Saddest betta at petstore to thriving little dude: a cautionary tale

Bettagetouttahere

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I wanted to share our progress with our new bud, Phillip. We have been on lockdown and only going out for necessities, and while picking up cat-food I impulse bought a betta and a 3 gallon tank. I intentionally picked out the saddest, sicking looking betta there because I felt so bad for him. I knew a little bit already about keeping bettas because I have an acquaintance who rescues bettas (although I didn't know near as much as I thought I did!) so I bought a heater, water conditioner and a filter to go along with the tank.
Once I got home and set up Phillip's home, I started doing more research and very quickly realized that I was in way over my head, had no idea what a nitrogen cycle was, and that while a 3-gallon isn't terrible for a betta that it might not be quite enough for him. I also discovered that I actually really love keeping an aquarium, and wanted to have more options than a 3-gallon allows for. Most importantly, I felt super attached to Phillip and felt terrible that I hadn't done things the right way.

Cue me running in a panic to an actual aquarium store, pestering the staff with a million questions and upgrading to a 20-gallon tank and learning as much as I could about fish-in cycling.

This is one month later - daily testing and daily 20% water changes as well as adding bacteria starter as directed has helped my sad, fin-rotted Phillip grow into a much more healthy-looking betta. I think we are finally out of the woods after a dicey fish-in cycle (the plants and mossballs seem to be helping a lot) and we will be waiting for at least another month before adding any new fishies friends (maybe 6-10 neon tetras?). Phillip's fin rot isn't totally cleared up yet, but I can't believe how much better he is looking. He is incredibly active and curious and very responsive to my voice. Right now, he is a lucky boy having a 20-gallon all to himself, but if we do add more fish, it'll be slowly, carefully and with the awareness that we may need to return fish back to the store if community-living isn't for the big P.

Here is what I learned: impulse buying any pet is incredibly stupid and expensive - no one should ever do it. I had to upgrade all my stuff in a hurry and wasn't able to buy second-hand. Thankfully we can use the 3-gallon as a quarantine tank so that wasn't a total loss, but still. I feel so stupid, but I wanted to share this story because I'm so glad that he is starting to look healthier. I learned so much from this forum and I'm grateful for everyone who takes the time to educate newbie aquarium-keepers.
 

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Livebearer08

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Welcome! Also I think neons are only nippy if they are in small numbers. I think with a 20 gallon and just one other fish, you could get enough where they will be very peaceful.
 
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Bettagetouttahere

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It's hard to say about the neons! I feel like everything I read online is immediately contradicted, haha! We will take it very slowly no matter what buddies are introduced to Phillip's tank. I've been playing around with the tank stocking calculator a bit for the last month my *ideal* would be some kuhli loaches but I don't want to disturb the gravel and replace it with sand in the near future since the tank is so newly-cycled. Honestly, I'm pretty jumpy and paranoid about this aquarium as a whole and anything I can do to keep it and Phillip healthy I am going to do. I really appreciate the comments! It has been a stressful month for a first-time aquarist. <3
 

Fisheye

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Would you consider shrimp, or snails instead of fish? Mystery snails are really very cool and so fun to watch. Getting fish, putting them in with Phillip and then possibly having to return them sounds like a lot to me. You've come this far getting him healthy and schools of fish might just stress him out.

If you really want more fish then it would be really great to have lots of plants for them to hide in. Phillip will love napping in them too.
 
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Bettagetouttahere

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Fisheye said:
Would you consider shrimp, or snails instead of fish? Mystery snails are really very cool and so fun to watch. Getting fish, putting them in with Phillip and then possibly having to return them sounds like a lot to me. You've come this far getting him healthy and schools of fish might just stress him out.

If you really want more fish then it would be really great to have lots of plants for them to hide in. Phillip will love napping in them too.
Snails sound great! They are so cute. I don't think I could do shrimp, only because I would be terrified every time that I used the siphon that I would suck them up, but then again: a month ago I didn't think I would have a fishtank, so really who knows? Thanks for the suggestions!
 

Livebearer08

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Harlequin rasboras would look great! They are a schooling fish and naturally live with Berta’s in the wild. Just make sure that when you put a new fish in, you take your betta out of the tank, redecorate the tank, put the new fish in, and then put Phillip back in.
 

LightBrownPillow

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Good job on the rescue & getting Phillip into a great home! Sorry it was a financial panic, but yeah keeping fish without planning ahead is not cheap. Hope this is the start of years of enjoyment for you!
 

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