We are reader supported. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Also, as an Amazon affiliate, we earn from qualifying purchases.
If you’re getting a betta fish for the first time, you may have some questions about the water that goes into their environment. You may already know these are freshwater fish, so tap water will be your best option.
But can betta fish live in tap water? No, water direct from the tap will kill your betta quickly. This is because most tap water has contaminants and chemicals, like chlorine and chloramines. Therefore, you must treat the water, oftentimes with a de-chlorinator, prior to including it in the aquarium.
However, it’s advisable to get a water test done to see what kind of chemicals and contaminants reside within it. Not every tap will require a de-chlorinator and there are some other methods to keep your tank free of harmful substances.
Why Should You Treat Tap Water for Bettas?
Treating tap water for your betta fish is the best way to ensure its survival. Most local water plants inject chemicals to the supply in an effort to prevent harmful bacteria. This means you won’t become ill using it for food prep, dish washing, bathing, drinking and etc.
These chemicals include things like chloramines and chlorine. These are incredibly toxic and dangerous to all aquatic life in your tank. Plus, because of what these two chemicals do in water, they can also kill the beneficial bacteria, destroy the delicate nitrogen cycle and gum up the biological filter system.
What’s more, chloramines and chlorine will negatively impact the salinity and pH balance of the aquarium. All of these factors result in a toxic environment for your fish by way of poor water quality. This means you must use a treatment to remove and neutralize these chemicals.
What Are Chloramines ; Chlorine?
Under the guidance of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 stipulates a legal requirement for all domestic water supplies. They must have chemicals to ensure water is safe from harmful bacteria and contaminants.
Chlorine is a gas that kills dangerous bacteria that can weasel its way into public supplies of water. Chloramines are a cocktail of chlorine and ammonia that aims to achieve the same ends as chlorine, but promoted to be more stable.
How Water Plants Use These
Chlorine was the option most water plants used to satisfy the law back in 1974. But, today, many use chloramines. The amount added depends how much coliform is in the water. Every city has different standards for this level and the amount of chemicals they use to treat it.
Once a water supply reaches this certain level of coliform, they bombard it with chloramines and chlorine. When they do this you know it by how the water’s chemical taste. These range between 0.5 and 3.0 parts per million (ppm).
How Does Chlorine ; Chloramines Affect Betta Fish?
Chlorine and ammonia are incredibly deadly to betta fish. It can cause them severe chemical burns. This will especially irritate their internal organs as well as their gills. Even at the lowest levels, both of chlorine and chloramines can seriously harm your fish.
You will know these chemicals are affecting your fish by the appearance of redness on the fins and gills. They’ll also gasp at the water’s surface desperately trying to breathe and they may even swim in an erratic fashion.
What Other Compounds in Tap Water Are Harmful for Betta Fish?
But it’s not just chloramines and chlorine that are dangerous to betta fish. There are many other potential dangers lurking in your tap water and it’s crucial to get a water test done on it. This will give you a complete picture so you can understand what you have to treat and what you don’t.
Tap water also has things like nitrates, nitrites, copper, fluoride, phosphates, sodium and other dissolved solids. All of these things can be very harmful to betta fish and they have the potential to kill them if the water remains untreated.
- Nitrates: Normally found at a max of 10 ppm, this often isn’t a problem for bettas. However, if it appears in combination with other inorganic compounds on this list, you will have to use a de-chlorinator.
- Nitrites: Like nitrates, nitrites don’t often appear over 10 ppm, which shouldn’t harm fish. That is of course you don’t stick to a regular maintenance and cleaning schedule, then it will hurt bettas.
- Copper: Copper is present in most domestic water supplies and sits around 1.3 ppm. However, if your particular tap water has more than this, you will have to treat your tank with a copper sulfate medication. But, you may need a special copper treatment if your water reads over 25 ppm.
- Fluoride: Many water plants will have this petroleum byproduct at around 4 ppm or higher. This is not the same fluoride found near volcanoes, which would be healthy for fish.
- Phosphates: Phosphates appear in various ranges and combinations, so it’s difficult to pinpoint the amount here. But, they are almost always within city water supplies since they reduce the occurrence of lead. However, phosphates encourage algae growth. This means you should use a biological filtration system.
- Sodium: While 20 milligrams of sodium is acceptable for human daily use, it’s not so good for fish and other aquatic life in your tank. Any softeners used in tap water will make things uninhabitable for an aquarium. A desalinating membrane will be best to keep this low.
- Dissolved Solids: Things like metals, minerals and salts make up the total dissolved solids (TDS) in tap water. Reverse osmosis systems can lower these to a great degree, removing any trace amounts of TDS. In turn, it makes the water more suitable to betta fish.
How Do You Treat Tap Water for Betta Fish?
There are several ways to treat tap water to make it appropriate for betta fish. However, nothing mentioned below will benefit unless you know what exact chemicals compose your tap water. Therefore, get a solid aquarium water testing kit or send it into a place that tests tap water.
You could also make a phone call or send an email to your local water plant. Ask them what chemicals they add. They must disclose this information freely and immediately, as dictated by law. Once you have a better idea of what compounds are in your tap water, you can try any one of the following treatments:
- De-Chlorinators: This is the most popular and common substance aquarists use to treat and condition their tap water before putting it into the tank. However, you have to check the label, not all de-chlorinators can remove or neutralize chloramines.
- Campden Tablets: These sterilizing tablets keep things like beer and cider production sanitary while preventing the growth of wild yeast. Adding one of these to treat aquarium water will remove chloramines and chlorine within 20 minutes.
- Vitamin C: Ascorbic acid and sodium ascorbate are two types of vitamin C that can remove chloramines and chlorine from tap water. This information comes direct from the US Department of Agriculture ; Forest Services.
- Activated Carbon: Activated carbon provides a catalytic reduction in tap water, which removes chloramines and chlorine. Even if you have this as part of the tank’s filtration system, you must use it to treat tap water prior to including it in the aquascape.
- Ultraviolet Light: UV light is the ultimate enemy of chloramines and chlorine. You can install a special unit to the aquarium as part of a dechlorination system.
- Chloramines Filtration Systems: Because some areas have exorbitantly high levels of chloramines, the simple treatments above will not take care of the issue enough to make it suitable for betta fish. Therefore, a home carbon water system will do the job. But, these are very expensive and not budget friendly.
How Long Does It Take to De-Chlorinate Tap Water for Bettas?
Depending on the method you choose, it can take only a couple of minutes to as long as an hour. For instance, standard de-chlorinators or vitamin C powders should work in five minutes or less. However, Campden tablets, UV lights and home carbon filtration systems can take up to 30 minutes to work.
Can Betta Fish Survive Long in Untreated Tap Water?
Never ever put a betta fish in tap water without some kind of treatment. While they may survive for a few days, it’s not likely they’ll live past the first 24 hours. It’s simply too risky to attempt.
At What Frequency Should You Change the Water for Betta Fish?
You should do a partial water change each week for betta fish. This should range between 10% to 20% and 20% to 30% once per month.
Is Bottled Water Appropriate for a Betta Tank?
Do not use bottled water to fill or top off your tank, regardless if your fish are bettas or otherwise. Unless you are 300% sure the bottled water is bona fide spring water and sourced from a real place in nature, avoid bottled water altogether.