One of the most unpopular things for any aquarist is tank maintenance and cleaning, though it forms an integral part of your care routine for your fish, especially Betta fish. Betta fish can easily become stressed and fall prey to disease and pests if left in a tank with poor water conditions.
Though it may seem like a dreaded task, with the right tools and following an easy procedure, the task should be a breeze, and you will relish in the result of maintaining a healthy aquarium for your Betta Fish.
Before getting into Cleaning your Betta fish tank it is vital to gather a bit more information on the species itself, and their particular care needs. Bettas are generally beginner-friendly fish that are very popular among aquarists, though there are a few facts about them that need to be conveyed.
Betta Fish Species Summary
The Betta fish or Siamese fighter fish as it is also known is native to Southeast Asia. They were initially domesticated and used as fighting fish in Thailand in gambling games.
The Betta Genus contains over 73 recognized species, though we are mostly familiar with the Betta splendens, as they are known. Most wild Betta fish are relatively dull with a gray-green color, and short fins, absolutely nothing like the exquisite specimens that have spectacular colors and long fins, found today.
Today, through selective breeding Betta fish are a popular favorite in the aquarium trade for their vibrant color variations and bold personalities.
Betta fish come in a vast array of solid and bi-colors and similarly different tail and fin shapes. They are intelligent and relatively peaceful, however fierce towards their species, especially males, who will fight each other to the death.
Betta Fish Size And Lifespan
Most Bettas have a lifespan of between 3-5 years, however with optimal care they can live much longer, and cases where they have lived up to 8 or 9 years have been reported.
You will notice that the Betta male will have much more exuberant colors and larger flowing fins than the females, though both are relatively similar in size. Bettas will rarely grow much larger than 6-8cm (2.5 – 3) inches and are ideal for smaller aquariums.
Betta Fish Care Needs
From what can be gathered looking at the species by the fish and where they come from, it is important that you always keep a single male and never keep two or more males together as they will fight to the death when kept. Females, on the other hand, need to keep at least four or more females because they form a hierarchy which is called a sorority, when there are only two females one will severely dominate the other.
Betas can be kept on their own or in a communal tank, though technically true that a single betta fish can live in a small unheated bowl. It is extremely unhealthy and you will not have a happy betta in this situation. So, let’s look a bit further into their care requirements.
- Tank Size – For a group of four females a 20–30-gallon tank is suitable, whereas for a single male, a 10-to-20-gallon tank will suffice.
- Water Parameters – Bettas are tropical fish that prefer higher temperatures of around 24.4-27.8°C (76-82°F), and a water pH of around 7.0 or higher, a good filter with a slow to moderate current is similarly required.
- Tank Décor – Bettas are notorious jumpers, so place a lid on the tank, though keep in mind to leave space between the layer of water and the lid, as they breathe air from the surface of the water when needed. A fine gravel or sand substrate is adequate, with décor of your choice, such as natural or synthetic plants, caves, and rocks. Indian Almond leaves or Bogwood are good choices as they release beneficial tannins for your fish.
- Feeding – Most carnivores in the wild prefer meaty proteins such as daphnia, brine shrimp, and bloodworm. Though a staple of flakes and pellets can be fed daily.
- Temperament – Contrary to the aggressive behavior Betta is relatively peaceful towards other fish species. Males may show aggressive behavior towards other species that are similar in appearance to them, such as fish species with long flowing tails and fins. Males can never be kept with other mouths. However, females can be kept if they are kept in a group of four or more females
- Breeding – Breeding Betta fish is not to be taken lightly. It is achievable; however, you need to follow the correct procedure, especially when introducing a male and female. The male builds a bubble nest at the surface of the tank where the female will lay her eggs. The male will fertilize them and then chase the female away. The male will take care of the eggs and the young.
- Compatible Tank Mates – Bettas get along with most other peaceful fish species, though males may nip at the fins of fish with flashy colors and longer fins such as Guppies, because they may confuse them with males from their species for the most part, and can be jealous and territorial of other “better looking” fish than themselves. A few good tank mates are:
- Harlequin Rasboras
- Neon Tetras
- Chili Rasboras
- Rummy Nose Tetras
- Bottom feeders include Kuhli Loaches, Oto and Cory Catfish, and Bristlenose Pleco
- Common Ailments – Bettas are prone to fungal and bacterial infections and pests such as parasites and worms. The most common illnesses are Fin Rot, Ich, and Dropsy. Most of these conditions are caused by poor water conditions, physical damage, or parasites introduced by new unquarantined fish and plants.
How To Clean Betta Fish Tanks
Cleaning your Betta fish tank, especially as a beginner fish owner, may seem like a daunting task, however, it is much easier than it may sound, and it won’t take too much of your time. From the information that will be given, you will know how to clean your Betta tank and how to do regular maintenance step by step as well as how often.
Your first step in keeping your Betta fish tank clean is a good quality filter:
The Importance Of A Filter
Unless you want to clean your Betta tank every day and cycle the water yourself, a Filter will take the effort off your hands. A good filter with a moderate current such as an under gravel, or hang-on back filter is necessary.
- Filters clean the water of small particles to create beneficial bacteria from fish waste and to reduce ammonia into a safer compound.
- The filter circulates the water in the tank and aerates the water to produce more oxygen, oxygen is vital for your aquarium inhabitants to survive as much as it is for humans.
According to many advanced aquarists that specialize in Betta fish, the following are good choices in filters;
- An Internal Filter such as an under gravel or corner filter
- A back-hanging filter
- A sponge Filter for smaller set-ups with single or fewer Bettas
Steps For Regular Maintenance
Weekly regular maintenance is advised for a Betta tank, where there are other fish or more than one Betta, and the tank is under ten gallons. For larger tanks and fewer fish bi-weekly water changes can be performed.
Weekly / Bi-weekly maintenance includes:
Cleaning and removing visible elements from your tank. These include dead leaves, visible fish waste, and leftover foods.
Doing a water change:
- Siphon at least 25% of the water from your tank from the bottom of the tank, ensuring that you siphon most of the waste from the bottom.
- In a separate container prepare fresh water and add the needed water conditions to achieve proper water parameters.
- Ensure that the water is heated to the required temperatures and use your testing kit to test the pH and water parameters.
- Refill the tank with the new conditioned water.
You should not remove your Betta fish for maintenance, as your fish may easily become stressed, this step is only reserved for when a full cleaning is performed.
A few helpful tools for maintenance include:
- Syphoning Hose – To remove water from the bottom of the tank.
- Aquascape Tools – To pick up dead leaves and move around items in the tank.
- Vacuum – For vacuuming dirt and debris, or leftover food.
Steps For A Full Cleaning
Following are the steps for more in-depth cleaning of your Betta tank, which will be performed much less frequently, but remains necessary from time to time.
1. Cleaning The Filter
Never clean the filter at the same time as doing a water change or full tank clean. The filter contains beneficial bacteria that will be required to maintain proper water parameters in a newly cycled and cleaned tank. You only need warm water and a sponge to clean the filter. The cartridges and bio media can be replaced if needed. Otherwise, you can just rinse the Bio Media and cartridges.
Tools Required For Full Cleaning
- A good algae scrubber or sponge for cleaning the tank and decor.
- A gravel Vacuum.
- Razor for cleaning the tank sides.
- Containers for the décor and fish.
- Toothbrush for cleaning decor.
- AquaScaping or Grabbing Tools.
- Water Conditioners.
- A net for Scooping Fish.
- Thermometer to test the water temperatures, which is integrally a part of your tank set-up.
- Water Testing Kit.
2. Preparing To Clean Your Tank
- Wash your hands and disinfect them, you can use gloves to prevent getting an infection from the tank water if you have open sores on your hands.
- Start by removing plants and décor from the tank slowly and placing items in a separate container, without stressing out your fish.
- Turn off all aquarium equipment and the lights, and ensure that everything is properly plugged out.
3. Removing Algae
Use your Razor or algae scraper to scrape all the algae from the walls of your tank. Use a plastic razor on acrylic tanks.
Remove The Water And Clean The Gravel
- Use a Gravel Vacuum to clean the gravel removing any debris and fish waste.
- Use a separate bucket with the vacuum to siphon the water and the waste into.
- Now you can remove all the water from the tank and rinse the tank with gravel thoroughly, and follow again by siphoning the water with the vacuum.
4. Cleaning Decorations
Synthetic plants and decorations can be cleaned in a separate container using boiling or warm water and a toothbrush or scrub brush. To use bleach a ratio of 95% water and 5% bleach can be used.
Cleaning your Betta tank successfully and properly should not be too long or difficult of a task, depending on your set-up. Try to work fast to reduce the time your Bettas are in a separate container.
After properly cleaning your tank and all other items, you can replace all the décor in your tank, and place the filter back if needed. Warm filtered water can be added along with all the necessary water conditions. A testing kit will be required to test water parameters and a thermometer to get the right temperatures again. Allow the tank to cycle for a while before reintroducing your Bettas one at a time.
How Often To Clean A Betta Fish Tank
Unfortunately, the answer to this depends entirely on your tank size, setup, and the number of fish you have in your tank.
- In a 10-to-15-gallon tank with a good quality filter with a single Betta fish, you can get away with cleaning once every six to 8 months.
- If you do not have a filter in the tank cleaning must be done monthly.
- In a tank with a larger population of fish such as a communal tank, more regular 4- 6-month cleanings may be necessary.
In all honesty, the best advice found so far is to check when your tank becomes dirty and algae start building up substantially, it may be necessary to clean the tank. Similarly, it is vital to use a testing kit to check on the water parameters, especially ammonia build up which can be quite detrimental for your Betta fish.
Methods To Keep A Betta Fish Tank Clean
There are a few additions to your tank that essentially help to reduce the need for cleaning:
- As mentioned, a Filter will do most of the cleaning and cycling of the tank and is a necessity.
- Some Live plants similarly help to clean your tank and keep the water oxygenated.
- Some fish species known as algae eaters are known to clean your tank and items in the tank by feeding on the algae.
- Bottom-feeding fish species feed on leftover foods at the bottom of the tank.
- Snails and shrimps similarly feed on food wastes and algae to help keep your tank clean.
Keeping your Betta fish tank well maintained and clean is an integral part of keeping Betta fish. They need clean water and a healthy environment to thrive in and to prevent pests and diseases from affecting their wellbeing.
As mentioned, how often you need to clean or maintain your tank will largely depend on the size of the tank, and the population of fish you are keeping. In the case where there are fewer fish or a single Betta, or with larger tank setups, less frequent maintenance, and cleaning may be required.
One last interesting fact: Did you know that Betta fish have a labyrinth organ that ideally allows them to suck oxygen from the air to the surface of the tank, rather than their gills. However, if you catch them doing this, it unfortunately means there is inadequate oxygen in your tank!