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How To Transfer Betta Fish From Cup To Tank – All You Need To Know

how many bettas in a 20 gallon tank

Bettas are such exciting and majestic creatures! It’s no wonder they’re a favorite among fishkeepers. Learning how to transfer betta fish from cup to tank will allow you to enjoy this intensely colored splendor for up to 5 years!

Their lifespan depends more on a successful initial transfer than on the regular aftercare you’ll be doing while keeping a betta fish.

They are low maintenance pet fish, as long as you meet their basic tank requirements.

There are several steps to take in order to make a betta’s transfer successful, and we’ll be going over everything you need to know in order to make this process as smooth as possible.

The main goal during the cup-to-tank transition will be to minimize the stress your pet betta fish will be experiencing. Adding a betta to a tank without acclimating it to the new environment can send it into shock, mostly due to the sudden changes in pH level and water temperature.

Let’s see how you can safely introduce a betta fish into its new territory!

Betta Fish (Betta splendens)

Care levelEasy
TemperamentAggressive
AppearanceVibrant colorations with long flowing fins
LifespanUp to 3 years
Size2 ½ inches (tail length varies)
DietCarnivorous  
FamilyOsphronemidae
Alternative nameSiamese fighting fish

 

How To Safely Transfer Your Betta Fish From A Cup To Your Tank

betta fish adjusting to new tank

If you’re welcoming a betta fish into your home and transferring using a cup, it’s likely you’re just coming back from a pet store.

Before talking about a successful transfer, let’s talk about how you can increase the odds of bringing home a healthy betta fish. Rescuing, and caring for a visibly ill betta, should only be handled by experienced fishkeepers.

Here’s what you should look for when shopping for a healthy betta fish:

  • Betta is swimming actively and will investigate when noticing you’ve approached its tank;
  • You should see that distinct betta flare at least once when observing it
    (a territorial betta is a healthy betta);
  • There should be no obvious signs of disease (white dots, frayed black-edged fins, etc.);
  • Fins intact and flowy (not clamped);
  • Coloration is intense and vibrant (especially in male betta fish).

So, how do you successfully transfer betta fish from cup to tank?

There are five steps (this number can vary depending on your tank set-up) you should take to make this cup-to-tank transfer go smoother and with minimal stress for your new pet betta fish:

  1. Buy a healthy betta fish.
  2. Acclimate the betta before putting it in a new tank.
  3. Transfer it into a quarantine tank first (optional).
    – Skip step 3 if your new betta has its own tank;
    – go through with step 3 if you’re planning on keeping the betta in a community tank.
  4. Acclimate your fish whenever you transfer a betta to a new tank:
    – acclimate your betta fish when moving it from the quarantine tank to a community tank.
  5. Monitor your betta to make sure the transfer was successful and it isn’t showing signs of distress.

How Long Can Betta Fish Survive In A Transfer Cup?

Transfers can be extremely stressful for pet fish, so it’s recommended that you make your trip back from the store as short as possible.

The cups, or sometimes plastic bags, that pet stores will provide you with to take your betta home has several downfalls:

  • The cup will usually be filled with a small amount of water.
  • Water temperature can fluctuate wildly in such a small amount of water, and this can be harmful (sometimes deadly) for betta fish.
  • If you were to take a very long time to move a betta from cup to tank, the water inside the cup could turn toxic. Your new pet fish will eliminate waste (poop), and there will be no biological filtration to clean up the water.
  • Even with a cup that has a lid with ventilation holes, poor oxygenation can become a problem (especially when transferring a betta in a tied-off plastic bag).

Try to plan ahead, and make your shopping trip as short and possible when buying your new betta fish!

How To Acclimate A Betta To A New Tank

betta fish new tank syndrome

Acclimating a pet fish is a process that will allow your new betta to gradually adjust to the water conditions of its new home.

The water temperature and pH level inside a temporary transfer cup (or bag) will be different than the levels inside your betta tank.

You need to acclimate betta fish whenever it gets transferred from one body of water to another:

  • from cup to tank;
  • quarantine tank to community tank;
  • smaller tank to bigger tank;
  • any tank to a new tank.

Acclimation is vital to a successful transfer when it comes to pet fish. This slow and gradual adaptation process minimizes stress levels, preventing shock-induced diseases and/or deaths in bettas.

There are a couple of ways you can acclimate betta fish when transferring to a new tank:

Water Switch Acclimation 

  • Test the water inside the new tank to make sure water quality is stable and within the parameters that betta fish are comfortable with;
  • Take the lid off the transfer cup (or open the transport bag).
  • Keep lights low during acclimation to reduce stress.
  • If your betta came in a cup, allow the cup to float inside the new tank.
  • Roll open the top of the bag (if that’s what your betta came home in), and create an edge.
    This will allow the bag to float without tipping.
  • Add ½ cup of tank water to the cup/bag every 15 minutes.
    This process will slowly equalize the water conditions inside the transfer cup to the water conditions inside the new tank (pH level, water temperature, oxygen saturation, nutrients, nitrates, etc.).
  • Acclimate your betta for 30-60 minutes, depending on how different the water conditions between the cup and the new tank are.
  • Add the betta fish to the new tank using a net or a clean cup without pouring the water inside the transfer cup into the new tank.
  • Monitor your new pet fish to make sure it doesn’t show telltale signs of distress or illness.

 

Drip Method Acclimation 

  • Place the transfer cup (or open bag) in a large enough container to allow your betta to get covered with water.
  • Set said container on the floor next to the new tank you’re transferring your betta into.
  • Set up an air stone in the container and hook it up to an air pump.
  • Use a piece of air line tubing and an air valve to create a makeshift siphon, putting one end of the tubing inside the container holding the betta and the other end into the new tank.
  • Start-off siphoning water from the new tank and adjust the “flow” rate of the drip using the valve.
  • Let your makeshift siphon drip into the container until the water inside it has tripled in volume.
    If your drip flow is optimal, this betta acclimation process should take about 2 hours.
  • Test water parameters inside the temporary container and inside the new tank, and compare the values. If they are sufficiently matched, it’s time for the final transfer.
  • Remove your betta fish using a fishnet or clean cup and place it into its new tank.
  • Discard the water inside the container, and replenish the water inside the tank with dechlorinated water.
  • Monitor your new pet fish to confirm a successful transfer.

Monitoring your betta fish is essential, whatever acclimation method you choose.

An unsuccessful transfer from cup-to-tank can send your new pet fish into shock without immediate signs of distress. You should monitor newly transferred bettas for at least a week.

Obvious signs of distress are clamped fins, dulled coloration, refusal to feed, constantly hiding.

Keep in mind that all bettas are individual creatures, so some might handle transfers better than others.

Luck will come into play!

Here’s a great example of how to move betta fish to a bigger tank:

How Long Should You Wait To Put Betta Fish In A New Tank?

The answer to this question will depend on where your betta fish’s forever home will be.

If your betta will be transferred into its own new (cycled) tank, you can go ahead and start acclimating your new pet dish directly into the said tank, using one of the methods listed above.

If you plan on keeping your betta in a community tank, you should definitely acclimate it into a quarantine tank at first.

It’s recommended that you quarantine a new fish for 2 to 4 weeks before adding it to a community tank. This is done to prevent your new betta from introducing diseases or parasites that could put all your other pet fish at risk.

Store-bought fish can carry diseases, or parasites, without displaying any obvious signs that they’re actually ill. By quarantining a new addition, you’re not only protecting the existing fish in your community tank but this way you can also treat a sick betta fish back to health easily.

How To Introduce A Betta To A Community Tank

First and foremost, you need to take a good look at all the fish species (and individuals) you’re already keeping in your community tank. Tank compatibility can make or break a transfer into a community tank.

You should also consider if there’s enough room in your community tank for a betta fish before buying one. They are territorial freshwater fish and need a good chunk of space to claim as their own.

Here’s a list of tank mates that betta fish will peacefully cohabitate with, and a few examples of fish you should avoid keeping with bettas:

Ideal Tank Mates

Not recommended

Kuhli Loaches Other male bettas
Harlequin RasborasMales of other species with long flowing fins
Cory CatfishBarbs
Clown PlecosTetras (notorious fin nippers)
A sorority of 5 female bettasShrimp / Small fish (that can be viewed as snacks)

Quarantine for 2-4 weeks

Transfer your new betta fish to a cycled quarantine tank initially. You’ll have an easier time monitoring it and seeing early signs of disease/parasite infestations. This minimizes the risk of diseases spreading inside your community tank and makes dosing a sick betta easier.

Acclimate the betta to your community tank

Acclimate your betta to the water conditions inside the community tank when transferring it from the quarantine tank. Even small but sudden changes in water parameters can have negative effects on the health of your new betta fish.

Add your betta to the community tank

Once acclimated, carefully transfer your betta into the tank using a net/clean cup.

Make sure there are plenty of plants or decorations it can seek refuge in.

Offer a small feeding (even if off-schedule) to distract tank mates while the betta settles in

Fish in a community tank will investigate a new tank mate out of curiosity.

Betta fish being naturally territorial and aggressive, can get overwhelmed with the attention that comes on top of the stress of the recent transfer.

Monitor to make sure your betta isn’t being bullied

Make sure your new betta fish isn’t being bullied or harassed.

There’s only so much you can do to prevent fish in a community tank from getting in each other’s space, but having an already stressed freshly-transferred betta get bullied can be fatal to your new pet fish.

Know what normal territoriality/aggression in bettas looks like

Flaring to show dominance, defending a territory it quickly redeems after settling into a community tank are all normal (and healthy!) behaviors for a betta fish.

Try not to panic during this initial show-down! Your fish are just getting accustomed to the new hierarchy and boundaries that come with the addition of a territorial/aggressive fish like a betta is.

Move your new betta if they’re harassing other fish in your community tank

If you’ve paired your new betta with compatible fish species in a community tank, but you see obvious signs of harassment even after the initial back-and-forth, it may be necessary to remove your betta from the community tank. Not all bettas are made equal, and some just do better on their own!

Betta Fish Tank Requirements

how long should water sit before adding betta

A successful transfer, and slow & steady acclimation, are important when buying a pet betta fish.

But there are also a number of basic tank requirements you’ll need to meet when setting up the aquarium that’s meant to be your betta’s new home:

Water temperature

Bettas should be kept in tropical temperature water.

They feel most comfortable in a temperature range of 75-80°F.

Water temperature that’s below 70°F can put your betta fish at risk for developing white spot disease.

An above 86°F water temperature is dangerously hot for a betta and can be deadly.

pH level

An ideal pH level for a betta fish tank should be between 6.8-7.5.

They do tolerate being in the lower or higher ends of this range pretty well, but sudden changes in pH are extremely harmful to bettas.

Oxygenation

Bettas can breathe using their gills, like most fish, but they will also use their labyrinth organ to gulp air at the water’s surface and extract oxygen directly from atmospheric air.

That’s why bettas need to have access to as much of the water’s surface as possible, so:

  • don’t overfill your betta tank;
  • make sure there’s enough room between the water surface and the lid;
  • choose a tank that’s wider/longer than it is tall for a larger area where water meets air.

Secure lid

Betta fish are notorious jumpers, and because they spend a lot of time in the top part of the tank (to breathe and to feed), they’re prone to jumping out of the tank.

Make sure you have your betta tank fitted with a secure lid.

Tank size

Although bettas are sold in cups and popularly known as pet fish that you can keep in a fishbowl, they actually need plenty of space to explore and swim.

A 3 to 5-gallon tank is the minimum tank capacity you should go for if you’re keeping a single betta fish.

Tank location

To avoid sudden water temperature changes, place your betta fish tank away from direct sunlight, heaters, cooling vents, or drafty spots in your house.

Filter

Betta fish can live in unfiltered nano tanks if you’re keeping just one betta on its own.

But you’ll need to do daily partial water changes to prevent ammonia poisoning.

For an easier maintenance routine, choose a filter with adjustable flow, as a filter that creates strong water currents can damage a betta’s long delicate fins.

Heater

Even if you keep the temperature in your home at 80°F, it’s important to keep the water temperature inside your betta tank stable, between 75-80°F. So, a heater is 100% required!

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t use a heater in a tank with a capacity smaller than 5 gallons.

Gravel

Betta fish will explore the entire tank, even though they feed and breathe at surface level.

Adding gravel to your betta fish tank, especially in an unfiltered tank, will help with biological filtration, as gravel is a great place for good bacteria to grow and establish.

Choose smoother smaller-grained gravel to prevent your betta from injuring itself while exploring the lower areas of its tank.

Aquatic plants

Bettas are native to bodies of water that have plenty of shade and heavy vegetation, like rice paddies.

Adding live aquatic plants to a betta tank will enrich your swimming splendor’s life, as it will mimic the natural environment that betta fish thrive in.

Hiding spots

There are plenty of reasons why your pet betta fish might want to hide in a tank. They hide when sick, injured, or feeling vulnerable. But they also explore hiding spots out of curiosity.

Choose decorations that don’t have rough textures or edges to prevent bettas from getting injured while hiding.

Lighting system

A lighting system will help you keep your betta fish on a diurnal schedule, with plenty of time to swim, eat and explore, and sufficient time to rest and recharge.

Having pet fish on this type of routine will keep stress levels low and teach them to self-regulate.

Conclusion

Betta fish are among the most affordable and easy-maintenance aquarium fish that will absolutely steal the show in any tank they end up in!

It’s worth learning how to successfully transfer betta fish from cup to tank because you’ll end up with one of nature’s masterpieces thriving in your home.

Getting your new pet betta fish safely into its new tank is just the start of the journey, as this hardy fish will need you to stay on top of a basic tank cleaning routine to stay healthy, active, and intensely colored.


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