Acclimating your betta fish helps the pet adapt to its new tank and water and reduces stress. The new tank has new surroundings with different lighting, sounds, salinity, oxygen, and nutrient levels compared to the previous one. Failure to acclimate your betta fish can put it in an osmotic shock which results from acute distress and sudden salinity changes.
How to Acclimate Betta Fish
Before acclimating your betta fish, you should consider the condition of your tank and the type of transition bound to happen. The steps listed below will help you acclimate your fish from the cup, bag, or other containers to the aquarium.
Acclimating Betta Fish to a New Tank
The following context will guide you on the steps to follow when acclimating your betta fish to ensure maximum comfort after the transition.
Here are the steps:
1. Prepare the tank
The chosen aquarium tank in your premises will act as the new habitat for your betta fish. A betta fish’s natural habitat contains stagnant and murky water, factors you must consider when preparing the tank. Despite their small sizes, betta fish thrive better in larger tanks where they can comfortably move around and explore their surroundings.
The tank should be capable of holding at least 2.5 gallons or more. A filtration system may not be necessary because betta fish can breathe direct air from the tank’s top.
2. Clean the tank, gravels, and decorations
Clean the fish tank without using detergent or soap. Use hot water from the tap to rinse the gravel and other decorations before placing them in the tank. Neutral colored gravels are recommended to keep your betta calm and facilitate the building up of bacteria that digest the waste in the tank.
3. Add water into the tank
During this step, it’s advisable to use tap water for the newly arranged tank since distilled water lacks essential minerals required for the fish’s survival. Do not fill the tank to the brim so that your fish gets enough space at the top where it can get air to breathe.
Unlike other fish, bettas get air from the topmost surface of the tank. This explains why you should avoid tanks with narrow tops because they prevent comfortable movements of the fish to the top of the tank.
4. Get a water conditioner
If you’re going to use tap water for your betta fish, you want to use a high quality conditioner as well. A water conditioner is essential for neutralizing chemicals, metals, and other impurities found in tap water. It removes chloramine, chlorine, and dissolved substances that can poison your fish. Follow the instructions on the bottle to know the suitable amount for your tank size.
You can buy the water conditioner online or at a vet store near you. There are different brands for treating different types of impurities in the water, and it’s up to you to choose the most suitable one for your tank.
To ensure safety, add the water conditioner to the tank and let it mix with the water, following the instructed period. If your tap water only contains chlorine, you can dechlorinate it traditionally by leaving it in the open until the chemicals dissipate. However, this method does not guarantee complete water treatment, to adjust so it’s best to use a water conditioner to clear all doubts.
After treating your water, it’s time to transfer your betta fish from the cup or bag and place it in the ready tank.
Acclimating Betta Fish from a Cup to the Tank
If your betta is in a cup, you want to make sure the conditions in the cup are the same as those in the tank to help the fish adjust easily.
Here’s how to acclimate your betta fish from a cup:
1. Place the cup on top of the tank to float
To ensure a safe adaptation to the temperature changes, place the cup on top of the tank and leave it floating for up to 15 minutes. This step curbs the risk of shock caused by sudden exposure to colder water on your betta fish.
2. Add tank water into the cup
As the cup continues to float, add water into it using a smaller container or a baster. The activity should be slow to give the betta some time as it adjusts to each new portion of water coming from the tank. The new water should be added beside the fish and not directly on top.
The tank water has a different pH and mineral composition than what the fish is used to. The temperature also differs, explaining why you should leave the water in the cup for up to 20 minutes as the fish gets accustomed to it.
3. Add more tank water into the cup
The main aim is to have a proper mixture of the tank water and the water already in the cup. To achieve this, continue adding until the water has a balanced ratio of 1:1. The process should occur slowly as the fish adjusts to the new water.
For a complete transition, leave the water mixture for another 20 minutes while observing your betta’s reaction. Use your finger to feel if there’s a balance between the temperature of the cup water and the rest of the tank water. During this step, both containers should have acquired the same temperature.
4. Put the fish in the tank
The last step is to transfer your betta fish from the cup to the tank. The aquarium net is best suited for this swap for the safety of your fish. Scoop it out of the cup slowly and gently to avoid any harm or alarm that can put it in distress. Depending on the condition of the water in the cup, you can decide to pour it away or add it into the tank to mix with the rest.
Note the reaction of your betta fish as it adjusts to the larger space in the tank. Add food pellets to the tank as you continue observing the progress.
Acclimating betta fish from a bag to the tank follows the same steps as transferring it from the cup. However, the bag is less stable and may not float unless you hold its top, a process that can be tiring. When transferring the betta fish, you can either use an aquarium net or tilt the bag sideways inside the tank for the fish to swim away.
How Long Do Betta Fish Need to Acclimate?
Betta fish need 30 to 60 minutes to acclimate depending on the differences in the water composition of the tank and cup. The method you use to acclimate your fish may also affect how long it takes for your betta fish to acclimate.
The water swap method I’ve explained above involves adding tank water to the cup while leaving it to mix on several occasions. During the first step, you need to wait for 15 minutes while the second and third water swaps have a 20-minute waiting period. This makes it a total of 55 minutes for betta fish to acclimate, which is within the range of the recommended period.
However, the drip acclimation method lasts up to two hours as it pertains to a complex setup and a detailed process. It involves siphoning the tank water into the bag or cup containing the fish.
The steps are gradual and easier than the water swap process because you don’t have to scoop the tank water and manually add it to the cup. The main catch is the extra time spent fixing the siphon and acclimating your betta fish.
What Happens If You Don’t Acclimate Betta Fish?
Failure to acclimate your betta fish can cause it to get into a shock when suddenly transferred to the new tank. The water temperature and pH inside the tank are different from the cup or bag and your fish requires needs time to adjust to these changes through the osmoregulation process during the acclimation period.
Osmotic shock develops from acute distress when your fish experiences a surprise salinity change. Betta fish fatality occurs between two to three days if you don’t acclimate it well.
Acclimating your betta helps it respond gradually to the water changes. It’ll already be used to this when you finally transfer it from the cup to the tank. Acclimation is the safest way to help the fish adjust to the new territory and surroundings that are about to become its home.
Bringing your new betta fish home with you is an exciting ordeal that can easily mess with your patience. However, you have to follow the acclimation procedure to the letter if you want the betta to survive in its new environment.
While betta fish can live in the cup for up to 24 hours, it’s advisable to transfer it to the tank as soon as possible. This will help you note any resistance or distress arising from the changes.
The acclimation process takes 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the method you decide to use. It’s important to ensure that the water in the cup is well mixed with the water from the tank in a balanced ratio. This helps the fish adjust to the temperature, salinity, and pH level of the tank water while still in the cup.
Lastly, observe the reaction of your betta fish after the transfer to rule out any risks you might have assumed or ignored during the earlier stages of acclimation.