Monday, July 22, 2013

Make Your Own Betta Cave

Edit:  See final(ish) version of the betta cave toward the bottom.

I have this El Niño fern in my aquarium and it's not doing so well, so I'm hoping it will help if I can get its leaves to stick up out of the water a bit as it acclimates to being fully aquatic.  It's not looking horrible yet, just losing some of the green in its leaves.  I really should have learned more about caring for ferns before I got it, and I should know better, but it was an impulse buy on a trip to the Pestmart.  As it is, the rhizome is buried in the substrate, which is a no-no with ferns.

Here's a picture of the fern.  It's the dense green fern behind the cave on the right.


My original plan was as follows:



















Thankfully a member on a request for help at Tropical Fishkeeping mentioned that placing a fern in a flower pot would probably not allow enough water flow around the rhizome, so the idea morphed into this:

This is what it looked like after I set the hole in.  I've seen a lot of people using a hammer and chisel on flower pots, even soaking them in water for days in an attempt to "soften" them.  I have not had any luck whatsoever with this method, so I pulled out my trusty Makita angle grinder and Bosch diamond blade and went to work.  I did have to file the edges smooth by hand.  Note, I also used a masonry drill bit to place a hole in the dish above the flower pot.  The hole mates with the hole already in the flower pot so later I will be able to tie a piece of driftwood above without having to soak it for days on end before it sinks naturally.  The two pieces are held together with aquarium sealant.

After the bond between the upper and lower pieces had cured, I put aquarium sealant all over the exterior of the pot, leaving the inside of the pot and the top of the dish clean.  I then covered the sealant with gravel of the same color and brand as my substrate.  You will want to press the gravel into the sealant a bit so it sticks better.  When it was done I could still see a lot of the green pot between the pieces of gravel, so I knocked off the loose pieces, coated everything in sealant again, and and applied another coat of gravel.  This is the final product, right now the project is in the final curing phase.  
I will be sure to post pics once I get the driftwood and fern tied on and the final product in place in the aquarium.

Here's a picture of what it looks like almost done.  It has gone through several revisions by now.  All I need to do is finally rinse some more gravel and place it in the top tray.  The el niño fern has been tied to the driftwood with fishing line.


Friday, July 29, 2011

Hi, I'm Crazy About Bettas


I've been keeping fish on my own now for about 6 months and I've gone completely head over heels for betta fish.  There's just so much to like about them, starting with their personalities.  My mom used to keep angelfish when I was a child and they never really interested me because they seemed interested in only 1 thing:  food.  I will not knock angelfish.  They are beautiful and I'm sure somebody can correct me and tell me all about their personalities and how cool they are.  I will say that growing up I could watch them for almost a full minute before I was completely bored and ready to move on to something else, and a lot of that had to do with the fact that the angelfish were always more focused on each other than they were on me, as if they could only see me if I had a food can in my hand.  Bettas are at the complete opposite end of the personality spectrum.  They are basically aquatic puppy dogs.  Yes, they are voracious eaters and they do beg for food, but even after their belly is full, I find they are very interested in the human world beyond their aquarium.  I can probably never prove it, but I suspect their interest in humans has a lot to do with the hundreds of years they have been raised in captivity, much like domestic dogs and cats, who are much more interested in human interaction than their wild counterparts.  


Bettas are often raised in small, solitary tanks, since they typically don't make great community fish due to their territorial nature.  There are exceptions, such as some of the wild species, which can be kept in community aquariums, and female Betta splendens can be kept together in groups, sometimes, under the perfect conditions (plenty of room, lots of hiding spots and plants, and the perfect balance of personalities).  Some bettas actually get bored all by themselves in their solitary confinement and we betta keepers have been known to resort to all types of simple entertainment.  I play videos of other fish on my iPod for my office fish, Brad.  
Here's a picture of Brad:  
He loves to see females bettas swimming around in hi-def, and he even flares out his fins and struts around to show off for them.  Then he blows a big bubble nest up at the top of his tank, just in case he gets a visit from one of the girls on TV.  He noticeably perks up anytime someone visits my desk and comes out of hiding to make sure they see him.  For my bettas at home I usually set DVDs by their tanks, preferably ones with faces and animals printed on them, and that seems to hold their interest for a while.  I even read one person on a fish forum who says she places a doll next to her aquarium and her male betta seems to stare lovingly for hours (if I run across that post again, or if you can point me to it, I'd be glad to give you the proper credit for that novel idea which gave me such a laugh).  Some people even teach their bettas to do tricks, such as swimming through hoops, which is not unique to betta fish, but still quite a feat.


I guess the last thing about bettas that makes me crazy for these little fish is the seemingly endless myriad colors and tail types they can have.  The traditional veil tail betta that most people think of with their graceful, drooping fins is actually disappearing from pet stores in many regions and being replaced by other tail types such as the crown tail, the half moon, and the delta.  The short-finned plakat can be found in a lot of places, too and I really like this more sleek look.  They are strong, fast swimmers and often times have a lot of attitude.  Generally, the plakat is bred in Southeast Asia to be a fighting fish.  I do not condone fighting animals for any reason, but I do appreciate the aggressive, macho attitude plakats can have, much like I admire a well-bred pit bull, which I similarly would never fight for any reason.  I'd much rather watch two consenting adult humans fight, if I must have blood sport.  Animals, like children, cannot consent.  There isn't enough time or space to cover all possible colors and fin types, but you can look it up yourself.  For betta information in general I would recommend 2 betta forums offhand and they are here:


Ultimate Bettas
http://www.ultimatebettas.com


Bettas4all
http://www.bettas4all.nl


These are both great sites for general information on betta fish, and great places to get an idea of what kind of fish you like before you actually buy one.  You will also find a lot of people here who really care about betta fish and are very knowledgeable about them.  They are an indispensable resource if your fish ever becomes sick, for example.  They will take the time to help diagnose the illness and recommend a course of treatment to save your fish.


Lastly, if, after researching proper care and housing of your fish, you decide to take the plunge and make a purchase, please don't feel like you have to be satisfied with the fish on the shelf at your local pet store (LPS) or your local fish store (LFS).  There are reputable online vendors who will ship you your fish via priority or express mail.  One such vendor which I can particularly recommend is VangsPlakat.  You can follow the link or find them here:


http://www.vangsplakat.com


Bob Vang is a fellow bettabetta farms in Southeast Asia, so he constantly receives new and exciting stock.  Best of all, if he doesn't have the exact fish you want, he can usually get it in his next month's shipment.


Thanks for reading, and please don't miss the next installment:  "How I Came to Love Bettas" or "The Story of Robert the Fish"