Are there any other threads for new tank startups, recommended starter plants, water conditioners (leaves moss etc) which are recommended, or can you point me in the right direction?
I am aiming to have my tank established for at least 4-6 weeks before looking for my dream fish. In the past I have rushed adding fish and since I am willing to spend $40 + for a fish I want to do this all right this time.
Do you have a filter? Search for fishless cycle and you will have a ton of directions about how to cycle your filter without a fish in the tank, and how to test your water to know when it's safe to add one :)
Yes I have all the hardware needed (although my heater seems to be flakey, might have gotten jarred during a few moves and I am going to replace it), I just need to buy new charcoal and sponge, plus get my API Master Kit and possibly a water softener pillow, we tend to have hard water here.
I do have a question about tap water, it's been many years since I maintained a tank.
I was always told if you let your tap water sit for a week the chemicals will evaporate and you can use this to do your water changes. Is this a myth? I'd like to become a little better than amateur since I am in my 30's now haha!
I also calculated to make sure my tank is a 15 gallon, and the Dimensions are as follows: 1.9685 ft X 1.01706 ft X 1.01706 ft. The calculator I used to convert from metric pins this tank at 15.2106989 gallons, does that sound right?
And there is mention of tannins. I once had an additive a petstore gave me and it turned my water brownish. I kinda liked it, I dare say it was peat? How do bettas do in this kind of water and can I get that naturally with the use of plants/leaves?
Here's my "down and dirty" list of tank mates for Betta, and their risk rating. This is only my opinion, but its what I have gathered with the most recent info I have available.
Shrimps: High Risk. At some point, even if things are going well, when the shrimps molt, it will simply smell like food. The Betta's natural inclination will likely be to attack/eat them. A high volume of shrimps may allow many to survive, but there is a secondary risk of unseen not found corpses fouling the water. Even mild mannered Betta are likely to eat a molting shrimp.
Otto Cats: Low Risk. Betta are more likely to "stalk" Otto Cats than attack them. Unless you have an extremely aggressive specimen, they usually get along extremely well. One caveat and warning, avoid feeding Otto Cats sinking algae wafers or shrimp pellets in a tank with a Betta. The Betta will view the sinking food as food, and may bully the Otto cats away from it, or worse, eat the whole thing himself, gorging, leading to premature death. Instead, feed raw vegetables on a clip, the Betta will usually ignore this. Some Betta will ignore sinking algae wafers, but finding out is very risky.
Cory Cats: Low Risk. The same applies to Cory cats as does for Otto Cats.
Snails: Medium Risk. The risk here is two fold. Usually the most placed tank mate in with a Betta, it isn't without its risks. The snail's feelers and other soft parts are usually "toys" for the Betta, and it is highly likely he will bite them off. Though they will grow back, it is painful and stressful to the snail. The second risk comes, that snails are huge tank polluters. They leave a lot of detritus in the substrate, and in small tanks can cause water problems if great care isn't taken to keep that substrate clean. In simple terms, they eat a lot and poop a lot, which can foul a small tank pretty quickly.
Neon Tetra: Low Risk. Neon's are extremely peaceful, and are extremely unlikely (almost unheard of) for a Neon to attack or nip a Betta. That said, Neon's have a supreme advantage over the Betta, they are FAST little buggers. Neon's generally will avoid the Betta at all costs, schooling usually at the opposite end of the tank. They must be kept in an adequate school. A Betta can catch a neon, but its not something I've ever seen personally. A word of caution, however. Neons in my experience have a high chance of contracting Ich. They are very sensitive to water conditions, and a case can break out before you are aware there is even an issue. One tiny fluctuation in a cycle can have them break out, so be aware of this.
Harlequin or Galaxy Rasbora: Low Risk. These fish do not have flashy display colors or long flowing fins, are peaceful and highly unlikely to instigate the Betta. Make sure a school is adequately large so these fish do not get stressed.
Guppies: Extreme Risk. The flashy colorful fins of a guppy are like a red cape at a bullfight to the Betta. This risk is two fold, as if at any point your Betta feels poorly or becomes lethargic, Guppies are "peckers", and will think nothing of pecking about your Betta. Some people have had no issues with having the two together, however the risk is very high and I would not recommend it.
Goldfish: Insane Risk. Don't ever do this. Not only are the species incompatible in temperature and habitat, but the Betta won't stand a chance. Particularly if the goldfish in question is a comet, common, shabunkin, or Koi. These fish should not even be in a tank size that is housing a Betta in the first place.
Platy: High Risk. Their coloring will likely stress out a Betta, and though some keepers have had success, the risk is rather high that they will not get along.
Mollies/Swordtails: Extreme risk. Males of both species are highly territorial, It won't be pretty.
African Dwarf Frog: Low risk. These peaceful guys are generally good with all but extremely aggressive Betta. Keep in mind, these little creatures will need to be hand fed in a tank with the Betta. Betta will vacuum up any food put in for them, leaving the frogs starving and the Betta way overfed.
Angel Fish: Insane Risk. This as well will not be a pretty sight.
Other Betta: Ludicrous risk. Enough said.
Female Betta Only Sorority: High Risk. This should only be attempted by those will a good knowledge of the breed, patience, large enough tanks, and experience.
If a fish is not mentioned on this list, it would be a good assumption that the risks are too great to even mention. Betta are -not- social creatures, and if it is your ideal to have a "full tank" of action, you may consider not having a Betta at all.
Like pulling a lot of straws, you never know precisely what one you are going to get, and temperament can vary widely from one Betta to the next. For example, there are two Betta in my home, one will readily accept any tank mate I place with him, super friendly, he can be handled and even physically "pet" and stroked and enjoys it. The other? He will accept nothing in his territory (tank), and will only accept my own hand in his tank to clean it, others will be chased and nipped, sometimes ferociously. However, the aggressive one, did accept otto cats, go figure, though they have been removed as well, just in case.
I started compiling info I picked out from other threads etc... if anyone wants a good place to start on New Tank Setup advice:
Fish Wish List: (stuff I like)
Butterfly, purple, Salamander (in dark purple)
Multicolour - purple hues or green/gold-ish
Imbellis Wild Type
rosetail (is not a type but is an over feathering of the HM)
feathertail (is not a type but has a tipped appearance to the rosetail)
CT x HM = combtail or HALFSUN (not an official type)
Do Not Want: (stuff I don't fancy)
cellophane - unless iridescent
-Tank of AT LEAST 2 Gallons. Some people believe in 5 gallons as minimum. Yes, a fish can live in small tanks, but they thrive in proper conditions in roomy areas.
-Heater. heater, heater, heater. This is absolutely needed. The temperature in the tank needs to stay at least at 78 degrees. These are tropical fish, and become very lethargic if kept in cold water. A light will not be sufficient enough for heat. In the night, temperature can easily drop 8+ degrees, which can kill as fish. Room temperature is not enough either. Hydor makes a wonderful heater for small tanks of 2.5 gallons and less. It resembles a heating pad and they work wonderfully while not being overly expensive.
-Hiding Spots: Hiding spots, such as caves, make bettas fell secure. This way, they can escape from light and rest. Make sure the hiding spots are not sharp, as bettas have very delicate fins.
-Filter: This is actually not needed, but it helps. Bettas need a light filter with low flow. They should have very little water movement in a tank. The filter will also keep water clean.
-Light: This helps when it gets dark. Most tanks come with some sort of light, but if not, that should be fine. Simple desk lamps or reading lamps can help give yoru betta the right amount of light.
-Thermometer: This will help keep the temperature under control.
-Liquid Test Kit: A liquid Test Kit will help keep you know your Ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH levels. Ammonia and nitrite should always be 0, nitrates under 20ppm, and pH at a level of 6-7.5.
-Access to Air. Betta spendens gets its oxygen from breathing air at the surface. That is the function of the labyrinth organ. If a betta can’t reach the surface for oxygen, it will drown. For this reason, while it is important to offer a well decorated environment, it is also important to make sure the betta has plenty of easy access to the surface of the water. The air temp above the water needs to be close to the temp of the water to avoid infections and shock.
1) Weekly Water changes. A filter cannot take out everything in the water. Would you like to live in your own poop? This is why bettas need regular water changes.
A betta tank should never need 100% water changes unless working with medications. Too drastic of a change in water params can cause illness and death to any fish. Bettas can withstand more than the average tropical fish, and 50% changes are good for them if done frequently enough. The smaller the tank size the more frequent the water changes should be done. Anything under 2.5 gallons should have a 50% change every other day. 2.5 and more should have 50% changes at least twice/wk. If a filter is running in the tank, 50% changes once/wk are usually plenty.
2) Testing Water. You need to keep an eye out for your bettas water paramaters. Water params are nitrate, nitrite, ammonia, pH, and water hardness. A good liquid test kit will help determine what is in the water. Ammonia and nitrite should be at 0, and nitrates under 20. The pH level should be between 6-7.5. If any levels seem wrong, do a water change to get clean water in the tank.
-What temperature should I keep my betta at?
Minimum 76 degrees farenheit. A safe range is 76-86. The important thing is that it needs to be stable. These are tropical fish that will not tolerate cold water.
-pH level: 6.0-8.0
-Temperature: Should not fall below 76, better yet 78 degrees. A good range is 76-86F. Bettas are tropical fish that need high temperatures. A heater is needed.
-Life Span: 3-6 years.
-Diet: In the wild, they feed off of mosquito larvae, mosquitos, other insects and their larvae, daphnia, and worms. In the home aquaria many bettas won’t eat flake food. If you choose to try offering flakes, please be sure they are specifically betta flakes and not tropical flakes. Tropical flake food does not provide the proper nutrition for a betta. Meaty foods should be their staple diet. Vegetables should be avoided. Peas are sometimes suggested for bettas, please don’t. A betta’s digestive tract is not designed to handle that kind of roughage in their diet, thus the reason it acts like a laxative. Feeding peas to a betta can severely damage their digestive tract and lead to permanent damage and early death.
-Tank Region: All over, but mainly the Top.
Nice Digs! (The Importance of Decorations and Plants)
Decorations and plants that offer hiding spots make betta fish feel secure and allow them to get away from light and rest when they want to. If your decoration has holes for your betta fish to swim through, make sure your thumb can fit through all of them to ensure that your betta fish won't get stuck. Similarly, make sure that your decorations and plants do not have very sharp edges, as betta fish have delicate fins. A good way to test whether your decorations or plants can harm your betta fish is to run a pair of nylons over them. If the nylons snag or tear, your betta's fins will, too.
Floating plants such as hornwort are highly recommended and are easy to maintain. Java moss is also very easy to care for and can be floated on corks. Java fern, while not a floating plant, also does not require much light or maintenance. All live plants do require some amount of light, however
As discussed previously, harmful substances accumulate in your water as your betta fish expels them, and you will need to perform water changes so that they do not become too concentrated. The amount and frequency of the water changes you will need to perform will vary depending on the size of your tank and whether it is cycled. (See link)
For 1 - 2 gallon tanks: A 25% - 50% water change is recommended every other day, with a 100% water change once a week.
For 2.5 gallon and larger tanks: If your aquarium is cycled, you should change 10% of the water twice a week or 25% of the water once a week.
Water Conditioner during Water Changes
The water that comes out of most faucets contains chlorine and other substances in concentrations that are safe for humans but can be toxic to fish. Water conditioner conditions tap water to make it safe for your fish. You should always use water conditioner according to its instructions when performing water changes to ensure that the water you add to your aquarium is safe for your fish.
Testing Water Parameters
You can see for yourself just how good or bad your betta fish's water quality is by testing the water using one of many available aquarium test kits. TheAPI Freshwater Master Test Kit comes highly recommended.
A cycled aquarium will ideally have the following parameters:
Nitrate: Under 20 ppm
pH: 7.0 (Betta fish can tolerate a range of 6 - 7.5)
If after testing your aquarium water you find that your ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate is too high, you'll want to perform a partial water change to help lower its concentration. If your pH is too low or too high, you can use any one of a number of available pH related aquarium supplements to adjust it. Your test kit will likely make specific recommendations.
From time to time, you may want to clean the ornaments in your aquarium. Many people think of soap when they think of cleaning. You should never use soap to clean anything that is meant to go in your aquarium. Soap is toxic to fish, and even trace amounts of it that are likely to be present even after rinsing soap off can be extremely harmful.
To clean your ornaments safely, take them out of your aquarium and rinse them under hot water. Just make sure not to burn yourself!
If hot water alone won't do the trick, you can soak the ornaments in white vinegar to help soften any mineral deposits. If you use vinegar, be sure to rinse the ornament thoroughly to wash away any vinegar on it afterward.
Various anubias varieties
Recommended fast growing:
More Plant Types: Plants: If you can't start a soil based tank with enough of the right species of plants-DON'T set one up...It is important to have enough of the right species of plants on hand, correct lights from the start-otherwise the system might crash.
You want to start with lots of fast growing stem plants and some floating plants. You can add the moss, ferns, anubias to your hard scape items and add some rosette plants too.
Plants I like to use: Stem plants:
Najas indica (naja grass)
C. piauhyensis (red)
Hygrophila dfformis (westeria)
H. corymbosa (giant hygro)
H, siamensis (thin leaf)
Rotala indica Rosette plants:
Vallisneria americana-var Biwanesis
Echinodorus bleheri (amazon sword)
E. tenellus (chain sword) Other:
Nymphaes stellata (red lily)
Microsorium pteropus (java fern)
Vesicularia dubyana (java moss) Floating plants:
Pistia stratiotes (water lettuce)
Limnobium laevigatum (frogbit)
Lemna minor (duckweed)
Cycling Planted tank:
Planted tanks are a great way to keep the water healthy for fish. Note, I will not be covering the Walstad Method of the planted aquarium- which on here is abbreviated to NPT and requires the use of soil. Walstad method is different from a regular planted tank, so I suggest you research it before putting soil in the tank.
Pros: Plants are natural filters for ammonia and nitrates (some plants also cover nitrite). Planted tanks are a great choice if your tap water has readable ammonia levels or high nitrates. A well planted tank can be stocked much earlier than a tank that must undergo a cycle. Cons: Well, let’s face it: some of us are not green thumbs. Though I personally have much more success with underwater plants than land plants, so it’s worth a shot! Plants must be kept healthy in order to do their jobs properly, which requires proper lighting first and foremost.
Process: There isn’t much to the process, but I will give a few pointers.
During the process, bacteria do grow, but much less than normal because the plants take care of a lot of toxins. Bacteria and plants will balance themselves out, and when done properly, you will never notice any toxin spikes. Some plants are better at absorbing ammonia than others- some easy ones include hornwort, anacharis, duckweed and frogbit. Slow growing plants like Amazon sword and java fern aren’t the best for the job as they absorb much less ammonia.
As a starter, you want to look for fluorescent lights with a kelvin rating of 6500-7000. Most fluorescent lights will say their kelvin rating, and if they don’t, you should avoid them. Lights can be purchased at pet shops, or even at hardware stores. For deeper tanks, you may want to add more lights to allow more light to reach the bottom.
There are many special substrates for planted aquariums; however these are pricey, and eventually wear out. I prefer to use regular sand myself, though small gravel works just as well for plants. Carbon dioxide injection works well, but is pricey and completely unnecessary for most plants. There are liquid forms of carbon dioxide, but these again I suggest avoiding, as they make certain plants (Vallisneria comes to mind) simply die.
If desired, a liquid fertilizer or “root tab” may be used, but these are also not needed to succeed. These contain minerals, and you have minerals in your tap water, so with water changes you do keep mineral levels up. Not to say they don’t help, some plants such as Amazon swords truly do appreciate root tabs.
That having been said, research every single plant before making a purchase. Our shops are full of plants that are non aquatic, as well as “high maintenance” plants that will require high light, as well as carbon dioxide injection in the long run.
A final note- there is no guidelines for how many plants you need for however many fish. My advice, start as heavy on plants as possible and light on fish. Test water and if it stays perfect, you know your plants are doing their job and can slowly raise your fish amount up.
Water Chemistry Basics – How to give your Betta a 5-star home.
**DISCLAIMER**: I tried my best to write this in layman's terms as I know there are readers of this guide who are not chemistry/biology majors and/or have never taken chemistry or biology in their life. To all the chemistry/biology majors and fish mega-experts, I'm sorry if this guide is silly!
**DISCLAIMER #2**: This guide is specific to care of Bettas, I mention small tanks of 1-2 Gallons, which should never be used to house any other fish except a Betta! (Except snails or shrimp)
**DISCLAIMER #3**: This guide does not include the presence of heavily planted tanks. I have no experience with aquatic plants, and the only real plant I've ever kept is a cactus; so I feel I shouldn't say anything in this matter. If you have questions about aquatic plants, please ask an experienced person on this forum!
Water chemistry is often overlooked or ignored completely. Most aquarists (myself included until recently) do not have testing kits, or cannot validate the cost of purchasing one. This guide will go through in simple terms why the water chemistry is important to the health of your Betta (and subsequently your health).
For starters, let's begin with some of the basic parameters that are included in your basic testing kit, along with an explanation on how it relates to your fish.
Ammonia (NH3): This compound is formed when your fish excrete waste and when you overfeed your fish. It is also excreted from the gills of your fish when they breathe and swim around. Ammonia poisoning is the leading cause of death in beginner aquarists who are unaware of the Nitrogen Cycle. The symptoms of possible ammonia poisoning are: purple/reddish gills, red streaks across the body, lethargy and bottom sitting. How do I get rid of Ammonia? Normally, you must cycle your tank so that bacteria that eat ammonia can grow and live in your tank. Bacteria like to grow in certain gravels and also in your filter, as well as safe places on your decorations. In smaller tanks, (less than 5 Gallons) it is difficult to keep these bacteria alive, so you must perform water changes. The reason for this is because by the time there is enough ammonia for your bacteria to start living there, it is already too toxic for your fish, therefore it is imperative that you keep up water changes if your betta is in a small tank.
NitRITE (NO2-) and NitRATE (NO3-): For clarification, I will capitalize RITE and RATE as to not confuse these two compounds.
NitRITE is "excreted" by the bacteria that eat ammonia. NitRITE is also toxic to your fish, but it is not as powerful as ammonia. It is also possible for your fish to get nitRITE poisoning, symptoms include: lethargy, rapid breathing and brownish gills. The brownish gills is commonly known as "Brown Blood Disease", in which the nitRITE impairs your fish's blood to carry oxygen properly, and suffocates them. How do I get rid of NitRITE? After the ammonia eating bacteria establish, the next to come along are the bacteria that "eat" nitRITE. Plants also help out a little bit, but generally the bacteria will eat it all up long before the plants can.
NitRATE is "excreted" by the bacteria that eat NiRITE. Once again this is also toxic to your fish, but not as strong as nitRITE or Ammonia. NitRATE poisoning symptoms include: curled positioning of the body, bent spine, uncontrolled swimming, spasms and twitching. How do I get rid of NitRATE? Unfortunately the only way to remove NitRATE is for you to do your water changes! Plants also absorb NitRATE, but I don't know how many plants you would need to achieve this, see disclaimer #3 above!
Total Hardness (GH): There are many other elements that appear in your water that contribute to the chemistry of it. "Hard" water is water that contains a higher concentration of minerals dissolved in the water. If you have hard water in your home, you may notice that your soap doesn't foam up as easily as it does in softer water showers. Calcium deposits in your tank are generally white and crusty in appearance, which comes from having very hard water. Most houses nowadays have water softeners to reduce these effects (and make your soap lather better!). In relation to fish, some fish prefer softer water, some hard, but the majority of fish bred these days do not care so much. Betta's can tolerate a hardness between 5-20 dH or 70-300 GH ppm, but generally they would prefer something mid-range. Hard water has been shown to cause a Crowntail (CT) Betta's rays to curl. How do I change my Water Hardness? If your home already has a water softener, and you notice that the hardness has changed, you may need to replenish it (there are various kinds of these machines, I won't go into all of them). Some local pet stores (LPS) or fish stores (LFS) sell little pillows that soften your water for you. Don't throw them into the tank, you have to set aside a bucket and let the pillow sit in there as per the instructions on the package.
Total Chlorine: This element is one of the reasons for you to purchase a water conditioner. Chlorine is dumped into the water at your nearest water distribution plant to kill bacteria that would otherwise make you sick. Any amount of chlorine that is 0.5ppm and above on a testing kit can kill your fish very quickly if not remedied. Not putting in water conditioner for your fish is like asking you to drink chlorinated pool water your entire life. How do I get rid of Chlorine? Look for a water conditioner that says it removes chlorine. Some good brands that are recommended are SeaChem Prime, Aqua+Plus, API Stress Coat, and TopFin Water Conditioner.
pH: This is a measure of how acidic or basic your water is. It ranges from 1-14, 1 being acid, 14 being basic. Water is generally 7 (neutral), in the middle. This scale however, is logarithmic, meaning a pH of 6 is TEN TIMES more acidic than a pH of 7. Therefore, even minor changes in pH such as 7 to 7.3 would add a lot of stress to your fish if changed too suddenly. Betta's can tolerate a pH range of 6-8 (6-7.4 in some sources), they prefer more neutral waters, but adapt fairly well within the pH 6-8 range.