About a year ago we were in the pet store and my husband and I decided to pick up 2 betta males. We took them home, and upon doing more and more research found that we were not doing them justice with the half gallon betta tank with the divider and moved to the 2.5 gallon (I know, still not big enough). the tank has a filter and when I had the 2 boys in it, the filter was not baffled nor did I have a heater. Although, I've realized what a bad fish mommy I was, the 2 boys did seemingly well in their home. Until about 2 weeks ago. I noticed the 2 of them started losing color and were getting increasingly lethargic. They soon after stopped eating and then lost the ability to swim. Once we realized they were sick, we took them out of the tank, isolated them to 1 gallon bowls. Sadly, both fish were lost over night.
Because I did love my 2 boys, I decided immediately to get another betta, however, realizing that it was just a 2.5 gallon tank, decided on 1 fish alone. I gave the tank a through cleaning with boiling water (no chemicals) as well as adding new plants, gravel and a "house" for a hiding spot. I purchased a heater and thermometer and cycled the tank for 24 hours prior to adding my new fish. We baffled the filter to minimize the current. The fish immediately went into hiding and 24 hours later, he had also died.
Third time's a charm right? We headed to the pet store (a different one this time) and picked out a beautiful, active, blue boy. We brought him home and my husband added him to the tank (without acclimating). He seemed shy and spooked, perhaps a little stressed, but explored around his tank and then also went into hiding. (see my prior post about this guy) He was put in the tank on Monday. He was swimming around and flaring at his reflection yesterday and today, he went into hiding in the house. He had not eaten anything since coming home, so after we had our dinner I came into the office where he is kept and my beautiful boy has also died.
I really want to keep one of these beautiful fish, but I am obviously doing something wrong here. Is there something wrong with my tank and it's killing my fish? The test strips all read as normal. The temperature is maintained between 74 & 76 at all times. Is there something I should do with my tank prior to considering getting another one? I really don't think I can handle losing another.
Sorry you are having trouble with keeping fish. It's possible the ones you lost so quickly were sick when purchased. I would raise the temp a little bit, IMO, the lowest it should be is 76F. The test strips are not very accurate & I suggest you invest in a liquid test kit, a little pricey up front but you get over 100 tests so it actually saves you money in the long run. A tank that size requires frequent water changes, especially in the beginning because the beneficial bacteria needs to build up. Cycling a tank requires daily testing & water changes when the ammonia or nitrites are .25 or greater & its difficult to cycle smaller volumes of water. In order to cycle a tank there must be an ammonia source either by adding a fish (which requires daily testing), dosing with pure ammonia, or using food. the last 2 would require less work. any of the methods of cycling can take up to 8 wks. I would do away with the filter on a tank that size. IMO its easier & less stressful for the Betta. You would just need to do the appropriate water changes.
With the second fish, it's difficult to determine for sure if it was the stress from not acclimating the water that caused his demise; or perhaps he was already in poor shape coming from the pet store. (Let's face it, pet stores are about the worst when it comes to caring for their fish)!
It sounds like you are learning more as you go along. :) If I were you, I would pick up some aquarium salt, if you do not already have some on hand. Adding one rounded table spoon, per 5 gals of water can help with the stress of moving. It can help with gill function, and in case there are any ailments when you get him. (Mix the salt in a small bowl or glass of water, then add that to the tank).
Unless the fish is sick or having trouble, you don't need to add salt again after. (If the water begins to evaporate prior to your first water change, top up again while you have salt in the tank; as salt will not evaporate with the water).
Warmer temps can also help; especially for the early days. Temps of 78 to 80 can be easier.
You will want to keep monitoring the water parameters. Early in the cycling process, it is not uncommon to see some ammonia. Once you see that, you can do a 50% water change. Later in the cycling process, you will want to be mindful of nitrites and nitrate. Nitrite is very toxic, so you will need to do immediate water changes if that level is any higher than 0.
This is not mandatory by any means, but I have also found that adding a small spoonful of colloidal silver to the water has been a huge help; especially when I have rescued fish that were on their death bed. (I got my current betta about 3 months ago. He was unable to swim, nor keep himself upright (he was on his side), and was so weak, he kept getting stuck on the filter intake. Thus, I had no choice but to keep the filter off. His color was all but gone. I put him in a 5g tank with aquarium salt, and one spoonful of colloidal silver. I totally expected to wake up to a dead fish in the morning. Instead, I was shocked to find him swimming upright, and his color returning! It would be one more day before I was able to turn on the filter.
What type of heater are you using? The reason I'm asking is because some people on here had trouble with a certain brand. They were cleaning it the way the directions said - just run it under water - instead of truly disinfecting it well, and the chemical residue on the heater was killing their fish within a few days.
Also, they do need warmer water and always, always, always acclimate them (did I mention always?). Not acclimating a fish properly can cause it to go into shock and die - not always right away.
So what I am gathering is that you used the same 2.5 gallon tank for all the fish and cleaned it with boiling water? Unfortunately, often times the boiling water is not enough to kill any disease that may have taken your first two. I recommend cleaning the tank with a 10:1 water:bleach solution. Rinse it several times, let it sit to air dry, then rinse it some more if you'd like to be cautious and let some double dosed conditioned water sit in it for a day or so, then change the water again and try adding another fish.
It's also important that you acclimate them correctly. If none of this advice helps, I'd probably try getting a fish from a different store.