bowl), whether you have a filter, and the number of fish. Depending on those factors you may need to do water changes every other day, weekly or twice a week. Changing 10%, 25% or half the water or more. Guess I’m trying to say there is no one right answer without knowing more about your set up.

Cycled Tank?

Now you may see also mention of having a “cycled tank” in regard to the water you keep your feisty Siamese fighting fish in and wonder what the heck does that mean? It’s good to be curious about this. Good for your fish.

All the term cycled tank means is the water has a sufficient number of the needed bacteria to manage the ammonia and nitrites levels. Think of it as being balanced. The ammonia being produced by the waste is being converted into less harmful compounds or siphoned off with your less frequent water changes. (Changing 10% of the water once the tank is cycled is likely to be enough). Which means you’ve got a healthy environment for your fish. Otherwise water with too much ammonia in it can be fatal to the fish.

That insight aside, to know where you stand, obviously, you need a water test kit. So you can get accurate readings on the ammonia and nitrate levels. Rather than get into all that here, this article on the nitrogen cycle tells you most of what you need to know. Including how to cycle an aquarium set up with and without fish.

Of course when you get the water right, you get fish that put on a show like this:

Final Betta Water Tip: Another bad combo is heavily finned male betta fish and heavily aerated water. With those billowy fins too much water movement isn’t good. The fish will constantly feel like it’s swimming upstream. So do what you can to tame the flow of return water from your filter. Somewhat moving but mostly calm water is best for your fish’s overall health.

In any case, you should now know more about maintaining high quality betta fish water. Water that all but guarantees you’ll have fish that will live a good long time while providing hours of entertainment and pleasure.

About Lucas
Putting a name with a face I'm Lucas Smatana. Like you I'm passionate about betta fish and hope to share my enthusiasm. The idea here is to make sure you get helpful info and useful ideas on betta fish care that really work. To insure your betta keeping experience is a good one both for you and your fish. So that you and your pet enjoy a long, happy and healthy relationship.

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9 Responses to “Understanding Betta Fish Water Issues”

  1. kristen says:

    Can you use bottled water for betta if so does it need to be treated?

  2. Dee Killpack says:

    I just got a Betta fish and plan tomorrow to get filter tank I have read that I need a 5 gallon tank for him. I also would like to know if the water treatment that I got for the tank is okay? The tank that I am looking into getting is a 1 gallon tank. How ofter would I need to change that tank? This tank does come with a light on it, should I leave that light on all the time to keep the temp just right?

    • Lucas says:

      A one gallon tank is in my opinion too small. The 5 gallon would be better, yes. Counting on a light to heat it is a bad idea. One, it won’t work that well and two, bettas need a day/night cycle just like any other animal so it’s not good to leave the light on 24/7. To keep the temp steady a heater is a better way to go.

  3. Kelley says:

    The guy at the pet store is a big Betta fan. He was full of great info, but he said distilled water. Everywhere I read it says not distilled. I want to keep it simple, so what type of water can I buy by the gallon, spring water? Also, I would like to keep the Betta on my coffee table, so without an electrical outlet, is there a way to keep him warm? My house is around 72 degrees this time of year.

    • Lucas says:

      The guy at the pet store may be a warehouse of good info, but unfortunately he is wrong about the distilled water. There are none of the minerals your betta needs to be found in distilled water. Spring water might be okay. I simply age tap water. By that I mean I let it sit for 24 hours to rid it of the chlorine. As far as keeping him warm the only way to be sure you keep his water warm enough it with a heater. 72 isn’t terrible but it’s somewhat short of the optimal temp.

  4. Maryn Papineau says:

    Hi! I’ve recently acquired a betta from a Repticon exhibit for my daughter’s 5th birthday (don’t fret- the 2.5 G tank is in my room, not hers) & he seems to be thr5v5ng… He’s very active, but he also sleeps in his wee “house” and he eats like a champ.. But I’ve got a few concerns. I think I need a heater. My house too is around 70 degrees (it’s winter here in Baltimore), and I was kind-of relying on the light to warm the tank, but I turn it off at night for him to sleep so like you say- not consistent. What kind of heater do I get for a 2.5 G Aqueon Minibow? 2ndly, How often do I change/cycle the water? Should I do 25% (40 oz) or more like 10%? And lastly, friends of ours researched tankmates & got 2 apple snails & they joined the tank last night. So now it’s a betta and 2 small snails… The woman at Petco recommended a peace lily (I had been hoping to put a live plant in the tank, since I hear they love the roots for playing & it’s good for biology of the tank) & she told us to put it right down in the tank, but when I read the directions once we were home, it said to leave the leaves up & out of the water, just submerging the roots (but of course our mini tank has a lid with a light & such)… Any ideas?
    Thank you so very much,
    Maryn & Maggie

  5. Marilyn says:

    I recently bought a betta bowl aquarium kit for betta, I used a partition in the middle and and added 2 male bettas, should I upgrade to a larger tank. I don”t want them to die

  6. Marilyn Volk says:

    I have a betta in what is called a fish garden. It has not been eating for the past 4 weeks. Currently he hides himself in the roots of the plant until I move him to clean his bowl. He does swim if he is not in his regular bowl. I have tried the pea treatment, but it turns its nose up at the pea. I am ready to try the Epsom salt bath, but don’t know how much salt to add to the bowl. Help please.

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