Possibly getting a betta for my 10 yo daughter ... ?
My daughter has become fascinated with bettas and really wants one as a pet. I want to get a good idea of the expense and time involved before we commit to it.
I must say that I think my daughter is a pretty responsible pet owner for her age. We bought her a bearded dragon for Christmas, and she takes very good care of him: feeds him and handles him daily, gives him a warm bath weekly. She's pretty squeamish about his messes, so she and I alternate poop duty. But she does pretty well considering. Her enthusiasm for him has not waned in the four months we have owned him, but if anything has grown.
I don't know if there are any reptile owners here who could compare for me, but I'm thinking that a betta wouldn't be any more work than a lizard. Am I wrong?
The lizard is a somewhat expensive pet, between the special UV and heating lamps and the live food. Not counting the initial set-up, how much $ do you typically spend on betta upkeep on a monthly basis?
The tap water where we live is very, very heavy in minerals. It makes an absolute mess of our faucets, showers, etc. We would have to purchase water for an aquarium, or otherwise it would be a white crusty disaster in no time (and I don't even know what it would do to the poor fishie!). So this is something I would need to figure in to the expense.
I seem to read a lot of conflicting information about a small (maybe 2.5 gallon) set-up with frequent water changes versus a larger set-up with a filter. Are the currents caused by a filter stressful for bettas? Are frequent water changes going to be a real hassle for us since we'll have to purchase water? Thoughts? Recommendations?
Having bred ball pythons for years, I can tell you that the maintenance of a betta aquarium is both easier AND more difficult! Easier in that the actual labor is much less, but harder in that you need to do it on a more frequent basis.
The main expense for keeping a fish is on the front-end. Once you have your set-up, the costs will be significantly lower than you are used to. You'll spend less on food and water conditioners than you currently spend on crickets and bedding material.
My tap water is about the same as yours. It is OK for a betta, but you are right about the residue it will leave on equipment. Many fish stores sell RO water for very little money. Personally, I had it installed at my home and I LOVE it!
For a betta, 2.5 gallons isn't the type of "small" that will require frequent water changes. Weekly changes will be sufficient...and that's as frequent as you'd need to perform them even if you were setting up a much larger aquarium. 1/2-gallon containers need to be changed at least every other day.
The current caused by many filters CAN indeed be very stressful for bettas. Some members here have rigged "baffles" to reduce the current, but I can't stress enough how great sponge filters are! They are much less expensive, and if you set them up right, will have practically no effect on the stillness of your water. I have a large one that can easily filter a 100 gallon aquarium, and it only cost me a TOTAL of $6 + an air pump! There is no need to purchase new cartridges, as all you have to do for a sponge filter is "wring it out" occasionally to remove any detritus. It's great for colonizing beneficial bacteria and provides both mechanical and biological filtration just as well as any other filter out there. A minor adjustment would allow you to attach one of the carbon cartridges you can buy in the store to the outflow, and provide better chemical filtration (basically just "polishes" the water) than most power filters provide.
Hi Greta, maintenance on a single betta isn't too difficult. A nicely planted 2.5 gallon would be sufficient, however you will need to purchase a smaller heater for it. On a 2.5 gallon container, I'd suggest water changes twice a week, because with no flowing or moving water, the water will get stagnant and full of ammonia quick from the poop and from uneaten food. A clean betta is a healthy and happy betta.
If you go the cycled and filtered tank route, I highly suggest this tank:
It's a 5 gallon tank set-up for under $30 at Walmart and would be great for a child's room. It comes with almost everything you need -- a 5 gallon glass tank, hood, light, filter, and filter cartridge. The only thing you'd need to buy is a small heater. With a filtered tank, you would only need to do partial water changes once a week. I use this particular tank for my betta Tofu, and he loves it. This is what my set-up looks like for him (I had just finished re-doing it and adding the sand, so I hadn't put my heater back in there yet when the pic was taken)...
In a way, having a cycled tank can be a bit more expensive and difficult since you will need to purchase a water testing kit and test the water daily. However, the upkeep is considerably less once it has cycled. There is nothing wrong with a tank less than 3 gallons if you are responsible with the water changes though!
I am not sure about the water you have, but wouldn't a water conditioner (SeaChem Prime is recommended a ton on these forums) make it safe enough for a Betta? If you end up purchasing water, a cycled tank would be easier since you won't need to change the water that much, and the amount you do change won't be a lot.
In any tank you get, be sure to purchase a heater and a thermometer. Bettas need a constant temperature (78-80F is optimal).
I agree with Mister Sparkle (sorry, I just love saying your name ), the monthly costs for your Betta will be very small compared to what you have to buy from the get-go.
For me, the up-front price was scary. I personally recommend 5 gallons per betta, however 2.5 gallons is just as fine.
Your upfront cost will include
TANK, HEATER, filter, gravel, PLANTS, (light?), equipment (siphon/buckets), conditioner, aquarium salt AND/OR medicine...There will be more mentioned later.
I would highly recommend the $30 5 Gallon that was mentioned above in the link. It comes with a hood and filter, and the filter is HIGHLY adjustable. You will not need a buffer. (I use it). You will need a heater, which may run $12 at Walmart, unless you are willing to spend money on a better adjustable heater, which is closer to $20. However, I recommend the latter - In the event of a sick fish, higher heat will greatly help. You can lower it again later once he gets better. Ideal temperature runs 77-80F, around. I agree with Mister Sparkles, if you're interested in making or buying a sponge filter, I would recommend it. They're one of the best!
Water conditioner for chlorine, etc. I highly recommend Seachem Prime. Does its job nicely. I cannot help with the "too-much-mineral" problem, sorry!
I recommend some heavy planting. This may run expensive, but this is not something you are entirely required to spend at ONE time, or all at the beginning. I buy mine over time, and with impulse. However, at the beginning, I would recommend buying a good handful. Bettas DO show appreciation with a more crowded tank - I faced this upfront with my own bettas, and I loved the before/after transformation.They were noticeably less shy. Large open areas sometimes tend to scare bettas, however they do come off as "okay" with good water conditions, good temperature conditions, and good feeding.
The larger the tank, the less maintenance will be required. You may want to research the "Aquarium Cycle" and/or the "Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle." It can run by different names. Since you haven't bought him yet, I would recommend researching BOTH "Fish-In" and "Fishless" cycling (the names are self-explanatory). I recommend fishless ... however, with cycling, you will have to splurge $30 for a master liquid test kit. I think Walmart sells them online (and only online, or at least for me...) for JUSt $17. Highly recommended. And with cycling, this will become necessary. And the kit will last a LONGGG time.
In a 5 gallon (which is unanimously considered a great and easy small-tank to cycle), while it is uncycled, you will have to change water every few days if you go FISH-IN. If you go FISHLESS, no water changes will be necessary, I don't believe ... At the end, when it's cycled, you will only have to do once a week! I change mine twice a week with impulse, hehe...
Good luck with everything! Bettas are VERY interested. Your daughter sounds like a great person to take care of one.
And with my bias with 5 gallons, I would say... 5 gallons can run prettier than 2.5 gallons. Much more room to decorate! :) Just my opinion, haha...
I'm sorry I didn't have time to check back yesterday. But I want to thank you all so much for the helpful replies! I had never heard of a sponge filter before, but I like the way that it sounds both inexpensive and easy. I'll research the cycling versus non-cycling thing some more before I decide. Thanks for the links to get me started. I think I'm leaning towards a 5-gal cycled tank. Sounds like that might be simplest in the long term, though maybe a little harder to get started.
I'm curious about aquarium plants. I love the idea because it sounds beautiful and apparently (thanks for this tip xxabc) makes a betta happy and secure. But if you're providing enough light to your aquarium to keep plants healthy, are you also going to have problems with moss/algae? And if so, how do you deal with that?
Should've mentioned this, sorry! You have choices between fake AND live plants. Live plants are the most helpful, and more beautiful (usually) - however, there is care involved. But, these will heaviliy help you with an uncycled or cycled as it can remove ammonia, and other various things. This is not the full info of live plants, just a start-off.
Your other choice, are fake plants. There are two to choose from: Plastic and Silk. Silk is normally MUCH better than the two. Plastic can be looked down upon with betta-keepers. Because of their hard-nature and thin edgings, a betta's tail can easily be ripped if it runs up against it. Not all plastics are terrible - you use a pantyhose and run it over. If it snags, don't buy it. If there is no snagging, then it should be okay.
Silk plants have much lighter leaves that are near impossible to rip. I think they're more beautiful, but that's just my opinion, haha. Normally, the only part "dangerous" is the base of the silk - both my bettas have been damaged by them if they run up against it. So cover these with as much gravel as possible!
I'll also restate "heavy planting" - It does not necessarily have to be $100 in plants. I think, total, I have -or will spend, I'm about to buy some more, haha! - $30-50 dollars in silk plants. But the initial cost of $30 was over the spread of 2 months, so roughly $5 a week. I still buy more, even though this was started last year. I'm redecorating, so prices may run up a little. After $30, I randomly started buying some on impulse because I wanted more, haha.