My college town, where I live in the dorm, is roughly 2 hours from my hometown by car. Sometimes I have to take Tian-Tian home with me for holidays, etc. I have traveled both ways with Tian-Tian from home to school and back again. The following methods have been tested and proven to work by me. I am not a professional Betta keeper but I know these methods work for me and I hope they work for you.
If anyone would like to add comments or suggestions, please feel free to do so. Unnecessary, spiteful comments will be reported. Thank you for your time.
These instructions are for an UNCYCLED TANK. Cycling is adaptable to this instructions. (See step 2 in "Once You're Home" section).
Traveling with your Betta(s)
Transporting any animal during travel is always going to be stressful for both you and your pet (Bettas in this case). Your job is to be prepared, flexible and provide for the needs of your pet to ensure that there is a very low level of stress for the both of you.
These instructions are not concrete. They may be adapted to your individual needs as a Betta keeper.
To transport your Betta by car, you will need:
- Small, clear plastic container with small holes in the lid. Must be able to contain half a gallon to a gallon of water (or more, if preferred). If you have multiple fish, have a separate container for each animal. (Note: Don't even THINK about simply taking your tank, fish, et al in the car with you!! Spilled water can damage property and your Betta will be in danger of injuries from inside their tank!! Plus, you don't want broken glass all over your car, do you?)
Example of a perfect container:
- Aquarium salt
- Your net
- Water that has been pre-treated overnight
- Water conditioner (for treating water)
- Thermometer (optional)
- Plastic bag and ziplock bags (for storing your extra tank supplies)
- Towels and/or paper towels
- Your Betta's typical food
1. Begin preparing everything the NIGHT BEFORE the big move. The more prepared you are, the less stress there will be. Pack up your tank supplies that you will not need immediately in the morning.
2. I don't think skipping feedings is necessary. The trick to keeping your Betta happy is to establish a feeding routine and KEEP IT. Therefore, feed your Betta in the evenings if that's what you do before travel the next day.
3. The night before the move, prepare the water that your Betta will be traveling in. Every fish enthusiast has their method of treating water whenever they do a water change. Whatever your routine is for changing water and putting fresh in, do just that so as not to disrupt the makeup of the water that your Bettas has been used to (this goes for both hard water or soft).
I have very hard, metallic water where I live, so I treat my water by doing the following:
- Take a large, CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN plastic container. A pitcher will do just fine (I always use a junky bucket to drain out dirty water, taking Tian-Tian out of the tank first of course. This way you always have a clean container for treating new, clean water in.)
- Fill with tap water
- Add in the correct amount of water conditioner per gallon (I just eyeball it because I'm that good)
- Let the water sit overnight and make sure no dust gets into the water. If you're rushing, 20-30 minutes is the shortest time you can let the water sit for best results.
4. The morning of the big move arrives! Feed your Betta as usual. Get yourself together and have your Betta be the last thing you take with you. (I find that I tend to leave less things behind when I take care of Tian-Tian last.)
5. If the water has been sitting in the traveling container overnight and has been treated properly, then add a very small amount of Aquarium Salt (otherwise slowly pour the water in at this time and add the salt). This will help reduce the stress on your fish. Then, gently scoop your Betta from their tank once feeding has been completed, and deposit them gently into their traveling container that you've filled with pre-treated water.
6. They will panic a little and zoom this way and that. That's normal. Keep an eye on them for a minute just to make sure they're swimming normally. If all is well, move on.
7. NEVER NEVER NEVER put your Betta into their traveling container with their decorations and/or substrate!! That's just asking for injuries and ripped fins! Be careful!!!
8. Take out the tank decorations. Just take 'em out. This will reduce the chance of decorations getting thrown around during transport and potentially breaking the glass of your tank (or scratching the sides if it's plastic).
9. Drain out the water in your tank. I have a simple, effortless and inexpensive trick for this:
- Take an aquarium tube, old, new, whatever.
- Set a bucket BELOW THE TANK (very important to make this work)
- Stick one end in the tank well below surface level.
- The other end will go into the bucket, but FIRST do this: suck some air from the end of the tube that will go into the bucket. As soon as you see water moving up and down the tube towards you, stick that end into the bucket.
- Let the water drain out until the tank is safe enough to lift without causing damage to yourself or the tank
10. Take this time to clean the tank throughly. If you do not have time for this, you can take the tank as-is and clean it once you get home.
11. If cleaning the tank before you leave (which is ideal, personally), rinse with clean water. Rinse the substrate, whether by taking it out of the tank or leaving it in and re-draining a few times until it's clean. I sometimes will take a paper towel and wipe off the filmy residue that my hard water sometimes leaves behind (yay limestone).
12. Wrap your tank decorations in paper towels, or place them in plastic bags (or if they're really big, a towel will be fine). Dry off the outside of your tank (less water-spots!)
13. If you prefer taking out the substrate, do so at this time. Place your tank decorations and all of your tank supplies into the now-clean, and empty, tank (makes life easier when you don't have to carry fifty bags, your tank AND the fish).
14. When all is said and done, you should have:
- your tank, cleaned and carefully packed with all of your pre-wrapped items that you need for travel.
- your Betta in his, or her, traveling container.
Note: I like to leave my container with indirect light filtering in. Some people may prefer wrapping their fish in a dark space. if you do this, when you get your Betta home, be sure to uncover them in a dark room so as not to shock them with sudden light!
15. GENTLY place your Betta in the floor of the car, or strap 'em down on a seat. Your goal is to not let water spill out or let the container flip or tip over. Do everything in your power to keep your Betta safe. Drive carefully!
If you're worried about heating your Betta, consider this:
- Bettas can survive in water as cold as 72 degrees. They WILL become lethargic in colder water, so heat them slowly, but steadily once you get their tank set up at home.
- If you're traveling in cold weather, insulate the container with a towel around it and crank up the heater in your car.
- Otherwise, warm weather won't harm a Betta. Just don't leave them in a hot, locked car or directly in the sun!!
Once you're home:
1. So now you're home. Congratulations! Set up your tank with another generous amount of pre-treated water. If you have not cleaned your tank yet, now is the time to do it! Plug in the heater and do everything that you've done for your Betta up until this point in regards to how you take care of their tank. It is especially essential to add Aquarium Salt to the tank. This will continue to reduce stress and boost the immune system of your Betta.
2. If your tank is cycled, cycle at this time. Your Betta will be just fine overnight in his container as you do this. Just remember to keep him warm as best as you can (the thermometer comes in handy for this to regulate him. Always watch carefully for odd behavior.)
3. Once the tank is set up, gently scoop your Betta into his tank and DUMP THE DIRTY WATER OUT. NEVER put old water with completely new, clean water.
4. Some people may prefer to float their Betta in a baggie before putting them in their tank. I never do. It's wasteful, takes time and Bettas are fairly hardy (or at least Tian-Tian is). I'd recommend floating, however, if the traveling water is 72 degrees and the new tank water is close to 82.
How to float a Betta:
- Put them in a plastic baggie
- Float the plastic bag, and Betta, in the new tank water for 15 minutes
- Once 15 minutes are up, net Betta out from bag and gently place into tank. NEVER use old water!
5. Once your Betta is in, fed them one or two pellets, or even a treat! They deserve it (and it'll help calm them down).
Repeat as necessary for other trips. Happy Traveling!
Please feel free to add suggestions and ask questions.