Do Betta Fish Need a heater?

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No doubt you’ve seen all of those cute bettas in little containers at the pet store. No filter, no decor, no heater. Many betta owners have cute little betta bowls with nothing more than water and some decor.

But wait a minute, aren’t betta fish tropical fish? Don’t betta fish need a heater like the majority of other pet fish? 

The short answer is YES! 

Bettas thrive at a consistent temperature of 76-82° F but the average room temperature is 72°F or less!

While they can survive in cooler water this is far from ideal. If you want your betta to be healthy, happy and live as long as possible please give that little gem a heater.

My Personal Betta Fish Heater Recommendations:

For those of you who would like to know more, please read on.

Betta biology and natural habitat

Like all fish bettas are cold-blooded. This means that they cannot control their body temperature as we humans can. Fish depend upon their environment to keep them at their optimal body temperature. 

Betta fish are originally from what was historically known as Siam (Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam). In these tropical countries, they live in warm shallow pools of water such as rice paddies, ponds, and slow-moving streams. 

In order to keep a betta healthy and happy, we need to mimic this natural environment as much as possible. 

Warm shallow pond representing a betta fish's natural habitat

Ideal Betta Fish Temperature

So what temperature do betta fish need then? Bettas do well at a temperature range of 76-82° F (24-28° C). As long as the temperature remains somewhere in this range your betta will be quite content.

I keep my personal betta tank at 78°F and it fluctuates less than 0.5°F throughout the day. Keeping temperature fluctuation minimal is nearly as important as achieving the correct temp. Wide temperature swings can stress your fish which may lead to sickness and death. Most good heaters on the market are able to maintain a tight temperature range. For an in-depth discussion and review of aquarium heaters check out my article best aquarium heaters.

your betta fish Need A quality heater

As stated above, you want to make sure you use a quality aquarium heater for your betta. The reason for this is twofold. First, cheap betta heaters are prone to failure. This may result in the heater dying or getting stuck on when you least expect it. This can result in the death of your little fish!

Secondly, many cheap betta heaters come preset to 78° F and no adjustment is possible. But isn’t this the ideal temp you may ask? It is, but many heaters are not set correctly from the factory and may actually over or under heat your betta tank. If this is the case, there is nothing you can do about it. 

With a quality adjustable heater, you can correct the temp up or down even if the thermostat is a little off. 

The best aquarium heater

This actually brings me to another point. Please use a standalone thermometer to verify the correct temperature of your betta’s water. Don’t simply trust your heater’s settings.

In addition to a quality heater, there are a couple of other things to keep in mind.

Tank size and temperature

I do not advise that you keep your betta in one of those little betta bowls or tanks. There are a multitude of reasons but I will only cover one of them here. 

First off, some of those little betta bowls are just too small to install a quality heater in. Even if you do find one it may be difficult to keep a consistent temp. The more water in an aquarium the more stable the water temperature will be. That’s why I recommend a 5 to 10-gallon betta fish tank. 

If you would like to learn more about my tank recommendations check out my betta fish tanks article to learn more. 

Avoid Drafty Areas

You should also put some thought into where you want to put your betta tank. Is it near a door or window? These areas may experience occasional cold drafts. This will make it more difficult for your heater to maintain a consistent temperature.

So keep it in an area of your home away from these drafty spots. 

Bettas and Low Water Temperature

We now know that bettas should be kept in a water temperature of no less than 76° F (24° C) for optimal health. But what happens to a betta kept in colder water?

If the water temperature drops below 72° F (22° C) you may notice behavioral changes in your betta. These may include lethargy which is due to a slowed metabolism. Remember the cold-blooded part? Since a betta can’t create its own body heat its metabolism will slow down in cold water temperatures. 

The cold water will also slow down the betta’s immune system. If your betta is kept in low-temperature water very long it will be much more prone to certain illnesses. 

If the temperature drops even lower you betta may slip into a coma. At this point, it may stop moving completely and rest at the bottom of the tank. If this happens you need to act quickly to warm the water up! But not so quickly that the water gets too hot. 

What if My Heater Goes out?

Even with a great heater keeping your betta warm problems still happen. What if that heater dies? What if your power goes out? How do you keep your betta fish warm without a heater?

In the short term, there are some options to keep your betta from freezing until you can correct the problem.

  • Turn your thermostat up above 72° F
  • Place a heating pad under the tank
  • Wrap the tank in a warm blanket
  • Place a scolding hot bottle of water in the tank for a few minutes

With all of these methods make sure you are monitoring the temperature of your betta’s water. Don’t let it get too hot or too cold.

Final Thoughts

I hope I have convinced your little betta does need a heater. These fish are great little pets and deserve more than a cold betta bowl!