Betta swimming in planted aquarium fish tank

There are many benefits to including plants in your fish tank. Both live and fake plants are good additions for many different fish species. For bettas, both live and fake plants are safe, but there are a few key points to address before adding this decoration to their environment.

Are plants safe?

In general, plants are safe for many fish, bettas included. Both live and fake plants can provide enrichment to your betta's environment, giving them places to explore, hang out and hide in. Be sure to stick with plants that are specific for aquariums. Some live plants can be toxic to fish, especially if consumed. Thankfully, bettas are not so much plant-eaters as plant-appreciators.

Fake plants can either be rooted in the substrate or attached to the sides of the tank with a suction cup. There are specialized betta "hammocks," which consist of a single or cluster of leaves that can attach to the side of your tank. Other fake plants have "roots" that will either rest on the surface or need to be anchored by layers of substrate. When adding fake plants, it is essential to rinse them thoroughly to keep dust and debris from entering your aquarium.

Live plants come in a wide variety and grow to different levels in the aquarium. Floating plants, such as duckweed, Salvinia and frogbit, add surface contrast, and may be used by male bettas when building their bubble nests. Be sure the plants don’t completely cover the water surface as bettas need to breathe air from the top of the water. Some aquatic plants grow low on the substrate, such as Java moss, and are great for filling below the swimming area of the aquarium. Tall plants, like Vallisneria and sword plants, are great planted along the back of the aquarium. Be sure that none of the plants are too spiny that might tear the betta’s delicate fins, or so bushy that they impede swimming. With all live plants, be sure to quarantine them separately for at least two weeks if they have been kept with fish previously. Use this time to strengthen them with some liquid aquarium plant fertilizer.

What plants should be avoided?

Plants that should be avoided in betta tanks are those that can cause fin trauma. Most causes of “fin rot” in bettas are actually tears from objects within their environment. This can be caused by both fake and live plants, depending on their structure and exposed roots. Over-decorating with plants and causing bettas to have to swim through a network of branches can easily cause fin trauma. Depending on the size and shape of your tank, you may need to limit the number of decorations to ensure your betta has enough room to swim comfortably.

The best method to test for pointy plant parts is to run your hand or a sheet of tissue paper across the surface of your new plant. If it tears the paper or you can feel sharp edges on your skin, it is too sharp for a betta. Pointy structural parts, such as stems, can be easily trimmed with a pair of nail clippers. Problematic attachment points can be covered with aquarium-safe silicone.

What types of plants are safe?

The following plants are the best choices for betta tanks.

Betta Hammock

These artificial leaves are beloved by many bettas. Either a single leaf or a small cluster, these plants attach to the side of your fish tank by a suction cup, allowing your betta a safe and secluded spot to enjoy a nice rest. Try adding a few at different heights to see which your fish prefers.

Anacharis

This live plant, eagerly eaten by many fish species such as goldfish, is a slender and soft addition to the aquarium. Since it is very compact, you can add a few stalks together and it can be anchored in the gravel or left floating. The soft leaves are very betta friendly and it grows well with little care.

Silk "Betta-Safe" Plants

Unfortunately, not all silk plants are created equal. These plants typically have broad leaves made out of fabric supported by plastic-covered wires. Although these plants are typically marketed as "betta safe," they can frequently have sharp points and wires under the soft leaves. Before you add any plant to your betta tank, check it carefully for any parts that may tear a betta's soft and delicate fins. The ends of plant supports can be easily trimmed with a pair of nail cutters. The base of these plants may also be very pointy. Trim all the parts you can; do not assume your betta will know which is the "safe" part to lay on. If it contains wire in the stems, monitor to be sure the wire is not rusting in the aquarium. Remove any plants that begin to show rusting.

Camboba or Carolina Fanwort

This short, bushy plant is a good ground cover to intermediate size plant for aquariums. It fits the bettas' requirements for soft leaves. It is, however, highly recommended to anchor this live plant rather than leave it floating. The stems are stronger than they look and although are not abrasive, they can easily trap a betta.

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