Where do I put all these fish?? Currently working on this article ………..
So you have bred a pair of Bettas and have been working hard on water changes and feeding well. The fry are coming along very nicely. At about 10-12 weeks of age they are coloring up nice and the finnage is coming on. As you watch your beautiful babies you notice several of them are starting to flare and squabble. How cute you think till you see some fins get torn. The time has come to start jarring your babies into their own containers. But, as you look at that tank full of fish, you wonder about the best way to house them all and keep them clean. There are several different ways you can house your fish, and there are pros and cons for each. You will have to decide what is best for you.
The easiest and most common way to keep Bettas is in their own individual container. Betta Breeders are very creative when it come to housing 50 or more fish. Pretty much any container that holds water and is easy to clean will work. If you drink soft drinks you can save the 2 liter bottles and cut the tops off of them for inexpensive and good sized containers. These were the first containers I used as my young males started to mature.
Also easy to use are different sized canning jars. The glass is a big plus as you can throw them in a dish washer for cleaning and every supermarket should have them. If you are lucky you may be able to also get some from yard sales or Goodwill for next to nothing. Also used by breeders and easy to buy in Betta type quantities are deli cups . Though often not as large as a soda bottle would be, they have lids and are so cheap you can lose one here and there and it makes little difference.
If you want something a little nicer, many breeders keep their fish in something call a beanie. Beanies are the containers that were used to keep beanie babies protected. They are about 4″ square and about 7″ high. Not quite the water volume of a soda bottle but close. Getting beanie boxes is not as easy as it used to be. I got mine from WholesaleCases. I have seen these containers sold out quite often when I checked the site, so you may have to contact them and see if they can be obtained any more.
If you prefer a wider and less tall version of a beanie you can check out TC Bulk for more horizontal containers.
CCW has several containers that can be used to house Bettas depending on whether you want round or squares. The nice thing about their squares is the rounded corners they have. After you hand wash about 500 beanies you will understand why this feature is particularly nice to have in your containers. I have found these very sturdy and long lasting. In time you may get some cracks in the plastic on the bottom corners, but some aquarium sealer will fix them right up and make them still usable.
Using individual containers is the easiest way and often the least expensive way to house Bettas, at least initially. When you get to where you are housing 100 or more fish, the cost of containers gets comparable to building a recirculating system. So you need to look at more than just cost when you decide what way to go.
The biggest plus with individual containers is control of disease. Even though fish are housed separately, you still need to practice good disease control by using a net for only one fish then sanitizing it and using care if you siphon from container to container. Should a fish develop sickness or disease, hopefully the disease will be restricted to only that container and the fish can often be treated in the container as well. Once treatment is over the container can be thoroughly disinfected before being used again. Most common containers used for housing Bettas can be bleached regularly for years and hold up well.
The drawback with individual containers is it does not take very many fish before you have a huge time commitment. For the best growth and health, regular water changes are needed. Fish, even in large gallon containers, will need water changes anywhere from daily to every three days. Doing every other day water changes with twenty Bettas is not big deal. But 200 or more is.. and it will consume a lot of your time. This is where many people get burned out and decide they like guppies. The containers will also need to be completely scrubbed out about every week.. two weeks at the most. When you are scrubbing containers you can easily double or triple your time in the fish room. If you decide to keep your fish in containers, you will need to determine how much time you are willing to spend on them and keep the quantity of jars you have to clean at a level that stays with in that time.
Another issue you must deal with is heating the containers. If you have a fish room that is kept around 82 degrees, then you should have water in your containers around 78*, about as low as you want to go with these fish. Bettas kept in cooler water are not as active and will not grow as fast if you have youngsters. The cooler water also opens them up to diseases like Velvet. Water in containers will usually be about four degrees cooler than your room temperature, so a house kept around 72 degrees will have water around 68 degrees… much cooler than is ideal for these fish.
Recirculating systems constantly run water into Betta containers and they over flow and drain down into a sump where the water is filtered, heated and pumped back up and into the containers again. There are several different kinds of systems. Some use regular beanies and drill holes in one side for water to drain out. Others create barracks out of plexi glass with room for the fish and an over flow built into the barracks. What ever you use to house the fish you will need to seriously think about and plan your sump. You will need to have a lot of media to house a ton of bacteria to break down the ammonia and nitrite your fish will produce. The more fish you have in your system the bigger your sump needs to be and more media you will need to have in it. The sump will also take a few months to establish enough bacteria to change harmful ammonia into nitrite and finally nitrate. Until it cycles you will need to commit to testing the water daily and making large water changes to reduce ammonia or you risk the health of your fish.
For more info on a sump for your system see our Sump Article .
The advantages to a recirculating system are improved water quality. Cells or beanies will still need to have feces siphoned off the bottom about every three days and the sump topped off, but the sump will constantly removal the ammonia and the recirculated fresh water will be much healthier for your fish. In the above system, housing 48 fish and circulating around 60 gallons, it takes about 20 minutes to do a 30 gallon water change. Changing water on that many fish housed in individual containers will take considerably longer than that.
Another benefit is upkeep. If using beanies, the containers will still need periodic cleaning, just not as often. The plexi however, will stay fairly clean for years and not need breaking down for just cleaning. You can use an old small sponge filter to loosen algae and the fine funk that will gather off from the sides of plexi. These systems are time savers and one of the big reasons people use this type of housing. There is a bit of auto pilot with them. Once the system is cycled you can easily leave on vacation for a week and your fish will continue to be in water with parameters still in acceptable levels upon your return.
Keeping the water your fish are housed in at an ideal temperature around 80 degrees is also much easier in a recirculating system. A large submersible water heater is placed in the sump or installed inline on the return water hose.
With all these benefits why doesn’t everybody have a recirculating system to house their Bettas? The purchase cost is more for a recirculating system then a few jars or containers. However, when you get a lot of Bettas, the cost for both quickly come to about even. So most people do not start with this type of housing but move into it when they decide to keep a lot of Bettas.
Another reason they are not for everybody is single containers are easy to just line up anywhere you have room. In contrast, recirculating systems need to be thought out and planned carefully. The recirculating systems require a bit of handy work putting together their plumbing. And, if you decide to go with plexi barracks instead of containers, you have to design and construct them as well. They are not difficult, but it does take more time and effort than the containers do.
The major disadvantage to keeping your Bettas in this type of housing is disease control. If one fish gets sick, you run the risk of your other fish in the system also getting sick. And treating any sickness in this kind of system is a bit of a nightmare. The cost of treating 60 or more gallons of water compared to a typical 10 gallong hospital tanks is considerably more as most meds are not cheap. Many meds are also anti bacterial and will destroy the beneficial bacteria that converts ammonia as well as they kill the bad bacteria you want gone. Because of this, you should never put in a closed system a fish you have not bred. There are diseases out there that do not present symptoms for months, long past the usual quarantine time recommended. And when they finally do die or present symptoms of disease, you have contaminated your entire system. A recirculating system is also much more difficult to totally disinfect because of the filter media, PVC tubing and all the hoses used for plumbing.
Which on For You?
The choice of what type of housing you use is going to depend on your wallet and the time you have available for your fish. After that you want to look at how careful you can or want to be about disease control.
If funds are tight then finding suitable containers at yard sales and Goodwill may be your only option. You will just need to make the time to keep them in clean water and also need to find a way to keep the fish at a good temperature so they are not weakened and susceptible to disease.
If you have a bit more to spend on your hobby then you will need to look hard at the pros and con’s of both type systems and decide what will be best for your circumstances. Time and disease control now become the important factors. For more information on what you can do to avoid the spread of disease in your fish room see this article . Then take a good hard look at how much time you want to spend on your fish. It may be fun to spend three hours a night taking care of your fish in the beginning, but do you really want to do it five nights out of seven every single week, for months on end? Only you can answer that one and the answer may be one or the other or a little of both. Once you doo decide which way to go, get it set up and get some photos and share it with the rest of us in the forum or on our Facebook page.