Do Betta Fish Need Oxygen?

In this post, we will understand how betta fish get oxygen. We will also outline the unusual mechanism betta fish use to extract oxygen.

Do Betta Fish Need Oxygen?

Yes, even though fish do not have lungs, they do obtain oxygen via their gills. However, bettas, and other labyrinth fish, are unusual in that they have a labyrinth organ in addition to their gills. While they do depend a great deal on their gills, they have another mechanism to acquire oxygen.

Betta fish certainly require oxygen, but unlike other fish, they need to be able to collect oxygen from both the water and the air. Most fish do not require access to the air, thus a very low lid, or even one touching the water, does not make a difference.

In addition, other fish require highly oxygenated water to thrive, whereas the betta does not.

How are betta fish supplied with oxygen?

Bettas, like other living things, need sufficient oxygen to thrive for extended periods. Additionally, they have a labyrinth organ that enables them to get oxygen from the air above the water’s surface. However, every betta tank owner should prioritize maintaining an adequate amount of oxygen in the water.

As a result, many owners choose to purchase an air pump for their betta tank. Air pumps function by creating bubbles in the water, which accelerates and improves the oxygenation of the water. Air pumps do not serve an aesthetic purpose or are intended for visual objectives; rather, they serve a far more utilitarian function: they generate bubbles to increase the amount of oxygen in the water.

Labyrinth Organ

Consider the labyrinth organ as an ancestor of the lungs. While the betta cannot depend entirely on this organ, the betta needs to be able to utilize it when required.

Because they do not depend entirely on one organ, they must have access to both the atmosphere and water. Bettas are found in the wild in very warm environments that are often stagnant.

The water is not foul nor filthy, and it stretches many kilometers. When the temperature rises, the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water decreases.

The less movement on the surface, the less dissolved oxygen As a result, the betta’s native environment has a low concentration of dissolved oxygen, and they must be able to get oxygen from another source.


Bettas depend more on their gills than their labyrinth organ, so if you see them gulping for air more often than usual, there are three potential explanations. The first possibility is oxygen deprivation, which is the least probable and most difficult to detect.

The second is poisoning with ammonia, and the third is poisoning with nitrite. Ammonia and nitrite poisoning are very prevalent and sometimes deadly, problems encountered by inexperienced fish caretakers.

Most people visit a pet shop and purchase a betta and, ideally, a 5-gallon tank equipped with a heater and filter, before assembling everything. The difficulty is that there was no cycling time, which takes around one month with an adequate ammonia supply.

Ammonia produces severe burns throughout a fish’s body and often results in major gill damage. Nitrite binds to hemoglobin in the blood, preventing it from transporting oxygen to the fish, and drowning it.

Both forms of poisoning are indicated by red gills and gasping.

What is the mechanism of Oxygen Exchange in Water?

To see why air pumps might be advantageous, it’s necessary to first examine how oxygen moves in tank water. Healthy oxygen circulation is critical for maintaining a high quality of water for the bettas. Oxygen enters the water near the surface, and here is where the betta will get the majority of its oxygen.

You may even witness bettas leap from the water in an attempt to get more oxygen from the air if the oxygen level in the water is low. The broader or wider the sea surface is, the more oxygen is exposed to it. However, this does not imply that all water receives oxygen.

Even though a significant surface area is exposed to oxygen, there may still be insufficient air circulation. That is what occurs in stagnant ponds and lakes when the lake’s bottom seldom receives fresh oxygen.

On the other hand, oxygenation is significantly improved in swift streams and rivers, since the surface rocks up and down and more water receives oxygen owing to splashes. That is, in essence, what air pumps accomplish.

What is the purpose of an air pump?

The air pump’s primary function is to transport oxygenated water from the top of the tank to the bottom. The air carries the water from the top to the bottom, oxygenating additional water. This improves water circulation from top to bottom, which also improves oxygen circulation.

However, it is not the bubbles that we see that generate oxygen for the water; rather, it is the flow of the water from the top to the bottom that generates oxygen. This movement enables more water to get oxygen, even at the tank’s bottom.

Thus, the air pump serves a highly functional purpose in the fish tank, contrary to popular opinion that the air pump is only decorative.

Do Bettas require an air pump?

While a betta tank may function very well without an air pump, it is not always a terrible idea to incorporate one, particularly if the oxygenation is poor and the oxygen levels are dangerously low.

However, many owners continue to purchase the air pump since it is a very inexpensive piece of equipment that is quite successful at supplying a higher quality of water. While each owner has the option, it surely does not harm to install a reliable air pump in the tank.

Is it possible for Betta Fish to survive without an air pump?

Yes, betta fish may survive in an aquarium without an air pump. It is not suggested, though, since it may cause stress to the fish. An air pump is used to aerate the water and create bubbles that add to the aquarium’s aesthetic.

Additionally, it aids in water circulation, which helps maintain a healthy habitat for fish and plants. Betta fish are air breathers, which enables them to live in water with low oxygen levels; nonetheless, I would not advocate doing this.

You may keep your betta fish alive without an air pump, but you must agitate the water periodically with water changes to ensure enough oxygenation. Additionally, you may use real plants that naturally create oxygen.

Aquatic Plants for Oxygen Production

Plants not only improve the water quality significantly, but they also enhance the appearance of the tank and provide a hiding spot for your fish. Aquatic plants photosynthesize with CO2 and create oxygen, which is dissolved in the water.

Utilizing plants such as anubias, hornwort, elodea, java fern, and other easy-to-grow plants will significantly assist in maintaining a raised oxygen level in your betta fish tank.


In this post, we learned how betta fish get oxygen. We also outlined the unusual mechanism betta fish use to extract oxygen.

If you have any thoughts or doubts, feel free to drop us a comment below!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Do Betta Fish Need Oxygen?

Do betta fish need to have an oxygen pump?

Bettas, in general, do not need an air pump. They are anabantoids, which means they can breathe the air in the atmosphere through a special organ called the labyrinth.

This also explains why bettas may live in water conditions that would kill other fish, such as slow-moving streams, drainages, ditches, puddles, and rice paddies.

How long can a betta fish survive in the absence of oxygen?

While the most expected response to this question is two days, most experienced aquarists would argue that it is far longer. The precise period during which your fish will live in the tank without oxygen is dependent on several variables.

Are bettas attracted to air bubbles?

Simply because they are not required does not mean your betta will dislike them. For instance, many bettas like playing with the bubbles produced by an air pump. This kind of entertainment will keep them occupied and may double as a toy. On the other hand, bettas dislike fast-moving water.

How can I oxygenate my water in the absence of a pump?

Using a pitcher or cup is one of the simplest methods to aerate the water in your aquarium without using a pump. Simply fill a pitcher or cup halfway with aquarium water, raise it to a comfortable height, then pour the water back in. The water will absorb oxygen on its trip down to the tank, thus adding oxygen to the water.


Do Betta Fish Need an Air Pump?

The beauty of the Betta

Do Betta Fish Need Oxygen?