Cycling A New 3 Gallon Tank For Betta

Discussion in 'Freshwater Beginners' started by bettastory, Jun 12, 2018.

  1. bettastoryNew MemberMember

    Hello! I'm new here :)

    Last week my kid's class pet betta went up for grabs and we got him the next day! Unfortunately, we didn't have anything setup yet! I ran around town looking for a tank and decorations, water conditioner (Prime), etc... had no idea about cycling. I have successfully kept about 5 bettas in the past so I figured I mostly knew what I was doing.

    The poor fish had clamped fins since we picked him up and going into a new tank didn't help, he just stayed around the top, barely swimming. I did a 30% water change adding more Prime, just incase there were high levels of ammonia. That night, he went nose-down in the gravel for a day before finally crossing the rainbow bridge. I don't think the tank killed him, but it certainly didn't help whatever was wrong with him.

    So, now we have this fishless tank with 6 nano marimo balls and a new plant that arrived today (I'm not sure what the plant is). I have since studied the nitrogen cycle and have been adding a few flakes of food each day to try to create some ammonia. I had purchased some test strips (no ammonia test on those) and was trying to see if the nitrites were building up until my master test kit came in. Levels on the strips were at zero still yesterday, we're on day 5 today.

    The master test kit arrived today and I tested twice for ammonia and nitrites, the second time I banged the bottles on the counter before adding drops to the test tubes. and everything looks like it's still at zero!!

    I have thought about going to grab a bottle of pure ammonia but summer break just started and I don't want to drag my hoard (3 kids) out to the hardware store for that! Ha! I might order one from Amazon.

    So, how long does it take for fish food to break down and release ammonia? The tank has been hanging around 75° and I got a little tank heater today, so hopefully that'll stimulate some bacterial growth.

    Anyway, I know timelines are hard, but shouldn't there be sooooome ammonia at this point. I have no idea if the fish pooped or not, he wasn't real interested in food after the first day. Not even bloodworms!

    Is a small tank quicker or slower to cycle? Do they all take weeks and weeks? I have some Tetra Safe Start OTW, is that worth trying or is it a scam/harmful in the long run?

    Also, the filter that came with the tank is disposable, like a tea bag or something, but I figure I should put something in there that's permanent so the good bacteria can live there. Any suggestions on what I can use to replace the tea bag-like filter? It's a Tetra XS cartridge.

    I apologize for the length and randomness of this first post but I am trying to get all of the info I have, out.

    Thanks in advance for any help and sorry if I forgot any important details. I may have the info, just ask if anything is unclear :)

    Oh, and my pH is ~6.8, very soft water, alkalinity is just about 0, the nitrate level on the test strip is *just barely* turning a bit pink. I'm considering that to be 0.

    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 12, 2018
  2. IHaveADogTooWell Known MemberMember




    It may take well over a week before you start seeing nitrites in the water. In that size tank, it may take even longer. Keep adding ammonia (either pure ammonia or fish food) every day until the cycle completes and your tank converts ammonia into nitrate within 24 hours.

    There might be some nitrate in your source water (tap). Those won't affect your cycle. Just wait for the new nitrates to start appearing. It might be helpful for you to test your tap water and see where that's at.

    you can use a sponge instead. Just a plain old kitchen sponge. Make sure the sponge is new and has not been treated with chemicals or dyes. Cut it to size.

    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 12, 2018
  3. emmysjjWell Known MemberMember

    Hi and welcome to fishlore.

    I sorry to hear about your betta :(

    I will recommend a bacterial starter, like Tetra Safestart.

    It isn’t nessasarily slower, but it is hard to keep your parameters in check.

  4. bettastoryNew MemberMember

    I wonder if I am being too conservative with the fish food. You'd think I'd have measureable levels of ammonia by now.

    No problem! I am pretty posty myself. Thanks for the tip!!

    Okay! Thank you :) I will try the Safe Start.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 12, 2018
  5. IHaveADogTooWell Known MemberMember

    If you don't have measurable levels of ammonia yet then you're not adding enough fish food. Just go ahead and order the bottle of pure ammonia online. It's so much easier to control ammonia levels that way.
  6. bettastoryNew MemberMember

    Will do, it's annoying that there is basically nothing happening in this little tank!
  7. IHaveADogTooWell Known MemberMember

    If you take your time doing a really nice aquascape, getting a few pieces here and there like maybe some decorative rock one week and then some driftwood the next week and then some plants the next week, the cycle will be over before you know it. You might even be like "but I have so much more to do before I add fish" when it's done.
  8. bettastoryNew MemberMember

    Haha! I hope so. My kid wants a new fish PRONTO! Maybe he can help pick plants.
  9. Small TanksValued MemberMember

    Where is the Betta living right now? If he's just in a jar that's worse than him being in an uncycled tank that's at least bigger.
  10. bettastoryNew MemberMember

    I added the fish to our tank and he died after a couple of days. I don't think it was due to being in an uncycled tank because there is still no measurable ammonia or nitrites in there. He was already in poor health when we picked him up :(

    I wasn't in rescue mode so I didn't have a chance to try to diagnose or get meds or anything for him.
  11. IHaveADogTooWell Known MemberMember

    Classrooms generally take terrible care of fish. That poor betta may have been dying well before you got it.
  12. Small TanksValued MemberMember

    Well now you have a cycled tank. Time to get your son a fish!
  13. bettastoryNew MemberMember

    Yes, I think he was already on his way out. He was in a little bowl, maybe half a gallon, looked clean, but who knows if any cycling was going on. I was excited to give him an upgrade!!
  14. BloonStuffValued MemberMember

    I’m currently running a fishless cycle in a 5 gallon and started it using flakes. They end up really messy, so I definitely recommend using pure ammonia unless you are perhaps keeping the flakes in some netting or something. Plus I generally think the pure ammonia has quickened the process because I didn’t have to wait on something breaking down before producing ammonia. Even so, it took 3 weeks until nitrites began to show. It’s now a month to the day that I started my cycle and I’m still in the middle of it.

    In the mean time I’ve been enjoying scaping my tank and also an accidental baby boom of bladder snails. Lol.
  15. BettaFishKeeper4302Well Known MemberMember

    You are right. I had a Paradise male betta that did the same thing. Nose down in gravel. It happens. Your doing great! Dont't be afraid to get another as they are an amazing hardy first fish. Pretty to.
  16. bettastoryNew MemberMember

    Awesome! I went ahead and ordered some ammomia :) 3 weeks for nitrites to show up?? Gah!

    I have thought about grabbing a snail or two, but my mom just told me that one can become many very quickly!! I wasn't aware of that!

    I'm sorry you lost one that way too :(
    And oh, I'm not afraid! I'm very excited to have a fish in my life again. It's been about 5 years since I last had a betta buddy.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 13, 2018
  17. Discus-TangWell Known MemberMember

    One thing I recommend.

    If possible, get a 5 gallon (pretty easy and cheap) for your new betta. This will give him/her tons more room, and you will be able to keep the parameters under control. You can also transfer your filter media so you don't lose your cycle.
  18. Dch48Well Known MemberMember

    I cycled my 3.5 gallon with the Betta in it from day one. It took about 5 weeks for the cycle to completely finish. The fish never showed any signs of distress. Not recommending anything, just relating my experience. Of course you have to start with a young healthy fish.

    You can get a Nerite snail or a Mystery snail and they will not reproduce.
  19. SegiDreamWell Known MemberMember

    A Nerite snail would be better for that size tank than a mystery snail. Nerites do not reproduce in freshwater even though they lay eggs. Mystery snails are cute little mini monsters, producing lots of waste and roaming quite a bit so 3g is too small long term especially if you are adding a betta who may not like them on their turf. Mystery snails can reproduce, I think they're like livebearers IE they can still produce eggs long after the male is gone though I could be wrong? They lay eggs above the water line so if you don't want babies you have to remove the clutch.
  20. IHaveADogTooWell Known MemberMember

    I agree with @SegiDream - if you want a snail for that tank, get a Nerite snail. I have one in my big tank. Just one. They'll lay eggs, even in freshwater, but the eggs won't hatch. They need brackish or salt water to actually reproduce.

    This only applies to Nerites. Other snails are indeed easily invasive.

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