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Old 09-23-2011, 12:49 AM   #1 
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Question Next tank: 5g vs 10g, plants, driftwood vs rocks vs plastic

I'm planning to get a new aquarium with just plants for now, not really ready for another fish yet... but maybe someday. I'm debating a few parameters now - would like to know what you all think.

#1. 5-gallon or 10-gallon

Reasons to pick a 5g: I already have a Red Sea Nano filter, which is only supposed to be up to 3g, but I am guessing for a betta it could handle 5g. I already have a 25w heater (Hydor Theo). The 5g (well, 5.5) is smaller and will fit more comfortably in my room.

On the other hand, bigger is always more stable, right? I don't want to be doing 100% water changes; I want to have the tank cycled and stable (will have to feed it ammonia till I have fish). I'd like to be able to go on holiday for a week without worrying about ammonia spikes...

Is there a big difference in water changes needed for a 5g vs 10g? How often do you change the water in your 5g? Other posts on the forum/interwebz say that 5g will cycle, but not stably - anyone have experience with this?

#2. Live plants

I am going to try growing some aquatic plants; the question is if it's a good idea to add a betta to the mix. I know plants are supposed to be good for water params, places to hide, etc; but it seems like they also add risk - diseases, if a plant dies, it could muck up the water, liquid fertilizer might be bad for fish, dirt/substrate might get in the water... What do you think?

#3. Rocks/driftwood

I kind of want to go for the more natural route instead of getting plastic decorations. But lava rock definitely seemed too sharp, and even the driftwood seems all jagged-y - I mean this stuff, Malaysian driftwood:

Is that safe for bettas? Is there something you can do to make the driftwood smooth enough for bettas? Maybe it's softer when wet?

Also, what kinds of rocks do you use in betta-safe tanks? I'm thinking smooth, river pebbles would be OK, but I'm not sure about the Mexican bowl rock I saw at Pet Club:

Any experiences?
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Old 09-23-2011, 01:03 AM   #2 
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Hi again mathkid,

You may find more success when attempting to cycle using the 10g over the 5g. Some will say it isn't possible, or extremely difficult to get a 5g or under to cycle.

I have a 6g with live plants and a filter, intially I have used 2 anubias on diftwood. I found no snagging or tear issues with either piece of driftwood - Victor even explored a very thin crack through one piece that most tetras would have difficulty squeezing through. He emerged unscathed.

Weeks later, he has managed to snag and lose a bit of his fin on a simple IAL DIY hammock I setup. He seemed to lose it against the glass and the leaf. So even with our best efforts, they can still manage to lose finnage on the most unlikely of objects.

In the first weeks of my tank, I was cycling with just the two anubias. I had readings of ammonia, since then I had to undertake a few 100% WCs and restart the cycle. However my girlfriend bought me a java fern - relatively large for the tank. Two pieces each are placed near both anubias - I will be updating pictures this evening in my signature link.

A week and a bit later, I still have no ammonia, no nitrite or nitrate readings. I have undertaken a 25% WC regardless.

You may find that a NPT will not cycle, as the plants will nom all the ammonia up before the bacteria has a chance to form or eat it.

OFL (OldFishLady) is extremely knowledgable in regards to live plants and NPTs. You may wish to PM her, or she may even make an appearence here!

Decorations really come down to your personal preference in what you are trying to achieve. Ultimately I prefer living plants and natural decorations which limits me to driftwood, rocks or .... nothing? It is best to try and stay away from any snaggy of course.
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Old 09-23-2011, 07:40 PM   #3 
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Your concerns about live plants shouldn't be a problem. Liquid fertilizers are perfectly safe for fish as long as you follow the instructions on the label. If a plant dies, remove it and it won't cause problems with the water. It is also advised to quarantine plants, as with anything new, before adding it to your tank to reduce the risk of introducing disease. Many people keep live plants in their betta tanks without any problems! They really work wonders for the water quality in your tank if you are willing to put in a little extra work to take proper care of them.

Those rocks look fine and so does the driftwood. I had driftwood in my betta's tank for awhile without any problems. As long as there aren't any really jagged, splintery pieces sticking off it it, you should be fine. I have some rocks in my tank currently, just ones I found in my backyard.
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Old 09-23-2011, 08:08 PM   #4 
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Yes bigger is always indeed better. ;) With a 10 gallon you'll get more swimming space for your Betta, more decorating space, more places to grow more live plants if you choose to, and you can start a community tank, a small one though if your Betta is a nice Betta. Cycling with a 10 gallon is way easier than cycling with a 5 gallon, I find it to be quite more stable.

Live plants honestly makes the tank look way better, also plants suck up ammonia which is also better for the fish and water. Betta's have no problem with plants and enjoy the company of them. Live plants also allow you create hiding places if you choose to make a community tank. Any fish that is being bullied can swim off into the safety of the plants. Depending on what plants you choose, you'll need liquid fertilizer, root tabs or both! Liquid fertilizers are usually not harmful, even if you overdose, depends on the product though.

I have driftwood in my tank, I freaked out when I saw my Betta snuggle into it and swam underneath it hoping he wouldn't get caught, but he didn't. Driftwood is actually quite safe, if you're scared you can take some pantyhose and run it along the driftwood if it snags/tears, it's probably not safe. Also if you get driftwood make sure to throw it into a bucket of boiling water to soak for three days changing the water everyday. If you throw it directly into the tank it'll leech and turn the water yellow-ish. Not harmful, just not pleasing on the eye.
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Old 09-23-2011, 11:16 PM   #5 
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I also did some light sanding on my driftwood, just to be sure and then run my fingers through the entire surface. If I had any pantyhose, I probably would've done it with that.
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Old 09-24-2011, 12:17 AM   #6 
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After I put my big piece of driftwood through the dishwasher and sanitation cycle(no soap of course) I used a knife to dig out any soft parts(They were very dark brown and soft to touch) of the wood so it wouldn't rot.
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Old 09-29-2011, 12:55 AM   #7 
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Hi again Banicks et. al.

Thanks everyone for the advice on plants/driftwood! I'll be sure to wash/soak the driftwood thoroughly... probably sand it too =)

The current plan is to go with the 5.5g, just 'cause I get to use the aquarium stuff I have instead of it just sitting in storage. It sounds like a heavily planted tank may not cycle anyway. And I actually don't want a community tank right now, I think I just want one fish...

Here's my planned setup for one betta. Equipment:
  • 5.5g AGA tank
  • Red Sea Nano filter (with extra polyfill/baffle)
  • Hydor Theo 25w heater
  • Ott-lite desk lamp (13w, 5500-5900K)
  • AGA Versa-Top 16”

And decor:
  • Eco-complete black substrate // Or maybe just regular dark gravel?
  • Malaysian driftwood
  • Java moss
  • Anubias nana
  • Pennywort
  • Water wisteria
  • Watersprite
  • Duckweed

The plan is to get all the plants set up and run the tank for a few weeks to make sure they are growing and all that. And thennn… keep an eye out for a betta who needs a home. The planned water change schedule is 50%, once a week.

Does this sound reasonable? Any red flags? Things I’m concerned about:
  • What’s the best way to disinfect these plants when I get them from the pet store? I know not all plants can handle a 5% bleach dip…
  • Eco-complete is supposed to come with bacteria for speeding up a cycle – if there are no fish in the tank, should I be adding ammonia somehow?
  • Speaking of Eco-complete, since all of the plants I’ve selected are OK floating, does it even matter what substrate I use? Would a regular gravel work as well?
  • After substrate, driftwood, plants, this tank will probably only hold 4 or 4.5 gallons of water. Is that still OK for weekly partial changes? (I know that smaller tanks need full water changes…)
  • Is it OK to have the slightly underpowered filter on there? I mostly want it for keeping the tank evenly heated and maybe cycling.

THANKS. You guys are so helpful!
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Old 09-29-2011, 01:37 AM   #8 
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Personally I never disinfect plants and I have purchased a whole lot of plants. I just rinse them under warm tap water and clean off any obvious snails and debris. I have never had any problems occur because I don't disinfect.

You could just use ordinary gravel, which I always think looks much more visually appealing than soil substrates, as the plants you are using are going to be getting most of their nutrients from the water column. If you choose to plant them, you can just put in a few root tabs for an additional nutrient boost.

In planted tanks, you want good circulation of water to evenly distribute fertilisers, prevent dead spots and the build-up of detritus. Some species of algae will thrive in anaerobic conditions, but HOB filters are pretty good at creating surface agitation and introducing oxygen into your tank.

I have 5 female bettas in around a 5-6 gallon tank. It is very heavily planted with stems and floaters, and only requires a partial water change a week. I have never once had a reading for ammonia even though it was completely uncycled. If your stem plants are provided with enough light and nutrients, they will consume a surprising amount of ammonia and nitrate.
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Old 10-01-2011, 11:49 PM   #9 
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Hi LittleBettaFish, thanks for sharing!

Do you purchase plants online? In-store tanks? In those tube packages? I ask because I did have a bad experience with a store-bought plant...
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Old 11-05-2011, 10:48 PM   #10 
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Hey, thanks everyone for sharing! I ended up getting the following plants from Planted Aquariums Central:
- purple cabomba
- anubias nana
- water wisteria
- water sprite
- pennywort

I've got 'em set up in a 5g, with filter (see attached pic!)

A few questions:

1) There are visible roots on the wisteria, water sprite, and pennywort (see attached images). Do those need to be buried in gravel? Do they need to not be buried?

2) Should the heater go next to the filter or away from it?

3) I put the cabomba in the corner by the light - it seemed like the one that'd benefit most from it. The water sprite and wisteria is furthest away - does that seem OK?

4) Some of the pennywort stems don't have any roots. I've left them floating. Do you think they'll develop some?
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