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Abandoned, Abused Betta Spoiling

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YewBush

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I am living at college. I learned that some students in a dorm hall had four bettas in a bowl, with them in a plastic bag in the bowl, and toilet paper and saltines in the bowl. The custodial staff took them in. They got very temporary little tanks for each of them. I was very angry at whoever did this, and decided to see if they had any still up for adoption. They still had two. I took one. How do I spoil him? At least, I do not see an egg spot, so I think this is a male.
 

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Wow! Saltines and toilet paper....

I'm glad the custodial staff rescued those fish. First, check to see what restrictions your university has on tank size. You should be able to find it in the university housing contract. When I was in college living in dorms, our housing contract specified 10gal or less. The good news is that 10gal is a fantastic size for a betta! Even if you can only have a 5gal, that's still a decent home for a betta.

I'm assuming you're starting somewhat from scratch here.
So here's what I would do:
1. Get him a larger tank, if he's not in one already, 5-10gal — this can be a used tank since new ones can be expensive, just make sure to check the silicone seals and make sure there aren't any cracks in the glass. FB marketplace is a good place to look for used tanks

2. Get whatever sort of substrate you want (although I'd avoid painted gravel since the paint can chip off)

3. Get some really easy live plants — floating plants (but only get duckweed if you hate yourself), guppy grass, water wisteria, water sprite, bacopa, amazon sword, anubias, and java fern are all really good starter plants. Ideally, you want a lot of plants that are at the surface, because when they have access to CO2, they'll grow faster and pull more toxic waste from the water (water wisteria and water sprite can both float, along with the normal floating plants)

4. Get a filter, either a hang-on-back or a sponge filter, although keep in mind you'll need an air pump, air stone, and air hose for the sponge filter. DON'T get a filter that uses replaceable cartridges

5. Get a small heater, unless your room temperature is at least 72°F — 25-50W is good, and get a small thermometer to keep track of the tank temperature

5. If you have a local fish store or a local aquarium group, ask around to see if you can get your hands on some cycled media, either substrate or filter media, but filter media is better. This should give you a huge jump start on cycling your tank and will allow you to put your new betta in the tank sooner. If you can only get loose filter media, then a hang-on-back is a better idea because you can just shove the cycled media into the compartment

6. Get him some high quality food. There are plenty of decent betta-specific dry foods out there, but bettas also really love frozen foods, especially bloodworms. Although, if you don't have a mini-fridge/freezer in your dorm, this won't be possible. You could potentially try culturing live foods though, once you have everything else settled.

7. Make sure to review some of the resources here on the forums! There's a lot of helpful information in the "beginner starting point" section

Edit: Actually, I see from your profile that you already have some fishkeeping experience. In that case, I assume you know most of the basics, so my advice boils down to some nice live plants and high-quality foods to spoil him. I don't have any experience with live food culturing, but many other forum members do. You could also just get some baby brine shrimp and hatch those
 
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Thank you so much! I decided to put him in the 55 gallon, and he is super happy after only knowing horrible conditions before then. I may have to move him to another tank, though, because a male pearl gourami seems to dislike him. My dorm does allow 10 gallons, I believe. Thank you again! I will get him some bloodworms, too. But not so much that he can’t digest them.
 
Thank you so much! I decided to put him in the 55 gallon, and he is super happy after only knowing horrible conditions before then. I may have to move him to another tank, though, because a male pearl gourami seems to dislike him. My dorm does allow 10 gallons, I believe. Thank you again! I will get him some bloodworms, too. But not so much that he can’t digest them.

Thank you for rescuing him! Yeah, they don't tend to do well in community tanks, and especially with gourami, since they're also pretty territorial and often in the same spaces, so a separate tank for him sounds perfect if you can swing it!

Glad the staff took the fish, that's horrible the way some people treat fish like decor, or toys for their amusement, and not living creatures that suffer and then die in those conditions.

His condition doesn't look too bad from what I can see in the photo, although I'm no expert, and it's hard to tell just from a photo. But hopefully he wasn't in those conditions for long, and he looks pretty good considering the mess they were in!

I'd try to brace yourself that he was likely bought from a big box store, then was kept in terrible conditions, so try to prepare yourself that he may not live as long as typical betta lifespans... but he certainly has a much better chance of surviving and having a much better quality of life now he's with you! :D

It's lovely that you took him in and want to spoil him. Thank you for doing that, and for sharing it here! @Seisage 's advice was wonderful, and you know what you're doing! Go easy on the bloodworms since they're not that nutritionally beneficial. Think of them as an occasional treat just because they enjoy them, but don't feed them too often.

I don't keep bettas so can't advise about diet otherwise, but you can get a variety of frozen foods along with some frozen bloodworms, and find a good quality staple food for those other days when you're not feeding frozen or live. Having a 5-10g to himself, with live plants (if you can manage it, a large leafed plant the betta can rest on near the surface, or even a betta hammock or house seems to suit a lot of bettas!

Congrats on your new fish, and kudos for rescuing him!
 
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Here he is now. I think the 55 gallon will probably be fine while I get a tank set up in my dorm. My one concern is that I come home some weekends, and I would either have to leave him behind or move him a lot.
 
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Here he is now. I think the 55 gallon will probably be fine while I get a tank set up in my dorm. My one concern is that I come home some weekends, and I would either have to leave him behind or move him a lot.

Fish can easily go for two weeks without us feeding them, especially in a tank with algae and microcritters for them to munch on. If you need to leave him for two-three days at a time, he'd be absolutely fine without food for those days, we can assure you.

Even though fish always act hungry, that's more about being opportunistic feeders, and routine, where when you approach the tank/lift the lid, and they're classically conditioned to mean that means they're about to be fed. But remember that they're not mammals. Fish take their body temp from the water they're in, so they don't need food as frequently as mammals do. Since they don't have to keep that internal temperature up themselves, the way mammals have to. We all tend to overfeed our fish as a general rule, just because it's fun to feed them, lets us interact with them, but a lot of people (myself included!) have a fast day every week, or even two fast days.


It's also much safer and much less stressful than trying to move him and a tank back and forth! Or using autofeeders, which can fail and wind up causing more problems than helping. People here will even leave their tanks unfed if they're on vacation for a week or two, rather than risk the water quality issues that can happen with a malfunctioning autofeeder, or having someone else feed the tanks as a favour, when there's such a high risk of a well meaning person overfeeding the fish, the uneaten food producing an ammonia spike, and coming home to dead fish.

So don't fret about a weekend or long weekend away, he'll be okay while you're gone for a few days, and you can treat him when you return! :)
 
Fish can easily go for two weeks without us feeding them, especially in a tank with algae and microcritters for them to munch on. If you need to leave him for two-three days at a time, he'd be absolutely fine without food for those days, we can assure you.

Even though fish always act hungry, that's more about being opportunistic feeders, and routine, where when you approach the tank/lift the lid, and they're classically conditioned to mean that means they're about to be fed. But remember that they're not mammals. Fish take their body temp from the water they're in, so they don't need food as frequently as mammals do. Since they don't have to keep that internal temperature up themselves, the way mammals have to. We all tend to overfeed our fish as a general rule, just because it's fun to feed them, lets us interact with them, but a lot of people (myself included!) have a fast day every week, or even two fast days.


It's also much safer and much less stressful than trying to move him and a tank back and forth! Or using autofeeders, which can fail and wind up causing more problems than helping. People here will even leave their tanks unfed if they're on vacation for a week or two, rather than risk the water quality issues that can happen with a malfunctioning autofeeder, or having someone else feed the tanks as a favour, when there's such a high risk of a well meaning person overfeeding the fish, the uneaten food producing an ammonia spike, and coming home to dead fish.

So don't fret about a weekend or long weekend away, he'll be okay while you're gone for a few days, and you can treat him when you return! :)
This is exactly correct, and well-said! Yes, maintaining a high internal body temperature like mammals do is wildly expensive, in terms of energy. It's why you need over 1,000kcal every day even if you don't move an inch all day. That's just the cost of maintaining your body temp!

Fish really do beg sometimes though. Bettas are especially notorious for it, but even my neons will all crowd around at the front of the tank and stare at me every time I stop by to say hi 😁 It's a lot of fun, but it sure makes it hard to not want to give them treats. But yes, like Adora said, your betta will be totally fine without food for a couple days. It's even recommended to fast your fish one day a week, or fast for 2-3 days if they're having bloating issues from overeating.
 
This is exactly correct, and well-said! Yes, maintaining a high internal body temperature like mammals do is wildly expensive, in terms of energy. It's why you need over 1,000kcal every day even if you don't move an inch all day. That's just the cost of maintaining your body temp!

Fish really do beg sometimes though. Bettas are especially notorious for it, but even my neons will all crowd around at the front of the tank and stare at me every time I stop by to say hi 😁 It's a lot of fun, but it sure makes it hard to not want to give them treats. But yes, like Adora said, your betta will be totally fine without food for a couple days. It's even recommended to fast your fish one day a week, or fast for 2-3 days if they're having bloating issues from overeating.
They're like dogs in that way. And I try to tell people, you wouldn't feed your dog every time it wanted to eat.
 
Gourami and betta shouldn't be kept together due to their territorial natures, I'd get him back in his other tank ASAP. I know more space sounds good but it could end in tears with those two as tank mates, which I know is far from your intention when you rescued him.
 
I am more used to keeping female bettas than males. My college allows up to a 15 gallon, so I should look for those.
 
I am more used to keeping female bettas than males. My college allows up to a 15 gallon, so I should look for those.
I'm sure he'd be more than happy in a 15 gallon :) Everything I have read re gourami and betta never ends well so just wanted to mention it to be safe.
 

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