Right - first things, I haven't got a Betta yet. Doing my research on them, pricing things up etc.
Now, this forum is a great resource, but the more I read, the more questions I end up with...so I apologise for what comes next.
1. Tank - I went round the local petstores/Walmart tonight looking at tank options. Walmart sell a 5 gallon starter kit, made by Aqua Culture I think, that seems to be aimed at Tetras?? It's selling for about $22. It comes with a hood, light, filter. I hope someone knows the one I mean.
Would that be a suitable starting point?
I'm obviously worried about the quality (get what you pay for!!), but it's half the price of a 2.5 gallon tank in Petsmart, and I'd like my betta to have more room to swim.
What size heater should I get for it also? Is there anything else vital?
2. Cycling vs water changes - I understand that fishless cycles are better. I also see that a 5 gallon should be able to hold a cycle. I've also read that you can do a "fish-in-cycle", but I understand that is a bit more stressful to the fish.
What I've not managed to fathom is exactly the process for a fish-in-cycle - if I have the Betta in the tank, I assume I have to have a level of ammonia reading that is higher than 0 (ideal) but still safe, and do daily (?) changes based on that? But if I change out too much water, would I have stopped the cycle and have to start again? And once a 5 gallon is cycled, then how often do I need to change the water? Umm...
3. Plants - I've read many people like to get "moss balls". Would you recommend plants for a noob Betta keeper? Or am I better off sticking with fake plants for now?
4. What's a healthy Betta - How do I pick one in pet store/local aquarium shop? What should I be looking for. When I looked at a few tonight, they were all fairly lifeless in their little pots, but a few reacted when I touched the sides of the pot, or when they saw other Bettas by flaring their fins. One or two were swimming around very fast but not flaring. Some (I assume the not so healthy ones) didn't react at all.
Umm, they're the main questions, I have a few other thoughts too - in terms of water conditioner (what do I get? There were so many chemicals in the stores I started going cross eyed, water conditioner, ph raiser, ph lowerer, etc etc etc). Environment wise - do Bettas like particular decorations? I understand they need a place to hide, so a cave or something, but other than that - do they have preferences - plants, tall things, holes etc. I want to get "decorations" that will stimulate the fish, not just for me to look at. Gravel vacuum - I assume that's for Betta poo (for want of a different term). Can I actually just get the gravel out and rinse it off, or is the vacuum essential?
Ok, I think that's about it. Sorry, all noob questions, I'm sure I've just not read enough, and I apologise if I haven't...
Don't worry about asking 'noob questions.' Honestly, at least you're asking them, right? :D Everybody starts of somewhere.
I don't know which tank you're talking about, but if it looks good and is a good price, get it. :) Heating wise, you'll want an adjustable submersible heater. 5 watts per gallon, so yours would need to be 25 watts. I'll try and find a few good ones in a bit.
Quite frankly, a fish in cycle is perfectly fine if you do it the right way. Since you would get the 5 gallon, and would only have one betta, it's perfecty managable. Make sure you don't remove the filter media, and that you keep the filter running 24/7. Once a week, do a 50% water change. While you're doing the water change, do a gravel vac. (You'll need a gravel vaccuum for this part.) In cycles, the bacteria grows on all surfaces, and the gravel is one such surface. You never want to remove the gravel and clean it, because that would kill the bacteria too. You merely want to remove the poop from the gravel with the gravel vacc.
Because it's only one fish with a low bio-load, that should be good enough to keep the parameters to a minimum level. However, if you see your fish start to look ill, immediately do a 50% water change. I've done several fish in cycles like this, and all my fish are perfectly fine and the tanks are healthy and cycled.
Fishless cycling is alright. So far, I've done it using raw shrimps and once with fish food, and neither ways were pleasant (after a while the tank starts to smell like dead fish/rot). However, if you want to do the fishless cycle, I have a feeling using pure ammonia would be less gross and easier too.
Some plants are easy enough to care for. I like marimo balls, aponogeton bulbs, and java fern. They're all great plants and would do well in most tank set ups. They're very low maintainence as well.
When you look for healthy bettas, look for active ones. Active and responsive, preferably with unclamped fins. If the betta is crazy active (spazzing, twiching, perhaps darting about), chances are there might be a parasite or illness like ich causing them to act that way. Non responsive ones are also bad.
You'll need a dechlorinator. I personally recommend Prime by Seachem. It only needs 2 drops per gallon, so it's economical and very high quality.
Apart from a hidey cave, everything else is up to you. I personally like having several ornaments and caves, just to give my bettas something to do. Some bettas will develop preferences, but for the most part they'll enjoy whatever you put in there. While decoration shopping, make sure there are no sharp edges. If necessary, bring a piece of pantyhose with you and run it over the decorations you like. If it catches or tears, so would a betta's fins.
I disagree with part of the above. If you cycle your tank you need to test your water. Anytime you see ammonia reach .25ppm it needs a partial change. There's a good sticky somewhere on cycling and nowhere does it say wait until your fish looks stressed then change.. You need a drops test kit for ammonia nitrite and nitrate then follow the guide but honestly why stress your fish out unnecessarily? Fishless cycle is much kinder. Once things are fully established you need to do 20-50% change weekly.
Also make sure you get a good high quality protein based pellet like omega one betta buffet or new life spectrum betta. Omega one can feed starting at 3 or 4 split up into twice daily feeding. Your Berta will need one day a week to fast no food.
Make sure to acclimate your betta very carefully by first floating him in a cup of his old water in the new tank for 20min. Then add 2 to 4 tablespoons of the new tank water into his cup every 10 to 15 min. I usually do this at least until it looks like the water in his cup has doubled.. 4+ times. When releasing him into the tank try to let as little of the cuP water as possible in
I think you misread, because I never once said above to wait until his fish is stressed to do a water change. I said to do a 50% water change once a week, and should eveR his fish look even slightly stressed, to do a 50% right off. I've cycled tanks both fish less and with fish, and in all of mine I tested the water daily. In a five gallon with only one fish, a 50% water change/ gravel vacc keeps the ammonia and nitrites at extremely low levels. Abettalife, if you want a good cycling link, http://www.fishlore.com/NitrogenCycle.htm is great. Callestra has a good point about the need to test the water. I would recommend buying a testing kit, but if you follow the weekly water changes, it should be fine.
Personally, for a fish-in cycle, I'd do two 50% changes a week, one with gravel vacuuming and one without. Since so little of the good bacteria is in the water, you aren't removing that bacteria itself, just the ammonia that feeds it, so the extra change will keep your fish safer and only delay the cycle a little more. :)
Other plants that I'd suggest, especially during the cycle, are anacharis (also called elodea), hornwort, lacefern and duckweed. Because these guys are really fast growers, they suck up a ton of ammonia and keep the water cleaner for a bit longer. :) With enough fast-growing plants, you may even be able to achieve a 'silent cycle'. OldFishLady is the expert there. You can also never go wrong with java moss or anubias, both of which make lovely betta beds. :)
Thank you all for the advice - the link to the nitrogen cycle information was particularly helpful!!
I was once again wandering around Petsmart tonight (I know, I know...), pricing things up and figuring out what to get. They also do a nice 5 gallon tank for around $35 and I can get pretty much everything in one place. My closest Walmart doesn't sell everything I need (no heaters, no food, no Prime etc).
I can certainly see why this could get addictive though. There was a beautiful mainly clear/cream colour, with deep red highlights (on the tail etc) double tail at Petco, and a beatiful red/silvery looking crowntail at Petsmart. Both active, responsive and flaring when I put my finger on the "cup". And I've already priced up everything I need around a total $200 sort of mark. That's the tank starter kit (including filter), heater, water testing kit (the $35 or so dollar one that does everything), a few plants, some tank "decorations", food, Prime, and of course a fish...!!
People think you're crazy spending that much on a $7 pet. But for any pet I've ever had, I've always wanted to get it more than what is considered the "minimum" needs, and try and create a more natural lifestyle. I'm glad I can see this place is filled with others with the same mindset!!!
Last edited by abettalife; 03-02-2012 at 10:58 PM.
I'm a noob, too. I kept tropical fish as a kid, but no bettas. Here is what I have learned from this forum:
Seachem Prime as a conditioner, get a test kit, get an adjustable heater.
I cycled my tank with just one fish in, my cory catfish. When it was cycled I got the betta. The catfish only seemed stressed for a few days early on, seemed to breathe heavy. Then he was fine.
I got that 5 gallon kit from WalMart that you mentioned. I like it a lot but you will have to baffle the filter. Apparently you never have to change the filter media, it will mess with the cycle if you do. You will have to rinse it in old tank water now and then.
Not much choice in the way of live plants around here, the Petco and Petsmart plants all look "rusty". I bought the healthiest looking banana plant they had and so far it's still alive. I picked off the bad leaves and new leaves are growing now. I LOVE my moss balls and would love to get a third one soon. Otherwise I have 4 silk plants, some kind of plastic "tree stump" looking thing and a broken vase ornament for him to hide in but he never hides!
I have a traditional gravel vac, also from WallyWorld, but I cut the intake tube in half because it was too long for the shallow 5 gallon tank. Works fine. I vacuum and take out half the water every weekend and do a water change.
Now the tank is growing some algae so I'm thinking about getting a Nerite snail.
Anyway, I am still learning. It IS a lot of money to spend on a relatively cheap pet but I'm glad I did it, they are fun, relaxing, beautiful addition to my pet family!