Basement Bettas

Raising Show Quality Bettas

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


  1. LOVE THE SET UP …COST EFFECTIVE? whats the size of your grow out tank?

    Comment by Carlos Robledo III | April 30, 2012 | Reply

    • I think so. don’t have to clean.. been running almost 2 years on the one and still looks good. Saves time there. I use mostly 30 gal grow outs as I can carry them to the sink. I like to break them totally down, bleach and PP [potassium permanganate] the insides so sterilized. Also dip the plants in a quick PP bath. I want NOTHING transmitted from prior inhabitants. Do have a corner 55 gal. Can’t break that down so tough going from spawn to spawn.. but it is for the really big ones. Gont if full of reds right now. Gonna start to get rid of them as have a large spawn gonna need the room.

      Comment by Basement Bettas | May 1, 2012 | Reply

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