Can a Betta Live in a 2 Gallon Tank?

If you’ve been to the fish store recently, you’ve probably noticed that a lot of companies sell some super tiny tanks – down to tanks that only provide 1/4 gallon per betta.

Luckily, you’re thinking a bit bigger than that.  2 gallon tanks are 8x bigger than the smallest betta tanks, but are they enough?

A long-finned betta can live in a 2 gallon aquarium without any major issues as long as you perform weekly water changes.  A 2 gallon tank is the absolute minimum you should ever keep a betta in, and ammonia buildup can still be lethal if water isn’t regularly changed.  A 5 gallon aquarium is a much better choice.  Do not keep a short finned betta in a 2 gallon tank.

Let’s discuss the details and which types of betta can and can’t be put in a 2 gallon aquarium.

Beautiful Candy Betta fish | Source: Deposit Photos

Is a 2 Gallon Tank Big Enough for a Betta?

This is definitely a bit of a controversial topic – primarily due to the myth that a betta can happily live in a puddle becoming mainstream.

Some people swear that you can keep a betta in practically anything, and when I was a very young child, I remember family members having betta in small flower vases.

Worse, companies sell more types of 1/2 gallon and 1 gallon aquariums than bigger aquariums meant for bettas, so 2 gallon tanks sound pretty big.

The best answer is that a 2 gallon tank is just big enough for long finned varieties of betta.  You will likely be able to keep a betta in a 2 gallon for years without an issue as long as you do regular water changes and use an ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate test kit to make sure your water quality stays good.

This size tank is not big enough for short finned varieties like plakats and female betta, however.

Long finned betta have a harder time swimming around, and so they tend to be more sedentary.  This isn’t to say that they don’t like to move and explore.  I’ve had a betta that would explore every corner of my 29 gallon aquarium.  Shorter finned betta are just far more active than the ones with fancier fins on average.

My Betta in Front of My Ottos in my 29 Gallon | Source: Tiny Underwater | License: CC-BY-4.0

What’s more, if you’re only getting a 2 gallon aquarium, you should try to find one that’s longer than it is tall.  This will give the betta more room to swim back and forth in.  It will also help with oxygen transfer into the water.

None of this is to say that a 2 gallon tank is good for betta.  If you put a betta in an aquarium this small, you’re likely to be shortening its lifespan and decreasing its quality of life.  If possible, you want to get a bigger aquarium.

A 5 gallon aquarium is a much better choice for betta, and a 10 gallon aquarium would be ideal.  

Betta fish, siamese fighting fish, betta splendens | Source: Deposit Photos

If price is a concern, petco has “dollar per gallon” sales that let you get a 5 gallon aquarium for $5 and a 10 gallon aquarium for $10.  Walmart also sells a 6.5 gallon hex aquarium for around $40 that contains the light, filter, and other things you need for a complete betta setup.

If space is a concern, you can get portrait 5 gallon aquariums that have nearly the same footprint as a 2 gallon aquarium (just a bit taller).

How Many Betta Fish Can Live in a 2 Gallon Tank?

Only one betta fish can live in a 2 gallon aquarium.  A 2 gallon aquarium is so small that you shouldn’t put any other bettas or other fish in with your betta, and it is too small to keep a sorority in.

You can probably find dividers that will let you split your aquarium up so that multiple betta can live together in it without fighting.  I wouldn’t recommend using those for anything smaller than a 10 gallon aquarium.

For a 2 gallon aquarium, there is just too great a risk of ammonia buildup and spread of disease between the two betta.

Plus, it drastically cuts down how much room your betta has to move around in, which will make it less enjoyable to watch your betta in its aquarium.

How Many Female Betta Fish Can Live in a 2 Gallon?

Wild Betta Alien Female or Plakat | Source: Deposit Photos

No female betta fish should be kept in a 2 gallon aquarium.  Since female bettas have shorter fins and are better swimmers, they should be given a tank with more room than a 2 gallon has.

For female bettas, a landscape oriented 5 gallon tank or a 10 gallon tank should be the minimum size aquarium you put them in.  This is the same for plakat betta.

Can You Keep Any Fish With Your Betta in Your 2 Gallon Tank?

A 2 gallon tank is too small to keep much of anything with your betta.  It would likely lead to aggression and one or both fish dying.  Shrimp or large snails would also be out of the question.

There are 2 potential tank mates you can keep in a small aquarium with a betta, however.

  • Pond Snails/Bladder Snails
  • Ramshorn Snails

These 2 different types of snail are small enough that they shouldn’t be harassed by your fish too much, and they reproduce by themselves so the population should be fine even if a few get eaten.

In addition, they will clean up any betta food that sinks to the bottom of the aquarium so it doesn’t rot in the tank and produce ammonia.

They aren’t much to look at (except ramshorn snails that come in designer colors), but they can be fun to watch nonetheless.

The downside to these species is that they can get out of control a bit, as you can see below. This picture is of trumpet snails, which get a bit too big, but the principle is the same for the ones I listed above.

Malaysian Trumpet Snails feeding on soft algae with Betta fish quietly resting at the bottom of aquarium | Source: Deposit Photos

Conclusion

Adding a betta to a 2 gallon is the perfect example of “just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”  You can absolutely add a betta to a 2 gallon aquarium, and you’ll hear plenty of people whose betta lived 5 years in a 2 gallon with no issues.

That having been said, it’s better to get a tank that’s 5 gallons or larger for your betta.  Maintenance will be easier and will have to be done less often, your betta will have more room to move around in, and it won’t take up that much more space or cost that much more money.

Whatever choice you decide to make, I still commend you for not stuffing them into a half gallon box.  Good luck with your betta!