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Old 02-22-2012, 12:10 AM   #1 
Sandrilene
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So confused on set up!

I've been reading stuff over the course of a few months and everything seems to all say different things. I know its mean to put any fish in a tiny bowl and I know bettas need a heater in their tank but tank size and what method to filter and clean and the tank and how often i`m so confused on. How hard is it to have live plants in the aquarium and what benefit are they? Do they require much extra care/ time then fake? I don't really understand about filtering at all. I LOVE bettas and they are so pretty. I really want one but i want to understand how to take care of it first. is there a simple do this version to having a betta? what are the start up costs generally? i feel like my brain is going to explode from trying to figure this out. Started on random sites but then I figured why trust anyone other then a forum when that is obviously a group of people dedicated to the care of the fish and want them to have good conditions and to survive. so i`m just going to wipe everything i`ve previously looked at and listen to you guys. Please don't disagree too much because i`m already confused and frustrated as it is.
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Old 02-22-2012, 02:03 AM   #2 
Ayane Hajinmon
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ok i got it out of this thread to help me when i was new MUST READ! General Betta Care and FAQ (V. 3.0)

Tank Equipment:

-Tank of AT LEAST 2 Gallons. Some people believe in 5 gallons as minimum. Yes, a fish can live in small tanks, but they thrive in proper conditions in roomy areas.
-Heater. heater, heater, heater. This is absolutely needed. The temperature in the tank needs to stay at least at 78 degrees. These are tropical fish, and become very lethargic if kept in cold water. A light will not be sufficient enough for heat. In the night, temperature can easily drop 8+ degrees, which can kill as fish. Room temperature is not enough either. Hydor makes a wonderful heater for small tanks of 2.5 gallons and less. It resembles a heating pad and they work wonderfully while not being overly expensive.
-Hiding Spots: Hiding spots, such as caves, make bettas fell secure. This way, they can escape from light and rest. Make sure the hiding spots are not sharp, as bettas have very delicate fins.
-Filter: This is actually not needed, but it helps. Bettas need a light filter with low flow. They should have very little water movement in a tank. The filter will also keep water clean.
-Light: This helps when it gets dark. Most tanks come with some sort of light, but if not, that should be fine. Simple desk lamps or reading lamps can help give yoru betta the right amount of light.
-Thermometer: This will help keep the temperature under control.
-Liquid Test Kit: A liquid Test Kit will help keep you know your Ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH levels. Ammonia and nitrite should always be 0, nitrates under 20ppm, and pH at a level of 6-7.5.
-Access to Air. Betta spendens gets its oxygen from breathing air at the surface. That is the function of the labyrinth organ. If a betta can’t reach the surface for oxygen, it will drown. For this reason, while it is important to offer a well decorated environment, it is also important to make sure the betta has plenty of easy access to the surface of the water. The air temp above the water needs to be close to the temp of the water to avoid infections and shock.


Maintenance:

A betta needs some sort of maintenance, as would any other fish. They are not "magic fish" and can take care of themselves. Here is a list to insure the best care of your betta in which you, the owner, must provide.

1) Weekly Water changes. A filter cannot take out everything in the water. Would you like to live in your own poop? This is why bettas need regular water changes.
A betta tank should never need 100% water changes unless working with medications. Too drastic of a change in water params can cause illness and death to any fish. Bettas can withstand more than the average tropical fish, and 50% changes are good for them if done frequently enough. The smaller the tank size the more frequent the water changes should be done. Anything under 2.5 gallons should have a 50% change every other day. 2.5 and more should have 50% changes at least twice/wk. If a filter is running in the tank, 50% changes once/wk are usually plenty.
2) Testing Water. You need to keep an eye out for your bettas water paramaters. Water params are nitrate, nitrite, ammonia, pH, and water hardness. A good liquid test kit will help determine what is in the water. Ammonia and nitrite should be at 0, and nitrates under 20. The pH level should be between 6-7.5. If any levels seem wrong, do a water change to get clean water in the tank.


i hope it help
as for plant and stuff...i have no experience with those...so hopefully with more knowledge would come along and help

Last edited by Ayane Hajinmon; 02-22-2012 at 02:05 AM.
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Old 02-22-2012, 02:27 AM   #3 
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Hi, and kudos to you for caring so much about giving your betta a good home.

I'm a new betta owner and I have found it all a bit confusing as well, regarding conflicting information. In the end, I am just doing what keeps my fish clean, happy and healthy.

I have a 3.5 g tank. My fish is awesomely happy and healthy in it (now the lingering pet store issues are gone) and has adequate room to swim about. His environment is full of plants -- low light species, and floating water lettuce, which he loves to lurk in. It also provides a place for him to rest near the surface. I'm liking the little terracotta pots of anubias I bought, as well. Java moss and java fern also tolerate 'betta friendly' conditions.

Live plants help to keep the ammonia levels down (in conjunction with water changes) and provide a place for your fish to hide and play in.

I found it handy to stock up on a variety of foods, as bettas are often picky. Variety is also healthy - live foods like brine shrimp and black worms make good treats, and I alternate flakes with pellets. Dry foods should have protein as a first ingredient on the label.

I also recommend a little 'first aid and care kit" - gravel vaccuum, aquarium salt, stress guard, water conditioner of course, and ich treatment (I used protozin with great success) just in case. I also have a small hospital tank with its own heater (currently housing Daughter's betta, temporarily) which can be kept free of ornaments and gravel, so I can monitor the fish and change water daily without hassle.

One important thing I have learned is that spending a few dollars more to begin with can save a lot of stress on the fish (and on you too!) later on.

As for water changes, etc, it depends on what size tank you have. I'm really confused currently by the issue of whether it's possible to cycle a tank under 5 gallons. Some swear it's "impossible", some say it's possible but tricky, others cycle 3 gallon tanks quite successfully.. bleh. I really don't know. Upgrading to a 5g will help cut the confusion. In the meantime, clean water and good food is doing the trick.
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Old 02-22-2012, 09:13 AM   #4 
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Welcome, and I'm glad to see you are asking questions rather then just getting one without proper knowledge.

For tank size, it depends on your budget and the space you are able to provide. Anywhere from a gallon on up is appropriate and recommended for bettas. I use a couple of gallon tanks for a couple of mine for different reasons, and they are happy and healthy as can be. It's about proper care over tank size. There is no true minimum in a betta tank, as people keep them in half gallons as well. Not recommended as it's nearly impossible to properly heat a half gallon for the average person.

In tanks under 5 gallons, regardless if it's 1 or 3.5 gallons, they will require the same amount of water changes- with or without a filter, with or without live plants.
Without a filter, and without live plants you would be doing 1 50% and 1 100% water change per week in a tank under 5 gallons. In tanks of 5+ gallons unfiltered it would be 1 50% per week and 1 100% per month.

With a filter and without live plants it would be 1 50% water only and 1 50% substrate vacuuming per week in tanks under 5 gallons. In tanks of 5+ gallons it would be just 1 50% per week with weekly vacuuming of the substrate.

Without a filter and with live plants it would be 1 50% change per week, 1 100% per month for tanks under 5 gallons. For tanks 5+ gallons it would be weekly 50%, and 1 100% once a month.

With a filter and with live plants it would be 2 25% per week in a tank under 5 gallons, vacuuming twice a month. For tanks 5+ gallons it would be 25-30% weekly water changes, vacuuming twice a month.

It also depends on how many live plants you have.. you would increase slightly if you only have 1 or 2 small live plants. The more plants you have, the less you have to clean weekly.

Easy plant guide
There are very easy plants that require little light and don't need filtration such as Java ferns/moss, anubias, Naja grass, etc. Live plants can help keep the water clean and breaks down waste into fertilizer. If you go for root based plants, you will need fertilizers.. the lighting you will have to see what each plant you get needs.. since some are pickier then others. Otherwise, silk plants or very soft plastic plants are just fins to use- anything without points and spiky parts to rip their fins.

For simple start up I would go with a kritter keeper, the medium is roughly 1.75 gallons, the large is roughly 2.75 gallons.. with a heater of 25-50 watts, adjustable (adjustable tend to be more reliable, and with the larger wattage you can use the same heater if you upgrade to larger tanks- the 50w would work up and to a 10 gallon). A desk light is enough light for them- would have to check to see whether it has enough k light; a lot of plants tend to like 5500k-6500k lights if you go with live plants. If fake plants then I would use a 40watt bulb on a desk lamp to light them up just fine without making the temp change. A cave would be appreciated by males, as most tend to love them. A filter is not needed, but if you choose you can always buy a very small filter to place in there.

The cost will depend on what you are wanting- conditioner is only a few dollars, and decorations aren't too expensive either- can go to craft stores for the rocks on the bottom, or use those glass rocks.. can use a lot of other things you find around the home too- such as ceramics that are glazed/fired, coffee mugs, candle holders, legos, etc. Bettas aren't always that picky, so you can build up more in time as you go.. just as long as there are a few plants in there (real or fake) he will be happy. Certain live plants will cost more as they will need sand and fert, but the easy ones don't even need a substrate, just a large rock to be tied to.
For further questions about what live plants to get once you decide on the tank, I would private message Pewpewpew or Oldfishlady since they are the resident plant experts.

Ayane.. even though that is a sticky on here.. there are a lot of information a lot of people would disagree on with it.. as there is no minimum tank size.. and the statement "The smaller the tank size the more frequent the water changes should be done. Anything under 2.5 gallons should have a 50% change every other day." is not ideal, as the water can be too clean and in the long run will not benefit the betta. Been meaning to ask someone about that sticky..

Anyways, good luck, and if you have any more questions, please feel free to ask!
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Old 02-23-2012, 05:30 AM   #5 
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ok so now that i have a general idea on tank size... how long does it take to do the water changes? When you change the water what is the process? If you don't take it all out then obviously it isn't "clean" but it prevents shock and stuff which I get, but after a period of time I assume you have to clean the whole tank to get the rocks and stuff? How often do you do that? I'm probably getting 2.5-3gallon tank when i figure things out more if that information helps. And a light and heater obviously. Here is another probably dumb question... how do you know what filter to get to have the proper flow for bettas? I assume aquarium kits may not have the correct filter automatically for them? If i got a larger tank 5 or more gallons and could cycle it what is that process and does it save time overall or is it just nicer because its larger? What stuff besides the necessities have you learned through trial and error or come across that just makes betta care tons easier? (not that it seems too complicated but i figure I might as well take advantage of collective knowledge instead of learning the hard way). This may also be dumb but don't most fertilizers contain nitrates? How do you fertilize the plants if you are trying to keep those levels down? And how do you maintain levels for the plants when you change the water so often? Does the vacuum thing help a lot for changing water or is that mostly for the 100% cleans? I guess i really just don't know what all goes into the changing water at different percentages or have any idea how long it takes.

While I don't mind spending time taking care of a pet, i want to make sure that there should never be an issue with being able to do it if i were to have periods where i am super busy or something. at that point i would rather just wait to get a pet later then force it to deal with my lack of time, which is why i am curious about how long things take. Obviously theres a learning curb to familiarize myself with the process so it will take longer up front too.

here is another question. I read that they can escape from tanks so you need a lid... besides that and size is there any factors that would make an aquarium a bad choice? shape wise or other wise? Are there shapes that are harder to clean then others or anything like that? Is bamboo a suitable plant for bettas?
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Old 02-23-2012, 05:51 AM   #6 
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I'll tell you how I do mine and see if that helps you at all.

I have a male betta in a 3.5 gallon setup that we bought at PetSmart. It has LED lighting (with 4 colors and 12 settings but we only use the first one). He has an unbaffled filter (this is his preference) and a live anubias plant which floats (these can also be tied down to root onto decorations or rocks).
I do 1 50% water change a week. I first remove Hannibal, putting him in the cup we bought him in. I then remove roughly 50% of the tank's water. Then I get new water and treat it before putting it in the tank. Afterwards, I float Hannibal in his cup in his tank so he can adjust to the temperature. After acclimating him, I release him back into his tank. The whole process usually doesn't take me very long at all.

With gravel vacs, aquariums with corners can be a bit tricky (so I have heard).

Bamboo is not a suitable aquarium plant. As it isn't aquatic, it decays. There are a lot of plants that are very low maintenance for fresh water tanks though. Such as anubias, java moss, and java fern to name just a couple.
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Old 02-23-2012, 09:41 AM   #7 
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I'll go ahead and step on a bunch of land mines. I understand your confusion and I must say it is not surprising considering all the conflicting advice which you have already noticed. Even in this thread there is conflicting advice. So here I am to add more fuel to the fire...

Aquarium Size:
There is really two questions. What is the minimum to keep alive, and what is the minimum for a healthy, happy fish? These two questions have two different answers.

To keep alive, you can do it in a 2.5 gallon, a 1 gallon, you can do it in even less... you know those cups you see them in? They've likely lived in that for 6+ months. The smaller the bowl, the more water changes you have to do. Why? Fish produce ammonia as waste, and just like with humans ammonia is toxic. This build up happens immediatly, so the smaller volume of water, the faster this rises. Any amount of ammonia is toxic, there is no safe amount.

To keep one not only alive, but truly happy you should consider a 5g as a minimum, as it offers numerous advantages. More space for the betta to swim is a major plus, but there are more. One is that the tank can effectively hold a cycle. What's a cycle? It's the process of beneficial bacteria that consumes ammonia as a food, and produces Nitrite as a waste. Nitrite (with an I) is even worse than Ammonia, but again a type of bacteria will consume that as food and produce Nitrate (with an A). Nitrate is also toxic, but must less so than Ammonia or Nitrite.

You can read more about the cycle, and how to achieve one without hurting your fish here: http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/f...m-cycle-38617/

Now, I know a lot of people will say their betta is perfectly happy in small bowls, for example in the 2.5g range, but I'm personally not convinced. You could take a human and get them to live for decades in a closet feeding them daily, and emptying a chamber pot. But are they truly happy even if they smile, laugh, and play? I know, humans aren't fish, but still... something to think about in any case.

As another plug for a larger tank, know that they are easier to care for your fish. Larger volumes of water are more forgiving to mistakes than smaller volumes.

A happy fish is a healthy fish. When stressed, just like in humans, their immune system will be weakened making them more susceptible to disease.

Filters:
These serve three purposes. One is they agitate the water which provides oxygen, not so important with bettas as they breath air from the surface. Two they provide mechanical filtration, which is the removal of floating particles in the water. This helps keep the water clear. Third is they usually contain a sponge like pad which provides a large surface area for the beneficial bacteria that I talked about earlier. You need one appropriately sized for your tank, don't go over board, the betta will not appreciate a strong current because it will take more energy to stand still, and thus cause stress.

Plants:
Plants are the natural filters, and they do it very well. They assimilate ammonia as a nutrient, and they do it better than the beneficial bacteria mentioned above. The capacity for which they use ammonia is dependent on many factors, but in general the faster a plant grows, the more ammonia it will use. In addition, plants will remove several other toxins from the water and take the place of activated carbon. You will still want to use a mechanical filter to help keep the water clear, and pick up any slack in the biological filtration.

Anubias, Java Fern, and Java Moss have all been mentioned, they are all an easy low light plant. However, they are also some of the slowest growing of plants which means relatively speaking they do the least in terms of using ammonia. That's not to say they are bad, they are not, every live plant will help in the reduction of Ammonia.

The best plants for dealing with ammonia are floating plants, this is because they are at the surface of the water and thus closest to the light source. Secondly, if their leaves are above the water they can assimilate CO2 directly for the air which is far, far easier for plants than under water. Popular floating plants include Duckweed, Amazon Frogbit, Water Sprite, and sometimes Brazilian Penneywort.

Second for fast growing are stem plants, and there are lots of choices for them. Some require more light than others. A personal favorite of mine is Wisteria.

For care, live plants are simple, they pretty much need no care. A liquid fertilizer once a week is usually the only thing you need to do for them. The best is a comprehensive fertilizer like Flourish. Even a small bottle will last you years, and it does not expire. The other is a light, you want a Daylight bulb with a color temperature in the 6500K range. No need to buy expensive bulbs at pet stores marketed for plants, just go to a hardware store and look a daylight bulbs that say 6500K on them. They work better, and are cheaper. An enriched substrate like eco complete is not required.

With enough fast growing plants you would not have to worry about cycling your tank, the plants will out-compete the bacteria for ammonia.

Don't let plants scare you, they really are not bad.

Maintenance:
Okay, so the real work of what YOU have to do.

In a small tank that can not hold a cycle, you must do a 100% water change every week, and often another 50% change in the middle of the week. It is the only way to remove the toxic Ammonia. The smaller the volume, the more frequent the changes. For the 100% change you must 'cup' the betta then re-acclimate him to the new water temperature/parameters. This does cause stress to the betta.

In a larger tank that can hold a cycle, you only need to do a partial water change weekly, 25%-50% depending on volume and number of live plants. The substrate will need to be vacuumed during this partial water change if you do not have plants. If you have a fully planted aquarium, you do not vacuum the gravel.

For a filter you will want to take the pad out during the weekly water change and rinse it off in tank water (not tap, chlorine will kill the bacteria). In a non-planted tank you need to replace the cartridge monthly because the activated carbon only lasts so long. In a planted tank, remove the carbon on day one (it will remove nutrients the plants need), you can use the pad until it literally disintegrates on you just rinse it weekly to keep water flowing through it.

Costs:
Bigger = more expensive, usually but not always. But as you can see above, bigger = less work.

A 5.5g will run you ~$35 for a tank, hood, and light at Petsmart. You will need to add a heater, filter, substrate, and decorations. Prices vary by store, I recommend Amazon.com for everything but the tank and substrate.

A 10g may actually be cheaper, on sale for $48 in Petsmart they have a 10g setup that has everything but substrate and decorations. Be sure to get the tropical kit, not the goldfish kit. With this, if you decide in the future, you could buy a tank divider and have a second betta at minimal extra cost & work.

Then, of course, there are all the silly 'fancy' aquariums that are in more aesthetically pleasing shapes than the standard boring rectangle. They will cost you much, much more though. It pays to be fashionable, even in the fish world ;)

Hopefully I helped answer your questions, and hopefully I haven't added to your confusion. Feel free to ask any questions, and welcome to the hobby!
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Old 02-23-2012, 10:35 AM   #8 
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k stupid question when dipping filter in tank water since you are cleaning it are u dipping it in the new treated water for the aquarium or the old water? old water doesn`t make sense but figured i should ask in case it for some reason is right. I'm planning on waiting for the next massive fish sale at the pet store as i don`t pay full price for barely anything. larger does sound better. plants sound like the way to go for me i like them to begin with and have some houseplants/ orchids so i'm not completely new at plant care, just aquarium plant care. I'm surprised to hear bamboo doesn't work as they do keep in water but the leaves have to be above the water. not only that but they sell it in the petstore here as an aquarium plant. o.O weird. of course they also sell those teeny tiny bowls for bettas so i`m not really that surprised. i'm going to look at aquarium books today hopefully and may be pick some up. i've got a bunch of sell to do today but will be back on tonight probably with more questions.
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Old 02-23-2012, 10:36 AM   #9 
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with larger aquariums how exactly do u change the water? I'm assuming u can't get just them to the sink? i certainly couldn't lift that with my back.
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Old 02-23-2012, 11:01 AM   #10 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sandrilene View Post
k stupid question when dipping filter in tank water since you are cleaning it are u dipping it in the new treated water for the aquarium or the old water? old water doesn`t make sense but figured i should ask in case it for some reason is right. I'm planning on waiting for the next massive fish sale at the pet store as i don`t pay full price for barely anything. larger does sound better. plants sound like the way to go for me i like them to begin with and have some houseplants/ orchids so i'm not completely new at plant care, just aquarium plant care. I'm surprised to hear bamboo doesn't work as they do keep in water but the leaves have to be above the water. not only that but they sell it in the petstore here as an aquarium plant. o.O weird. of course they also sell those teeny tiny bowls for bettas so i`m not really that surprised. i'm going to look at aquarium books today hopefully and may be pick some up. i've got a bunch of sell to do today but will be back on tonight probably with more questions.
You use the old aquarium water, the purpose is just to get as much gunk off as you can so that water can flow through it easily. See below on how...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sandrilene View Post
with larger aquariums how exactly do u change the water? I'm assuming u can't get just them to the sink? i certainly couldn't lift that with my back.
A bucket and a siphon. I use a 2.5 gallon bucket with handle that you find in a department stores cleaning isle. The siphon you get at the pet store, it is basically just a tube with a larger tube on one end, that's the vacuum part.

You put the bucket on the floor, it needs to be lower in elevation than the tank. You put the siphon in the tank and get a suction started, the ones they sell now have a bulb on the tube and it works kind of like a turkey baster. You squeeze it a couple times and it sucks water up and gets it going. once it starts flowing, gravity takes over with the water going from the high tank, to the low bucket.

Here is a link: Top FinŽ Aquarium Gravel Vacuum - Fish - PetSmart

While you do that you can use the vacuum end to root around in the gravel and suck up the gunk (but like I said, in a fully planted tank you don't do that). When done, take the filter pad out and swish it around in the bucket, and give it a squeeze.

Dump the water in the sink or bathtub, and refill with fresh water. Treat with a conditioner to remove chlorine & chloramine, then slowly pour it back into the tank. No need to remove the betta from the tank during this.

Last edited by Geomancer; 02-23-2012 at 11:04 AM. Reason: Spelling
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