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Old 08-18-2007, 11:46 PM   #1
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Ammonia Problems with Traveling Betta; Any advice?

Hello. I've had my betta fish Vladimir for about three months, and am currently transporting him to my college. I normally keep him in a five gallon tank, but for the road I have him in a glass canister with holes in the lid that is a little under 1 gallon. I'm keeping him in a cooler surrounded by bags of water at about 76 degrees, which has worked well to regulate his temperature. If I want to raise his temperature I make one of the surrounding bags slightly warmer. He is traveling in the middle of the back seat between my brother and myself.
I feel like I've thought this through as well as I could have, but right now I am at a hotel our first night out, and when I checked his ammonia levels they were high, almost half-way between safe and instant death. I did a water change (about 75%) immediately, and thought I would have neutralized the problem, but when I checked the ammonia levels after the water change they were exactly the same as before. I've never dealt with ammonia problems in the past, as this is my first fish and I've never had a problem with his regular tank. I wouldn't worry if could set up his tank soon, but I won't be able to until Thursday morning when I move into my dorm, which is 5 days from now.
I haven't fed my betta today, and the only thing in his tank is a few handfuls of gravel from his larger tank. I have been using large amounts of stresszyme. Does anyone have any suggestions for my ammonia problem?
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Old 08-18-2007, 11:51 PM   #2
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How old is your test kit? How long after changing the water did you test? How long was the trip till his water change? It is unusual to have that much ammonia build up in a day's time frame for example. Fish are shipped in bags over long periods of time. I would actually have kept him in the 5 gal with only half the water. Adding a battery operated airstone would be good if you have one.
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Old 08-19-2007, 12:09 AM   #3
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Test your water change water. It may contain chloramine which would register a positive reading on Nessler-based ammonia tests. What kind of water treatment/dechlorination product are you using when you do your water changes? Most test kits will still read positive for ammonia even after a water treatment product has been applied. The water is perfectly safe after being treated.
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Old 08-19-2007, 12:09 AM   #4
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If your Beta is swimming normally he's ok. If he's on the bottom or the top then you have a problem. As Betta's can take very poor water conditions I wouldn't worry. A daily water change of 20% should carry you through.
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Old 08-19-2007, 12:49 AM   #5
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Although it isnt ideal, in tough situations like this, Betas unique lung allows them to endure quite well. Ammonia is primarily a poison to a fishes gills. Since Betas have gills and a lung, they can breath from the surface and close off their gills. I wouldn't leave them like this forever (even though pet stores will tell you that it is ok) but for long distance traveling he should survive.
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Old 08-19-2007, 11:05 PM   #6
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I am also a bit suspicious of the NH3 result. Even a goldfish in a bowl will take longer than a day to get into high ammonia problem.... a betta should be Ok for several days.

What is your water conditioner? If your test kit is accurate, I would suspect that you are seeing NH3 from breakdown of the chloramines in the water (hence water change has no effect). That NH3 is bound, so you don't have to worry. To be doubly safe, you can check the levels a couple times a day to make sure it is not rising.

I am leary of trusting Stresszyme (or other "cycling bacteria" products) to help you with the move. Mostly, these don't do a good job in establishing the cycle (certainly not instantly). In a move like yours, I would be happier using a water conditioner with an NH3/NO2 binder (like Amquel or Prime). These should protect the fish in the short term should there be an NH3/NO2 spike. But as others have said, bettas are hardy fish & can stand poor water conditions. You should be OK with just daily water changes.
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