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Old 10-26-2010, 12:35 PM   #1 
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It's tough being a betta parent in college

Hi everyone,

I'm asking for opinions on what I plan on doing over winter break. Break's going to last three weeks total, and I will do a water change once right before I leave and right after I get back.

My concerns:
  1. leaving the fish for three weeks without a water change.
  2. feeding them.
[I have a betta fish and three corydoras catfish in a 10 gallon tank]

Is it okay to leave the water unchanged for three weeks? I do have multiple live plants. 5 java moss balls, 2 java ferns, 5 strands of elodea.

Will the plants serve as a natural filter?

I am planning on using an automatic feeder, which works great. However, it only has 14 slots, meaning it will only feed for 14 days. I have to purchase another feeder that can be programmed to turn on after those first two weeks.

My main concern is the water change issue. Please let me know if you have past experience with it, or are familiar with water chemistry! I appreciate it.

- Jennie
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Old 10-26-2010, 01:18 PM   #2 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Northern Virginia
I would not let the tank go for three weeks without a water change. Is there any way you can take the fish and filter with you? If you go home by car, you could take your filter (wrap the filter pad and other media in a paper towel that has been wetted with tank water) and your fish in bags. If you travel home by plane, you could have your fish shipped home in the mail before you leave by express mail--people do this all the time with great success.

Once you are at home, you could purchase a rubbermaid/sterilite plastic storage bin to keep all your fish in temporarily. These bins come in large sizes and are only a few dollars--once you are done temporarily housing your fish, you can repurpose them for some other use around the house or even toss it. A 4 gallon bin is only $3--they are safe to heat and safe for fish and exceedingly easy to clean. I am currently using a 5 gallon storage bin as a temporary home for some shrimp and guppies--if you have a regular hang-on-back filter it should fit on the rim of the bin fairly easily, though you may have to mutilate the lid a bit in order to keep the bin closed.

If this is not possible, you should try to find someone who can do at least a couple of partial changes on the tank, or someone who lives closer to campus and will take your fish home with them for that period of time. Plants can be good nitrate sponges, but not good enough for three weeks. You will also need to get an outlet timer for your light so that your plants will be able to survive.

Excuse me if this comes off as rude or unnecessary, but you really should have thought about this problem and had a plan before you purchased your fish. You knew you would have long breaks to deal with, it did not suddenly come up as a surprise to you--next time, you should put more thought into the logistics of the situation and if you cannot find a way to make it work, simply do not buy any dorm room animals. I recently graduated from college myself and I was disgusted with how people treated the animals in their dorm rooms--hopefully college students who read this thread later will take more time to consider how dorm life will affect the animals they choose to bring in and whether or not subjecting them to it is really right for them and their schedules/living situation.

Last edited by Adastra; 10-26-2010 at 01:29 PM.
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Old 10-26-2010, 02:29 PM   #3 
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Well your fish will be fine for food without a week so no need to waste money on another feeder... Is there no way you can take them home? No one to do WC's when you are away? If worst comes to worst get a light timer and stuff your tank with plants. You will need fast growers as slow growers such as java ferns and anubias wont help much. Get some duckweed if you can.
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Old 10-26-2010, 02:29 PM   #4 
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It appears that you care alot about your pets since you came here to search for help for them. The first commenter has good advice on ways to upkeep their care while you are gone, so I don't have anything to add.....well, people do stay on holidays at school, there is a good chance you'll be able to find someone to help you out with cleaning the tank. If not, it shouldn't be too hard to take them with you. It would take a lot of time, but it's worth it.
Hope things work out!
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Old 10-26-2010, 03:20 PM   #5 
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Location: North Carolina
i vote for Adastras method of moving the filter & fish into temporary sterites. i've got a 10 gallon also that i'm going to be taking to college next year, and i've been worried about the breaks too, so your post is very helpful :)

oh, also, if you move your filter i think it should also help you with keeping up your cycle, since most of the bacteria will be in your filter. you might have to do another mini-cycle when you get back, but it shouldn't be too devastating.
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Old 10-26-2010, 04:04 PM   #6 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: USA
When life happens and it does and should not keep us from having pets.......
If you have been maintaining the tank on a regular basis and it is cycled it should be fine for 3 weeks-however, anything can happen-like the electric goes off, malfunction of the heater, filter burns up...its a good idea if someone can go and check these things at least weekly and give the fish a small amount of food or if you can program the auto feeder to feed 1 time a week.

In a 10g filtered tank I would start by making some water only changes every day for 4-5 days before you plan to leave, make sure you have good water flow with the filter media and feed really good.

The day before you leave make a 50% water change and vacuum, swish/rinse the filter media in old tank water-don't feed-toss the auto feeder and add lots and lots of hornwort or water lettuce floating in the tank-don't worry so much about the food-this is going to foul the water too fast...worry about the water quality and the hornwort should take care of that-I would not add the hornwort until the week before you plan to leave-I would get a timer for your lights and put it on 8 hours-you want to keep the hornwort growing good during the 3 weeks-the active plant growth will use up the ammonia

When you get back-don't make too big of a water change-10% daily for 3 days and then increase the percent by 10% every day until you get to 50% and then vacuum and start back on your regular weekly 50% water change and vacuum, feed light to start as well and increase as the water changes increase.
Good luck......

Last edited by Oldfishlady; 10-26-2010 at 04:09 PM.
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Old 10-26-2010, 04:53 PM   #7 
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Location: New Jersey
You might want to consider taking your fish home. Some dorms turn off the electric and heat if no one is staying in them over winter break. I always took my fish with me on winter break. If you can't do that you might want to find a friend who can watch them.
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Old 10-26-2010, 05:17 PM   #8 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Northern Virginia
Originally Posted by Oldfishlady View Post
When life happens and it does and should not keep us from having pets.......
Sorry if this sounds rude in any way, OFL, but I don't understand this statement. It would be different if the OP suddenly fell ill or some emergency caused him or her to leave their fish suddenly, but they knew when they made the decision to get their pets that they would face this problem, and they knew well in advance. Thank goodness that they are compassionate enough about their animals to at least make the effort to as us for advice and fix the situation.

But in general, I feel that if you don't have a plan for dealing with a problem you know is going to arise, you should not subject your animals to the consequences of your own lack of planning. Sometimes this means putting your own feelings aside and enjoying bettas vicariously through others for awhile.

I feel strongly about this because when I would visit the dorms at my university, I saw some really sad things--bettas abandoned, "secret" hamsters and other rodents living in closets or under beds in too-tiny cages, hermit crabs being kept deplorably without any humidity or access to water or substrate deep enough to molt in. The plain truth is that college campuses are cesspools of animal cruelty perpetrated by selfish, ignorant children.

I am not saying this to insult the OP, I don't know anything about him or her, and have no right to judge his or her actions and am very please that he or she reached out for advice. However, I am hoping that other college students that come across this thread will not make the decision to keep pets in their dorm rooms lightly. Please excuse my digression from the topic.

I hope my earlier advice was helpful.

Last edited by Adastra; 10-26-2010 at 05:20 PM.
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Old 10-26-2010, 09:06 PM   #9 
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Being a college student as well, this forum really irritates me in how its long-term members treat college students.

Get off your high horses, please.

Yes, I'm running into the same issue with winter break fast approaching, of how to transport my soon-to-be-planted 5-gallon tank I just purchased. Quite frankly, just cause I don't have it all figured out yet doesn't mean I shouldn't buy or keep fish. I'm sure, when it gets closer, I'll find a way to bring the whole tank with me--it's just a 2-hour drive, I'm sure if I pack it carefully it'll manage, and I keep the fish in cup-holders. Life is good.

I love my fish, but I'm realistic--they're fish. I'll put in the care I can afford, and won't criticize the others living in my hall if they don't have the means to shell out all the money to get their single fish a 10-gallon heated tank, as this forum seems to advocate. Honestly, I've had betta fish on and off through life, and even as a silly ignorant kid I kept them alive for years in half-gallon tanks with maybe bi-monthly water changes. These fish are hardy, and if they die, well, it's awful but they are still just fish. Hard to get super attached to them when compared to dogs/cats/etc.

Nice to know college's are the haven for animal abusers. All I've seen are betta-fish kept in half-gallon critter carriers, being admired by everyone that walks by the open doors. Some kids up here do better--there's a girl downstairs with a superb female (many think it might be male, the fins are that amazing) in a filtered 1-gallon tank. I'm the craziest in the hall, with my 2-gallon critter carrier that's being upgraded to a 5-gallon Hawkeye.

Honestly, as long as kids come in this forum for advice, I don't see why you guys should be so critical. At least they are making the effort to get educated. Don't get angry at them for following the faulty-advice of pet-stores regarding betta fish, since who wouldn't make the assumption that the pet stores know what they're talking about when it comes to taking care of the fish they're selling? And they're cheap, and the supplies the pet stores sell for them are cheap--making them seem to be perfect dorm pets. And honestly, it's hard to justify all the purchases I'm making for a 5-gallon tank set-up for my fish; in the end, I'm doing it for my own enjoyment, which gets pleasure from looking at happy fish. It's purely selfish.

Sorry a long rant, guess it just built up. I'll go back to lurking now :)
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Old 10-26-2010, 09:57 PM   #10 
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I definitely agree with Arowan. I'm also a college student. It's tough, and as much fun as they are to have, fish are fish. This thread is perfect for me cause I was also worrying about what to do over thanksgiving and christmas break.
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