Do Betta Fish Need a Filter? Here’s What the Experts Say

Betta fish may or may not need a filter, depending on how frequently you change their water. But do you know installing a filter can increase their lifespan? Also, what if you don’t have a filter for them? Would they survive or not? In this article, I will discuss everything you need to know about betta fish and their requirement for a filter. Also, you will learn how long a betta fish can survive without a filter, so let’s begin!

Betta Fish can live without a filter if you change the water regularly and keep the tank or bowl environment sound, healthy, and fungus-free.

do betta fish need a filter


The water quality relies on elements such as the size of the tank, the kind of natural plants you are using, and how frequently you refresh the water. If you keep a betta fish in regularly cleaned water or fresh water, it can survive longer, even if sold in tank water.

Betta fish are organically found in rice paddies, pools, or ponds where they easily breathe because of labyrinth organs, a naturally gifted ability.

betta fish labyrinth organ

In raw habitats, it can prevail without synthetic filtration and can breathe atmospheric air straight from the water’s surface. Their raw habitats are generally more polluted than your normal betta fish tank. The drought and rain clean the water for a betta in their natural habitat.

Despite being a low-maintenance fish, bettas require some attention to survive in the habitat you are keeping your fish. If you are keeping a betta fish in captivity, you need to use a sponge-like filter; otherwise, the fish will die because of fungus and bacteria when the water is not changed regularly.

Do Betta Fish Need a Filter?

Yes, your betta fish requires a filter for its survival. The most suitable environment for your fish is a 5-gallon tank with a filter in it. Setting up a filter for your fish will require further care, such as changing the water. A good filter will become a great source of providing the long-lasting and neat environment that your betta must have to do well. Filter for betta fish will also benefit in oxygenation of the water.

  • In aquarium water, chemicals are found that can be unfavorable for your fish. Installing a filter in your aquarium will help fight those chemicals, mainly ammonia, that are harmful to your fish’s survival. A filter will also help maintain the water quality appropriate for your betta.
  • The filter also has a pumping system that extracts any waste or litter from the aquarium. Filtration is very important if you want to get rid of badly polluted water.
  • If you bypass the filter, your fish may come under attack by different harmful parasites that will become the cause of deadly diseases, eventually resulting in the death of your fish.
  • Your betta fish will require a filter in the aquarium. Whilst a betta fish can live in any tank, the fairest option for them to live in would be a fish tank having a filter. This is necessary for a betta fish as it works for keeping the water clean.

Purpose Of A Filter For Betta Fish Container:

A filter is a machine that extracts impurities from the water. It helps expel ammonia caused by your fish’s feces, leftover food, and other pollutants you are unaware of. Filtration procedures work in every aquarium the same way. Pumps help move the water through filter floss, where pollutants and waste material are caught up.

Moreover, filtration is important to maintain the quality of your water for your betta’s survival. These filters provide mechanical filtration that catches dirt from making the water dirty. Besides this, there are other benefits of filters. But if you use a filter in less than three gallons tank, they can pass high amounts of current, causing fish to die.

Extract Toxic Waste Through Biological Filtration:

Aquariums should not be loaded with fish, plants, or other decorative stuff. Just like any other creature, betta fish also expel waste material, feces, and urine. Most of the time, the fish food remains attached in between ornaments that decay and later start turning into toxic chemicals known as ammonia and nitrites.

In these aquariums reside some helpful bacteria that help break down these substances. This process of breaking down substances is called the nitrogen cycle and happens in your filter with the help of biological filtration. If you ignore these dangerous substances in your aquarium without knowing, your fish will perish.

These bacteria consume waste material and toxic substances in the water, such as ammonia and nitrites, and turn them into nitrates. Nitrate is also harmful but can be tackled by changing water and utilizing natural plants. These bacteria are found on rocks, pebbles, plants, and aquarium glass. An aquarium with a good filter will host these helpful bacteria and provide a suitable habitat for your betta.

Mechanical Filtration:

The moving water in the aquarium has a significant influence on the quality of water. It permits gaseous exchange, which helps oxygenate the fish tank.

Water movement is also essential in pushing litter from where it is stuck. This helps in keeping the tank clean. If you don’t have a filter, waste material will remain stuck on your aquarium ornaments which can be unappealing. A helpful filter will extract impurities from the water.

Also, if you have natural plants in your aquarium, water movement is essential to spread all the nutrients plants give around the tank.

No Requirement For Frequent Water Change:

With beneficial bacteria breaking down all the toxic substances, you should not have the need to change the water frequently. The main reason is that your water quality will be much better, so you don’t have to worry about dirty water. If you do not have a filter, these impurities pile up quickly, and you must change the water almost every other day.

Effects Of A Powerful Filter ON Betta Fish:

Many aquarium-related posts talk about the size of your aquarium and the amount of water sufficient for your betta. Bettas are to be kept in ideal tanks that let them swim flawlessly. The exquisite betta fish that you see in regular aquarium shops are the ones that are used to slow water movement. These are found native to the slow-moving waters of rain-grazed pods, mostly in Thailand. This is why they are conditioned to gentle water movements and currents.

Most bettas come from these gentle habitats. If you own a bubble-nesting betta fish, keeping the filter on low flow will do enough to have some movement. Keep checking your betta if it faces any difficulty while swimming. Frankly, filters with simple sponges will suffice to supply neat and clean water. If you have plans to breed your bettas, then you certainly have regions at the water surface that the fish can utilize to build a nest.

Moreover, if you have mouthbrooding bettas as your pet, do know that they mostly come from fast-moving streams, but they can also be fine in the slow flow. Therefore, it is fine to have some water flow in the aquarium. You can adjust the flow from slow to medium flow with the help of power filters. Inspect your fish frequently to confirm they are not struggling with the water flow.

Personally, hang-on back filters provide you with basic filtration for clean water, but installing a biological filter in breeding tanks is recommended. Sponge filters that come with an air pump or an internal filter smaller in size help keep the nitrogen cycle running, providing clean water for your bettas.

Possibility For A Betta Fish To Survive Without A Filter:

Ammonia levels in bowls without filters tend to rise rapidly. Water changes would be more frequent than in the tank with a filter. Aquarium filters disseminate water and supply nitrifying bacteria whose energy needs are ammonia. These bacteria topple harmful ammonia chemicals and decline the constant need for changing the water.

A betta fish tank having a filter is way more helpful in the survival of your fish than one with no filter. Furthermore, betta fish have flowing fins that can not stand the strong currents. So, before buying a filter, make sure it is gentle.

The Environment Of Betta Fish Habitat Without Filter:

The first thing you decide to put a betta fish is to provide it with a good environment. Fishbowls are too small for them to swim and do not support their hiding behavior. Betta fish should not be allowed to be kept in bowls. Instead, they should be kept in a 5-gallon glass tank or, more significantly. Such an environment will let the betta fish display their usual activity.

Moreover, decorating the place you want to keep your fish is always fun. Tanks come in various shapes, colors, and sizes, usually plant and are used for decorating purposes. Regardless, when picking ornaments for the tank, keeping the betta fish in mind is essential.

Betta fish love swimming around and are explorers in a sense. That is why it is advised not to fill up your tank with decorations. Some decorative items can be dangerous for fish that can damage betta fish fins.

Besides, fish water needs a deep cleaning. Betta fishes release waste and urine, and there are leftover food particles in the water. If not cleaned up properly, it will likely pose a potential threat to your fish. This is why a fish tank with a filter is recommended to keep your better fish in.

In addition, the only justification for betta fish to survive in a bowl and without a filter is because bettas have a labyrinth organ that supports them in breathing air from the water’s surface. But this only benefits the fish to draw breath. To maintain your aquarium for the fish to survive, utilize this information:

  • Change the water in the bowl at least twice a week. Fill up the bowl with lukewarm water of 35 percent. This will help keep harmful debris and chemicals out of the bowl, which might kill your betta if not taken care of properly.
  • Leftover food rots in the fishbowl and becomes a cause of ammonia rise in water. A filter usually expels out ammonia from the water, and with no filter, in the bowl, it can become dangerous for your betta. To counter such an unfortunate situation, you should not overfeed your betta.
  • Keep your fish bowl neat and clean. Changing the water only may not be sufficient. Make sure you do a deep cleaning and eliminate all the waste materials from the decorative items in the bowl.
  • Add up the kinds of plants that keep the water clean instead of the decorative plants. Make sure the plants don’t take up much space in an already small fish bowl.

The lifespan of Betta Fish In A Bowl:

Bettas living in an excellent 5-gallon fish tank with a filter are relatively capable of surviving for five years. In a fishbowl, they live for a smaller period or half of their standard lifespan. Occasionally, less than a year. But keeping the bowl clean with regular water changes the fish may survive for two years.

So, if you intend to keep your betta in a fish bowl, keep your fishbowl maintained and suitable for your fish. Move your fish to a big tank once they are the size of an adult.

Natural Filters:

As everyone knows, betta fish are not very fine swimmers and move slowly because of their large fins. What if you don’t want to use a filter or which size of the tank is not accurate for having a filter? If your tank size is 5 gallons or above, go for a mechanical filter. For a tank equal to or lesser than 2.5 gallons, a filter is more harmful than anything good for betta fish.

So for smaller tanks, use the following natural filters instead.

  • Under Gravel Filters
  • Sponge Filters
  • Internal Filters
  • Hang on Back Filters

The only judgment you need to make is to know the suitable ratio of what is the strength of fish for swimming and water flow. For a factor of safety, always use a filter recommended for 1 size smaller than your tank size.

Pro Tip: If you feel your betta fish is swimming abruptly or scared or unable to come to the surface, it might be facing strong water flow current. It might be time to change your filter for a slower or weaker power.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can your betta fish possibly survive without a filter?
Yes, betta fish can survive without a filter, but the survivor’s period may not last for more than a year.
Can you keep a betta fish in a bowl?
No, a betta fish requires a big tank with 5-gallon water to swim and hide. A fish bowl is too small and doesn’t hold much water. Your fish might get depressed if kept in a bowl for too long.
Is tap water dangerous for your betta fish?
Tap water contains chemicals that may be toxic to your fish. It is also high in ph level and requires distillation before filling the tank.
How frequently should you change the water?
A tank or bowl without filters needs changing of water more frequently than one with a filter. You should clean the tank and change its water twice a week to keep the habitat safer for your betta fish.


Betta fish requires an aquarium filter to provide them with clear water. There should not be any waste material present in the water as it can be dangerous for your fish’s survival. Filters benefit in making water quality better through cycling; they also keep water pH levels stable.

Although having a betta fish in a bowl without a filter is possible, it will decline the lifespan of your fish. Betta fish without a filter might only survive a year or maybe a half. But with a filter, it can reach its actual lifespan of 5 years. Also, with the filter, it is easy to take care of yourself, and you won’t have to do the job of water frequently.

Just make sure to opt for a low-flow filter, as betta fishes are not fond of strong flow. Whilst, filters reduce supervision and maintenance procedures, that does not suggest water changes shouldn’t be done. You should change the tank water weekly by 20% to keep the conditions suitable for betta fish.

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