Betta fish owners especially newbies often wonder if bettas need a filter in their tank or not. This is mostly because Betta fish sellers often sell them without a filter. They project the fact that bettas have a labyrinth organ which which enables them to breathe air from the atmosphere.
Now, do betta fish really need a filter? The simple answer is yes! betta fish do need a filter. Of course, since a tank is involved, wastes are generated. A filter helps to offer biological filtration, mechanical filtration, and chemical filtration of the betta fish tank. The filter revolves around removing nitrites, ammonia, and visible wastes. Hence, using a filter for your Betta fish tank makes it safer for your pet.
Cleaning in a bettas natural habitat is done by rainstorms which refreshes their ponds, small pools, and rice paddies. However, the case is different in captivity, thus requiring the use of a filter. Every Betta fish owner should therefore know how a filter functions and the proper way of installing and maintaining one.
One of the main issues with fish keeping is that the nitrogen cycle is not well known by many fish keepers, even though you cannot keep fish healthy without it. If you ever had a fish tank and the fish just suddenly started dying after a few days to a few weeks, it was probably due to this.
The nitrogen cycle is like the water cycle in that it is constantly occurring in nature. Living things take in nitrogen when they eat and release small portions with their waste. The deaths of these creatures return all of their nitrogen back to the cycle.
Unlike the vast expanse of nature, aquariums are closed systems, which means whatever goes in, stays in, until you remove it. This means that nitrogen compounds often appear in excess in aquariums, which can lead to serious health issues.
Fish waste, excess food, and dead fish all release ammonia. Ammonia is the first nitrogen compound in the aquarium nitrogen cycle. It is highly toxic and lethal, as it causes severe burns all over the fish and can cause permanent damage to the gills.
After 1-2 weeks, bacteria that convert ammonia to nitrite begins to grow in number and the ammonia all gets turned into nitrite. Nitrite is even worse than ammonia, as it binds to hemoglobin in the blood and prevents the blood from carrying oxygen.
Another week or two later, another strain of bacteria turn nitrite into nitrate, which is harmful, but much less so. It diminishes the immune system over time, but that is the main effect. It is safe up to 20ppm. Ammonia and nitrite are toxic at any level, even as low as 0.25ppm.
In order to properly cycle your tank and keep an eye on the nitrogen compounds, you need a testing kit. The two main types of testing kits you will see are liquid test kits that come with vials and strip test kits that are just strips of paper.
Strip test kits often only test nitrites, nitrates, carbonate hardness, general hardness or TDS, and pH. On the other hand, liquid test kits often test ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH. There are some liquid test kits available for carbonate hardness and general hardness.
Unless you are keeping a super sensitive species of fish or wild fish, you only need to test the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate in your aquarium. Fully cycled tanks should not have any ammonia or nitrite and should have less than 20ppm nitrate.
Even if your tank is fully cycled, you should get a test that tests for ammonia. Ammonia may be present in your tap water, since mammals like us can tolerate it very well, but the trace amounts may be dangerous for your fish.
If water changes are making your fish gasp for air at the top of the water, you should test your tap water for nitrogenous compounds. Ammonia and nitrate in tap water are common, though nitrite is rather rare. If you have this issue, you may need a R.O. system or simply something to detoxify the ammonia, such as Seachem Prime.
Liquid test kits are also much more reliable than strip test kits. The main issue with the strip tests is that they become useless if exposed to moisture. If you are keeping yours in the same room as your aquariums, they probably won’t work correctly. Liquid tests are also cheaper per test.
Types of Filters
The two main types of filters that are used for betta tanks are sponge filters and Hang on Back filters. Sponge filters require extra parts, namely an air pump and airline tubing. The air pump supplies air to the sponge filter, and the airline tubing connects the two.
Hang on Back, or H.O.B., filters hang on and over the back of the aquarium but have an intake tube in the aquarium and an outtake waterfall the cascades into the aquarium. Both of these filters provide excellent surface agitation, which oxygenates the water.
These two filters are the best for bettas because they provide enough flow to filter all the water while not producing too strong of a current. These are also the two easiest filters to clean, and that does come in handy.
The sponge filter is the safest filter, with no way to damage the betta. Small H.O.B.’s are also considered safe for adult bettas, but their fins can get caught in the uptake. The main issue with H.O.B.’s is that they create a gap in the lid, and bettas are notorious for jumping out of small gaps.
Baffles and Intake Sponges
If your filter has too strong of a flow or you’re worried about your fish getting stuck to the uptake tube, you may want to look into baffles and intake sponges.
A baffle is generally placed where the water flows out of the filter. The purpose of a baffle is to disperse or lessen the current without reducing the filter’s efficiency. Fish keepers typically use baffles for Hang on Back filters and these can be as simple as a piece of sponge hot glued to the waterfall portion to lessen the flow.
Hot glue is aquarium safe, but it also water based, so it will dissolve over time. The baffle can be anything food safe that reduces the flow, even a cut part of a water bottle if you want. Sponge filters typically do not need baffles, because if the flow is too strong, you can just reduce the amount of air entering the filter with the control valve.
An intake sponge is simply a sponge that you can fit over the intake portion of a filter. Sponge filters are essentially just an intake sponge and some tubing. As you may guess, adding the intake sponge also adds more surface area for your beneficial bacteria that keep your nitrogen cycle.
The addition of an intake sponge is only a bad thing if a fish gets itself stuck between the sponge and the glass. It can also slightly reduce the flow of the filter, but overall it is very beneficial.
Cleaning Your Filter
If you rinse your filter cartridge or sponge in tap water or if you throw out either of those pieces, you will kill your cycle. The beneficial bacteria primarily inhabit the filter media, so unless you want to go through a month of daily water changes, clean your filter very carefully.
For a Hang on Back filter, you should take the cartridge out and rinse it in old tank water. You should squeeze it out and try to get rid of as much mulm as possible. The instructions do state that you should replace the cartridge every month. However, the instructions are actually referring to the carbon inside of the cartridge, not the actual cartridge.
After a month, simply make a slit in the cartridge and pull out the carbon. Unless you are trying to remove medications or tannins, you will not need the activated carbon anyway. If you do, you can buy other packets that will fit in with your filter media.
For a sponge filter, maintenance is even easier. All you have to do is pop the sponge off, squeeze it out in old tank water, and pop it back in. Done!
Betta fish need filters. The filter helps keep the water free of lethal ammonia and nitrite, which are leading causes of aquarium fish death. You should ensure that the current is not too strong for your delicate betta. In addition, you also need to clean the filter carefully in order to avoid killing the bacteria that keep your cycle stable.