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Outback Aquarium Adventures
by EmberShadows

Foreword: For those who are perhaps unfamiliar with the term, “Outback” refers to the remote and sparsely populated inland regions of Australia. I’ve encountered a few people from other countries who had no idea what it actually meant.

G’day my fellow betta enthusiasts. I’m EmberShadows and this is my journal of aquarium adventures.

I’m an aquarium hobbyist living in a small town in a remote part of Australia. It’s hot, dry and pretty much in the middle of no where out here. My local fish store is located in the next town over, and carries a fairly limited selection. I try to support my local store, but I have to purchase most of my supplies online.

Growing up, there have always been fish in my household, and I’ve dabbled with it from time to time. In the last few years my fishkeeping passion has become reignited. I’ve had a few tragedies so far, but I'll own my failures, learn from my mistakes and keep battling on.

After losing my last boy, I’ve started over from scratch. New tank, new equipment and supplies.

I acquired a second-hand 25 Litre / 6 Gallon tank that I’ve been eagerly preparing for the last few months. Planning for a planted, naturally decorated tank to house a single betta.


Visual Concept for Tank.

Setting up the hardscape with Pisces Black Diamond Aquarium Gravel and locally source rock.

I have no idea what kind of rock it is, but I’ve run it through every test suggested by the internet and couldn’t find any problems. I’ll have to keep an eye on it as the tank ages, but I’m not anticipating any issues. It has beautiful colour and patterns though, and is quite stunning against the dark substrate.


Progress with tank setup.

Have a 450l/h filter running in the tank at the moment, stocked up with micro pad, to polish the water of any residual dust from the substrate. I’ll be switching it for a smaller filter with different media before I add fish.

I decided to try Seachem Equilibrium as my water reminiralizer, but I’ve been a little dissatisfied with the amount of fine dust it seems to create, even when dissolved in a jug rather than adding it straight to the tank.

Went to the store to pick up a few final odds and ends for the tank to discover they’d just received a new shipment of fish. Found an absolutely stunning crowntail in the batch and just had to reserve him. If all goes to plan I’ll be bringing him home this Wednesday.

I’ll need plants still, but I have to order most of them online. I’ll pick up a few if I can when I go in to pick up my new boy.
 

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Picked my new boy up from the store yesterday along with a few plants.

The plants I acquired were two pots of hairgrass and a banana lilly. Got the plants heavily discounted as they’d be sitting around in the tanks awhile and were looking a little sad, but still seemed relatively healthy.

Spent the afternoon planting the tank and gradually acclimating the fish before adding him in. The tank is still quite barren at this point, but its a start. The store said they’d be getting in a fresh batch of plants within the next week or two, so I’ll hold off on ordering online and see what I can get.


Tank, now lightly planted and home to a new betta.

He’s been in the tank 24 hours now. I’m a little worried about him though. He’s been very lethargic, just sitting on top of the heater for the most part, and displaying what I’ve assumed to be very prominent stress strips. He seems to gasping a bit as well.


The poor little shy guy cuddling the heater.

Hopefully the poor little guy will perk up over the next few days. Once he’s had some time to relax, acclimate and familiarise himself with his new environment. I’ll be keeping a close anxious eye on him either way.

I need to rethink my filter too. The smaller filter is still too strong. Need to figure out how to baffle the flow enough for the betta while still maintaining decent circulation. Also afraid my light might be too bright as well. Need more plants and cover for him.
 

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welcome to the forum! I love the setup! the rocks looks very unique. =D
 

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Love those rocks!

Could you try some surface cover plants?
He may be feeling a bit exposed in a tank that size, with a bright light overhead.
My 3 all seem to far prefer using surface plants to tunnels and rocks. In fact, for my crew, the more plants the better.
 
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He’s been in the tank four days, and he has become very adventurous now. Cruising around the whole tank, exploring every nook and cranny.

He’s refusing to eat though. He’s interested and excitedly chases the food, but mouths it around a bit before spitting it back around and then completely ignores it. He’s rejected both the pellets and freeze dried blackworms I have, both fed soaked of course. The fussy little bugger. I keep trying to feed him everyday. Hopefully he’ll take it once he gets hungry enough.

Love those rocks!

Could you try some surface cover plants?
He may be feeling a bit exposed in a tank that size, with a bright light overhead.
My 3 all seem to far prefer using surface plants to tunnels and rocks. In fact, for my crew, the more plants the better.
Surface cover with plants is my goal. Finding the plants I need is going to be the challenge though.

For the time being I have a cloth partially covering the tank lid to provide a shaded area from the light. He seems quite content with that for now. Not sure the hairgrass will like that long term though.


Adventurous boy cruising around his tank.
 

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Usually when they take in food and spit it out they are trying to break it down, it might be a little too big. :) Maybe you could try some flake food and crush it up into small pieces for him? :)
 

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Gorgeous, those rocks are my favorite, and what a nice background to pull it all together!

I definitely agree with bluesamphire, floating plants would be great as bettas like to swim through the roots that hang down, as well as potentially use the space between each plant to build a bubble nest. I recommend trying water lettuce, red root floaters, salvinia, guppy grass, even water sprite may be a good choice as well.
 

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Thanks everyone for the comments and the suggestions.

Today would be the eighth day he’s been in the tank. Still haven’t managed to get him to eat anything consistently.

My pellets are very small, but he doesn’t seem all that interested in them. I tried flake food, but he didn’t even seem to notice it and just completely ignores it. I feed the freeze-dried blackworms broken into small pieces rather than as the whole worm, and he’ll chew them up a bit before spiting out a bunch of bits. He’ll follow the bits around for awhile, but doesn’t try to eat them again. I don’t know if he’s swallowing any of it or not, or just mulching it up.

He responds to movement rather than the food itself from what I’ve observed. Maybe he wasn’t properly weened from live foods? I don’t have access to any live foods at the moment to try him on, and the store doesn’t stock any. Blackworms seem to be what he’s most interested in though, so I’ll keep trying every day with those.

I’m worried he’ll wither away on me if he doesn’t start eating properly soon.

Aside from being difficult to feed he seems quite content. He’s very active, swimming around the whole tank, poking in the grass and swimming through the tunnel.

Looking forward to getting the tank properly planted though. Waiting on the fish store to get in a fresh batch of plants and then I’ll figure out what I need to buy online. The challenge after that is keeping them all alive.
 

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You're right that the betta just may have been fed live foods before, and so he doesn't recognize the pellets and such as food. Don't worry though, no betta will intentionally starve itself just to be picky. He'll get used to the food, just keep offering. Maybe try lighting touching it to the surface of the water a couple times, in and out, like a bug landing on the water. Might make him more interested. :)

As long as he's not sick from something else, he'll eat when he's hungry enough. :)
 

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Plus, if he's putting it in his mouth and spitting out he is getting *some* amount of food in there. He just might not be eating the whole thing. :)
 

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New plants!

Bought some anubias and ambullia from the store on Monday, and got busy planting that afternoon. Had to move a few things around.

Round and perfectly smooth rocks are great for betta fins, less so for planting anubias. Tried to nestle them between the rocks. One I tied to an upside-down mesh pot since it wouldn’t stop floating away. The rhizomes are above the gravel, so hopefully they’ll be alright.

The ambullia is doubling as a floating plant at this point, which received the betta seal of approval and instantly became his new favourite sleeping spot.

No idea if any of these plants with thrive, or just turn into a big mess. Time will tell I guess.


New plants!
Sorry about the bad quality photo. The harsh contrast between light and dark makes it hard to get a good shot.

Think I might hold off for awhile on buying anymore plants. See how these do and evaluate at a later date.

I’ve been able to feed him on caught insects so far, whenever I managed to find him one. I’m looking into culturing live food, either daphina or brine shrimp, or both. Have some old brine shrimp eggs on hand. Don’t know if they are still viable, but no harm trying I suppose.

I’ve had him two weeks today. About time I start thinking of a name for him.
 

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caught insects? Like in your house? I wouldn't recommend that as they could have been in contact with bug sprays, pesticides, ect. and you don't want to danger your betta unnecessarily. Culturing your own or buying a culture is much safer. :)

Love the plants though! I hope they do well! I need to get some large anubias for my tank, hmm....
 

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caught insects? Like in your house? I wouldn't recommend that as they could have been in contact with bug sprays, pesticides, ect. and you don't want to danger your betta unnecessarily. Culturing your own or buying a culture is much safer. :)

Love the plants though! I hope they do well! I need to get some large anubias for my tank, hmm....
I'm aware of the potential risks with caught insects. However, we don't use sprays, pesticides, aerosols or fragrances in our household so most things should be safe. Still the possibility of something contaminated migrating over from a neighbors' house, but our neighbors are few and properties are well spaced.

It's only a temporary solution until I have a stable food source he'll actually eat. I have to order cultures online, so anything will take time, and assuming they arrive still viable when post usually takes five business days even when express shipped.
 

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Plus, if he's putting it in his mouth and spitting out he is getting *some* amount of food in there. He just might not be eating the whole thing. :)
I won't name the brand but there's a Betta pellet food on the market that both my Betta's refuse to eat.

The pellet's are extra small, both Betta's will gulp a mouthful then spit out the pellets & show no interest afterwards.
 

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Well, the good news is after a lot of persistence he finally started accepting the blackworms and has been eating properly for the past week.

The bad news is, he took a sudden turn for the worse today, tucked himself into the anubis clump and has been sitting there, looking sick and miserable for the entire day. He seems to be breathing heavily and otherwise appears distressed and lethargic.

Not sure what is wrong with him, or how I can help. pH, KH, and GH are all stable. The tank isn't cycled yet I don't think, so there is ammonia present, but I dose daily with a conditioner that says it detoxifies ammonia/nitrites/nitrates, no idea how effective that is though. No nitrites that I can read, and minimal nitrates detectable. I've had trouble with keeping the tank heated, and the temperature varies by up to 3 degrees Celsius from one end to the other, depending on the time of day. Heat isn't circulating effectively. Been working on a solution to the circulation problem. It's been very cold in the night too lately, down to 12 C overnight in the house. The 50watt heater is struggling to keep up with the 27C I have set.

Maybe there is something wrong with the blackworms? I've heard live blackworms can be dangerous, with freeze-dried and frozen being less so, but not without risk. I wasn't planning to use them, but then he wouldn't eat pellets.

Or maybe he's been sick from day one. He's never lost those stress stripes, if that's what he has. And the problems with him eating. Even the live insects he seemed reluctant to keep down, yet any other fish I've fed just swallows things whole without a second thought.

Maybe there is something wrong with my rain water that keeps harming my fish.

Sigh...
 
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