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Old 01-26-2011, 02:41 PM   #1 
opus2000
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First time testing water...what to do with these results?

Based on the advice I received in response to my introductory post the other day, I purchased a water test kit and tested my tank's water last night. I am new to fish ownership and knew nothing about cycling tanks until I did lots of online research (unfortunately, I did this AFTER bringing home the fish and putting them in the tank, so the tank is NOT cycled).

Here is a little background on my fish and tank: This is week 3 of having 3 female bettas in a 4-gallon filtered tank. The tank is heated to 78-80 degrees. (I have seen no problems with aggression, but I am prepared to separate the fish if necessary). I have been doing weekly 25% water changes.

I tested the water last night with an aquarium "multi-test" kit. It showed no nitrate or chlorine, but it did give a reading in the "caution" level for nitrite (around .5, I think) a high pH (about 8.4), and a very hard water reading (I already knew we had hard water here, but I don't know what this means for the fish).

What action should I take based on these readings (the instructions were not specific)? All I know is that nitrite is harmful. Should I add something to the water to lower it, or just change the water more frequently until I get no nitrite readings? Or is this just part of the natural cycle? What about the pH and hardness levels? Should I do something to fix that? Also, this kit didn't have a test for ammonia. Should I buy a separate test for that, or should I assume that if nitrite is high, then ammonia is high?

Thanks for any help!
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Old 01-26-2011, 08:05 PM   #2 
Oldfishlady
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Welcome to the wonderful world of Betta keeping...I don't like being critical and please don't take it that way.....but, you are taking a big risk with 3 females in 4gal tank...rarely will this work....... for more than one reason....first it is just a matter of time before the aggression show it ugly face with the girls...today it may be fine- but down the road a switch will flip and all get-out may happen...but you have a back up plan so all is good on that issue....the other problem is over crowding and water quality...in 4gal with 3 adult fish the stress will rise and immune response will lower and problems may happen on the health front.....although IMO/E an adult long fin male is fine in 1gal tanks...females are different....IME-they need more swimming space and 4gal may start to be problematic as they mature

In 4gal filtered tank with 3 sub-adult females-water changes of 50%-3 times a week would be needed to maintain water quality during the nitrogen cycle process...1-50% with substrate cleaning with either a vacuum or stir and dip method and 2-50% water only....once the nitrogen cycle has established (4-6 weeks) twice weekly 50% one with substrate cleaning/vacuuming should maintain water quality.....

The test strips are fine for a quick look, however, to get accurate number they are not always that accurate....nitrite 0.25ppm and greater can affect the oxygen transport in the blood and as the nitrite increase the fish will suffocate even with a labyrinth organ....it is related to the oxygen in the blood not the lungs/gills....make water changes is the best treatment with rising nitrite and if the nitrite is high most likely the ammonia is as well and the ammonia can burn the fish skin and gills...long term can cause scar tissue problems and affect overall long term health and lifespan.....

Even with filtration and the nitrogen cycle you may have problems with high ammonia, nitrite and nitrate due to overstocking and the volume is just not big enough to support the bioload with the biological filtration.....

Your pH is fine-most fish will adapt to the pH and hardness of the source water...they do best with stable conditions...changing the pH and hardness with chemical additives can be risky especially when you need to make frequent water changes and the new water needs to be the same pH and hardness to prevent shock issues......

I would recommend that you increase your water changes and look into getting a bigger tank in the 20gal range or larger and add more females of every color and tail type and enjoy their beauty and wonder......
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Old 01-28-2011, 12:44 AM   #3 
opus2000
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No offense taken. I am here to learn, as I was given some very bad advice by the pet store where I bought our fish and equipment (after thinking I had done the proper research). Thanks for your input. I will step up my water changes, and consider purchasing a larger tank, or two smaller ones to separate the fish.
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Old 01-29-2011, 01:39 PM   #4 
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I am now getting readings of 0 for ammonia, but nitrite is still present (in the "caution" range). Nothing for nitrate. Does this mean that the beneficial bacteria is starting to grow? Is the tank beginning to cycle? It has been 3 weeks now with fish in. I am doing regular partial water changes (every 2 days or so in order to keep nitrites down).
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Old 01-29-2011, 03:24 PM   #5 
Oldfishlady
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It sounds like you are on your way to a completed nitrogen cycle...keep up with the partial water only changes like you are doing...it can take 4-6-8 weeks to complete the cycle.....keep us posted
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Old 01-29-2011, 05:47 PM   #6 
opus2000
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Thanks for the response. I will hang in there and continue to do partial water changes and monitor with the testing kits. This cycling business may turn out to not be as bad as I had feared!
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Old 01-29-2011, 06:27 PM   #7 
Oldfishlady
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It sounds a lot worse than it really is......it is something that happens naturally in oxygenated water......an when you have fish the goal is to keep levels safe for them and still with enough food left for the bacteria to use and colonize...

Your fish are often the best water testers along with your observation and water changes....
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Old 01-29-2011, 08:22 PM   #8 
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"Your fish are often the best water testers along with your observation and water changes...."

That is SOOOO true!

Last week one of my boys wasn't acting "right" - nothing terrible, just not right. I realized with the busy season we just ended, I had not cleaned out my sponges in the filters for quite some time. I did a MASSIVE water change & cleaned the sponges. Within an hour he was up and about acting completely normal!!! :)

Yes, I cleaned everybody else's sponges also after that, be he was the only one that seemed "off". WHEW!!!
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