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current fish tank going downhill, future one potentially already ruined. Some advice greatly needed.


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Hi everyone. This is my first post on this forum and I have quite a few questions. largely I think all of the problems I'm facing stem from my lack of experience and negligence. Currently, I have a 5.5-gallon betta tank. Nothing super fancy, but I still need some advice because I'm at a loss. The past tanks I've worked with(betta, and turtle) used carbon filters. When I was setting up my tank this time around I needed to get a new filter. (the previous tank was smaller) I was going to use a tetra whisper filter, which we had used in school, and they worked fine for the 3 years we used them. Some people at the store didn't recommend them though, and I heard some other stuff about moving away from those types of filters, so I got a box filter. It's just varying sponges, stones, and ceramic filter rings. I need to get new floss sponges which I've put off for too long, but that leads to my first question:
should I change the whole filter altogether, or should I change the media? Would it be beneficial to use carbon? Also, this might seem like a very dumb question, but I get so paranoid about putting stuff in the tank willy-nilly. Are the sponges marketed towards the canister filters fine in a filter that's fully submerged in the tank, or would prolonged submerged exposure be harmful in some way?
2:My betta has bad fin rot, presumably due to the issues I mention throughout. I was considering putting my fish into a 1.5-gallon bucket and do large water changes until erythromycin arrives. However, I can't put any heater in the bucket. Should I continue with the betta fix in his current tank or should I take everything out of the tank except the heater and just use that?
3: water conditioner. I just leave the buckets out for 3 days, but it's inconvenient. Some of the conditioners I used required such a small amount that it would be so easy to screw up the dosage or they still need to be left out for a day. I was going to get the fritz guard or fritz complete, which claims it works instantly, yet it supposedly has a chemically smell. Should you let the smell dissipate from the water before putting it in, or is it fine? Would you recommend the Frits conditioner or something else( I saw that the complete is not compatible with ich-x, but what about erythromycin)
so now onto the "future tank" (intended to be for the betta currently in the 5.5)
so I got a 10-gallon rimless aquarium. I also got the lid, which did say that it was compatible with. Except of course it doesn't fit. I should have known when the support rails it said it came with weren't the same as the ones that it came with, but I figure it would just "work out" There's probably about a cm of space between the lid and the tank when sort of holding it up. so, any recommendations. Some person did a video showing how to set it up and the vinyl strip on the back wasn't even on to accommodate for the filter, and it FIT. So, anyways could I add something to it like coroplast or plexiglass? Any inexpensive recommendations? It's the aqueon versa top btw.
now on to the Mopani wood. I wasn't very wise when it came to the Mopani wood. I got this fairly large piece from zoomed, and it said to soak it, but change the water daily. Other sources said by weekly some even less. I changed it more frequently to start, but after a while, it would hardly get the colour of white tea after a day or two so I just left it. Of course, because I didn't have conditioner, I needed to leave the water for the wood out so that as annoying. Eventually, I figured changing it so frequently wasn't going to help It that much, so I left It. For like 2 months sitting in the same water. Before, when I soaked it in hot water it just smelled "earthy" but now it smells slightly like eggs or sulfur ish. so now I'm worried that after all of this I'm just going to need to throw it out cause its rotting or something.
I'm just really at a loss here, nothing is going accordingly, and I've spent a decent amount on this. I'm afraid I'll need to scrap most of that stuff and get a new filter, new wood, and potentially plants too. I don't know, for now, the pressing issue is just some sort of intervention for my fishes fin rot, but insight as to any other of the points would be so greatly appreciated. Sorry for such a lengthy and jumbled post. Just needed to get this out quickly.


Edited by lyn
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Hi @lyn!  Welcome to forum. Sorry that less-than-ideal circumstances have brought you here, but I feel confident that you'll get through it.

First, I (and the majority of forum users here, I suspect) think carbon filters are a waste of money at best, and actively harmful to a planted tank. They take out all the things a plant would clean up and use, and you throw them away regularly, needing to constantly buy new ones.

When you use sponge material, filter floss, biorings, or other media like that, you're mostly just providing surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow. These bacteria will consume the ammonia from your fish waste and convert it to less toxic nitrite, then convert the nitrite to even less toxic nitrate. If you have live plants in your tank, they'll also consume all three, but especially love nitrate. You'll want to occasionally squeeze out or rinse your filter media to rinse out larger waste particles, but you'll never have to throw them out.

So, when setting up a new tank, you have to wait awhile to get those beneficial bacteria growing and capable of processing fish waste. We also call this a "biofilter" because you're using biological elements to clean your water. If you just set up your tank this afternoon and plopped a fish in there, it would quickly get very stressed from the ammonia buildup because you don't have a colony of bacteria to handle it yet.

I would recommend testing your water parameters, especially ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates, to see where you're at.

Assuming you don't have a massive ammonia problem, there can be all sorts of reasons why a betta gets fin rot. It could be water temperature, pH, water flow, stressing him out. It could be tearing on a piece of decor. He could even be biting his own tail if he's bored. I would get a handle on your water parameters first, then watch your tank for any stressful elements. You don't have to move him to a new tank or a bucket, but keep the water changes pretty frequent. Better to do smaller water changes (10-20%) more frequently than huge ones every once in awhile.

For water conditioner, leaving tap water out won't dissipate chloramine, which is sadly in a number of municipal water supplies. While you're testing your tank water, you should test your tap water too to see what you're working with. If you have well water, you may not need a dechlorinator at all.

But for a small tank, I actually don't like to use Fritz complete. Like you noticed, it's highly concentrated, 1 pump for every 10 gallons of water to be treated, and warnings to not overdose. I prefer API Stress Coat, which dechlorinates and has aloe as well which helps fish health in a number of ways, which uses 1 pump for every 1 to 2 gallons, which is way more convenient for smaller tanks.

Once you get a handle on your betta tank, I think you'll have a better idea what to do with your 10g. One step at a time 🙂

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Thank you for the response! I wanted to just check If the erythromycin can be used with the API stress coat. For now I have my fish in his tank with just a heater and the gravel/rocks but I took out the filter so I have been doing around 35-40% water changes every other day. Since its only been a couple of days I didn't expect to see any drastic changes, but I don't see the fin rot getting better with water changes alone. He does seem a bit more comfortable hopefully this setup with be good for now.


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