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Old 08-09-2013, 07:21 AM   #1 
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Mental stimulation or terrorizing?


The way we wound up with bettas is my 10 year old daughter ("really, really, really, really, really, really!") wanted to do her science project on something alive. I came up with the idea of evaluating bettas' response to environmental stimulation.

Phase 1 was 4 bettas living in the little cups they came in (after a water change.) She evaluated "movements" per minute daily for 4 days. Water change, and then Phase 2 they were in 1/2 gal bowls. Evaluated again for 4 days. Water change, and Phase 3 we gave them visual access to eachother, bowl decorations, and ping pong balls. Phase 4 was all of the above, plus a variety of food at varying times of day.

Her results were as expected: much more active fish with more stimulation. The hopeful assumption was more active=healthier & happier. So when we planned for our fishes' future, we planned a revolving circus-like atmosphere with ever-changing views, varying tank decor, as much live food as possible.

I'm telling you all this because I'm not sure we're doing the right thing. When I did a water change yesterday, I switched our male and female from side to side in their divided tank, which means she got the tunnel and he got the pagoda. Previously, she never used any caves/tunnels, but he liked to hang out occasionally hidden away. But since yesterday, she has been hiding from sight.

Am I terrorizing these fish? I figured in the wild, the view is constantly changing. But I guess that doesn't mean that's what they want.

Any thoughts on this?

After we move (a few weeks away), our plan was to have a tank for each fish (after finding homes for 2 of the 4 fish in her experiment, we somehow got 2 more! LOL!) and move them from tank to tank when we do water changes. (assuming everyone is healthy) Is this too much?



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Old 08-09-2013, 11:44 AM   #2 
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First off, welcome to the forum and the wonderful and addicting(as you seem to be discovering already!)world of betta keeping!

Though these fish may have started out as an experiment(something I don't personally condone....I have seen that go so terribly wrong so many times and stick people with quite a financial burden that they weren't at all expecting...) it does sound like you do really care about providing a good life for these little guys and gals you have, which is absolutely fantastic, so hopefully myself and anyone else can answer this and any more questions you may have so these guys and gals can have happy and healthy long lives. :)

To first answer your question, while bettas are a rather intelligent, active, and curious species that do enjoy interaction and stimulation(as you, of course, have already discovered!), I do think you may be changing things up and moving them around a little TOO often. Its not a horrible idea to switch sides in a divided tank, or switch out and move decor or plants once in a while, but maybe once a month or once every couple of months to provide them with a little something new to explore....a constantly changing environment could end up just being a little too overly stressful.
Its also important to remember that while these pet store Betta Splendens do still retain some traits and instincts from their wild ancestors, they have been selectively bred in captivity for so long that its almost like comparing your indoor house cat to a lion; you don't want to entirely base your care on what they might encounter in the wild as these guys are pretty far off from where they originated. ;)

And, that aside, since you didn't mention may I ask what sort of setups everyone is in at the moment? What do you plan on getting for them after the move? Are they currently heated? Whats your water change schedule?
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Old 08-09-2013, 11:59 AM   #3 
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+1 to DragonFish's comment
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Old 08-09-2013, 12:12 PM   #4 
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Bettas are territorial and really enjoy patrolling their territory. I think they find it stressful when they are completely changed around. My fish hide for a few days when they go in a new environment. That tells me they are not happy. They get used to it but it's not something I do to them just to do it.
They also like to investigate-most likely as a result of being territorial.
They like to interact with people it seems. They like toys and places to hide. They seem to enjoy swimming through stuff. IME they like for things to touch them like plants and breeding mops.

I think they are happiest and therefore most active when you can give them:
1. a territory
2. something they can touch/hide in/play in
3. something close to the surface they can rest on
4. toys or something to provide stimulation. Mirrors for a few minutes a day, other fish to flare at, ping pong balls to bite and shove around, stuff like that. I gave my giant male betta two male guppies to harass. It keeps him active.

Watch your fish for horizontal stress lines, hiding or fading color. Those are your big signs that they are not happy.
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Old 08-09-2013, 01:47 PM   #5 
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Thank you both! The female hiding was really the first indication (that I noticed) that we were going overboard. I'll keep the changes a little less extreme.

I did have some idea of what I was getting into when we started this...I had an aquarium as a kid. And I totally agree with your disapproval of "experimentation" on animals---which is why I was so proud of myself (LOL!)when I came up with this idea---I figured everyone would benefit from seeing that fish shouldn't be kept in tiny bowls.

The original two we kept are in a divided, 5 gallon, heated, filtered tank. I'm still learning about cycling and water changes! Things are going very well for them in general, especially since we started putting buckets of water outside for mosquitoes to produce live food for them! A few weeks ago we were admiring the gorgeous fish in pathetic conditions at Petco and my daughter (I blame her) convinced me we should "rescue" some of the purple-ish ones. I am a purple junkie---she manipulated me! So now (this is the short version of the story) we have two more that are currently living in 1/2 gallon bowls until we move....which should be within the next couple of weeks. Then they will have the same arrangements as the other two, although I was thinking that it must be stressful for them to have roommates so eventually I think they will all be separated. I would also really like to have real plants---lots.

So yes, we are hooked, and I did know this would happen. We have 5 cats so I've always told her she can't have hamsters, parakeets, etc because "the cats will get them!" This is my way of trying to be more accomodating. My mother was extremely accomodating to's time to pay it forward. Plus I love them!

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Old 08-09-2013, 03:23 PM   #6 
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Ah, wonderful wonderful! At least you've got some experience under your belt and have an idea what you've gotten into....I always worry and am always hesitant when I see anything involving bettas and science wouldn't believe the number of people who do that kind of thing without any sort of forethought about what they are going to do with this little living creature and end up having to deal with putting much more money down on setups, heaters, the works then they originally planned. Not thats its their fault of course, we live in a society that pins fish, especially bettas, as easy and disposable pets....but as I'm sure you can understand, its always a sad thing to see.

But, with that said, you of course care about these little guys quite a bit and seem to have the right idea about what you're doing(hey, anything that proves and educates others on why bettas shouldn't be kept in tiny little bowls is more then awesome in my book!)and you've got some great sounding future plans going on; these fish are going to be in paradise soon I'm sure! xD

There is a TON of great info and resources here on the forum. If you haven't stumbled across it already, this sticky organizes links to all the different stickies resources on the forum; lots of stuff about cycling and water chemistry if you still need a little help!

The 'Planted Betta Tank' section of the forum here is also fantastic for whenever you want to look into that; we lots of wonderful and experienced members in that area who know all kinds of stuff about live plants and naturally planted tanks!

A helpful tip about the dividers and the divided tanks though....
Totally up to you if you still want to eventually get them all separate setups, absolutely your choice, but for the moment or for however long you may need to keep them divided, after keeping divided tanks for several years I've found a method that seems to be quite effective and hardly at all stressful.
For my dividers, I use this as a base: as a craft mesh, homemade divider I've found to be much MUCH cheaper and more stable then anything you'll find pre-made in stores, but I have made a few modifications of my own over the years. What I do is double up on the craft mesh(they make it in different colors by the way....I use primarily black or white, though they have purple ;) )and do a little more exact measuring and cutting so that the divider fits a little more snugly without quite so much of a bend. After I started doubling up on the craft mesh, not only did my dividers seem more stable, but I had far less divider mishaps and I noticed that my boys very rarely seemed to catch glimpses of each other...I think they are all aware there is something on the other side, but none seem to pay hardly any attention to their tank mate(s), even when bringing new fish home I would notice much less flaring and posturing from them in this sort of divided tank initially, if any at all, and none after a few days.
So if you're worried about them stressing a little over seeing one another, I think thats the best way to go with dividing. Of course most will get used to one another eventually otherwise, but IME this method seems to work the best in general with most fish and a variety of personalities.
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