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.

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

4 Comments »

  1. How do the drip plates sit? are they removable? And do you place the entire thing inside a 30gal tank? it looks great, i wish I lived closer id pay you to build me one.

    Comment by Jen Sisk | April 29, 2012 | Reply

    • Playing catch up with water changes since the show. I’ll get some pics in a bit. Remind me if you don’t get any info by Sunday.

      Comment by Basement Bettas | May 1, 2012 | Reply

  2. Hi… I’m new to bettas and have two gorgeous males… I absalutely adore them and would love to give them the best care so I have many questions… What are “barracks”? What does the K1 do for the fish? What plants are best? How do you sex the fry?… sorry for so many questions

    Comment by Katlynn | April 4, 2013 | Reply

    • Many of the answers to your questions are on a site I am co-founder on. Check out BettaSource.com. We have lots of info in the articles, and a great forum. So, if you do not find an answer in the articles, post in the forum or send me a direct PM.

      Comment by Basement Bettas | April 11, 2013 | Reply


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