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Squabbles over minimum tank sizes are a constant in this hobby, and a subject I try to stay out of for the most part because of how heated the discussions can become. Please stay civil if you decide to interact with this thread, I am not trying to start a fight with anyone. :)


Something that I've been noticing lately is that the popular recommended minimum tank size for bettas seems to have increased. When I got my first betta in 2011, the usual recommendation I saw was 2.5g as a minimum. Looking around recently it seems as if many places have started recommending no less than a 5g tank.

I'm not really trying to start a debate about which is "right", I'm just curious- has anyone else noticed this shift, and does anyone know why it's occurred?

Was there a scientific study, or a survey of betta ages vs tank size, or a popular video, or an influential webpage, or a new club standard, or.... ? Is there any data out there, even collected by amateurs, or is this trend based more on gut feelings about tank size. Or have you not noticed any such trend at all?


Part of me wonders if it's a case of encouraging beginners to aim for a larger tank size simply because it's easier to care for, and helps protect the betta from inadequate water changes. Which I can approve of... but would kind of miss the point of calling it a "minimum" which to me should mean "with proper care your betta can be healthy & content in this size tank" even if it's not the preferred size.

I definitely don't want to be That Person clinging to outdated information "just because" or because I can't admit I was wrong in my earlier opinions, but I also don't want to jump on a bandwagon if it's based only on "bigger is better" without anything to suggest that a smaller tank is actually inadequate or harmful even with proper care.

(To give you perspective on where I'm coming from: My personal minimum is 2.5g since that is the smallest size tank I feel comfortable keeping stable. For others my opinion is that if a betta is kept within correct water/environment parameters and isn't showing signs of stress, then even a 1g tank can be adequate to give them a long healthy life. I prefer to encourage good husbandry practices rather than imply just having a large tank will solve problems of otherwise inadequate care. But I'd also never discourage someone from upgrading or having a higher personal minimum.)


Again, I'm not trying to start a debate about whether 2.5g or 5g or any other size is "better" for a minimum. That's a subject that will probably never be resolved fully and I think many of us like seeing bettas in large aquariums, while others are just as successful in keeping smaller tanks. I'm more curious about the trend itself and if anyone might have ideas of where it came from.
 

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Around here we do NOT allow tank shaming, it goes against the BE NICE rule. We have a thread that dedicated to 1 to 2 gal tanks, so that owners can show them off without fear of someone insulting them.

I think the 5 gal tank size being pushed is based on personal preference and nothing more. While I'd never recommend someone keep their betta in a 1 gal tank, I won't shame anyone for doing so. I simply ask some questions to make sure the tank is being, correctly, taken care of. I've never seen any studies that say betta suffer being kept in a 1 gal, or that they live shorter lives. The reason that I don't recommend tanks less then 2.5 gal is because a 2.5 is not that much larger then a 1 gal so the person should be able to find room for it, it gives the betta more swimming room, it's easier to care of since it does not need as frequent water changes, and the cycle is more stable.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Around here we do NOT allow tank shaming, it goes against the BE NICE rule. We have a thread that dedicated to 1 to 2 gal tanks, so that owners can show them off without fear of someone insulting them.
I completely agree with this sentiment, and I tried to make it clear in my post that I wasn't trying to debate the actual sizes involved, just discuss the trend in how recommendations have changed. If you or another mod feel this thread is likely to turn into a kerfuffle then I am happy to have it locked or removed, with my apologies.
 

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I've noticed similar things, Rana. I feel like in general people recommend larger starter tanks now but often they are still kinda small. 10 years ago I was fine putting bettas in 1-3 gallon containers but today I feel like the more room I can give them, the better. As long as they are happy with the space, I like them to have it. But I'm not judging smaller tank sizes at all, just noting that I too have seen a change over the years.
 

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I completely agree with this sentiment, and I tried to make it clear in my post that I wasn't trying to debate the actual sizes involved, just discuss the trend in how recommendations have changed. If you or another mod feel this thread is likely to turn into a kerfuffle then I am happy to have it locked or removed, with my apologies.

No need to apologize. I was just trying to say why you won't see tank shaming here. We do love to discuss stuff, and try to learn from one another, so your thread is more then alright.
 

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I agree, Rana. When I started out it was a given that Betta lived in 1-2 gallon bowls. This was the normal habitat for Betta until 30 or so years ago when people learned they were comfortable in larger tanks. And those tanks and equipment became more affordable. But even then it was usually a three-gallon.

I recommend people buy the largest tank they can afford because they are easier to maintain and keep healthy. For someone with no room for a larger tank my smallest recommendation is 2.5. But I first recommend a 5.5. The exception is for Kings and Giants.

Sad to say we have had members who were so strident in their opinions on tank size as to be obnoxious and even cruel. This is one reason why this Forum, as said by Rainbo, doesn't tolerate tank shaming.

As you so properly noted, it's a matter of opinion and not scientific study.
 

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Some Bettas just freak out in bigger tanks,

Some Bettas should be kept in smaller tanks 5 gallon and under.
Been there; done that. When it happened the first time I couldn't believe he was more comfortable in a 2.5 as opposed to a 20, 10 or 5.5.
 

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I have 2 males in 5 gallons and 2 others upgraded to 10 gallons each. I have 5 female sorority in a 20L and I have just ordered a 33 gallon long tank for the upgrade. I am excited I have been trying to get one for awhile it is 48" long and 12 deep 12 high. This will be the new sorority tank and the 20l will become a divided tank for the other 2 males. I am just hoping to add the other 3 females to it and my tetras. This will eliminate the amount of tanks I have just giving me less heaters and filters etc to maintain. I am not tank shaming I just want less maintenance. My friends just think I need an intervention. My males seem fine so far with the larger aquariums.
 

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(A gentle reminder that this thread isn't meant to debate which tank size is "right" or "better", it's meant to focus more on the trend among bettakeepers to pick a tank size as the minimum, and what it means that the recommended size has changed over time.)


I'm glad I'm not the only one who's noticed this trend!

I don't think it's a bad thing to encourage new owners to get a "large" tank if they can, but IMO calling it a "minimum" does open the door to people getting shamed for having a tank below an arbitrary cut-off, whatever that size is. And that's not really a good attitude to have in a community. It's one of the reasons I like this forum so much, y'all make it clear to newbies that smaller tanks are okay if cared for correctly, while still gently encouraging (not demanding) upgrades to a reasonable "easy to care for" size when their means allow.

And as noted, some bettas don't like large tanks! I wonder how people who insist a 5g or 10g is the minimum (yes, I've recently seen 10 gallons claimed as the minimum for a single betta in some places and I'll be honest, I do think that's starting to get carried away) deal with bettas who can't tolerate the extra space, and would be "happier"- insofar as we can interpret it- in a smaller tank. I hope those keepers don't feel ashamed for needing to downgrade their betta, or don't force them to live in a large tank that stresses them out for the sake of "bigger is always better" ideals.


Really what I'd love is to see some scientific research done on the actual requirements for health, whether focused on domestic bettas or the wild species. Ideally we'd have some way to gauge emotional health as well but that is a super long shot, since plenty of people still argue whether fish feel pain, let alone if they "get bored".

Until then it seems to me like it's really all just bettakeepers (and some aquarists who don't even keep bettas!) picking a preferred size and declaring that the "minimum" based on gut feelings.

Which is why it's so interesting to see trends like this because- as far as I know, and I have been looking- we really don't have any data on whether one size tank is better than the other, instead it's influenced largely by personal experience and social attitudes.


...But again, I am perfectly willing to be open-minded and look at new information that does suggest some sort of minimum tank size for our friend the betta. So maybe that data is already out there, I'd sure love to see it.
 

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I haven't seen any studies, either. And I've looked for them because if there is I'm grateful to see them.

I wonder if this trend has anything to do with people anthropomorphizing their Betta and projecting? I've had Betta for a long time and either worked in or had friends who owned Mom & Pop fish stores. Yet until the Internet I could count on the fingers of one had those who viewed their Betta as people in little scale coats. It was kids back then but now it's adults, too.

Just throwing that out there as one possible reason. I thought of this because we see so many who give the reason for bigger tanks not as healthier or easier to maintain but because smaller tanks are "like putting a Betta in a closet."

Is this this along the lines of what you wanted as opposed to my previous post on my views of minimum size and why? Would like to keep the thread on topic so it won't hurt my feelings if you say "yes." ;)
 

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I think if you provide an enriching environment for your fish, they will interact with it. Bettas seem especially curious compared to many other species of fish, and I think it's more difficult to provide an enriching environment in a smaller tank, than it is in a larger one. I mean how much room is there really in something like a 1-2 gallon tank once you take into account things like water displacement? You simply don't have the water volume to work with.

When I first started in the hobby, I was fine with tanks under 5 gallons, and in fact, had many such tanks myself. However, over the years, my opinion has shifted greatly, and I've come to feel that anything under 10 gallons just seems so limiting to the fish.

I think it comes from the fact that I like to give my fish options. Yes, 90% of the time, my fish might choose to remain in one particular area of the tank, so could be perfectly content in a 2.5 gallon tank, but if for 10% of the time they might choose to move about and explore, I want them to have the option to do so.

I also prefer larger tanks because they are easier to maintain. We all made mistakes when we were new to the hobby, but in a smaller tank such mistakes can be deadly, because of the faster build-up of toxins such as ammonia and nitrite.

Perhaps there are other people like me, whose opinion on minimum tank size has changed over the years and this has resulted in them encouraging new hobbyists to go bigger if they can.
 
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