How to Make a Betta Biotope Aquarium | The Natural Betta Home

A biotope aquarium represents the natural habitat of fish and other aquatic beings that live together in the wild. So, biotope aquariums can be of many types that represent different natures.

Having a biotope aquarium in the home is a thrilling idea that can give you a new essence of fishkeeping. 

I tried setting up a few biotope aquariums, and from my experience, I know this is not at all a challenging task. You just have to follow a systematic approach. This article will try to give you a guideline for setting up a Betta biotope aquarium.  

Betta fish are a popular and elegant species of fish. They do require some special care, and if you decide to get some betta fish, it would be an excellent idea to set up a betta biotope aquarium.

It’s best to keep these fish in as natural an environment as possible. But you have to do it correctly for a better result. 

I will tell you everything you need to know about setting up a biotope aquarium specific to Betta Fish.

We’ll look at what type of tank is best, which heating and filter system to use, and which types of plants to use to create a natural environment.

How to set up a betta biotope aquarium
How to set up a betta biotope aquarium

Betta Habitat In The Wild

Before setting up a natural home for Betta, we have to know their lifestyle in the wild. Betta fish are native to the Mekong River basin of southeast Asia. They live in shallow waters of rice paddies and slow-moving streams of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

Their natural territory is about three square feet in size. They are aggressive and known as ‘Siamese Fighting Fish’ for their fighting nature.

As they live in shallow water areas, they have an excellent capacity to live in low-oxygen water. They have a labyrinth or breathing organ, and they can take oxygen from the air directly.

Especially during the dry season, when their home squeezes into shallow puddles, they have to show their tough character. Betta fish are excellent jumpers and can jump from a drying puddle to a larger water body to survive.

Tips for Setting Up a Betta Biotope Aquarium

Betta biotope aquarium setup guide

1) Have a Larger Tank

Bettas kept in a small tank won’t be happy fish and won’t have a very long life span. If you’re thinking of making a Betta biotope aquarium, you should invest in a tank that’s a minimum of twenty gallons in size. 

Many people believe that Bettas are okay in a small tank of between one and 2.5 gallons. Yes, they can live, but this is not ideal for them.

Small aquariums are actually detrimental to their health, and it’s cruel to keep your fish in such a small space. Bettas need plenty of space to swim to ensure that they can express their natural behaviors.

36 gallon bow front thriving aquarium
36-gallon bow-front thriving aquarium

It’s always best to get the biggest tank possible when housing any type of fish. If you have adequate space in your home, get a large tank.

Having a large tank brings many benefits; it will give your fish more space to swim around, but you’ll also have additional space for plants, allowing you to create a more natural environment. 

It’s also easier to control the temperature and pH levels in a larger tank, and you won’t have to change the water as often. Choose a longer tank, rather than one that’s tall, as this will give your betta fish more length to swim up and down.

2) Make a Lid for the Tank

If you are making a betta-home, it is essential to have a lid for the tank. Betta fish are jumpers, and they jump whenever they feel uncomfortable about something. Definitely, you wouldn’t want your fish to end up on the floor as they’ll die after just a few minutes.

Rimless lid
Rimless lid

If you’ve already got a tank without a lid, you could make one to prevent betta fish from jumping out of the water. You may like to build a wooden cover or simply put netting or mesh over your tank.

3) Invest in A Good Quality Filter

Your betta fish will also need to have an effective filter in their tank; this will stop the water from getting dirty quickly. It will also mean that you’ll have to carry out fewer water changes. 

A tank that has filters only needs to be cleaned every one to two weeks. This is less disturbing for the fish and will save you a lot of time and energy.

Aquarium with filter & heater installed
Aquarium with filter & heater installed

The best type of filter for a betta aquarium has a slow flow, as Betta prefers to live in calm water. If you choose a filter that’s too strong, this could push your fish around the tank. A filter with an adjustable flow is often best.

If you think the filter may be too strong, you can situate some plants in front of it to slow down the flow slightly. An ideal aquarium filter has three stages of filtration; mechanical, chemical, and biological.

4) Arrange Suitable Lighting

Betta fish have similar lighting needs as humans as they can tell the difference between night and day. Ensure that your tank is adequately lit, and don’t keep your tank in the dark, as this will affect your fish’s health.

A beautiful aquarium with lights on
A beautiful aquarium with lights on

You should also avoid putting your betta biotope aquarium in direct sunlight. Direct sunlight promotes algae growth. I’ve another article where I discussed in detail the best place to put an aquarium, you can have a look.

5) Ensure an Efficient Heater

Bettas naturally live in warm waters, so it’s best to invest in an aquarium heater even if the room your aquarium is in is usually warm. 

A heater will allow you to monitor your water temperature and mean that your Betta will be less likely to suffer from temperature shock on a cold day, which could prove to be fatal. More importantly, Bettas are susceptible to fungal and bacterial infection in lower temperatures

You should be aware that using a heater in a smaller tank. Heaters used in a smaller tank than they were designed for can result in the water overheating, which will cause your betta stress and may even kill your fish. 

Invest in a heater that’s 3-5 watts per gallon of water in your tank. You may need to use two heaters if your tank is huge.

6) Choose the Right Substrate

Once you have all the hardware you need for your aquarium, you’ll need to choose the correct substrate. This is the material that’s used to line the bottom of your tank. 

Most fish keepers choose gravel, but you may also like to use sand or aquarium soil. For making a natural-looking betta biotope, it’s best to use natural stones, gravel, or even sand.

Using these types of materials is beneficial to your aquarium’s overall health as it allows beneficial bacteria to grow and establish a nitrogen cycle quickly. Spreading gravel over a large surface area will let the bacteria multiply.

A substrate that supports plant growth
A substrate that supports plant growth

Choose gravel that has small to medium-sized pieces and isn’t too sharp. The problem with large chunks of gravel is that they can trap food, which will result in the production of ammonia in your aquarium.

Soil and gravel are also great for holding live plants in place. To make a natural betta biotope, you have to choose some plants that betta fish love. They often swim close to the bottom of the aquarium, so it’s good to make sure the tank bottom gives a natural flavor to your Bettas. Thus it can be a suitable living environment for them.

7) Put Some Decors

Your betta fish will feel more at home in a tank with stones, driftwood, and plants. You can also build a cave out of these items to give your Betta a shady area where they can hide. Plenty of hiding and resting places are vital for keeping Betta fish relaxed.

You’ll find lots of Betta decors and toys available in pet shops and online stores. But, it’s always best to choose live plants rather than plastic or silk ones, which are more natural for your fish. Avoid using plastic plants and hard decorations as these could catch in your Betta’s tail.

8) Betta Biotope Plants

Betta fish with lush plant in an aquarium
Betta fish with lush plants in an aquarium

Plants help to create a natural environment for your fish and also make your aquarium pleasant to look at. Natural items are best for betta fish rather than colorful fish tank items from the pet shop.

Live plants have the added benefit of oxygenating the water and removing toxic matters like nitrate and ammonia. They also help to produce beneficial bacteria and establish a healthy environment in the aquarium.

Suitable plants for adding to a Betta biotope are Amazon sword, Moss balls, Java ferns, Water sprite, etc. Some plants are toxic to betta fish, avoid those plants in your tank.

You can use Indian Almond Leaves for your Betta biotope, as many experts suggest for it. (Though I haven’t personally tried for it.) These are dried leaves believed in providing minerals that soothe the bettas.

Setting up the Betta Biotope aquarium (Step-by-Step)

how to make a betta biotope aquarium step by step

Step-1: Cleaning and A leak check

The first thing to do is clean the aquarium tank and check that it is completely watertight. Don’t clean it using any cleansing products as these will affect your fish health. Fill your tank with water and put it in the bath to ensure there are no leaks.

Step-2: Add gravel substrate

Once your tank is ready to set up, take some time to plan how you want to position the plants and decorations. Put a layer of gravel or soil at the bottom of the tank. There should be two inches of substrate covering the bottom of the tank.

It’s a good idea to rinse the gravel a few times with warm water before putting it in your tank; this will help eliminate any dust, dirt, or debris that may affect your fish.

Step-3: Add plants

The next step is to add a couple of inches of water to your aquarium. This will make it a lot easier to add plants.

Use a de-chlorinator in the water and wait for between ten and fifteen minutes before planting.

Betta Tank with gravel and plants
Betta Tank with gravel and plants

When adding the plants, bury their roots in enough soil and gravel. Java moss, betta bulbs, and Marimo moss are all great plants that are hardy, suitable for beginners, and great for betta fish.

It’s good to put the biggest plants at the back of your aquarium and the smaller ones at the front. This will help the tank appear larger and allow you to view your fish.

Step-4: Add decors

You can then add the decorations, creating a cave for your Betta to hide in. Choosing the right decor is crucial, and putting decorations in the tank is a pretty simple task.

Just keep in mind, when placing decors, the main objective is to present aesthetic beauty, ensuring your Betta’s comfort.

Step-5: Fill the tank

Carefully pour water into your tank to fill it, then add the filter, heating, and lighting. It’s a good idea to put a plate into your aquarium and pour the water onto this rather than directly onto the gravel. This will reduce the likelihood of the plants and gravel being displaced.

Fill the tank one inch from the top, as this will give your fish space to breathe. Leave the tank to sit for a few days without any fish in it, as this will allow the filters to work and remove chlorine from the water.

It will also mean that beneficial bacteria will start to grow in your tank, which is also known as cycling the aquarium.

Betta Biotope tank mates

Bettas are least compatible with most other kinds of fish. It’s almost impossible to keep two male Bettas in the same tank and challenging to keep females together. (Still, the Betta sorority exists!) I’ll suggest you add some bottom feeders as Betta biotope tank mates

Kuhli Loach

Kuhli Loaches are peaceful bottom-feeder fish. Most of the time, they remain at the tank bottom exploring food leftovers. They are capable of living with Betta without any confrontation. But they require a sandy bottom. If you want to keep them in the biotope, a sand substrate in the tank is essential.

Bamboo Shrimp

Bamboo Shrimp - In - Betta Biotope Tank

Bamboo shrimp is quick and careful in nature. They can hide very fast. As they are simple in color and relatively larger in size, they don’t become prey so easily.

I keep bamboo shrimp in my betta biotope and found they are well-compatible.

Zebra Snails

Zebra Snails - In - Betta Biotope Tank

Zebra snail is my favorite snail, and I am keeping them in my various tanks, including the Betta biotope. They are excellent algae eaters.

The water conditions I maintain for the Betta biotope are also suitable for them. You can explore other snails that are compatible to live with bettas.

African Dwarf Frogs

African Dwarf Frogs - In - Betta Biotope Tank

I am not that much fond of frogs and never tried to keep them. But some experts suggest for African Dwarf Frogs to keep them in a Betta biotope.

They love plenty of hiding places that are available in a Betta biotope. The suitable water conditions are also similar for Bettas and African Frogs. So you can try keeping them in the biotope.

More Resources On Betta Fish


Your betta biotope should be kept somewhere safe and secure and also be away from children. It should neither place in a dark place nor in direct sunlight. I’ll advise investing in the largest tank you can afford and having space in your home for the best result.

Keep your tank away from windows, especially if you open them often, as your fish may be in a draft. Rapid temperature changes can cause your fish to go into shock. As I said before, it is better to Make a cave so that your Betta can get some shade and hide if they need to.

Creating a natural environment for your Betta will mean that they are healthier and happier. You’ll also be able to enjoy watching your fish.

Aquarium Gears That I Use & I Recommend

I hope you find this article helpful, and got the answer you’re looking for. To make your aquarist life easier you can have a look at the products that I use for my aquarium. I am recommending them to you because I found them reliable, and worth every penny out of many.

  1. Aquarium light: A light can bring magic to the aquarium. It’s not just about brightening up the tank – it’s about syncing your fish’s daily rhythm. It’s highly beneficial if you’ve got a lush planted setup. I’m happy, I’ve stumbled upon a budget-friendly gem that’s perfect for plants. Curious? Catch the unboxing video here and see for yourself!
  2. Water conditioner: A water conditioner is another vital element in fishkeeping as it helps treat the tap water and makes it safe for aquarium use. I found Seachem Prime is the ultimate conditioner that removes Chlorine, Chloramine, and heavy metal readily from tap water. It also helps restore the slime coat in fish. Check it out here.
  3. Water test kit: Accurately measuring water parameters is crucial for fish tanks. You won’t know if anything goes wrong without testing the water parameters. Ever since I bought the API master test kit it makes my life much easier. You should have one, click here.
Sujit Modak

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