Recently I lost my beautiful blue female Athena. I've been trying to think of a new fish to replace her. I have a 16 gallon planted (and I mean really planted) tank with 6 ember tetras, 3 panda cories and a large breeding colony of red cherry shrimp. Up until recently I was kind of settled on the idea of a dwarf gourami. Now I'm not so sure. The problem is, I went into a petshop the other day and saw 5 female bettas looking dull and stressed in a tank full of glolight tetras. No one was harassing anyone else (I was watching the tank for a good five minutes) but there was no cover or anything. I felt so sorry for them and wanted to pick them up and take them all home! However, I have some problems:
- I only have two spare tanks, a 3.75 gal and a 5 gal hex. I can heat and filter these both, but I'd have to buy some Kritter Keepers/plastic storage tubs and extra filters/heaters to make another 2 back-up tanks and as a student who has paid out $1000 in vet bills this year, I am looking to save money. (Heaters and filters = expensive here). I know it is never a good idea to try a sorority without back-up tanks. (They would be temporary homes - I know an excellent LFS that will take them if it doesn't work out).
- Although my tank has a large capacity, it is in a small room so it has a small footprint. It's 14.5 inches wide and deep - most of the capacity comes from its 18 inch height.
- I only have one cave, although there are plenty of spots in the tank for hiding, since my plants are pretty dense.
I have wanted a sorority for ages and these girls really tugged my heartstrings. They looked so miserable! I mean, it's great that they were in a heated, filtered tank, but they did not look at all happy. However, I just don't know if they can be happy and not violent in my tank. Yes, the plants are all over the place and do provide masses of shelter, plus floating plants, but the lateral swimming space is not great and I really don't want to do this if it will make their conditions worse. Also, I don't want them to hurt my extremely peaceful tetras.
Should I attempt it? Please help. :( If not, what colour betta do you think I should get to set off the orange tetras and green and red plants?
I'm pretty new to bettas myself, but I'm thinking that, especially if the fish store doesn't seem to be taking good care of them, you'd want somewhere to quarantine them before exposing them to your tetras. Would you just keep them in the smaller containers for a couple of weeks?
It's not that they aren't taking good care of them in terms of water quality and healthyness etc (there were no dead or even sick fish in the tank), just that they didn't look happy. I wish I could quarantine fish, but I don't have the parental permission to set up that many tanks. I could only do it in an emergency, like extreme illness or violence. :(
Trust me, when I have my own place, I will quarantine EVERYTHING. :) But thanks. :)
If your tank is extremely densely planted, you don't need individual caves or tunnels for your females. None of my females spend much time on the bottom. They generally lurk in the top levels of the tank hiding up in amongst the plants.
I never quarantine but I know the risks and am willing to deal with the consequences. However, if you need to quarantine, I would just use a cheap plastic tub, run a heater in that and let the females float in their individual cups for however long you want.
You would need to do daily 100% water changes, but it's an easy way to quarantine lots of bettas at once.
I'm a bad sorority starter. I just chuck all my females in together and let them sort it out. Some people make sororities out to be some ticking time bomb, but I spend enough time watching my fish to understand when I need to intervene and when I don't.
If my sororities were to implode tomorrow I wouldn't have any back-up tanks for individual females. If done correctly from the start, the likelihood of everything going to hell in a hand basket is in my opinion pretty low. I'm not going to have 10 odd spare tanks and heaters lying around 'just in case'.
Usually when someone on here posts about their sorority falling apart, it has not been set-up properly and aggression has been allowed to escalate past a suitable level.
Yay! You give me much hope! So you don't think the small footprint would necessarily doom it? Also, and I am being cheeky by asking this so soon, I'm sure, would you mentor me if I try it? I desperately need someone with experience who won't tell me to not even bother trying.
As long as you have lots of tall plants that reach the surface or even floating plants, your tank's footprint shouldn't matter as much. One of my sororities is 12 inches by 12 inches, and there is more than enough room for everyone.
Essentially, this is what I do to set-up and maintain my sororities -
Cover 80-95% of the tank substrate in plants. I prefer fast-growing stems such as wisteria and watersprite as these will also become emergent as they reach the surface.
Introduce all your females into the tank at once. I don't bother floating them so they can all see each other or adding them in order of aggression. I just put them all in at once and let them sort it out. This doesn't mean everyone tearing each other to shreds, but I expect to see chunks and scales missing in the first week the sorority is up.
I do daily water changes and ensure my plants are at optimum health to guarantee perfect water quality. Poor water quality is going to create sickness and stress, which in turn is going to heighten aggression and cause problems. Disease spreads very quickly through a community of fish, so you have to stay on top of water changes until your biological filter has stabilised.
Finally, always be aware of what is normal behaviour for your individual fish. If a normally friendly female takes to hiding at the back of the tank, don't just dismiss it. It could be anything from disease to continued aggression, both of which can devastate a sorority in a short matter of time. If you notice one female being constantly attacked by the others, pull her. With these fish, it's only going to escalate .
However with that said, there will always be one or two bottom-rung females that get occasionally harassed. In any group of animals or humans there's always going to be someone the rest gang up on from time to time. It's perfectly natural behaviour, and is only a problem if harassment turns to violence.
I hope that helps some. I don't profess to be an expert; however, I have had a lot of actual experience as well as done a lot of research, and thought I'd just share what I'd picked up along the way.
Oh gosh, I am so excited now. Potential sorority! I will have to check tomorrow to see if those girls are still there. I'll keep you updated. Also, I'll post a photo as soon as I can steal my sister's camera so you can tell me if you think it is suitable or not. I've probably got about 50% of the tank filled with plants that reach substrate to surface and another 30% covered with mid-height plants.
I do daily 10% water changes and I have a really good filter, so my water quality is generally pretty good. :)
I look forward to seeing some pictures. Bettas don't add that much bioload to a tank, especially if you have plants to help absorb some of the waste until the filter catches up. However, I'd just keep an eye on your parameters for the first couple of weeks to ensure everything is running smoothly.
Also your shrimp stand a good chance of getting picked off even if the tank is heavily planted. Bettas are excellent hunters and most will make short work of adult and juvenile cherry shrimp.
I went to a different petshop today (I was looking at a dwarf gourami) and saw 10 girls in a really, really bare tank with far too much water movement, so I mmmed and ahhhed and then got 6 of them (I wish I had room for all of them!). So far they are settling in nicely. They each seem to have claimed a favourite spot without so much as a flare, which I wasn't expecting. The most aggression I have seen was two girls flaring for about a second at each other, then swimming off.
Three of them seem to have claimed spots at the front of the tank, whilst the other three are more keen on the really dense planting at the back. One hides in the elodea, one in the lacefern and one in the ambulia. The front girls have claimed the tunnel, a violet plant and my second filter.
They've totally ignored my tetras. Two of the girls have taken exploratory nips at the shrimp, but no harm's been done.
How long should it take before their stress-stripes go down and they get some colour back? I really want them to feel at home.
Should I expect more aggression tomorrow?
Should I do a water change tomorrow, or will that be more unnecessary stress? I really want to get this perfect. :)
Thanks so much for all your help and encouragement so far! If this comes off it really will be a dream come true.
I'm working on a photo, I'll try and upload them from my sister's camera tomorrow. :)