When shopping around for your betta fish, you have probably stumbled upon something called “water conditioner”. Some of these are specifically “betta water conditioner”, others are “goldfish water conditioner”, and some don’t have the name of a specific fish. So, what does this water conditioner do exactly? Is it even necessary for keeping pet betta?
Water conditioner is a product that makes tap water safe for fish. In order to keep us safe, municipally sourced tap water contains chlorine, and sometimes chloramine, to kill potentially dangerous bacteria in our drinking water. However, chlorine and chloramine will also kill fish, so water conditioner neutralizes these compounds and makes the water safe for fish. If you have well water or another source of water that you control, it likely does not have chlorine and does not need to be treated with a water conditioner.
In this article, we will discuss chlorine, chloramine, heavy metals, detoxification of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate, slime coat restoration, and betta water conditioners.
Chlorine in tap water is often a good thing. It keeps us, the humans, safe from water-borne diseases and other potential infections. However, fish cannot constantly be breathing in and living in chlorine as it will burn them and kill them.
The small dose of chlorine in our tap water is not at all dangerous to us. Our bodies are over one hundred times larger than a betta’s, so we can take in over one hundred times the amount of chlorine a betta can. On the other hand, that small dose that is in the tap water is way too high for a tiny little betta’s body.
Water conditioners are also called “dechlorinators”, since their main purpose is to take the chlorine out of the water to make it safe for fish. If your municipal water contains only chlorine and not chloramines, you may not have to buy a water conditioner.
Chlorine is a gas that has been infused into the water. This means that if you leave your water out long enough, chlorine will escape the water and go into the air, effectively removing the chlorine from the water.
It takes approximately 24-36 hours for chlorine to
However, it is possible to speed up the amount of time it takes for chlorine to leave the water by adding in a bubbler. The bubbler will ripple the surface of the water, which increases the surface area of the water. By increasing the surface area of the water, you increase the rate of gas exchange, meaning the chlorine will leave the water faster.
Chloramine is different from chlorine in terms of off gassing, but it is added to tap water for the same purpose as chlorine. Chloramines stay in the water longer than chlorine, which is useful for the water treatment companies, but it means you cannot age your water to get the chloramines out.
Chloramine is a combination of ammonia and chlorine, both of which will burn your fish. This means it is even more dangerous to your fish than chlorine, since it will stay in the water much longer, and once it breaks down, it releases toxic ammonia.
Before you start to worry about your health, mammals are capable of drinking very high levels of ammonia when compared to the amount that would kill your fish. On the other hand, mammals cannot process nitrates as well as they can process ammonia, which is the opposite of fish.
In addition, not all water conditioners remove chloramines, so you will need to find one that does. It will also have to neutralize the ammonia portion of the chloramine molecules, otherwise, ammonia will burn your fish.
As long as your water conditioner can treat chlorine, chloramines, and ammonia, you have nothing to worry about. Most that treat chloramines do not expressly state that they can lock ammonia, so you should contact the company before you purchase their product.
Heavy metals are another issue for fish that some water conditioners can help with. These metals include copper, lead, and mercury, and are very harmful to fish. Again, this is due to the fact that their bodies are much smaller than ours, so toxic doses for them don’t cause damage to us.
These types of metals are more common in well water than in municipal water. Cities must list the approximate amount of heavy metals and other compounds used in the water, and you should be able to find the report with a quick google search.
Some cities do have an issue with heavy metals in their water simply because of the geography of the region. If the runoff rainwater goes across the
Well, water is much more likely to contain heavy metals than tap water simply because it sits in the ground much longer. Therefore, it has a longer time period to absorb heavy metals. Heavy metals are likely the only reason that someone with a great system will need to use water conditioner.
Detoxification of Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate
Some water conditioners have added bonuses, such as detoxifying ammonia and nitrite, and some nitrate. This is extremely useful during cycling and in case of a mini cycle.
As previously established, ammonia and nitrite are extremely toxic and can only be removed through water changes. The same goes for nitrates. However, if your nitrogen compounds register in extremely high quantities, anything over 1ppm, 50% or even 70% water change will not be enough to keep your fish safe.
In these cases, if you do not do frequent water changes, a large water change would shock your fish. Instead, you can do multiple smaller water changes during the day and use a water conditioner that detoxifies those compounds.
The problem with the detoxifiers is that they only have limited capabilities. For example, Seachem Prime is one of the best water conditioners for detoxifying these compounds, but it can only detoxify around 2ppm of combined ammonia and nitrite. This means that if you have 1ppm ammonia and 3ppm nitrite, it will not be able to detoxify most of this and your fish are in extreme danger.
However, if you only have 1.5ppm ammonia and 0.5ppm nitrite, Seachem prime will detoxify this for 48 hours, which is often enough time for your beneficial bacteria to convert it to nitrates if you have an established tank.
Slime Coat Restoration
Another potential benefit to water conditioner is that some of them claim to help restore the slime coat. This is beneficial if your fish suffered an injury, such as ammonia burns or torn fins, or if you are using salt or other harsh medications.
Some medications against general parasites and other illnesses work by irritating the slime coat. The fish produces extra slime coat which can help protect against some illnesses, but it can wear out the fish out over time.
In addition, when a fish suffers an injury, part of the slime coat around that area is stripped off, which leaves it more open to infection. By using a water conditioner that claims to either “replenish the slime coat” or “produce an artificial slime coat” you can help your fish restore or create extra slime coat.
However, most of these contain Aloe Vera, which has been linked to cancer. Bettas are prone to tumors, but since they only live for 3-5 years, the effects of cancer from these products do not often show up in their short lifespans.
On the other hand, it may be better to avoid Aloe Vera based products on longer lived fish, such as goldfish, since they can live between 10-20 years, giving enough time for cancers to take effect.
“Betta Water Conditioner”
Now, you may be wondering what the specific “betta water conditioners” do, and how they are different from other water conditioners. There are a few differences from general water conditioners, but either is acceptable.
The first difference is that betta water conditioners are often diluted. This is not a bad thing, and there is a reason for this. When you look at a water conditioner like Prime, 250 ml treats 2,500 gallons, and it is only around $10.
However, 250 ml of betta water conditioner often treats less than 100 gallons of water. This difference is due to the fact that Seachem Prime is primarily used on larger tanks and betta tanks are much smaller.
The lowest dose listed on the bottle of Prime is 1ml for 10 gallons. Most betta tanks are only 5 or so gallons, and unless you have a very accurate syringe, you will have a hard time measuring the amount of Prime you need to do partial water changes.
The more diluted betta water conditioners normally have doses for the gallon and half gallon, so they are easier to use on betta tanks. Aside from the concentration, there are normally no differences between betta conditioners and other conditioners.
In addition, most of these water conditioners contain additives to help the slime coat. This addition is not necessary, but nearly all betta water conditioners will have this.
In conclusion, water conditioners are used to remove chlorine, chloramines, and heavy metals that may harm your betta. They are essential if you use city tap water and may be necessary for well water if there are heavy metals present. Water conditioners specifically for bettas are more diluted than most other water conditioners but are otherwise identical.