Monday, September 10, 2012

The True Cost of Buying a Betta (Article)

Why Cheap Products Are Not Always Good Products

Photo by

Like all animals, betta fish are creatures that have very specific needs in order to live healthy, proper, lives. Although many pet stores may sell the idea that betta fish will thrive in any small space and are easy to take care of, this is a false gimmick used to sell products. In fact, many products labelled "betta" are often harmful and abusive to the fish. Some companies even go as far to market products such as "betta water," which is not only small in portion but is also no different than properly treated tap water. 

So what products are the right products? If companies cannot be trusted, then how can a new betta owner possibly know what is and is not meant for the fish?

It all comes down to research, essentially. While many betta purchases are made on impulse, usually alongside these dangerous or useless betta-marketed products, it is not hard to correct care mistakes and help the creature live a proper life. Do not, however, think that a betta fish will be an inexpensive pet to keep. Think carefully before purchasing this and all other animals. They are more costly than often what is expensive.

Betta Must-Haves 

Betta fish need more than just a tank, food, and water to thrive. They should only be kept in certain tanks, the larger being better for both fish and owner. As for food and water, both of those things need be of certain standard or else they will risk killing the fish. Here is a list of what is appropriate, why, and rough cost estimates.

The Tank

Photo by Betta Fish Awareness Day

Despite what stores may advertise, it is cruel to house any aquatic animal in a tank less than 1 gallon. The small the gallon size, the quicker dangerous chemicals such as ammonia build up inside the water. The only way to combat these chemicals is by doing water changes. As a result, larger tanks need to be cleaned less often than smaller tanks. It is recommended to purchase a 5 gallon tank with a filter, so the water can be cycled. If that size does not fit budget or living situation, then the next lowest recommended size is 2.5 gallons. For more information about water chemicals, cycling, and water changes, please see our upcoming water conditions article.

Ideally, the tank should have more horizontal space than vertical. 

2.5 gallon tanks can range anywhere from $15 to $35, depending on store and brand. Some may cost less, but this is the average estimated price.

5 gallon tanks can range anywhere from $15 to $50, usually toward the higher end of the scale. Again, it depends on the store and the brand.

If you cannot afford a tank that holds at least 1 gallon or more, do not purchase a betta at all. These tanks are abusive and even illegal in countries that more strongly regulate animal abuse laws.

A Tank Lid/Cover

Betta fish jump. They can jump half a foot into the air. Jumping kills many betta fish, as they usually go discovered until it is too late. Having a lid on a tank can save betta lives. Even though a fish may not start out as a jumper, there is a good chance for spontaneous leaps out of water. 

Lids/covers usually come with tanks. Stores sell them as additional parts for varying prices.

Water Conditioner

Seachem Prime, one of the many recommended water conditioners.

This is one of the most important things to purchase. Water conditioner makes water safe for the betta to live in and removes harmful chemicals in it, such as chlorine. Prime is one of the best conditioners and removes some of the most harmful elements.

Conditioner goes from around $3 to $5 and lasts a long time.

The Heater

Elite brand heater, a highly recommended and reliable product. 

Betta fish are tropical fish and need to remain in water between 75-85 degrees. Water can easily drop 10 degrees over night, which can cause very uncomfortable living conditions for the betta fish and even cause lethargy. Again, this is something a betta cannot be without. The only exception to the rule is if location of the household the betta will live in is very warm, with room temperature not dropping below 78 degrees at night. Some places during summer time can get like this but during other seasons a heater may be needed. Having a light on a tank is NOT a substitute for a heater.

The best heater to purchase is one with adjustable levels and the appropriate watts for the size of the tank it needs to heat. The product usually says on the package up to how many gallons it will work for. Heaters can be in the form of pads or wands, usually wands being the better choice.

Heaters can cost anywhere from $15 to $30, depending on the brand and size tank they must heat.

Hiding Places and Decor

While most people do not consider a decoration like a cave to be essential, betta fish actually need these to mantain good stress-free health. These fish like to explore and feel secure in hiding spots. A cave, tunnel, pot, or other similar decoration that is aquarium-friendly makes for a good hiding spot. All openings in hiding spots must be larger than a quarter or else the betta risks getting stuck, ripping apart fins, or even dying from suffication.

Plants are also good additions to tanks as betta fish do need stimulation and will enjoy exploring plants or hiding in them. Fabric plants are most recommended for betta fish because they have delicate fins and tails, which can tear and shred easily on harsher decorations.

Prices really vary depending what style the fish keeper enjoys most.


A suction-cup aquarium thermometer.

This is a cheap, much needed, tool that helps monitor the proper conditions of a betta fish's tank. These come either as floating or suctioncup attachable. Ones with suction cups are generally better for reading.

Thermometers can rang from $4-$7, depending on brand and store.

Water Testing Kits

A liquid-based master water test kit.

Depending on whether or not the tank is cycled, certain water test kits can be needed. Some only test pH while others test for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, and total alkalines. The second is what a betta needs. Water conditions are what determine the quality of life for a betta and knowing what the conditions are can save a betta's life. 

Water testing kits can cost anywhere from $5 to $30. This gap is due to what the tests check for, the brand, and whether or not strips are used for the readings. 


One of the many gravel variants. 

This is essentially a fancy word for gravel or any floor-covering substance. Some people use gravel, others use sand or rocks specifically meant for aquariums. Substrate not only makes the tank look nice but it also traps the poop down at the bottom and keeps dirt from constantly floating around. It also holds down decorations and plants, in some cases.

Substrate can rang from $5-$10 depending on how much, and what kind, is desired or needed.

Cleaning Supplies

A gravel vacuum, one of the many cleaning supplies that may be needed to keep your betta tank clean.

Tanks need to be cleaned whether they are cycled or not. A betta holding container, fish net, gravel vacuum, bucket, and many other supplies are needed to clean a tank, depending on cleaning method and size.

Cleaning supplies can range from $10 to $30, depending on many factors.


Betta food needs to be high in protein, with Omega One brand and Hikari brand often being a betta keeper's brand of choice. No matter the brand, the food should contain at least 38% crude protein. Pellets are recommended over flake food because flakes cause the water to get dirty faster, leading to higher ammonia build up. It is also harder to judge how much food to give if not using pellets, which is why they are recommended.

Food costs around $2 to $5 and lasts a very long time.



An aquarium sponge filter.

Not all tanks can use a filter but it is HIGHLY recommended that any tank 5 gallons or more be equipped with one in order to cycle the tank, making water changes easier and removal of the fish during changes no longer required. Filters need to gentle, so one that produce high currents are not recommended. Some tanks come with filters but they may need to be replaced for this reason.

Filters can range vastly in price depending on tank size, brand, and store.


Many tanks come with lights. A betta needs a light source but an artificial one is not needed. As long as the tank gets light and give the fish adequete light to see and enjoy, it will do fine. Lights are nice to have and add extra character to aquarium set ups, as well as being useful during rainy days or early winter nights. Just make sure to turn the light off before bed--a betta will not sleep properly with a light on.


Freeze-dried bloodworm treat by Tetra.

Many people consider this a critical food source but that is false. Bloodworms are like chocolate for humans; too many lead to health problems and pure reliance will lead to death. Bloodworms are great treats for betta fish but should be used sparingly.


Betta fish do play and interact with toys. Ping pong balls, properly washed, are often favorites. Betta logs and hammocks are also products that the fish will enjoy using because they give it a place to hide and explore. Interaction is a great benefit for betta fish and helps bring out their pesonaalities. Toys can be store bought specifically tailored for fish or items as simple as floating objects.


  1. This is a wonderful piece on what you need to buy for a Betta! What I wish I had known, and I did know most of what is in this post before I bought my Betta, was what you needed to know before you bought a Betta. Tank cycling is one thing I wish I had known about. It was briefly mentioned in most of what I had read but there was no emphasis on it. As a result my poor Betta suffered from ammonia burns despite what I though was frequent enough water changes. I wish I had know more about Betta behavior and What is needed to take care of a sick Betta as well.

    Thank you for starting this blog and for your Facebook page.

  2. Thank you for your support!

    There is going to post an article entirely dedicated to cycling. Because it can be a complicated subject for beginners to understand, a separate article dedicated to water conditions and a separate article dedicated to the nitrogen cycle will be released in order to not overload the reader with too much information.

  3. Eco neighborly exercises must be acknowledged and for pond upkeep you should picked non harmful items like EPDM Pond Liner Repair which is Eco-accommodating and great in results.