Betta fish are one of the most popular kinds of fish that people keep in home aquariums, which isn’t super surprising. They’re charismatic little creatures, with bright colors and ruffle-y fins that are beautiful to look at.
Betta fish, whose scientific name is Betta splendens, are native to Thailand, and they also have introduced, wild populations in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brazil, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic. They’re tropical fish that like to live in still and slow-flowing waters, such as swamps, streams, ponds, rice paddies and roadside ditches. Traditionally, people raised them to fight each other, while spectators placed bets on which fish would win. Because of this colorful history (pun intended), they’re also called Siamese Fighting Fish.
Betta fish are lovely to keep around, and as you know, fish are one of the most low-maintenance pets you can have. However, you do need to give them some regular care, so they stay healthy and happy in their aquarium – their home within your home. One crucial thing you need to do is to make sure your bettas are kept in water that’s at the correct temperature.
What temperature do betta fish prefer and why?
In the wild, betta fish live in tropical areas. So when you keep bettas in an aquarium at home, they’ll still need the warm water habitat that they’re used to. In fact, they have a pretty narrow ideal temperature range – the most optimal being 78-80º F (s25.5-26.5º C).
Although betta fish can tolerate temperatures ranging between 72-86º F (22-30º C), if the water is outside of their ideal range, they’re just surviving — not thriving. It’s kind of like when you go into a hot sauna, or when are outside in the frigid cold: you’re alive, but you’re not comfortable.
How can you keep your betta fish at an ideal temperature?
We’ve established that betta fish need to live in warm waters, because they hail from a tropical climate. So chances are, leaving your betta fish in a tank of water at room temperature isn’t going to cut it, especially during winter months. A few tools you’ll want to invest in to help your betta out:
- A fish tank heater, to keep the aquarium water warm.
- A thermometer, to measure the water temperature and make sure it doesn’t go above or dip below the ideal range.
Get in the habit of checking the aquarium temperature regularly—every day or two should be fine.
What happens if the water temperature goes below or above the ideal range?
If the tank’s temperature is not right for your betta fish, it will cause physiological changes in your fish that lead to odd behaviors. If the water temperature is too low, it will have reduced metabolic function, making it too cold to move around very much. It may float at the bottom of the tank, or float on one side. It may also have reduced immunity to diseases.
On the other hand, if the water temperature is too high, the betta fish may exhibit unusually rapid swimming patterns. You may see it moving around quickly and it will also have faster metabolic functions—which will actually cause it to age faster! For this reason, a betta fish kept in water that is too warm will have a shorter lifespan compared to others.
If you see any of these strange behaviors from your betta, be sure to check the water temperature using your thermometer and make adjustments, if necessary!
If my fish tank’s water is not at the right temperature, what can I do?
Fish tend to be very sensitive to rapid temperature changes, and bettas are no exception. If the water temperature in your betta’s tank becomes too high or too low, be sure you change the water temperature slowly. I mean it: you should proceed so slowly that it may take several days to reach the temperature you want. This may seem tedious, but slowly adjusting the temperature will give your fish the best chance of survival.
The same concept applies to changing the fish tank’s water. If you are only replacing a portion of the tank’s water, make sure it is the same temperature as the water that is already there. If you need to change all of it, bring the water to the desired temperature first. Then float the betta fish in a clear plastic bag filled with the old water on top for a few hours, letting them adjust to the new temperature, before releasing to the tank.
Your betta fish is a colorful and charismatic addition to your home and like any pet, it needs attention and care. Because bettas evolved to live in a tropical environment, the surrounding water temperature is a crucial factor to its health and longevity. Keeping it in a tank of water within its ideal temperature range will allow the fish to be healthy and happy. If you take good care of your betta, it can live 5 years and beyond!