When my wife brought her first betta fish home, I was kind of skeptical that a fish could be a good pet.
However, she had a beautiful blue betta fish that was really cool to look at. People who came to visit liked to look at her betta fish, so it was a good conversation starter.
But… after about six months her betta fish died…
Now that I know so much about aquariums, I know it was because she didn’t clean the betta tank enough. It can get confusing because betta fish tanks can range in size from a tiny one-gallon tank to a 20-gallon tank or bigger with a full-fledged line of filters heaters, etc.
So, let me explain, how to clean a betta fish tank of any size, the easiest way possible so you don’t have the same problem.
To clean a small betta fish tank with no power equipment, change the water every few days – one week and rinse your gravel and decorations. For bigger betta fish tanks with filters, you can clean with weekly water changes using a gravel vacuum, monthly rinsing of your filters and yearly stirring your gravel, gravel vacuuming, changing your filters and scrubbing, decorations, and plants.
Okay, now that you get the jist, let me quickly explain the weekly, monthly, and twice a year cleanings in more detail…
Check Your Water
Before we get to the cleaning part, you should check your water also. You can do this weekly to once a month depending on your budget. You can either take some of your aquarium into your local pet shop or buy some test strips.
We check our water once per week just to make sure our cleanings are working, besides test strips are cheap and they check for ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. Ammonia and nitrites should be at 0 ppm (parts per million).
Beneficial bacteria turn nitrites into nitrates and nitrates should be below 20ppm. This is because nitrates aren’t dangerous as long as they are kept at acceptable levels. This is the why behind water changes and cleaning. This is also why smaller tanks need to be cleaned more often, but more on that later…
If you have one of those tiny betta tanks that a lot of people seem to think are cute, then you should probably change your water every few days or twice per week. It may seem strange but actually a smaller betta tank needs cleaned more often because there is much less space for the betta fish’s waste to go.
I’m talking if you have a 1 – 5-gallon bowl or tank with no filters. I wouldn’t even call it a fish tank. It won’t take that long to do a water change on something this small any way…
How often should I clean my 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3- or 5-gallon betta tank? If you have a betta tank that is really small, it probably doesn’t have a filter, or any other equipment so here is what you do:
Every week, you can use a small plastic container of some sort as long as it is dedicated to aquarium use only. Put some of the aquarium water in this container, scoop out your betta and put them in the container. Now you are free to do whatever you want to your aquarium! Take the temperature.
Always use equipment that is dedicated to aquarium use only. Never use soap or cleaners, so your tank doesn’t get contaminated.
Since it is a tiny tank, you can quickly dump the water, scrub (no soap!) any gravel, plants, or decorations that you have and then place them back in the aquarium the way they were. Fill your aquarium back up with tap water – try to gauge the temperature with your fingers and adjust the faucet.
You want to fill your aquarium back up, condition the water and get it to the same temperature as it was before you put your betta fish back in. If you try to gauge the water temperature with your fingers you should be able to get it close.
Once your aquarium is full again, make sure you wait until the temperature is what it was before you put your betta fish back. Since you are essentially doing a deep clean every week with these tiny tanks, this is all you have to do since there are no filters to clean.
Remember, the smaller the tank is, the more often it will need to be cleaned since there is less space for fish food, poop and other waste to go.
For a bigger tank, you can clean it once a week – which is really just a water change with a gravel vacuum.
You will need a bucket, some disposable rubber gloves, and a gravel vacuum.
You should replace at least 10 % or one tenth of your bettas water weekly. It doesn’t hurt to change more so I would just change a third of your water. The more times you do it the faster you will get anyways.
You don’t want to go more than 30 percent for the weekly changes because you dont want to lose too much of your beneficial bacyeria.
Turn off all of the power to your aquarium.
You can leave your betta fish in the tank while you are doing this, they will get used to it.
Wash your hands and put on some disposable rubber gloves.
Grab your gravel vacuum or siphon and dip the cylinder shaped end” into the aquarium upside down to fill it with water, lift it up out of the tank to start the siphon and then submerge it into the tank again after the water starts to drain into the bucket. You want to hurry and submerge it before all of the water runs out of your gravel vacuum or you will lose suction
Turn it right side up and start vacuuming the gravel in the bottom of your tank.
You will see the debris, waste and fish poop climbing up the see-through vacuum and draining into your bucket. You can hold the vacuum with one hand and pinch the hose with the other if you need to stop the suction while you are moving the vacuum around.
Vacuum the entire bottom of your tank section by section.
Dump the wastewater outside or down a drain.
Rinse the bucket out but try to remember where the water level was before you dump it.
When you start filling the bucket with new water, gauge the water temp with your fingers, you want the new water to be at the same temp as your aquarium before you pour it back into your aquarium. Use a thermometer to make sure the new water is the same temp as the water in your aquarium.
You will have to wait until the new water is the same temp or use a spare aquarium heater if you have one and don’t want to wait as long. You need to get the temps at least close to the same before you dump the new water in.
“Always use water conditioner in the water before you pour it back into your aquarium.
Voila! You just saved the life of your betta fish…
Every month, you will do the regular water change as described above, but you will want to rinse your filters.
After you have drained the wastewater into your bucket, take the filter media out of its housing. There is usually some kid of plastic housing that holds your filter media(material).
Use the wastewater to rinse out any large debris and to loosen up any waste and rinse it out. Put the filter media back where it came from and fill your tank again, with the water conditioner, just like before.
Your filters should come with instructions so make sure you keep track of when you are supposed to change out the filter media. If it requires to change it before six months then change it, if not on to the next scheduled cleaning….
Every Six Months Cleaning
This is kind of a deep cleaning, but it is still very easy to do, especially after you have done it couple of times.
You just do a normal water change, but this time you are going to change half the water. It doesn’t have to be exact, I always do a little bit more than half because more is always water for fish when it comes to keeping water clean.
Before you drain the water you want to stir the gravel around pretty good to get to any waste or debris that hasn’t gotten too deep in the gravel.
This is the best time to remove algae growth. Most people use an algae scraper or even razors for tough algae on glass aquariums. To go all out, you can purchase a magnetic algae scraper or a long-handled algae scraper, so you don’t have to reach into the tank.
If you have an acrylic tank you will have to use a scraper that has a plastic blade because acrylic scratches much easier than glass.
“If you don’t have any of these scrapers and don’t want to buy one, you can use an old credit card to scrape algae.”
You want to stir up the gravel and scrape algae before you drain the water because you want most of the stirred-up waste to get drained as well.
You can also pull your decorations or ornaments and scrub them with a toothbrush under tap water.
If you have any plants, you can rub any waste or build up off them before you drain the water. You should wash your hands or any part of your arm that will be in the water. It is better to wear disposable gloves.
After you drain the wastewater, you will be changing all of your filter media.
Be careful when you change your biological filter. If you can, leave the old biological filter in with the new one for a couple of weeks to build up beneficial bacteria. If there is not enough room for both filters, try to tear some pieces of the biological filter and leave them with the new filter for a couple of weeks.
You still want to rinse the old biological filter to make sure it doesn’t get clogged. You should rinse the biological filter more gently than your other filters though, so you don’t lose too much beneficial bacteria.
Voila! Fill your tank back up with the conditioned water (remember to keep the temp the same) and turn your power equipment (heaters, filter pumps etc.) back on! You are good to go. Easy right?
It can be a little worrisome when taking care of a fish in the beginning, but it doesn’t have to be. My wife lost her first betta because she followed an online guide and didn’t change the water often enough.
It can get confusing when it comes to betta’s because the tanks can range from 1 gallon with no power equipment to 20 gallons or more with a full range of power equipment like filters and heaters.
I hope I have demonstrated how easy it really is to keep your betta tank clean. Its all about the water changes to keep the waste out of your betta’s water. Sometimes it needs a deeper cleaning, and you want to keep the beneficial bacteria in your biological filter. Easy, Easy, Easy.