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Keeping Bettas: Why You Need a Planted Tank

Keeping Bettas: Why You Need a Planted Tank

Written by: Tammy (@aquarist_tland Team Buce Plant

Betta fish are one of the most popular species in the aquarium hobby. It’s easy to get captivated by their vibrant colors and gorgeous finnage. They are available in so many types, species, and styles. Although usually sold in cups or tiny containers, I believe these beautiful fish deserve beautiful homes that make them feel safe and comfortable. Planted aquariums check all of the boxes for a great betta environment. Not only do planted tanks look good, they also provide a multitude of benefits for betta fish. 

When It Comes to Water Parameters

Bettas are a common option when fishkeepers are considering what fish to add to their nano tanks. They make great feature fish for nano tanks. A vital fact to keep in mind about small aquariums is that it is easier for water parameters to fluctuate. This includes temperature, pH, hardness, and very importantly: the water quality. If you don’t know about the importance of the nitrogen cycle, read about it by clicking here. Basically, all the fish waste, rotten food, and other decaying organics will release ammonia (which is toxic to fish) into the aquarium. In a cycled tank, this ammonia should eventually turn into nitrates (which is tolerable at low amounts for fish). 

As aquarists, we do water changes to keep the nitrate level in the tank low. In nano tanks, the nitrate levels will increase a lot faster than in larger aquariums because of the smaller volume of water. Having aquatic plants will help with this issue because plants are natural filters. They take up nitrates and ammonia as “food” sources, helping keep the water cleaner and the parameters more stable. 

  • Tip: Betta fish prefer tanks with low flow, so a filter with an adjustable flow rate like the Mighty Aquarium HOB Filter would be a great fit for your betta aquarium!

Still on the topic of water parameters, another reason planted tanks are great for bettas is because most aquarium soils soften and lower the pH of the aquarium water. Although most bettas have now adapted to be able to tolerate hard water, they are still considered a soft water fish. Especially most wild type bettas, which are often found and kept in blackwater conditions. Bettas will essentially be more comfortable in softer water that is slightly acidic or neutral. Planted tank substrates can help fishkeepers with harder water reach these more suitable conditions. UNS Controsoil, for example, keeps the pH of alkaline water below 7. 

  • Tip: Driftwood also helps soften the water by leaching tannins overtime. They also make great natural decorations in planted aquariums! 

betta fish


Create a Comfortable Environment

Betta fish are very interactive fish that like to explore their tank and find their own territories. In plain tanks with no decoration or anything for the bettas to swim around, they can get bored. Some bettas grow so weary of having nothing to do that they develop self-destructive behaviors like biting their own tails. Bettas with long fins can chew on their own tails, which could lead to infection and then sadly, death. 

In a planted tank, there are a lot of things within the aquarium for the betta to interact with. It can search for food that fell in the foliage, dig through the substrate, and swim through hardscape and aquatic plants within the aquarium. Another element of planted tanks that keeps a betta interested is the ever-changing environment. Aquatic plants are constantly growing, so each new leaf that sprouts adds something new in the bettas’ lives. 

  • Tip: Keep in mind that bettas require warm water at a steady temperature in the 75 - 80 F range. Consider purchasing an aquarium heater for your betta tank.

betta fish

An alternative common name for the betta fish is the Siamese fighting fish, and they earned this title through their infamous aggression. The reason why bettas are often sold in cups or small containers is because multiple male bettas shouldn’t be put into a tank together. They are bound to fight to the death, so the cups keep them isolated from one another. When they’re in an aquarium of their own or with other non-betta fish, they can still be quite territorial. Each betta has its own personality, but if you have a betta that’s keen on fighting, a planted tank could help reduce aggression issues. The plants create visual barriers, breaking the line of sight for the fish in the aquarium. Therefore, the other fish have safe places to dwell in that’s out of sight for the betta fish, so everyone can stay calm in their own territories. The betta itself will also feel less stressed knowing it has areas to hide in. 

  • Tip: The minimum size tank you should have for keeping a betta is 3 gallons, like the UNS 3N. The ideal size is 5 gallons or larger for a single betta.

When they’re not venturing around the tank or trying to pick fights, bettas like to relax. Their long fins get heavy after swimming for a while, so they enjoy lounging on objects in the tank or the aquarium floor. In a planted aquarium, they would have an assortment of leaves to rest on. An easy plant that would make a great and natural betta hammock would be any of the Anubias aquatic plant species that have leaves large enough for a betta to sit on. Betta fish also don’t like bright lights constantly shining on them, so providing shade for them in the aquarium will help them relax. A perfect addition for a planted tank that solves this problem are floating plants. Floating plants, such as Red Root Floaters, are also one of the best aquatic plants for reducing nitrates in the tank!

All About Aesthetics 

Lastly, a benefit of planted tanks for bettas is that they just look good together. Having a planted aquarium in your house is like having a slice of nature that you can look at anytime you’re home. When you place a betta in one, it just looks that much more great. The aquascape and the betta fish can enhance each other’s features. The colors of the betta will pop against the green of the aquatic plants. The aquarium itself also looks very natural, and the slow swimming betta wandering around the tank will provide a feeling of zen. 

betta fish

While bettas don’t absolutely need to be kept in planted tanks, there are many advantages to keeping them in one. I hope this was an informational read and the push that some of you needed to start a planted aquarium! 

Tell us - Do you have a planted betta tank? If not, would you like one? Comment your thoughts!

If you have any questions regarding this article, please DM us on Facebook or Instagram so we can assist you! @buceplant
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Arlette - April 23, 2024

My betta is thriving in its giant wine glass bowl , his name is Red

Ashlyn - March 17, 2022

I have two bettas and had three preciously. Sadly the one that passed was because of the water and the fact that I wasn’t soft or warm so I found that when he got sick this just did him in and he wasn’t able to handle it. My other two bettas immediately got a planted tank and a heater. I was not told that bettas needed heater water until I found this article. Thank you for the info!

heidi - January 22, 2021

I’ve had bettas in planted tanks for over 20 years. They usually live longer and are much more active swimming and investigating their surroundings. Plus maintenance is easier. I currently have one beta in a heavily planted UNS 21 gallon long along with Amanos, nerites, and a few Japanese neon blue endlers. It makes me so sad to see Bettas sitting still in small bowls. They are a much more lively fish once in an appropriate habitat.

Kevin Sell - January 11, 2021

I loved this article! I thought I knew a lot about bettas already but boy was I wrong!
Such good and fascinating information and very well written. Now I want to add another tank to my collection.

Karen Nieto - January 11, 2021

I bought a sad betta from petco and I started it off in the UNS 20C Tank…it has driftwood and floating plants and his behavior from his little cup to the tank is much more different. I feel like I did such a good thing.

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