How to Grow Bulbs for Bettas
Bettas, commonly known as Siamese fighting fish, are one of the most popular types of tropical fish kept by hobbyists. This is because of their ability to survive in very small amounts of water with very little oxygen content. In addition to their ease of care, male Bettas are very colorful and often have long flowing fins. One way to spice up the typical Betta's fish bowl is to plant live plant bulbs and create a small underwater jungle for the fish. Aponogeton bulbs are fast growers, easy to care for and are often considered one of the easiest aquatic plants.
Rinse the fishbowl with warm, but not hot tap water. Do not use soap.
Rinse the gravel with tap water. Do not use soap. This removes any small dust particles that would cloud the water.
Fill the bottom of the fishbowl with gravel about 2 inches deep and spread it evenly over the bottom.
Fill the bowl half way with water.
Add a tap water conditioner that is available inexpensively from all pet stores. This eliminates chlorine, chloramine and heavy metals from the water. How much you need depends on your local water supply and how concentrated the product is, but it usually requires only a drop or two. Most local fish stores will test a water sample for free and recommend the correct product for the area. Be sure to add enough to condition a full bowl of water according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Plant the bulbs in the center of the bowl 2 to 3 inches apart from each other. They should be buried in the gravel only deep enough to keep them from moving around or floating to the surface. If any are already sprouted, dig a small hole and bury the roots. Most of each bulb should be above the level of the gravel. The top of the bulbs where the leaves sprout is the more narrow end. Sometimes it can be tough to tell top from bottom; these bulbs can be planted on their side buried about halfway into the gravel.
Fill the bowl the rest of the way up with water.
Remove 25 percent of the water from the bowl after one week and replace it with fresh water of the same temperature. Be sure to add the appropriate amount of water conditioner to the volume of new tap water. By this time the bulbs will have started to show signs of life and new shoots will be sprouting from the tops.
Remove and replace 25 percent of the water with conditioner after another week. This water-change process helps cycle the bowl and builds up beneficial bacteria the fish needs to survive. Now a Betta fish can be added to the bowl.
Provide a bright light source. This can easily be done with a screw-in daylight-spectrum compact fluorescent light bulb in a fixture immediately above the bowl or a manufactured fish bowl canopy with a plant light. A very bright window would also work, but avoid direct sunlight because it will cause the water temperature to fluctuate too rapidly. Normal overhead lighting in the home will usually not be enough to sustain the Aponogeton plant over time and needs to be supplemented.
Most Aponogetons sold are dry bulbs about half an inch long and look a bit like a dark brown hairy peanut. Dry is the best way to buy them because they adapt more readily to local water before they start to grow. They can be found in the pet aisle of most big-box retailers in packs containing several bulbs. These are almost always hybrids bred for use in aquariums.
Aponogeton bulbs are inexpensive and many hobbyists consider them disposable. They choose to plant them and let them grow for several months. Once the plants exhaust the nutrients stored in the bulbs and decline, they throw them out and start over with new bulbs.
Already established Betta tanks do not need to be cycled and bulbs can be planted directly into the substrate at any time.
The 25-percent water changes need to be done every week as regular maintenance to cycle out dissolved nutrients such as fish waste, decayed leaves and uneaten fish food. This also keeps the water from building up minerals over time as it evaporates and is topped off with tap water. Be sure to always use water conditioner.
Avoid the commonly seen Madagascar lace plant (Aponogeton madagascariensis). These are notoriously difficult to cultivate and get too big for a bowl.
Actively growing Aponogeton plants do not like to have their roots disturbed if at all possible. Moving them can cause them to go dormant and they may or may not sprout again depending on the amount of nutrient storage the bulb has left.