Lots of Questions!

Discussion in 'Freshwater Beginners' started by mmd, Jun 13, 2016.

  1. mmdNew MemberMember


    I've been trying to find answers online but it seems these days everyone has a different answer so I finally decided to join the forum!

    I have a male betta fish whom I got in memory of my nephew who passed away in January so it is very important to me that I make sure I am taking the best possible care of this fish.

    I did do my research prio to getting my little fish.

    I puchased this 5 gallon aquarium kit from Petsmart:

    (   )

    Even on its lowest setting the filter was a tad strong but when I angled it upward it created a nice trickle into the tank that is perfect for my fish.

    And I purchased a heater. I don't recall exactly which one or how many watts it is but I was sure to do my research on that as well. It consistently keeps my tank at 78*F.

    Now onto my questions:

    Currently my tank produces a LOT of algae because it is next to my bedroom window that doesn't have curtains up. I hope to get curtains up soon. I've been doing 50% water changes every 2-3 weeks. I was wondering if I'm doing to large of water changes too infrequently? Is there a difference in doing 50% every 2-3 weeks and 15-20% weekly?

    Also, I wipe the algae off the sides with paper towels when I do my water changes but it seems useless. There is always some algae left. I'm pretty sure it would be bad to do a complete water change but I want the opinion of someone who knows better than me. Is this a bad idea? Also, if complete water changes are bad, can I take out half or so of the gravel and thoroughly rinse it? I feel as if it may be stressful to my fish to do this, but the gravel is really gross. I know the bacteria in the gravel is healthy so that's why I was thinking only half.

    Next, I feel extremely bad about this but there is nothing but gravel in my tank. Originally I had this log from petsmart:

    (   )

    and two live plants (a sword plant and an anubias) but the paint on the log began to decay and flake off and I feared it would be toxic so I quickly removed it. I thought I knew how to take care of live plants but the leaves were turning brown and dying. So I threw them out.

    So my questions are: Are there any quality videos or links that are useful for how to plant the betta tank. I know they need lots of hiding places, but many of the ornaments are very expensive. Can I do some silk plants and live plants? And what could I have done wrong and how can I better care for live plants?

    Thirdly, my fish had some jagged fins due to fin rot. I had hoped that his fins would naturally heal once I got him out of that awful cup and into a nice large, warm tank. His fins have improved, but its been 5-6 months and his fins are still tarnished. My uncle who knows quite about fish said frequent water changes will help. Will it? The fin rot medicine is very expensive and I don't want to spend the money if it won't work. Is it worth the investment?

    And lastly, my fish flares A LOT. I know its stressful for them and its bad if he is flaring all the time. I had thought that he was seeing his reflection so I tapped a piece of paper to one of the sides yet he still does it. He is pretty sassy too. He will swim to me when I'm near the tank as if to ask me to feed him (he eats a lot, about 5 pellets twice daily) and flares at me then, especially when I put my face close to him. But when I observe him from far away, out of his sight, he swims back and forth by the walls of the tank flaring, even where I put the paper up. I have noticed he tends to build bubble nests (usually) when he does this. Is this just him being territorial? I heard that putting lots of plants and toys in there for him will distract him and make him stop flaring. Is this true?

    I'm sorry for all my long questions. I hope I provided enough detail that someone can provide me with useful answers. It is very important to me that my little guy lives a long life.

    I've worked very hard and I believe his tank is a solid home for him. All I need is to fix these small problems. I want him to make him as happy as possible.

    Thank you so much.

  2. BithimalaFishlore VIPMember

    Welcome to the forum!

    I would do the water change weekly, even if you do less each time. There is beneficial stuff in the water that will help keep your betta healthy. With the fin rot, I would actually up that to every few days until he heals up more. I am personally in the process of trying to heal a good bit on my betta, and running 2 30% and 1 50% changes per week. Yes, the cleaner the water, the better he will be able to heal.

    Are you using a gravel vac to do your water changes? If not, I would suggest picking one up. That way you can clean a section of the gravel with each change. I have done a few full tank cleans, and if you decide that needs to be done, it certainly can be.

    Pulling out the log was definitely the right way to go. Swords do much better with root tabs for nutrients. Anubias needs to not have the rhizome planted. Once you figure out which plants you like, we can definitely help you figure out the proper care for them. Yes, you can definitely do silk and live plants. Try to stay away from the plastic, since those can have rough edges that may damage the fins.

    Adding more decorations in the tank should definitely help with the flaring and help reduce his stress level.

    How long are your lights on. Reducing the lighting can certainly reduce algae growth. As you mentioned, curtains are an option, or even just setting up a notebook against that side of the tank.

    What's his name?
    Aquaphobia Flowingfins anything I missed?

  3. CindiLFishlore LegendMember

    Hi, welcome to fishlore :;hi1

    I will try and answer all your questions. So nice of you to get a betta fish in memory of someone!

    So far your 5g tank is good, and 78 degrees are also great for your betta.

    Is there a light on in your tank or just the windows? A 50% weekly is what I do and what I would recommend you do on a 5g tank. Are you vacuuming the gravel when you do your water changes? Make sure you are. It is fine to do up to a 90% water change IF your ph is similar between your tap and tank, and you match the temperature within a couple degrees. I used to routinely take the water down to my betta's dorsal fin when I had a 4g tank (which was really only about 3g max).

    Fin rot is best treated with large frequent water changes and personally I think a very small amount of salt (no additives, like aquarium salt) helps heal the fins. When I say small amount I am thinking about 1 tsp dissolved in some tank water per every 2 gallons). This aids in healing. After a week to ten days as fins improve you simply remove the salt with water changes.

    Plants like anubias and swords are easy to grow with natural light or a light fixture and will help the algae issue. They usually do need a little fertilizer once a week like Seachem Flourish. Anubias have to have their rhizomes up and out of the substrate or they will die. Silk plants though are fine too and bettas do like hiding spots.

    Male bettas build bubble nests, this is a normal and I think healthy behavior so don't worry about that at all! Flaring is also normal. Sounds like he knows to come to you for food and he likes food so all that is fine. 5 pellets twice a day seems like a bit much though. I would try a few pellets in the morning and if you can pick up some frozen blood worms, they absolutely love them, maybe feed those at night?

    Seems like you're doing everything pretty right by him.

    What is your ammonia, nitrite, nitrates and ph in your tap and tank? Do you have a test kit?

    What is your water conditioner?

  4. AquaphobiaFishlore LegendMember

    I agree with all of the above! I'll just add that doing more frequent water changes will help to prevent large swings in tank parameters. You want to keep them as stable as possible as well as clean. This will help his fins to heal as well. There is seldom any need to medicate for fin rot.

    As for plants it's possible that the ones you had weren't actually dying but were melting in response to the new environmental conditions in preparation for growing new leaves better adjusted to the new tank.

    Last edited: Jun 14, 2016
  5. jdhefModeratorModerator Member

    Welcome to FishLore!

    I see from your aquarium info that you are not aware of the nitrogen cycle (words will be link to article explaining it). I highly recommend you read up on and fully understand it, since it is the most important thing to understand when keeping fish. Of course if after reading up on it, you still have questions, feel free to ask them.

    Best of luck!
  6. mmdNew MemberMember

    Ok Thank you guys for the help!

    To answer your questions:
    1. I do have a gravel vac sort of. My family owns 2 african cichlids (idk if thats how its spelled) and I use the gravel vac we have for them. But it's way to big for my tank and removes 50% of the water before I have a chance to thoroughly clean the gravel. SO I'm assuming a smaller one that is meant for my five gallon will solve that problem.

    2. I've heard of the nitrogen cycle but it always confused me how it exactly works. I did let my tank run for a week or so before I got my fish because that's pretty much the gist of what I understood. I don't have a test kit but I'm sure I can get one soon. Basically I need there to be no ammonia or nitrites, and I do want nitrate?

    3. I have freeze dried blood worms and I think now I will feed him less. This morning I gave him 2 pellets and a worm. A question for you: is there any certain brand of pellets that is good? Are there any kind that are bad?

    4. The tank came with an LED light bar. I keep it on from when I wake up to when I go to bed, which is roughly 15 hours a day.

    5. The water conditioner I use is the Top Fin water conditioner.

    6. My fishy's name is MJ:D He is a good boy.

    Now a few more questions from me, again, thank you all so much for taking the time to help me.

    When I do a 50% water change is it super important to check the pH? Also, if I get a pH test kit, and the pH's are not similar, how do I fix that? Is there something I can add to the new conditioned tap water to get its pH close to the tank?

    And when I do water changes I fill up my bucket of new water, place it next to the tank, unplug the heater/filter etc. and let them sit for a while. I do this so that they both become room temperature and stay close to the same temp, but could the change of temp in the tank cause him stress? I imagine that it does.

    And lastly, I may stick to silk plants for now until I can afford everything that is needed to care for the live plants, but which plants do you guys recommend for a beginner? Also, is the LED light on my tank able to sustain the plants? Or do they need a different light?

    Thank you all again. Your help means so much.
  7. AquaphobiaFishlore LegendMember

    1. Yes, a smaller gravel vac will be easier to use.

    2. Well, in a cycled tank you'll probably have nitrates, but in some cases it is possible for there to be zero on that, too. Most likely you will have nitrates because the bacteria that you want growing in your filter will eat the ammonia and turn it into nitrites, then other bacteria will eat the nitrites and turn that into nitrates. Then you do water changes to lower those. Too high and your fish will suffer.

    3. There are lots of brands of fish food out there and some are better than others. Omega One is a good brand, as is New Life Spectrum, Nutrafin isn't bad. If you're not sure just ask here:)

    4. That's probably the reason you have algae. 15 hours is a long time. Try turning on your light in the morning then off when you're out and turn it back on in the evening. Maybe 3-4 hours at a stretch.

    5. The water conditioner I use is the Top Fin water conditioner.

    6. Cute:)

    When I do a 50% water change is it super important to check the pH? Also, if I get a   kit, and the pH's are not similar, how do I fix that? Is there something I can add to the new conditioned tap water to get its pH close to the tank?

    It's a good idea to keep an eye on your tap pH and your tank pH and if there is a difference then you may need to let a bucket of water sit out overnight with an aerator. That's only one way to alter pH though.

    And when I do water changes I fill up my bucket of new water, place it next to the tank, unplug the heater/filter etc. and let them sit for a while. I do this so that they both become room temperature and stay close to the same temp, but could the change of temp in the tank cause him stress? I imagine that it does.

    That could absolutely cause stress! Just unplug the electrical stuff and go ahead and do your change, don't wait for things to cool down. All you're wanting to prevent is the heater coming on or any electricity leaks electrocuting you when your hands are in the water;)

    Do you have any specs on your light? The easiest plants to grow IME are Anubias and Java Ferns, both are extremely tough and can take anything you throw at it;)

    Thank you all again. Your help means so much.

    You're welcome:)
  8. CindiLFishlore LegendMember

    We just want to make sure your tap and tank ph are with .4-.5 of each other so as not to cause shock when doing 50% water changes. Its good to know your ph either way.

    I agree that letting them both come to room temperature is not a good idea. You want to match the temperature of the new water to his tank. That will either mean you need to mix warm and cold to get it close to the 78 (which is fine) or use a heater and get the bucket of new water up to 78 if you're only using cold water tap.

    Top Fin is actually a decent brand of water conditioner because it takes care of chlorine, chloramines, heavy metals and ammonia that could result from the chloramine bond broken (if there are chloramines in your tap).

    Top Fin makes a small gravel vacuum with a ball to start the siphon that you pump. Its what I use in my 5g tank and works great. If you find your betta goes after it then you can always put a little mesh or a cut off piece from a lingerie bag and rubberband it around the end to inadvertently sucking him up in the tube.
  9. mmdNew MemberMember

    Ok so no more letting the temperature fluctuate.

    I get the whole nitrogen cycle now and I'll go get a test kit for those and for pH.

    I don't know the specs on my light and it doesn't say on the website. But I'll give the live plants another shot when I can afford the things that will keep them alive;)

    I just added 2 tsp of aquarium salt. I just did a 50% change on Sunday.
    I was thinking of trying a 100% water change. I have a little critter carrier thing that is like a tiny quarantine tank. I would put tank water in there, catch MJ with a cup, not a net, and put him in there while I clean the tank.

    Then, rinse my filter cartridge off in the tank water and out it back. I'm pretty sure the pipe for the filter is a bit clogged. Should I clean that also in the tank water with a pipe cleaner?

    Then I was going to just stir up the gravel so all the gross poo and stuff was floating in the tank water. Take a sample of tank water to check the pH, and then dump it all out.

    Try to match the pH of the tank water with the new water, condition it, make sure its the right temp, and fill the tank back up and let it cycle for a bit. Then add some more salt since it will be all gone.

    Then do 2x weekly 20% water changes until his fins are good.

    Does my plan sound ok or am I messing anything up?

    I also put a soft plastic plant in there for now. I'm hopefully getting a job soon and can buy some more hide aways and afford live plants. Is there possibly anything around the house I can use for him for now to hide in? He looks so exposed I feel awful.
  10. rubyswordValued MemberMember

    If you are looking for a cheap decoration, you could try making a coconut shell cave. i just made two(out of one coconut) and i like the way they turned out. you basically drain the coconut, cut it in half, take the meat out, cut a door, then boil it, changing the water when it turns brown, until the water runs clear.
  11. AquaphobiaFishlore LegendMember

    You don't need salt, I wouldn't bother with it. Do you have a gravel vac? Doing the water changes without removing MJ will save him a lot of stress. Also, stirring the gravel to get the debris into the water column is not really the best way to clean it.
  12. mmdNew MemberMember

    aww that's so cute! I will go get a coconut now;)
  13. mmdNew MemberMember

    Someone said earlier that salt helps promote them healing. I already had salt for when my oscars were sick and it helped a lot with them. It won't hurt to try it, right?

    I know full water changes are stressful but I think its in order. I obviously am not going to do them all the time. It's very very gross because I didn't do a good job with regular water changes and maintenance initially.

    But if you think it will be really bad, is it ok to do a 75-80% water change, still rinsing the cartridge in the old tank water and cleaning the filter pipes in them too? And using the gravel vac to clean the gravel?

    Also, once I get a job (hopefully) I was planning on going to this really good aquarium store near me. I was planning on getting some new gravel. Is there any proper way to change it out? Should I leave half the old stuff at first until the new stuff gets the bacteria too and then change out the other half?

  14. CindiLFishlore LegendMember

    I usually recommend taking out gravel over a week or so. Take out about 1/4 of it every couple days, this will keep you from having a cycle bump with ammonia or nitrite spikes. I usually leave my fish in when I add new sand which is what I like to use because of its softness and ease to clean. Most debris like poop will sit on top of the sand making it easy to vacuum up.

    I just rinse it really well, and use a container to gently lower and empty it into the bottom of the tank.
  15. BithimalaFishlore VIPMember

    Personally, I usually do the exact opposite and haven't had any issues. Fill bucket with tank water, move fish into bucket, change out everything at once. I think it's easier to do with smaller tanks, but if you're concerned about the cycle holding, might be better to do the smaller amounts at a time.
  16. CindiLFishlore LegendMember

    I learned the hard way once. I removed all of my substrate at once in a 40g at I had and ended up with a cycle bump that lasted weeks. I was so annoyed with myself. So better safe than sorry. Might be not as much an issue on the 5g, not sure.
  17. BithimalaFishlore VIPMember

    I think both have their merits. I usually try to do a full tank clean if I'm trading out substrate.
  18. mmdNew MemberMember

    OK So I did about 75% water change, added another soft plastic plant I found lying around, and added 1.5 tsp of dissolved aquarium salt into the tank (accounting for the fact that most of salt I added earlier was removed when I did the water change.

    I got a pH test kit but I'm pretty sure the water is off the scale of the kit. It shows up as 7.6 which is the highest the scale shows. The box says if it is off the scale it will register as 7.6. Is is bad that the water is 7.6 / higher? I also made sure my fresh water matched the old water in pH and temp. MJ seems happier :)
  19. AquaphobiaFishlore LegendMember

    Your pH is fine, it's pH fluctuations that are more dangerous.

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