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Discussion Starter #1
I have been doing regular partial water changes for Crusoe since I got him, trying to begin a fish-in cycle. The filter has not yet arrived but I have read that in the mean-time, beneficial bacteria will grow in the gravel substrate. I did two 25% water changes in the past few days and a 50% water change today. Each time, though, I notice he acts funny after I replace his water.

I replace the same amount of water, about the same temperature each time. I add Prime before pouring the new water into the tank. After the new water is in the tank, he swims slightly erratically against the side of the tank. Right now he is swimming in circles along the front wall of his tank or darting forward. This is not entirely strange behavior for him because I know he likes to swim along the wall when acting normal, probably chasing his reflection or following me. However, after the water change I feel that he does it differently and this is a concern.

I have tested his water with my new API master kit. I did so yesterday and today. He has no nitrites and did not have any yesterday either. Yesterday his ammonia was at 0.25ppm and today its at about 0.20 ppm. Both times the test was done immediately after partial water change. However, today I decided to test his pH level.

I know that the local water has a highly basic pH. When I first got Fabio, I noticed this and tried to change the pH. This did more harm than good and I was told to leave the pH alone because more likely than not the fish had gotten used to pH level and changing it was causing problems. I have decided not to play with the pH for Crusoe before getting second opinions. His pH is at 7.6, which is bad but normal for local water.

Could the pH be causing his behavior? He seems to have had calmed down now and after a while he did go back to normal on the other days too. I would like to know what causes this and if the pH is going to be a long-term problem.

He is otherwise healthy, making his bubble nest and eating like a beast. He does not strictly stay along the tank walls and swims normally in the center, so I am not super worried. Perhaps it is my imagination but I like to be safe.
 

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Believe it or not 7.6 is not a very high pH. When you said high pH I thought you were dealing with a pH above 8.5. My betta tanks have a 7.8 pH, and I have never had problems. Betta are fine between pH 6.0 and 8.0

My only thought is that your KH is low and this causes your pH to drop rapidly after a water change. And his adverse reaction is to a rapidly changing pH. Do you know your local KH?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I have no idea what the KH is. If I add IAL/Oak leaves to the tank, could this help? His behavior always worries me afterward because of how Fabio died, so I am easily paranoid.
 

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The IAL and oak leaves will only change the pH if the KH (buffering capacity) is low. For example: my betta tank pH is 7.8, but if I add driftwood or oak leaves the pH drops down to around 6. This is because my tap water has very low KH. If your KH is low, IAL will change the pH, but if the KH isn't low, then nothing will happen to your pH. If the IAL does lower your pH, then you have to worry about it changing every time you change the water. If your KH is too low, this could cause rapid changes in pH.

I know you're paranoid (trust me, I get the same way when one of my fish gets sick), but I really don't think it's much to worry about.
 

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how DID fabio die? and he may just be excited from the change.. If you want to change the KH, add a conch shell. This will also raise the Ph and hardness, but hardness doesnt matter much to them, and try feeding acidic things (many tropical fruits, like mangos, pineapples, strawberries (not tropical) and banana! thye may be reluctant to eat, and I take banana back, it gets EVERYWHERE but they WILL eat it, but only a little... i mean i guess now i think about it, just... too complicated.. smh. but it may not be Ph... do a ph test before and after a water change. if not, how do you know its the same temp?

even 1 or 2 degrees... i mean you DO have a heater right? then even room temp is cooler than that. if it IS temp, it isnt that bad for them, they usully get over it. I wouldnt worry about that, test it with a digital thermometer, acurate to the tenth degree (just a suggestion, its what I use, but tenth of a degree doesnt REALLY matter) do you measure prime correctly? how often do you do a water change?

I think it is excitement
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I don't know what caused Fabio to die only that he died during a water change. The water feels about the same when I add it in and the temperature does not change on his thermometer. I do not have a heater right now because it is coming in the mail but it is so hot that the water stays steady.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Bottled water is not good for them and I am certainly not filling up a 5 gallon tank with bottled water. And yes, I dose prime properly.
 

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An ammonia level of 0.25 at a pH of 7.6 is going to be enough to cause minor irritation. This could be why he is darting around and acting off. If it's still measuring 0.25ppm an hour or so after a water change you need to do another water change ASAP. Even trace amounts of ammonia are enough to cause irritation to the gills and scales.

Also, if the pH of the water you are adding is much higher or lower than the water in his tank than this could also be the cause of the flashing you see when you do water changes.

The amount of beneficial bacteria that is going to manage to grow in your substrate without the oxygen provided by a filter is going to be very, very small. You really need to be cleaning the substrate thoroughly and keeping the ammonia level at 0 as often as you can.

Fish are constantly excreting ammonia but in such small amounts our test kits can't measure it. In a fish-in cycle, this unmeasurable amount of ammonia is more than enough to establish your biological filter.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I will do a 100% water change in the morning then...or at least a 75% water change. I am hesitant about 100% changes.
 

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You could do a 95% water change. You basically empty the tank as far as you can without letting your little guy flop around on the bottom, then refill the tank. And then you repeat this. The total water volume comes out to about 95%. You won't get rid of all of the ammonia, but it will get rid of a lot.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
That sounds good. I bet I can clean the substrate like this as well. I still need to pick up a gravel vacuum.
 

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I add Prime before pouring the new water into the tank.
Just to be clear, do you add Prime to the refill water before pouring it into the tank? Do you add Prime to the tank and them refill it? The former is the recommended procedure.

I know that the local water has a highly basic pH. ...7.6, ... normal for local water.
Your sourcewater is 7.6pH out of the tap? What is the pH of your sourcewater after 24hours? pH can drift as much as a couple of points depending on hardness (KH) CO2 outgassing and other things.

The idea is to match the pH of the refill water as closely as possible to the tank water without being obsessive, usually within a couple of points is OK. Betta are so tough, even more is acceptable...but they won't like it. If your sourcewater pH varies too much from your tank pH, it may be wise to do your large water changes in stages, as several smaller ones.

Old Fish Lady has a thread addressing this issue. I'll try to find it.

I get the impression that many members are more casual than others about temperature matching. Like Pog, I uses a digital thermometer. It really comes in handy when checking multiple tanks and, of course, for water change temp matching.
 
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