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Old 08-10-2008, 08:19 PM   #1 
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new and discouraged (long post)


there is a biig discrepancy of what I was told what I would need to host a Betta, than what I'm reading here now. I feel terrible.
I always had pets as a kid, but never fish, and since everything sounded so easy, I thought, I could start with my kids now by getting Bettas as pets. I'm painfully realizing now, that I did the second step first and purchased two cute betta girls, Amelie and Dali, before I informed myself independently...

I want to treat them right, but especially with the tank size I can't go over 1,5 Gallon (6 Liter) for each girl right now (I have these round "goldfish"-bowls). I wouldn't know where to put bigger tanks, since they have to be up high so my two girls (2 and 4) won't reach them, but I also have to be able to get them down, for water changes. I step on a little stool now.
For now (we have them for 3 days), they seem to be quite happy, after I was finally able to separate them, because they were clinging at each others mouth (yes, I was told in the store, that girls would go well together) and placed them underneath each other so they don't see each other.

So that I'm not making any more major mistakes and to make up for the little space, what I would need to know from you now is the following:

WATER and such:
- What kind of water should I use? Now I use drinking water with a bit of conditioner (can't measure exactly)
- I have no thermometer to measure the water, but our room temp. is around 80. Is that ok? The girls seem pretty active. They stand in the 2 top shelves of a built in unit, with no direct sunlight.
- How often should I change the water, and how, and how much? Today I changed it for the first time and about 50% and I fished each girl out of the water with the cup they came in, cleaned the plastic plant (I'll get silk ones) and the stones (the size of a thumbnail) and the shell and the bowl with warm water.
- There were little white flakes in the water. From food??
- Do I really need to get those water testers, filters, heaters, lamps etc, I was reading about? This would be very overwhelming for me, so if yes, please, please give me brand names and detailed instructions.
- The bowls are almost full, there is probably 1 inch to the top. What can I do to prevent them from jumping, but still providing enough oxygen?

- I thought they might feel better, if I fed them frequently. As soon as I come to the bowl they swim towards me as if they were saying: hi, give me food.... They eat probably 10-15 little pills a day.... I thought they knew, when they are full. And they are so cute, I can hear them chewing (I know, you all know that, but to me that's brand news).
- Why is it important to feed "only" 2-3 times a day?
- How much should they eat? The food box says max. 12 per day.
- Do they really need fasten days? And why? And how many?
- I haven't bought the treats you are talking about, yet, so I'm feeding only Hikari betta bio-gold
- Are the treats necessary?

- Is there anything else I'm not aware of ?

That was really long now, I hope that's ok.

Thanks in advance for your answers.
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Old 08-10-2008, 08:53 PM   #2 
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I really would recommend getting your fish some bigger tanks. You can get a ten gallon tank (just the empty tank) for $10 or so. Then, since your fish don't get along, you could get a tank divider to separate the fish into the two halves of the tank. You'll find that having a larger amount of water is actually much more forgiving than keeping your fish in the small bowls. As it is, you don't have any filtration of any kind and thus you have to keep doing these water changes really often. With a 10g tank with two bettas, 20% of the water could be changed out every week instead of 50% every few days. 80 degrees is a good temperature for bettas, but your house might be getting much cooler at night. Temperature swings can be really troublesome. In those small bowls, you'll have a lot of trouble keeping them at any steady temperature, whereas something as large as a 10g with a proper heater would be much more stable. Adding a small filter (a sponge filter would be perfect for a betta, or a power filter set to low flow) would allow you to actually cycle the tank.

Here's the basics of cycling: essentially, as you know, your fish produce waste. This waste adds poisonous ammonia to the water. In the small bowls, you're doing big 50% water changes every two days in order to keep these ammonia levels as low as possible so the fish don't die. In a cycled tank, bacteria has the chance to grow in the gravel and in your filter which eats the ammonia, and converts it to nitrite. The nitrite is also deadly to your fish, but luckily a second type of bacteria eats the nitrite and converts it to nitrate. Nitrate is unhealthy in large amounts, but doing partial water changes (20% or so a week) keeps them in check enough that they don't harm your fish. Having a cycled tank rather than never-cycled bowls means less work for you as well as healthier fish, since they're never exposed to any considerable amount of ammonia.

Unless you've got something seriously wrong with your tap water, using a good water conditioner (I use Tetra's AquaSafe) should make your water perfectly safe for your fish.

Thermometers for fish tanks are very inexpensive. Stay away from the more costly digital ones; you'll only need the glass type with a suction cup or the stick-on liquid crystal kind.

If you keep the fish in the bowls, 50% water changes with same-temperature water treated with water conditioner should be done roughly every two days. In a larger tank that has been cycled properly, these changes could be cut back to 20% or so every week. You can leave the fish in the tank during water changes. In small bowls, a turkey baster makes a great tool for your water changes. It removes the water but you can simultaneously use it to suck up waste from the gravel. A gravel vacuum would be good if you upgraded to a larger tank.

I'm not sure exactly what the white flakes are. Could you maybe post a picture?

Fish really need a day/night cycle just like any other creature. The type of lighting on the tank is really not important unless you're keeping live plants. Avoid putting incandescent lighting too close to the bowls because they can heat up the water quite a bit.

I really can't say that I recommend getting a heater for a bowl as small as 1.5 gallons, since you'll likely overheat the water. Honestly, it's basically impossible to keep a steady temperature in such a small tank. For anything 2.5 gallons or up, small heaters can be purchased to keep the water at a steady temperature.

It's really good to have a good liquid test kit. The API Freshwater Master Test Kit will give you precise readings of your most important water parameters (pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate).

With the bowls, you could try putting some sort of mesh screen over the tops to prevent the fish from bailing out. This is much easier in tanks 2.5 gallons or larger, as glass canopies are readily available that will prevent your fish from jumping as well as help control evaporation.

Bettas are known to eat themselves to death. They will continue begging for food forever, essentially. I would stick with giving each one 3 or 4 pellets, twice a day. Feeding them too much can lead to all sorts of health problems, just like overeating in humans is unhealthy. Fasting your fish for a day allows it to clear its digestive tract. Most betta keepers allow their fish to fast one day a week. Bettas enjoy frozen bloodworms, frozen brine shrimp, and live blackworms, all of which make good treats. You can offer small servings of those once or twice a week in place of their normal pellets. Since today's prepared foods (i.e. your betta pellets) are vitamin enriched, the fish doesn't really *need* the treats, but they really enjoy them, and isn't it just nice to give them something special once in a while?

The 10g tank with divider idea would work nicely, but if space is limited you could get two 2.5 gallon standard glass tanks, one for each fish. You'd have to buy two heaters and two filters in that case, though, so a 10g tank would probably be both cheaper and better in terms of providing a good environment for your fish.
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Old 08-10-2008, 10:46 PM   #3 
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Thanks a lot for your quick and detailed response!
It makes sense with the bigger tank.
So that means that the 10 g tank with the divider still lets water flow from one side to the other? Can the girls see each other? What, if they get too stressed by each other? Would there be a way to cover the sight?
Can I buy all these things at petsmart?
I will sleep over it and start looking at 10 or 2,5g tanks, how big they are. Maybe the 2,5g ones would still fit in the shelf unit. Although, it's double the work....
In the bigger tank, could I still go with silk plants and regular little stones that have no sharp ends (all the gravel I bought was coloring the water)?

Thanks again!
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Old 08-11-2008, 12:34 AM   #4 
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Too bad about the gravel coloring the water. I keep hearing more and more reports about that. If you've just got the bettas, then the type of substrate doesn't really matter much, so long as it's easy to clean.

A standard ten gallon tank is 10 inches front to back, 20 inches wide, and 12 inches tall. Petsmart should sell the plain, empty tanks for $10 or $11.

Petsmart also sells tank dividers. This will allow water to flow through, but will keep the fish from coming in contact with one another. This way, you can have just one heater and one filter for the whole tank. Make sure you get the solid, sturdy type of divider and not those flimsy roll-up ones. People complain about those not staying put all the time.

Both fish should have some sort of cave to hide in. You could use silk plants to obscure the view of the other side of the tank.

Petsmart's website lists the Marineland Visi-therm Deluxe heater (50 watt, which is appropriate for a 10g tank) at $13.99. If they don't have that in stock at the store, any fully adjustable 50 watt heater should do fine.

Petsmart also caries the Whisper internal filters, which would be a good choice for a ten gallon tank. The 10i (which has an adjustable flow rate, I believe) goes for about $11.

One more thing: are you sure you have two females? As long as ample hiding places are provided (i.e. caves, plants, driftwood, rock structures, etc) and an eye is kept on them, multiple female bettas can be kept together in one tank. I know some members on this forum who have set up "betta sororities" in ten gallon tanks with success. So, you might not need that tank divider after all.
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Old 08-11-2008, 10:35 PM   #5 
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Getting a bigger tank with a divider would be nicer, I have a 2.5ish gallon tank i change every 4 days 50%... and i feed mainley hikari betta bio gold to a larg male who gets 2 pellets am and 2 pm ... he has gained weight on just that much.

dont worry the 1.5 gallon bowls wont hurt them, they would just be happier and more comfortable in a larger area.
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Old 08-12-2008, 08:40 AM   #6 
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i use 2.5 gallon tanks and they're only around 12" x 8"
full, they prolly weigh around eight? pounds or so. so two 2.5 tanks woud prolly be okay on your shelf =)

also, they require fewer water changes, so its really not double the work. i do mostly partial water changes to keep down ammonia. every other day or so, i use a large cup to take 15-20% of the water out and i replace it with new conditioned water. thsi makes it so i really dont have to do many full changes at all, but my water is still crystal clear and ammonia levels are kept at bay
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Old 08-12-2008, 10:12 AM   #7 
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Hi again,

I'm really happy I found your website. I keep reading posts of other beginners and it's really helpful. I still have some questions......

I haven't had the chance to go to the store yet, but I looked up the petsmart and petco website and found this:
The reviews are not good, though. You still need something for the filter or the filter is not big enough?

I also found this
But it's $70 and I'm still in need of a heater.
Would it be possible to install a divider in there or do they only come for 10g and up?

By the way, are acrylic tanks ok or do they get unclear after a while?

Oh, for the white flakes: They were all over the water when I changed it and they are so tiny that I don't think they would be visible in a picture. There was also lots of food on the ground, so I would guess, it came from there.... Amelie and Dali had their first "almost fasten day" yesterday (I just gave them one pill each in the morning, couldn't help...).

Sigh, and for the gender: I think they are girls. The body is light beige, only the fins are colored. One has more red fins, the other one shines purple. They are maybe 1,5-2 cm long. But they were really really aggressive against each other. For the first 20 min. or so, they were fine, when I fed them, they were fine, didn't fight for the food, but then they started shooting around in the water and went after each other and ended up clinging mouth to mouth. And the fins suffered, too. Do they grow back?

What do I do, if I feel that they are still stressed with the divider? Can I buy one, where you can't see through?

I read in the filter description, that one had a flow of 75 GPH and another one had 35. Would 75 still be "low flow" or is that already fast?

I would love to keep them on the shelves, because it's in the kitchen, where we always walk by or sit at the table and watch them. But there is no outlet close by, so the cables for heater, filter, lamp would hang around and that's not good with the girls....
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Old 08-12-2008, 02:48 PM   #8 
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There are all kinds of mixed feelings about acrylic tanks. They're lighter, and they're seamless so they allow viewing from all angles. The biggest drawback, though, is that they're hard to clean. You can't use a razorblade to remove algae growth at all, and even algae scrubbers are known to scratch them up. Because of this reason, many people prefer glass tanks.

Honestly, I would stay away from those combination packages. They tend to have a couple of problems:
-They're expensive. You can usually save money by buying the pieces individually and building your own tank
-Many times the component pieces (heaters, filters, etc) are really low quality, as indicated in the customer reviews
-If anything needs to be replaced, you have to get the special parts from that manufacturer which can be expensive or a at least a hassle
-They usually don't allow easy access to the tank for feeding/cleaning/redecorating etc. You'll regret only having a hole the size of a dime in the lid of your tank every single time you go to do a water change

The Eclipse systems generally rate better because they're made by Marineland, which is one of the better equipment companies. Usually people are pretty happy with them, but they are expensive. Also, due to their odd sizes, I'm not sure if you'd be able to get a divider for one since most tank dividers are designed for standard sized tanks. If they can see through it, you can just make sure they have caves to hide in. You could also set up some taller silk plants along the divider so they can't see each other.

The coloration is not really an indicator of sex. Many female bettas are brilliantly colored. A more straightforward way of telling is the fin length - if they have big, full fins, odds are they're males, but if the fins are much shorter then you've got females. Male bettas won't ever get along with other males and very rarely tolerate females.

Oh: even the 2.5 gallon mini tanks (the standard rectangular glass ones) weigh 27 pounds full. A full 10 gallon weighs 111 pounds.

As long as there's no secondary infection or anything, the fins should grow back just fine.
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Old 08-12-2008, 06:25 PM   #9 
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Here's a link on sexing bettas:

I've found that the white oviposter spot is the most foolproof.

I'd recommend visiting your local fish store to look at aquariums, most online vendors don't carry the standard glass aquariums.

Since it sounds like you're iffy about housing them together, here's what I'd get:

-two 2.5 gallon rectangular glass aquariums (about $10 at your LFS)
-two nano heaters (these are really good and on a super sale) LINK
-two sponge filters LINK
-Whisper 10 air pump to power sponge filters LINK
-2-way airline splitter LINK
-some airline tubing
-some acrylic to use as tops (bettas JUMP!)
-whatever decorations you'd like. Since there will be two separate tanks your kids could each decorate one however they wanted :)
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Old 08-12-2008, 10:23 PM   #10 
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The fins are shorter and not as full, as the males I have seen. But they are not really short either. So, hm. I'll try to post pictures, after I succesfully took pictures. But I still think, they are girls.

Could I lead the thoughts back to the bowls I have for a little bit? I have the feeling, that the girls are happy in their 1.5g bowls. They are active, they follow us, when we walk by, they swim to the bottom to look at the I girls, when they are talking to them from far down, Dali follows my finger on the glass, but Amelie is swimming away. They move their fins real fast, when they see us and there are also bubbles on the sides and in the middle of the surface. Wasn't that a sign, that they are happy?
Usually the lights are out in the kitchen, in the evening/night. So they should get their day/night routine.
They are kid-safe where they are right now.
They like to stay close to the shell I put in, so I would get a little bigger hiding place, and the silk plants. I will also look for these frozen treats.
Considering all this I have the tendency to leave them there, unless they show signs of not well being or "unhappiness".

For the water changes in the bowls again:
This would be every 2-3 days 50% and maybe once a week I take out the fish and clean the bowl + stones, plants etc.. Would that be ok?

I wrote the above earlier, but didn't send it, so later I went to the store and they showed me a "10g tank" that said "20 Liter" on the cardboard in the tank. Hm.....
They said, I couldn't use the mesh covers, if I used filters, heaters etc, because they wouldn't close well, I needed a real lid, which they hadn't.
I saw filters, and a lot of other things.
They didn't have sturdy dividers.
I bought 2 little bridges where they can hide under or swim through and 2 tiny "silk" plants, because the others were also not really soft.

I saw the frozen bloodworms. These are big squares. And they came in a big package. How and how much of the square would I give them at one feeding? And did I understand that right, that I give it instead of the pills for that feeding?

Yeah, I would say, for now I will stay with the bowls and see, how we are all doing with it. I need more time to get used to all those equipments...
I don't want to leave a false impression, that's why I really need to say, that you are very helpful with your suggestions and tips and infos. Thank you again!
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