Basement Bettas

Raising Show Quality Bettas

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