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Betta/Shrimp in hard, high PH water?


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So I’m finally getting a tank started for the first time, I was originally going to do a 20 long but since I want a decent variety of fish I decided to go for a 40 breeder instead. I’ve also been researching on YouTube for over a year now (mainly getting info from Aquarium Co-op, Primetime Aquatics, Girl Talks Fish, and MD Fish Tanks). 
 

I’m wanting to keep a betta as the centerpiece, rummynose tetras, some kind of live bearer (I’m leaning heavily towards Endlers), either ottos or plecos, and cherry shrimp. I know bettas can sometimes eat shrimp so I’m going to test it’s temperament with a couple of cherries first before getting a bunch for a colony. Also this will be a heavily planted tank (got about $200 worth of plants in my cart on Aquarium Co-op’s website 😅) and I plan on feeding high quality food.

 

In Arizona we have really, really hard water and high PH. I’ve seen it range from 7.6 to 8.2 depending on the city (I don’t know numbers for hardness, I haven’t gotten my test kit in yet). I know I can cut the tap water with RO/distilled water to lower PH/hardness, but I recently saw a video from Prime Time Aquatics where Jason said he’s successfully kept bettas and shrimp in his tap water, which is pretty close to what I have here. In the video he says that keeping stable parameters is a little more important than matching the exact parameters of the fish you’re keeping.

 

So, finally to my question lol. Has anyone here kept bettas or shrimp successfully in harder water with a high PH? If so, did you end up cutting your water, or did you leave it just as it comes out of the tap, and did you notice any issues with the health of the fish or shrimp?

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On 7/11/2021 at 9:28 PM, DannyBWell said:

I do have to say when I tried the two together the shrimp didn't make it. Could I of had a shrimp murdering Betta and you could have success in your tank most likely I would say. 

Thank you, that gives me peace of mind for when I finally get my tank set up lol. If I didn’t have to go through figuring out tap to RO ratios every water change I definitely didn’t want to 😂

 

As for the betta murdering shrimp, I know it’s really gonna be a 50/50 chance I can actually do that. I’m hoping the heavy plant cover plus the larger tank size, plus keeping it well fed with good food will save them. But if my test shrimp get killed then I’ll probably go with snails instead and have a separate 5 gallon just for shrimp. 

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On 7/11/2021 at 11:44 PM, DarthRevan said:

Thank you, that gives me peace of mind for when I finally get my tank set up lol. If I didn’t have to go through figuring out tap to RO ratios every water change I definitely didn’t want to 😂

 

As for the betta murdering shrimp, I know it’s really gonna be a 50/50 chance I can actually do that. I’m hoping the heavy plant cover plus the larger tank size, plus keeping it well fed with good food will save them. But if my test shrimp get killed then I’ll probably go with snails instead and have a separate 5 gallon just for shrimp. 

I was gonna say the heavy plant cover will help I tried this years ago before doing planted tanks so the shrimp had nowhere to hid so I'm sure that wasn't great for them. Also ask your LFS what their parameters are and see what they suggest if you have one.

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On 7/11/2021 at 9:47 PM, DannyBWell said:

I was gonna say the heavy plant cover will help I tried this years ago before doing planted tanks so the shrimp had nowhere to hid so I'm sure that wasn't great for them. Also ask your LFS what their parameters are and see what they suggest if you have one.

That’s what I’m hoping lol. Plus I love plants so we’ll see how it turns out. 
 

Phoenix, AZ has a reallyyyy limited selection of fish stores. But I called one and he said we have super hard, highly chlorinated water so he recommended cutting it and using double the dechlorinator. I’m going to check it out in person this week so I’ll see how he keeps his water. I know he mainly does African cichlids because they do well in our water. 

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Quick thoughts:

* I'm fairly certain that the higher Ph won't be an issue for Betta's or Shrimp themselves- the issue would be the increased "free ammonia" in the tank water that comes with higher Ph.  That could lead to things like fin rot in the Betta and weakness/death in the shrimp if not regularly monitored and reduced as necessary.  I would think that you would want to do daily water checks until you establish a baseline for ammonia both in your newly treated tap water as well as build up over time in your tank water.  I'm getting the impression that your thinking is likely similar.

* When I get a new betta I usually pick up a couple of "feeder ghost shrimp" (usually less than $.50 a piece at my local chain store) and introduce them to the betta to determine if they're going to be treated as neighbors or dinner.

* My thoughts on plants would be to start with a relatively small number and see how you fare....not because of potential failure,  but because of potential success (I've found myself over planted 6-9 months after starting a tank more often than not).   Be especially thoughtful about plant heights in your initial selection as tall fast growers can shade smaller slower growers and give them trouble as they're trying to root and get established in a new tank.

 

Good luck!

Edited by NanoNano
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On 7/12/2021 at 2:06 PM, NanoNano said:

Quick thoughts:

* I'm fairly certain that the higher Ph won't be an issue for Betta's or Shrimp themselves- the issue would be the increased "free ammonia" in the tank water that comes with higher Ph.  That could lead to things like fin rot in the Betta and weakness/death in the shrimp if not regularly monitored and reduced as necessary.  I would think that you would want to do daily water checks until you establish a baseline for ammonia both in your newly treated tap water as well as build up over time in your tank water.  I'm getting the impression that your thinking is likely similar.

* When I get a new betta I usually pick up a couple of "feeder ghost shrimp" (usually less than $.50 a piece at my local chain store) and introduce them to the betta to determine if they're going to be treated as neighbors or dinner.

* My thoughts on plants would be to start with a relatively small number and see how you fare....not because of potential failure,  but because of potential success (I've found myself over planted 6-9 months after starting a tank more often than not).   Be especially thoughtful about plant heights in your initial selection as tall fast growers can shade smaller slower growers and give them trouble as they're trying to root and get established in a new tank.

 

Good luck!

I definitely plan on testing regularly until I figure out what normal water quality is here and then going from there. I wanted to plant the tank first and get them established, then start adding livestock. I didn’t know that you can just have ammonia in the water, I thought that was only once you started adding animals lol, so now I’m definitely going to be testing daily. 

My LFS guy I talked to did say to try ghost shrimp because they’re cheap, I just didn’t know if it would be exactly the same with cherries since they’re more brightly colored and could be more attractive to the betta where ghost shrimp might not because they’re clear. I could also be overthinking that though 😂

For the plants that is great advice that I had not heard before, so thank you! I plan on keeping the fast growing plants trimmed regularly as this will be an aquascape so I’m trying to keep a certain look to it. Roughly how many plants would you say could “comfortably” go in a 40 gallon breeder? It’s a combo of stem plants, root plants, and slow growers that I have in my cart so far I’ll post screenshots. 

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On 7/12/2021 at 2:17 PM, Guppysnail said:

1 betta (passed of old age) an uncountable population of neo shrimp still going strong. Did just fine. Stability was my key

7.6 ph 14-16 drops of api gh hardness. No corresponding numbers on the kit it’s so hard. Coop test strips register a color not given. 

That is good to know, thank you. I was worried but you guys are really helping lol.
 

I also saw a couple of videos where cattapa leaves were used and I saw that it’s great for shrimp because they can eat the microorganisms that break down the leaves so I’ll definitely be trying that as well 😄

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Your fish should do fine in that water. My tap is the exact same parameters as Jason from Prime Time (8 - 8.2ph, 10-12 gH and kH), and so far I've trusted his experiences fully. I keep gourami, diamond tetras, amano shrimp and neocaridina (blue dream) in my water with no problems. I'd recommend snails, too, if you like snails. They love harder water and do amazing in my tanks.

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On 7/12/2021 at 6:40 PM, laritheloud said:

Your fish should do fine in that water. My tap is the exact same parameters as Jason from Prime Time (8 - 8.2ph, 10-12 gH and kH), and so far I've trusted his experiences fully. I keep gourami, diamond tetras, amano shrimp and neocaridina (blue dream) in my water with no problems. I'd recommend snails, too, if you like snails. They love harder water and do amazing in my tanks.

Thank you 🙌

I was also thinking about snails, I was just worried about them overtaking the tank. Being new I’m not sure what would constitute “overfeeding” and I know that’s the main reason people have snail explosions lol. 

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On 7/12/2021 at 10:15 PM, DarthRevan said:

Thank you 🙌

I was also thinking about snails, I was just worried about them overtaking the tank. Being new I’m not sure what would constitute “overfeeding” and I know that’s the main reason people have snail explosions lol. 

Mystery Snails (if you want a larger snail) only breed if you have a male and a female in one tank. I have two mystery snails in my 29 gallon and there's been 0 signs of mating or laying eggs, so I likely have two of the same sex. There's also nerite snails which cannot reproduce in fresh water, though they will lay eggs that will never grow into snails. If the look of the eggs on everything bothers you, then you can try other snails that won't lay eggs.

I have a giant ramshorn snail, too, and they're like mysteries. They need a male and a female to breed. I only have one so I'm safe there!

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On 7/12/2021 at 7:24 PM, laritheloud said:

Mystery Snails (if you want a larger snail) only breed if you have a male and a female in one tank. I have two mystery snails in my 29 gallon and there's been 0 signs of mating or laying eggs, so I likely have two of the same sex. There's also nerite snails which cannot reproduce in fresh water, though they will lay eggs that will never grow into snails. If the look of the eggs on everything bothers you, then you can try other snails that won't lay eggs.

I have a giant ramshorn snail, too, and they're like mysteries. They need a male and a female to breed. I only have one so I'm safe there!

That’s a good point I didn’t think about that lol.

Do fish eat Nerite snail eggs? 

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On 7/12/2021 at 9:04 PM, Stephanie I said:

The betta will be fine in your water.  My well water has a ph of 8.4 and gh sits around 450 ppm.  I've had no problems with my fish or nerite snail.  Growing plants has been a struggle though, which is why I'm now adding a bit of distilled water during water changes. 

 

That was gonna be my next question lol, how do plants handle hard water. Do they just grow slowly for you or do they completely die off?

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On 7/12/2021 at 11:53 PM, DarthRevan said:

That was gonna be my next question lol, how do plants handle hard water. Do they just grow slowly for you or do they completely die off?

I've found it depends on the plant.  Anubias does well for me while java ferns merely exist in my tank. Red tiger lotus grows like crazy in my water but I only have a 5 gallon.  I had to trade it in at my lfs.  Crypts did better when I used aquasoil verses the seachem flourite I currently have.  Even java moss melted on me (that was a mess).

When I add plants to the tank, its usually takes about a week to see of they will melt or grow.  Except crypts, plant them and leave them alone after.  I've learned With my water that it's better to buy one or two plants, and see what grows.  Currently, I have a few stems of pogostemon stellatus octopus that are trying to do something.  My aponogeton is doing well and my water sprite is getting lots of new growth. 

 Floating plants might be a good option to try as well.  My frogbit grows quickly.  I also have a bunch of duckweed that unfortunately came with the frogbit.  Red root floaters can be finicky but I really love them.

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On 7/13/2021 at 12:53 AM, DarthRevan said:

That was gonna be my next question lol, how do plants handle hard water. Do they just grow slowly for you or do they completely die off?

My plants do great. Do some research for what would suit your water/temp/lighting plans. Java Fern started as a mess but is starting to look really good after 5 months. Anubias Coffeefolia and Anubias Nana Petite both look exceptional. Pogostemon Stellatus Octopus and Water Sprite both grow like weeds. I prefer Taiwan Moss to Java Moss... Dwarf Sag is carpeting nicely, and my bucephelandra green and wavy is actually growing quite a bit in my water. Water Lettuce (for a floater) is doing amazing, I have to scoop out fistfuls all the time. I'd just experiment and try out a bunch of plants and see what works for you.

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On 7/12/2021 at 9:36 PM, DarthRevan said:

I definitely plan on testing regularly until I figure out what normal water quality is here and then going from there. I wanted to plant the tank first and get them established, then start adding livestock. I didn’t know that you can just have ammonia in the water, I thought that was only once you started adding animals lol, so now I’m definitely going to be testing daily. 

My LFS guy I talked to did say to try ghost shrimp because they’re cheap, I just didn’t know if it would be exactly the same with cherries since they’re more brightly colored and could be more attractive to the betta where ghost shrimp might not because they’re clear. I could also be overthinking that though 😂

For the plants that is great advice that I had not heard before, so thank you! I plan on keeping the fast growing plants trimmed regularly as this will be an aquascape so I’m trying to keep a certain look to it. Roughly how many plants would you say could “comfortably” go in a 40 gallon breeder? It’s a combo of stem plants, root plants, and slow growers that I have in my cart so far I’ll post screenshots. 

6AD3FBE9-294B-4F74-A585-8D906C5D59C9.jpeg

57446E36-9E3D-4D67-8BA4-0641C878864D.jpeg

809FE841-7DBC-49FD-82FB-334EFC2D4006.jpeg

60972A33-E1E2-4D68-813F-6492F3D36AD4.jpeg

Ah, here's your planned plants. I think Scarlet Temple will be a challenge, and I haven't tried monte carlo. My crypt tropica is not a fast grower but it looks BEAUTIFUL. You'll love it once it settles.

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Ok so after some quick Google searches, it looks like I should really only have trouble with the Scarlet Temple if at all. I’ve seen other posts where it’s just melted in hard water, however a lot of aquatic plant care sites say it can tolerate a range of paramaters, but generally prefers soft and acidic water. I guess I’ll just try one or two and see how they do, worst case I can find some other red plants that are more tolerable. I was also a little worried about Monte Carlo but my LFS has it growing fine in our tap water. 
 

Would you guys recommend getting fertilizer or will hard water and aqua soil help take care of nutrients? For lighting I’m going to be using a Finnex Stingray 2.0. 

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I would definitely go with fertilizer. I use Easy Green and API Leaf Zone. In a 40 breeder with that light and the plants you’ve selected you’ll probably dose at the medium light level. Make sure your substrate level plants are not in the shade. I lost three pots of Pearl weed that weren’t getting enough light. 
I’ve been adding a layer of Aquasoil and gravel under sand like MD fish tanks recommends. Just in case I pop some root tabs under plants that are supposed to be heavy root feeders. 

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On 7/13/2021 at 9:28 AM, FriendlyLoach said:

I have a betta with cherry shrimp, I had a few to start in there but my betta ate one. 😞 So I took them all out, or so I thought. I missed one or two and now I have hundreds. I guess the betta will eat one here or there, but it is still a positive number of shrimp in the end. 

Well I guess they’re doing pretty well if their population exploded like that haha! I don’t want my shrimp to get eaten but honestly if a couple end up as a protein supplement for my betta I won’t be too sad as long as they’re breeding regularly lol. 

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