I've been looking at this site for a short while now, and the information I have found in it has been priceless. I just want to say how thankful I am for the fact that the major points of betta care have been stuck at the tops of the forums - thank you for the accessibility.
On that note, I have been considering purchasing a betta for some time, and I want to make sure that I have some things straight before I go and buy my supplies before the actual fish.
My main question is on the best method one can use in the water changing process: I understand that depending on the size of the tank the amount and the frequency of water changes can vary, but what is the best method to use when changing water? Where will I put the fish while changing water? How do I get only some of the water out if it is a partial change? Will I have to place the betta in a transitory state (such as the bag of original water placed at the top of the new tank when the fish is first introduced) to help it adapt back through any temperature differences that may have occurred?
If a step-by-step process could be explained from when the fish is taken out to when the fish is replaced, that would be the most helpful.
Preferably, I would like to know how best to partial change AND completely change the water. When I partially change the water, should I clean the bottom of the tank as well? I understand that in that situation a siphon-type system would work best (I have worked at an oceanarium/aquarium for a small amount of time and siphoning was a major factor of our cleaning process since the tanks were too large or fused into their bases).
To clear things up I am a college student living in a single-person dorm, and luckily enough live right next to one of the bathrooms. I am assuming that I will be needing to buy buckets for water, however?
I apologize for all of this questioning, but I wish to make it clear to myself on the best way to get this done. My sisters owned betta fish a number of years back when we were children, and they did not survive long. I personally think it was due to too harsh of water changes after weeks of inactive care. Understandable that they died, right?
In any case, I am interested in keeping a healthy, stable environment for my fish.
Oh - my other question is what the meaning of 'cycling' is. I've seen the term used pretty frequently here and I have lost its meaning in the process. In particular, it has been used in a context of 'letting the water cycle before putting a new fish into the tank' - what does that mean? I've also read about water conditioners and letting them sit in a pre-measured amount of water for about 24 hours before a water change. I am assuming this is for both complete and partial water changes.
What would be the safest way to clean gravel or gemstones? Would boiling them be too harsh? Oh - I'm sorry. I forgot that we do not have a range-type stove in the dormitory. In lieu of that, what other methods could I use? I wouldn't think that siphoning would be enough to keep it clean...
For parameters, I'm expecting to be getting either a 2 or 2.5 gallon size tank for my betta, if that helps narrow things down.
Sorry for the hugely long post, and thank you for reading! I really appreciate any help that I can get! I am mostly concerned about the state of the fish during the changing process, and I do not want to risk death due to a careless error. Thank you so much!
Last edited by BurnishedOchre; 10-30-2009 at 08:57 AM.
Reason: sentence restructuring
I'm in a dorm myself, and I have three betta boys. Now, I'm not going to claim I'm an expert (because i'm NOT), and someone else may have a better method than what I do, but I'm going to tell you how I change water.
I do 100% changed twice a week, but then again, mine are all in 1 gallon critter keepers. I know it's not the ideal, but when I bought the, I wasn't as wise as you to research BEFORE and not AFTER you bought the pet. Anyways, back on topic.
I have a little "punch cup" that's big enough that the fish can move around in comfortably, but small enough I can scoop him into that he stays in during the water change. I either scoop the fish out with the cup, or if he's very elusive or I'm afraid his fins will be damaged, I fill the cup up first, then I scoop him out with my hand (their fins won't get caught on the sharp edges of the cup) and swiftly put him in the cup. I dump all the water out, then I run HOT HOT water in the tank for a few minutes, until I can see all the food and poop is pretty much gone. Then I run cold water over it to cool it off and make sure I got everything, then hot again. I put my silk plants in there the second time to wash them off, then I run cold over everything again. Then I get the water at the temp I want it, fill my tank up, put the plants back in the way they were, and put my drops in. I'll wait about 5 minutes or so, then just put the cup back into the water and slip my fish in. I try to keep the water the same temp as the old water, so my fish never have a problem. In fact, mine like the new water better because it'll be a bit warmer.
But anyways, that's how I do it. Like I said, someone else probably can give you better instructions than me, and probably more advice to your size tank. You probably will need to buy a filter and heater and water tests, but I have no money to do that, and so I have no experience in that matter. Or cycling, for that matter. I'm just telling you what I know! Congratulations on being a wise person and doing your research beforehand! And welcome to the forum! Bettas are addicting little buggers, and if you take care of them, will make you very happy (and gives me something to do besides stress over grades)
Oh, and long posts are good, means you really cared about taking care of your fish ;)
I find the easiest way to go is to cycle the tank. If you go with a 2.5 gallon (Minibow makes a good one) you will easily get away with changing about 25% of the twice once a week, which is good if you are short on time. My cycled 5g betta tank required easily less than 15 minutes of maintenance per week.
Don't worry about boiling anything if you are cycling the tank... it will kill the 'cycle' bacteria living in your gravel. Their the ones that convert the ammonia in fish waste to nitrite, then nitrate. Also, something else to think about is that as opposed to, say, scattering flakes into a community tank, you are simply feeding your betta 2-4 pellets, all of which he eats up. So the only waste you have to worry about cleaning is 1 betta's worth of poop. Not alot.
Just a note on gravel vs. gemstones-- here is a pros and cons list I made for another member.
I think that gravel is better-suited to the maintenance regime you will want.
-Easy to clean if tank is uncycled
-Low surface area supports considerably less nitrifying bacteria than other substrates
-Difficult to vacuum
-Will trap tankmates such as ADFs and shrimp
-Makes food inaccessible for bottom feeders
-Makes waste more apparent
Oh and one other thing, I cycle all my tanks and just siphon them. It's ten times easier. Just buy the vacuum with the smallest opening end (mine has got to be an inch in diameter) because really large siphons will drain all the tank water before you have been able to vacuum all the gravel.
When I had Tango in my 1.5, I did a 50% water change every week. He had a filter and his tank was cycled, small as it was. I left Tango in and just scooped the wather out with a cup that I kept for JUST that. I also only fed him pellets, so there was very little food waste to worry about. He got three pellets (Hikari Gold) twice a day. I would have done 100% at 6 months, but he moved into a 16 gallon.
Oh, and houseplants love old fish water so if you have any plants in your room, you can pour the old fish water right into them.
Last edited by vaygirl; 10-30-2009 at 01:21 PM.
First of all, thank you everybody for responding! This is all great information.
I'll turn this into an overall response:
That sounds like a very easy setup. I'm curious as to how you removed any waste from the tank, however - did you siphon it out? Did you do the same thing for any food waste left behind? That is great to know about the plants, though unfortunately I don't own any at the moment.
Your fish's fins are gorgeous, by the way. :)
I am really glad that your fish are doing so well in your setup - it sounds very conducive to dorm living where you don't have a lot of space to set up large siphoning rigs or potential spills :S :D Thank you for your information! It was very helpful. Oh, and have the fish ever jumped out of their cups at all? I'm just curious. Thanks!
Last edited by BurnishedOchre; 10-30-2009 at 01:39 PM.
Reason: changed a copied post into something original
Sorry about the double-post - I'm still getting used to this forum layout.
I'm surprised by such a fast response!
Your idea sounds great, but I am confused about what cycling is - what it entails, how the procedure is done, etc. If you could explain the steps it takes to cycle a tank, I would be most grateful. It sounds like something that could really help me out in my very cramped schedule.
I had also forgotten about the beneficial bacteria - thank you for bringing that up.
I'm embarrased to say that I did no siphoning. Nor did I remove and clean the gravel. It wasn't really gravel, it was very large stones (1-3 in) that I got at the Petco. When I took his tank apart there was very little waste which surprised me. The setup and the cleaning schedule came from Tetra. When I bought their 1.5 cube, the instructions gave me a website to go to that emailed me reminders and instructions every week. I followed it religiously.
I should have said there's NO food waste. Lol. Tango has NEVER let a single hikari pellet go to waste. He eats out of my hand and he's a pig! He eats his three pellets in about 2 seconds. :D
I read this site when I was setting up my new tank. I used the rocks from Tango's old tank, which helps bring the benificial bacteria into the tank. If you know anyone with an established tank, you can filch some of their gravel, keep it in their water until you get it home and then put it in your tank. http://www.worldcichlids.com/faqs/cycling.html
Oh, and Tango thanks you for the compliment. :D
Also, when I set up my 16 gallon, I used Seachem Stability. Supposedly it contains bacteria that help cycle without the stress. I've heard different reviews of it. It did well for me. I'm not sure if it was the rocks from Tango's old cube or the Seachem but I never had a huge ammonia spike and today the water parameters in my big tank are perfect.
Cycling is actually the process of establishing a colony of beneficial (Nitrifying) bacteria in your tank(Cycling as in the 'Nitrogen Cycle'). They live predominantly in the filter, with a good chunk of them living in the gravel.
You will be able to find lots of articles on the internet about what exactly it is and how to do it, but in a nutshell:
1) A toxic compound called ammonia is produced by uneaten food, dead plant matter and animal waste.
2) When enough ammonia is present for long enough, bacteria who feed off it will begin to breed in your tank.
3) These bacteria eat the ammonia and produce a less harmful compound called nitrIte as a byproduct.
4) When enough nitrite is present, a second, nitrite-eating kind of bacteria will start breeding.
5) They eat the nitrite and what comes out the other end is a pretty-much harmless compound called nitrAte.
6) You vacuum all the excess nitrate out of the tank when you do water changes. If you have plants, they will also absorb some of this.
So... Ammonia (Toxic) -> NitrIte (Irritating) -> Nitrate (Harmful only in ridiculous ammounts).
Also remember: The solution to pollution is dilution!
So, the bigger your tank is (in proportion to the fish), the less you will have to do in water changes, as far as frequency and volume.
EDIT: The safest way to cycle your tank is to do it without the fish. This is called 'fishless cycling'. Rather than relying on a fish to produce ammonia, you use bottled ammonia sold at hardware stores.
You needn't worry about your betta leaving leftover food, they are almost universal gluttons :). I have a setup similar to the one that you described (my tank is three gallons, filtered). I do not have a gravel vac, unfortunately, but I find that a turkey baster, of all things, can also help clean the bottom of small tanks.