Monday, November 26, 2007

Giving Your Betta up for Adoption

Con ustedes, Betta Splendens, originally uploaded by Xavi Calvo.

SJ wrote,

On impulse (and without my prior knowledge) my daughter purchased a male betta from a major pet store. He lived in a tiny bowl for awhile until I kind of took over and now he lives in a ten gallon tank with a couple of fake plants that he likes to hang out in. I have never had fish and we know virtually nothing about them. I did a little research online to be sure he was at least getting the proper care. We've had him for about 5 months now. She quickly lost interest in him and now he's kind of mine. I would like to find a good home for him with someone who appreciates him and can care for him better than I. I keep his tank clean and he gets feed twice a day. I think he's healthy, but he doesn't seem to have grown any. His tank his not heated and we keep the temp down in the house, so I'm sure his water temp is not ideal for him. I would greatly appreciate any resources you might have for finding fish homes. I am hesitant to give him away for free because I don't want him to go to someone who doesn't care about him and will use him for fighting or as a throw away pet, but if you know of someone who really cares for these fish and trust them, they can have everything. I just want to find a good home for him.

A:Thanks for writing in. I applaud you for looking for a new home for your Betta when you are no longer able to care for him. Too often people choose to ignore their fish until it succumbs or decide to euthanize a perfectly healthy fish without first attempting to find it a new home. There are lots of options available to you. First, you can always bring your fish to a local animal shelter. Most won’t turn any animal away and you will be surprised to find a variety of small pets there including fish, hamsters, mice, birds and reptiles. You can also call your local fish store and see if they will take him back. They probably won’t pay you for him but may take him back if he’s in good shape. Call first though because some may have policies in places baring them from taking your fish. Another option is to call or email your local fish club. You didn’t say where you live but there are fish clubs in nearly all major cities full of enthusiastic hobbyists who would be happy to help. Most clubs readily accept donations and will add your fish to their monthly auction. If they can’t do that they almost certainly could put you in touch with a club member who could adopt your fish from you. Start by going online and Googling your city and “freshwater fish club” or “tropical fish society” or some version of those terms. Another option is to sell your fish at an online fish auction like This site is very popular among serious fish keepers but you will need to register and learn how to properly ship a fish if yours is purchased. Yet another option is to place an ad online at a site like, an online fish club site like or your local town message board. I was able to find a home for many of my fish before I moved across the country by posting on my neighborhood’s online web forum. My neighbor, who had a large tank already, contacted me through the forum. One final option that you may find appealing is to donate your fish to your local elementary or middle school. Very often teachers will take them in and use them as a classroom pet and will often solicit help from their students in caring for them.

I hope you find one of these ideas useful and find a new home for your little Betta soon. Thanks so much for writing in.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Betta Bouncing Back From Ammonia Burns

Lovely the Fish, originally uploaded by steve xavier.

DO wrote,

I received a 1 gal. wall bowl w/ bamboo plant, few rocks and red male Betta in March as an anniversary gift from my husband. Up until 1.5 weeks ago he was active, had a routine, seemed happy and healthy. We went out of town for the weekend, I left him a sinkable disc food. It was his 1st time alone. After our return I immediately changed the water as it was very cloudy. His gills were protruding and he seemed to be gasping? After clean water he seemed to perk up, but didn't completely return to his old self. 4 days ago he stopped eating. I thought maybe he was cold so I place a light above him a few hours a night. He swims to it and hangs out where it is warm. Yesterday he did his morning "dancing" asking for breakfast, which I took as a good sign, but still won't eat. He doesn't seem to have ick, or any physical damage (besides gills). I am getting very concerned about him. My children keep asking about him. I change his water 1-2 times a week, boil/cool rocks in between as well as rinse off bamboo. His head does look a little gray but not fuzzy the last 2 days or so. Any advise would be great, thanks.

A: This is a classic case of ammonia poisoning with all the signs. Fish waste and decaying food are the primary sources for toxic ammonia. In such a small bowl ammonia can build to toxic levels in a very short amount of time (a few days under normal conditions) and that problem can be compounded by adding extra food or missing a water change.

Swollen gills and gasping are typical symptoms of ammonia burns. Unfortunately, these burns are slow to heal and often never fully return to normal function. When Bettas struggle to get oxygen they often experience secondary problems including loss of appetite, faded color or secondary infections. This is due to the added stress on the immune system.

Some steps you can take to increase your Betta's chance of recovery are keep up with frequent water changes, test for ammonia regularly using a simple ammonia test kit from your local fish store and supply your fish with an appropriately sized aquarium (3 - 5 gallons minimum). Aquarium salt can also be beneficial to
help relieve stress and increase gill function for fish who have experienced ammonia burns. The dosage is 1 tablespoon for every 5 gallons of water and remember that salt does not evaporate so don't continue to add salt to the bowl or it will reach unsafe concentrations.

The single best thing you can do to improve water quality and provide a stable home for your fish is to cycle an aquarium. The "nitrogen cycle" is a naturally occurring process that happens in an aquarium (and all bodies of water) where beneficial bacteria reproduce and grow and consume dangerous ammonia as it is being produced. Tank cycling is something that few fish keepers know about when the first buy their fish (unfortunately most fish stores don't educate their patrons) but eventually learn about the process once their fish begin to get sick. I put together a web page for new Betta keepers describing the process so they can easily cycle their first aquarium. Cycling a fish tank will help you combat future ammonia problems, will create a safer healthier environment for your fish and will save you time and money by reducing the frequency of water changes. To learn about the nitrogen cycle visit

This is a very common problem with new Betta keepers and I know your question will help many others experiencing the same problem. Good luck to you and I hope your fish will experience a full recover as soon as possible.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Betta Showing Stress After Aquarium Upgrade

abyss, originally uploaded by sanoi.

MD wrote,

First, I want to tell you how impressed I am with your website! Thank you so much for providing such a rich resource to betta enthusiasts! I am concerned about my betta fish, Nino. I have had him for three months and he has been a great companion in my study, where I spend most of my time. He was in a 5 gallon aquarium, with no filter and no heater, and was really thriving. As winter is approaching, I wanted to provide him with a heater and a filter to circulate water. Considering how active he was -- swimming back and forth through his tank most of the day -- I decided to switch him to a 10 gallon tank. I was as careful as possible in the transition -- I "seeded" the gravel from his old tank to his new environment + I mixed the new water with the water from his old tank and made sure it was the same temperature.

Since Nino moved to his new aquarium, he has been increasingly less active, and this morning, he remains still at the surface of the water most of the time. He still eats. I should specify that the temperature in his aquarium has been pretty steady at 74-76 F since I got him. I have put the heater and filter in place, but I have not started them yet (I thought I should first give Nino a chance to get used to his new tank for a few days). The filter (duetto mini) does contain a very small charcoal cartridge (could that contaminate the water if not in use?). I have been using spring water from the time I got Nino and have been doing weekly water change. I have tested his water yesterday and today (with API Master test kit) and the reading are good : ammonia between 0 and .25, nitrite: 0; nitrate: 5.0. The pH is high -- 8.0 -- but I have been using the same spring water, and noticed high readings in the past as well.

Nino looked perfectly healthy and happy before the transition and I feel pretty bad seeing him still, with very little reaction to stimuli and noticing his condition getting progressively worse since yesterday. I wonder if I should try to put him back in his smaller tank or if I should I make a water change?... I'm very confused and worried!

I would really appreciate your suggestions!

Moving into a new aquarium can be stressful at first even though it'll be better in the long run. It is not at all unusual for Bettas show signs of stress including sluggishness, loss of appetite or dull coloration for example. Fish are incredibly in-tuned with their environment and can detect even minor changes in water chemistry, especially pH.

You will want to be sure that the new tank doesn't have any soap or detergent residue, that the new water has the same parameters as the old (which you have done) and that any necessary water additives have been added. (Dechlorinator if necessary). If these precautions have been taken then it's likely your fish just needs some time to adjust.

Adding plants (real or silk) and hiding places will help your fish to feel more secure while he gets used to his new territory. Also many aquarists recommend keeping the lights off or surrounding the aquarium with a towel for a day or two to help your Betta feel safe and protected.

I agree that keeping the filter off while your Betta is showing signs of stress is a good idea. Just be careful not to overfeed him during this time and if you detect any ammonia or nitrite you will want to turn on that filter to keep these toxins at bay. Regarding your question about charcoal, I don't believe it is causing additional stress. Charcoal is generally safe for Bettas but if you are worried you could always remove the cartridge until you are ready to run the filter.

A ten gallon aquarium makes a great home for a Betta. Give it a few days at least to allow your fish to adjust. In most cases they will be back to normal within a week.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Common Diseases Bettas Bring Home from the Fish Store - Velvet Disease

betta femmina, originally uploaded by altiebassi.

Q: CSM wrote,

Hey there, I was wondering if I could trouble you with a quick question. Three days ago I purchased a betta. At the time, he appeared to be in good health, and when i brought him home, he swam in his new tank and ate all of his food. On the third day, he stopped eating and is hanging out at the top of his tank. His front fins appear "clamped" - they look like two little sticks. He is unreceptive to me - I gently tapped the side of his bowl and he did not move. Evey once in awhile he takes a big gulp of air. Other than that, he does not move. He is in a 1.5 gallon tank, the water was treated and left to stand 48 hours before his arrival. All the rocks and the fake plant are brand new and were cleaned before putting them in the tank.

It's not dropsy - yet anyway - no scales are sticking out. I fear he may have velvet - his stomach appears to be goldish. Unfortunately, because he is a new fish, I do not know if this is indeed velvet, or if the goldish stomach was there to begin with.

Perhaps parasites?


Any help would be much appreciated.

A: To answer your question, adjusting to a new aquarium can be very stressful for any fish. Very often the new water can be quite different from the water they were kept in previously and the adjustment can really take it's toll on the Betta's immune system. It's not unusual for fish to become ill within the first few weeks in their new home. To add to the problem, Bettas are often kept in less than ideal conditions while at the fish store and can leave with any number of illnesses of which Velvet is one of the more common ones. Here's more information about Velvet from

Velvet or Piscinoödinium or Oödinium pilularis is a parasitic infestation that is very common among both salt and freshwater fish. This parasite is opportunistic and is present in most commercial aquariums. When a fish is stressed due to temperature fluctuations, poor water quality or other stressors they become susceptible to the parasites. Velvet or Piscinoödinium or Oödinium pilularis is a parasitic infestation that is very common among both salt and freshwater fish. This parasite is opportunistic and is present in most commercial aquariums. When a fish is stressed due to temperature fluctuations, poor water quality or other stressors they become susceptible to the parasites.

Velvet is classified as a dinoflagellate. It is both a protozoan like the Ich parasites but contains Chlorophyll so it is also considered a type of algae. It survives by finding a stressed host and attaching itself mostly to the gill or fin tissue where it kills the cells and consumes the nutrients directly from the fish. If left untreated it often leads to death. Physically, Velvet looks like a gold, rust or yellow dust, finely sprinkled over the fish. In fact, it can be so difficult to see that often a flashlight is needed to reveal it. This shiny powder appearance has lead to many other names besides Velvet including Rust and Gold Dust Disease.

Besides seeing the parasites directly on your fish you may notice other symptoms including the telltale rubbing against rocks, gravel or other décor. This is common with external parasites and is an attempt by your fish to dislodge the pests from its body. As the disease develops, symptoms may worsen and include lethargy, loss of appetite, labored breathing and clamped fins.

Over a short time, the protozoa detach from their host and enter their free-swimming stage where they divide and multiply many times. This is when they are most vulnerable to medications but may not be obviously present in the tank. It is very important when medicating that you finish the entire course of treatment regardless of weather or not you still see the parasites present. Follow the directions on the medication package closely. Once the parasites multiply they must find a new host (or the same old one) within 24 hours to survive. Because of this life cycle it may appear that your fish has gotten better but really once the Piscinoödinium completes reproduction the worst is yet to come. Now many more protozoa are present in the water and waiting to attack your fish.

If diagnosed early, Velvet is fairly easy to treat. First, you should remove your betta and place him into a hospital tank away from any other fish. Oödinium is highly contagious and keeping the infected fish in a community tank can put others at risk. Make note, the medications for Velvet may be toxic to other species like some fish, snails, invertebrates and aquarium plants as well. Also, any filter media should be removed so as not to eliminate the medication from the water. Next, slowly raise the water temperature to 80˚F – 82˚F [26.6˚C – 27.7˚C]. Because you don’t want to further stress you fish, be sure to only increase the temperature by no more then 2˚F or 1˚C in a 24 hour period. A more rapid temperature fluctuation could cause additional harm. It’s recommended you use a commercial Velvet medication like Mardel’s CopperSafe® or Jungle’s Velvet Guard®. Reducing the amount of light getting into the tanks by keeping the hood lamp off and covering the tank may help to combat the parasites as well.

To prevent the Piscinoödinium parasites from infesting your tank there are some simple precautions all aquarists can tank. First, always quarantine new fish for 3 – 4 weeks before adding them to a community tank. Be sure to always test your water parameters regularly and keep tank water clean by performing frequent and regular water changes. Avoid stressors like temperature and pH fluctuations and provide a nutritionally balanced diet by offering a variety of live and frozen foods.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Betta Fish and Filter Current

IMG_4794, originally uploaded by Bassline Audio Visual.

Q: M wrote:

WOW I have to say that your website is quite the place to find the answers your looking for so thank you so much in helping people find the right answers to keep their wonderful fish alive and well! I was wonder now if you could help me...I bought a betta fish about a week ago and had him in a bowl at first then decided what kind of home is this I wouldnt want to live my life in some dumb fish bowl so then I decided to buy him a 2.5 gallon fish tank with filter and gravel and I have a fake plant in there for him I leave the light on from about 7:30pm till about 11:00pm plus all the sunlight he gets during the day is that okay to keep the light on that long I just dont like the idea of him being in the dark? Furthermore I was wondering the filter I got for him is 1 of those kinda cheap filters that has a high, medium and low speed I keep it on the low speed but it seems as if its not filtering at all barely any kind of stream coming out the top of the filter and the waters cloudy but then when I put it on medium power it filters great I dont want him to get sucked up into the filter though and I dont want him to be stressed to have to swim so hard Im just confused and depressed because I want him to have a great life for as long as he can. Any information would be so helpful and so appreciated please get back to me asap Loui's scaring me I dont want him to die! OH and incase you couldnt tell this is my first betta LOL :). ANother thing that I thought I'd throw in there since Im asking so many questions already is hes got filmy stuff on the top of his water and hes got build up on the sides of his tank what can I do to get rid of that? Thank you soooo much again your the reason bettas get to live such a long life your such a great source of help and answers and the pet store people are killers they dont care since its not their porblem so thank you!

A: You asked lots of great questions so I will try and answer them in order. In terms of lighting, Bettas, like most animals, use queues from nature to help them know when to be awake and when to sleep. Bettas have a natural sleep cycle that corresponds with the sun. When it's light, they are awake and when the lights go out you can often catch them sleeping in their plants or along the bottom of the tank. I like to give them about 12 hours with the light on and 12 with it off but a little more or a little less doesn't seem to cause any noticeable stress. One thing for sure is that you don't have to worry about turning the light off on your Betta. He'll appreciate the chance to catch some "Z"s.

Determining whether or not your filter is strong enough or too strong is something that a lot of Betta keepers deal with. The sludge you see on the water's surface and aquarium glass is called detritus or "mulm" and may indicate that you need to turn up the filter a little. Detritus is made up of organic compounds in the water and isn't typically harmful but can be an eyesore. Typically, to get rid of it, aquarists create a little more water movement. Since your filter has an adjustable flow control I would recommend turning it up to medium and observing things for a couple of days. If your Betta is really struggling to reach the surface or is cowering completely, then you may have no choice but to turn it down. Another thing you can do is split the difference between low and medium speeds by setting the filter control to medium and adding a few more silk aquarium plants. Extra plants in the water tend to help disperse the water flow making it easier for your fish to deal with the current.

If turning up the filter doesn't remove the detritus you can remove it from the water's surface by folding a paper towel in half and scraping the folded edge across the surface. Detritus that is sitting on the tank bottom can be sucked up with an inexpensive turkey baster, a tool that often comes in handy with Bettas.

Congratulations on your first Betta. I'm thrilled to hear you are doing your homework and providing your fish with great care.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

How Bettas Handle Temperature Fluctuations

mitai May2, originally uploaded by misa212.

Q: LAB wrote,

I've been looking through your blog - so much helpful information. I'm currently cycling a tank (without fish), and am trying to regulate the temperature. During the day, I've got a light on for the live plants, and the water gets to about 80-82 degrees F, and at night, it gets cooler, so I've got a heater set to 80 degrees F. I was wondering how much of a temperature fluctuation the Bettas can handle safely? The time I'm most worried about is during the day, when the light is on.

I've got a 3 gallon aquarium, (the Eclipse system).

Thanks for your great blog and website!

A: It's true that rapid water temperature changes can lead to stress in aquarium fish and even thermal shock if extreme enough but the exact number of degrees that will cause damage can be difficult to pin point.

Water temperature fluctuations generally become a problem when they

1. Are drastic (alter by several degrees)
2. Are prolonged (fish that are kept at temperatures too warm or too cold on a regular basis)
3. Fluctuate over a short period of time

These temperature changes also effect the fish differently. A drastic temperature change can cause an immediate physical or behavioral change in the Betta. It may swim erratically, float on one side or appear distressed. Less severe fluctuations of just a few degrees over time may effect the fish in a less obvious way. For instance, the immune system can be weakened leaving the Betta prone to illnesses like bacterial infections or parasites. In these cases it may not be obvious to the fish keeper that the cause was stress induced by temperature changes.

The general health of the fish also comes into play. Weak or sick fish are more likely to feel the effects of temperature fluctuations. This is one reason why breeders won't ship fish that aren't in perfect health as shipping can often expose them to fluctuations of 10 Fahrenheit degrees or more.

That said, I personally try to keep my temperature fluctuations less than 2-3 degrees Fahrenheit in a 24 hour period (or 1-2 degrees Celsius.)In the summer this can be a bit more difficult so I try my best to keep my fish healthy by feeding them a balanced nutritious diet and keeping their water very clean.

One thing you can do is reduce the amount of time you keep the light on over your tank, particularly in the warmer months. As long as he's getting ambient light he'll be fine. The tank light is really more for your benefit than the Betta, unless you are using it to grow live plants that require a lot of light.

Aim for a temperature of 78-80F. A few degrees above or below that is fine, but of course best if you can keep it stable.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Heavy Current in Betta Tank

AquaOne 215L, originally uploaded by KittyKat3756.

H wrote,

I just bought a new female betta, Finona, who is quite young and small. I have her in the Eclipse 3 gallon but I noticed the current is quite strong for her. Do you have any recommendations to lessen the current? I am thinking it might get better for her once she gets bigger but any advice would be appreciated.

A: Often, when we find ourselves with a filter that doesn't allow adjustablity of the output we have to fashion ourselves some sort of homemade dampener to keep the strong current away from our bettas. In larger aquariums we are usually just trying to slow things down in the output area where the water is flowing into the tank. In a very small aquarium, like the Eclipse 3, the current can be quite strong throughout the entire tank making it a little more difficult for the fish and for us as we try to figure a way to cut the current.

In this case you may want to try cutting the toe out of a pair of pantyhose and rubberbanding it around the small water intake basket where debris is sucked into the aquarium. This is a method we often use when the suction at the intake is too great for our fish but it tends to create enough drag to slow the entire assembly. You may also want to try creating dam at the water's surface with a plastic tank divider. This method works quite well in larger aquariums and I have used it many times when breeding gouramis so that they can have perfectly still water at the surface to build their bubble nests.

To create this surface barrier I purchase one plastic mesh tank divider kit, available at just about any fish store, PetCo or PetSmart, and cut a long 1 to 2 inch strip from the mesh. I then attach it to the brackets as you would if you were setting up the divider, and attach the brackets to the sides of the aquarium, just around the flow output. Make sure the mesh is at the top of the water and sticking out the surface just a bit. (A quarter inch is fine.)

This method won't cut the current throughout the entire aquarium but will create a calm location where your girl can get away when she wants to.

A homemade mesh dam made from a mesh tank divider.

A third method, and my favorite, for cutting back on current is to plant the heck out of your aquarium. Lots of crypticorians and java ferns, not to mention little caves or ceramic hidey-holes are a great way to disperse some of that current. It's a little more costly then the other methods but it's gorgeous and fishies love it too.