** Disclaimer: **
Please use caution when dealing with male bettas.
Do not put them in an undivided tank, or they will kill each other.
Always use care and common sense when dealing with your fish.
You may have bettas that are just the opposite of mine. This method, and the information contained in this instructable, is from my personal experience and online research.
I take most online information with a grain of salt, except for the information on Instructables, of course !
Here's a quick example: Online, I read that bettas do not like currents, since they live in puddles in their native habitat. This rules out the use of most filter units that work well.
My experience: I turned on the filter, which makes a current, and the betta investigated it, swam around in the current, and had no problems.
I keep it on the lowest setting, but still, all 3 fish have been in with the filter, and after a 30 second initial investigation, they have no problems with the filter or the current.
**** BACKSTORY ****
Well, I had a betta in the past, but one day he got his feeler caught in the marble-shaped glass beads on the bottom, pulled part of it off, got an infection and died.
He was a great fish, with lots of character (for a fish).
After that, it was about 5 years before I tried again. My girlfriend and I were shopping when we found 3 (yes THREE) betta fish. We couldn't decide which one we liked best, so we bought all of them, and housed each one in a separate glass vase.
Fish #1 (sail) and Fish #2 (poof) were in 1 gallon vases, and Fish #3 (shadow) ended up in the former betta's 2 gallon vase.
**** WARNINGS ****
I know that a lot of people say that these fish don't need a filter, swimming space, food,
and all kinds of other crazy stuff.
They may be able to live in a very small jar with no filter, but is that healthy for them ?
Do they like it ?
I say ======> NO !
The plant idea is also junk. These fish are meat eaters, and at some point they will nibble at the plant's roots when they are starving. The betta in a jar with a plant and no food is a BAD idea.
You have to maintain the roots and leaves of the plant to keep from having dead roots in the water, and you still have to feed the betta !
**** Back to the BACKSTORY ****
Long story short, it became a major pain to clean all 3 vases every 2 weeks. I tried a little filter that worked on the movement of air to draw water through the filter. It didn't really do much, except amuse the fish, and if you moved the filter (to clean it) it would release all kinds of junk back into the vase.
So I hit craigslist and purchased a 10 gallon aquarium with a stand and light for $15.
What a deal !
I had already seen aquarium dividers at the pet store, so I was ready.
Well, I thought I was ready !
Step 1: Buy the Components and Set Up the Aquarium.
I cleaned the aquarium and rinsed it thoroughly. Then we headed to the pet store to pick
up the dividers (I needed 2)
When we arrived at the pet store and examined the dividers more closely, we realized that they were clear.
If you're not familiar with bettas, then let me explain.
If they can see each other they get very aggressive and try to attack each other.
I asked the guy that was working at the (commercially owned pet store name here)
if there would be a problem with the dividers being clear.
He said 'absolutely not'.
He went on to inform me that after a few hours of seeing each other, the fish would calm down and there would be no real problems.
Not fully satisfied, I purchased the dividers anyway, and some small aquarium gravel,
(NEVER use the glass flat marble rocks - unless you want a dead fish) then headed home.
** These instructions come with the divider **
The setup was pretty simple. Trim the divider panels to fit, put the side channels on the divider panels, fit the stabilizer channels on the top and bottom, slip the entire assembly into the tank, then fit the clips over the outside of the tank and down into the channels to hold the panels in place.
The illustration shows you sliding the divider panel down into the channels, but the material is too flexible to do it that way.
Once the dividers were installed, we put the gravel in, then the plants,
and then (slowly), the water.
After about half the water was in I put the recommended water treatment in, then finished filling the tank.
Then I installed the filter, an Aquaclear power filter 20. It was the smallest one that seemed to have the best multi stage filter.
Step 2: Adding the Bettas...
Once the tank was ready, I put each betta into his compartment.
The tank measured 20" wide, 12" top to bottom, and 10" front to back.
I made the center area 7", a little larger than the side areas (6.5"), so that the filter
would have plenty of room.
This was a serious upgrade in size and water quality for the bettas !
10 filtered gallons vs. about 4 unfiltered gallons (between the 3 vases).
After all 3 were transferred, they could see each other, and started getting mad.
I couldn't get a good picture because the dividers are clear, and the fish were very angry and swimming around very fast.
They couldn't get to each other, so I left the light off and kept the room fairly dim to see if they would get used to each other.
The next day I called every aquarium shop and pet store that I could find, and they all only
had the clear dividers.
This may work for other fish, but not for male bettas !
After 2 days, they were all the same. Mad, tired, mad, tired.....
It looked like the clear divider material wasn't going to work out.
I tried getting different types of material and drilling holes in it, but that was very time consuming.
First you have to find a thin rigid opaque plastic, drill tons of holes in it, then go back and smooth out the exit side of the drilled holes so that your fish don't get scratched up if they brush against the divider.
My experiments looked bad with just a few holes drilled, so I scrapped that idea.
After some thinking about materials with holes already in it, I came up with an idea that would solve my problem !
Step 3: The Solution to the Problem.
After going to all of the home improvement and pet stores in the area, I finally decided to use perforated vinyl siding. There were no other options that I could figure out in a timely manner.
I thought of the siding right away, but I was looking for an alternative.
I thought that vinyl siding would look bad, and I didn't want to buy a giant piece of it since I only needed about 2 feet of material.
There was some good news, though:
The siding fits easily in the channels that came with the divider set.
The vinyl siding has less holes than the clear plastic, but the holes are larger, and both sides are fairly smooth, so I didn't need to polish any of the holes to get rid of rough edges.
The siding is more rigid, so I didn't need to use the top and bottom stabilizer pieces that came with the original tank dividers, and it ended up looking much better than I thought it would.
The area of the vinyl siding with the holes in it was wider than 10", so
it was easy to cut out the size that I needed and keep plenty of holes for water circulation.
My finished pieces were about 9 3/4" wide, by 11" tall.
After I had the pieces cut, I made sure to clean them thoroughly with warm water while rubbing them down with a mild abrasive sponge. Then I rinsed them several times, also using the sponge.
Hopefully that removed any residue that may have been there from shipping and sitting in Home Depot.
I think that they can get a glimpse of each other once in awhile, but none of them have gone into full fighting posture since I installed the new vinyl dividers.
It turns out that the aquarium looks even better than the vases did. The flat pieces of glass
don't distort the image of the fish, and you can get fairly good pictures of them as well.
*** Success ! ***
Now there are 3 happy bettas, and 2 happy betta owners in the house !
Here is a picture update with some aquarium additions and matching style backgrounds. These fish are very inquisitive, and they love having something to look at.
*** UPDATE 3/15/2012 ***
I have decided to add the following information to the end of this instructable regarding PVC, which is what the soffit is made from, since my comment in the comment sections seems to get missed a lot!
Hey all, I just got an answer back from Owens-Corning, the makers of the siding that I used in this instructable: "I am writing you regarding your question around the possibility of vinyl leeching once it is exposed to water for long periods of time. The vinyl siding or soffit in this case by its nature of chemical bonds will not breakdown when exposed to water, or leech any materials used in the manufacturing of the vinyl. Once the materials used to manufacture vinyl are combined the bonds of the material can not be broken down, hence the reason vinyl is 100 percent recyclable. In fact vinyl is used as a liner and cap for many landfills because it is inert and stable."
The only time this material can be hazardous after its manufacture, as far as I know, is when it is burned, which would be difficult if it's in your fish tank!