Types of Water
Bottled Spring Water
This is a good source of water for your betta’s tank if you can afford to purchase it. Bottled Spring Water is usually filtered to remove chlorine from the water before you purchase it. This often makes the use of water conditioners unnecessary to make the water betta-safe. However, keep in mind that if you use tap water to clean the tank or place your wet hands inside, you may be introducing chlorine and a few drops of water conditioner wouldn’t hurt.
When you first purchase the water, test for pH, Chlorine, and Ammonia, and if they are not detected, the water is acceptable for use. Always stick with the same brand of water! Other brands may differ in water conditions such as pH. It is also a good idea to keep a few bottles of spring water around to use in emergencies if your local tap water becomes contaminated or you have a sick fish and are unsure if the water may be an issue.
This is also an acceptable source of water for your betta’s tank, and best of all, it is abundant and practically free. Tap Water does however contain chlorine and other toxins, so a proper water conditioner should be used to remove these from the water prior to placing your fish in it.
pH (Per Hydrogen)
This is the balance between Hydrogen and Hydroxide ions in water. It is measured on a scale of 1-14 of whether your water is acidic (below 7), neutral (7.0), or alkaline/basic (over 7). Bettas prefer a neutral pH of around 7.0. Bettas can adapt to a slightly different pH, as long as it is stable – this is key. It is always advisable to avoid using pH Up or Down drops to adjust pH levels; if used improperly, these drops can burn and harm your fish. Additionally, it may be hard to achieve the same results every time and changes in a pH due to this are harmful to a betta rather than helpful.
Some fishkeepers will argue that you should never expect your fish to “adapt” to the pH of your water, however in the real world, I think it is most commonly what happens. For instance, the tap water at my house has a high pH, but so do all of the local fish stores where I tend to buy fish.
Does this mean I should gradually acclimate them to live in a pH of 7.0, even though the water they originally came from was at 8.0? You can answer this question as you best see fit for your aquarium and fish care. For me, my high pH is a very stable one, and I’ve had no problem with keeping bettas or other tropical fish, or live plants for that matter, in how it naturally comes out of the tap.
kH (Carbonate Hardness)
This is the balance between Carbonate and Bicarbonate ions in water. This reading determines a measure of alkalinity, or the ability to buffer and neutralize the acid in water. Therefore, the higher this number, the better your water will be able to keep a stable pH. This water factor does not affect fish directly.
gH (General Hardness)
This is the balance between Magnesium and Calcium ions in water. This reading will determine whether your water is considered soft or hard. This water factor does not affect fish directly.
It should be noted that pH, kH, and gH go hand-in-hand, and altering one will affect the others. If you decide to alter your pH, please research how this will affect all aspects of your water conditions.
Chlorine is commonly used as an antiseptic and is used to make drinking water safe and to treat swimming pools. It is toxic to fish.
The first step of the Nitrogen cycle when cycling fish tanks. Ammonia is formed through fish waste, urine, and decay. It is toxic to fish.
The second step of the Nitrogen cycle when cycling fish tanks. Nitrite is converted from ammonia and similarly, is toxic to fish.
The third and final step of the Nitrogen cycle when cycling fish tanks. Nitrate is harmful to fish at high concentrations – keep your reading at or below 20 ppm.
Water Test Kits
Monitoring water conditions is always a good idea to ensure you are providing your betta with ideal environmental conditions. It is impossible to see or smell toxins in a betta’s water without proper test kits. If you have an uncycled tank, it is especially important to monitor pH, Ammonia, and initially Chlorine levels. It is generally assumed that tap water contains Chlorine, so if necessary you could skip purchasing that kit.
For a cycled tank, you will need to track pH, Ammonia, Chlorine, and Nitrite levels initially, but once the tank is cycled pH and Nitrate levels become the most important. For more thorough testing and knowledge of water conditions, kH and gH should be tested as well. These may not need to be tracked on a regular basis, but it is good to know what your water level is in terms of these factors.
There are two main types of water testing materials that you can buy. Paper-like test strips are available that you simply dip into the water to obtain readings, and there are kits where you must remove water from the tank, add to the provided test tube, and add a few drops of chemicals to obtain results. While test strips are certainly better than not testing your water at all, it is generally accepted that test tube kits provide more accurate water readings.
Note: Make sure to test your water frequently around the change of seasons. Many water treatment facilities use more chemical additives come spring or summer. You may have to slightly alter your usage of water conditioners to accommodate for this.