Betta Fish Tank: Water Types & Parameters
In previous posts, we have discussed how to maintain the quality of water in betta tank to keep it in good condition. Now, we’ll review a little about the type, quality and mineral content in water that deserve our attention for our betta fish are always in good health
Types of Water
- Bottled Spring Water: This is a good source of water for our betta’s tank if we can afford to purchase it. Bottled Spring Water is usually filtered to remove chlorine from the water before you purchase it. This often makes the use of water conditioners unnecessary to make the water betta-safe. However, keep in mind that if you use tap water to clean the tank or place your wet hands inside, you may be introducing chlorine and a few drops of water conditioner wouldn’t hurt. When we first purchase the water, test for pH, Chlorine, and Ammonia, and if the the are not detected the water is acceptable for use. Always stick with the same brand of water! Other brands may differ in water conditions such as pH. It is also a good idea to keep a few bottles of spring water around to use in emergencies, if our local tap water becomes contaminated or we have a sick fish and are unsure if the water may be an issue.
- Tap Water: This is also an acceptable source of water for your betta’s tank, and best of all, it is abundant and practically free. Tap Water does however contain chlorine and other toxins, so a proper water conditioner should be used to remove these from the water prior to placing your fish in it.
- Distilled water: Distilled water should not be used in your fish tank. It lacks necessary elements that are essential for a betta to survive.
Water Parameter Definitions
pH (Per Hydrogen): This is the balance between Hydrogen and Hydroxide ions in water. It is measured on a scale of 1-14 of whether our water is acidic (below 7), neutral (7.0), or alkaline/basic (over 7). Bettas fish prefer a neutral pH of around 7.0. Bettas can adapt to a slightly different pH, as long as it is stable – this is key. It is always advisable to avoid using pH Up or Down drops to adjust pH levels; if used improperly, these drops can burn and harm our fish. Additionally, it may be hard to achieve the same results every time and changes in a pH due to this are harmful to a betta fish rather than helpful.
Some fishkeepers will argue that we should never expect your fish to “adapt” to the pH of your water, however in the real world, I think it is most commonly what happens. For instance, the tap water at my house has a high pH, but so do all of the local fish stores where I tend to buy fish. Does this mean I should gradually acclimate them to live in a pH of 7.0, even though the water they originally came from was at 8.0? we can answer this question as you best see fit for our aquarium and fish care. For me, my high pH is a very stable one, and I’ve had no problem with keeping bettas or other tropical fish, or live plants for that matter, in how it naturally comes out of the tap.
kH (Carbonate Hardness): This is the balance between Carbonate and Bicarbonate ions in water. This reading determines a measure of alkalinity, or the ability to buffer and neutralize acid in water. Therefore, the higher this number, the better our water will be able to keep a stable pH. This water factor does not affect fish directly.
gH (General Hardness): This is the balance between Magnesium and Calcium ions in water. This reading will determine whether your water is considered soft or hard. This water factor does not affect fish directly.
It should be noted that pH, kH, and gH go hand-in-hand and altering one will affect the others. If you decide to alter your pH, please research how this will affect all aspects of your water conditions.
Chlorine (Cl): Chlorine is commonly used as an antiseptic and is used to make drinking water safe and to treat swimming pools. It is toxic to fish.
Ammonia: The first step of the Nitrogen cycle when cycling fish tanks. Ammonia is formed through fish waste, urine, and decay. It is toxic to fish.
Nitrite (NO2): The second step of the Nitrogen cycle when cycling fish tanks. Nitrite is converted from ammonia and similarly, is toxic to fish.
Nitrate (NO3): The third and final step of the Nitrogen cycle when cycling fish tanks. Nitrate is harmful to fish at high concentrations – keep your reading at or below 20 PPM.
Water Test Kits
Monitoring water conditions is always a good idea to ensure we are providing our betta fish with ideal environmental conditions. It is impossible to see or smell toxins in a betta’s water without proper test kits. If we have an uncycled tank, it is especially important to monitor pH, Ammonia, and initially Chlorine levels. It is generally assumed that tap water contains Chlorine, so if necessary we could skip purchasing that kit. For a cycled tank, we will need to track pH, Ammonia, Chlorine, and Nitrite levels initially, but once the tank is cycled pH and Nitrate levels become the most important. For a more thorough testing and knowledge of water conditions, kH and gH should be tested as well. These may not need to be tracked on a regular basis, but it is good to know what your water level is in terms of these factors.
There are two main types of water testing materials that we can buy. Paper-like test strips are available that we simply dip into the water to obtain readings, and there are kits where we must remove water from the tank, add to the provided test tube, and add a few drops of chemicals to obtain results. While test strips are certainly better than not testing your water at all, it is generally accepted that test tube kits provide more accurate water readings.
Note: Make sure to test our water frequently around the change of seasons. Many water treatment facilities use more chemical additives come spring or summer. We may have to slightly alter our usage of water conditioners to accommodate for this.