I had 2 female bettas at work that were both in small bowls (existing pets when I was hired). I felt bad for them, so I went to the pet store and bought a 5 gallon tank for them. I added a clear mesh tank divider so they both have 2.5 gallons of swimming space now. I know this is still less space than ideal, but I am now funding this fish environment out of pocket because my office doesn't care about them, and I'm trying to keep things as inexpensive as I can get away with while still providing a nice home for them. I got a 10i whisper filter for them that suctions to the inside of the tank, it's not a HOB filter. This was probably my biggest mistake.
They fish always seemed relatively happy in their tiny bowls (we're talking smaller than 1/2 gallon bowls here). They were near each other so they could chase and stalk each other through the glass, and they were always bright and colorful and excited about food everytime they saw me. Now that I've put them in their new environment, neither of them have been as brightly-colored as once were since I moved them. They're pale all the time and I just feel terrible.
Here is the situation as it stands: 2 bettas, 5 gallon divided tank (mesh, clear divider). Both have gravel and some fake plants and hiding places. I have decided to remove the filter because a little of the color comes back in them when the filter is turned off. When they were in stagnant tiny bowls they both seemed happy, why are they now so sad and scared and stressed out?
I am willing to do large and frequent water changes (50% every other day, 90-100% on Mondays after being left for the weekend) to make up for the lack of a filter. Is this an OK alternative (I KNOW they would be better with a filter, I know I know I know, but buying a new one is not an option. I tried baffling the old one with sponges and mesh, it still stressed them out too much)?
Help would be appreciated, please don't chastise me for a) small tank b) no filter. I know both of these things are sub-par for bettas but they are better than the way I found them.