Recently, I have returned to using live plants in my wild betta tanks. My reasoning for this is twofold, and basically all comes back to my long-term goal of 'hands-off' fish keeping.
Firstly, as I am now using aqua soil as a substrate in all my wild betta tanks, I require something to uptake excess nutrients from the water column. Secondly, live plants can essentially take on the role of biological filtration in tanks where conditions are not conductive to the growth of beneficial bacteria.
In an uncycled tank, the only way to remove potentially toxic ammonia is through very frequent water changes. Unfortunately, unless your source water is very close in chemistry to your tank water, changing out water constantly can cause potentially harmful swings in parameters.
However, fast growing species of aquatic plants (particularly floaters and stems) can be exceptionally efficient absorbers of ammonia. In fact, if your tank has enough actively growing plant mass, you may never see a spike in ammonia levels. This process is often referred to as a 'silent cycle' as the plants take on the role that the biological filter would otherwise occupy.
While all this sounds great, there is one major hurdle wild betta keepers face when trying to grow live plants, and that is tannins.
Tannins are terrific for wild bettas, but not so great for plants. Tannins can have an affect on light penetration, so the darker your water is, the less light can penetrate to the bottom of the tank. This is bad news for fast growing stems, which often show poor growth or may die back completely without good lighting.
Nonetheless, you can solve this problem by floating light-loving plants at the surface of the tank. These will act as your main plant mass, and uptake excess nutrients like ammonia and nitrates.
In places where the light isn't as strong, less demanding plants can be used. The often slow growth of 'traditional' low-light plants, means they don't do much in the way of nutrient uptake. However, I've found live plants invaluable at creating cover in tanks with particularly aggressive inhabitants.
I am a huge advocate of using live plants in aquariums. They not only have aesthetic value, but also help create stability in uncycled tanks.
I think stability really is the key to healthy fish, particularly if like me, you are dealing with sensitive or wild-caught individuals.
Well it has been several days since my two new pairs arrived and I have to say that they are doing great!
My brownorum male was readily eating frozen bloodworms off my tweezers this morning, and everyone has been having daily feedings of mosquito larvae.
The following photos are a couple I got this morning while my hendra male was distracted by breakfast. My brownorum female always comes over to see what I am doing, so I had to include a photo of her as well.
Yesterday afternoon, the pairs of Betta hendra and Betta brownorum arrived safely at my house. I dread having fish shipped, and was so relieved to get these four out of their shipping bags and into their new tanks. I want to say a big thank-you to Jodi-Lea of Fishchick Aquatics for her great packing skills and for once more supplying Australia with an exceptional range of wild bettas.
My two pairs were instantly off exploring their new tanks and seem to be settling in very well. Unfortunately, I could only get photos of my hendra pair as the brownorum pair are slightly shyer.
I have placed an order with Jodi-Lea for a pair of Betta hendra and a pair of Betta brownorum.
I am excited to have these two species in my fish room again, and they should be arriving early next week.
Of late, my Betta persephone males have been rather territorial. Their new tank while only 4L smaller than their previous one, is unfortunately around 30cm shorter. I have tried to counter this by providing plenty of hiding spaces, but of course being bettas, the males still seek each other out.
Today I added some moss from my unimaculata tank to help break up the tank into several different 'territories' and of course this just made everyone squabble more.
This is just a quick look at my current fish rack set-up. At the moment I have nine tanks in total dedicated to my wild bettas (there is another tank housing a pair of Betta burdigala out of shot), with two empty tanks that should be getting some stock in them over the next couple of weeks.
On the bottom shelf are two 65L tanks. One houses my main group of Betta burdigala, while the other houses my pair of Betta unimaculata. The smaller tank on the far right, houses four sub-adult Betta burdigala out of my pair from Hermanus. They contracted velvet in the past, and this is why they are housed separately from the main group.
On the second shelf I have a 20L tank housing my Betta stiktos pair and their fry. They were supposed to go into a tank twice this size, but they spawned before I had the opportunity to move them. I am hoping to pick up a pair of Betta hendra for one of the empty tanks, while the other I am looking at filling with either Betta coccina or Betta brownorum. The last tank on this shelf houses males that do not have a female to go with. While they all co-habitate quite peacefully, I hope one day I can find them companions of their own species.
The top shelf has three 40L tanks, which house three different species of wild. The first, is my group of Betta persephone. Unfortunately, this was the biggest tank I had on hand when I moved them out of their previous one. In the future I want to put them into something larger as the males can be quite territorial. The tank beside this, houses my group of Betta sp. cf. rutilans green. I plan on separating a pair out of this tank once I have more space as a group environment is not conductive to spawning. Finally, I have my Betta uberis pair. I would love to house all my breeding pairs in tanks of this size, but sadly don't have the room either now, or in the foreseeable future.
Mine is only a modest set-up, dictated as it is by space restrictions and a tight budget. However, as I always like to have a gander at everyone else's fish rooms, I figure I might as well post some updated pictures of mine.
Wild bettas are definitely not a bread and butter fish for most stores. Something of a specialist fish, they unfortunately can be hard to find if you don't know where to look. While the wild betta scene is growing in Australia, most of the species are not popular or 'easy' enough to become more widely available.
However, luckily for wild betta enthusiasts, there is one individual who regularly brings some cracker stock into this country.
I can say without any reservations that the best source for wild bettas in Australia, has to be Jodi-Lea of Fishchick Aquatics. She imports nearly all of her wilds from overseas breeders and sellers, and the quality and health of these fish is always top notch.
I have received fish from Jodi-Lea that have gone on to spawn the same day they arrived. These were not an easy species either, but a pair of Betta persephone!
All of the fish I have received from her store have been in excellent condition and quickly settled in once they have recovered from the stress of interstate shipping.
Most wild bettas do not do well in the typical fish store environment, and may be suffering from poor nutrition and damage to fins or scales from fighting. Therefore, it is refreshing to receive wilds that have obviously been very well cared for prior to shipping.
It seems like many of the wilds imported in through Fishchick Aquatics, come from the fish room of Hermanus Haryanto. Anyone who knows anything about wilds, knows his fish are absolutely superb. They also have a much higher chance of being correctly identified (there is always room for human error), unlike some of the stock that comes through the wholesalers either mislabelled or are hybrids posing as pure strains.
Mislabelled fish and hybrids slipping under the radar all threaten the conservation efforts of breeders. This is particularly the case with the splendens complex, where I have seen fish of dubious heritage sold as 'pure'.
Perhaps the most only complaint I have seen about Jodi-Lea, is that she is slow to respond to emails. However, when you consider how many emails she probably gets in a single day, it's not hard to see why she may not get back to every inquiry right away. Honestly, it's really not much of an effort to take a couple of minutes and send a follow-up email through.
There are other stores that supply wild bettas throughout Australia, but I have to say that Fishchick Aquatics does stand out above the rest.
I decided Monday morning was a good time to change over the substrate in three of my tanks. Of course like everything in this hobby, it was a lot messier than I thought it would be, but eventually IT WAS DONE!!
I was pretty happy with the results, and the fish seem to approve of my choice in substrate (ADA Malaya).
I will be monitoring the ammonia levels closely in each tank over the next couple of weeks, just to ensure I don't get any spikes.
Otherwise, the only tank that needs its substrate replaced now, is the one that houses my group of Betta rutilans.
I decided not to change any of the tanks that were done with African. The difference in colour isn't too noticeable once you have a lot of tannins in the water, and I think it would be more effort than it is worth.
Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, I currently keep and breed a number of species from the coccina complex.