Do Betta Fish Need An Air Pump – Or Can They Breath Without One?

 Betta fish love shallow, warm water that is clear and slow-moving. Before you purchase a betta or any other fish, it is a good idea to learn all you can about the species. Betta fish are easy to care for, hardy fish, and live to be 3+ years old if adequately cared for.

Air pumps are not a necessity for a betta tank. The betta fish have an organ, the labyrinth, which makes it, so they don’t have to use their gills for breathing. Instead, the betta fish go to the water’s surface for their oxygen. Air pumps are not required or needed in your betta tank.

Even though an air pump is not essential for a betta tank, there are times when it can be beneficial. I will cover when air pumps can be suitable for your betta fish, plus other tank and bowl basics. 

When To Use An Air Pump In A Fish Tank

There are certain occasions when an air pump can be beneficial to your betta fish. Below are the three main reasons that you may want to purchase an air pump.

  1. Medication- if you have a sick betta fish and you are administering any type of drugs, you should have an air pump. Many medications, as a side effect, will remove oxygen from the tank water. Without an air pump, your betta fish will begin to suffocate.
  1. Precaution- if you lose power in your home and your filter stops working, then the water is no longer being aerated. Having a battery-powered air pump for emergencies is essential, no matter what species of fish you have in your aquarium. 
  1. Activity- an air pump is not required for your betta tank, but some betta fish like to play with the bubbles from the air pump. So, if nothing else, your air pump will provide play and entertainment for your betta fish. Activity keeps your fish happy, and happiness keeps your fish healthy.

Different Betta Tank Set-Ups

Because betta fish are used to shallow water, many owners or first-time fish keepers will keep them in the glass bowls that you bought them in from the pet store. There is, however, one drawback to keeping them in a glass bowl; no heater.

Remember, betta fish prefer warm water. Maintaining 78-80 degrees is essential for your betta fish. You also need to maintain a pH of 6.5 (slightly acidic) to 7.0 (neutral) in a betta environment. 

Betta fish also like places to hide. It is hard to put plants or other objects in a small fishbowl for your betta to hide in or behind. Your betta fish will be ok in a small fishbowl or a vase especially made for the betta fish. But they will be happier and thrive if they have a more significant swimming area with all of the things they prefer. 

Size Of The Betta Tank

The tank size depends on how many fish you plan to have housed inside. Male betta fish are incredibly aggressive with other betta fish, especially males. So, if you are only going to keep one betta fish in the tank, then a 5-gallon one is a perfect size. 

You can, however, safely keep 3-5 females in the same tank without any significant consequences. In this case, you would want a 15 to 20-gallon tank. This ensures that they will have plenty of room to swim around and be comfortable with the decorations. 

There are a select few fish that you can keep in a tank with a betta. So just make sure that the tank is large enough for everyone to have their own space to swim and places to hide.  

Betta Fish Tank Extras To Consider

Betta fish, especially females, love to have places to hide. Some extra objects to put in your betta tank are:

Ensure you have a tightly fitted aquarium lid and leave about three inches between the top of the water and the cover. You want only to fill your tank about 80% of the way. Betta fish tend to get very excited, and when they do, they love to jump. Having the three inches of clearance will ensure that your betta fish do not injure themselves if they are jumping. 

Water Quality For A Betta Fish

If you have a small bowl or tank, you want to do a water change every 3-4 days. You only want to do a ⅓ water change. This makes it easier for your betta to adjust to the new water’s pH and water temperature. If your tap water has a lot of chlorine in it, then you want to make sure you put a drop of dechlorination in the water before you put it in the tank. Never use chemicals or soap to clean out your fishbowl. Any residue that is left behind will harm your betta fish. 

If you have a 10+ gallon tank, you will want to do a 25% water change once a week. Make sure you are checking and cleaning your filtration systems, replacing filters as needed. Again, add the dechlorination if your tap water has a lot of chlorine in it. With a bigger tank, you will also need to use a siphon hose to clean the substrate that is in the tank. This removes any leftover food down on the bottom of the tank that can cause pH issues.

Other Helpful Information About Your Betta Fish

Even though an air pump is not essential, your betta fish is going to do much better in an aquarium with a filtration system and heater. With a fishbowl, you have to be extremely strict with water changes, and you have to make sure your room temperature is high enough to keep the tank water at the prime temperature. Remember, your betta fish likes a temperature of around 80 degrees. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my house at 80 degrees in the summertime. 

Things can go wrong in a hurry in a fishbowl. The poor water conditions can lead to infections, illness, and even death in your betta fish. Betta fish are sticklers for clean, clear water. Therefore, having a tank with a filtration system is a good idea for a betta fish. The filtration system will help keep the tank water clean and free of debris that can cause illness and infections in your betta fish. 

The filtration system also helps to keep the water oxygenated in the tank. You will want to purchase a low-flow filtration system since betta fish like slow-flowing water. A couple of recommended filtration systems for betta fish tanks are Azoo Mignon Filter 60 and the Rio Mini 50 Internal Power Filter. 



Your betta fish do not need an air pump in their tank. They get their oxygen from swimming up to the surface of the tank, not by using their gills to breathe. It is a person’s preference whether or not you get one for your tank. If you decide to get an air pump, it is recommended that you choose an adjustable one. Betta fish prefer slow-moving water. If your air pump, together with the filtration system, creates too strong a current, your betta fish will become stressed. Stressed fish can become sick. 

Just choose a small, battery-powered air pump. If you have a betta fish that doesn’t like the bubbles or playing with them, then there is no harm in taking it out of the tank and only putting it up for emergency purposes. If it turns out that your betta fish loves the entertainment and activity of playing with the bubbles, then that is great. Fish that play and are active are happier and healthier, which aids in their lifespan. 

As a friendly reminder, make sure you do your research on any fish you want to keep in a fish tank. You want to make sure that you are feeding them properly, have the proper tank equipment, and read up on the illnesses and diseases they can contract and how to prevent them. Betta fish are extremely easy to take care of and do not require many extras in the tank. A heater, a filtration system, and hiding places are about the only items that your betta fish needs. Plus, of course, proper food and water changes. 

Related Articles

How Do You Make The Color Of Your Betta Brighter, More Colorful?
Can Snails Kill a Betta Fish?
How To Care For A Betta Fish-A Beginners Guide
Using An Undergravel And A Power Filter Together
How Long Does Betta Water Conditioner Take To Work
Best Live Plants For Betta Fish


I'm passionate about fish pets and love sharing everything I learn about them.

Recent Posts