Jonah, originally uploaded by Jon & Brigid.

Q: JL wrote,

I have a 10 gl tank that I started in December 2006. I purchased a goldfish and 2 snails. After about a month the goldfish died and I have had the 2 snails in there since. I change the water partially weekly (can you recommend a good conditioner for tap water? I have been using distilled water) and I change the filter carbon monthly. Also, how often should I vaccuum the stones?

Now my question is regarding a betta. I have had a betta (his name is Jose) since August 2006. I have him in a bowl with an LED light. He is absolutely gorgeous and I want to add him to the 10 gallon tank with the snails, but I am afraid to. I just can’t imagine how beautiful he would be in there, but I am so scared I am not going to do something right and it’s going to kill him.

I have been checking the tank with test strips and everything seems to be ok, but I wonder if you can recommend a good test strip. The strips I am using are color coded and really don’t give me any number readings. I think that number readings would help me out.

I have a very strong Whisper filter and an air stone strip across the back of the tank, but the filter is so strong, I don’t want the betta to eventually get “sucked” into the slotted openings. Any reccomendations on a less agressive filter?

I would love to get Jose in the 10 gal as I think it would benefit him greatly from being in the bowl and I am sure I would find him keeping me in awe with his beautiful colors and fins.

Thank you so much for any help.

A: Thanks for writing in. I will try and answer your questions in the order you wrote them.

Tap water is a good way to turn instead of continuing to use the distilled water you were using. Distilled water, in addition to being expensive lacks any dissolved minerals like calcium, which are important to fish and critical to snails. Without a good source of calcium your snails won’t be able to maintain good health and strong shells. There are several good water conditioners widely available. I like to use Kordon’s AmQuel+ and NovAqua (meant to be used together). They not only neutralize chlorine and chloramines but they bind toxic ammonia, which can be an asset in uncycled tanks. For well established tanks I also like Prime made by Seachem. In a tank with just snails you can vacuum the stones every other week but should you add fish, I recommend increasing your vacuuming to every week. If your tank is cycled you can use your nitrate test to help you gauge how often you need to vacuum. When a lot of organic waste is present, nitrate levels will begin to rise into higher levels. If they are over 40 ppm you may want to increase the frequency of your gravel vacuuming. I like to aim for under 20 ppm. Larger water changes can help keep them down in addition to regular vacuuming.

Adding Jose to your 10 gallon is a great idea. To make it a safe transition you will want to acclimate him slowly. Test both his tank water and the new tank’s water to be sure they are relatively close in parameters. To read more on the acclimation process visit this page on the Nippyfish website; Acclimating Your New Betta. Remember that unlike goldfish, bettas are tropical and will need warm water heated to a stable 78*F +/-. [25.5*C] I recommend heating the water very slowly over several days before adding Jose, being sure the snails are safely adjusting and the heater is stable.

Test strips aren’t a bad way to get started with water testing. The brand I used when first starting out was Mardel’s 5 in 1 dip stick test strips. They are an ok way to begin with testing but a separate ammonia test kit is still needed. A more accurate set of kits are the reagent based dropper/test tube kits. I like the Aquarium Pharmaceuticals brand for freshwater tanks. They still aren’t highly accurate but are close enough for the home aquarium.

If your filter is designed for a 10 gallon then it will likely be ok for your Betta. Some of the Whisper models have adjustable flow control. It wouldn’t hurt to check yours. One thing about having a current is your betta won’t likely build a bubble nest. It’s not necessary, but if you’d like to see one or are still concerned about the current you may want to consider an under gravel filter or a sponge filter, both of which are great for betta tanks.

Thanks again for writing in. I’m sure Jose is going to love his new larger digs.

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