Preparing a New Home for your Betta

Q: SO wrote,

I am so glad to have come across your extremely helpful website! Finally, somewhere to find answers that make sense. About 1 1/2 year ago, we adopted a betta that my daughter’s class could no longer care for. At that time, he was in a very small container, swimming in plain old tap water. Now, I never thought of myself as a “fish person”, but very quickly, I came to love that little guy. We moved Senior Rojo into a 2 gallon bowl, and added water conditioner, and some decorations to his tank. For quite a while, I had wanted to give him even more room and just basically upgrade his home. It seems that everything I read about bettas just confused me more and made me more apprehensive about moving him out of his bowl. But, when I came across your Blog, you recommended the Mini Bow 2.5 as a good betta home. So today I bought one, but now I do have some questions and would be most grateful for your advice.

1) Should I use the filter? And if yes, do people just leave them going all the time?
2) I also bought the small heater that you recommend. Having never used one, I am not sure how you regulate the temp… do you just unplug it when it gets to the right temp? Would that stress Sr. Rojo? Is it possible that the light on the tank will be enough to warm the water?
3) My fish will not eat anything but pellets. I have tried at least 4 different things, and it just isn’t happening. Should I worry?
4) Lately, his color seems a little off, but it doesn’t seem to be anything specific like the illnesses talked about on your blog. Hopefully, the new house will make him happier. I know the water is a bit cold right now, but he does visit with me and show off his beautiful red fins. No bubbles, though.
5) I am confused about cleaning and water changes. Basically, I change about 25% of his water every 3 days and a full change once a week or so. Does this differ with the new Minibow, and whether or not the filter is used?

Those are a lot of questions, so thank you for your time! I also purchased the water treatments you recommended, and the siphon for cleaning, and a live plant.

A:What a great name, Senior Rojo. That’s adorable. I’m happy to hear you upgraded your betta aquarium to a MiniBow. This is a great beginner tank and you will quickly learn the basics of aquarium maintenance through this set-up.

There are two ways to keep a Betta tank that we refer to as cycled or uncycled. A cycled aquarium is sometimes referred to as established. This means that you have allowed the beneficial nitrifying bacteria to grow and live in the tank or establish itself. These bacteria are beneficial because they consume toxins like ammonia and nitrite. The process of establishing bacteria is a natural process and will happen over time even if you aren’t aware of it as long as you don’t do anything to upset the bacterial growth. Because ammonia and nitrite need to be present for the bacteria to grow, it can be a stressful process for the fish so as aquarists we prefer to monitor the process rather than just allowing it to happen unmonitored. Most aquarium fish need the stability provided by a cycled tank and a tank that is fully cycled is a safer and more stable environment. It truly becomes a complete eco-system.

The reason I mention this is because whether or not you decide to use your filter depends on if you want a cycled or uncycled aquarium. The filter media is the place that the majority of helpful bacteria will grow but in order for them to grow you will need to run the filter full time. This is the most common aquarium set-up. Bettas, however, can be kept in uncycled tanks or bowls like Senior Rojo has in the past. In an uncycled tank you do not want to run a filter because doing so will encourage the bacterial growth and cycling process to begin. As I mentioned before the process of cycling is stressful. It only becomes truly beneficial once the process is complete and the bacteria are fully established. To run a filter part time may leave the tank in a constant attempt to cycled and you won’t be seeing the benefits of the finished product. I’m going to skip to your last question about water changes because this too is effected by the decision to cycle or keep the tank uncycled.

In a cycled tank where the bacteria are well established, only partial water changes are needed to remove nitrates, the byproduct of the nitrifying bacteria. Small 20% – 25% water changes are usually sufficient because the bacteria are consuming the ammonia and nitrite (toxins) before they can become dangerous to the fish. In an uncycled tank the bacteria isn’t present to consume these dangerous toxins so the only way to remove them is to perform complete 100% water changes regularly before they can harm your fish.

Here’s a quick recap.

In a cycled tank:
1. Filters are needed to house beneficial nitrifying bacteria
2. Only partial water changes are required.
To learn more about the Nitrogen Cycle and how it works in detail visit The Nitrogen Cycle & the Fishless Cycling Method from Nippyfish: A Betta Blog.
There is also a Podcast attached to help guide you.

In an uncycled tank:
2. Filters shouldn’t be used
3. Complete 100% water changes are necessary.
Determining how often to change your Betta’s water depends on a variety of circumstances. Visit water quality problems that could be affecting his color.

Feel free to send a photo of Senior Rojo in his new MiniBow when he’s all set up and I will post it to the Blog for all to see.

All the best to you.

Written by

Christie F is a Betta splendens hobbyist that enjoys spending time caring for her fish and helping new betta keepers learn the ropes. More posts by:

3 Comments for this entry

  1. Anonymous says:

    hi i <3 your blog. im reading up because im getting a betta after i move. im using your advice and giving Finnagan a 1.5 gallon tank

  2. Anonymous says:

    Do bettas like light,I mean like a flashlight shining over their tank. And why in the pet store did my fish have more bubbles than now?

  3. Bea says:

    This is it. My betta fish has a new home now! It's a fish bowl I hope he'll like it.

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