While many people put bettas in a small bowl, dish, or vase, a male betta will do better in a tank. Even a small tank will improve water quality and make the life of your betta better. The water quality in a small bowl is often very nasty. It is full of harmful chemicals that are made up of the fishes own wastes. However a small tank can help make the water quality better with aeration that will help bacteria grow, a filter of some sort that will allow for some filtration, and more space where you can place a plant that will also improve the bio-filtration of your tank. These improved conditions can make a huge difference in how healthy your betta is and in how long he lives.
However with all of this space that you aren't likely to be used to you may wish to have more little creatures in there with your betta. This will give you more things to look at and if you choose small tank mates that will make a difference in your tank clean up you will have even better water quality. If you are wondering whether or not you want to keep a betta in a bowl or a tank check out this article Betta Care: A Vase or a Tank.
Make Sure The Male Will Do Well.
While bettas tend to have a negative image, most are pretty peaceful in a community tank. You want to make sure that the betta you choose is one that will do well with other creatures in his tank. If you already own a betta watch his behavior. You are looking for a male who is laid back and easy going. It is pretty easy to tell, but if you aren't certain then hold up different bright colors (similar to the colors other bettas might be) and see how he reacts. Interest is okay, but if he starts flaring up his fins and gills you may want to just leave him on his own. He will still benefit from a tank, but you probably don't want to add anyone in there with him. If you don't own a betta yet then check out the article Tips For Choosing a Betta For Your Community Tank for finding the perfect laid back fish for your community tank.
Very Small Tanks.
There are many small tanks that are sold as desktop tanks. They are perfect for a single betta and a few extra little creatures for added cleanup. These extra creatures are also great to watch as they move around and do their thing. These tanks are less than five gallons which makes the space too small for very many creatures and there won't be enough space for other fish so it is a good idea to stick with a few invertebrates.
- Ghost shrimp. While not all bettas are laid back enough for tank mates, most will have no problem with ghost shrimp. These shrimp are a bit bigger than other types of dwarf shrimp and their color is boring and don't seem to cry out, "I taste good." to the bettas so a couple of ghost shrimp can be a great addition to your betta tank. These are also inexpensive should your betta be one of the few that really doesn't want a tank mate and kills them. Ghost shrimp will also eat left over foods, algae, and even fish poop to help clean up your small tank. For small tanks add three ghost shrimp.
- Snails. Often times a snail can also be a great addition. Most bettas ignore snails and when they don't, they don't do much damage. There are some exceptions to this rule (but you should already have chosen a laid back betta or checked out your betta before you decided to add members to their tank). Your snail options include mystery snails (or apple snails), nerite snails, and even assassin snails if you want to feed them. You can add other kinds, but it is often best to find out if they will multiply quickly which is bad in your small tank. It is also good to know what they will eat. Mystery snails eat left over fish food first and a little bit of algae second. Nerite snails eat algae and if there isn't enough of it they will need some sort of plant matter based pellet or fresh vegetables to eat. Assassin snails eat pesky snails and will need foods such as frozen blood worms if there are no snails available to eat. Only add one snail to a small tank.
Five Gallon Tank.
A five gallon tank isn't really big enough to add a whole lot of fish. As a rule of thumb you should add no more than one inch of fish per gallon of water. With that in mind your male betta should get to 3 to 4 inches in length. With that in mind you aren't left with many options to add in addition to the shrimp and snails. You can add more shrimp keeping up to five or six in there and you can add an extra snail. Choosing two different species of snails can be interesting to watch. One final option is to add 3 otocinculus catfish (otos for short). These tiny catfish have a small bioload (they don't add a lot of waste) so they can be kept in a small tank without a problem. They only grow to about 1.5" and they will consume algae. A few things to note would be that you have to have algae growth before buying them, they like vegetables (zucchini, carrots, green beans, and cucumbers to name a few), and they need to be in a group (that's why you need three). They are also a bit sensitive so you need to make sure that you are in the habit of doing regular water changes and that your tank is being maintained. In such a small space you shouldn't keep otos and snails who will both be relying on the algae population.
Ten Gallon Tank.
Compared to a 1.5 gallon tank, a 10 gallon is huge. However, when you are looking at fish, it really isn't that big. Here are a few things to think about.
- Shrimp. You can add up to 10 ghost shrimp pretty peacefully in a ten gallon tank. Another possibility is to get a couple of Amono shrimps. These are true algae eating shrimp and will also help clean up left over food. They grow larger and offer a different look than the ghost shrimp without being bright colored and looking overly tasty!
- Snails. You can keep up to three or four snails, but you want to make sure that you are either choosing kinds that eat leftovers (mystery snails or such) or that you aren't keeping other algae eaters. Your algae population isn't going to be large enough for both nerite snails and another algae eater.
- Otos. Otocinculus catfish would do even better in a ten gallon than a five gallon. You should still only keep three and remember not to have too many algae eaters unless you plan on supplementing their food regularly.
- Corydora catfish. Another small catfish that would do okay is the corydora catfish (often called cory catfish). Cories come in a huge variety of species and should be kept in groups of three. Remember that you don't want to overload your bottom though with fish.
- African dwarf frogs. You can also get African dwarf frogs to put in with your bettas. They will thrive together and both will enjoy being fed frozen blood worms and frozen brine shrimp. You should keep the African dwarf frog in a small group of two or three. You shouldn't get more than three to go with your betta and you shouldn't choose cory cats and African dwarf frogs. You should also make sure that you are getting African dwarf frogs and not African claw frogs. African claw frogs get much larger and are much more aggressive!
Unfortunatelyother fish that bettas can be kept with should not be kept in a ten gallon. Some will tell you that you can put platies or tetras in there without a problem, but you need to aim for about 10 inches of fish in your tank with very few exceptions. Otos are an exception because they have an abnormally small bioload. Other fish that can be kept with bettas are either too large or need to be kept in groups (tetras should be kept in groups of at least 5 and platies should be kept in a group of at least 3 which would overload your tank). If you are interested in getting a larger tank which will hold a lot more fish and give you more options then check out the article Male Bettas: Tank Mates For Large Fish Tanks.
Keeping a small desktop tank with a betta is a great idea. He really will do better with a filter and an air stone. Adding other fish and invertebrates can make the tank more interesting. Considering these options will let you make the most of the tank that you have in the space that you have. For tips for stocking a larger tank with a betta check out the article Male Bettas: Tank Mates For Large Tanks.