double post for updates.. sorry.
I went to a couple local freshwater aquarium stores and both said to up the dosage of aquarium salt by a little. I showed them the same pictures and explained the same things I explained here and told them what y'all thought it was.. like I said, they said to up the dosage...
I removed a thermometer since it was metal and appeared that it could have hurt him while he was flaring out a lot. I bought him that plastic magnetic thermometer in replacement.
I found out his cookie jar is cracking ... he's now back in his little travel tank. I'll have a new tank sometime soon thankfully..