Alright, so you’ve got your new Betta, or at least are thinking of getting one, but unlike most new Betta fish care beginners you aren’t going to make a major mistake in that YOU are going to cycle your tank. When a fish is out living in its natural environment it lives in a rich ecosystem of already established chemical levels that support life. When introducing a Betta to a new tank, beneficial bacteria haven’t yet had the time to form and therefore ammonia and nitrate levels can spike in a fashion extremely dangerous for your fish. In this article we’re going to go over how you can prepare a fresh tank to safely mimic the natural environment of your fish, this is known as “cycling” in the aquarium world.
To begin, add your substrate (small rocks or pebbles that line the bottom of the tank) to your empty tank; be sure to rinse the substrate before adding it. Next, before turning on your heater and filter, fill the tank with room temperature water. Add whatever water conditioner you use to remove chlorine and other hard chemicals, let the water sit for a few hours.
Now it’s time to turn on your filter, you may or may not know but your filter does more than clean your water. If you’re new to Betta fish care or aquarium upkeep in general, you may not know that filters also have cartridges that you insert that contain cultures of bacteria. The filter then distributes the bacteria throughout your water as it filters through.
Basically, the bacteria you are cultivating feed on ammonia, which comes naturally from your fish’s waste. However, if you’re cycling without a fish (the safest option for your pet) you will want to purchase ammonia and a testing kit from a grocery and a pet store, respectively. Ideally, you want there to be 2.0 ppm of ammonia in your tank water, so add a few drops of ammonia each day to maintain this level for a 5-10 gallon tank.
As bacteria multiply, you should notice ammonia levels dropping and nitrates rising, this is a good thing! Basically, a tug of war between a couple different types of bacteria will begin to form until your ammonia and nitrite levels are reduced to zero; at the same time you should notice nitrate levels rising. Once you notice this, congratulations, your cycling is complete and your are now safe to add fish!
To maintain a safe and nurturing living space for your pet, be sure to continue to maintain this balance by doing 15-20 percent water changes each week and regularly testing your water.