Do Betta Fish Need A Filter?

Have you seen bettas swimming around in little bowls without a filter? Maybe your friend has one, or your mom, or even the office that you work at. Chances are you have. But, it’s likely that you’ve also heard that an unfiltered bowl isn’t the proper environment for them.

So, what’s the answer? Do betta fish need a filter?

Keep reading to find out.

Do Betta Fish Need A Filter?

Many people will try to tell you that betta fish don’t need a filter. But, this isn’t true. Betta fish need a filter like any other fish you would house in an aquarium.

Filters Remove Waste

Bettas need a filter in their tank because they produce waste like any other fish. The filter helps remove the waste from the water on a continuous basis.

Most filters include a sponge, filter floss, or similar material. This catches large materials like fish waste, uneaten food, and dying plant matter.

Many filters also contain activated carbon or other additives. These usually come in the form of little pebbles. They help to filter ammonia, nitrite, and other toxins from the water.

In order for your betta to survive without a filter, you’d need to do water changes almost every day. This isn’t sustainable. It also won’t get your tank as clean as a filter would.

Filters Oxygenate The Water

Filters also stir up the water and provide oxygen to the water column.

Bettas have a labyrinth organ that allows them to breathe air. Not only can they breathe air, but it’s a need. Filters help put oxygen back into the water for better breathing.

Filters Foster Health

Filters remove waste from the aquarium and add oxygen. These things alone will help keep your betta healthier. But, filters also provide a place for beneficial bacteria to grow. The bacteria break down ammonia and nitrites that the filter cannot handle on its own.

But Bettas Live In Rice Paddies — Why Do They Need A Filter?

People like to make the argument that betta fish are very hardy. They survive in shallow rice paddies in the wild. Sometimes, they’re even forced to live in dirty puddles for a time. Those fish survive without moving water, so why couldn’t our pets?

Sure, bettas may be able to survive in a small bowl without filtration. But, they’re not going to thrive and be happy.

We should strive to provide the best environment for our pets. Bettas living in a good environment are happier and healthier, and they will live longer.

Can A Filter Kill A Betta Fish?

It’s possible for a filter to kill your betta fish if you don’t get the right kind. But, this is true for any fish. That’s why you need to research which kinds of filters are best for each fish you’re housing.

Large, overhanging filters are most likely to kill bettas.

Getting Sucked Into The Filter

Sometimes, the inlet pipe that sucks in water can fall off. The pipes have small slits that allow water to pass through without sucking in fish. If the pipe falls off, then there’s nothing to prevent your betta from getting sucked into the filter.

Getting Sucked Against The Filter

It’s also possible for an overhanging filter to be too strong.

If your betta gets too close to the filter, it may get sucked against the intake pipe. Bettas are weak swimmers and won’t be able to pull themselves off the filter.

Hopefully, you would be there to save your betta. But if you aren’t, your fish will likely exert all its energy trying to get away and die.

Current That Is Too Strong

If your overhanging filter’s flow is too strong, that can kill your betta as well. As we said, bettas are weak swimmers. If the outflow of the filter is too strong, they will spend all their time struggling against the current. Too much of this can exhaust them.

It’s more likely that your betta will go into hiding. They’ll find a small area of the tank where they aren’t affected by the current. But, in extreme circumstances, the current could be enough to kill them.

Your Betta Could Get Stuck Behind The Filter

Bettas like to hide inside of and behind things. This includes overhanging filters if they can fit. Sure, they may be able to squeeze behind the filter, but can they get themselves out again? If they can’t, they’ll eventually suffocate.

Use A Sponge Filter

To avoid these problems, buy a sponge filter for your betta. These are the safest kinds of filters for your betta. They produce low flow, and your betta is unlikely to get stuck on them. It also reduces the possibility of your betta getting sucked against or into the filter.

The one downside to sponge filters is that you need an air pump. An air pump is a separate device that you will need to buy, but it’s well worth it. It pushes air through a tube and into the filter, powering the filter.

You’ll need to clean the sponge at least once a month. After removing the old water, gently shake the sponge off into the old water. Using the old water to do this is important. It protects the beneficial bacteria living in the sponge. If you use fresh water, all the bacteria will die.

What Are The Best Filters For Bettas?

There are many filters that are good for bettas. To make your job easier, we’ve included a few of our favorites.

Upettools Single Head Bio-Sponge (See Price Here)

This is a sponge filter, so it’s completely safe for your betta. The flow is gentle so that your betta won’t get stressed with a strong current.

Unlike some sponge filters, this filter also contains a chemical component. The filter includes a compartment to add activated carbon or other filter media. You can also leave this compartment empty if you need to medicate your tank.

This is a great filter for beginners because it’s inexpensive, but works well. It’s also adjustable for tanks between 2-40 gallons.

AquaClear Overhanging Filter (See Price Here)

This filter is excellent because you can adjust the flow rate from strong to gentle. This will keep your betta from becoming overwhelmed and exhausted.

If you’re worried about the intake pipe, attach a sponge around the pipe. This will prevent your filter from sucking your betta against the pipe.

It also works as a 3-stage filter. It contains a sponge, chemical filter media, and biological media. You’ll need to wash and change these components once a month, but they work best for a healthy aquarium.


It doesn’t matter whether you keep your betta in a 5-gallon aquarium or a 50-gallon aquarium. They need a filter. Sure, bettas are hardy and may survive a couple of years without a filter. But if you want your betta to have a long and happy life, provide it with a filter.

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