Maybe you bought your betta in a cup at a pet or aquarium store? We hope that isn’t the case, but we understand the reality of shopping for betta fish!
However, your new pet needs a lot more thought and effort put into his or her care than merely being moved to a larger container if you want it to thrive.
This means proper lodging in an aquarium, with all the same attention to detail all aquarium fish deserve.
One of the most fundamental details is your betta fish water temperature. Let’s have a quick look at the optimal temp for keeping them comfortable and happy.
What Conditions are Betta Fish Used to in the Wild?
It’s hard to picture them outside of an aquarium, but bettas are native to Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Malaysia. The Mekong and Chao Phraya rivers keep large parts of the lowlands of these countries wet through much of the year, and bettas thrive in the streams, channels, ditches, and rice paddies.
Even if you’ve never been to this part of the world, you’re probably aware that it is seriously warm. Temperatures rarely drop below about 59 Fahrenheit (15 Celsius) and often exceed 100F (38C). The average annual temperature in Bangkok, Thailand, which is right on the Mekong River, is 83F (28C). That’s the average.
Since they live in shallow water, a betta is accustomed to warm, slow-moving conditions, without much change in temperature.
Ideal Betta Fish Water Temperature
All aquarium fish are happiest in conditions that are reasonably similar to their native environment. Since most aquarium fish are tropical, they tend to prefer warm water. Prefer isn’t actually a strong enough word; putting a tropical fish in water that’s too cold can shock them and even kill them.
The perfect tank temperature for betta fish is somewhere between 76F – 81F (24C – 27C). That’s a very precise range, much tighter than you normally see for aquarium fish. Your betta can withstand temperatures from 72F – 82F (22C – 28C), but the highs and lows aren’t optimal for their health.
It is possible for them to live in water as warm as 86F (30C) if the change occurs gradually. This is not a situation you want to prolong, however. Water too warm can stimulate a betta’s metabolism, making it old before its time. A betta living in water that’s too warm may be observed swimming strangely, even darting about erratically. You might find it floating on its side as if dying.
In fact, this may actually be the case. Sub-optimal conditions will stress your betta and could kill it. If the stress doesn’t kill it directly, it may compromise the fish’s immune system, leaving it weak and susceptible to disease. Extremely warm water effectively cooks the fish, albeit very slowly.
Immersion in cold water slows a betta down. You’ll easily see the signs: lethargy and a loss of appetite. This happens because the fish is slowing its metabolism to conserve energy to compensate for the cold temperatures. Over time, the immune system will be compromised by a lack of nutrients and the betta will likely get sick, and possibly die. If the water is very cold, the fish will essentially freeze to death.
They’re fearsome fighters, but they don’t deal with temperature fluctuations well at all.
Use an Aquarium Heater to Maintain the Ideal Temperature
Unless you like keeping your room temperature abnormally warm, you’re going to need an electric heater to keep your tank at the right temperature. Even a normally warm room can suddenly cool off if the sun disappears. This is not healthy for your fish.
The best bet is to use an electric aquarium heater in combination with an aquarium thermometer. Plug in the heater and adjust the temperature setting until the thermometer verifies you’ve hit the ideal range. Don’t worry if you think it looks ugly; it’s easy to hide an aquarium heater behind decorations or foliage. (You can see a selection of the best heaters for betta fish here.)
If you’re planning to be away for a while, make sure you have someone come by to check on your fish regularly, even if you have a battery-operated automatic fish feeder. Should the power go out, especially in the winter, your aquarium heater won’t be doing its job, and that could put your betta in danger.
Such a situation may require an emergency transfer to another location. This can be stressful, however, so the best idea is to preserve the existing heat in the tank by wrapping it in newspaper, towels, or blankets. In the worst-case scenario, you can boil water over a fire or gas stove, fill sealable containers, and float them in the tank to keep the water warm.
Knowing the best water temperature for a betta tank is a good start towards taking proper care of your pet. Of course, there’s a lot more to it than just temperature. For maximum enjoyment of your beautiful fish, we recommend reading our Complete Guide on How to Properly Care for Betta Fish. It’s got everything you need to know about raising a happy and healthy betta!
Don’t forget to browse the rest of the site for more of the best information on caring for your finned friends. If you see something you think others should know, make sure to share the link on social media, or through text or email.
If you have further questions, comments, or areas of concern, we’d love to hear from you! We’ll do our level best to respond ASAP. And you can always follow us on Facebook and see what we’re pinning on Pinterest! (Shouldn’t that be “Finterest”?)
Thanks for choosing us to help you solve your aquarium and fish-keeping problems!
Happy fish keeping!