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New betta owner, advice needed


Bailey
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Hello! This is my first post here, if I'm not posting in the right place, please let me know! I am in need of advice on two issues. The first is how to cut down on reflection inside the tank on the walls. I have a male betta in a filtered, heated and (lightly) planted 5 gallon by himself. I have only had him about 5 weeks, and I am an absolute beginner in the hobby. He seems very aggressive and is constantly flaring at his reflection on his tank walls, which is causing tears in his tail fin, and possibly his dorsal. The tears developed 3 or so days ago (the flaring has been a problem but it seems to be getting worse), I kept the light off and he stopped, so the holes started closing up and the tears healing. Today I turned the light on to do a small water change and adjust some of the plants, and he started doing it again. I have just started planting the tank, so there is not a lot of cover right now, but I am hoping they will grow quickly and provide enough cover that this wont be a permanent issue. The tank is lit with the LED that was included in the tank kit. He doesn't flare much when the light is off, but without the light I don't think the plants will grow. I have tried a black background, a "natural" looking background, white plastic and white paper. Nothing seems to be helping, and I don't want him to shred his tail and/or develop an infection. Any advice or solutions for me to try would be very very appreciated. 

The second issue I am currently having (maybe it is not an issue, but I am a beginner so I don't know), is that my pH has fallen somewhat drastically. Out of the tap, my water is between 7-7.2, when testing the tank it was around 7.4. I recently replaced the substrate with Fluval Stratum to help with growth of the carpeting plants I just put in, and while I knew it would lower the pH slightly, it dropped off to 6.2-6.4. Is this something I should be concerned about? If so, what is the best way to raise it without harming the fish?

I appreciate any help and advice anyone can offer, thank you!

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The most important thing about PH is that you keep it stable. Bettas are VERY hardy fish and can pretty much handle any kind of bullet thrown at them.

I had the same problem with my betta too, heres what I did:

  • I found that he always flared when the tank lights were on but not the room lights. So I keep both lights on at a time.
  • I also coverd up 3 sides of the tank with paper, I've recentley taken the paper off and he doesn't flare anymore, not sure why.
  • Less light also helps, but I see that you dont have a very bright light. You can try to put white printers paper on the LEDs Light.

Make sure you post pictures of your betta, we would love to see him.

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I currently have the room light and tank light on, he is still doing it 🥴 but we will see if he adjusts. I actually have another question now as well. His Finns have some curling around the edges, not his tail fin but his dorsal fin especially has it. I purchased him with the curling issue, but it does seem to be getting worse. Any idea what the cause could be? It does not appear to be fin rot, although it did treat him with aquarium salt for 5 or so day when I first brought him home, just in case it WAS a case of fin rot.I have attached a picture from about two weeks ago, the curling on his dorsal fin has definitely gotten worse since then, and I have added some floating plants since then as well.  I apologize if the picture is huge, I don't know how to resize it...

IMG_2528.jpeg.1ed1c1ff2b3dd04f2a39af525a41de6a.jpeg

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One way you should be able to reduce reflections inside the tank would be to have more light outside the tank perhaps, as @James Black said. That's how 1-way mirrors work.  If the inside of the tank is bright, and the outside isn't, the light reflecting off the glass will be more obvious, and your betta is probably seeing himself clearly with that lighting.  If you have more light on the outside, there will still be reflections, but they will be faded out relative to the light passing through the glass.  

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Posted (edited)

Thank you KatieG! I saw him and could not resist! He doesn't have an "official" name, but I call him Big Mad because he's always flaring and spreading his fins 😆

Thanks for your advice RockMongler! I am currently trying that right now. I have all of the room lights on along with the tank light to see if hell chill out a little. Fingers crossed!

Edited by Bailey
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2 minutes ago, Bailey said:

Thank you KatieG! I saw him and could not resist! He doesn't have an "official" name, but I call him Big Mad because he's always flaring and spreading his fins 😆

Thanks for your advice RockMongler! I am currently trying that right now. I have all of the room lights on along with the tank light to see if hell chill out a little. Fingers crossed!

Hopefully it will help him chill out!  I've not personally kept bettas, but I do know they can have a wide variance in personality.  You might just have a particularly ornery individual who is just cranky at the world for daring to exist in his presence.  Hopefully the change in lighting will help him chill out though.  

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James Black- the curling doesn't seem to bother him or slow him down, but I was concerned since it was getting worse. Here is a picture from a few days ago, you can see the curling in his fin and the holes/tears in his tail fin. They are almost completely healed today, just a few are still visible, bit the curling is the same. 

IMG_2690.jpeg

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15 minutes ago, RockMongler said:

Hopefully it will help him chill out!  I've not personally kept bettas, but I do know they can have a wide variance in personality.  You might just have a particularly ornery individual who is just cranky at the world for daring to exist in his presence.  Hopefully the change in lighting will help him chill out though.  

I definitely got the ornery one outta the bunch 😁 I had bought a ten gallon to upgrade him down the road and maybe add some tank mates, but I don't think friends are in his future! Thanks again!

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This is interesting because I also experienced a pH crash early on in one of my tanks, and another beginner mentioned the same thing.  Though people always say that the pH will lower in your tank over time.  Some crushed coral substrate can help keep it stable as well.  you can do water changes in the meantime to keep up the pH b/c - while bettas naturally come from very low pH waters -- I agree with @James Black that stability is more important. 

The flaring is a very natural behavior for male bettas, and most betta keepers even keep mirrors and such to have them do it for exercise, but it does sound like he is doing it too much and that is causing stress.  You could also try increasing the tannins in the water by adding cattappa (or indian almond leaves), alder cones, or pieces of driftwood - but that may very likely also lower the pH in your water so might be better to wait until that's more stable before doing so.  You could also add floating plants to provide some cover - that will also reduce the level of light inside the tank.  

I don't have a betta currently but I do see glass surfing in new fish - I also do all the things you're doing (and I learned something here that I think will help me with the outside/inside light!) and they calm down in a few weeks.  Sounds like you're doing great! Good luck with beautiful Big Mad.  

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2 minutes ago, SWilson said:

This is interesting because I also experienced a pH crash early on in one of my tanks, and another beginner mentioned the same thing.  Though people always say that the pH will lower in your tank over time.  Some crushed coral substrate can help keep it stable as well.  you can do water changes in the meantime to keep up the pH b/c - while bettas naturally come from very low pH waters -- I agree with @James Black that stability is more important. 

The flaring is a very natural behavior for male bettas, and most betta keepers even keep mirrors and such to have them do it for exercise, but it does sound like he is doing it too much and that is causing stress.  You could also try increasing the tannins in the water by adding cattappa (or indian almond leaves), alder cones, or pieces of driftwood - but that may very likely also lower the pH in your water so might be better to wait until that's more stable before doing so.  You could also add floating plants to provide some cover - that will also reduce the level of light inside the tank.  

I don't have a betta currently but I do see glass surfing in new fish - I also do all the things you're doing (and I learned something here that I think will help me with the outside/inside light!) and they calm down in a few weeks.  Sounds like you're doing great! Good luck with beautiful Big Mad.  

Thanks for your input! Would Indian almond leaves also lower the pH? I was thinking of adding them for tannins as I really like the dark water look, but I knew that driftwood would likely lower it further (hence the artificial driftwood currently in there). do you know if the Crushed coral affect the carpeting ability of the Monte Carlo plants? I have a few floating plants, salvinia minima I think, any advice for getting them to really take off? This is my first Betta in over 10 years, and the first tank I've ever had live plants in, so I'm open to any advice or suggestions! 

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3 minutes ago, Bailey said:

Would Indian almond leaves also lower the pH? I was thinking of adding them for tannins as I really like the dark water look, but I knew that driftwood would likely lower it further (hence the artificial driftwood currently in there).

I do think they would lower the pH, so I think you could add them but do so slowly and build them up over time.  You could also get a KH test for your aquarium if you dont have one, the higher the KH, the better the water can stabilize against pH swings (that is grossly oversimplified for the level of knowledge/nermdom on this forum 🙃). 

Glad you're going for the blackwater look! I think that looks amazing with bettas, can't wait to see more pictures as it develops. 

7 minutes ago, Bailey said:

do you know if the Crushed coral affect the carpeting ability of the Monte Carlo plants? 

I don't think so, but if you're worried about messing up your substrate, what I have done is bought the biomedia bag from aquarium coop, filled it with crushed coral, and put that in my hang on back filter or just stuck the bag in the tank.  

9 minutes ago, Bailey said:

I have a few floating plants, salvinia minima I think, any advice for getting them to really take off?

hmm...lots of light probably but that's counterproductive to the flashing problem! lol.  I only have experience with duckweed and frogbit and those are really prolific -- would suggest going with the frogbit over the duckweed b/c duckweed is very small and will stick to your arms and seems impossible to get rid of if you change your mind.  You can find frogbit online if your local store doesn't sell them.  

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In my experience, driftwood and catappa leaves won't have a dramatic impact on your pH without adding a large amount of botanicals. I've seen some betta keepers cover the entire floor of their tank with various leaves. It results in a very nice dark water look, and likely drops pH, but it's not my style.

The same goes for driftwood. I've added giant chunks of wood to small volume tanks and not seen any consistent drop. The water gets nice and brown, but my pH would be rock solid. After a few months of adding leaves/wood/etc I gave up on hitting any "ideal" pH.

If you're looking to get your plants to blow up, it's probably worthwhile to pick up some fertilizers. Aquarium Coop has a great trio, although I might skip on the Easy Carbon. Easy Iron, Easy Green and root tabs have been a great combo for me. 

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20 minutes ago, Schwack said:

In my experience, driftwood and catappa leaves won't have a dramatic impact on your pH without adding a large amount of botanicals. I've seen some betta keepers cover the entire floor of their tank with various leaves. It results in a very nice dark water look, and likely drops pH, but it's not my style.

The same goes for driftwood. I've added giant chunks of wood to small volume tanks and not seen any consistent drop. The water gets nice and brown, but my pH would be rock solid. After a few months of adding leaves/wood/etc I gave up on hitting any "ideal" pH.

If you're looking to get your plants to blow up, it's probably worthwhile to pick up some fertilizers. Aquarium Coop has a great trio, although I might skip on the Easy Carbon. Easy Iron, Easy Green and root tabs have been a great combo for me. 

I think that if the KH is really low, the humic acid from decomposing leaves, and tannins released from new wood can drop pH. If there's enough buffer (GH / KH) then it won't drop. 

Edited by Fish Folk
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@Bailey I think our bettas are twins! Below is mine. His name is Charles, after Baudelaire, because salty poet/dandyism movement (my nerdishness is multidisciplinary 😂).  

Yours wouldn’t per chance be a big box store “black mustard” betta would he? Mine is. He turned more pink and less mustard after inhabiting his warm and planted 20L. Pink would not have been my first choice... but live and let live, I rolled with it and got pink snails 😂
 

I was hoping to do a community tank but after “testing the waters” with the ramshorn snails, I think I’m going to pass and keep him solo. He loves flaring at the snails and does peck at them very briefly from time to time, the snails seem unphased. Like yours, mine seems too aggressive for finned tank mates.  Also like yours, mine used to flare at his reflection. Until I cultivated a lush layer of algae/biofilm on the sides of the tank. Snails keep it mowed down to a somewhat respectable level and it’s an excuse for me to be lazy. Perhaps that’s another strategy? 

DA6AA3B5-8D95-487C-AAEC-327E377BE3E0.jpeg

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1 hour ago, SWilson said:

I do think they would lower the pH, so I think you could add them but do so slowly and build them up over time.  You could also get a KH test for your aquarium if you dont have one, the higher the KH, the better the water can stabilize against pH swings (that is grossly oversimplified for the level of knowledge/nermdom on this forum 🙃). 

Glad you're going for the blackwater look! I think that looks amazing with bettas, can't wait to see more pictures as it develops. 

I don't think so, but if you're worried about messing up your substrate, what I have done is bought the biomedia bag from aquarium coop, filled it with crushed coral, and put that in my hang on back filter or just stuck the bag in the tank.  

hmm...lots of light probably but that's counterproductive to the flashing problem! lol.  I only have experience with duckweed and frogbit and those are really prolific -- would suggest going with the frogbit over the duckweed b/c duckweed is very small and will stick to your arms and seems impossible to get rid of if you change your mind.  You can find frogbit online if your local store doesn't sell them.  

This is SO helpful! My LFS does have frogbit, I may pick some up. Super great info, thanks so much! I have no idea what KH testing is 😅 but I will research it and get a test kit. I don't have a hang on back filter, honestly the tank is a kit tank with a built in filter. I am kind of regretting not getting a larger tank, at this point! I would prefer a sponge filter but I have no space for it. 

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1 hour ago, Schwack said:

In my experience, driftwood and catappa leaves won't have a dramatic impact on your pH without adding a large amount of botanicals. I've seen some betta keepers cover the entire floor of their tank with various leaves. It results in a very nice dark water look, and likely drops pH, but it's not my style.

The same goes for driftwood. I've added giant chunks of wood to small volume tanks and not seen any consistent drop. The water gets nice and brown, but my pH would be rock solid. After a few months of adding leaves/wood/etc I gave up on hitting any "ideal" pH.

If you're looking to get your plants to blow up, it's probably worthwhile to pick up some fertilizers. Aquarium Coop has a great trio, although I might skip on the Easy Carbon. Easy Iron, Easy Green and root tabs have been a great combo for me. 

I did actually pick up some easy green, but I'm a little nervous to use it (I'm not sure why). I currently have a carbon cartridge in my filter, my understanding is that it would be pointless to fertilize with carbon in the filter, is that correct? Because I just changed substrate I wanted to wait a few weeks before changing the filter cartridge to a coarse sponge, because I thought it would be better to give the beneficial bacteria a chance to cover the new substrate. I think I'm going to go ahead and get some catappa leaves and get those going too! Thank you so much for your input, this has been so so helpful. 

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1 minute ago, Bailey said:

I did actually pick up some easy green, but I'm a little nervous to use it (I'm not sure why). I currently have a carbon cartridge in my filter, my understanding is that it would be pointless to fertilize with carbon in the filter, is that correct? Because I just changed substrate I wanted to wait a few weeks before changing the filter cartridge to a coarse sponge, because I thought it would be better to give the beneficial bacteria a chance to cover the new substrate. I think I'm going to go ahead and get some catappa leaves and get those going too! Thank you so much for your input, this has been so so helpful. 

My understanding is that carbon won't pull all the fertilizer out of the water, but it's likely going to catch some. Letting things settle before you start making changes is typically a good way to go. That said, giving a squirt (or half a squirt for a 5 gallon) is unlikely to result in any issues in the tank and will definitely provide your plants with nutrients they don't have access to otherwise.

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56 minutes ago, skipper said:

@Bailey I think our bettas are twins! Below is mine. His name is Charles, after Baudelaire, because salty poet/dandyism movement (my nerdishness is multidisciplinary 😂).  

Yours wouldn’t per chance be a big box store “black mustard” betta would he? Mine is. He turned more pink and less mustard after inhabiting his warm and planted 20L. Pink would not have been my first choice... but live and let live, I rolled with it and got pink snails 😂
 

I was hoping to do a community tank but after “testing the waters” with the ramshorn snails, I think I’m going to pass and keep him solo. He loves flaring at the snails and does peck at them very briefly from time to time, the snails seem unphased. Like yours, mine seems too aggressive for finned tank mates.  Also like yours, mine used to flare at his reflection. Until I cultivated a lush layer of algae/biofilm on the sides of the tank. Snails keep it mowed down to a somewhat respectable level and it’s an excuse for me to be lazy. Perhaps that’s another strategy? 

DA6AA3B5-8D95-487C-AAEC-327E377BE3E0.jpeg

HE IS LOVELY 😍Salty poet made me chuckle big time. 
He is a petsmart "blue mustard" and I have noticed his..."mustard"? Parts turning a slight pinkish color, this is super interesting. I love his color now but I would not be sad if he decides he wants to change clothes. I had Intended a snail or two in the 5 gallon, and then had hoped to upgrade to a ten gallon with some chili rasboras, but that will NOT be happening...I am hoping for algae growth on the walls (is that weird?!) because I thought that would be helpful, and your moody boy just reinforced the idea. Thank you so much for sharing him, I love it! 

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You can always upgrate the kit tank over time.  And who knows, his personality may mellow out with time.  It may still be worthwhile to eventually upgrade to that 10 gallon, the increased volume will help maintain water quality.  You could also try some bottom dwellers in the 10 gallon, which would occupy a different part of the water column than the betta.  Some ppl find success with that.  You'd want to add the betta, as the more territorial fish, after you add the other inhabitants.

And then you'd have the 5 gallon as an available emergency quarantine tank.  

Good luck! hope his pretty tail heals up quickly!

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33 minutes ago, SWilson said:

You can always upgrate the kit tank over time.  And who knows, his personality may mellow out with time.  It may still be worthwhile to eventually upgrade to that 10 gallon, the increased volume will help maintain water quality.  You could also try some bottom dwellers in the 10 gallon, which would occupy a different part of the water column than the betta.  Some ppl find success with that.  You'd want to add the betta, as the more territorial fish, after you add the other inhabitants.

And then you'd have the 5 gallon as an available emergency quarantine tank.  

Good luck! hope his pretty tail heals up quickly!

Right and often busy bottom dwellers give the betta other things to think about and look at than his reflection.  My betta inspects and tries to boss my panda Garras around but they pay him no mind.  Having four or more corydoras might help him stop obsessing.

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Posted (edited)
29 minutes ago, Lifeisgood said:

Right and often busy bottom dwellers give the betta other things to think about and look at than his reflection.  My betta inspects and tries to boss my panda Garras around but they pay him no mind.  Having four or more corydoras might help him stop obsessing.

I do have 2 empty ten gallons that i bought on sale, but I don't have anywhere to put them. (Small house and cheap furniture 😆) I have my 5 gallon on my bedroom dresser, but it wouldn't support 10 gallons. I do love panda corydoras and corydoras sterbai but I'm assuming the 5 gallon is far too small for them. What about 3-4 Pygmy corys? Although, the betta is already in the tank so I couldn't introduce him after as recommended above, so that would be an issue too...

Edited by Bailey
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lol welcome to multiple tank syndrome...it happens so fast! 😝

Even with the pygmy corydoras I personally would prefer to do it in the 10 gallon or bigger tank, becuase they like to be in even bigger groups than the panda or other bigger size cories.  And even four fish is a decent amount of waste to manage in a 5 gallon, b/c of you have to feed enough to ensure the cories get enough food "down there".  In the five gallon, you could also try shrimp or snail tankmates if you're interested in keeping those.  

I don't know if this is helpful at all for your space issue, but this video shows you how to make a cheap and sturdy aquarium stand with 2x4s and cinderblocks. 

I swear I am not "handy" and I managed to do this.  I did cut the 2x4's down to the right size for my aquarium because I wasnt making a fishroom rack. Most hardware stores will do the cutting for you, but you'll have to be careful handling the wood unless you have a sander.  I tried to make mine pretty by spraypainting the cinderblocks. (this is my 16 gal) 

There are also other threads on this forum where ppl have shared creative and low-cost alternatives for fish tank stands.  

Anyway, sorry for blowing up your thread so much!  and absolutely not trying to tell you what to do. you seem to be already really knowledgeable and know what you want to do. 

IMG_1767.jpg

Edited by SWilson
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