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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We got a male betta for my 8-year old daughter’s first ‘my own pet’ just over a week ago and I’ve become strangely betta obsessed. I've read perhaps too many forum posts and gotten myself confused. Thanks so much in advance for your comments and advice! !

Our specifics:
--He's in a 5.5 gallon filtered tank with plastic/fabric plants (we did the make-your-own filter baffle)
--We did add the bacterial supplement drops when we started up the tank
--We had the water tested (Petsmart) day 6 after fish in, and it looked good, no nitrites or ammonia (or nitrates, interestingly)
--feeding the Hikari betta pellets, 5/day once in the morning
--My primary concern with this guy is **life span**. I’d like a 3 good years of caretaking the same pet for my daughter.


Q’s (Maybe I should put these questions in separate posts…)

1. Water changes:
a. ---Frequency-> our filtered 5.5 gallon tank, I see 50% once a week, but most people tell me 50% every two weeks. Think impatient 8 year old kid in busy multi-kid and multi-pet household-> in a 5.5g filtered tank with only one (small) betta, is 50% every two weeks sufficient?
b. --Start off-> I’ve read not to change the water for the first month so the N cycle can establish. I’ve read to do it every couple days for the first month while the N cycle establishes. When should we start changes?
c. --Gravel vacuum with cleaning-> I’ve read to not vacuum the gravel except monthly as it disrupts N cycle bacteria. I’ve ready to vacuum the substrate with every water change so debris doesn’t interfere w N cycle bacteria/increase ammonia levels. Should we vacuum every two weeks?
d. --Filter cartridge changes. Wait until falling apart and just swish it in the removed-for-cleaning aquarium water monthly? Or every 6-8 weeks? Doesn’t it matter for his life span if the carbon stops ‘working’ and cleaning the water?

2. Glass surfing. I was expecting a somewhat mellow fish. NOT. This guy has no interest in plants, hiding, resting, hanging out. He glass surfs constantly since day 1 (we’re on day 9). Could he be perfectly happy and just constantly doing that???
--I thought perhaps he was seeing his reflection, so I have experimented with the LED aquarium light to see if surfing changes with his light and/or the room light on/off. Nope.
-- I thought perhaps he needed a bushier plant environment so we bought an additional (third, fabric) plant. Zero interest.
--I thought perhaps it was water quality, so took the water to be tested. Looked great. If he needs more than 5.5 gallon tank, I just don’t have the room. Could he need a smaller tank?
--He does voluntarily go near where the filtered water comes out of the filter baffle, and swims fine, so I don’t think the current is too strong.

3. Bubble nest. I’d love for my daughter to experience this behavior. Is it even possible for him to make/sustain one in a filtered tank? What can I float on top that’s safe to encourage it?

4. What’s a decent, not-too-expensive heater for a 5.5 gallon tank? I’ve seen 25 watts and 50 watts recommended.
 

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Ok, so, I'll answer what I can.

Water changes. 50% once a week should be great for your tank. All tanks should have some sort of change once a week at a minimum, so I would go with that.
Since you've already added the fish don't wait a month. Ammonia levels will build up. Keep to the changing schedule.
I do not own a gravel vacuum, but from what I've read people use the gravel vacuum every week, but I can't say for sure.
I was told to rinse the filter cartridge in old tank water a few times a month. You don't want to replace it if you can avoid it since it will have beneficial bacteria for your tank.

Glass surfing is normal for a new tank, but he could feel a bit exposed. You said you had three plants? I have two 5.5 gallons and currently have 5-6 silk plant in each. You also said they were plastic. Be careful of those. I started out with those and a few did rip my guys fins. Not all will, just keep an eye out.
Lights may help him see his reflection. Bettas really don't need a lot of light. Mine are in a decently lit room so the tank light is never on, even at night. Darkness calms them down, so if you light is on, try turning it off.
Does your boy show signs of stress stripes, horizontal darker stripes on his sides? If he doesn't, he could just be getting used to everything still.
He doesn't need a smaller tank, he just needs to get comfortable a feel safe.
Since you're asking about heaters, does this mean you don't have one? A low temp could be the cause of his glass surfing as well. The water needs to be between 78-82 degrees, so 79 or 80 would be perfect.

He will make one no problem in a filtered tank. :) Some fish make them all the time, some hardly ever. When he calms down and his comfortable, he may make one around the edge of the tank or by a plant. My one boy Nero is currently making one, and my other Norman has a very nice one set up away from the filter. :) Just give it time.

I have two of the same heater and I love them. It's a hydor 25 watt heater I ordered from amazon. They are around 12-17 dollars I believe. Great for your size tank, adjustable, and I have had no problems with them.

Edit: As far as lifespan goes, it sounds like you are on the right track. A good water changing schedule, good food, and good family is perfect, and watching him to see if you notice anything strange or usual is what will keep him healthy. Fish do get sick, but there are a lot of people on here who know everything about all the little problems your fish may or may not encounter. :)
 

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+1 hubbley

just a heads up though, not all bettas make bubble nests. I have one betta I've had since November that has only made them twice, I've had another betta since April and he has never made one. Both spent time in filter and unfiltered tanks. Just remember that if he ends up not making bubble nests, he is still healthy. Making or not making bubble nests have nothing to do with is health.
 

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Agreed, though I will say if your fish does end up making a bubble nest now and again, if you don't see one for quite awhile you may want to check everything to make sure he's ok. My guy Norman, who makes them every so often stopped for about a month in his tank, and his fins were starting to look a bit rough. I recently took out a plant I thought was causing the problem, and now he's looking a lot better and has a great nest.

So if he turns out to be a nest builder, a lack of them might be a sign that something is off. Only might, though. :)
 

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Agreed, though I will say if your fish does end up making a bubble nest now and again, if you don't see one for quite awhile you may want to check everything to make sure he's ok. My guy Norman, who makes them every so often stopped for about a month in his tank, and his fins were starting to look a bit rough. I recently took out a plant I thought was causing the problem, and now he's looking a lot better and has a great nest.

So if he turns out to be a nest builder, a lack of them might be a sign that something is off. Only might, though. :)
While all of this is true, I've seen very sick fish make bubble nests as well.
 

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When i first got my betta, he was a huge bubble nest builder. Then i added a filter, and the bubble nests stopped. I found that once I REALLY baffled the filter, the bubble nests returned.

Before baffling it, I could see him making them, but they weren't staying. I think that the surface was being agitated too much - even though my adjustable filter was on a very low setting.
So, to promote the building and staying of nests if your fish is a nest-er, I would recommend baffling the filter, and it wouldn't hurt to add a surface plant or something that breaks the surface. My Betta Cam always builds his nests attached to the silk plants that touch the surface of the water.
You could add water wisteria or frogbit that float on the surface as well if you want.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Thanks for the info! Great ideas and info, here!! OK, so here's a pic of the tank (Today I learned: It's hard to get the lighting and fish right to get good fish tank pics!)
Re glass surfing:
Hm. I don't see stress stripes, but he's kind of dark. I'll look closely tomorrow.
--Does this setup seem like too few plants? Of course, my 8-year old picks all decorations hence the flower. He sleeps in it.
--How long should I wait before deciding the constant glass surfing is not due to new tank. 2 weeks? A month?

Re cleaning:
--Yarrrrgggghh it really does need to be weekly...really wanted ya'll to say every two weeks was fine. Anyone have good luck with every two weeks? Ah, responsibility :)
--So...why don't you need to replace the filter cartridge...does the carbon not do anything beyond house bacteria? Of course the store said every 6 weeks, and I do like your answer better! so just trying to educate myself.

Re heater: Thanks looks perfect! I'll pick one of those up. It's been around 78F to date, but won't in the winter.

Re bubble nests: Hm. I'll give it...a month? The filter is baffled (you can see the plastic in the picture), but the filter has to be turned off when we feed him his pellets or it moves the food. I'll pick up a silk plant that touches the surface of the water, great idea, thanks.

I'd love to add some water wisteria but I don't know anything about aquatic plants other than that they need light...I hardly ever get to turn his lights on bc I'm concerned about the glass surfing. Can't really tell whether it goes from constant and kinda dizzying to frenetic or if it's just as bad with the light off.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
PS think based on this feedback that I'll also trade out the two plastic plants for silk ones. Just in case they're causing trouble.
 

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In general Bettas like HEAVILY planted tanks. Petco sells a pack of 3 silk plants for around $10. It saves a few dollars instead of having to buy all the plants separately.

You need to clean the water every week. Not only to keep the levels down but also to replenish minerals that are in the water that bettas need. There is no other way to add the minerals besides water changes. Think of it this way, bettas swim in their poop since they poop in their tank. Don't you want to remove all that waste for them? Fish are a lot of work regardless of the tank size. If you really want to change the water every other week then you need to have the tank heavily planted with LIVE plants (not plastic or silk ones). You will still need to buy a liquid water testing kit (like the API master test kit) to test the levels to figure out how often you should change the water since every live planted tank will be different depending on the amount of plants.

You don't want to replace the filter cartridge because the beneficial bacteria (BB) grows on it. When it does come time to change them (mind you I've had filter cartridges in for over a year now and they haven't started falling apart yet), then you need to lay the new one on top of the old one in the filter for a few weeks to let some of the BB transfer. I personally just put filter sponge into my filters, I don't use the carbon filter cartridges. I basically turn all of my filters into modified sponge filters.

Don't turn off the filter when you feed him. He'll probably enjoy chasing after his pellets :) All of my fish love to chase them. Its kinda of like "hunting" to them.
 

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Hi,
For your tank, I'd still recommend the weekly cleanings. If you had a filter and cycled your tank and had a live plant or few in there, you could get away with every other week if you KNOW YOUR PARAMETERS, otherwise I'd still recommend weekly. A lot of recommendations are going to be on the conservative side as for people new to keeping water it makes things much much safer for them and less of a hassle down the line.

As for his glass surfing, they can do it for a number of reasons, maybe try a little cave in his tank that he can cloister himself to hide and feel more secure. They like something they can fit themselves into, that's dark (and hidden from the top) and the general consensus is that it should have a front and back entrance. If you can get some Indian Almond Leaf, float that in his tank and see how he reacts. As frustrating as it can be sometimes, it's part of the fun with these little guys figuring them out.

Oh, good call on trading out the plastic plants, if they haven't caused trouble yet, the probably will with his fins. Also, if you wanted to go live plants :
Good plants for an uncycled tank would be:
- Any type of moss
- Anacharis
- Wisteria
- Java Fern
- Anubias
- Hornwort (floater)
- Duckweed (Gold star if you can kill this floater)
- Frogbit (floater)
- Water Lettuce (floater)
 

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+1 to Vivian and Veloran.

I would agree that more plants and a hidey-hole type place for him could help with the glass surfing and overall happiness. And that trading out the plastic plants would be a good move. (And that duckweed is near-impossible to kill...)
 

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Got a new little plakat two weeks ago, was a glass surfer from the first minute in the tank. I put him in a fully planted 10 gallon. sponge filter, terra cotta pot cave, dark substrate, driftwood, and a background. He stopped his B.S. around day 9 when I disconnected 2 of the LEDs on the hood and added more floating plants and background paper to one of the sides. I also put plants in his path just to annoy him. It wasn't one thing but a bunch of changes that cured him. I think he feels very secure now. The poor lil' guy spent his life in a jar, shipped from Thailand, put in a plastic cup in Philadelphia and left on a rack in cold filthy water to die. Then BAM!, he's in a 10 gallon, heated filtered aquarium with a bunch of stuff he never seen before. Some fish are gonna have issues with that.

He did most of his glass surfing right after meals. I think his Sunday fast calmed him down a bit as well.
Now it's cool seeing him hang out on his hammock. A pacing betta is nerve wracking.

At the Philadelphia Zoo there is a bear who paces. I saw it when I was a kid, I took my Niece & Nephew to the zoo recently and it's still pacing. Sad.
 

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We have the same rock decoration and the same red silk plant :) I found a couple ones I really like from Pet Supples Plus, there are some Natural brand, but they really fanned out in the water and Nero likes to hide in them.
Definitely get some more plants. Get some larger ones as well. If they stick out of the tank a little you can always cut them. That way they can stay near the top if they want to rest and easily get air. For a tank that size you do need more coverage to let him feel comfortable. A cave wouldn't hurt either like someone else mentioned. Some people even use an old coffee mug or a small flower pot.
 

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I agree with everyone else. My little boy, Nick, is a total paranoid fish! He flares when the dogs bark and ya I know he's stressing out a bit but he'll sooner or later get used to the tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
Thanks again for the info. I'll go for some tall fabric plants at the website mentioned, and a hideaway place as well. I looked for duckweed at the store today but they didn't have it, so I'll look further. A floating plant that's nearly impossible to kill sounds perfect. And I'll leave the carbon filter cartridge in for awhile rather than the 6 week changing schedule they recommend.

And I'm sold on the weekly water changes. I tested today at the store and the levels had really gone up in only 4 days. Did my first 50% water change today. (Wasn't as hard as I expected. Hard to believe just a little bit of Stress Coat can really take away chlorine!)

That is sad about the pacing bear :( I do find this guy's dizzying pacing nerve-wracking, exactly! I'll see if the changes help.

Appreciate the input and learning from your experiences!

And: hammock??
 

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You can get the "betta hammock" if you want (I think this is what you are referring to). I personally don't have them because my bettas use the plants to rest on.

If you do get a hammock, you need to make sure it is one of the newer ones that doesn't have a wire in it. To check, simply try to fold the "steam" part in half.. If it stays then there is a wire in it, if it pops back to normal there isn't. The newer hammocks do not have wires. If there is a wire then just use tweezers or something similar to pull the wire out. the wire will be in the "steam" part.
 

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You can also craft hammocks too. All of my bettas have homemade hammocks made out of the plastic craft canvas. :)
 

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For floating plants, I'd really recommend dwarf water lettuce. It has really long roots that my bettas love to hide in. I've had it do well in lower light situations as well as higher light. It grows fast too! I noticed once I got some floating plants in my tanks, the bubble nesting went crazy. Perhaps because the floating plants slowed down the water along the surface, perhaps my fish just like the roots, who knows. But within a couple weeks of popping in floaters, all 5 of my fish were suddenly building bubble nests. If you are doing just floaters, I wouldn't recommend duckweed, because although it can be hard to kill, it's also a real pain to clean out if you ever want it gone. And it makes it really hard for fishies with vision issues to find the food. Dwarf water lettuce is definitely my favorite. (greater duckweed isn't nearly as annoying as the small stuff)
The plastic mesh craft canvas makes fantastic floating caves (one of the forum members actually sells some relatively cheap and they are AWESOME if you do not wish to make your own)
 
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