How to Care for a Betta in a Bowl

By: Charlotte Maxwell

Bettas are a fun, interactive, beginner-friendly fish. Our staff is passionate about their care and we believe that you will have a great time with your new pet. Here are some guidelines to make this experience successful! Feel free to reach out with any questions you may have.

What You Will Need

  • Fish bowl or other fish-safe water container that is at least one gallon in size 
    • The bigger the better! In addition to giving your betta more room to swim, larger bowls are more stable in regards to temperature and water quality.
    • One fish per bowl. Bettas are more than happy to live by themselves, and the bowl environment is best for a single fish.
  • De-chlorinated freshwater 
    • This can be bottled drinking water or tap water that is treated with an aquarium water conditioner. Distilled/Reverse Osmosis water is unnecessary and can actually be detrimental if not buffered and re-mineralized.
  • Betta food 
    • Bettas can eat a wide variety of foods, but it is important to have a staple dry food that is made for bettas. We have the most success feeding Absolutely Fish Naturals pellets in the store.
  • Aquarium gravel, glass marbles, or other substrate
    • Make sure anything that is not marketed for animals is free from any paints, dyes, or chemicals that could leach into the water.
  • Decorations of your choosing 
    • Bettas are intelligent and love having things to explore in their environment.
    • We recommend providing them with live plants and/or artificial plants made from fabric or soft silicone.
    • Make sure any decor is free from sharp points and rough edges, as these may tear your betta’s delicate fins.

**Other helpful supplies include: a size-appropriate aquarium heater, a fish-catching net, a tank light, a gravel-vacuuming siphon, freeze-dried treats, and an algae cleaning sponge.

Setting Up Your Bowl

  1. Choose a location for the bowl. This should be in a well-lit room and on a flat, sturdy surface that can support the weight of the bowl and withstand getting wet. To keep the environment as stable as possible for the fish, it is best to keep your bowl away from windows, vents, and anything else that could affect the temperature of the water. Do your best to keep the bowl out of reach of small children and free-roaming pets.
  2. Rinse the bowl, gravel, and decorations with plain water to remove any dirt and dust.
  3. Arrange the gravel and decorations in the bowl. This is also the time to place your heater if you are using one (make sure it is only plugged in when fully underwater).
  4. Fill the bowl with room-temperature water. If using tap water, be sure to add an appropriate dose of water conditioner. Pour the water gently over a hand or object to prevent scattering gravel and decor.
  5. Acclimate your new fish according to the Absolutely Fish Freshwater Acclimation guide.


  • Give your betta about 3-5 pellets at a time. If there are leftovers and your fish is no longer eating, do your best to remove the uneaten food to prevent it from dirtying the water.
  • Feeding once per day is usually best, as feeding too often can result in your fish producing excess waste and the water getting dirtier faster.
  • Your betta’s main source of food should be their betta pellets, but periodically swapping these out for other foods like freeze-dried treats is a great way to keep your betta interested in food and provide extra beneficial nutrients (Absolutely Fish Naturals Bloodworms are a favorite with bettas).
  • Bettas are quite resilient and can withstand occasional missed feedings, so no need to stress if you forget a day or stay overnight somewhere. If you are going to be away from your fish for an extended period of time, it is best to have someone take care of it, coming in at least every few days if every day is not possible.

Cleaning the Bowl

  • If your bowl gets a lot of light, you might notice algae starting to grow on the decorations and the inside of the glass. Have a designated sponge that you don’t use for anything else for gently scrubbing this algae to remove it. 
    • It’s best to scrub before a water change, so that the discarded algae gets discarded with the dirty water, or to remove the algae-covered decorations and clean them outside of the bowl.
  • As a general rule of thumb, an unfiltered betta bowl should be cleaned and water changed at least once a week. 
    • Smaller bowls may require more frequent and more thorough cleanings that include fully replacing the water and rinsing debris out of the gravel. Never use soap when cleaning your fish bowl.
    • Larger bowls can be maintained with partial water changes and siphon-vacuuming of the gravel in between larger, less frequent deep-cleans. 
  • When water evaporates out of the bowl, it can be replaced with fresh, de-chlorinated water.
    • Any new water being added to the bowl should be as close to the temperature of the existing water as possible to reduce stress on the fish

**If you are unsure whether your cleaning routine is working for the fish, testing your water can help. If there is ammonia or nitrite in the water, you should clean the bowl as soon as possible, as these waste products are toxic to fish. The presence of high levels of nitrate can also indicate a dirty tank. You are always welcome to bring a water sample to the store for testing and advice.

Why Live Plants?

  • Plants improve water quality by removing the nitrogenous wastes produced by your fish.
  • Plants produce oxygen, which there is often less of in an unfiltered bowl because the water is not moving.
  • Plants consume nutrients that would otherwise be used by algae.
  • Live plants, natural wood and stone help create a naturalistic environment that mimics a betta’s natural habitat.