My introduction to beta fish via an existential moment
Hello all thanks for the really informative forum. I guess you could say I'm a general geek when it comes to learning. I'm a professional student working on a terminal degree. In other words I spend an inordinate amount of time in my two room apartment reading and writing. So about 6 months ago I moved half way across the country to start graduate work. My wife and I are living temporarily apart due to her finishing graduate school in one place and myself starting elsewhere. This has left the apartment a touch empty feeling. So, the other day I meandered into a pet store...for some reason (I'll get to the guilt shortly) I decided, what the hell? I'll get a fish and a bowl and take good care of it. This would give me a companion and something alive to be responsible for. So, that's what I did.
That evening, I got my new compadre home, his name is Bartleby the Betta, a crown tail. I fixed him up with a 1 gallon bowl, some substrate and a fake plant. I immediately jumped online and sank into a reading frenzy for the next two days. Wow, was I naive. I hadn't had fish since I was a kid. Thinking back on it, I was a terrible fish keeper, but I digress. With each website, forum and blog that I read the guilt was creeping through the veneer of pride that I had mistakingly felt only hours previously when the thought that got me into this escapade, "I'll grab one of those spacious 1 gallon bowls and he'll feel swell after being in that horrible little cup". Sound familiar? The very next day, I knew that I could do better than the bowl. I immediately began searching around town for one of those entry mostly-inclusive packages--only it mostly didn't include what I needed.
So, I did what any grown person with a conscious would do, I acquired a ten gallon tank for my little buddy. At first, I thought that a divided tank would be great. I could provide an optimum environment for Bartleby. Well, I've acquired freshwater salt, pellets, a gravel vacuum, 5 in 1 test strips, 6 fake plants and 2 tacky dinosaurs, not to mention the ten gallon tank and a divider that Bartleby talked me into removing. Then I made a baffle for the filter as I have a Penguin bio-filter 100. He seems to enjoy the lack of a jet stream in his tank. I've been reading about small (responsible) communities and am considering after the tank cycles for a couple of more weeks picking up either half dozen ghost shrimp or three ottos for tank buddies. Obviously I'll take my time and introduce whatever I get slowly and patiently--but was curious. Is it my own vanity that is forcing me to want to add a couple more characters to this tank? Or will the overall ecosystem thrive with a few more folks in the tank? Seeing how I'm a born-again aquarian, given the obsessive week on this so far that I've experienced, what do these schemes seem to a more experienced fish keeper? More importantly am I missing anything to make this little fellow's life "betta" (pun intended)?
Let the tank cycle for about a month, the filter needs to get some good bacteria to prevent ammonia from becoming toxic, meanwhile you do 50% waterchanges once a week and research fully compatible tankmates. :) Also, remember to only add the salt if he's sick :)
"I'll grab one of those spacious 1 gallon bowls and he'll feel swell after being in that horrible little cup". Sound familiar?
Welcome the world of betta-keeping. You'll find yourself obsessing over many new and wonderful things you'd never have dreamed of contemplating. Like the colour of fish poo, and the nutritional value of various worms.
I can suggest just a couple of things - bettas like to hang at the top of the tank when they sleep, so a floating cave or a plant with long stems could offer a nice resting spot.
Be wary of sharp plastics - plants, ornaments. Betta fins are delicate, and rip easily. Most folks recommend silk or live plants, for that reason.
Shrimp are fine. But remember - bettas are predators, and yours might harass the shrimp or eat them if they haven't adequate places to hide.
Water quality is everything, really. Liquid tests are better than strips, and worth the expense. If you can keep your water free of nasties, the water takes care of the fish. Do look into the massively confusing issue of tank cycling, as a cycled tank is way less maintenance, and a 10g tank cycles much more easily than a smaller one.
Don't add salt to your tank as a default. Use your 1-gallon as a hospital tank and keep the salt for that, in case of illness. Pick up some epsom salts as well - for some diseases, epsom is way better and aq salt can actually make it worse (bloat, for example).
It's interesting, the question of why there's a compulsion to add other animals to the tank. I haven't really thought about it, but in my case I think it's probably something to do with a natural fascination for functioning eco systems. A lone fish seems unnatural, to me... Bettas are quite happy to live alone, however, and do not get 'lonely' as a schooling fish might. So if the shrimp prove a major fail, you don't need to replace them (make sure to remove any dead ones promptly! they make a LOT of ammonia..). Snails are cute, but be aware of the massive bioload they make.
I have recently been through that same very steep learning curve/frenzy, and wish you well with your fish. It certainly is an addictive hobby, and there's always so much more to experience and learn. :)
Thanks for the advice. Sid Fishus is an awesome name man! Particularly for our spikey little betta friends. I'll wait for a few more weeks and probably go with the shrimp first. If Bartleby has a proclivity to kill and eat them, I'll know not to go with them again. I've been reading, surprise, and I'm thinking that 3x ottos may be a bit too much for my 10 gallon tank, as what got me into this investment was to provide an optimum home for the betta. So, I'll wait, keep reading and look forward to any comments or critiques to my current set up and 'newb' level knowledge base. Don't hesitate to constructively critique anything that I post. I come from the 'school' of thought (god the fish puns must get old to longtime members) that which makes you think, helps you. Again, thanks for the feedback.
I would go with the six ghost shrimps than the three otos or various reasons; ghost shrimps are cheap and if they die, well they can be easily replaced, Otos are very sensitive when it comes to water chemistry, they like to be put in a tank that's been stable, probably 6 months after you finished cycling a tank and there's some algae that has been building up, three otos I would not reccomend, too small for a shoal, grab 5 or 6, and lastly otos generally do better in larger tanks, but some people have kept otos in their 10g and they have thrived.
Also, your betta's temper will determine if he can have friends or not. Some bettas are passive and go well in community tanks, while others, not so much.
So, after reading, eventually I will want to add some algae eaters. Being that my tank is only 10 gallons which houses one betta I'm thinking, half a dozen or so ghost shrimp or a few Nerite snails. Maybe a spiked snail as I read that someone had better luck with their betta not nipping at its antennas. The overt question here is, based on others experience do you have better luck with shrimp or snails? If so, which types have you had success with, cherry or ghost--spiked or smooth shelled snails? And of course, what is your recommended number of your preferred type?
Snails by far better algae eaters than shrimps, because they can eat algae from the tank walls efficiently.
I usually get one snail, I'm pretty sure one can do the job. Although this not mean that you'll have no algae at all, they only eat certain types of algae. I would suggest one Nerite snail, they'll get the job done, and plus they can't reproduce unlike other snails in freshwater.
That pretty well settles it in my mind then and confirms what I've been reading. Even the recommended bio-loads in tradition aquarian maxims are a bit much when carefully considering the actual chemistry and ability to control the nitrate levels. I'll start in a month or so with one nerite snail (with a spiky shell if I can find it) as the only other member of my betta's environment. I'm already conceiving of schemes to redo the tank in 6 months with some live plants and a more conducive substrate. I will slowly research and transition into a more complex eco-system. This will allow me to build a CO2 mechanism and maybe even add a sponge filter for increased VO2 levels. Thanks again for the advice and inadvertently inspiration.
I notice that many folks have "moss balls" in their tanks is this a healthy alternative to other forms of life?
CO2 is not really needed unless you have carpeting plants or any other plants that demands CO2, and those plants are very demanding.
If you're getting live plants I suggest looking at this thread. It has a lot of information on live plants that I find very helpful.
Moss balls are just little balls of moss, they're very cute and popular on this forum. They're low maintenance plants, they don't really need anything special, plopping a few in your tanks won't do any harm. They act as a mechanical filter, with little bits of debris sticking on them, I believe they help with ammonia levels too.