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.