A regular cleaning schedule is part of owning an aquarium.
In the case of betta fishes, a weekly cleaning maintenance routine is important to provide them a healthy environment where it can thrive. This is something everyone must consider before getting into the hobby.
However, there are some things that you must clear way past over the week to maintain the quality of water in your tank.
We will discuss the following important factors when cleaning a betta fish tank.
- Keeping water parameters optimal.
- Ensuring minerals in the water column are adequate.
- Establishing and maintaining the nitrogen cycle.
- Removing debris from the gravel or substrate.
- Battling algae.
- Cleaning the filter correctly.
- Maintaining cleanliness of aquarium decorations.
Cleaning frequency: Every week
Water surrounds your betta fish its entire life. The quality of water you provide your betta will determine its health. Fish will always produce waste as a byproduct of digestion.
The buildup of waste such as fish poop, uneaten food, decaying plant matter, or other dead organisms will contribute to the increase of harmful substances.
Tap water is the most obvious choice for a water source because of its convenience and availability. However, treat tap water with a water conditioner before adding it into your betta fish 5 gallon tank. A water conditioner neutralizes chlorine and chloramine, these are harmful to fish.
Do partial water changes of 15-25% every week is a single betta in a 5 gallon tank with a filter. A small container such as a 2 gallon tank with a single betta will require more frequent water changes of around 20% every other day. The reason being the smaller water volume becomes polluted much faster than a larger water volume.
Use an aquarium siphon or gravel vacuum to remove water from the fish tank. There are plenty of choices available ranging from manually controlled to automatic systems.
Water temperature is important too. The betta is a tropical fish which prefers temperature ranging from 80 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit or 27 to 30 degrees Celsius. Use an aquarium heater to achieve this temperature range. Keep your fish tank temperature constant and monitor it using an aquarium thermometer.
Make sure that the water you are replacing into your Betta fish tank has a temperature as close as possible to the bulk of the water in the tank. This will prevent temperature shock, which can lead to stress in fish.
You can achieve this by adding warm water to the replacement water to increase its temperature.
Cleaning frequency: Every week
Fish need minerals in the water to maintain good health. Regular water changes will replenish essential minerals and take out dissolved minerals that have become excessive.
Fish need efficient osmoregulation, which is very important to keep fish healthy. This is the process of osmosis and diffusion by water between the fish tank and the fish’s body because of the different concentrations of sodium. Water changes will also maintain this balance.
Too much dissolved minerals in the water column is not healthy for betta fish. They prefer soft water where the total dissolved solids are between 4-8 dH or 70-140 ppm.
Tap water is an excellent choice if you want to be sure about mineral content. Just be sure to use water conditioners to detoxify chlorine, chloramine, and heavy metals.
The nitrogen cycle in an aquarium is the process of various bacteria converting harmful waste into less toxic substances.
While it’s part of the fish tank maintenance process, there’s no cleaning frequency to observe here. What’s important is to establish the cycle to regulate the quality of your water tank or aquarium conducive to betta fishes.
The cycle involves four steps:
- The first step is the production of fish and invertebrates poop and plant debris. Add any dead organisms and uneaten food. As these materials decay, they produce ammonia. Even low levels will burn the gills of fish and choke off their oxygen supply. It also damages internal organs.
- Bacteria called Nitrosomonas consume ammonia and break it down into nitrite. Nitrite is still toxic (preventing fish’s blood from carrying oxygen), fish can withstand roughly twice the amount of nitrite in their water when compared to ammonia.
- Next, other bacteria called Nitrobacter consume the nitrite and break it down into a less toxic substance called nitrate.
- Nitrate requires anaerobic conditions to turn it into harmless nitrogen gas. The conditions needed for this process are not commonly present in most beginner’s aquariums. Hence, water changes are necessary to take out the nitrate.
The Nitrogen Cycle in New Aquariums
A new aquarium definitely needs cycling because it lacks the colonies of bacteria necessary to provide biological filtration. The term refers to the process of establishing and maturing the filter. Here’s how it works:
As the organisms (fish or plants) in the new system thrive, they produce ammonia. With no Nitrosomonas colonies established to consume this toxin, levels climb and spike until the ammonia-loving bacteria colonies catch up.
We can observe this as a sudden and temporary appearance of cloudy aquarium water. Ammonia levels decrease once the rate of ammonia production is less than the rate at which Nitrosomonas breaks it down.
A similar Nitrite spike occurs. Nitrosomonas produces nitrite as they consume ammonia. As their numbers increase, so does the amount of nitrite, and the population of nitrite-hungry Nitrobacter will increase. Nitrite levels will rise until the number of bacteria increases to where they break down the nitrite faster.
Nitrobacter processes nitrite into nitrate.Low concentration of Nitrate is not as toxic to fish and invertebrates. However, high levels can cause Nitrate poisoning and Nitrate Shock. The best way to control nitrate is through regular partial water changes.
How long does the cycle take?
New aquariums can undergo cycling in 2 to 8 weeks, but the actual length of time depends on many factors:
- The amount of ammonia produced during the cycling period
- The efficiency of the biological filtration
- Whether this process uses live rock or live plants
- Whether you boost bacteria colonies with additives and bio media
Use a quality test kit to test your water conditions every other day. So when both ammonia and nitrite levels return to zero, you get to establish the cycle.
You can’t detect ammonia, which is dangerous to fish, just by looking at your tank. Prevent ammonia, nitrite, and nitrates from increasing beyond safe levels. On the other hand, ammonia and nitrite are toxic at every level, even just 0.25ppm.
Finally, nitrates are tolerable up to 20ppm. This is the reason we must perform weekly water changes.
Gravel and/or Substrate
Cleaning frequency: More than a week
The aquarium’s bottom usually has gravel, or soil capped with sand. This layer is the substrate. Aquascapers use aquasoil to provide a nutrient rich substrate for live plants.
Fish poop and other decaying matter called detritus can clog in between gravel.
You can remove it using a gravel vacuum. Directly place the tip of the siphon over the gravel for a few seconds to suck up the detritus.
A well arranged aquascape may be too delicate to be gravel vacuumed. You can use the technique where you hover over the substrate and twirl the vacuum.
Slightly disturb the detritus through twirling and fanning motions. Allow the flow of water into the gravel vacuum to pick up the loose debris.
We should not do total removal and cleaning of gravel on a weekly basis because the gravel also contains beneficial bacteria. The best way to prevent your gravel from being dirty is by avoiding overfeeding your fish. Give the amount your betta can finish in 2 minutes once or twice a day. Take out any uneaten food.
A clean-up crew to help you
An aquarium clean-up crew can be beneficial to the health of your tank. A mystery snail and some red cherry shrimp will help eat any leaf debris from live plants and uneaten food. This will keep water and substrate cleaner.
Check online regarding tank mates for betta fish. Be sure that your clean-up crew is compatible with Betta fish. Betta fish may get curious and try to eat red cherry shrimps, but these are usually fast enough to dart away. A mystery snail has a shell it can retreat into if ever your Betta fish tries to give it a nibble.
Cleaning frequency: Every week
Algae is one of the pesky problems that makes people quit the hobby.
Keep in mind that algae is part of nature and a small amount of algae will not harm your Betta. The widespread presence of algae is a sign of an imbalance and is not a pleasant sight to behold.
Here are a few tips to keep algae under control:
- Do not overfeed your betta – One cause of algae bloom is excess nutrients. Uneaten food will produce the nitrogen compounds through decomposition which the algae feed on. Remove any uneaten food you see when feeding your Betta.
- Partial water changes – Weekly partial water changes will decrease excess nitrogen compounds. Algae feed on excess nutrients and minerals in the water column. Starving algae will lessen its presence.
- Manual removal – The betta fish tank owner is responsible in keeping the tank of your pet clean. Scrape off algae from the glass with a sharp blade or a scrubbing pad. Manually remove hair algae from moss and other live plants.
- Consider algae eating clean-up crew – Nerite snails, Malaysian trumpet snails, Ramshorn snails, Red Cherry Shrimp, and Amano shrimp can help you in your battle against an algae bloom. These are ideal as tank mates for betta fish because they leave your Betta alone. The Amano shrimp is big enough not to be eaten, and the Red Cherry Shrimp can easily dart away from a curious Betta.
Do not rely solely on algae eating clean-up crew to do the entire job. You still have to do most of the cleaning work while they help you in their own small ways.
Cleaning frequency: Once a month
Observe filter maintenance to avoid decimating the beneficial bacteria living in it. Filters have media which have a large surface area for beneficial bacteria to colonize.
You may clean the filter once a month for a 5 gallon tank with one Betta fish. It is not advisable to clean a filter weekly because the filter houses most of the beneficial bacteria you need in your fish tank.
If you are overfeeding your fish and not doing a gravel vacuum weekly during water changes, debris such as mulm or detritus will clog your filter. To prevent this, do not overfeed and remember to always perform weekly gravel vacuuming.
Use dechlorinated water when cleaning filter media. Do not use tap water because this will kill the beneficial bacteria you have worked so long for to accumulate.
You clean a sponge filter by removing the sponges and squeezing them several times in a bucket of old tank water or water treated with a water conditioner. Give it three (3) squeezes until the water that comes from the filter is not too dirty anymore.
The same goes for the media in hang on back filters. But you also need to take out the impeller and clean gunk off of it.
You can take out and scrub tank decorations in a bucket of water treated with a water conditioner. You can use a toothbrush exclusive only for this task.
Scrub away debris on the decorations. Never use soap because introducing it back into the aquarium will harm your fish.
Wrapping it up
To summarize our discussion on how often do you clean a betta fish tank:
- A weekly maintenance routine involving partial water change and gravel vacuuming is essential in keeping the home of your betta in top shape.
- Avoiding overfeeding and getting tank mates to help as a clean-up crew is also noteworthy.
- Observe filter maintenance with utmost care so as not to disturb the nitrogen cycle.