Tank cycling is when we assist our aquarium in growing a colony of beneficial bacteria that will consume dangerous ammonia and nitrite, the byproducts of fish waste and other decaying organic debris. This is a naturally occurring process that, given the right conditions, would occur anyway in your tank. When you cycle your tank you simply allow this natural process to take place. You might hear other aquarists refer to the cycling process as the nitrogen cycle, the biological cycle, or simply, the cycle. These terms all refer to the same thing.

Most people new to the aquarium hobby have never heard of tank cycling. Once they find out what it is, they always ask the same question; “Do I have to cycle my tank?” With betta fish the answer is; “not necessarily,” but I have 10 great reasons why you might want to.

  • Cycling encourages the growth of beneficial nitrifying bacteria that consume dangerous ammonia and nitrites which can harm or even kill your betta fish.
  • Cycling produces a more stable environment helping us to avoid drastic pH fluctuation that can lead to pH Shock.
  • Bettas are less likely to acquire fin rot, cotton wool disease, dropsy or parasites like Ich when they have less stress in their environment. Cycing reduces stress caused by fluctuations in the water.
  • A cycled tank usually only requires a 10% – 20% water change once per week instead of more frequent 100% water changes. Less work for you!
  • Bettas don’t have to be removed from their tank when you do small waterchanges creating less stress for the betta and for their owner who no longer has to chase them with a net.
  • Small water changes means a stable and consistant water temperature reducing the risk of thermal shock for your betta.
  • We usually cycle tanks that are 3 gal – 5 gal or larger, which means your fish has plenty of room to explore and be a happy betta.
  • Cycling your tank means less frequent water tests. Once the tank is cycled and stable, tests can preformed every week or two instead of every day or two.
  • Cycling your tank means spending less money on test strips, medication and water and more free time to observe your healthy betta.
  • Most fish species require a cycled tank to live a healthy life. Cycling your tank means you can find some fun fishy friends to add to your betta tank like African Dwarf Frogs, Neon Tetras, Cory Cats, Otos, Shrimp or Snails.

If all these great reasons were enough to convince you to cycle your betta tank, check out our Nitrogen Cycle page on how to do it.

Betta Fish by N1NJ4

Betta Fish Photo by N1NJ4

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Reader Interactions


  1. Olena says:

    i’m so glad i found your blog 🙂 its very informative!
    I recently purchased a Betta (goes by the name of Guido) 2 and a half weeks ago. I bought the “Betta Starter Kit” which had the food flakes, water conditioner and (i think) half a gallon tank. For the first few days he was fine…eating normally and everything. After about 4 days i noticed his fins had slime attached to them…the day after that his tank was full of clear floating slime..and most of it was haning off his fin. I went to the store and i bought some drops (fetta fix i think)….i did about an 60% water change…then i was gone for 2 days. Instead of following my directions my dad ( who grew up maintaining aquariums back in the USSR) did some weird medicine on him. He said he used penicillin and a q tip…and he did another water change.
    So that was on saturday. i’ve been using the drops every day since then and i also bought aquarium salt which i was going to introduce with a water change. He seems to be much better i dont see the slime anymore. But i am curious if you know what it was?
    My concern right now is that he might still be sick and the cause could be the small tank. I got really lucky and my bf found a free tank for me from his friend. The thing is, its huge. I think about 30 gal? It needs a really good cleaning and i didnt want to put him in if he was still sick.
    i bought the Penguin Power Filter 150-but in your opinion is there a better one or should i go up the size? also what sort of heater do you recommend?
    i’ve never kept an aquarium so i want to make sure i start off right. ‘m waiting on some books from the library..but any advice you can give would be great!

    • Santosa says:

      i’ve never kept an aquarium so i want to make sure i start off right. ‘m waiting on some books from the library..but any advice you can give would be great!

  2. Randy says:

    Hey Olena,
    I’m basically in the same situation as u and I’m barely finished cleaning the tank.
    I was hoping you can let me know if you find any info for our current situations 🙂 I’ll be sure to do the same

  3. Alexandria says:

    I love betta fish do to their hardy nature and beautiful appearance. They are exotic yet so easy to care for! Because of this, I’ve never cycled my tank before adding a betta fish. Is this truly necessary? Bacteria in a bottle is expensive and I am only willing to purchase it if needed. Is it necessary? I want to avoid stress and disease but dont want to waste money.

  4. Adam says:

    Alexandria: I recently acquired a 10 gallon tank and was given a beautiful red betta. I did not cycle my tank at first before I put him in there, because I did not know about this process at first. However, I monitor his ammonia and nitrite levels almost daily and do partial water changes. He seems to be doing fine. You really should do it the natural way of cycling the system…but if u cant, make sure you change the water often while you are cycling the system.

  5. Julie says:

    I just recently transferred my betta into a 1 gallon tank with a whisper 10 air pump/carbon filter…..He seems so much happier and spunkier now. However the filter was in the middle of the tank and I noticed he was hiding. So I took the whole middle peice out and brought the carbon to the top of the tank and made a homemade bridge out of a plastic bottle to stop so much current. Is this whisper 10 still to much of my Ceasar boy?????

    • ron says:

      you should try and get him a bigger tank, with some tankmates, a quietflow filter, a heater, water conditioner, etc. That way your fish will be much happier, and would surely thank you for rest of its life. Good luck!

  6. Molly says:

    This is so useful! I wasn’t sure I could be bothered before I read this but it has totally changed my mind. Is there any way to speed it up at all, like can you buy the bacteria and introduce them yourself? Or is it best to just do it like this? Also, when do you put live plants in the tank? At the beginning or at the same time as the fish? Do I have the filter and heater on the whole time? Thanks!

    • Dear Molly, If you plan on adding live plants take care because the plants may have snails on them or snail eggs and they might introduce them to your tank and cause great harm so get the live plants from a trusted vendor.
      Check out my blog for more details.
      Tropical Fish Online Blog

  7. Erin says:

    Thank god I looked online because I had absolutely no idea when I bought my 5 gallon tank that i would need to cycle it, but is it safe to naturally cycle the tank with my betta in there? Also, do I absolutely need an air pump when I do start the cycling process.

  8. betta says:

    i was wondering if i could put small decrative rocks in my bettas tank

  9. long time betta owner says:

    if u want a happy betta……
    water 78 degrees always
    use a filter, wich ever u like,(avoid fast moving current in the tank, bettas dont like it) maybe turn the pump down on the filter if it allows you to.
    dont over feed (look for a buldging tummy)
    feed them a good betta specific food (i preffer pellets as the dont dirty the water up as much) just go to the pet store and ask.
    i have a 5 gallon tank and i syphon about a 1/2 gallon out of the tank and replace it with fresh water almost everyday. it takes me around 3 min totall and im sure the fish loves me for it. this is just my opinion and im not a proffesional or anything so plz take with a grain of salt.
    i have never tested water or cycled or any of that just changed a little water daily, gave him a filter and a heater and feed him lol

  10. Christina says:

    Hey all, I’m new to being a betta fish owner, and I’m in college so that makes it a little harder for me to worry about my fish Spartacus.
    I haven’t had him for very long, about a month and a half now, and I’ve already encountered a problem. I got the starter kit and a 1 gallon tank, along with samples of a conditioner called Aqueon. I’ve been putting in the right amount of conditioner when I change the water, and I did have an air pump in there and he was doing just fine.
    Then all of a sudden he couldn’t swim down and had to wedge himself in between his plant and the tank wall. I turned off the pump after looking up what it could be and sure enough he got back to normal. A few days after he got better, I turned the pump back on for about an hour and when I checked on him again he was floating around the top again. I took out the pump and even changed his whole tank making sure it was clean and the water wasn’t too hot or cold. He’s been in a slum ever since, pretty much shooting to the surface when he isn’t wedged and turning gray faster than I thought. It look like he’s struggling to breath and taking it in big gulps, and I would REALLY love for him not to die.
    Any suggestions would be a huge help!

    • Tanya says:

      It seems that he has an issue with his swim bladder which is often caused by overfeeding.
      Please take a look into this.

  11. Ron says:

    Thank you so much for affirming what I have beleived in. I have been keeping and studying tropical fish for over 10 years and when I started keeping beetas all I read was ‘you don’t filter or cycle anything less than 10 gallons.’ Really? People are so obcessed with water movement it really is mind blowing. A betta is a tropical fish. Why wouldn’t you want it’s enviroment as stable as for any other fish? There is no way a 50% and a 100% water change every week is not stressful.
    I have a Marineland Hex 5 w/built in pump. I have a betta and two sunset honey gouramis in it. I change a gallon of water per week, vaccuming the gravel, and have no water quality issues. I have a 2.5 gallon with a sponge filter and change the water the same way. Again, no issues. I keep live plants in both, feed sparingly, and enjoy my fish.
    You now have a loyal follower in me because of this one article!

  12. Goldfish bowl says:

    I liked the way you put together everything on reasons to cycle your betta tank post, there is certainly no need to go any further to look for any additional information. You mentioned each and everything that too with much of ease.

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