Basement Bettas

Raising Show Quality Bettas

Where am I?

I know it has been a while since I have posted over here on the blog. Besides breeding and the recent show season I have been working with some one on another web site. The goal of the site is to be a huge reference for all things betta. If you want to check it out here it is: BettaSource. We have not really gone “public” as we are still adding content. But, we would love to have you join us and take everything for a test drive. Let us know what you think and any ideas for more articles. Please send me any links you have come across that you have found helpful and if you are interested in writing any articles for the site. We are looking for a lot of content to be housed there in time. The forum is also getting started so sign up and introduce yourself. The site has a nice chat feature that we get going many evenings and it is a lot of fun.

And of course we have started a Facebook page if you want to join us there.



November 6, 2012 Posted by | Info You Can Use | , , | Leave a comment

The Silent Killer…

Betta FryThere are so many variable in raising Bettas there never comes a time when you can breathe a sigh of relief and feel you are out of the woods. And at each stage you have different priorities and encounter different problems trying to get them to the next step. I have found the different stages are spawning a pair, raising fry for first four weeks, getting size on the juvies [4-12 weeks] then jarring at about 12 weeks of age. From that point on you have bringing the fish to perfection in finage and deportment for showing or getting breeders ready for a spawn tank. One stage where huge losses often occur is during the first four weeks. After finally getting a successful spawn and watching the fry become free-swimming, many breeders think the battle is won and it is all down hill from there. But time and again we see people asking what happened to their fry. The spawn was huge and they were fine last night, yet today there are only a few left. Where did they go?

Disease will often get blamed for huge fry losses. But I have found fry to be more susceptible to bad water quality due to high levels of ammonia and nitrIte than disease at this age.  If you are serious about raising nice Bettas you have no choice but to understand your water. The biggest issue, at any time with these fish, is often water quality. After several days of a pair together and then the male tending a nest and hatching fry, your spawn tank’s water has changed. Fish waste is breaking down and ammonia is being produced. Though most do not feed the fish while in the spawn tank to reduce this, it still happens. And I wonder about the eggs and empty shells breaking down as well. Since we do not filter a spawn tank, and most of us to not filter till the fry are a month old, this ammonia can quickly build to toxic levels as there is often only a few gallons of water in the tank. Since anything but zero is toxic, and even more so to young fry, monitoring this and nitrIte in your spawn tank will ensure most of your fish make it to the next stage. I too have had huge spawns disappear overnight. When I tested the water I found my ammonia and nitrIte to be deadly high.

Ammonia Test KitWith my recent spawns I have been testing my water every day and am finding within 24 hours I have ammonia levels of 1 or more. Anything above 1 is toxic and deadly to fry. And the nitrItes get high too. So I have been doing 90% water changes every day with the fry. The negative is I have more time and labor in the fry and I can’t blow off a water change, for even one day, without risk of losing fry. On the plus side, the frequent water changes are putting very good growth on the fry.

What about filtering this age group? Many people do add a sponge filter and raise great fish this way. I don’t like to filter till they are older as I found the water movement tends to drive the fry to the bottom of the tank where there is less movement and I had problems with missing ventrals. I also seemed to have more issues with swim bladder problems. My conclusion is they tend to not move around as much and hang on the bottom where there is little water movement at this younger age. Lack of movement and constantly eating makes couch potatoes out of the fish.. and the swim bladder problems we see are the result. So I wait till they get into the grow out before adding filtration. Once they get four weeks of age they do not seem to mind the water movement.

So to get your fish through this stage as well as the others I recommend getting a good test kit. The strips are quick and easy but I don’t feel as accurate. I prefer the drops and use the API test kits. Get into the habit of testing the spawn tanks every day so you can see what is going on in your tanks. If the ammonia and nitrIte levels stay at zero for several days, then you can wait to change. But if you find, like me, that the ammonia gets toxic quickly then you are in a position to change the water and avoid losing your fry. After finally getting that spawn you don’t want to lose them over something as simple as a water change.

To remove water without risk of removing fry you can use a fine mesh fish net over the end of the tube. I use my large ½” tubing this way and pull my water level down to almost nothing. You can use air line tubing with a plastic air tube as a siphon in a net as well, it just takes a LOT longer. I no longer worry about the funk in the bottom of the containers. I add some snails to the tank and they tend to keep it clean of excess food. If however you get food going funky on the bottom, use the air line tubing siphon and carefully siphon the funk into a container and let it settle and feed less in the future. If you find fry in there with the funk you can use a measuring spoon to scoop them out when they get close to the surface and put them back without too much trauma to the fry.

When you change the water you want to remove as much as possible and add fresh. If you only do a partial change you are only diluting the ammonia and nitrItes. A 50% water change with readings of 1 for both ammonia and nitrIte will give you .5 for both after the change. That is still too high. If you are taking the time to do the water change might as well make it effective. To add back water I use a gallon container set above the spawn tanks and use air line tubing to siphon water back into the spawn tank. It produces a gentle current of fresh water into the spawn tank. When in a hurry I have also just poured in water and have not found it to be harmful.. but I like the gradual approach. With regular fresh water and good, not excessive, feedings you will find your fry put on size quickly in this stage.

So there you have it. Stay on top of your water quality and you will have very nice fish in a few more months. When you see how much time goes into raising a quality Betta, it sure makes you appreciate those magnificent fish you see in shows and for sale on AquaBid. And with some extra care your fish could be one of those magnificent Bettas too.


** Fry photo by Jim Sonier. Click the photo and be taken to his web site. Lot of good info there on genetics.

August 24, 2012 Posted by | Fry, Water Quality | , , | 3 Comments

Current fish for Sale

Black Devil Male – young and still developing. Have a spawn from siblings.. he is ready to be bred.

Super nice metallic female with great branching, balance and form.

Sibling female to the one above. Also well branched. From my metallic line.

Turquoise female with very clean color. This line has been solid bred for a few generations now.


See our current auctions on AquaBid.

August 6, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Oklahoma Betta Show

We did well in Oklahoma.  The red males took 1st and 3rd and their sisters got some placings as well. The blue and yellow marble line I am trying to establish had a female takk 1st.

My steel Single Tail Halfmoon took Best of Show [BOS] and his brother, ad Double Tail, took Reserve Best of Show [RBOS] Here is a video of the show.

May 1, 2012 Posted by | Betta Shows, Shows | , , , | 1 Comment

New Sump for Filtering Barracks

We have had our barracks up for almost 2 years and they have been great. They are easy to clean and give our fish lots of room to grow their finnage. I started out siphoning out the cells every other day or so and that seemed to work ok initially. Then we had some fin issues.. dorsals curling and some fin rot issues. On to Google I went and even emailed some more experienced than I. We determined I was doing too many water changes and the system was not getting cycled. Bettas typically are kept in their own container and they get major water changes several times a week.. so I never really thought about cycling nor took the time to get it done.

I was told to do less water changing so I had stuff in the water to feed these bacteria that convert ammonia to less harmful stuff. So I tried to do only 1 water change a week to give the bacteria a chance to build up and take care of ammonia and nitrates. Unfortunately, my fish seemed to continue to have issues. More time with Google and I learned that the bacteria I needed to balance my system prefered pH of 7-7.4. With Bettas I was keeping the pH much lower.. closer to 6. I also learned that the RO water I was using with a little RO Right added in did nothing to provide stability to prevent pH swings. So, I got and have learned to use buffers. I now am keeping the water at a pH of 7.0. For my 32 gal trash cans that is 1.5 grams of acid buffer and 3.0 grams of alkaline buffer. I am cheating a bit there using only half the buffer and the other half plain old baking soda. I still am adding the RO Right for electrolytes and trace elements. So I now have my water where I want it.. now just need to look closer at what is going on in the barracks system.

In the big barracks I have 4 barracks each housing 12 fish. So there are 48 fish in each system. I was running everything down to a 20 gal tank where I had two rubber tubs stacked on top of each other with filtration media. In the bottom I had Pond Matrix and in the top one I had some BioBalls and Bio-Bale. Over the top was one of the lids inverted with holes punched in it to allow the return water to trickle in over the media in a wet/dry setup. I cleaned sumps every month but the amount of debris that came thru all the filter media was amazing. It did not take long to accumulate a fine particulate film across the bottom of the sump. And before long that fine stuff was in the water being circulated through out the cells with the fish. I tried using a very light PP [potassium pomanganate] solution to “burn off” this particles and it worked temporarily. I had the cloud back in the water as often as the next day. So.. time to do something else.

My conclusion is I really never had adequate filtration for 48 fish being fed, quite heavily at times, to get them grown up. So I once again spent some time with Google and researched filtration. I decided I wanted a lot more mechanical filtration and wanted the water to travel thru various media. I also like the fluidized beds so I went about designing a new and improved sump.

Water now will enter the sump and travel thru at least 6″ of filter floss. This stuff is cheap, can be rinsed and, if necessary, thrown out all together without costing me too awful much. It will then go thru 2 layers of stainless steel pot scrubbers. I have found these things have incredible surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow, and I should get some mechanical filtration for some particles. Water will then go under a partition and up and over into a wet/dry filter area. I made the space between the two partitions large enough to get a siphon hose in there to remove debris. I am hoping stuff will be too heavy to flow up and settle at the bottom to be easily removed and therefore not enter the wet/dry. Water will overflow onto a plate with holes drilled to allow the water to trickle over the wet/dry part of the sump. The first thing the water hits is the Bio-Bale that is above the water line. Below that is a layer of BioBalls and below that Pond Matrix. All of these medias have great surface area for bacteria to colonise. Water flows down thru all these media and under yet another divider and up through 57 pot scrubbies. I found in my research these are another inexpensive yet highly effective media that has a lot of surface area for bacteria to breed. It will also provide even more mechanical filtration for any particles. At this point I should have absolutely NO particulate matter in my water. The water will exit two holes drilled through the partition and will overflow into the fluidized bed I have K1 media in.

The K1 media is yet another media that has good surface area for bacteria to grow. As the Kaldnes media moves within the filter, it causes the old dead bacteria on the outside to be displaced. This makes space for new younger heavier feeding bacteria to rapidly colonise. Within  the wheel is a protected surface which enables colonies of bacteria  to naturally follow their life-cycle, of maturing, dying and then fueling the latter stages of the nitrification cycle. Kaldnes has  been designed to provide the best possible habitat for both young and mature beneficial bacterial colonies. This media takes time to mature and move properly in the water. So, right now we do not have as much in the chamber as we will eventually have. It will be added a little at a time so we have proper movement for the bacteria to grow.

By the time water gets to this point the particles should be removed and any harmful ammonia, nitrate or nitrites should be gone. After swirling around in the fluidized bed water will drain out to a compartment that houses the heater. I chose to have a separate chamber rather than house it under the K1 media. Always concerned something could fail and the filter media press down on a heater that was warm I had visions of melting plastic. So I decided the heater needed its own space for safety’s sake. At this point water should be warmed up, flow around the corner and be pumped back up to the barracks.

Since I just set up the sump it is too soon to tell how well it will work. With all the filter media I should have no problem controlling the ammonia, nitrates and nitrites even with the heavy feeding of youngsters I like to do. All that remains is for the system to cycle. To hurry the  process along I got Dr. Tims One and Only nitrifiers. The reviews sounded good and I also got recommendations from a Facebook friend. I added the recommended dosage yesterday and today had ammonia at 1.0. Did a good water change and will see where we’re at tomorrow. The One and Only is supposed to cycle my system in about a week. If you want to know how well it works, join us on FaceBook where I’ll be posting my results.

Here is a video of the completed sump.

April 22, 2012 Posted by | Betta Housing, Info You Can Use, Water Quality | , , , | 4 Comments

New Filtration for Grow Outs

Water quality is VERY important when it comes to raising fish. When the water becomes less than ideal it stresses and weakens the fish leaving them open to opportunistic diseases that are always present in water. Things like fungus, columnaris, velvet and ich are always present in water. They get a strong hold and become a problem when fish are kept in situations that cause them stress. Water changes are a good way to keep the water clean with acceptable ammonia, nitrates and nitrites. But with grow outs and my barracks system we also have to look at the systems we use to filter. I have an article coming on the new sump I designed for the barracks and this one is about what we are now going to do for our grow out tanks.

At about a month of age my fry go into 10 gal tanks to get a few more weeks growth on them before going into big tanks to finish off. They get about half the water removed every 2-3 days and the tanks topped off. As of right now, I do not filter these tanks. There is a lot of plants to help control nitrates and the regular water changes keep every thing else in acceptable limits.

In the larger tanks I used to use a sponge filter. I have 30 gal tanks because they are a size I can carry if needed to bleach and clean at the kitchen sink. So I bought several sponge filters rated for 30 gal tanks. After a few years of this method I was not pleased with the results. I still had ammonia spiking and they sponges never seemed to really handle all the fine particulate stuff that got floating in the water. With Bettas we often have a LOT of fish per gallon of water and we are pushing food at them left and right to grow them out quickly. This produces a lot of waste and all the high protein food tends to keep ammonia levels above where they should be. So.. Google being my best buddy we went looking for what ever else was out there.

I had a few issues that needed resolved. The fine particulates that seemed to remain in the water at all times and ammonia, nitrates and nitrites. In my search I stumbled on some articles written for pond keepers. They use potassium permanganate to clear water of DOC [decaying organic compound] and also to eliminate parasites and bacteria. So, after water changes I was adding a little PP and it helped a bit. Since I needed to be able to recreate a dosage, I mixed 1/4 tsp of PP with 10 TBS of pure RO or distilled water. I used an eye dropper and dosed aboutr2 ml of this solution into the tank after water changes. It turned the water a light purple and within a few minutes it started to go brownish and eventually disappeared. The color change was the PP oxidizing the fine particles. At this level it would not do anything for parasites or bacteria.. but it did knock back some of the funk in the water. Although it helped some.. I needed more.

So the next thing we discovered was using foam as a “wall” across the end of a tank. I found some nice info at Angels Plus and this is also where I got my foam. My tanks needed more filtration. The problem with more filtration is you get a lot more movement of water. Not ideal for Bettas and they are designed for still water like found in ditches. Vigorous water movement is a stressor in itself with these fish so I needed more filtration while not creating a lot of current. This idea of a wall of foam seemed to do the trick. I bought a 2″ piece of foam that runs to the top of the tank. I then went to Lowe’s and got a small pump that can be sued for table top fountains. I put that behind the foam and ran the return tubing over the foam [I cut a small slit] and into a piece of PVC. The PVC runs the length og the back of the tank all the way to the other side. The filtered water is returned to the opposite side of the tank and it creates a gentle cross current running the tank water thru that big foam wall. The pump is rated about 70 gph so I’m assuming my tank get all the water filtered three times an hour.

In searching out different methods of filtering tanks I came across fluidized beds. They are rapidly becoming a primary source of biological filtration. In any filtration system, bacteria are used for ammonia and nitrite removal. Tee filter only provides a “home” for that bacteria to operate. By design, a fluidized bed provides a large surface area for these bacteria to colonize. Since the water that reaches the media is oxygen rich, it is conducive to rapid bacterial growth. The constant movement also means it is self-cleaning and there is nothing to clog making them maintenance free. A popular fluidized bed media is K1. This media is designed to grow large amounts of bacteria needed for filtration. There are many nice videos on YouTube on how to make a filter with this media out of old soda bottles as well as incorporating them into sumps. So I ordered 50 liters of the stuff and set about changing some of my filtration.

With this grow out I took a small 20 oz soda bottle and drilled some holes in the neck as well as at the top end. I added some K1 media and ran an air hose into the bottle. I also drilled a hole in the cap large enough to push in a rubber suction cup I took off an old “ring” used to hold a heater on a tank. I pushed down on the tank bottom and plugged in the pump. At first not much happened with the K1. It is buoyant and tended to just hang out at the top of the bottle. The next day there was some movement and after several days it all was circulating nicely in the bottle. It seems it takes a few days for the bacteria to start colonizing and with that it becomes more active int he water column. I also have a small sponge filter with a soda bottle and K1 over the return. Right now it is giving additional filtration but my main thought was seeding K1 media to use in other tanks. It is easy to remove so I can add and subtract the K1 as needed.

I have been running this setup for maybe a month now and I’m real pleased. The fine stuff in the water has not appeared and larger particulates seem to be caught in the large foam. Even with a HUGE spawn in this tank the ammonia, nitrites and nitrates have been kept to acceptable levels. When I do water changes I try to suck some of the funk off the foam just to get it out of the tank. Since the K1 is behind the foam the turbulence from that filter does not affect the main tank. We still just have a gentle flow crosswise and the fish are doing very well. Below is a video of what it all looks like set up.

April 15, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

More Fish for Sale

Kinda hanging on to a few males as the show season is coming up. But have some later bloomers from spawns where I showed fish this past fall. These guys are a few young males from my metallic spawn 43. This spawn throw big finned fish that carry their finnage well, even in old age. They are late to develop as they get big, thick bodies before the finnage started to come in. I prefer that over fish that get big long fins on the smaller, thinner bodies.. seems the finnage is not as sturdy as the fins on a more slower maturing fish. We got some great multis, greens and coppers in this spawn. The females are all very balanced and I don’t think I had a bad female in the bunch. Many took placings this past fall. So here are some of they boys I have left.

Got a cute and young butterfly royal male. He still needs to do some growing, but he is on track to be a very nice fish. Not as good a butterfly pattern as would like for showing.. but form wise he is super nice and being butterfly he carries marble. He would be a nice male to bring good branching and big finnage to a marble line.

And last, but surely not least.. my metallics crossed to a royal male I got from Karen McAuley. If your into bettas you know she is one of the top US breeders right now. Her fish have great form and are sturdy.. good bodies and top lines. My metallics also have nice bodies, good overall balance and great branching. Colorwise we are all over the place. But, with the form genetics in these fish we will reel back the color to solid metallics. If your into multis or marbles these girls would be great.

January 16, 2012 Posted by | Butterfly Betta, Copper Betta, Metallic Betta, Multicolor Betta | , , , , , | 21 Comments

Red Bettas for Sale

Still have lots of fish in grow outs. I went a little nuts on the reds so have a lot of fish coming. If you don’t mind them young I can make you a deal to finish growing them out. Lots of the lighter bodied Cambodian females.. some very nice bicolors. I will be separating some of the traditional Cambodian girls out to get them ready for the shows.. but the rest are available and for sale. Many are breeding these lighter bodied females to get reds without the black layer  underneath that also give a black edged scale. The black edging counts against a fish in the shows so that is why the Cambodian based breeding. Here are some of the girls. if interested, just send me an email and we will get you some ready to ship.

The two very large spawns are out of the same female but different males. One is a sibling and the other is a very nice import I have pictured here. Love the great spread on this import and the super sharp edges and branching. I have several nice males already and plenty more coming. Most of the darker bodied ones I will be keeping for the show season but if you are interested in a red butterfly pattern I have three available as well as some lighter bodied males. Here are some of the reds I will be photographing and posting soon.

January 16, 2012 Posted by | Bettas for Sale, Red Betta | , , | 2 Comments

Fish for Sale ~ Assorted Female

Need to spend some time photographing fish but it is my least favorite thing to do as I never seem to have enough time to get them all done. So, I cheated and took some videos of fish I will hopefully be getting photos of soon and posted to AquaBid. If you like any of the fish just send me an email and we will make arrangements to get you the fish.

These girls are from a variety of spawns. Most of them are from my F1 cross to get blue and yellow marble or grizzles. Got some very nicely patterned bicolors or mustard gas types as well as some neat marbles. Most could be better branched but I am after a color so will work in the better form in the next generation. If interested just send me an email.. otherwise we will get them photographed and on AquaBid over the coming weekend.

Nice female from my metallic spawn that, a nicely colored royal blue and a black with red butterfly pattern.

January 16, 2012 Posted by | Bettas for Sale, Bi-Color, Female, Metallic Betta | , , , | 3 Comments

2011 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 34,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 13 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

January 1, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment


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