Super-nervous betta owner-to-be! Tank stand, getting fish home...

  1. FishtailBraid Member Member

    Hi everyone!

    I'm planning on getting a betta but I'm pretty nervous about it because I had goldfish before and they died pretty quickly (probably because the pet shop guy said it would be okay to keep three goldfish in like a 20 litre tank).

    I did a lot of research on bettas and have so far based my purchases on the RSPCA's guide. I currently have

    - a 15-litre tank*
    - heater
    - filter with adjustable flow
    - thermometer
    - pH test/adjustment kit
    - a fake-hollow-log decoration (no sharp edges)

    As far as I can tell, I also need to get an ammonia/nitrate/nitrite test kit, gravel, water ager, substrate, food, gravel vacuum, plants, and the fish! Is there anything I've forgotten?

    *This is the minimum the RSPCA recommends so I've ensured that both the filter and heater are suitable for slightly larger tanks in case I upgrade later.

    I also have some specific questions I can't find answers to

    Is it okay to not have substrate?
    Weirdly, the thing I'm most nervous about at this point is the whole gravel-vacuuming thing; I feel like I won't be able to do it properly and waste will build up. Is it okay to not have substrate (at least to begin with). I mean, does the fish itself actually need substrate or is it just an aesthetic thing? I love the look of gravel in the bottom of a tank but I was wondering whether it'd be okay to start off without it, just get used to the whole feeding/water changing thing, and add gravel later?

    Transporting the fish home
    I live (well, go to college, see below) in a regional city and I have basically two choices of fish shop. #1 is about 50km from where I live; they keep their bettas in a filtered, divided tank and I would probably be able to get a lift with someone so I could take the betta home in a car. It'd probably be about an hour door-to-door. #2 is an aquarium store I've found on the Internet, but haven't visited. It's much closer to home but I'd have to get a bus and walk a bit from the bus stop to home; it'd probably be 40 door-to-door. I feel like being carried/lifted a lot would be really stressful for the fish. Which do you think would be better? Either way, would it be beneficial to transport the fish's bag in an insulated bag, to protect against sudden light/temperature changes during transport?

    Putting the tank on a desk
    I'm in a college room so there's a bit of a space constraint. Is there anything bad about putting a tank on a desk? The desk can support a 15L tank, as it's a huge sturdy table and I actually stand on it to reach the bookshelves above! But I know it's bad to tap on a fish tank and I'm it might be the same issue with the table jiggling when I write/type. It is a big, heavy, sturdy desk with thick metal legs, so I don't notice any shaking myself at all, but would the fish be disturbed by vibrations?

    Cycling the tank
    People don't often discuss cycling betta tanks so I was wondering how to do this?

    Measuring out water ager
    So the water ager I'm going to buy says it's 5mL per 20L, which means that for my tank I'll need just under 4mL when I initially fill it. But if I replace say 2L of water in my water change, does that mean I should put 0.5mL of water ager into the new water before I put it into the tank, rather than dosing the whole tank with another 3.5mL?

    What is best to do if I go away for 1-2 nights?
    Should I just not feed the betta while I'm away, or leave one of those weekend feeding blocks in the tank? I usually go visit my parents one night a week.

    Sorry for all these somewhat weird questions! I can't find the answers to them online!
     
  2. Watermark Member Member

    Hi there soon to be Betta parent! These are not weird questions at all...thanks for asking and not experimenting with your new baby! A 15L is on the small end, and is really quite difficult to cycle and maintain. Of course it can be done, but as you are a newbie, and owning a Betta to boot....I personally would just not bother with a filter that will likely create a current that is too strong for a Betta, and instead do without said filter in lieu of dedicating a 100% weekly water change. You are fortunate to start with such a hardy species, but you will still need to make sure that there are no drastic temperature changes in the old/new tank water. This will be doubly easy in a tank with no substrate. You are correct that for the most part (especially in a tank this small) that the substrate is a matter of aesthetics. I had a 5 gallon Betta tank on my desk, and my boy raced to the front every morning Monday through Friday. He was not fed on the weekend, but was more than compensated during the week; water changes were Fridays. And your boy will become attached to you and recognize you; gentle tapping will not frighten him and may in fact be a time where he knows he will be fed or played with.
     

  3. Jomolager Well Known Member Member

    Welcome to FishLore! I am glad you are getting a Betta. I have one too. My Betta has bare bottom tank, no substrate, but he has a tall live plant anchored inside a pot with Flourite. He sleeps on the top leaves. He also has a tunnel, a PVC joint that he likes to swim through and a few more plants, some floating.

    I find the best way to transport my fish home from LFS is by car. I put the bag with fish inside a small cooler, and I put lots of towels as padding, so the bag does not roll over over the place.

    If your desk can support your tank it is a good place for it, just make sure it does not get direct sunlight, you don't want to deal with algae.

    Many people on this website use Prime, it is a dechlorinater. You should read about the Nitrogen cycle and decide how you want to cycle, with or without fish.

    From what I read on this Forum many people who cycle with Bettas using TSS, end up with their Bettas getting Fin Rot. You don't want Fin Rot. Cycling without fish can take considerably longer, but, as you will find out soon enough successful fish keepers go slow, patience is essential.

    Before you go away for a weekend, do a large water change and don't feed your Betta more than usual, he will be fine when you get back. He would rather be hungry than stressed by ammonia.

    Make sure you don't overfeed him. Mine gets seven pellets a day, 4 in the morning, three at night. 6 days a week. On Sundays he fasts. Speaking of Betta food, buy the smallest jar of the best kind you can find. Those tiny jars last eternity, and you want to make sure you get the kind that is the best for your pet. Good luck.
     
  4. FiscCyning Member Member

    Welcome to Fishlore and great job researching everything before bringing your betta home! You're going to be an awesome betta parent :)

    Keeping the tank on a desk is just fine. I have done so before and the betta was perfectly happy. He will really enjoy getting to be near you so much while you're working at your desk since bettas definitely bond with their humans and love attention.

    You also will be perfectly fine without substrate (gravel) in the tank and this can even make cleaning easier. With a bare bottom tank you can get a turkey baster to suck out gunk as you see it (not necessary but can help your water stay cleaner between water changes).

    For the water test kit I'd recommend the API freshwater master test kit if you can get it. It's more accurate than the dip stick tests and ends up being more cost effective in the long run.

    As far as leaving him for 1-2 days I wouldn't use a vacation feeder block. Just feed him normally before you leave and let him have a little fast while you're gone. Going without food for a few days will be no problem for him at all.

    I would recommend using the filter. If the flow is too strong you can baffle it with a bit of filter floss or sponge. To learn about the nitrogen cycle you can click the blue link in the previous post. There is also good information on fishless cycling (which is the most humane way to cycle) in Fishlore's free ebook: https://www.fishlore.com/freshwater-aquarium-book.htm

    Good luck and feel free to ask any questions you have. You'll love your little betta. They're just so personable.
     

  5. claireputput Well Known Member Member

    Hi and welcome.
    The tank you are getting is a 15l that converts to a 3 gallon (US) and is on the small side for a betta but can work.
    IMO, substrate is simply for aesthetic reasons.
    The desk will be fine and was already stated, make sure it is not in direct sunlight.
    The trip is not really a big deal-either way traveling with your betta will work. However, I would probably let the store know that you have a trip to get it home and they will probably bag it to be more protected.
    The nitrogen cycle can still be done in a small tank-this could take several weeks and the words should highlight in this sentence. Cycling a small tank is the same as any size tank-betta or not.
    You will want to add the water conditioner for the amount of water you are replacing.
    Lastly, if you leave for a couple of days, do a water change before you go and when you get back, feed your betta as he/she will be hungry.
    Good Luck!
     
  6. _Fried_Bettas_ Well Known Member Member

    Welcome to Fishlore

    For the most part you sound fairly well prepared.

    15 liter tank is just fine. You definitely want to run a filter but it should not make much current around the tank. If it moves the betta around you will want to baffle it, or buy a different filter, like a sponge filter, which is ideal for a betta in that size of tank.

    Check your pH by all means, but do not try to change it. Almost any pH in a municipal water supply. is just fine. Bettas adapt to most any pH. If you water had some really bizarre pH like below 6 or above 8.4 the solution would be to use different water, not play around with things like pH up. No fish can handle constantly changing pH and that is what would happen if you tried to adjust the pH in such a small tank.

    There is no problem with a bare bottom tank, they just get nasty looking really quick. I suggest instead getting some round pebbles of some sort, just enough to cover the bottom, it will be easy to keep that clean.

    Do not worry about the transporting of the fish, I ship them across the country in a box, he can handle an adventure through public transit.

    Bettas are not like most other fish. Where most kinds of fish are sorta wild natured and are scared by non-wild type environments and noises; bettas are domesticated and actually thrive on the stimulation of things going on around them. I have bettas on my desk, kitchen counter, and everywhere else in my house. The ones where I spend more time seem happier for having the more interesting environment. Tapping on my betta tank brings them to the surface because I have them trained to associate that with feeding time.

    I had to google "water ager" as that is not a word used in the US. We just call it water conditioner, but you just want to treat the new water going into the tank.

    Bettas and other fish can go a long time with no adverse effects from fasting. I would not worry about missing meals unless it was greater than 5 days. Just feed him around 4-8 pellets a day, and avoid more than 4-5 pellets at once, their stomach is very small. If they are bigger pellets (>1mm) cut these numbers in half.

    The number one way people kill their bettas is by overfeeding. They get constipated, bloated, or the water gets foul.

    I suggest you use the product Tetra Safe Start to cycle the tank, you add it at the same time as the fish.
     
  7. Rivieraneo Moderator Moderator Member

    Great advice so far!! I've moved your thread to the betta section of the forum.
     

  8. FishtailBraid Member Member

    Thanks Watermark, Jomolager, FishCyning, claireputput and _Fried_Bettas_!

    I will put the tank on the desk top then! Sounds like my betta and I will have fun studying "together"! :D

    The filter I bought has adjustable flow so I'll try it on the lowest setting and if that's still too strong, I'll try some of the other tips.

    _Fried_Bettas_, should I still use Tetra Safe Start in the tank after doing a fishless cycle? Also, I read somewhere that the amount of ammonia you should use in a cycle varies according to the number of fish you want to have. How much should I use to prepare the filter for a betta?

    Also, it's thinking ahead but probably worth mentioning: when I take my betta home for the summer/winter break, I'm thinking I will remove 20% of the water to transport it (to avoid spillage/make the tank slightly lighter to carry), then replace that water when I get home. Is that okay? Is there anything specific I should do since my home water supply is a different dam to the one at college, or will it be okay since it's not a complete water change?

    ETA: Oh, thanks Rivieraneo! I didn't realise there was a specific section for bettas.
     
  9. _Fried_Bettas_ Well Known Member Member

    Fishless cycle and TTS are two different solutions to the same problem; do one or the other but not both that would be counterproductive.

    When you are moving the betta to a different water source, you want to do it gradually. 20% at a time would not be any shock to him. Remember to acclimate him when you first bring him home. The best method is drip acclimation. That is where you place the betta in a temporary container and drip the new water in there slowly.

    The way I drip acclimate is I place the betta in a small container (such as the betta cup they have him in at the store) with just a little bit of the old water. Place the container in the bottom of a bucket with a little water in it. This is in case he is adventurous and jumps out of the container.

    Take a piece of standard air line hose and tie a loose knot in it. Start a siphon through the air hose from a bucket with your new water (dechlorinated). Tighten the knot until there is about 1-2 drops a second and start filling up the bettas container. When it starts to get full, pour most of it out and continue to drip. By the time it fills up the second time he should be acclimated and you can be moved to the new tank. This may take about an hour, but it is the most shockfree way to acclimate your betta.
     
  10. FishtailBraid Member Member

    I will try the drip thing! So, the way I see it, what I have to do now is:

    1. Buy the aforementioned things (gravel vacuum etc) between now and when college goes back.
    2. Set up the tank with the plants, heater and filter to make sure those are okay
    3. Either do a fishless cycle, or do the TTS (or local equivalent product).
    4. Acclimate the fish - since there's not a quarantine concern as it's only one fish, do I need to worry excessively about getting the "old" water into my tank?

    Eek I'm getting excited! Thanks everyone!
     

  11. _Fried_Bettas_ Well Known Member Member

    I would not stick dirty store water into my tank. It is a total unknown. The water could be tainted with disease and your betta's immune system has simply protected him, so far! In fact it is a good habit not to cross contaminate water from one tank to another, even if they are both yours.
     
  12. FishtailBraid Member Member

    Okay, thanks! I think I will do the bucket method or the drip method. Not sure if my betta will come in a jar or a bag - I've discussed it with the shop 50km from home and they said they can do an extra-big bag with lots of air and water for the long journey, though they usually put the bettas in a sort of plastic jar as far as I can tell (in the store they keep them in a big divided tank, but they scoop them into a jar for the customer to take home).

    Oh, yet another question! Do I need to test for nitrate? Or if ammonia and nitrite are zero, can I assume nitrate is okay as long as I'm doing water changes?
     
  13. Jomolager Well Known Member Member

    Yes, you do need to test for nitrate, and no, you can't assume that nitrates are OK if your ammonia and nitrites are 0.

    A good thing to do is to test your tap water periodically. Take a clean jar. Pour in water from your faucet. Wait 24 hours. Test with API, if that is what you have.
     
  14. FishtailBraid Member Member

    Okay, will do! :)

    About the water changes, someone above suggested that larger quantity water changes might be needed due to the relatively small tank size. Would it be possible/better to do a normal water change, but more frequently, e.g. 15% twice a week?

    Also, re: fishless cycling, is it really possible to use fish food for that rather than pure ammonia? I'm kind of worried about where I'd buy pure ammonia and how I'd dispose of the excess (I'm assuming the bin or sink would be a no-no). Or does anyone have opinions on fishless cycling vs. using a product like Tetra Safe Start?
     
  15. _Fried_Bettas_ Well Known Member Member

    You can experiment with the frequency and size of the water changes to find something that works. As long as you are keeping 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and less than 40 nitrate (better closer to 20). I will say that 15% does not do much, I wouldn't even bother with anything less than 25%. If you have 50 ppm nitrate and you do a water change of 15%, you still have 42.5 ppm, you did not put much a dent in it and still have too much.

    I have always done fishless cycles with fish food (before I had many tanks and could take filter media from an old one to start a new one). I have never used TSS, I recommended it because of endless number of success stories with it here on the forum, it is probably the most idiot-proof way to go. But if you do a fishless cycle with food, I suggest using a food that will sink, and place it on the bottom of a coffee mug or similar so that you don't have the mess floating all around your aquarium.
     
  16. Jomolager Well Known Member Member

    Your tank is so small and you are so young, frequent larger water changers would certainly not as difficult for you as for an octogenarian with a 125G tank.

    I have no idea what you consider a "normal water change." I have very high nitrates in my tab water and I do frequent WC, 50% - 80% changes in all four of my tanks. That is my normal.

    You are asking about fishless cycle, as far as I know, almost everything is possible, I recall reading a post about cycling with urine. I guess it worked. Would I do it? No! Should you do it? Your call :)

    I have cycled my tanks with and without fish. I searched all over the place for pure ammonia and as I was about to give up found it in my super market. It had no brand name, no additives, no smell, and no bubbles when shaken.

    You can also get Dr Tim's "Ammonium Chloride Solution for Fishless Cycling". I got it for around $2 in the anticipation of the current dollar a gallon tank sale at PETCO. I have not used it yet. I will post a link when I am done with this post.

    I have used TSS a number of times, I a great fan of it, with one exception: in my experience, and in reading quite a few posts, Bettas used in cycling with TSS end up with Fin Rot. You don't want your Betta to have Fin Rot. Trust me on that one:)

    Good luck!
     
  17. FishtailBraid Member Member

    Thanks _Fried_Bettas_ and Jomolager!

    I'll do a fishless cycle with fish food then! I can't wait till college goes back so I can get started on all this!

    Should I heat the tank for the fishless cycle, or not put the heater on until it's cycled and I'm preparing for the fish?

    Advice on the stuff I've bought is "frequent 10-15% water changes" but yes, that doesn't seem like much so I'll probably do more.
     
  18. EachUisge Initiate Member

    I always have my heater set up from the moment I get it filled, that way you can have everything ready for your fish, you'll know ahead of time the heater is operational, and you'll only have to worry about acclimating once your new baby is home rather than still fiddling with the temperature. The higher temp won't hurt your cycle at all, it would actually be best since bacteria are living organisms too and sudden environment changes can affect it.