struggling

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Before you start judging me, I swear I have an explanation for why they're in the same tank in the first place.


My mother was in hospital for ~6 weeks because of covid (she's fine now!), and when she came back home, one of her friends thought it would be a good idea to send us two betta fish in a tiny little bowl - one male (we named him Mr Pink, because he's blue) and one female (who we named Ms Blue, because she's pink).

My father absolutely did not want to spend money on these fish. I was horrified at the idea of leaving them in the bowl and insisted we get them a proper tank. He said we could just put them in with the koi, which I said no to, because you can’t put koi and bettas together. Eventually, after a lot of pleading, I managed to get him to agree to get me a tank to put them in.

Okay, great, I thought that would be it. But as I was doing research (before buying the tank) (I've never kept fish by myself before - we've always had fish in the house, but my dad always took care of them), I saw that (1) betta females live in sororities, and (2) males and females should not be kept together. And I could see that Mr Pink was already chasing her around the bowl. So I got really worried, because I knew my dad wouldn't let me get two tanks. So I kept reading up on it, and I saw threads on other forums saying it would be fine to put a male in a sorority tank. Obviously at this point, I was desperate for an easy way out, and just took this at face value. And I know I was wrong to do that, but I can't change the decisions I've already made so please don't attack me for it now.

We bought a tank, and some neon tetras and a cleaner fish, and some decorations.

(Sidenote #1 - the neon tetras seem to be dying and I have no idea why. Everywhere I looked it said neon tetras did well with bettas. And I know they're getting enough food because I watch them eat it all. Does anyone know why this is happening or how to stop it?? This is not the focus of the post, but it's still a problem, and I still want them to be happy and healthy.)

The tank was set up and they were fine... for a while. But then he kept chasing her again, and she had to keep hiding. And I got scared that he was going to kill her, and that she was clearly unhappy. Because constantly having to hide in your own home is no way to live, right? So I thought, 'if I get her a sorority, he'll leave them alone, and she'll be happier'. Like strength in numbers?

So we bought 4 females, but after we put them in the tank (after acclimating them dw), she immediately started hiding. I thought maybe it'd just take a while for her to warm to them, I'd read that there could be fin-nipping and stuff in the beginning until they established a hierarchy. And Mr Pink was fine, they were all kind of just checking each other out. But then he started chasing them around just like he chased Ms Blue.

And now I'm scared that he's going to kill all of them. The females are fine together, they haven't been fighting since getting in the tank (they've been in the tank for ~8 hours now), it's just him.

(Sidenote #2 - I wanted live plants, but we couldn't find any at the store we went to. I found another place later on that sells them, and the ones that I want, too [amazon sword, anubis nana, pygmy chain sword plant, etc.]. Right now the tank has some sand, some rocks, an angora with holes on the sides and stuff for the fish to swim through [Mr Pink loves this thing, he's in it all the time], and two fake plants - a smaller one that's sort of like amazon sword if amazon sword was water sprite, and a larger one that sort of looks like a pine tree but like, an underwater pine tree. Ms Blue has been able to hide in both of them, and the other females were able to hide behind the larger one, but they keep moving from that spot, which I don't understand because he can't get to them there, so why wouldn't they just stay there?)

And I don't know what to do, because I know my dad isn't going to want to buy another tank just for him, but I found some cheap ones online that could come quickly (but still seem to be good quality! One of them is a Fluval aquarium kit, and I've seen a lot of good things about that brand). Eid is coming up soon and I'll get money and may be able to pay for it myself, but that's in a few days and I really don't think I should wait that long. There's already been fin loss, and I don't think he'll give them any reprieve for them to grow back.

My parents especially don't want to spend money because we're supposed to be leaving the country soon, and we can't take the fish with us (by law, not because we don't want to).

I don't know what to do. I would have given them to someone else when we first got them, but I don't know anyone who would want to take them, and especially not anyone who would give them everything I thought they would need (big tank, good filter, heater, proper food including stuff like blood worms and brine shrimp, live plants, good tank mates, etc.). I thought I would be able to handle this after all the research I'd done, and so many people said it would be okay to put a male in a sorority tank, but maybe the sorority should have been established first? Or maybe they were just wrong? Or maybe I did it wrong in a different way?

I don't know what to do. I think the only course of action (please correct me if I'm wrong, you all know better, clearly) is to get another tank, but I have no idea how to convince my dad. He doesn't like to spend a lot of money, and like I said we're supposed to be leaving, so he's even less inclined to spend money now.

I already made a deal with him to get the other females. Maybe I could make another for a second tank? Or ask for this to be for Eid instead of giving me money?? My dad has been wanting me to get rid of some of my old stuff for ages, so we don't have as much to take back with us when we move. Maybe if I get rid of a bunch of stuff he'll consider it??

Does anyone know if live plants will make any difference? It would be easier for them to hide, but that was my whole issue with Mr Pink chasing Ms Blue, that constantly hiding is not a good life. I read that bettas can live for up to 10 years, I don't want them to be miserable for all those years or for them to die 9 years early because I failed to provide them with what they need.

I'm sorry this is such a long post, but I really need help and I don't know what to do. I'm sure I probably made hundreds of mistakes, but like I said, this was kind of sprung on us, and we had no one to give them to, and I've never kept fish before, and my dad may have experience, but he's not done like, real research. When I was too young to know better, he got me a betta fish in one of those tiny tiny tanks with literally nothing else in it, so obviously he's not exactly full of knowledge with regards to proper fish care (he's not stupid or anything, he's really smart, he just... doesn't see animals the same way I do).

((Not relevant to the rest of the situation, just a bit more explanation for why I wanted to keep them))
And I guess I was also kind of selfish, because my cat died recently and he was everything to me. I thought maybe if I had an animal to look after again I would stop feeling so awful all the time. My cat Henry was the reason I got up in the morning, and I mean this literally, I had to get up to feed him and it helped me on days where I just wanted to die. And I miss him so much and I thought maybe having these fish would be a new reason to get up in the morning, because after he died I just kind of wanted to die, too (more than usual, anyway). But now I think I just made a big mistake and should have just given them to literally anybody else.

TL;DR:
1. Is there any way to get my male betta to stop being so aggressive towards my female bettas?
2. If not, how do I convince my dad to let me get a second tank?
3. Why are my neon tetras dying, and how do I make sure it stops happening?
4. Will live plants help the fish stop being so aggressive?

Please help me, and I'm sorry, because I know I did a lot of things wrong, I just want to fix it now. And now that you have all of the information, feel free to start judging me. (Also, this is my first post on this website so please forgive me if the way I wrote it was wrong in any way.)
 

QiQi

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How big is the tank? Is it tall or long? Did you cycle it? I assume none of the fish have been quarantined, did you notice any signs of illness like white spots or white growths on any of the fish, or springy poo, bloating? Do you know the parameters of the water you use and test the water in the tank? Do you do water changes and how much, how often, do you vacuum the substrate? Temperature of the tank?

I don't think there is a way to stop him from being aggressive, and if there is a way it would only be short termed.

You could try and explain to your dad that he will eventually kill the females and maybe the tetras too and he needs to be separated.

The tetras dying could be a result of many different reasons. For example, if the tank is overstocked, if it is uncycled, it could be neon tetra disease, or maybe an illness or parasites that some past it to them, or they already had it, maybe the bettas are picking on them.

Live plants will help only a very tiny bit in your case.

The only thing I could suggest is to get a divider and aquarium sealant, so you can keep him separated. You will still need an extra heater and filter of his side too. About the rest of the issues, more info and pictures might help.
 

OliveFish05

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Hi! Don’t worry, you are doing your best!!! If you have any kind of a bowl you can take Mr. Pink out of the tank and put him in there temporarily. Ms. Blue can live with the other 4 females. What is the tank size? You could list the females on Craigslist, and keep Mr. Pink with the neon tetras in the tank, if you really can’t get a second tank or a bigger tank.

I am so sorry about your cat. I have my own cat, who my mom tried to rehome, and I know how much they can mean to you. If having the bettas helps you get through your grief, then knowing they are happy will likely help even more. Right now, you can take little steps to getting your situation heading in the right direction.

Step 1. Move Mr. Pink to ANY kind of bowl.
Step 2. I would do daily water changes on the tank and the bowl, as if it was an emergency situation you didn’t have time to cycle it (which is alright. This is better than them being in a squished bowl together)

Youre doing great! You were handed a near impossible situation, but you’re prepared to move through it, for the sake of the fish.
 
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struggling

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Hi! Don’t worry, you are doing your best!!! If you have any kind of a bowl you can take Mr. Pink out of the tank and put him in there temporarily. Ms. Blue can live with the other 4 females. What is the tank size? You could list the females on Craigslist, and keep Mr. Pink with the neon tetras in the tank, if you really can’t get a second tank or a bigger tank.

I am so sorry about your cat. I have my own cat, who my mom tried to rehome, and I know how much they can mean to you. If having the bettas helps you get through your grief, then knowing they are happy will likely help even more. Right now, you can take little steps to getting your situation heading in the right direction.

Step 1. Move Mr. Pink to ANY kind of bowl.
Step 2. I would do daily water changes on the tank and the bowl, as if it was an emergency situation you didn’t have time to cycle it (which is alright. This is better than them being in a squished bowl together)

Youre doing great! You were handed a near impossible situation, but you’re prepared to move through it, for the sake of the fish.
Thank you so much. That is what I was going to do, put him in the bowl until I can figure out a more permanent fix. We have a bigger one than the one he came in so I'll use that one. The tank is 10 gallons. Where I live there isn't a Craigslist. And you're right about cycling the tank, I was anxious to get them out of the bowl, and my dad was saying it was fine if we didn't wait, but I should have insisted. Thank you for being so nice :)
 
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struggling

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How big is the tank? Is it tall or long? Did you cycle it? I assume none of the fish have been quarantined, did you notice any signs of illness like white spots or white growths on any of the fish, or springy poo, bloating? Do you know the parameters of the water you use and test the water in the tank? Do you do water changes and how much, how often, do you vacuum the substrate? Temperature of the tank?

I don't think there is a way to stop him from being aggressive, and if there is a way it would only be short termed.

You could try and explain to your dad that he will eventually kill the females and maybe the tetras too and he needs to be separated.

The tetras dying could be a result of many different reasons. For example, if the tank is overstocked, if it is uncycled, it could be neon tetra disease, or maybe an illness or parasites that some past it to them, or they already had it, maybe the bettas are picking on them.

Live plants will help only a very tiny bit in your case.

The only thing I could suggest is to get a divider and aquarium sealant, so you can keep him separated. You will still need an extra heater and filter of his side too. About the rest of the issues, more info and pictures might help.
It's more tall than long, which I know isn't ideal, but my dad refused to get a tank that wasn't from this specific place, and under a certain price, and plastic rather than glass, and this was the best they had. It's 10 gallons.

I didn't notice any signs of illness. Water changes are 10% every week (although after another response from someone else I'll do it daily until I can be sure they're all healthy), the temperature is too low, because my dad won't let me put a heater in because he thinks it's going to kill them all.

I was planning to change a lot of things on the weekend already, which included getting a heater. We got them last Friday and set up the tank last Saturday, and it's my last week at school, so the week has been pretty hectic, and I was planning on fixing things on the weekend because I'll be able to do it properly then. And over the weekend it would probably be easier to convince my parents to let me get what I need, including the live plants, a soil substrate, a heater, etc.

We didn't cycle it because, as I said on a different response, I was anxious to get them out of the bowl, and my dad was saying it was fine if we didn't wait. But I should have insisted. After the response from OliveFish05, I'm going to do daily water changes.

I've read that 5 gallons is enough for a sorority, but obviously my research was inconclusive, so would that be enough if I divided the tank?

Thank you for responding so quickly and for providing the solution of getting a divider, because it honestly hadn't occurred to me before, and it sounds like an ideal solution. My dad probably won't object because it's a lot less than a whole new tank. Thank you so much!
 

QiQi

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10 gallons for 5 bettas and tetras. That's quite overstocked right now. Is there any way you can return the 4 female bettas? Also I would start doing 60-70% water change every 2 days minimum, since there are a lot of fish for the size of the tank and see how the tetras start doing. You could divide it so the male has 2.5gal and the rest will keep the 7.5gal. It is not ideal but it is better than nothing. Make sure to clean your filter in old tank water, so you don't kill any beneficial bacteria and when you top up, the fresh water must have similar temperature with the water in your tank. Another question, are your parents planning on rehoming the fish when you move out?
 

OliveFish05

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So glad you are figuring it out!!! I would honestly let the female bettas keep the 10 gallon tank and keep the male in a bowl, and just do daily water changes. If you divide the tank, the females may begin showing aggression to eachother. The more space THEY have, the better, because there are so many of them. Your biggest concern with the male being in a bowl would just be keeping up on water quality
 

EllRog

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10 gallon is too small for the females. Best bet is to rehome all of the fish apart from the male and cycle the tank with him in it. Reduce feeding to a small amount every couple of days and change the water by 75% daily until the tank has cycled
 
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struggling

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10 gallons for 5 bettas and tetras. That's quite overstocked right now. Is there any way you can return the 4 female bettas? Also I would start doing 60-70% water change every 2 days minimum, since there are a lot of fish for the size of the tank and see how the tetras start doing. You could divide it so the male has 2.5gal and the rest will keep the 7.5gal. It is not ideal but it is better than nothing. Make sure to clean your filter in old tank water, so you don't kill any beneficial bacteria and when you top up, the fresh water must have similar temperature with the water in your tank. Another question, are your parents planning on rehoming the fish when you move out?
I've seen so many different people saying so many different things about how many bettas you can have in different size tanks. I don't know how to tell the good information from the bad information. Like I said, this is my first time fishkeeping so I'm just trying to figure things out. Do you have any advice on how to tell what information is accurate? Of course I'm avoiding pet store websites already.

I wouldn't be able to return the fish.

Thank you for all of the advice! I honestly should have asked some more experienced people directly before I did anything.

Yes, we're planning on rehoming them. But once we've got everything settled so I can just write a guide with all of the information (this is what I had to do for my cat when I went into quarantine, and it worked well because we already had all of the things he needed).

I don't want to give them to someone else now because (1) most of the people I know are also leaving so there'd be no point in giving them to them now, I just need to wait to see who is actually staying because in this country everyone says they're leaving and no one leaves, (2) like I said, no one leaves, so I might still be here another year or two until I'm able to leave on my own, and (3) I don't know anyone that would want to take the fish without the whole tank being set up already. Worst case scenario, I'll have to give them to my uncle who has the same ideas about fishcare as my dad.
 

QiQi

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It is what it is now, just keep up with big water changes and try to divide the tank and separate him, or move him to a bowl as others suggested. In the meantime you could post an ad to rehome some of them and see how it goes, there is nothing to lose if you try :)
 
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struggling

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So glad you are figuring it out!!! I would honestly let the female bettas keep the 10 gallon tank and keep the male in a bowl, and just do daily water changes. If you divide the tank, the females may begin showing aggression to eachother. The more space THEY have, the better, because there are so many of them. Your biggest concern with the male being in a bowl would just be keeping up on water quality
Thank you!!

I've read different things from different people - is it okay to keep him in a bowl? I would want to give him the angora thing that I mentioned in the original post but I don't think it'd fit in even the biggest bowl we have.

I thought that females couldn't be alone, which was why I wanted to get the others. Would it have been better to just have separated the two original fish? Would she have been happy on her own?

I can't give them to anyone else for the reasons I mentioned above. One of the tanks I saw is like, really cheap but big enough for the male, should I just try and get that one? I don't know where I'd put it though.
 
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struggling

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It is what it is now, just keep up with big water changes and try to divide the tank and separate him, or move him to a bowl as others suggested. In the meantime you could post an ad to rehome some of them and see how it goes, there is nothing to lose if you try :)
Thank you so much for all of your help, I think I'll try to divide the tank first, as that seems like the best case scenario for all of the fish. And if like OliveFish05 said, the females start being overly aggressive towards each other, I'll try putting him in the bowl and removing the divider. Because right now the females seem pretty passive with each other. I think I know a place I could try to find someone to rehome them to, but there are so many animals in this country that need new homes so those places are super oversaturated, and people tend to focus on the cats and dogs because they definitely have it worst here.
 

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