Betta Fish Tank Maintenance — Full Water Changes

As I was a new fishkeeper, I found myself full of questions about betta fish care.  For that reason, today’s blog post format is similar to an FAQ.  The subject is about full water changes for your betta fish tank.  Please note that there are other approaches to fish tank maintenance.  These will be discussed in future blog posts.

What is a full water change?
Full water changes (or FWC) is exactly as it sounds.  You’ll empty the tank, wash all of the parts completely and reassemble it.

What are the benefits of a full water change?
The benefit is knowing that your betta water quality is top-notch at all times.  The downside, of course, will be the stress on your fish from being removed regularly from his cozy home to a cup and then back to his home.

How often are FWCs required? 
That depends. Since some fish produce more ammonia than others, you’ll need to start by testing the water daily to become acquainted with your fish’s needs.  When your water test indicates measurable ammonia (let’s say day 5), you’ll need to change the water and then change it every fourth day from then on.

What steps are required for a full water change?
 1)  Unplug the heater (and filter, if you have one) and wait 15 minutes.
 2)  Remove your fish with a cup (not a net).
 3)  Empty your betta fish tank.
 4)  Thoroughly rinse everything with hot water:  tank, decorations, gravel, plants, etc.
 5)  Reassemble the tank.  Do not plug in the heater.
 6)  Add warm water (78 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit).
 7)  Add betta water conditioner.
 8)  Drain the cup holding your betta (without stressing him too much) before gently adding him back in.
 9)  Wait 15 minutes, then plug in your heater.

Why do I have to wait 15 minutes for the heater?
Many heaters are made of glass.  To minimize the change of breakage, you should allow the heater to acclimate.

Why should I use a cup and not a net to remove my fish from his tank?
The fins of a betta splendens can catch in a net and tear easily.  You bought the prettiest fish in the store.  Let’s keep him that way.

Is it really necessary to remove everything from the tank?
Ammonia is toxic to your fish.  The only way to ensure that water is the cleanest it can be, is to tear the tank down each time. 

Could I do a partial water change instead of a full one?
There are many reasons for choosing to do a partial water change (PWC) instead of a full one.  If your busy schedule prevents you from completing a full water change, remember that you’re starting with ammonia in the tank, so you won’t be to wait as long until your next full water change.

Any last tips about full water changes?
1)  If you drain the betta cup over a sink, make sure to block the drain first.  More than one pet betta has gone down the drain.
2)  Set a timer to remind yourself about the heater.  It’s a little too easy to walk away from the fish tank and not plug the heater back in.