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Thread: Film layer in my betta fish's tank

  1. #1
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    Default Film layer in my betta fish's tank

    So this is weird... I had a couple of fish die in rapid succession leaving just my betta fish in the tank (5 gallon). When I went to do a partial (75%) water change, immediately I noticed a film on top of the water. A few water changes later, the film was still there. Last weekend I did a complete water change -- put the betta in a separate bowl for the time being and thoroughly rinsed everything in his aquarium with hot water -- including the filter itself (I have one of those detachable shower heads and took advantage of it). Today I see that the film is back. When the betta was by itself (for about 6 months), there was never a film, so I'm sure it's not from the betta. What could it be? I'm thinking of putting him in a separate container for a few days and cleaning the aquarium with some form of detergent -- in which case I would rinse the aquarium out with really hot water for several sessions over the course of 2 or 3 days. What do you all think? I know we're not supposed to use detergents, but I really don't like this film and don't know what else to do.

    I'm using floating pellets and he consumes each one because I only feed him as many as he will eat. I'm using gravel substrate, I have no plants, and plastic toys.

    By the way, this betta seems to last forever -- he's about a year old now and is still feisty as ever!

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    I bred bettas at one point, and in each juvenile container I had a huge film problem. It's a 'protein film' and aside from filtration, I don't know an easy solution for it. It could even be caused by the betta's protective mucus kicked into overdrive? It's hard to say!

    If you have a filter and your tank is cycled, emptying it out frequently and washing everything will kill the beneficial bacteria though, and cause it to cycle again.
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    Those films are typically caused by feeding foods high in fats.

    So you may want to take a look at the food you're feeding (higher quality foods typically do not cause as much if any film like that) and you can also usually play with your filter outputs and tank water level to send more flow across the tank's surface to break it up.

    I would NOT break down and restart the tank, as it will definitely disrupt the tank's nitrogen-fixing bacteria (aka cycle, like thewesterngate said) and cause serious water quality issues. I WOULD be sure to do a very thorough gravel vacuuming, though- removing all the decor to be sure and get underneath everything. If you start pulling out TONS of muck, break up the vacuuming across 2 different days so you don't disrupt too much all at once. Big changes in water chemistry are always stressful for fish- sometimes even when the changes are for the better.

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    My fiance read on some betta forums that to get rid of the film, place a paper towel on top of the water, let it get all wet and pick it back out. I did this on my 2.5 gallon tank (no filter, so the film was "normal" from what he read about standing water) and it worked well. Got all the film out, and didn't come back til I changed the water again.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elise.m View Post
    My fiance read on some betta forums that to get rid of the film, place a paper towel on top of the water, let it get all wet and pick it back out. I did this on my 2.5 gallon tank (no filter, so the film was "normal" from what he read about standing water) and it worked well. Got all the film out, and didn't come back til I changed the water again.
    That's an amazing idea! I'll try that tomorrow.

    Thank you too westerngate -- now I understand why people have protein skimmers for larger aquariums -- it all makes sense now.

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    Actually protein skimmers are for saltwater tanks, they don't work well on freshwater tanks.

    There ARE surface skimmers that work like swimming pool skimmers, though- they aren't expensive and would certainly be another option for you if you don't have any small fish or shrimp that could get sucked in.

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    Well I do have a 29 gal saltwater tank, but never understood exactly what the skimmers were for. I don't have enought fish or bioload right now to justify getting one at the moment -- just two firefish, a starfish, sea urchin and a few snails.

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    Basically in a saltwater tank, protein skimmers buy you time between water changes. Saltwater fish are extremely intolerant of nitrogenous waste buildup- but in an aquarium there's no place for those wastes to go unless you physically remove them either by water changes or with a protein skimmer. (And you also have to regularly dump out the protein skimmer's collection cup as well- otherwise the gunk can overflow right back into the tank.)

    If you're doing large (75% plus) weekly water changes on your 29gal then you are probably fine without a skimmer. If you aren't, then chances are your tank is slowly building up the waste. Your current livestock might acclimate if the buildup is slow enough, but any new fish you introduce into the system probably will not live past a few days. This is commonly called "old tank syndrome," and can occur with both fresh and saltwater tanks.

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    I've also seen a film develop if the water was too high for the filter and it was just creating a flow back into the tank without breaking the surface instead of pouring back in. Doesn't sound like that's the cause, but just thought I'd add that in case.
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    Well he has really been building up his bubble nest. I'm curious -- if I go buy an adult female, will they likely breed? And how often do they make these bubble nests? Year round, seasonally, etc?

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