4 years ago #1
accidental betta fry ...

I've cycled a 12-gallon tank for over 3 weeks now, with my Ammonia levels reading at a constant around 1.0, but no other test results seem alarming...

*fish-less (cycled the tank for at least 1 full week maybe a few days more; the filter has a 'BioWheel' ) Nitrate: 0.5; Nitrite: 0.0; Hardness: around 100, Chlorine: 0; Alkalinity: around 0.75; pH around 7.6.

*fish-full (two Bettas were added, 1 male=Valdez and 1 female=Ailee, my pair I am working on breeding) Nitrate: 0.25; Nitrite: 0.0; Hardness: around 75, Chlorine: 0; Alkalinity: around 0.80; pH around 7.2.

---I fed/feed them frozen blood worms [thawed and rinsed of course], not because I try to "condition" them, but because I'm a pushover, and the two of them never would eat any freeze-dried food or flakes; spoiled little fishies, huh?---

--->I know I have hard water for Bettas, but they have never shown any signs of discomfort or disease.<---

I thought it was just my test strips (and testing liquid) so I bought a new strip set. 3 times my testing kits say that the Ammonia level is at 1.0. I've even tested my tap water at just-from-the-faucet and also distilled-overnight. All readings are still around 1.0. The other tests change depending on when I test: water straight from the faucet = Nitrate: 10; Nitrite: 0.0; Hardness: 150, Chlorine: 0; Alkalinity: around 120; pH around 6.8.

I added Stress-Coat and Stress-Zyme (by API) when I started the new 12-gal tank (at the recommended dosages) and added a teensy weensy bit more when I put the bettas in (Stress-Coat = happy transitioning fish I've always found!). I have not done any water changes since I added Valdez and Ailee (it's a 12-gallon tank with built-in activated Carbon filter - the pad is a tiny, tiny bit dirty but not enough to change it out).

I had the Bettas in a 1 gallon tank (hooray pet store misconceptions!) and they strangely enough spawned twice (both by accident). The first time - the eggs disintegrated (or Valdez ate them); the second time - the eggs hatched then died (or Valdez ate them). All throughout I got the same results - the Ammonia was at 1.0. I thought that moving them from a 1 gal "bowl" to 12 gal "tank" would alleviate the stressful water chemistry changes that can happen overnight in a smaller (and uncycled) tank, but/and sonofab*tch they mated again (3 times in one month, can you believe it? Horny little fish! ...This must be a Betta record!)

Now I have a nest of newly hatched fry who are still dangling their little tails from the bubbles, and I'm hoping that the 3rd time's the charm but... It's been over a month and the Ammonia levels still haven't gone down.

Oh wait! This is supposed to be a question, right?! I guess it's a two part:
1. Is it really possible that my drinking water -naturally- has a high ammonia count? I live in San Diego; I consume it on a daily basis... and also:
2. Is it what's killing my/their day-old fry? (or is my male helping himself to a gourmet brunch of caviar behind my back?)

3. WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT THIS? Both #1 and #2 seem implausible (is it possible/safe to have that much Ammonia in drinking water? and also, I watch Valdez like a hawk! Ailee was removed a day after the eggs were laid/put into the bubble nest btw so it's not her). Should I put in some AmmoLock and call it a day? I'm afraid of what it will do to my other well-preened water stats.
4. HELP!!!!
~accidental fish mommy

4 years ago #2
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Very likely, the male Betta will eat the fry as soon as they're free swimming. Although a one gallon aquarium is not ideal, it will work for him if the tank is well maintained.

The fry are very small and will need to eat after their yolk sacs are consumed. Fry Daddy posted an excellent blog about growing infusoria for small fry, and you can find it by using the SEARCH button. Liquid and powdered foods are also available to feed the fry.

Now for the ammonia question. The most common way it gets into an aquarium is uneaten food. The fish should be offered no more than they actually eat in a couple of minutes. Uneaten food can be removed with a turkey baster. Weekly, partial water changes and a working nitrogen cycle should keep ammonia and nitrite at zero. Fast growing live plants like hornwort and water sprite also reduce ammonia by directly metabolising it. Just make sure the Betta can still reach the water surface.

If the nitrogen cycle is not yet established, you should see a nitrite spike pretty soon. Three weeks is plenty of time to establish a nitrogen cycle in a small aquarium, provided you left things alone and just put a small pinch of flake food in every other day. While the cycle is getting established, ammonia will spike then slowly go to zero. Nitrite will next do the same thing. If both measured zero after three weeks, the cycle is working. If ammonia increased only after you added fish, it was probably caused by uneaten food or too few partial water changes.

The tap water in large metropolitan areas is treated with both chlorine and chloramine. The chloramine does not evaporate as fast as chlorine, so it kills the bad cooties even at the far end of the water distribution system.

Most aquarium water conditioners treat for both chlorine and chloramine, but if they're out of date or have been stored at temperature extremes, they may not work. That's bad, because chloramine is a compound of chlorine and ammonia. If the chemical bonds are broken, the chlorine evaporates and you're left with ammonia. I'm not a chemist and don't understand all the reactions, but chloramine, and thus ammonia, is in our drinking water but in a safe form for humans. If the water conditioner is not working, the aquarium will have ammonia, which should be handled by the nitrogen cycle. So.......to answer your questions in order:

1. The drinking water is safe for you but not for your fish until treated with a good water conditioner.

2. Dad Betta is probably eating the fry before the ammonia has much of a chance.

3. Feed no more than the fish eat in a couple of minutes. Bettas have small tummies and don't eat much.

4. Except for temperature, ammonia and nitrite, don't worry so much about water stats; they're seldom perfect, and trying too hard to fix things can have disastrous effects.

5. This was fun, and I hope it helped. Please let me know.

4 years ago #3
accidental betta fry ...

Well, as far as preparedness for the fry - I had that covered! I made a sustainable infusoria source, had some First Bites powder on hand, and some brine shrimp. However...

I woke up this morning and the fry were gone, again. Same thing as before - happy, healthy wiggling eggs with tails, next day it's like they never existed. The first time in the 1gal tank I could see where a few were dead on the bottom, and this time - a few look like they may have gotten sucked up by the filter, but I can't really tell if it was the fish, or some leftover brine shrimp remnants. I think you're right, though - Valdez probably did eat them. There's really no other explanation. Although PS: your Ammonia/water explanation was amazing! I learned a lot. I checked my water conditioner and it doesn't expire until 2016, and I don't store it in the fridge or the oven so in theory that shouldn't be the problem. :hrug:: I was thinking of gradually replacing the fake plants with live ones anyway; I know the pet store near me at least has hornwort, if not both plants you mentioned. Some day soon I'll take the plunge!

I have another question(s) though: what exactly determines "free-swimming"? I know that technically it's when they're swimming horizontally, and stop hanging out tail down, head up in the bubble nest. As I've only seen any fry on day one, I'm not really sure what else to look for. I'm afraid if I remove the male the day they hatch, that they won't make it (both spawns zigzagged around like crazy, and kept Valdez hard at work chasing/catching/blowing them back into the nest). But now it's looking more and more like he just eats them the second I go to bed, and all of them! Not many fry hatched both times... maybe 20-30 out of 100ish the first time, and this time I couldn't estimate how many eggs there were because they laid the eggs in a log I couldn't see clearly into, but I saw only about 10 hatchlings wiggling around. That seems like an awfully low number to me... is it? Soooo... when should I take the male out? Maybe if you could give me a day estimate, or something more visible like, say, the egg sac being depleted or something? I read somewhere that some males are just bad sports, and will eat all of their young just because, and there's not really anything you can do to get him to stop it. True/untrue/thoughts?

And again - thank you so so much for all your help and insight!!!

4 years ago #4
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Votes: 48

yes thats what free swimming means. Ability to right themselves in the water horizontally and also to propel themselves too.

The first few days with betta fry are really where the male betta IS the dad, he will return the falling fry to the bubble nest, to remove him early is not really advised. Once the fry are free swimming yes, but not before. The least intervention you do during those early days is very important, and YOU must not be perceived as a threat to the fry and the betta so let them do their thing for those first few days and if you get to the next stage where you can remove the male betta then make sure you net him away from the fry as well as you can and ensure you acclimitise him to his original or separated home with as much care as you can.

As for feeding, i'm sure you already know that until they are free swimming they feed on the yolk of the egg sac anyway. Don't be surprised if the male eats the 'rotten' eggs that simply haven't formed properly or at infertile. He is likely hungry but is getting rid of the dud eggs and keeping the good ones safe.

If he's eaten ALL the fry you probably didn't feed him sufficiently pre-spawning, but if he consistently eats fry with each hatching? you have a constant battle on your hands as its sad to say he won't be a natural dad betta.

If you get to the free swimming stage and you've successfully separated your male, then well done!! its stressy and hard work sometimes, but rewarding. You are now in the part of rearing these young fry and ensuring they are kept well. there's tons of guides out there, and so many folk have personal experiences that match yours too, its all practice and once you are used to it, it will be second nature.

4 years ago #5
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Votes: 1,473

I have a silly question with regard to the frozen brine shrimp. Were they babies or adults? Baby brine shrimp are very difficult to see on the substrate, so maybe you bought the adult ones.

In any case, even baby brine shrimp are too large for new Betta fry. Angelfish fry will take baby brine shrimp as soon as the yolk sac is consumed. To feed them, I found a small, in-tank hatchery that provides a steady supply of live baby brine shrimp. They can live for a day or two in freshwater, so very few wind up in the substrate.

A good size raft of hornwort is likely to contain microorganisms that Betta fry can and will eat. The little live cooties are a good dietary supplement.

4 years ago #6
accidental betta fry ...


I haven't checked the Ammonia levels in about 2 weeks [I figure it's kinda like weight loss - you shouldn't be jumping on the scale every two seconds - just change your lifestyle] and voila!! I fed the adult fish less, and made sure to suck up the extras - though they didn't seem to eat much this time around anyway. I hear that if you don't feed the male much/at all during the egg-taking-care-of-stage he won't see wormy looking things as food? Who knows. I also, against ALL protocol, left the female in this time. I figured it's a 10-gallon tank, and she's faster, so there'd be a slim chance of risk to her. My reasoning was that he'd be busy chasing her instead of eating his young. It actually worked! And - an even stranger thing happened - they spawned again! ...in the same nest, at the same time a few die-hard wigglies were trying to make it in the world! I've yet to read about this happening. Ever.

Maybe the 3rd time wasn't the charm, but the 4th was - and maybe the 5th! Now I am taking care of two batches - a week or so apart from each other - living in the same nest. Now I have some [about 5] free-swimming yolk-free fry with a tiny coppery tinge that chill on a [resin] stump until I add infusoria & FirstBites [then I've seen them attack the granules in the water - so exciting!]. And I have some new hatchlings [about 20-30, more than have ever survived previously] that are chilling tails down in the bubble nest. Some hatched yesterday, and the rest this afternoon, but they all seem to be able to right themselves if they float down from the nest. No sinking, no crazy zigzagging to an un-rescuable spot!

I'm not sure what the lesson is here, but if I've come to one it's that I wasn't taking the male out early enough. I guess without a magnifying glass, "free-swimming" was a little too loose of a term for me. I'm not doing the victory dance just yet, mind you - the eggs-with-tails and the copper-with-tails have a long way to go before we're through the clear enough to call them fish, but I'm optimistic!

Thank you all for your wonderful help, facts, and encouragement! And wish me luck! As -acting- betta fry mommy now, I'm a bit nervous since it's all down to my care from here on out. Lol!! Fingers crossed!! ..if successful they will be a gorgeous chocolate-green veil/fantail hybrid. Yay!!

4 years ago #7
Blogs: 115
Forum: 27,965
Votes: 1,473

Congratulations! You must be doing something right even if it's a bit unconventional.

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