If you got your betta at a pet store, they probably told you little to nothing about his water requirements. Heck, that poor thing was probably marinating in yellowish smelly water, with “stuff” floating in it… You figure, anything should be better than that! Well, yes and no. So here is the whole rap about water, good water, bad water and ugly water. Because what you can’t see can kill Mr. Betta.

A few important facts about water chemistry

Water is water is water, no? Well, not exactly (common, you didn’t think that you were going to get off the hook so easy did you?). To you, most water looks and probably tastes the same, so any water is good water. If I told you the water in your glass came from a toilet bowl, you might, however, rethink that theory. :)). (but your dog wouldn’t). No my dear betta friend, not all waters are the same. As a matter of fact, waters have properties that vary greatly from one source to the other, and these “invisible” yet very REAL changes could kill (and do kill) your tropical fish on a daily basis. Thanks God bettas are a little more lenient. But just a little. I am not a super expert, but there are a few basic concepts that I would like to share with you, humor me, take a minute or two, it might save your betta‘s life. I promise I‘ll keep it very simple and won‘t bore you with all the petty details:

Water PH. Note: although PH and water hardness are two different things, they work hand in hand so I have lumped them together. Heck I don't want to traumatize you guys with too much info too soon! Having said that, back to our topic:

When water initially falls from the sky, and if the skies were free of pollution, and if you could somehow get that water before it touched anything, it would be very pure. But unless you are willing to fly across the heavens with a little cup in each hand, collecting rain drops, you may have to just rely on good old tap water, or bottled water. Either way, these waters come from somewhere. Depending on how many layers of rock water has seeped through and how long it sat , it might be heavy in dissolved minerals, thus becoming “hard water“. If water comes from a pond, a lot of dead leaves might be decaying in it, adding a lot of acidity to the water, which becomes “soft water“ (another way of saying acid water). OK, so let’s recap: Lots of mineral in suspension = hard water = high PH.

Can you “see” PH? No. How can you tell if your local tap water has or has not a lot of mineral dissolved in it? By getting a small PH test kit. They are cheap and a must have. They come with a little glass tube (which you fill with the water you want to test) and a bottle of indicator liquid. You add 3 drops in the tube, shake well and watch the color change. They you will know if you are pregnant or not. :)) Just kidding. There’s a chart in there so you can compare your tube color to the chart and it will tell you where the PH is at. A neutral PH (7.0)(neither hard nor acid) turns the tube to a greenish blue color. And is also your ideal water balance. If you live in Southern California as I do, your test tube will turn a very dark, deep blue. Not good. That means your PH is very high (water is hard, full of minerals in suspension). Ph where I live is around 8.2. :(((( In some area of the country however, your tube might turn yellow, which indicates a soft water (PH= 6.0). The chart goes from 6.0 to 8.0. Most tropical fish need 7.0 (neutral) PH or less. Bettas are a little more lenient as I said. If you can have your PH at 7.0 then do by all means. How? The better test kits come with two bottles, one called PH up and one called PH down. You add drops from the PH down bottle to bring a high PH down (I add 10 drops per 2 1/2 gal of water) or add PH up to bring up a low PH. So as you can see, even though PH is invisible to you, you can measure it and adjust it. ANY ADJUSTMENT SHOULD BE DONE VERY GRADUALLY (see bottom). Fish are very sensitive to any changes in their water!! So watch out!! Also be aware that adding too much PH down can burn the bettas, since PH down is, in essence, acid. So never add more than one teaspoon of PH down per 10 gal. If after a teaspoon of PH down, your water still has a high PH, then leave it at that, your bettas will adapt. Or you may elect to blend your tap water with a bit of distilled water or R/O water to take safely bring the PH and hardness levels down.

Water temperature. Fish are very sensitive to temperature changes as well. Tropical fish live in temperatures ranging from 75F to 82F hence the need for a good heater to keep the water warm. If kept in less than 5 gal tanks you cannot use heaters, they might heat up the water too fast and cook your fish. Instead, keep your jars in a warm room. Don’t be cheap when it comes to heaters. A bad heater can KILL all your fish. Spend a few extra buck and get something reliable. Anytime you move a fish, make sure to float his bag/cup to even out the temperatures (see “acclimating your new betta“). ). A good thermometer is a must too, because heaters can be temperamental so you need to keep an eye on them. Bettas will quickly die if exposed to extreme temps such as anything below 56F or above 95F. They can survive if exposed TEMPORARILY to low temps between 56F and 65FF or high temps between 85F and 95F.


So, which water should I use?

People usually have a few options. I’d like to discuss briefly each one of them and give you my two cents as to which is good and which is not.


Distilled water. I do not recommend using distilled water EVER. Yes, distilled water is “pure” in the sense that it does not have any harmful chemicals in it. Matter of fact it has NOTHING in it. And that is the problem. See, bettas need some essential minerals which they get from their water. And distilled water provides none of that. It is also way too soft and acidic and not suitable. It is also expensive. If you are currently using distilled water for your jarred betta, please switch him to something else (see below) BUT DO SO VERY GRADUALLY like over a period of two weeks or more. (see below on how to switch water)
Bottled water. PH can vary from one water company to another, so again, if you switch brands, you should test the PH and switch the water gradually (see below). Bottled water, if the PH is within the betta range (see below) does not need to be treated with much of anything, since it has no chlorine. It also contains minerals, which is good. Store it in the room housing your betta so its temperature is the same as the betta’s jar. It makes it safer when you change his water. If you only have one betta, bottled water might be a good way to go. For those of us who are way past 50 bettas, bottled water is not even an option. Way too expensive, and we’d have to haul bottles by the truck load!! I think not. I’m trying to have a life here :)).

Tap water. Cheap (or free if you are renting :P), and right at your finger tips, tap water is the most convenient of course, and the water all serious breeders use. It is also easy to mix hot and cold water to obtain the perfect temperature (one that matches the existing jar‘s temps) when we do water changes. So it is really super convenient. But it has a few problems, which you will have to fix first before it can be used. Cities dump all kinds of chemicals in the water, to make it safe for human consumption. Of course what is safe for a human will kill a little fish. The most harmful to fish is “Chlorine”. You can taste chlorine when you drink tap water, but it won’t kill you. It will however, kill your betta. Many great, safe and cheap products are available at your fish store to remove the harmful chemicals from your tap water. Don’t start getting cold sweats, it is really very simple. You would have to be a complete moron to not figure out how to do it (I can’t believe I just said that! :)). Besides, you have me to hold your hand through the process :) .

I personally use Amquel and Novaqua. Two great products, (that come in 3 sizes to fit your individual needs) and I add 15 drops of each per 2 1/2 gal of water . (If you wonder why I keep referring to a 2 1/2 gal quantity instead of say 1 gal, it is because I use 2 1/2 gal jugs which I fill with tap water. This way I can treat the water and store it and let it age for my small fries). Then you can adjust your PH if needed (for my type of water, I need to add 10 drops of PH down per 2 1/2 gal) and you are all set.


REMEMBER! TAP WATER MUST BE TREATED FIRST BEFORE USING IT. REGULAR TAP WATER WILL KILL YOUR BETTA!!!!!!!!! Once treated, it is safe, so fear not (and have a little Faith :)) ).


Water requirements for bettas:

Best water conditions for bettas: Very clean water with a PH of 6.8 to 7.4 and temperature of 80F. This is ideal but bettas can do well in a wider range of water condition:
Acceptable water conditions for bettas: Clean water (weekly full water changes on jars of 1/2 gal and up) with a PH ranging from 6.5 to 7.5 and temperatures not under 68F and not above 84F.


Other good stuff you might want to add to your water:

Salt. Yes, bettas are not marine fish, but they do love a bit of salt in their water and it also prevents parasites and fungus. Add 1 tablespoon of aquarium salt, or rock salt per 5 gal of water (not table salt!!!! They are bettas, not pretzels!!). Now a day, I actually put 1 teaspoon per 10 gal. What that means is that you can play around a bit with your salt amount, and I have found that anything between 1 teaspoon per 10 gal to 1 tablespoon per 5 gal works. 
Aquarisol. I often add aquarisol in my water to prevent ich and velvet, two pesky parasites that can kill your bettas. It is also a good fungus preventative, so that, coupled with the salt, and I am free of parasites and fungus. :) Aquarisol is inexpensive and you should add a drop per gal when you initially treat your water.


Switching water or making water quality changes:

Anytime you change the water conditions (lower or increase PH, change bottled water brands) or switch from one type of water to another (for example from distilled water to tap water), you must DO SO VERY GRADUALLY or your betta might go into shock. Even if he doesn’t pull a whole shock thing on you, he might get stressed, which will lower his immune system and will cause him to catch any bacteria present in his jar. A bad thing. So always take your time and ease him into his environment changes.

Make PH changes gradually over the course of a few days. The more abrupt the change, the more time you should take. NOTE: PH is often unstable and will “bounce” back up when you try to lower it. That is why I usually just add my PH down drops initially and then don’t worry about it anymore (I basically leave it alone after that).

WARNING: If your PH is very high you may never be able to lower it. Adding too many drops of PH down can burn your betta’s fins off!! Remember that PH down is acid, so it is acid you are adding to the water!!

If you are switching water, and have all the time in the world, I recommend blending the old type with the new type in the following proportions:

Week 1 = 25% of the new type with 75% of the old

Week 2 = 50% of the new type with 50% of the old

Week 3 = 75% of the new type with 25% of the old

Week 4 = 100 % of the new type of water Yeyyyyy!!! :))))


Well, my friends, I hope this page has given you plenty of ammunitions to battle the water wars :)). Goodluck, and remember to have fun! (Fun? What's that?)

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