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alissakalissak Registered User new member
Please help. I bought my beta fish from the pet store a week ago when I first bought it I put it into a small bowl and I read up a bunch of stuff on the fact that I needed air bubbles so I bought a filter when I bought the filter the fish started to hide in a small sunken ship that I bought from Walmart and I realized that it was face up in an air bubble trying to breathe and hide in there so I turned off the water tonight I turn off the filter and the fish came outAnd I realize that the fish has a really stiff till now I put water conditioner just now again I have a 20 gallon tank so I put two line full of conditioner in the water is my fish dying? Somebody please help me


  • HevachHevach Registered User regular
    edited March 2021
    Ok, before we get into the deep end, first thing: Pet store bettas are very hit-or-miss. All anabantoids are sensitive fish and betta males are kept in terrible conditions in shipping and stores because of the long list of other fish they'll attack on sight. Even if you do (or for that matter did) everything right survival can be a dice roll.

    Information online for fishkeeping is also pretty hit or miss, fish forums have good information but it's a shockingly toxic community to newcomers who have made an honest mistake.

    The tank was a good call, bigger tanks are easier to stabilize in both the short and long term, and gives you some options.

    So, first thing, water conditioner: It removes chlorine, but that's all that it does, everything else on the bottle is borderline false advertising. A little bit on fresh water is all you need. There is one called Seachem Prime that can help with the process you're doing, I'll cover that in a bit.

    Filters: You'll want some gentle surface movement, but not a lot for bettas. A filter with both suction and return hoses (so it pulls and returns at the bottom) is ideal, but a hang-on-back one is going to be fine. You don't need a bubbler, they'll actually stress out a betta because they like to make little floating bubble nests and the bubbles will make them think there's another male in their territory.

    Now, what's probably actually wrong with the fish is ammonia poisoning. Fish waste is mostly ammonia and similar compounds (they release this as urine and from their gills to take in oxygen, and most decomposition bacteria in fresh water break stuff down into it as well). Over time, that black foam or fiber pad in the filter grows a gooey mat of nitrogen fixing bacteria that turn this into nitrite, which is actually *more* toxic than ammonia, and then into nitrate, which isn't good but is relatively harmless in limited doses. Until this grows, which can take quite a while, ammonia and nitrite levels will rise in the tank, even a small fish in a 20 gallon tank you'll be getting toxic levels if not managed.

    You'll want an actual test kit for this - I have an API master kit and buy the single kits to replace as they run out. You'll want to keep ammonia and nitrate low, which means replacing about a third to half of the water regularly, likely daily for the first few weeks. Use the water conditioner to remove chlorine, but don't extra dose it. Now, the Seachem Prime I mentioned will reduce ammonia and nitrite toxicity, but it will also slow the bacteria growth process and it just fixes them into another less (but still) toxic form. It will help keep your fish alive, but it isn't a magic bullet to avoid changing the water.

    At first you'll see high ammonia levels, you'll want to try to keep this below 1 ppm with fresh water, preferrably 0.25 ppm. Remember, whatever you may have heard: The water doesn't cycle, the filter does. Water changes will help the process by keeping ammonia low (if it stays high, other nastier forms of nitrogen fixing bacteria can thrive and start producing really nasty waste products).

    You'll start seeing nitrite first, you'll also want this low simialrly, nitrite is more toxic than ammonia so this is a critical phase.

    Once you start seeing nitrAte, the end is in sight - nitrate you can let get up to 25-50 ppm safely. Eventually the filter will grow enough bacteria that ammonia and nitrite will consistently read 0 or close to 0. Regular water changes for nitrate management will be much easier, once a week in general.

    If the betta dies, unless you decide to give up, I'd suggest a couple zebra danios and continue the process. Zebra danios will be safe with a male betta and add some life to the tank, and theyre relatively resistant to nitrogen waste. when the tank is stable you can add the betta or expand slowly to 6-10 danios first for comfort, so you can be sure you've got everything under control again.

    Hevach on
    SiskaElvenshaeBliss 101VishNubalissakBloodySlothZilla360ForarBouwsTKen Odispatch.o
  • Bliss 101Bliss 101 Registered User regular
    What Hevach said. I'd just add that in 20 gallons you could have more than just a couple of zebra danios. They're social fish that thrive in groups, and indeed pose no problems for a betta.

  • HevachHevach Registered User regular
    Bliss 101 wrote: »
    What Hevach said. I'd just add that in 20 gallons you could have more than just a couple of zebra danios. They're social fish that thrive in groups, and indeed pose no problems for a betta.

    Bettas do well with a lot of fish. Other good pairs are corydora catfish, otocinclus, bristlenose, khuli loaches, and other danios, minnows, or rainbow fish. A male betta makes a great centerpiece to a tank in this size range.

    Things to avoid with bettas: other bettas obviously (including females, the females run away after breeding and in a tank they can't), and gouramis, which will trigger full blown kill-or-die aggression. Then angelfish, and live bearing toothcarp, which can all trigger mistaken identity aggression from the betta. Anything nippy like some barbs and tetras and the majority of community cichlids will injure the betta.

  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    Zebra danios are tough little guys, I worked with them for a couple years. You can find ones that glow which is pretty cool.

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
  • alissakalissak Registered User new member
    Oh my gosh thank you folks so much. We’re living here in Hawaii and the weather got cold too so I’m thinking maybe I might need to buy a water heater also. I will buy all of that stuff mentioned in the hopes that my fish can go back to his lively self again. This morning he seems to still be hiding in his sunken ship but he’s still alive 🙏

  • HevachHevach Registered User regular
    edited March 2021
    The heaters not a bad idea but probably not critical. Most tropical fish are unbothered by ~60-65F occasionally, they will get sluggish but recover fine, but during a cycle any variable you can control means less stress.

    Pick up something like a gravel vacuum, too. It's just a jiggle-start siphon that will help you with water changes, which are the critical part of managing a cycle.

    Good luck. It's kind of a rite of passage in fish keeping to fuck up the first time, and a lot of people never get the advice to make it through (or get a bad reception on one of the dedicated fish forums) and give up too soon.

    Hevach on
  • CalicaCalica Registered User regular is an ancient web site with a ton of good advice on keeping bettas specifically. I had one in a 2-gallon tank (unheated) when I was in college, and that site helped me keep him alive for several years and through multiple bouts of fin rot (my bad for not maintaining the tank better, but the point is he recovered with medication and care).

    I used to take him home with me over breaks - obviously - and eventually I fatally injured him somehow while moving him from tank to Tupperware :sad:

    He was a fun little guy, though. He used to get all excited when he saw me coming with the treat jar :heartbeat:

  • SiskaSiska Shorty Registered User regular
    I would suggest not buying an overly powerful thermostat heater. If the thermostat part fails it can quickly overheat your fish if your tank is on the smaller side of it's recommended range.

  • Nova_CNova_C I have the need The need for speedRegistered User regular
    edited March 2021
    A lot of pet stores, especially local non-chain ones, will give you used filter media if you ask. This can jumpstart the process so it takes much less time for the bacteria colony to grow. If they do, just drop it into the tank for a few days with the danios or whatever you have in there.

    Nova_C on
    BloodySlothCalicaBliss 101ceres
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