Hello, I am very new here, just created my intro post tonight. I have spent several hours over the last days reading lots of posts but decided it would be so much easier to start my own! I have a new Spec V I want to set up with plants for my Betta, Rex. He is currently housed in a 5.5 gal Topfin but after spending money on various low light plants and Nerite snails and losing them I decided to upgrade. I am not only new here, but new to fishkeeping so I have a lot of questions and not much confidence!
I have well water with a salt based softener. I don't know much about GH & KH but am learning and suspect that may have had some impact as to my plant and snail loss. I am going to buy a PH, GH & KH test kit for sure. Right now I just test Ammonia, Nitrates & Nitrite which have always been 0.
I am struggling to choose my substrate. I have only used small gravel from Petco in my existing tank so Anubius & Marimo is about all I have in it. I am wanting to venture out in the Spec V with more plant variety. I love the carpet look. I like the cost aspect of the Montmorillite clay I could buy at Tractor Supply but have read the M clay products such as Safe T Sorb can impact parameters and wonder if it would be wise to go that route considering my already soft water. Could I supplement to bring parameters in line if need be? Would it even be worth it? My other thought was Seachem Flourite.
I have *almost decided to get the Hydor 50w and hide it in the sump chamber of the Spec V. Do heaters really fail "ON" and kill fish?? I read that in Amazon reviews and was shocked to read even the more expensive heaters do this!! I run 2 25w preset Tetra heaters in my Topfin and haven't had that problem. The water stays between 77-79. Would it be safer to go with a preset or can they fail "ON" as well and cook the fish? Is getting an external temp control unit the only recourse? I would need to buy 2 for my 2 tanks so yikes, these little Betta setups are getting pricey!
Any recommendations or advice are welcome
Welcome to the forums and fishkeeping!
As a fellow betta lover/owner I want to say thank you for keeping yours in a decent sized tank! So many keep them in way too tiny a tank...
GH or general hardness
KH or carbinate hardness
General hardness, also known as water hardness, is referred to as GH for short. It’s basically the measure of the many salts that are dissolved in your water. In particular, calcium and magnesium.
Water with a low GH is said to be soft, and water with a high GH is considered hard.
So, soft water has very little or no calcium and magnesium. Hard water has a lot.
While GH is an important part of water chemistry, most of you using tap water don’t need to worry about it.
You see, your GH entirely depends on your water source. Most tap water generally has sufficient GH so that you’ll never have problems with it.
Carbonate hardness is referred to as KH for short. It’s basically a measure of carbonates (CO3) and bicarbonates (HCO3) dissolved in your water.
Don’t worry! You don’t need to remember those words. You just need to know what KH is and why it’s important. And, that is actually simple…
Think of KH as a protective barrier that surrounds your pH. As your aquarium creates acids, they eat away at KH instead of affecting your pH
However, this barrier is not permanent and once gone, your pH is free to move around again.
The higher the KH of your aquarium, the more acid it can neutralize before the pH is affected.
KH is invisible. While it exists in your water, you won’t be able to know how much is there without a special test kit.
So GHimportant if you are keeping snails/shrimp (calcium is good for shrimp shells but remember gh may be more magnesium than calcium-if you see holes in shells you may want to supplement calcium, google "snello recipes" or "egg shells for aquarium")
Kh determins how easily you pH can swing. Stable pH is important like consistent temperature-sudden swings in pH can stress fish.
You can drop pH from tannins from driftwood and leaf litter (indian almond/cappa leaves), or raise pH (and hardness) from crush coral, lime stone, and some rocks. how much of these things you needs to change you pH depends on your kH.
Keeping the 'common' betta (veiltail, plakat, halfmoon, crowntail, etc etc etc) they tolerate a huge range of pH and water hardness so don't worry that.
I'd like to note that a 5g tank is too small for a nerite snail, especially a new tank. Nerties don't eat fish food, preferring algae on the glass/plants/decor. I'd suggest a 10g at least for a nerite, and a tank that has been running for several months (plenty of that brown algae (diatoms) on the glass)... Also note if you get the nerite at a pet store-if they're all just kept in a small specimen container and not free roaming in a tank.. they're not in good health-starving and dieing in high ammonia conditions.
As for heater, sadly all heaters have failure issues. I've had the best luck with hydro theo adjustable heaters in the past. However I keep all my heaters on temperature controllers now (cost extra$20-30) to keep them from cooking fish.
I love how opal-like your Finnegan's fins looks as he moves from the LED