Cycling My 5 Gallon Tank

This will be an updated blog on my attempts to cycle the 5 gallon fish tank I got for Christmas. I still don’t know what I will be putting in it, but I will decide once the tank has finished cycling.

Day One: I set up the fish tank. I added gravel, fake plants, and a cave. Added 4 and half+
gallons of water. (I guess I put too much gravel? lol) I set up the filter, hood and made sure everything is working correctly and nothing leaked. I then added a pinch of goldfish flake food. Parameters should all be 0ppm, since it is fresh water from my tap.

Basics for Betta Fish

General Care For Betta Fish

Betta Splendens are aggressive tropical freshwater fish from Thailand. They breathe air from above the water surface and create bubble nests for their fry. They can live with other species of fish and invertebrates, but much research is needed before doing so.

First, lets start off with common misconceptions.

  • Naturally live in tiny little muddy puddles
  • Do not need more than a few cups of water to live in
  • Require little maintenance
  • Males and females can be housed together
  • Males can be housed together

What you will need for a happy, healthy betta fish:

  • A tank of at least two gallons
  • Water de-chlorinator
  • An aquarium heater
  • Water temperature to be 76 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Thermometer
  • Betta fish food
  • Water testing supplies (Ammonia tester is needed)
  • A cave to hide in, along with other suitable decorations

Housing and water

As stated above, betta fish don’t naturally live in tiny puddles, so they need a clean tank to live in. There is a lot of controversy of the minimum tank size, but it is commonly agreed that they should not live in less than two gallons of water.

You can house a betta in a large Kritter Keeper as a substitute for a fish tank. Two gallon or bigger fish bowls, storage containers, and plastic tubs that once held, let’s say, jelly beans, can be suitable homes.

When setting up these containers rinse thoroughly with hot tap water. Never use soap or any other detergent with your fish supplies.

Heater. A heater is needed unless your house is always 76 degrees or above. Betta fish are tropical fish and their water need to be 76 to 84 degrees. An adjustable heater with a dial is the best to buy. They are more reliable and keep your water at a constant temperature. Non-adjustable heaters work, but the temperatures fluctuate, which isn’t good for your fish. Also, make sure you have an aquarium thermometer to monitor the temperatures.

Now comes the great debate. To cycle, or not to cycle (google aquarium nitrogen cycle, if you don’t know what this is).

If you want to cycle your tank you will need a filter and to have completed the cycle  before you purchasing your betta fish (or placing it in the tank). You will also need to have a master water testing kit and have read up on proper ways to cycle an aquarium.

If you choose not to cycle, I suggest you have a water tester for ammonia. For non-cycled fish tanks, a filter will not be needed. Water changes do need to be done frequently to make up for a filter. For a two gallon tank, a 100% water change needs to be done every 3 to 4 days. A five gallon tank will need 100% water changes every 5-6 days, etc. One way to know when you need to do a water change is to check your ammonia levels every day. Your ammonia level should always be at 0 ppm, so once it goes above that (let’s say, the fourth day), you should change the water every three days. You will also need a few clean gallon jugs(preferably ones that once held water), to fill up at least 24 hours before you do a water change. This is important because water that has not been aged release tiny gas bubbles — you can see these little bubbles on the sides of your tanks and on decorations. These little bubbles can also form inside your fish which can cause harm.

Some say that water changing is stressful to fish, but in my experience here is the least stressful way to go about it:

  • Note temperature
  • Unplug heater, lights etc.
  • Scoop your betta in a cup. I use a small tupperware container with holes pokes in the lid for air.
  • Rinse decorations with warm tap water, set aside on a clean towel
  • Pour old water out
  • Rise inside of tank with warm water
  • Place decorations back in tank
  • Slowly pour in the water you let sit for 24 hours
  • Say, for a 3 gallon tank, only pour in 2 gallons
  • With the last gallon try to match the what the water temperature was before you started the water change with tap water (you will need to play around with this to know exactly how much warm water to add)
  • Add your water de-chlorinator
  • Plug heater, light, etc. back in
  • Pour the betta back in


Decorations add places for your betta to rest and hide and it also provides beauty to a tank. Betta fish have long fragile tails and fins that can be ripped on decorations (which can lead to fin rot), so decorations should not have any rough or sharp edges. Silk plants and live plants are best since they are softer than plastic plants. Caves also need to be free of any sharp edges. A good alternative to pet store bought caves (which can be pricey) can be terra-cotta pots. Just make sure the hole at the bottom is filled, or break down the bottom and file the edges. Your betta can get stuck in that small hole and drown (yes, these fish can drown), so make sure it is done away with. Another good alternative can be a coffee mug. Just make sure it is clean and free from any soaps and that it is indeed made from food safe materials.


Betta fish are carnivourous so they need foods that contain meats. They can eat flakes, pellets, frozen, freeze dried and live foods. When selecting flakes or pellets make sure they are for betta fish and read the ingredients to make sure the first ingrident is whole fish (krill, herring, etc.) meal. Also be sure that it contains 40%+ crude protein. Freeze dried foods should be avoided since they can cause bloating. Frozen and live foods can be blood worms, brine shrimp, daphnia, etc. Do make sure that they are from reputable sources since they can sometimes carry parasites.

The amount of food to be given depends on your betta. They will always beg and look hungry, but you need to avoid constipation. Remember that a betta fish’s stomach is the size of its eyeball. Once you see your betta’s tummy fill up stop feeding and feed again once it has gone down (or you see a poopy). Whatever food he doesn’t eat, be sure to scoop out with a net or a cup. Left over food can cause ammonia levels to rise. Most betta keepers can say that three pellets two times a day is a good amount. You will be able to tell if your betta is bloated, skinny, or just right.

When feeding pellets, soak them in a small container of tank water before feeding. You just want to soften them up a bit since they expand with water, and you don’t want them expanding in your betta’s tummy (this can lead to constipation, bloat and over feeding).


  • Betta fish breathe air from above the water surface. So make sure they can always reach fresh air.
  • NEVER place two or more male bettas together. They will fight to the death.
  • NEVER place male and female bettas together. Unless done properly one of them will get killed.
  • DO NOT attempt to breed unless you have researched until you can’t research no more.
  • DO NOT place betta fish with other species of fish or invertebrates unless you have researched until you can’t research no more.

I suggest you visit this betta fish forum to ask questions, chat and learn more about betta fish.