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5 Gallon Betta Tank

Dawn T

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I got my hands on a Marineland Portrait 5 Gallon Aquarium on sale! It's an all-glass, rimless aquarium. I did NOT like the base that came with it (what were they thinking?!?), so I put it on a piece of thick rubber mat. I decided to do a betta tank out of it.

I followed Cory's advice from a video he posted to YouTube and set aside the media that came with it and hotrodded it out. Seeded it with well-cycled media (sponge and bio-balls) plus a base layer of substrate from an old setup underneath some Peace River gravel I had left over from my other recent scapes.

I'm not quite sure the light that came with the tank will be bright enough, but I used plants that are SUPPOSED to do well in low light setups, so we'll see how that goes. Since bettas prefer lower light tanks, it should work well in that way at least. My other tanks are unheated (we keep our house warm enough year-round that even at night in winter, I'm finding they don't drop below 74 degrees F), but I put a heater in this one to keep it a bit warmer for the betta. Don't want him getting cold.

The hardscape is locally sourced rocks that I tested for safety, and bits of small driftwood (that's already growing a layer of biofilm slime).

Plants are:

  • 2 bunches of Ludwigia repens
  • 2 bunches of Hygrophila siamensis 53B (tissue culture, so it's VERY short right now, but already growing just since I put it in 2 days ago!)
  • 1 Anubias nana petite (itty bitty baby one that split off when I was working with one going into one of the other tanks)
  • 1 Bucephalandra wavy green
  • 1 Cryptocoryne parva
  • 2 Crypocoryne tropica
  • Red Root Floater (1 section)

The Ludwigia is readily visible, as is the Bucephalandra and the Crypt parva, and the nana petite is in the foreground to the left, but the others are small enough that they're currently hiding in the hardscape for the moment. No doubt that will change soon, especially with regards to the Hygro. One image is shot from the front. The other shows the tank from one end to show the placement of the plants that are behind the rocks and in amongst the wood. The Ludwigia is still in the weights and all that they came in. I want to see how it'll do under the light in this tank before I tuck it individual stems into the gravel. The third photo shows the itty bitty baby nana petite. I have no idea if one that tiny can survive and grow, but we'll see. I love trying out different things and seeing how they do.

I put a ramshorn snail in there today. That will be the only inhabitant of this tank other than the betta. The betta is part of a fish order I'm expecting later this week. Looking forward to receiving him and getting him situated.




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Looking good. I'm a fan of the 5 gal portrait tanks, I have two. I like how you can customize the filter compartment, though on my snail tank, the pump gets clogged with baby snails. I'm thinking of just making it an area for pothos roots. Anyways, can't wait to see yours all grown in!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Aragorn is still thriving! I bought a betta log from AC for him, and he loved that right off the bat. Plants are doing well, signs of new growth. The ludwigia's lower leaves melted off, but there's new growth coming in on the top, so I'll be trimming the tops off and removing the bottoms very soon. I just keep removing the leaves that detach. The teeny tiny Anubias petite I decided to try in there is actually getting new leaves! I wasn't sure it would work, because it was SO tiny and had minimal roots, almost no rhizome, and only a couple of barely there leaves. Need to get new photos soon to post.

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Oh, the filter - almost forgot. The output and intake were too strong, even WITH the pump turned down as low as it would go. Aragorn was NOT happy with that. So I put a piece of 1/2" thick coarse sponge over the output - which is held in place by the cover since I made it long enough to stick into the filter compartment. It's just laying on top of the output, which I flipped upside down so the water flows upwards instead of downward. That took care of that part. I put a piece of the same type of sponge over the lower filter intake, which seemed to have stronger flow than the "overlow" intake at the top. That sponge is held in place by suction and part of the driftwood. No more issues since then. Aragorn has been happy since I made those modifications.

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  • 3 months later...

Lost my betta a couple of weeks ago. All water tests show the water to be perfect. Snails and Amano shrimp are all still doing great. So no idea what happened. He was fine - active and eating - one day, and dead the next morning. No temperature changes. No water parameter changes. The 8 Amano shrimp I originally introduced are still in there and active.

On another note - the Ludwigia repens and Hygrophila siamensis 53B I put in there both melted away to nothing in a matter of weeks. Both species are doing fine in other tanks, so I think this one just doesn't have bright enough lighting. The Bucephelandra, Crypt "tropica", Crypt parva, and Anubias "petite" are all doing great. I just added a bit of Java moss with a AC shrimp cave for the fun of it. In the meantime, I'm trying to figure out what to do wth the bald spot in back where I had put the stem plants.

For now, no fish in there, just the Amano shrimp and some snails. Pretty sure I won't get another betta. 

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  • 3 months later...

Update on this tank - This tank ran into similar problems as my 29g Endler tank, though not as severe. A lost a couple of cherry shrimp, but everyone else seems to be doing well. It's hit-or-miss when I see them. They seem to spend as much time in the filter compartment as they do in the front part of the tank.

The Crypts have sure grown since I started this project! The Bucephalandra and Anubias have also grown. The Buce is doing this weird yellowing thing since it bloomed this past summer. Not sure yet what that's about - asked about it in the plant section of the forum.


I've tried 3 different stem plants in that back corner near the filter intake, but none of them survived. The tank is simply too low light for anything but low-light plants to take hold. So I've ordered a higher powered light. Hopefully I can get something to take hold then.

Oh, snails loved the fact that the stem plants were weak and failing. The population exploded. I removed a bunch of them and added a single assassin snail to the tank. He alone won't be enough to annihilate the snails, which is why I only put one in there. He should help control the population, though.

Latest change - I added a small Peace lily and a couple of cuttings of wandering Jew in the top of the filter compartment. The peace lily was in the back of the 29g Endler tank, but it wasn't doing well. I don't think it was getting enough light there. This 5g tank is on my desk and gets better natural lighting, so we'll see how the peace lily fares.

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One thing I forgot to mention in my update - the shrimp have relocated some of the black substrate from the back section where the plants are into the foreground. I haven't gotten ambitious enough to put it back. Figure it'll probably be a losing battle, since they'll probably just move it to the front again. LOL

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I got the new light put on earlier this week - a Finnex Stingray clip-on I bought from AC - to increase the lighting in this tank from the one that came with the tank. The Finnex is noticeably brighter but not by a huge amount, so it shouldn't trigger any algae explosions.

Now, my Crypt 'Tropica' is suddenly melting. I know they can melt sometimes without any apparent warning, though that's never happened to me before. I've had new ones melt, sure, but never established ones, except once when my tank light died and the tank went several days without lights before my new light arrived (I keep another light on hand now to prevent that happening again). Can a light increase trigger the same issue?

No issues so far with the Crypt parva, but the Bucephalandra has a couple of leaves that appear to be doing a melting routine, too. Do Buce species melt?

Yesterday, I finally transferred a small school of ember tetras into the tank from quarantine. They seem happy in there with the shrimp. Active, eating, and still nosy as can be, which is pretty fun to watch since they're on my desk now instead of in the bedroom.

Water parameter check this morning - 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, nitrate barely registers (not even 10). No changes in GH, KH, or pH from the norm for this tank. I gave the tank a light dose of Easy Green when I did all of my tank maintenance this morning.

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Well, the Crypt 'tropica' is in full meltdown. Ugh. Waiting to see if both melt back completely, or if they actually manage to keep a few leaves. The Buce is also losing a lot of leaves. I decided to leave the melting leaves alone for the shrimp and snails to pick at and clean up. I'm monitoring water parameters for any spikes that could result from the sudden decay of such a large amount of plants in such a small tank. This morning's test - 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 0 nitrate. GH/KH/pH remain stable.

The Anubias 'petite' appears to be doing fine. No changes in it. Same with the Crypt parva.

I added a dwarf sagittaria to the back corner. Just plopped the pot in for now. So far, so good. I bought 2 - the other is in my quarantine tank, which is where I keep various overflow plants. When I get a new variety of plant to try, I generally buy 2 and put them in different tanks.

On the upside, the Peace lily is doing well, as is the wandering Jew. The ember tetras are still happily exploring and begging for food regularly. 😁 They really seem to like their new location, despite the constant activity around my desk. Shrimp are very active and going about their business.

I had to pull the water pump in the filter compartment yesterday morning. I haven't been able to figure out a way to keep it from getting clogged. If it's not tiny bits of debris that get past filter media, it's baby snails. I tried putting it into a media bag, but THAT gets covered and results in the same slow-down. Yesterday, I decided to try coarse sponge. Built an enclosure for the pump and put all of that in a larger media bag. We'll see how that goes. If I can go more than a month without having to pull the pump for a thorough cleaning, I'll consider it a success. Not easy to work with that pump, since the filter compartment is pretty tight.

I have learned one thing about water pumps while working with this system. I WAY prefer powerheads like my AquaClear. I don't like these things with the little slits for water intake. Protecting them from snails and debris is a royal pain. SO much easier to work with an intake nozzle that an uplift tube can be connected to, like on the powerhead in my bigger tank. I wonder if I can find a small enough powerhead to replace the water pump that's in this tank....

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I found a nano-sized powerhead! It's rated at 60 gph, which should be more than fine for this 5g tank. The flow isn't as strong as the water pump that came with the tank, but that's fine with me. Even set at its lowest, that water pump was still too strong for my betta when I had him, so I had to buffer the output to slow it down. For the embers and shrimp, this new powerhead is perfect. I had to modify the plumbing for that output a bit, but with industrious use of SuperGlue (and nearly gluing my fingers together 😳), I got it to fit securely. A little intake sponge I already had on hand fit perfectly on the powerhead's intake. So now I'll be able to simply remove the intake sponge for cleaning occasionally, instead of having to remove the entire water pump to scrub out those stupid little slits in the thing. So much easier. I'm much happier all the way around.

The Crypt wendtii melt has stopped, and I trimmed the Buce, so no more melting there either. The Crypt parva ended up losing only a couple of leaves, with the rest looking good still, so hope, hope, hope....

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  • 3 weeks later...

Nitrates remain low to zero in this little tank, BUT the increase in light intensity triggered development of some algae (and the duckweed went NUTS). This morning, I adjusted the timer on the lights to decrease light duration by an hour. Will adjust further if it proves necessary. Also, removed most of the duckweed. Fish and shrimp are still happy, so I just need to rebalance the lighting to prevent further algae explosion.

Oh, and the Crypt 'tropica' have new leaves. They didn't end up losing ALL of their leaves, just most. Coming back in now though. The Crypt parva didn't melt as much as the 'tropica', but no new growth on those yet. The Buce, no change. Still watching to see if it grows back in.

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  • 4 weeks later...

UPDATE - The Crypts are re-growing for sure. And I noticed on Christmas Day that the Buce had teeny tiny new leaves emerging. Merry Christmas to me! LOL

I've added dwarf sag (a new-to-me plant that seems to be doing well) and a large java fern (which I've never had much luck with, so we'll see).

Also, a week ago, I added 6 more Ember tetras to the existing school of 4. I monitored water parameters to make sure there were no nasty spikes with doubling the number of fish. Not a budge. Ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate all remained at zero, even on days I fed twice instead of once.

Today, I added the final 4 Embers from my quarantine tank. So there are now 14 Embers in this tank, along with the shrimp. Here's a bit of weirdness I didn't expect. The original 4 were very outgoing and rarely in hiding; didn't matter whether the plants were thick or melted back. I added in the next 6, and everybody disappeared! Including the original 4! For the past week, nothing! It's pretty amazing when you have a 5g tank with minimal planting (until the plants fully recover) and you can look and not see ONE of 10 fish in it. LOL Today, after I added the final 4, they've ALL been out and active ever since. Totally bizarre. Apparently, 4 are brave, 10 are cowards, and at 14, they get brave again. LOL

Of course, with this latest additions, I'll watch the water parameters for a few days to make sure things remain stable.

Oh, and that new water pump I put in is working great. No issues at all with it so far. It doesn't clog like the original one did.

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  • 2 months later...

Crypts have recovered from January's (quite literal) meltdown. I've since added some Bacopa Carolina cuttings, which are doing great in there. The Buce is still recovering, but the Anubias petite is doing great. I finally got some root tabs last month to put in the foreground for the Crypt parva and dwarf Sag. They seem to be holding their own.

Also, this tank contains 14 ember tetras and a small group of Amano shrimp and a cherry shrimp. I added 2 more cherries this morning (after my QT popped a seal). Also, I added 2 gold honey gouramis about a week ago. This tank maintains at 0 nitrates, 0 nitrites, and 0 ammonia, so I decided those 2 little guys won't push the parameters too much. LOL Also, their presence has given the embers more courage, so they're out a LOT more than they were before.

Interestingly, my school of embers, not surprisingly, display a range of red coloration. But one has NO coloring at all on her body, and almost none on her fins. In fact, she's totally translucent. Definitely easy to spot in that herd. 😁

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Got photos this evening before the lights went off but after I closed curtains. Hubby had already opened everything up when I got up this morning.

I'm still filling in the Bacopa as I take cuttings and put them in. Have a couple of small pieces floating in the tank to grow roots. Accidentally broke those off when I did the cuttings this last time. Oops! Also, have a couple of sprigs of pearl weed floating around. I pulled those out of the QT I lost yesterday. (Shoved plants from that into every other tank I have!) They won't stay long-term most likely. If I decide to leave them, next time I do plant trimming and such on this tank, I'll get those tucked into the substrate. Pearl weed stays small and grows slowly for me, so no worries about it taking over.

Anyway, here's today's photos. I apologize ahead of time - for some reason, the site is automatically rotating most of the images to lay on their sides. I've tried everything I know and can't fix that. I don't know why it does that sometimes.


One of my cherries in the tank. This girl has been in there almost since I set up the tank. She likes to photobomb. LOL


One of the gold honey gouramis. They've added a lot of life and interest to the tank. The embers definitely don't hide as much since I introduced the gouramis.

If you look at what should be the actual top of that photo (to the right), you can see the peace lily that grows out of the back of the tank. It's in the filter compartment. I also have some wandering jew back there, coming out of the left side of the filter. I suspect those, as much as the submerged plants, are what helps keep this tank as 0 nitrates, nitrites, and ammonia. This tank hasn't needed a water change in MONTHS. I'm about ready to do a 20-25% one anyway, because I don't like the tannins from the almond leaves. I like the leaves for the shrimp, but I REALLY don't like water that looks dirty. This tank definitely has that going on. Ick.


Ember tetras.


Overall shot. Didn't quite get the left side of the tank into the shot, but that was due to how I angled the camera to get rid of reflections from outside the tank.


The Crypt tropica, and the same shrimp I noted above. I couldn't find her cohorts or the Amanos, but I just saw them an hour ago. Amazing how well they can hide in only a 5g tank!


Anubias nana petite. This started out with 2 TINY leaves. I wasn't even sure such a small piece/plant would even take, but look at it now!


Last but not least, the Buce. It's the one almost center of frame but a little low with the bladder snail on the leaf. It's definitely been a lot slower than anything else in recovering.

This tank gets weekly parameter checks, top-offs as needed (every week or two), and plants trimmed as needed. Needless to say, nothing really to trim except for the java moss (which grows s-l-o-w-l-y in this tank) and the Bacopa that I only recently added.

Well, that's the latest.

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