How to Transfer Betta Fish From Cup to Tank

So, you’ve decided to bring home a Betta fish. Now what?

Betta’s are a hardy species but before you just pour them from the transfer cup into your tank, know that there are better ways to help your fish survive this process. 

Let’s explore how to transfer Betta fish from cup to tank using the water switch acclimation technique and the drip method acclimation technique so you can decide which one works best for you. We will also give you some pro tips and applications that will help your Betta’s cup transfer go smoothly. 

betta fish in a cup

How Long Can Betta Fish Live in a Cup?

Although Bettas are placed in these small plastic cups at pet retailers, they are not optimal, and, in fact, have many downfalls and detriments to the fish:

  • Small amount of water and space
  • Temperature fluctuations happen quickly and can cause stress and illness
  • Toxins buildup very quickly in the cup (from fish waste)
  • Cup does not provide enough oxygenation 

For these reasons, you can see why it is vital to transfer your Betta from these containers as soon as possible. 

Hopefully, you’ve already set up your new aquatic friend’s tank and have it at the optimal temperature (between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit). If this is a brand new tank, you may also want to use a water conditioner/cycler to avoid new tank syndrome (quickly rising nitrate levels that can be toxic to fish). 

Pro Tip: Do not purchase a Betta on a whim. Be sure to set up your aquarium, add the cycler, and leave it running for at least three days before adding the fish. 

Tank Requirements for Betta Fish

Despite how Siamese Fighting Fish are displayed in pet stores, Bettas should not and can not live happily in a cup of water, a bowl, or any other tiny container. 

If you are thinking of getting a Betta fish then you should be willing to create a habitat that is at least 3 gallons (bigger is better) in size. You will also need to add:

Providing your Betta with an appropriate tank will give him the best life possible. Plus, you will also find that these filtered aquariums require less maintenance than a container that builds up toxins very quickly. 

Why is Acclimation Important?

In the “olden” days, we just poured the fish from the bag into the tank. Unfortunately, this method usually resulted in the fish going “belly up” in a matter of days. 

Why? 

Because the pH levels and temperature (along with bacteria, oxygen, and other minuscule particles) are all wildly different from a cup (or bag) of water to gallons. 

Remember, your Betta’s watery world (and everything in it) is being processed through the fish’s body, so letting him slowly acclimate to those changes is vital for his survival and well-being.

Healthy Acclimation at a Glance

  1. Buy a healthy Betta (long flowing fins, no rips or fraying. Active. Vibrant colors).
  2. Acclimate fish (water switch or drip method)
  • Quarantine tank (if going into a community tank)
  • His own aquarium
  • From smaller to bigger tank
  1. Monitor your Betta for signs of distress

Water Switch Acclimation Technique

This is one of the simplest methods to help your Betta fish acclimate to a new tank.

What You Need

  • pH test kit
  • Thermometer
  • Fish net

Step 1 – Using the test kit, check the pH in your new aquarium and the transfer cup or bag. Betta’s need the pH to be between 6.5 and 8. Adjust the pH in the new tank if needed for optimal level. 

Step 2 – Check the temperature of the new aquarium and in the transfer cup or bag. It should be between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 3 – Turn off the lights in the new tank (this helps reduce stress during transfer).

Step 4 – If your Betta came in a cup, go ahead and take the lid off of that and place it into the tank. Allow it to float around (you may have to anchor it if it wants to tip over). If your Betta came in a bag, untie the knot, open the bag, and anchor it on the side of the aquarium. 

Step 5 – Wait 30 minutes. This allows the cup or bag to acclimate to the temperature of the new tank. Take the temperature inside the transfer cup or bag to see if it is the same as the tank. If so, move on to set 6, if not wait another 15 minutes and retake the temperature. Do this until the cup/bag and tank temperatures match. 

Step 6 – If your Betta is in a cup, take a small amount of tank water and add it to the cup. If Betta is in a bag, use about a half cup of water. Repeat this process every 15 minutes for 45 minutes. 

Pro Tip: There is no “rule” on how long the acclimation process should take. It will depend on the differences in pH and temperatures between the two containers. However, a slow acclimation is always favorable over a fast one. 

Step 7 – Once the acclimation is complete, gently scoop out your Betta with the net and add him to the new habitat. Do not pour out the water from the cup or bag, as this could contain contaminants. 

Step 8 – Monitor your Betta for signs of distress.

Drip Method Acclimation Technique

As the name suggests, the drip method slowly introduces aquarium water at a controlled rate of a few droplets per second using airline hose and gravity. However, it is more involved. 

What You Need

  • Airline tubing (long enough to reach from the aquarium to bucket on the floor with additional few inches to tie a knot in it). 
  • Clean bucket
  • Fish net
  • Gravity

Step 1 – Remove 45 to 50 percent of the water inside the cup or bag your Betta fish came in. We will be adding water to the container during this process.

Step 2 – Place the cup or bag inside the clean bucket that has been placed lower than the aquarium. You will have to drape the top of the Betta transport bag over the side of the bucket to keep it stabilized and open. 

Step 3 – Take the airline tubing and tie a knot in the middle of it. Be sure it is tight (this is what is going to control the drip flow).

Step 4 – Place one end of the tubing in the aquarium (you may need to tape it into place to secure it).

Step 5 – Using your mouth, start a suction on the clean end of the tubing. Do this by sucking on the tubing (like drinking from a straw) until the water reaches past the point of the knot.

Step 6 – Remove the tubing from your mouth and place ii in the hole of the cup’s lid, or the plastic bag.

Step 7 – Monitor the drip-rate. Ideally, it should be 1 drop every 1 to 2 seconds. If it is dripping faster, place your finger over the hole of the tubing (to ensure you keep the suction) and tie another knot in the tubing to slow it down.

Step 8 – Watch the bag or cup to ensure it does not overflow. You want to have 50 percent cup/bag water and 50 percent aquarium water.

Step 9 – Once you have achieved this goal, gently scoop out your Betta using a net and place him in your tank.

Step 10 – Monitor your Betta for signs of stress or illness. 

Pro Tip: Do not rush this process. The longer your Betta is given to acclimate, the better off he will be. 

Signs of Distress in Betta Fish

Sudden changes in the environment can cause your Betta some stress. Look for these signs after you have placed your new Betta in its habitat;

  • Erratic swimming (bumping into things, swimming frantically, etc.).
  • Clamped fins
  • Changes in color (usually duller)
  • Hiding
  • Lying on the bottom of the tank

It is also normal for a Betta to not eat for a few days after being placed in a new aquarium. Continue to monitor him for any of the above symptoms if his lack of appetite persists.

Transferring Betta From Cup to a Community Tank

We know that Betta fish can be very aggressive to their own species, but some can actually live peacefully with other small community fish such as neon and ember tetras, guppies, cory catfish, kuhli loaches, African dwarf frogs, and ghost shrimp. 

To introduce your Betta to a community tank first be sure that the temperature and pH levels are optimal for the Betta fish. You will also want to have plenty of live plants and one (or more depending on the tank size) of decorations so your Betta can find solace if needed. 

Pro Tip: We recommend quarantining your Betta for a couple of weeks before introducing him to a community tank. Unless you are absolutely sure your Betta is healthy, this process could save an outbreak of disease or parasites to your other community fish. 

If you have just brought home the Betta from a pet retailer in a transfer cup (and you know he is healthy), go ahead and float the cup on the top of the community tank. If you are transferring the Betta from a quarantine tank or a smaller tank, you will want to use the cup he originally came in or a see-through bag for acclimation. 

This process not only allows the water in the cup to acclimate to the tank’s temperature, but you can also see how your Betta reacts to the other fish. If he flairs or seems overly aggressive, this tank may not be the best fit for your Betta fish.

Allow your Betta to acclimate in the transfer cup/bag for at least 45 minutes. If he seems relaxed and not concerned with the other fish, go ahead and follow the previous instructions on the water switch acclimation process.

Once you have released your Betta into the community tank, keep a close eye on him to ensure he is not stressed out or being a bother to his tank mates. 

Final Thoughts On Transferring Betta Fish From Cup to Tank

We always want what’s best for our pets, so when it comes to transferring Betta fish from cup to tank be sure to choose a healthy Betta. Acclimate your fish using either the water switch acclimation technique or the drip method. If your new Betta is going into a community tank, then you may opt to use a quarantine tank for a couple of weeks to ensure he is healthy.

Giving your Betta this extra bit of time and attention, in the beginning, will give him the best possible chance at a long and healthy life.