How to Clean a Betta Fish Tank: 11 Important Steps to Keep Them Healthy

Written by Jesse Elop
Published: October 4, 2023
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Betta fish are popular pets that come in an array of different colors. To make sure your betta is as bright and beautiful as ever, maintaining their health is of utmost importance. In addition to a healthy diet, a clean tank is crucial. This article will provide some information about betta fish and will provide a step-by-step guide for cleaning your betta fish’s tank.

What Are Betta Fish?

twin blue and red betta fish

Betta fish are famous for their vibrantly colored fins.


Betta fish, also known as Siamese fighting fish, are a popular choice among aquarium enthusiasts due to their stunning colors and captivating personalities. These fish, native to the rice paddies and slow-moving waters of Southeast Asia, have a unique biology that sets them apart. Betta fish are known for their labyrinth organ, which allows them to breathe air directly from the surface, in addition to extracting oxygen from water through their gills. This adaptation enables them to survive in oxygen-deprived environments and is one of the reasons they can thrive in small aquariums.

In terms of demeanor as a pet, betta fish are territorial and somewhat aggressive in nature. Males, in particular, are notorious for their aggressiveness toward other males. For this reason, they are often kept solitarily. They are also known for their elaborate fins and vibrant colors, which can vary greatly between individuals. Watching a betta fish flare its fins and display its beauty can be a mesmerizing experience.

Dumbo Halfmoon Betta,Multi color Siamese fighting fish,Betta splendens,on nature background with clipping path

Maintaining a clean tank with clean water is critical to ensuring healthy betta fish.

©panpilai paipa/

Many consider the difficulty level of caring for betta fish to be moderate. While they are relatively hardy and can tolerate suboptimal water conditions better than some other fish species, they still require proper care to thrive. Maintaining a clean and adequately heated aquarium, providing them with a balanced diet, and ensuring their tank is appropriately sized (typically a minimum of 5 gallons) are crucial aspects of betta fish care. Additionally, water quality is vital, and regular water changes are necessary to keep ammonia and nitrite levels low. Overall, with the right care and attention, betta fish can make wonderful, low-maintenance pets that bring beauty and entertainment to any home aquarium.

What Belongs in a Betta Fish Tank?


Decorating a betta fish tank is not just about enhancing its visual appeal; it’s also about creating a safe and comfortable environment for your betta fish. One essential aspect of tank decoration for bettas is the inclusion of hiding places. Because of betta fish’s solitary and territorial natures, they often need a place to retreat to when they feel stressed or want some privacy. Hiding places serve as sanctuaries where your betta can relax, rest, and feel secure, ultimately reducing stress levels and promoting better overall health.

When selecting decorations for a betta fish tank, consider options like caves or hollow ornaments. Additionally, bettas often appreciate decorations that allow them to swim through or around, like arches, tunnels, or floating logs. These structures not only serve as hiding spots but also stimulate your betta’s natural instinct.


Selecting the right substrate for your betta fish tank is crucial for both aesthetic appeal and the well-being of your fish. Various substrates are available, each with its own set of pros and cons. Fine sand, such as aquarium sand or pool filter sand, is a popular choice due to its smooth texture, which is gentle on your betta’s delicate fins. It’s particularly suitable for live plants, as it allows their roots to anchor easily, but it can be a bit challenging to clean as debris tends to settle on top.

Aquarium fish tank full of water

Small pebbles are a classic tank substrate that are both aesthetically pleasing and hygienic.

©chameleonseye/iStock via Getty Images

Gravel, on the other hand, comes in various sizes and colors, offering customization options. Smaller gravel sizes are better for bettas to prevent potential fin damage, and they also promote beneficial bacteria growth in the substrate. However, gravel can trap uneaten food and waste, which may lead to water quality issues if not maintained properly.


Aquatic plants offer numerous benefits for the well-being of your betta and the overall tank environment. When choosing aquatic plants for your betta fish tank, consider those that fulfill two primary functions: providing hiding places for your betta and improving water quality.

Amazon sword plant (Echinodorus amazonicus) on a fish tank

Amazon sword plants (

Echinodorus amazonicus

) are an excellent addition to a betta fish tank.

©Juan Carlos Juarez Jaramillo/iStock via Getty Images

Plants with broad, dense foliage, like Amazon swords, Java ferns, and Anubias, create ideal hiding places for bettas. These plants offer comfortable nooks where your betta can retreat when it needs a break or wants some privacy. The presence of hiding spots not only enhances your betta’s overall well-being but also reduces aggression towards tankmates or reflections in the glass.

In addition to providing hiding places, aquatic plants also play a crucial role in maintaining excellent water quality. They absorb excess nutrients, such as ammonia and nitrites, which are harmful to fish when present in high levels. Through a process called photosynthesis, plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, increasing the oxygen levels in the tank. This is particularly beneficial for bettas because of their labyrinth organ. Additionally, plants create a more stable environment by regulating pH levels and preventing rapid fluctuations in water parameters. This stability is vital for the health and well-being of bettas, as they are sensitive to water quality changes.

How Do You Clean a Betta Fish Tank?

Cleaning a betta fish tank is crucial for maintaining the health and well-being of your pet. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to clean a betta fish tank.


Aruarium water pump. Gravel cleaner for aquarium. Change water in fish tank

A gravel vacuum like this one can be very helpful in effectively cleaning a fish tank.

©Sergiy Akhundov/iStock via Getty Images

  1. A clean bucket or container designated for aquarium use only
  2. A siphon or aquarium gravel vacuum
  3. A clean, soft sponge or algae scraper
  4. A water conditioner
  5. Clean, aged water (if necessary)
  6. A fish net
  7. A water testing kit

Cleaning Instructions


1. Prepare Your Tools: Make sure all your tools and materials are clean and ready to use. Ensure that the bucket or container has never been used for cleaning with chemicals or soap.

2. Turn Off Equipment: Before you start cleaning, turn off any aquarium equipment like filters and heaters. Unplug them if necessary.

Fish tank water flow running pump

Fish tank filter pumps can help maintain a clean tank. Make sure that if you have one, it is turned off during tank cleaning.

©BonNontawat/iStock via Getty Images

3. Remove the Betta: Gently use a fish net to scoop up your Betta fish and place it in a temporary container with some of the tank water. This will keep your Betta safe while you clean the tank.


4. Drain Some Water: Using a siphon or gravel vacuum, remove about 20-25% of the tank’s water. Siphon the water from the bottom to remove debris and waste from the substrate. Be careful not to disturb the substrate too much, especially if you have live plants.

5. Clean the Decorations: Using a soft sponge or algae scraper, clean any algae or debris from the tank’s decorations, plants, and glass. Be gentle to avoid scratching the glass or damaging decorations.

6. Clean the Substrate: If you have gravel or substrate at the bottom, gently vacuum it to remove waste and debris. Focus on areas where waste tends to accumulate.

Young caucasian man pumping out water to clean up the substrate in his aquarium

If you do not have a gravel vacuum, a siphon can be used to clean the substrate in your tank.

©Ladanifer/iStock via Getty Images

7. Refill the Tank: Fill the tank with clean, dechlorinated water that is approximately the same temperature as the tank water. You can use a water conditioner to remove chlorine and chloramine from tap water. Fill the tank slowly to avoid kicking up the substrate.


8. Turn Equipment Back On: Once the tank is full, turn the aquarium equipment back on.

9. Return the Betta: Gently transfer your Betta back into the tank using the net.

10. Monitor Water Parameters: After cleaning, test the water parameters (pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate) using a water testing kit to ensure they are within acceptable ranges for betta fish.

Hands holding high nitrite or ammonia test in front of freshwater aquarium. Fish tank maintenance.

After cleaning a tank, be sure to use a water testing kit to check pH, ammonia levels, nitrite levels, and nitrate levels.


11. Routine Maintenance: Repeat this cleaning process every 1-2 weeks, depending on the size of your tank and the bio-load (the number of fish and their waste) to maintain a healthy and clean environment for your betta.

Remember that consistency is key to keeping a healthy betta fish. Regular maintenance, including water changes and tank cleaning, will help ensure your betta lives a long and happy life.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Shutterman70/

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About the Author

Jesse Elop is a graduate from the University of Oregon now working at the University of Washington National Primate Research Center. He is passionate about wildlife and loves learning about animal biology and conservation. His favorite animals- besides his pup, Rosie- are zebras, mandrills, and bonobos. Jesse's background in biology and anthropology have supplied him with many fun facts that might just pop up in some of his articles!

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