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Old 08-26-2009, 02:41 PM   #1 
PinkDiamond
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Unstoppable Ammonia and Fraying Fins - Help!

Hi everyone! I'm new to this forum (and relatively new to Betta keeping) and I'm having an issue with my little guy's tank: despite my best efforts, I've never been able to get the ammonia level in his tank to zero, and his fins are constantly shredding, healing, then fraying again at the ends. Here are the details of his situation:

1.25 gallon vase (no filter or heater)
Prime with each water change (1 drop per 8 cups)
Stability with each water change (5-6 drops per 8 cups)
2.5 lbs aquarium gravel in vase
3 Hikari Gold pellets per day
Water changes every 1-2 days, 4-8 cups each, depending on ammonia levels and fin condition
API Nh3/Nh4+ test kit
Ammonia levels: 0.25 mg/l
PH: 7.2

When we change water, we are using water that has sat overnight in an open container, and we treat it with Prime and Stability before putting it into his tank.

Daily, we look for any uneaten food or debris on the bottom of his tank and try to remove it with a turkey baster.

If left unchanged for more than 2-3 days, ammonia levels will rise, possibly above the 0.25mg/l level.

In addition, we've started doing a full tank cleaning every 10 days, which gets ammonia down to slightly less than 0.25mg/l (maybe down to ~0.15mg/l), but has not stopped it from rising if not monitored. When doing these cleanings we remove our Betta from his bowl, save 10 cups of water from the tank while replacing the other 10-12 cups, and rinse gravel, plants and bowl with water treated with Prime. We NEVER use soap.

We have systematically removed all plants in this tank one by one to rule them out as reasons for his fins shredding and have not found them to be responsible. We also have no reason to believe that he is biting his tail.

We've had our fish for about 4 months and have been battling ammonia for the last approx. 3 months when we noticed his fins suffering.

One last thing that we're investigating is his gravel: it is pink/orange colored, medium sized, and unsealed. We have noticed that the white turkey baster used in this tank is becoming pinky-orange colored where it's been submerged. Our aquarium shop advised us to remove some of the gravel, rinse it in untreated water, and then leave it to sit in a small container of untreated water for a few days. When we put the gravel into the test water, we checked and the ammonia was 0. Three days later, it seems to be at ~0.15mg/l.

Could the gravel possibly be leaching toxins into the water? Or does anyone have any other ideas for what we could try? Any advice would be SO greatly appreciated, and thank you for reading the tons of info above :)
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Old 08-26-2009, 02:54 PM   #2 
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Ok, since you said it's an unfiltered bowl - you will not be able to cycle it, so I think you need to understand that in order to help you better deal with the ammonia situation.

You don't need to keep 10 - 12 cups of 'used' water. - if you have 'treated' - dechlorinated - new water waiting - use it! When you do a full tank clean - wash the gravel - use the tub and rinse, rinse, rinse, and throw away all the dirty stuff that is hanging out inside all your used gravel. Then, when you put the fresh water in the tank - you can do the water treatment on it - which will remove whatever chlorine or chloramine that would be in your tap water which you used to clean your bowl.

After that - please test that your cupped betta's water is the same temp as your cleaned and healthy new bowl. If it is - drop him in. He'll LOVE YOU FOR THIS.

If your betta has continually frayed fins - they will not heal if you are constantly getting ammonia levels. You will take a chance of fin rot and other nasty things...

please clean his tank fully.
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Old 08-26-2009, 03:33 PM   #3 
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Thank you so much for your response - I've been getting a lot of conflicting information about how to keep bettas (from different aquarium shops) so it's hard to know what to do! Unfortunately, we'd been told that we could cycle his tank as is... would he be better off in a tank with a filtration system? I was told that the current a filter would make would make swimming too difficult for him.

We've also been cautioned against 100% changes by aquarium shops, and have done aggressive changes as 50%/day x 2 days. You do find that 100% isn't too stressful?

When we do water changes, we always use water that has been sitting out for a day or more and has reached room temperature, thus matching the temp. of the water he's in, and for aggressive changes, we make sure that the PH matches in the new and old water. Thank you for confirming - glad that we were on the right track with that! :)

With the ammonia refusing to quit, his set-up is obviously lacking at the moment. If we were to kind of start from scratch, what would be ideal for him? (IE: filtered tank? Heater? Cycling a filtered tank with or without him in it?)

Again thank you for taking the time to read this and for any advice you can offer!
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Old 08-26-2009, 03:58 PM   #4 
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100% clean water versus 50% dirty. Fish are like humans in so many ways - would you prefer to bath in dirty bath water, or in clean? :)

as for matching the tempurature if the water's sat out - that really depends on whether your tank is sitting in a different location than the water that's been sitting out, the size (quantity) of the water that's sitting out, if it's in an air conditioned room, near a window, not near a window... there's lots of reasons why water sitting out may not be of the same temperature - it's always good to do (at minimum) a feel test. - put your hand in the cup, then in the waiting (clean) water just to verify. If it's the same - the fish can go in ... if not - then you need to float the cup, or add a little of the clean water to his cup every 10 minutes to get the temperatures to be more compatible. No need to stress the fish over cleaning his tank. He will LOVE the fully cleaned water. But, it's the temperature fluctuation that will hurt the fish more than a water change.

You're using the same water after all - it should have the same PH if they've both sat out (clean and dirty) - your plain gravel substrate will not change the PH levels. If you have driftwood or peat moss, or live plants, or shells - then yes - you may have other reasons to not do a full water change. But, not live plants and basic gravel will not change PH - which means a full water change (and clean gravel) will be Wonderful for your betta. No worries.

When I was using my unfiltered 2 gallon bowls - I would do 50% water changes every two days, with full 100% clean, every 7 days. You can set a schedule - Monday, Wed - 50%, and Saturday mornings - 100%.

If you want to add a little aquarium salt to your 100% change - this will help your betta to not 'stress'.
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Old 08-26-2009, 04:09 PM   #5 
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As to whether a filtered vs. unfiltered tank is better. It's all dependent on what you can afford, and what will fit your living situation.

Filtered is always better. If you have a filtered tank you won't have to do so many water changes (after the cycling process is finished). You will be able to change a percentage of the tank, every week - perhaps 15 - 50% depending on how much food escapes your betta because of the filter's added current...

That excess food waste on the bottom still accounts for ammonia readings, which later turns into nitrites and nitrate readings... the cycling process will take care of 'basic' levels and keep the tank healthy. But overfeeding always brings on these heightened chemistry issues - overfeeding and poop - bad. clean water good.

filtered tanks - lovely - they circulate the water - they catch detritus and take it out of the system, and if you're good about changing the filter media - this is a good thing.

Yes, definitely filtered tanks are better. And the bigger the tank the less work that needs to be done on it. Less worries. you can get a heater to match the size of the tank and your fish buddy will be happy this winter.

but, as I said before - it's really all in what you can afford. You won't see your betta complain. The only way you will know if he's unhappy is when you see consistent chemistry issues (high ammonia readings), illness (this includes constantly fraying fins), stress stripes, and death.

To come here and ask questions means that you will make the effort that you can to keep your betta healthy, to fit your budget.

you don't 'need' a filtered tank - but it sure is a nice 'to have'.
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Old 08-26-2009, 04:14 PM   #6 
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IMHO, if you have a betta in a 1.25 gallon vase - I'd be doing water changes more frequently. Instead of doing a full tank clean every 10 days - I'd be doing it more like every 3 days. I think if you do more frequent complete tank cleanings your ammonia level will be better. Also, silk plants are the way to go! I'd add some aquarium salt also.
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Old 08-26-2009, 04:43 PM   #7 
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Thank you very much again for the detailed info. Ultimately, we've been trying to cycle his tank as we know that a cycled tank is safer for fish, and since cycling his vase won't be possible, we'll upgrade to a tank with a filter.

Do you recommend a particular brand of tank? Or features to look for in a tank, like a certain (low?) flow rate for a filter?

Also, do you have any tips to offer for cycling the tank? I've been reading about fishless cycling here, and will likely follow this method:

http://www.nippyfish.net/nitrogencycle.html

I presume that fishless cycling is safer for your fish so that he won't be subjected to the spikes in ammonia/nitrite/nitrate.

We will up the number of water changes we do for him in the meantime substantially and will be thorough with the full tank cleanings as you've described.
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Old 08-26-2009, 04:45 PM   #8 
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I love the Marineland tanks. They come with the bio-wheel (which is heaven sent! lol). You can get it in a 3 gallon, 5 gallon, 6 gallon, etc. I think a lot of people use the Mini-bows also.
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Old 08-27-2009, 08:21 AM   #9 
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before you get the tank, consider - do you want other fish? If so - you could get a larger tank and either try to do a small community of peaceful fish with your boy - or put up a wall and share the tank between a second betta.

If you decide to only get a small tank like the 2, 3, or 5 - this will limit you later for adding other critters to it. The cycle time on all the tanks will be about the same. And, while the fishless cycle is recommended - if you keep up with water changes while going through the cycle process - your fish can be added sooner rather than waiting.

On my 5 gallon - I remember doing water changes 50 percent mid-week - and 80 percent at the end of the week. the tank (after a month) is now fully cycled. (But I had a hard time 'starting' the cycle with this tank (although I'd been adding some bacteria suppliment to do that... - and eventually I added some gravel from another cycled tank - to kick start it) ...
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Old 08-29-2009, 07:20 AM   #10 
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I'd go with a fishless cycle and keep his vase nice and clean like suggested in the meantime. You do definitely want a heater because bettas are tropical fish and prefer a temp in the 78-80 F range.
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