Setting up a Wild Betta Tank
I have two preferred tank sizes that I use for pairs or small groups of my claret species. For particularly aggressive pairs or small groups, I use 45x27x30cm tanks. For less aggressive breeding pairs I use 30x30x30cm cubes.
While they can be quite fierce at times, coccina complex species (particularly male/female pairs) generally only require tanks in the 20-40L range to cohabitate peacefully.
I like to use peat moss (not sphagnum moss) as a substrate in my wild betta tanks. Not only does it have acidifying properties, but I have found that the resulting tannins and dark colour of peat moss brings the colours out on my fish a lot better than when they used to be kept on other substrates.
Unfortunately, if peat moss is not soaked first before adding it to the bottom of a tank, it will tend to float and look unsightly until it has absorbed enough water to sink. I usually soak my peat moss for a couple of days beforehand so that I can add it straight away to my tank.
Indian Almond Leaves
Another staple in my tanks, is Indian Almond Leaves (IAL). These are used by betta keepers worldwide, and I feel no wild betta tank is complete without them.
Having researched the natural habitats of the species I keep online, I have seen that many of them inhabit areas of quite dense leaf litter. Therefore, I like to provide a similar environment in my wild betta tanks.
The amount of leaves I use depends on both how deep I want the litter to be, and how dark I want the water to eventually be. IAL can be very potent and it may only take one or two leaves to give the water a tea-stained look. I find that if you gradually add in leaves over the period of a couple of weeks, you don't end up turning your water pitch black.
In nearly all of my tanks I have a considerable amount of cover. The clarets can be quite elusive fish, particularly wild-caught specimens, and so I like to have a lot of places that fish can hide and feel comfortable in.
My wilds usually have three main areas of cover: floating plants at the surface, the leaf litter along the bottom, and artificial hides such as terracotta pots and lengths of PVC pipe.
All of my betta tanks have sponge filters running in them. Most of these are run off a main pump as I have found this ended up being more space and cost effective.
Because of the extremely low pH in my tanks, the beneficial bacteria that is found in a cycled tank and processes ammonia and nitrites, is unable to grow.
Therefore, the only purpose for the sponge filter is to move the water in my tanks around and prevent it from becoming stagnant. I found when I left my sponge filters off, algae and other detritus would build up and it would make it not only an eyesore, but also difficult to keep eyes on things.
I also like sponge filters, because I can easily control the rate of flow. I find a lot of filters are much too strong for bettas and need to be modified before they can be used. With the assistance of a 40 cent control valve, I can easily slow or speed up the rate of flow depending on my needs.
Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, I currently keep and breed a number of species from the coccina complex.