Sunday, February 22, 2009

Caring for bettas: Creating a betta tank & some common betta myths

Supplies to buy:

API test kit

First, you'll need to buy a tank. Do NOT buy a bowl, a vase, or anything less than a 2.5 gallon! A 5 gallon would really be alot better than a 2.5, and if you get a 10 gallon, your betta will have a palace!

You'll need a filter and a heater. Bettas like to be kept at around 78 degrees, and they don't like alot of water disturbance from the filter, so take this into account when buying. Make SURE you don't go overboard with the equipment. A filter for a larger tank will cause too much water flow, and a heater that's too powerful can kill your betta by overheating the tank.

Also get some substrate. Don't get sand. If you get gravel, make sure it's smooth so it won't damage your betta's fins. Marbles or those little flat glass "pebbles" will work well.

Get some plants and decorations, too. Live plants will provide oxygen and absorb some ammonia. If you get fake plants, don't get plastic! They will tear your betta's delicate fins. Get silk plants instead. Get a couple of structures for your betta to play with, such as a castle with large smooth-edged holes.

Take your tank & equipment home. Do NOT buy a betta yet! You'll need to cycle your tank before you put your new friend in. Set up the tank, plants, decorations, filter, and heater. Don't put it in direct sunlight. Research instructions for a fishless cycle, follow them, and don't buy your betta until you have 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, and around 10 nitrates.

Make sure you acclimate your betta before letting him into his new home. If you don't, you risk having him or her go into shock from the change in water temperature.

If your new fish doesn't eat right away, don't worry. Give your betta a few days to settle in.

When cleaning the tank, never wash off the gravel, and NEVER use any soap on anything going into your aquarium. Use a siphon & gravel vacuum and do a 25% water change every week.

Common betta myths and the real truth:

"In the wild, bettas live in mud puddles, so they are fine in those little cups."

In the wild, bettas live in rice paddies in Thailand, NOT in mud puddles or elephant footprints.

"Bettas don't need a filter or heater. They don't have a filter or heater in the wild."

In wild betta habitats, water flow provides natural filtration, just like the warm climate combined with the lower water level (NOT mud puddle levels) provides natural heating. With no filter, the betta is practically breathing its own waste, only it is not in the form of waste. When fish waste and excess foods rot, they produce ammonia, which is toxic to fish in levels as small as .75 ppm. When I got my sister's betta from the store, I tested the water from his tiny cup, and the results were 8+ ppm. Ammonia burns the gills of a fish, leading to extreme pain and eventually death.

"Multiple male bettas can be housed together. What stops them from being together in Thailand?"

Nothing. Nothing stops the bettas from seing eachother. However, nothing stops them from swimming away or hiding either. If one male has had enough in a rice paddy, he can swim away and/or hide in the plants. In an aquarium, and especially the small ones that bettas are usually housed in, the males can not get away from eachother, so if one tries to escape, the otehr will bully it to death.

I hope that if you decide to get a betta, you will keep it in good conditions like the ones I listed!

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