Do Betta Fish Need a Heater? (Guide to Keep them Warm)

betta fish tank

I am sure that as a responsible pet owner, this question must have crossed your mind more than a few times in the past. Is my Betta too cold, does it need a heater, Am I hurting my little buddy? All these questions are valid but things are not as black and white as we would like to think.

Do Betta Fish Need a Heater? Truthfully, bettas don’t actually require a heater to function, they can survive without it. They however prefer it. It strengthens their immune system against diseases and other forms of illness.

The seasons are ever changing and the sudden temperature change might leave your pet’s his immune system vulnerable.

Like most questions out there, a truly objective answer is only possible after reviewing all the facts. There are numerous factors to put into consideration and we plan to go through an entire line up and arrive at a clear enough answer that’ll put your mind at ease.

Is a heater necessary for a betta?

The Average Betta cannot survive in an environment that is objectively cold. It thrives in warm water preferably and anything lower than 68°F is not considered conducive.

They come from the farmlands of Southeast Asia, so they are accustomed to the warm waters. The water temperature there is about 70°F to 80°F on an average day. Lower temperatures don’t exactly kill Bettas directly, they just make them prone to most diseases out there.

They do not directly impact their lifespans like mildly hot waters do. Depending on where you live, a filter might not be necessary, but they are recommended.

When attempting to warm up your betta, a heater is not the only solution out there. There are at least a handful of other ways to comfortably care for the fish without necessarily getting a heater. Most pet owners, however, opt for diverse heaters options and here are a few of the most sought after.

What happens if Betta water is too cold?

As we all know, not all fishes are compatible with the extremes. Most of them actually prefer a certain temperature range and taking them out their preferred temperature zone throws them off a little bit.

The Betta is no different. Fishes can’t regulate their body temperature like us humans, they rely on their surroundings to provide the heat they need. They are cold-blooded animals and basically absorb heat from their surroundings.

Betta will do mostly fine as long as you have some light source close to it and you make a point to try to get is somewhat warm during those cold months. Bettas are fatally non resilient to the cold.

They will basically fall into a coma if the water becomes too cold and this could be anything from 50°F and lower. They basically stop swimming, sink to the bottom of the tank, hibernate and eventually die.

They are a fickle species and they are beautiful as they are delicate.

Some Recommended Heaters for Betta Tank

After going through all the varying types of aquarium heaters, we have combined a list for those people who think that heaters are the way to go. These heaters are top of the line and they have been tested and proven to get you into that sweet spot temperature wise.

Hygger Submersible Aquarium Heater

This submersible heater from Hygger has all the things that you’re looking for. Since controlling tank temperature is so important and sticking a thermometer into it every minute is such a hassle, this heater comes with a ready-made thermometer.

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The heater comes with a milky quartz body and it is capable of effectively heating a tank that contains over 50 gallons easily. It comes with an external dial that can be adjusted to control the temperature and it’s incredibly compact, so the fishes won’t easily detect it.

It comes with a feature that auto disables all functionality as soon as it develops a fault. Its also waterproof and it can sit comfortably beside a filter because of its size. It’s a little bit on the cheap side but it has proven to provide the best price to quality ratio found in its price point.

Cobalt Aquatics 31000 Neo-Therm Heater

This amazing heater from Aquatics features the latest technology to come to tank aquariums in a long while. It comes with an amazing single button setup system and it’s a completely electronic heater.

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It comes with an inbuilt thermostat and it supports heating temperatures from the mild 66°F to the scalding 96°F. Aside from the wide yet speedy heating it provides, it also comes with an impressive LED system that flashes red when it’s heating and green when it’s done.

It also shatterproof and it comes with a feature that ensures that overheating does not happen. It supports numerous amphibious environs and it its incredibly compact. Its only 1/3 inches thick.

Finnex Digital Touch

This is also another submersible heater, but it varies from the flock because it has a unique feature that sets it apart from the rest. It comes equipped with a feature that is called the last memory.

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This enables it to hold onto its setting in the event of a power outage. It comes with a titanium heating tube that heats up far faster and better than your average glass or plastic tubing.

It comes encased in a unique guard system that wraps around it completely and prevents the fish from being harmed. It also comes with a sleek and stylish LED display that displays the current temperature.

It spots an immersive control system for quick adjustments. It comes in different wattage options and it is heating system is considerably better and more accurate than most on the market.

In-Line External Heater Aquarium Heater

This in-line heater operates as a pump. It’s an external device that is connected by cutting away tubing and installing it in-between so that the water warms up as it re-enters the tank.

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It comes in varying wattage, depending on your tank and its requirements. The tank is suited for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums and the possibility of damage whilst running dry. This heater is quite small and it heats up and cools down better than most internal heaters and it also comes with quality insurance.

Types of Heater

Hanging/Immersive heater

This heater injects heat into the tank through a glass tube. It is the most common type of heater out there and it is not particularly effective, it does, however, provides the basics. It’s partially submerged in the tank.

Only the lower part [which is fully coated in glass] is submerged in water, while the top half sticks out. Usually, you need to make a hole on the top of the aquarium to accommodate this heater type.

They are superb for the basic freshwater setup. They, however, perform terribly in the standard saltwater aquarium.

Submersible heater

As the name suggests, these types of heaters are completely submerged.  They are usually set up next to the filter and basically warm up the water as it makes its way into the tank.

Like Hanging heaters, they have a glass covered heating component. This type of heater boils really hot and the glass has been known to crack when these kinds of heaters overheat.

However, this is rarely often the case these days. More and more submersible heaters have opted to use a hardened plastic exterior instead of the standard glass exterior.

They also come with an outstanding signaling system in the form of a LED light that indicates the heater’s status and temperature. The light comes on when the Heater is functioning and it goes off when its idling or switched off.

Since this kind of heater is fully submerged, it provides a more consistent and stable heat source. This heater performs much better because of its fully submerged and probably anchored to the tank bottom, next to the filter.

Substrate Heater design

This is one of the more dated heater designs. It was all the rage in the nineties and even back then it was used as a complementary heater.

They come in a thin wire-y form and they were meant for the plants. This doesn’t mean that they don’t provide adequate heating. Like all things that belonged to the nineties, they are super rare and very expensive.

In-Line Heaters design

This type of heater takes one of the applications of the submersible filter and built an entirely new type of heating system with it. This kind of heater is usually attached inside the filter.

It heats up the water as it makes its way back into the tank. It’s expensive than the average heater and it was built for aquariums with curious or mildly aggressive fishes. Since it’s installed on the outside of the tank, there is always that risk that a leak might occur.

Filter heaters design: This is basically marketed as a singular product. These heaters are filters that come from the factory fitted with a heater.

With the basic types of heaters covered, we want to explore the fish in question and cover just how seemingly important a Betta fish is

Aquarium heaters and the possible problems that come along with them

Although heaters are amazing devices that do most of the work for us, they can also be part of the problem too. I’ve covered how important It is that your Betta stays in water that is the right temperature.

I’ve also told you what would happen if it’s exposed to temperatures that are too cold; I never really explored what would happen if things get too hot in the tank.

Well, it’ll go into temperature shock. This means that both sides of the spectrum are not ideal for a Betta fish. When the tank is too hot, they begin to get erratic.

They swim much faster and illogically, they constantly swim towards the surface to get cooler and finally, their immune system shuts down.

Prolonged stay in the heat might lead to death or accelerated aging. In summary, both sides of the temperature spectrum are equally deadly and if you’re not careful your heater might just be killing your fish.

There are rare occasions that heaters do their jobs a little bit too well. They sometimes overheat and this might be deadly for a lot of reasons.

Another possible danger is an electrical malfunction and faulty thermometers.  Although all these threats seem very unlikely, there is one in two thousand chance of this happening.

Betta Fish

How to Heat a Betta Tank Without a Heater

Like I mentioned earlier, there are at least a handful of other ways to get your betta warm without buying a heater.

Truthfully, some of these tips are more or less unspecialized. They are just everyday tips but when you slap two or three of them together, they could be really effective.

Lets got through some of the basic, yet surprisingly effective ways to keep your Betta fish warm.

Keeping the Tank Covered

This idea sounds like a no brainer. The simple logic behind this is that heat stays in the tank if it is covered up and not allowed to escape. I would recommend using a black lid or tank cover because of how well it conducts heat.

Of course, I understand the dangers of improper oxygenation in an aquarium tank. The lid kind of restricts the flow of oxygen, fortunately it can be easily fixed.

A little air stone can make all the difference. With the air stone, you can keep the tank properly oxygenated and warm at the same time.

Exploit your Aquarium lights

Every half decent Aquarium or tank is equipped with fairly bright lights for the fish and the plants that call your tank their home. Conventionally, these lights were meant for the fishes and the plant.

The plants need light for photosynthesis and the fish need a healthy dose of light once in a while.  Whether you realize it or not, these little lights serve as a heat source.

They might not be incredibly potent like the average heater but if they are used for an extended period of time, they can really pack a wallop.

Leaving the light maxed out for about 8-10 hours can provide more heat than you think, they might just heat the tank up well enough to get into that glorious 80°F range.

The only problem with this idea is that there is a great risk of overheating and the tank begins to lose heat as soon as the lights go off.  I guess this is where keeping the lid open comes into play.

A little sunshine

This step involves exploiting the most natural source of heat in nature: the sun. This does not necessarily mean just leaving the tank in the scorching sun; that is a bad idea for a couple of reasons.

What I recommend is that you keep the tank in a place that is naturally warmer because of its exposure to sunlight. For example, you could keep the tank in a room upstairs on hot summer days or close to a covered window.

There is also the brilliant option of using sunlight directly. It’s way warmer and it helps with photosynthesis. Anywhere between 6-10 hours of sunshine will heat the tank up just the way you like it.

It’s also great for the plants too and that is where the problem lies. Algae are technically plants too. They thrive on nutrients like nitrates and rely on the sun on to grow.

Their growth can be particularly explosive and I strongly recommend not leaving the bowl near the window if you aren’t sure that algae won’t show up if you leave it out for too long.

Use a poorly optimized filter

In the past, there have been times that companies have produced filters that weren’t particularly energy efficient. They run incredibly hot after a few hours of working and they can heat the water up ever so slightly as it makes its way back into the tank.

If this action goes on for an extended period of time, it could make all the difference. You could see how these older or poorly optimized filters can function as a makeshift heater.

The only drawback is that they cannot be easily moderated. The only drawback is that overheating is a real possibility and there is no sure way of reducing its overall heat output.

Use a smaller bowl

In case you haven’t really noticed, Bettas are fishes that don’t really need real estate. They would be content and comfortable in tiny bowls if they need to be. This solution is practical because of just how fast small bowls heat up.

There is a relatively smaller water body and heat will travel much faster than in your average 20-gallon tank. This solution, however, does not come with a major drawback.

The smaller tank also loses heat a lot faster than bigger tanks. This idea could be as much as a solution as it is a problem.

These are just a few ways to get your fish warm. The basic principle behind all these tips is introducing a source of constant and consistent heat to your tank for an extended period of time. As long as you can make sure the tank doesn’t lose heat too fast, you should be solid.

Bettas need light too

You might think that your expensive heater is enough, well it isn’t. Bettas come from the rice paddies of Asia. They are used to a more tropical environment. This means a subtle yet appropriate mixture of heat and light.

It would benefit you greatly to invest in a great lighting system in addition to your heater. Bettas won’t die off just seating in the dark, but they will be significantly less active and fun to watch.

Betta fish

Related Questions

Just how much cold is too cold for my betta?

Well, this has no clear answer. People have come up with quite a lot of theories and assumptions about how much cold will be deadly to your betta.

I’ve conducted extensive research and I’ve discovered that 54°F has proven lethal to the colorful fish. Around this temperature their bodies go into shock and they will ultimately die if action is not taken.

How to make Heating alternatives as effective as heaters?

This is no small feat. The major difference between heaters and their substitutes is that heaters are easily adjustable and were specifically designed to help fishes get warmer, these makeshift alternatives are not.

You would require a thermometer and perhaps insulating fabrics to measure the heat and stabilize it. In theory, they can perform almost as well as the real thing.

How long does it take for the heat and the cold to completely shut down my Betta?

I can’t give you the number of hours or days but I’ll say this. It can take between a day to three.  During this time, you’ll notice all the signs we noted earlier.

It’s very hard to miss if you really spend time looking after your Betta. The changes are quite elaborate and there will be more than enough time to prevent its death.

Can changing its bowl cause temperature shock?

Yes, yes it can. As we have said over and over, they are sensitive to sudden heat changes. The temperature difference between the old aquarium water and the new one could be too different and this could be potentially deadly.

How to safely change my Betta’s water?

Any responsible betta owner changes its water at least once every week or so. However, they do with a risk. This is why we are going over the basics of changing your betta’s tank. It’s a really simple process.

All you need to do is make sure that you change the water slowly. Let the fish get used to a lower temperature before you add the newly filtered water in there. It also helps to make sure the water is a little bit higher than  room temperature.

Saurabh Kumar

I am a passionate fish keeper, with years of experience. You will find some really useful tips and information on this blog about Freshwater Aquariums.

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