How do I get my betta to have a more enjoyable life?
Hello. My red betta is a male named Maya. I made him female.. Anyway, he's about 2 years old and was switched from a 2 gallon bowl to a 10 gallon aquarium. Its got a filter and a floating thermometer around 78 degrees. Conditioned the water. It has 5 pounds gravel, a big white shell ornament, and a medium fake plant. I know it should have more gravel and accessories. I was wondering what would be the most ideal? I am also planning on getting him some friends. Neon tetras and maybe others. In his bowl, he seemed lethargic and staying at the bottom. He had trouble swimming up, like it would take mini bursts and he'd lay on his side at the bottom. I thought this could be a swim bladder illness. I tried feeding him a pea but he won't take it. Now, he swims up fine and doesn't stay on his side. But, still won't eat his pellets. He hides behind the shell and swims up every once in a while. I conditioned the water and a light filter is running. Could he be scared of the change of size? Is this how betta fish get when they're older? Should I get a stress reliever liquid? Also I heard about water cycling. I'm not very experienced. I set up the tank and had it run for a whole day. Put him in the next. Is that bad? How do I test the water ph, levels of ammonia, nitrates, etc? What sort of thing should I be looking for to ensure the proper care of my betta fish and his environment, aswell as future friends?
I'm no expert, but in general, a bigger tank, more plants (live ones would probably make him happiest, but silk is better than plastic), a "cave" to hide in, a gentle filter (with covered intake and baffled output) are all things which could improve his quality of life. A lot have recommended the "Betta Logs" which I have seen for sale at pet stores.
As for the tank, if you are looking to establish a cycled tank, then having him in it is going to be rough on him, as from what I understand, he would be hit with a spike in ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates as the various beneficial bacteria colonies become established. It's generally recommended to not have the fish in while getting this going. Fish food is often recommended as a fishless cycle starter, and there are detailed stickies on this in the habitats section of the forum. I'm looking at getting it going in a 5.5 gallon soon, so I might one day have firsthand experience. As for testing the water, the people here have recommended the API master kit (a liquid test kid) and have said the best price for it is on Amazon. Around $25 iirc, which is just a little bit more than the jar of test strips and will do many more tests.
PS: Peas aparently don't do anything for bettas, some frozen or pre soaked freeze dried bloodworms would be a better treat.
PPS. When I said larger tank, that's in general. A 10 gallon is plenty big for a betta and could probably handle a few docile type companion fish too.
Thank you very much. My filter might be strong for him, so I'll research on how to fix that. I really like the cave and log idea. And will buy an api master kit. About the cycling thing, I thought it was an obligatory thing and was confused on it, so I'm glad I got that figured out. I may look into bloodworms. He's still to his side, low, and not very active. More decorations will come! Live plants are what I'll be looking for. Java fern, etc. I've looked around the forums. :) I'll make him happy first before thinking of companions.
Your Betta fish is gorgeous!
Get him cory catfish as tank mates. Those little fellows will spark him to swim around. My boys love unsalted canned peas. I was feeding them to my goldfish and read that bettas could eat them too. They love them. I think it depends on the fish. It is the caves they have that they do not like.
I am fairly new to this betta keeping thing as well but a few pointers that I can give from reading other posts on this forum:
After being in a much smaller tank for so long, he may be scared that there are predator fish waiting to pounce on him in this much larger tank so some caves or ornaments that he can hide may help. It's great that you've gotten him a bigger tank =) it might just take him a bit of time to get used to having all that freedom!
If you can get live plants then it is highly reccomended, although I am still working on how to keep mine alive lol. Otherwise silk plants are a good alternative if you can't keep live plants =) The plastic plant you have at the moment, make sure the edges are not too rough as they may hurt his tail if he gets caught on it when he swims past. This is why silk plants are a better idea.
I have heard that being lethargic could be due to the water being too cold so maybe thats why in his old bowl he was always on the bottom? It's good that you have a heater now, it sounds like that is helping.
Companions can be good =) just do lots of research before you buy any, and as your tank is not cycled yet, you may want to wait quite a while before you add anymore fish. There are some other threads on this forum about cycling your tank that you should read up on.
Regarding testing the water, the liquid tests are highly recommended over the test strips as the test strips are not reliable and often inaccurate (or so I've heard?). The liquid test is much better value anyway as you get so many more tests out of it. The API Master Freshwater test kit is recommended =)
You shouldn't feed him peas, they are not really very good for him. Buy food specially made for bettas (not just any fish food). If he is not eating pellets maybe he is bored of them, you can try alternating between some other sort of betta food (I can't remember what exacly, maybe someone else can add in here).
There is a lot of info on this forum, look around and you should find everything you need =) Good luck!
Do not feed your betta peas. They are not good for him and will cause more damage than good.
Is he pooping? If not, I would suggest daphnia. They work as a kind of natural laxative. You can get frozen ones at pet stores (usually). I also get frozen mosquito larva. These perk my guys right up as they "hunt" them down.
As others have suggested, a cave will make him feel more secure. I would also suggest a floating plant or two. If he's a long finned male, this would give him the option of being able to rest up near the surface. I have a halfmoon male that absolutely loves to lounge on his floating anubias.