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I know this question is probably going to sound a little off but I have been pondering this for quite a while. Bettas are primarily found in stagnant water right? Of course I understand it this means that the water does not flow. My question is if a betta is primarily found in the wild in stagnant water would not the nitrates in said water be higher?
 

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Well their environments tend to be full of plants that absorb ammonia. Plus there would be tons of types of bacteria that feed off ammonia as well. Nature has a balance and while the waters may look gross and smelly, swampy stagnant environments are quite good (and cleaner than they look) for the animals adapted to them.
 

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In the rice paddies and rivers where they are found in the wild, there is a slight flow to them. The rivers aren't swift, but it does move.. and rice paddies tend to be on a hill side, where they make sections flat, but they have water at the top going down to make it continuously moving slowly. The only time you may find them in true stagnant water is during the dry season and they happen to find a puddle to hang out in until it's time to bury themselves in the ground.

Ammonia is created.. common sources for ammonia include commercial and manure-based fertilizers, wastewater treatment plants, and faulty septic systems. Also by the fish themselves. Bettas give off quite little ammonia compared to other fish it's size and even smaller..
Olympia is correct- mother nature has it set up just right. We have to work on it to get it just right in a small, enclosed box basically. Why live plants tend to be ideal when keeping an aquarium- to help the process naturally. We will still have to supplement cleaning and conditioners, but plants will help us out a lot in keeping the water healthy.

Here are some common rice paddies.. as you can see they are in "steps", which at the top water is set up to gently flow down. You can also see just how green it is.. which helps keep the water clean.
 

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I once (for fun, as an education to my daughter when she was little) scooped a bucket of mud and water from a local creek's shallow run-off pond. We poured the stagnant water and mud in a very big octagonal vase and watched it settle for a day or two. In this water were leaves, water plants and about twenty different forms of life, including native frog tadpoles. I tested the water regularly and found there was not even a trace amount of ammonia for nearly two weeks, despite a very busy community of tadpoles, daphnia and other tiny critters, a couple of very sneaky dragonfly larvae, two kinds of snails - in abundance - as well as various worms, water beetles, mosquito wrigglers, etc, etc, etc. The water appeared to self-regulate, almost as though it was itself an organism. We kept the jar "alive" for almost two years, using pond water and/or conditioned water for infrequent, careful changes.

Whoops, forgot to add: adding dry leaves from the ground around the pond kept the water healthy, we noticed the difference when they broke down and were not replaced.
 

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I once (for fun, as an education to my daughter when she was little) scooped a bucket of mud and water from a local creek's shallow run-off pond. We poured the stagnant water and mud in a very big octagonal vase and watched it settle for a day or two. In this water were leaves, water plants and about twenty different forms of life, including native frog tadpoles. I tested the water regularly and found there was not even a trace amount of ammonia for nearly two weeks, despite a very busy community of tadpoles, daphnia and other tiny critters, a couple of very sneaky dragonfly larvae, two kinds of snails - in abundance - as well as various worms, water beetles, mosquito wrigglers, etc, etc, etc. The water appeared to self-regulate, almost as though it was itself an organism. We kept the jar "alive" for almost two years, using pond water and/or conditioned water for infrequent, careful changes.

Whoops, forgot to add: adding dry leaves from the ground around the pond kept the water healthy, we noticed the difference when they broke down and were not replaced.
That. Is. AWESOME. What a great idea! I want to fill my house with little bio-bowls filled with live plants and shrimp and bettas and whatever else. XD
 

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It was awesome, Kfish! :-D We didn't turn the TV on for months, but sat around the table watching life go on in surprising abundance in the tank. Our friends didn't think we were peculiar, nossiree.. :oops:

The tank would have been around 3 - 4 gallons, guesstimate and survived as a healthy system for two years, until the various species dwindled (were eaten/hatched and flew away/turned into frogs/etc) and we ended up with lots of snails and little else. The system wasn't coping, so we tipped it all back into the run-off and wished it well.

Back on topic, though, if the stagnancy of the water - which we kept, as far as possible, allowing for natural small changes which might occur with rain, etc. - produced excessive nitrites/nitrates, then either all of the various dozens of species in the jar had evolved to cope with it, or the n's were nullified by elements of the environment. I wish to heck I'd monitored those, but my guess is the substrate bacteria/plants/leaves all may have helped keep the system balanced and healthy, and the n's levels down as well as ammonia (there were many more critters, including yabbies and fish, living in that knee-high run-off, so something was taking care of it all).
 

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A lot of natural planted tanks have no filtration or water movement at all, and maintain levels of 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 0 nitrate. Even in systems as small as 1 gallon.

Also... just want to add that those rice paddy pictures are so gorgeous.
 
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