July 1

Betta Care: Set Up & Costs

Hi! I’m starting something of a series on basic betta care. This first post will be about setting up your tank and keeping costs low.

Can you afford a betta and a tank?

A lot of people like to get betta fish because they don’t require a gigantic tank and are relatively low maintenance pets. Also, fish are pretty cheap to keep as the only maintenance costs you’ll pay throughout your fish’s life is their food and tap water conditioner (both of which are inexpensive — food is usually around $3-6 and tap water conditioner (500mL) is usually around $10. Both last a long, long time before you run out, too). The most expensive part of keeping betta is the initial set up costs. I hope this post will help you be economical with your purchases, while also providing the best for your new betta!

The standard equipment that you will need for a happy and healthy betta fish are:

  • A tank (of course!)
    • Please do not fall into the trap of thinking a betta likes small tanks. They like lots of plants and hiding places, which I guess started the myth that betta likes small spaces. There’s some debate about the minimum size, with some saying as low as 1 gallon. Most people will say 2.5 gallon, with 5 being much more ideal. If you can get 10, even better! Those little betta cube tanks simply don’t cut it.
    • You might ask, can a betta be in a gigantic tank? Like 20 gallons, or 30 or whatever? Yes they can, I’m sure they’ll love the room! Just be sure to fill it up with plants to swim around and caves to hide in. Also, be aware, that bettas do much better in long/wide tanks, as opposed to tall vertical tanks.
  • A heater + thermometer
    • Bettas are tropical fish and require their water to be around 78 degrees Fahrenheit (give or take). If you live somewhere warm where the water can stay around that temperature without a heater year round, then you just need a thermometer. I live in Canada and need a heater during the winter, but my tanks stay warm without the heater turned on in the summer months. The thermometer is in case your heater goes crazy and breaks or something, without you knowing — and it DOES happen!
  • A filter
    • Bettas like still water, so try to get one that isn’t too powerful. Look up ‘how to make a water baffle’ on Youtube if your filter is creating too much water movement. In very small tanks, some say you don’t even really need to use a best fish tank filter, but you would have to do more water changes.

Other things that aren’t TOTALLY necessary but of course, would make your betta happy and be more aesthetically pleasing:

      • Gravel
      • Decorations
        • With decorations, keep in mind that bettas like to swim around the surface a lot, as they get air from there, so tall plants that reach the surface water are great. Also, try to avoid pointy plastic plants (find silk plants, if you are using fake plants) as they can tear your betta’s fins (although, I must admit, I have several plastic plants in my tanks and my bettas have never torn their fins on the decorations … but still, err on the side of caution).
      • Aquarium light

A lot of people sell their used aquarium tanks on Craigslist, so if you want to keep costs low, I suggest checking out your local Craigslist postings. Most of the time, these are people who are upgrading their tanks to bigger ones, and getting rid of their smaller 2.5, 5 or 10 gallon tanks, which are perfect for bettas. I have seen many posts where people will include a filter, decorations and sometimes a heater as well. You can looking for the best led aquarium lighting here.

After setting up your tank and filling it with water, please note you should preferably cycle your tank before you add any fish. If you do not know what that means, check out this web page, it does an amazing job of explaining it simply!

My Own Set Ups + Costs

Here are my own betta set ups and approximately how much I spent on the items (all prices are in Canadian dollars). I hope this will help give you a rough idea of how much you may need to spend, and whether getting a betta as a pet is a realistic financial decision for you. Please keep in mind that I do tend to overspend on my tanks. I also want to note, everything I bought was brand new. If you get second hand items, I am sure you will spend a lot less.
This is my smallest tank, at 2.5 gallons, which houses one crown tail betta, Diablo. It’s great for me because it doesn’t take up a lot of room. This tank I do not have a filter. It is very small so a nitrogen cycle probably wouldn’t even start in it. A filter would also cause too much water movement for the betta. I have to do more water changes for this tank.

– 2.5 gallon tank ~$17 from PetSmart
– Mini aquarium heater (not adjustable) ~$15 from PetSmart
– Thermometer ~$3 from Wal-Mart
– Clip-on aquarium light ~$30 from Petland (I feel like I got ripped off though)
– Gravel ~$7
– Decorations ~ approximately $25 worth in this tank,from various places such as PetSmart, Petland, Wal-Mart, etc.
– Betta ~ $12 from Petland
– Approximate total for this tank set up:  $109
This is my medium sized tank, at 5.5 gallons. It was an aquarium starter kit from Pet Smart that included a filter, hood and lights. This is also a nice sized tank as it is not too large, but gives your betta plenty of room to swim around. I do want to add that this aquarium kit was a birthday gift, so I didn’t spend that much.

– 5.5 gallon aquarium starter kit (included lights and filter) ~ was a gift, so I don’t know the cost, but I think it was maybe ~$40, from PetSmart
– Adjustable glass heater ~$30 from PetSmart
– Thermometer ~$3 from Wal-Mart
– Gravel ~$14
– Decorations ~ approximately $45 worth in this tank (the log cost like, half that amount), from various places such as PetSmart, Petland, Wal-Mart, etc.
– Betta ~$4 from PetSmart
– Approximate total for this tank set up: $131
This is my largest tank, at 10 gallons. I also bought it as an aquarium starter kit from Pet Smart, and it included a filter, hood and lights. However, I replaced the filter with a different one, because I hated the one it came with. This tank houses my 5 betta girls (called a sorority). A betta sorority requires lots of plants and decor for the fish to hide from one another, so I got more decorations than I normally would. This is by far my most expensive tank for sure.

– 10 gallon aquarium starter kit (included lights and filter) ~ $45 (was on sale) from PetSmart
– New filter ~ $12 from PetSmart
– Adjustable glass heater ~$30 from PetSmart- Thermometer ~$3 from Wal-Mart
– Gravel ~$20 (I think? I can’t remember)
– Decorations ~$120 (I think, hard to remember all the costs!), from various places such as PetSmart, Petland, Wal-Mart, etc.
– Bettas: 3 were from PetSmart, $3 each, and 2 were from Aquarium West, $8 each. Betta total is ~$25
– Approximate total for this tank set up: $255

That was really scary, calculating the costs. Anyway, betta set up costs certainly have a large range, and as you can see, I have spent a LOT more on decor than is strictly needed (well, to be honest, I just LOVE decorating my tanks too), which ballooned my costs. I am sure there are many ways to cut costs (for example … use less decorations, haha), but please, please, please, do not cut corners by getting a crappy 0.5 gallon cube or deciding not to get a heater! Here is a cheap set up that I think is totally feasible:

Cheap Set Up
– 2.5 gallon tank from PetSmart ~$17
– Non adjustable mini heater ~$15
– Gravel ~$7
– Decorations: A $6 plant, and a $1 terra cotta pot from the dollar store for a total of $6
– Betta: $4 from PetSmart
– Approximate total for this tank set up: $50

And of course, if you buy second hand from Craigslist or wherever, you can probably set it up for even less than $49 CDN.

Best of luck!