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Old 09-28-2010, 09:35 PM   #1 
zukitchi
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Starting Over Fresh - Help Me Prevent Making The Same Mistakes

I am sick and tired of my bettas dying suddenly or after having them for only a year or less. Could someone please give me some expert advice so I can avoid making the same mistakes?

First of all, when it comes to conditioning the water, I had been using tap water which I store in gallon jugs. I add API Stress Coat water conditioner to remove the chlorine. I had also been using pH Down because the pH of my tap water tends to be a little high at around 8.2. I had also been using freshwater aquarium salt, per the instructions on the package. I usually let the water sit a good day before using it in a water change. So first of all, is it ok to add all of these things to the water? I have heard from some that, over time, the salt can be damaging to a betta. But other sources say it's a must. And in regard to the pH, I have heard that the fish will just get used to it being off as long as it's consistent. Am I doing more harm than good by adding the pH down? And as for my dechlorinator, I have heard from some that a simple, basic dechlorinator is best, so can it be harmful in any way that I use the kind with "Stress Coat" or should it be fine? And do I have to let the water sit for a day after treatment before adding it to the tank, or can I use it immediately?

Also, I have a 5 gallon tank with filter. I never have more than just the one betta living in it. So exactly how often do I need to change the water, and how much at a time for a tank this size? I had been using a gravel vacuum to remove about 1/5 - 1/4 of the water once every two weeks. The manufacturer also recommends replacing the filter every two weeks. I am guessing that I have not been cleaning the water enough. Also, when changing the water, especially when it's a small amount, do I need to remove the fish from the tank, and then transition him back in gradually like you do when you first buy them? Or can I safely suck the water out of the tank with him still in it and then slowing pour the new water in? If I do need to remove him from the tank for water changes, over what period of time do I need to take in order to properly transition him back in? And how much & how often should I add the tank water to his transitioning bag? I also imagine there is some variation depending on how much water you are changing.

As for feeding, should I follow the instructions as printed on the container of food, or do I need to follow a different schedule?

As for temperature, I live in Florida, and the tank naturally stays between 78 - 82 degrees most of the year. In the winter the tank water gets colder (into the 60s) and I do use a heater to keep it at least the upper 70s. Is this acceptable?

And as for tank decorations, I know any fake plants need to pass the "nylon stocking test," which they do so I am not too worried about that. And I have a hiding place for my betta which I know they like (a fake log/tree stump). There is also gravel at the bottom of the tank, which I guess is my biggest concern. Can there be any problems with this?

Well that's all I can think of at the moment. Hopefully someone can help me. I love bettas very much, but is very discouraging to see them die on you when you feel like you are just trying to help them. I don't want do go through this again as both my boyfriend and I suddenly lost our bettas (which live in separate tanks/houses/zip codes, mind you) in the the last week. Thanks in advance to anyone who offers their help!
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Old 09-28-2010, 10:31 PM   #2 
Alex09
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Ditch the pH down and the salt. pH down is totally unnecessary as a betta can adapt to your water. Salt is to be used ONLY in times of sickness and disease. Long term use can end up killing the fish.

Stress coat should be fine so long as you keep it at the correct dosage. Dont overdose or the coating slime can "pile up" on your fish (I think)

So long as the new water is the same temp as the old water you can leave the fish in the tank.

temp and gravel sound fine

So what do you feed them? Diet is an important part in determining a bettas lifespan.
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Old 09-29-2010, 11:27 AM   #3 
dramaqueen
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I don't care much for the Stresscoat. I always had white, stringy stuff hanging off of my fish. When I switched to Aquasafe the problem stopped.
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Old 09-29-2010, 11:54 AM   #4 
Lion Mom
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I honestly believe the BEST conditioner out there is Prime - it is an EXCELLENT product & economical since you only need to use 2 drops per gallon of water.

Agree with ditching the ph down & the salt. My ph is about the same as yours & my bettas are all doing fine.

Yes, you need to up your water changes to at LEAST weekly - approx. 50% water change with gravel vac, IMO.

Personally, I would use the heater year round so as to have the temp stay stable.

Agree with the high quality food as well - Omega One Betta, New Life Spectrum, etc. There are a number of threads on food if you want to look.

Feeding - disregard the instructions. They want you to use as much food as possible so you buy more. VERY small amount once or twice a day - I feed mine once a day, but many others feed twice a day. Remember, their stomachs are only about the size of their eye.Also, fasting one day a week is good for them. Don't fall for the "I'm starving!" look they will give you!! :) They aren't.

Hope that helps & GOOD luck!!!
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Old 09-29-2010, 12:10 PM   #5 
Lion Mom
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OOPS - a couple more things. :)

No, you do not need to take the betta out of the tank during water changes, but be sure to know where he is so you don't suck him up! :) Also, when adding the new water into the tank, pour it in slowly where the betta isn't.

No on changing the filter pad out every two weeks. That is where the majority of the "good" bacteria lives. Just give it a good swish & rinse in the used tank water. Personally, I (and some others here) don't even use carbon filter pads. I use AquaClear or Imagine aquarium sponges/foam instead. Just get one the appropriate size for your filter & put it in where the filter pad would normally go.

Another thing - live plants. Bettas LOVE them & they help keep the tank clean. Some low-light, easy beginner plants are java fern, java moss, anubius. None of those are planted, but rather attached to drift wood, rocks, decorations. If you try to plant them, they will rot & die.
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Old 09-29-2010, 03:48 PM   #6 
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The reason why pH altering products don't help you in the long run is because given time and proper acclimation, a betta will adapt to a higher pH as long as the pH is stable. When you add a pH altering product, the pH swings wildly. When it fluctuates, you run into problems with shocking the fish. Also, think about it--whenever you lower you're adding acid to your water. Let's try to avoid that. :)

As far as dechlorinators, I prefer Seachem Prime because it's concentrated, so the bottle will last longer and you'll get more product for your money than you will with similar products like Stress Coat or Amquel+. This just makes economical sense.

Bettas originate from a part of the world that has very little electrolyte (salt) content in its water. This means that bettas' internal organs are not adapted for dealing with excess salt, so over time, it wears down their organs faster and can weaken their immune systems. Salt can be very helpful for a week following an injury like fin damage, but it is best to use it only on an as-needed basis, since it isn't a very effective preventative anyway.

You definitely do not want to change your filter. The thing that makes filters effective in fish tanks is the fact that they become a home for specialized bacteria that break down the toxic waste your fish produces (ammonia) into a less toxic substance, (nitrate). Nitrate only becomes toxic at higher levels, so these bacteria are doing you a huge favor because without them, you'd need to do frequent 100% water changes instead of weekly 30% water changes. When you throw out the cartridge, you throw away almost your entire bacterial colony, causing ammonia and nitrite spikes which are very harmful to your fish.

The only reason companies recommend you change the filter often is because A, they want to make money; B, they use carbon in their filters. Carbon helps remove chemicals like chlorine, medications, dissolved organic compounds, and dyes--it's good to have but it's not totally necessary and you can do without it. If you want to continue to use it, you can cut a slit in your filter floss and pour out the old carbon and replace it with higher quality brand name carbon like Seachem Matrix, which will last three times as long as the crappy stuff. You can also stuff the carbon beds with more filter floss or poly-fill that you find at a craft store. People use it to fill stuffed animals. This will give your bacteria more surfaces to colonize. You should only throw away your cartridge in the event that it is actually falling apart/disintegrating--this takes over a year to happen.

When I do partial water changes (30%) I leave the fish in the tank if the water is similar to the water I've just taken out (same source, same additives, same temperature) if any of these components are different from the old water, I take the time to properly acclimate the fish.

A couple of items that will really help you out in the future:

A good liquid master test kit such as this one: http://www.fosterandsmithaquatics.com/product/prod_display.cfm?c=3578+4345+4454&pcatid=4454
in order to re-establish your bacteria colony safely, you need a good test kit. Do some research on the Nitrogen Cycle and you'll quickly learn how to cultivate and maintain these very important bacteria in your tank. Everyone who keeps fish should have a test kit.

An adjustable heater such as this one: http://www.fosterandsmithaquatics.co...m?pcatid=11368

Even though Florida is a tropical environment, every climate is subjected to cold spells and sometimes you're probably going to want to turn on the air conditioning. Temperature fluctuations caused by sudden cold snaps can weaken a betta. You will also want the option of having extra heating in case your betta has an external parasite infestation.
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Old 09-29-2010, 04:52 PM   #7 
Ajones108
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lion Mom
Another thing - live plants. Bettas LOVE them & they help keep the tank clean. Some low-light, easy beginner plants are java fern, java moss, anubius. None of those are planted, but rather attached to drift wood, rocks, decorations. If you try to plant them, they will rot & die.
This is probably why I can't get my Java Fern to live. But yet, when I just left it sitting on the gravel, it put plant crap all over my tank. The java fern will be coming out soon and replaced with another lovely plant. I rather like anubias nana. My anubias are loosely planted in gravel though and they're very healthy.
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Old 09-29-2010, 04:54 PM   #8 
Adastra
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As long as the rhizome (the meaty piece the roots are attached to) is exposed, they should do fine.
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Old 09-29-2010, 04:59 PM   #9 
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It's exposed enough. :p I've started poking at it with my siphon at every water change to get the loose crap off. It makes my tank look bad. And I don't think Shif rather likes it either.
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Old 09-29-2010, 05:01 PM   #10 
KukaaKatchou
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So I might need to unplant my plants? Sheesh this stuff is complicated
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