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Old 12-13-2008, 12:40 AM   #1 
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Join Date: Dec 2008
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Question New to Betta world, need answers please.

First of all let me apologize if my questions have been asked and answered previously. There are so many threads here I have no idea if any of them have my questions or not, plus I don't have time to read them all to find out. It is 1:18 am, and I couldn't sleep, so I decided to join the community to get some much needed answers.

I want a Betta, I have been trying to find all the info I can about how to care for them etc. I have also been gathering supplies that I need. I have seen others who have them in small bowls or aquariums without heaters etc., and they just don't look good in the cloudy dirty water. I want mine to be happy and healthy in nice clear water, and I want him to look good when people come to my house!

I recently ordered and received a new Eclipse Hex 5 aquarium kit, I haven't set it up yet, as I had surgery on my knee and have to wait until I am able to walk without a walker to care for it etc.

Anyway, it didn't come with any gravel so here starts my questions:

1) I read that waste absorbing gravel is good to use, but I can't seem to find it anywhere. Does it exist? If so, where can I find it? I want to do everything I can to keep my fish happy and healthy when I get him. If I can't get it what can I do to help keep the waste down besides not over feeding etc.? I read somewhere about waste absorbing crystals that have to be changed every so often. I really don't want anything that would be a pain to remove and replace, since changing only a small percent of water each week is recommended.

2) What would be the best gravel and how much gravel (pounds) do I need to add to my 5 gal. aquarium? Telling me in inches won't help, I need to know in pounds LOL!

3) I bought some really pretty glass mini gems. Are these OK for a Betta tank? I wanted to decorate with them by placing them on top of the gravel, but I was thinking, when I use the gravel vacuum and have to stir around it to clean it; it would mix them up. Would it be OK to mix these in with the gravel instead of laying them on top of the gravel, would it still have a pretty effect?

4) I am not going to have any other "fish" with my Betta, but I was thinking of getting an algae eater and possibly a small catfish. Would these be OK with him and are there any certain types that do best? I know the temperaments of each fish varies, but generally speaking what would you suggest?

5) I can't afford to buy another fish aquarium to use as a hospital, so I was wondering if a fish bowl (approx. 1/2 gal) would suffice to make sure he isn't sick before adding him to his permanent tank? If so, is there anything in particular I need to do to set it up and watch for signs of sickness etc? Do I need to add any medications or wait until I see signs of disease etc.?

6) I have city water with chlorine added, so I purchased a bottle of Aqua Safe. I was thinking of getting some gallon jugs and filling them up and adding the aqua safe to them and keeping them so when I get my fish they will already be room temp. and ready to add my fish. Would this be a good idea, or should I just let the water get room temp and add the aqua safe when I set up the tank? (As you can see, I'm anxious to get it set up and get my fish LOL!)

7) I have also ordered a heater and a stick on thermometer, my aquarium came with a 10 Watt fluorescent light bulb. When is a good time to turn it on and how long should I let it burn? I don't want the water to get too hot. I am going to use silk plants instead of real, so the only worry I have is overheating and cooking my fish.

8 ) I also read that a real lava rock is good and recommended. Is there any certain type? Also where can they be found? I looked at Wal-Mart but everything they have is plastic.

9) How many decorations would you suggest for a 5 gallon tank? I don't want it to be so crowded that I can't see my Betta, but I want it to be a nice place for him. I have 3 artificial plants right now and they aren't real big. I have 2 Water Wonders Colorama (Dracena colorama) and 1 Water Wonders Red Ludwigia; these are all 6' plants. Are there any other decorations that you would suggest to make it look pretty and homey?

10) How can I clean the gravel without disturbing the decorations and plants? Are there any helpful hints available?

Well, that's a lot of questions all at once, and it's all I can think of at the moment; I hope you don't mind answering them. I would really like to know these things, so when I'm ready to set up my tank I will be well equipped and knowledgeable! If there is anything I haven't thought of to ask and you can suggest, please feel free to tell me, it won't upset me, I just want to make sure my fish will be healthy, happy and live as long as possible!

Thank so much!

Last edited by NewToBettaWorld; 12-13-2008 at 12:47 AM. Reason: add a question and resize text
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Old 12-14-2008, 07:57 AM   #2 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Hi there and welcome to fishforum !

I think that it is wonderful that you want to care for your betta so, here's the answers to your questions.

1) You don't need waste absorbing gravel. Heck, I think that this is only the second time I've heard of it . I would just use whatever "aquarium safe" gravel pleases you. It comes in many colors (I like natural myself) and the only ones that I would avoid would be bright, neon colors that may stress your fish.

2) Each aquarium has a different "footprint" meaning the size of the base, which makes it difficult to exactly tell how much gravel you will need. I'm guessing right around 5 lbs though.

3) Smooth, glass gems are fine. It doesn't matter where they are, if you like them, go for it .

4) Algae eaters are pretty much out as tankmates because although most will get along fine, I don't think there are any that grow to be less than 4" which is too big for your tank. Corydoras catfish are great tankmates, but need to be kept in groups of 6 or more. My suggestion is to get a school of 6 pygmy cories, which are smaller and would fit better in your tank. The only thing about cories is that they need a sand substrate (in place of gravel). If you go for sand the only special care it needs is to be gently stirred once per week to prevent anaerobic pockets from forming (some bacteria that live in the substrate produce harmful gasses as waste products which can be harmful if allowed to form).

5) Ok, here's where the problem may come in. If you were just going to have one fish, it would be easy as you could just put him in the tank and treat him right there if illness occurs. But, since you are going to have tankmates here's what I would do. Add your tankmates to the main tank. Get a 5 gallon bin and a heater, and pull some plastic wrap (with holes poked in it) over it as a cover. Quarantine your betta in there (you'll need to do full water changes every 3 days or so, and clean the poops off the bottom with a turkey baster daily). Then, after 2 weeks of both fish being separate, assuming there is no illness, you can put the betta in the main tank.

6) I'm not totally familiar with that brand of conditioner, but on most of them it tells you what you should do on the directions on the back. If it says it is instant, I would still give it a half hour or so to distribute itself throughout the water. You can give it a stir as well.

7) Flourescent bulbs are generally used for aquariums because of their low heat output. So, you don't have to worry about cooking your fish. I'd leave it on for about 10 hours per day, although 8-12 hours are all fine.

8) Lava rock is actually not recommended for bettas because it can be VERY sharp. Think of bettas as an accident prone person . Their fins are pretty fragile, so anything sharp should be avoided. I would go instead for a small piece of driftwood. I know you want to get everything going, so I'd look for one with a piece of slate attached to the base so that you don't have any problems with it floating. Also, driftwood releases tannins, which stain the water a tea color, into the water which bettas love.

9) You could probably get a few more plants. Bettas love to swim through and around things, as well as rest on broad-leaved plants. A floating plant would also be nice and your betta would probably build a bubble nest around it . If you do get driftwood, arrange it so that it forms a "cave" somewhere so that your betta will have somewhere to retreat.

10) The best way to clean the gravel is with a small gravel vaccuum. This is a cilindrical piece of plastic attached to a hose. You stick the hose in an empty bucket, stick the other end in the tank (away from your betta of course) and suck a little air from the end in the bucket (use your hand around the end so you don't put your mouth on the actual hose, yuck!) until a siphon starts and water comes into the bucket. Then, you just root around in the gravel and watch the gunk come through the hose. You want to clean well, but make sure to leave some areas undisturbed each time, because too thorough of a cleaning actually destroys the "good bacteria" which keep your tank clean.

Whew! Ok, I have one more thing to say. You're going to want to cycle this tank. Cycling is the reason that you are able to do only partial, weekly water changes, instead of frequent 100% changes. Basically, cycling is the buildup of beneficial bacteria to convert fish waste (ammonia) into nitrite, and finally into nitrate. Ammonia and nitrite are harmful to your fish, but nitrate is fine in low concentrations. Nitrates are removed during water changes. There is a sticky about cyling in the "freshwater aquariums" section that you will want to read. Don't skimp on cycling, it is quite possibly the most important aspect of a healthy aquarium.

Ok, hope that helped. If you have any more questions feel free to ask .
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Old 12-17-2008, 11:27 PM   #3 
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Great answers. I'll run through them as well and try not to overlap too much.

1) Never heard of waste absorbing gravel. Sounds like a scam. You'll be just fine with any sort of gravel substrate designed for aquariums or well-rinsed play sand from Home Depot or a similar store. Avoid crushed coral and aragonite sand, as these can raise your pH and make your water very hard. I would also avoid the brightly colored gravels and just stick with natural looking stuff. It looks better, in my opinion, plus I've heard a lot of horror stories about the color leeching out of gravel and killing fish.

2) I like a dark, natural colored gravel. Sand also looks good. About 5 pounds of either sand or gravel would be sufficient.

3) The gems are safe. They would be fine mixed in with the gravel, although you might have to buy more of them in order to really see them when it's mixed together like that. The mixing is pretty much inevitable as long as you're doing regular gravel vacs.

4) Algae eaters are a big no-no. First of all, there are many, many fish that will eat algae. However, the two most common "algae eaters" sold in stores are the common plecostomus and the Chinese algae eater. Neither is good for your tank. Common plecos get to 18" long and produce a ton of waste. Chinese algae eaters can get up to 10" long or so and become very aggressive. There are some smaller species of pleco, but even these would grow too large for your tank. I would recommend trying a snail or possibly some shrimp (like amano or cherry shrimp). However, any creature you put in your tank adds to the bioload and thus further stresses the filter. All creatures add waste to your aquarium; there's no such thing as an animal that takes waste away.

5) Kim's suggestion would work well.

6) AquaSafe is a good water conditioner. You don't need to wait for the water to reach room temperature. Actually, since the tank will be heated, it's better to try to adjust the water coming out of your tap to the same temperature as the water in the tank. Here's what I usually do: siphon out the water for the water change into your bucket, dump that, then get a small cup and scoop up some tank water. Hold one hand in this cup of water while you hold the other hand under the tap and adjust the temperature of the tap. Most people can judge the temperature difference to within a degree or two, so it's pretty reliable. Then, just fill your bucket straight from the tap, add the water conditioner, give it a quick stir with your hand, and gently pour it into the tank. Modern water conditioners neutralize harmful chemicals very quickly.

7) The bulb shouldn't put out too much heat. You can get a timer for the lights if you want and set it for 10-12 hours a day. Or, you can just turn it on when you wake up and turn it off again when you go to bed. Fish need a day and night cycle just like we do.

8 ) Yep - lava rock is way too sharp/rough for a betta's delicate fins. Driftwood, smooth rocks or smooth decorations designed for aquarium use are better choices.

9) Bettas like to have a lot of hiding spots. The more they have, the more secure they feel and the more they'll come out. A cave-like structure or two (either cave ornaments, driftwood caves or caves built from rocks work) plus lots of plants is ideal. Make sure your fake plants aren't sharp-edged plastic ones that can rip your fish's fins. Silk is better.

10) See Kim's post. As an alternative to sucking on the end of the hose, you can also submerge the entire vacuum (hose and all) in the tank, put a finger over the hose end, then put the hose end in your bucket and let go. Water will start flowing right away, and no fish water gets in your mouth! I generally remove all of the water for my weekly water change with the gravel vacuum, and I do a thorough deep cleaning on about 1/3 of the floor space of the tank. Alternate where you clean from week to week to be sure you don't remove too many beneficial bacteria at once.

I'll reiterate the importance of reading up on the aquarium cycle. Although bettas are hardy fish, many come from cramped, stressful conditions in the store and are already diseased, so you really don't want to subject them to the added stress (not to mention ammonia poisoning) of the aquarium cycle, so cycling the tank before you buy the fish is very important.
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