Q: I have just moved to a larger apartment and can now consider setting up a fishroom for my betta hobby. Any words of advice?

above question submitted by Nancy, Austin - Texas

Ahhhhh, the fishroom, ever changing dynamic universe in constant state of mutation: Never twice shall it look the same way, never shall it be completed, never shall it be permanent. Like a bird rearranges her nest on a semi daily basis, so the betta hobbyist conceptualizes, installs, uses, changes, tries, rethinks, moves, reorganizes, expends, redecorate, retries, trouble shoots, improves, trims down, removes, re-reorganizes his/her fishroom constantly

In short: It's never done. 

In other shorts: It's never quite right. ;)

Although it will never be "perfect" it sure would help if you had it close to right the first time around, to save you from endlessly meandering in this infinite labyrinth of options, trials and (many) ERRORS haha!

Oh, well, that's where I come in ;). Ironically Nancy I have been working on my fishroom too, these last few weeks. In my instance, it was an expansion project. The fishroom was increased by about 5 feet :) and expended further into the den (and closer to the kitchen). I had to move my separation curtains to the other side of the bar, which has now been swallowed by bettas (much to Mr. 181's chagrin). But don't worry about him, he got a brand new modern brushed steel bar now so the built in old wood one that came with the house looks pretty obsolete and serves a better purpose as a laptop station and betta meds/supplies storage area hehehehe. Meanwhile I had to move all my gorilla racks and my shipping station, favoring a "centralized" organization of the room, with at the very heart if it, my water change station. Guess I'll have to take some photos soon and update the fishroom page now. (sigh...more work for moi). Since my first configuration of my first fishroom in 1997, I have to tell you that I have made no less than 305674365356207656 changes. Each time I think: This is IT. Each time only to realize that it is NOT it. :). My fishroom mutates according to my needs. More spawns means more 20 gal tanks, more lots to sell means more shelf space needed for individual jars etc, etc... So be prepared to fuss with your room constantly :). Now let me share with you some dos and don'ts and some vital things to include in your planning.

  • water access. This is the most vital point. Bettas require constant water changes, tanks cleaning etc. So pick a room that is closest to a bathroom or kitchen. You will need to reach that faucet on a daily basis (or just about). Having to haul 400 jars from one end of your apartment to the other every 5 days will get old FAST.
  • ventilation. Here's another biggie many of us do not think about until green mold is staring us in the face EVERYWHERE. See, tanks (especially heated ones) will produce a lot of humidity. A smaller room, with no windows or a window that is closed, will start growing unhealthy and unsightly mildew within a few months. In some cases it can get real bad. A friend of mine has it covering his entire back wall and it spreads through his window to the outside of the house!! This problem can easily be avoided by opening the window a bit, keeping the door open or installing a good ventilation system in the window. In my new fishroom I do not run into this problem because: A)- I have raised ceilings. B)- I have very few heated tanks - I live in Southern CA, remember? C)- My room has only 3 walls, it is entirely open (which is why I use curtains). So the bit of humidity travels throughout the house and is "absorbed" that way.
  • lighting here is another sticky one. You will need to make sure there is no direct sunlight and not too much natural light coming in the fishroom otherwise you will be fighting with brown or green algae in all your jars (AGH). On the other hand you will want to make sure you can turn on a switch and have TONS of light when you need to work otherwise you won't be able to see what you are doing. And trust me, when dealing with MINUSCULE betta fry, you are going to need all the help you can get just to SEE them LOL. I use 3 types of lighting in my room: Bulb, halogen and fluorescent. Of the three Halogen light gives most bright light but it also mimics the sun spectrum, thus encouraging algae growth. One advantage: YOU can dim it to suggest a "dawn" or "dusk" to your fish before turning on or off the full light. I use it only when I am working in the room.
  • Shelf space is the most important. Plan on putting shelves on all available walls, cause soon (if you are breeding) they will be covered with jars filled with your young growing bettas. This invasion of the jars phenomenon happens a lot faster than one thinks (as fast as 3 months after you buy your first pair of bettas) and you MUST be prepared.
  • metal racks are the next most important thing. On there you will put spawning tanks, grow out tanks, more jars, store supplies, whatever your needs of the week may be at that time. When getting racks, favor ones with wider shelves, and strong ones (water gets HEAVY). I like the gray metal ones and I paint their wood shelves white. I double all shelves (meaning I use two pieces of wood one on top the other to add extra strength). Also paint them with a primer to protect them from humidity (or they will soon start warping). REMEMBER TO PROTECT YOUR FLOORS!  Racks are heavy and have sharp feet which will dig into your linoleum or carpet BIG TIME. There goes your security deposit! To remedy to this problem, I put little square pieces of plywood under each feet.
  • carpet cleaning machine. Yop, even if you don't have carpet, you are going to need it. A fishroom means quarterly floodings (read Cole's funny take on this here) LOL and something is going to have to suck up that water from the floor or carpet. Hopefully, not you LOL. It's not so much the sucking/drinking water out of the carpet that bothers me as much as the bending down for long period of time It kills my back :P LOL. (Oh I'm just pulling your leg!) A carpet machine will do a good job and can be purchased quite cheaply now a day. By the way, it is real easy to flood your fishroom, especially when you are trying to do 10 things at the same time (like I do). You turn the water on to fill a grow out tank and get side tracked pulling out juvenile males that are now fighting in a grow out tank... Until you start seeing your table, chairs, and bins float past you and down the hall LOL. Ooooops, I DID IT AGAIN!
  • storage bins are also a must. Our hobby generates a HUGE number of nicnacs that soon take over all our available space. Many of which are small pieces (suction cups, airlines, valves, sponges, etc etc). A quick trip to your local dollar store can be very helpful. Buckets, cups and containers can be purchased there for $1 each :). I have saved a bundle that way (God Bless my local Dollar Tree store)
  • jars: You will need PLENTY of those! Always have clean jars in reserve. I usually have as many as 200 to 400 jars at any time, ready to go. Because I sell stock so fast I do not need more. Many hobbyists however end up stuck with as many as 1000 or more bettas jarred! (YIKES) so beware!
  • supplies: It is best to always have a bit more in reserve. In my garage I keep brand new filters, heaters, carbon, floss, etc, etc, "just in case". So should a filter die on you, you can change it in 5 mins and not lose a spawn. A heater that breaks on a Saturday night may mean you will lose your precious spawn cause your local store may not be open until Monday morning. Wise Faithyoda, spoken has. The two most important supplies in my book are: 
  • fish nets. You never have enough of them. Have at least 20 and increase that number the more bettas you have. I use about 80 nets each time I do my water changes. 
  • meds. You must always AT ALL TIME have all the meds needed to treat a sick fish instantly. Next week I will talk about my med kit and what it has in it. All serious betta hobbyist should have one of those around. Trust me, you'll be glad you did.

Well, I could go on and on cause there are so much to think about when putting together a fishroom, but I think this is good enough for now. I hope this will guide you and remember: Even if you think you thought about everything, you HAVEN"T :). You will keep trying new ways of fishrooming hehe and what works for me may not work for you (but then again, it just might ;) ). Goodluck!

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About me: I am a member of the IBC, founder and President of LABS  (Los Angeles Betta Society) 
and have been helping the betta community through this website for over 6 years now. I have over 

170  spawns and  3000 shipments under my belt 
and I was recently  featured on   A N I M A L    P L A N E T. 

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