How to Travel with a Betta Fish

Betta fish can live for several years, which likely means that at some point in their lives, they will have to travel a bit farther than just from the pet store to their new home. I recently made a trip across the country (Colorado to Florida) – it took over a week because we made a stop to visit some of my family along the way. Here’s what we did and learned.

MovingThis is how Finley traveled. It’s a Kritter Keeper that I got at Walmart for $6, although I just looked an they can be found for even cheaper on Amazon. At the bottom of this page I will put a link to the ad for the cheapest one I see.

I also got a live plant ($5 at Petco) so he would feel safe and to help keep the water a bit cleaner. Then I also put in a few of the glass stones he love so much. I only put the stones in so he would feel safe and cared for, but as it turned out, they were really helpful!!

Finley held onto the stones a lot while I was driving – they were heavy enough that they wouldn’t slosh around with every bump in the road like him and the plant did. He used his pelvic fins to hold onto them and if there is any one thing that is a ‘must’ when traveling with a betta it is this: give them something to hold on to. It clearly provided him so much help. If you don’t have these glass beads you can pick up a pack of them at a Dollar Tree. (As always, be sure to rinse them thoroughly in warm water before placing them in the tank.)

The plant was more helpful at night while he was resting – he used it as a hammock. And it provided him with some cover of course.

The most important thing I did was monitor the temperature. I taped the thermometer strip on the side of the tank where I could see it while driving with a quick glance (if you don’t have one of these, they’re $2 dollars at Walmart or PetSmart). We got lucky, and it was in the high 70s every day when were were traveling, but when it dipped into the low 70s at night, I always turned the car heater on for him. Monitoring the temp is absolutely crucial to a betta’s survival, when traveling or not.

The one downside to the Kritter Keeper was the holes all the way around the lid. A lot of the water sloshed out when I went over bumps – about half the container actually.  Some nights I would top it off with fresh water at the hotel (I brought extra water – more on that below), but then every day it would slosh back out again. I thought about covering some of the holes with tape, but then the water would slosh on the adhesive and that could be toxic for Finley. Instead, she could have wrapped part of the lid with plastic wrap, or taped a plastic bag over it. Bettas do need to breathe air though of course, so it would be best to only cover the front and back of the lid – that’s where most of the water sloshed out – not the sides. Or, just let it slosh like I did and put a towel underneath.

Moving 2These pics were taken at a hotel one night – you can see how much water was left – just enough for him to swim around in. The hardest part was the inner city areas – that’s where all the bumps are. Once we were on the highway each day the trip was smooth sailing. But every stop for gas or coffee or food was rough for Finley. I went really slow, but even then the water would still slosh out.

I brought 2 gallons of my water with us. Since we were moving across the country, I had to get the water tested in our new home and it turned out to be so different that Finley had to slowly transition to it. Two gallons was just barely enough. In hindsight, it would have been better to have three. Make sure not to put them in the back window of the car or anywhere they will be in the sun – that would change their temperature a lot (in case you want to add a little at the hotel).

Once you get to your new home, you can get the water tested for free at PetSmart or PetCo or even some smaller aquarium stores will test it for free. We did do a full water change at a hotel one night. I didn’t plan for that, so I had to use a paper hotel cup (unused – the ones they have with the ice bucket that are wrapped individually in plastic) to hold Finley while I dumped out the old water. Do not use the glass hotel cups as they likely have cleaner residue on them.

Another thing that really helped was that I made sure to look at Finley every now and then – and that he saw me looking. It seemed to comfort him, as though he liked knowing that I was aware of him during this hard ordeal. Traveling was scary for both of us, so reconfirming that everything’s ok with a little eye contact now and then really helped settle both of our nerves. It got better though; after the first couple days Finley knew the drill.

brochuresThe one bonus of the trip was all the brochures. As you may know, Finley LOVES to look at pictures. Brochures stand up nicely on their own, which that makes it easy for decorating around a tank so whenever we would stop I would check out the brochure selection at the hotel or gas station. I even put one behind his carrier each day (wedged between the carrier and the seat) when we were traveling so he’d have something to look at – and he did.

He would get a brochure each at night at the hotel as well. (The plastic container he’s in for the brochure pic to the left was when we were working on getting rid of mold in his tank right after the trip – you can read about that in the post, Dealing with Mold in a Betta Fish Tank.) A plastic container  like that with a lid would have worked for the trip, but I didn’t have a drill to make air holes for him and didn’t want to get hurt trying to use a knife to make them. Plus, you would have to make sure the sloshing water didn’t cover/fill the air holes accidentally. But that probably would have worked much better.

Lastly, just make sure your fish’s carrier is secure. I had a small dog cage in the front seat and wedged the travel tank behind the top of the cage and the seat. (The seat was angled back a bit and the cage has a little ledge around the center of it where the top and bottom parts connect). I didn’t get a picture of that. But the tank didn’t move around at all – it was wedged in there really securely. Just in case anything happened to the container though (like if we got in an accident and it cracked), I kept the little cup that Finley came in from the pet store in the travel supplies bag in the front seat with me. It’s just one of the small little cups with a hole in the lid, too small for a week-long road trip, but it would have been great in an emergency.

So to recap, here’s what you should think about if you’re moving with your fish:

  1. Monitor the temperature.
  2. Bring extra water.
  3. Put in some small stones for your fish to hold on to.
  4. Drive slowly over bumps.
  5. Plan on water sloshing out.
  6. Make sure the fish carrier is secured.
  7. Keep a secondary container available for your fish just in case something happens to the primary container.
  8. Take advantage of the opportunity for new brochures that your fish might enjoy.

Here are the products on Amazon that I mentioned. All photos below are clickable and go to their Amazon listing page. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn on qualifying purchases.



Happy Travels!

Have an experience traveling with a betta fish? Leave a comment below!

One thought on “How to Travel with a Betta Fish

  • November 12, 2016 at 1:02 am

    Was delighted to stumble upon your blog Finley! You helped put me at ease as I will be travelling home for the winter break with my fish Papa Smurf, who’s currently in my dorm room, in just a few weeks.


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