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Old 12-30-2012, 12:25 AM   #1 
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Yet another thread about bloated/possibly constipated sick fish...

What size is your tank? 5-gallon, but currently a 1-gallon jar.
What temperature is your tank? 82f
Does your tank have a filter? Normally yes, currently no.
Does your tank have an air stone or other type of aeration? Normally no, currently yes.
Is your tank heated? Yes.
What tank mates does your betta fish live with? Normally a single ghost shrimp.

What type of food do you feed your betta fish? Normal betta pellet food (soaked first), occasional dried bloodworms.
How often do you feed your betta fish? Once a day, but he hasn't been fed in more than a week, except for daphnia.


How often do you perform a water change? Not as often as I should; this time of year it happens gradually due to evaporation, where I add more water when the tank level gets too low.
What percentage of the water do you change when you perform a water change? ~25%, I'm not sure.
What type of additives do you add to the water when you perform a water change? pH decreaser, because our water is chronically alkaline.

Water Parameters:
Have you tested your water? If so, what are the following parameters?

No specifics on water levels apart from pH, which is almost always off the alkaline end of the scale when I check it. When I've had the water tested in the past, everything else was fine, possibly a little high on the water hardness. I use water from an outside spigot that bypasses our water conditioner, because using the treated water slowly kills the fish, every single time.

Symptoms and Treatment
How has your betta fish's appearance changed? He's extremely EXTREMELY bloated. It looks like I could stick him with a needle and drain him like a huge blister or something. He's got some whitish-grey spots on his gill covers, and has gone a little paler under his chin. The lighter spots are not ich. His overall body color is much duller now too.

How has your betta fish's behavior changed? It didn't for quite some time, which is why I thought it was just constipation at first. I have him in a hospital tank now - no substrate, no direct light source, nothing but 100% different water and a heater and an airstone. I treated the new water with pH decreaser, epsom salts, and a tiny bit of Melafix just in case. Since I put him in there, he's also had a portion of daphnia (the second since he started looking so bloated) which he was pretty eager to get as much of as he could. Today, however, he's been lethargic, resting his bloated self on the bottom of the tank, propped up by one of his pectoral fins. He's been breathing very slowly, only moving around to surface and get more air once in a while, or if I go near the tank. He's not completely unresponsive, but he's definitely more low-energy, I don't know whether it's just the different setting or a progressing illness or what. I don't think it's dropsy, unless a fish can have dropsy and not have the pineconed scales.

When did you start noticing the symptoms? He's been bloated like this for at least a week now, and I should have started treating it sooner. He was still being so energetic and flaring at himself in the mirror that I didn't notice the bloat.

Does your fish have any history of being ill? Nope.

How old is your fish (approximately)? I've had him for... seven or eight months, I think. I'm not too sure. And as for how old he was when I got him, who even knows. I got him from Petsmart.
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Old 12-30-2012, 12:40 AM   #2 
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If you're only adding water after a certain amount evaporates, then it is highly likely you have a water quality problem and that water quality problem has caused him an internal infection.

5 gallon fully cycled tanks requires 25%-50% weekly water change, depending on a variety of things - this also much include a vacuuming of the gravel with a siphon. You should test until you know what your environment requires. Ammonia should be 0, Nitrites 0 and Nitrates should be <20ppm. It's important any time you want to run a filter to cycle a tank (meaning not making weekly 100% water changes) that you invest in a drops test kit for ammonia, nitrite and nitrates and be monitoring actual levels daily. A lot of people use this kit: Test daily for ammonia and nitrites. Any time you see ammonia or nitrites get to .25ppm you do a water change. In addition to this you do a weekly 50%+ water change (including a vacuuming of the gravel with a siphon). At first you will see an ammonia spike. After that ammonia will go to zero and you will see a nitrite spike. Eventually you will start seeing some nitrates and then eventually both ammonia and nitrites will be zero and you will be left with only nitrates. Those can be removed by weekly water changes. Cycling will take up to 2 months.

At this point with all the lack of water changes you will probably need a 100% change in that 5 gallon along with a good rinsing of the filter material in some old tank water to remove debris (in old tank water should keep the bacteria from dying. After that you should monitor levels very carefully for a few weeks to make sure everything is stable and after that keep up on your weekly water changes so your betta does not get sick again.

It's a bad idea to use ph modifiers on tanks. The reason, as you've already pointed to, they are not permanent and ph jumps around. Bettas can adapt to a wide variety of phs but the constant swings are extremely hard on them and can even be lethal. What is the ph of your untreated water? As long as it's under 9 I would not do anything to it at all, and especially if it's 7. something. If it's way too high like into the 9s or higher you can cut it 50/50 with RO water. These mixes much be done extremely carefully and accurately to avoid ph changes and they must be done first before doing a water change - meaning before this water comes in contact with your fish.

It is also not a good idea to soak pellets unless you're soaking in something like vitachem which adds nutritents. The reason is you are leaching nutrients out. The freeze dried food like those blood worms is what you should be soaking before feeding. What is the brand of pellet that you feed and how many does he get per day? Once a week he should be fasted and fed nothing.

I highly suggest you not use Melafix. It contains an ingredient that can coat the labrynth lung and cause them to suffocate. It will also do nothing for this infection.

He needs epsom salts - pure 100% magnesium sulfate with no additives per the ingredients lable. Predissolve 1 tsp per gallon and pour very slowly into his hospital bowl over the course of an hour. Epsom salts are like aquarium salt - they do not evaporate with the water, they will only leave with a water change and must be replaced with all water changes. Along with these epsom salts you will also need a good internal antibiotic like Seachem Kanaplex or Maracyn Plus. These have the strongest chance of working, so try hard to find them. If you can't Furan 2 and a source of erythromycin have a far smaller chance of helping.

During this treatment time do 100% water changes every other day along with the redosing of meds and epsoms. Do this for 2 weeks.

Last edited by callistra; 12-30-2012 at 12:42 AM.
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Old 12-30-2012, 01:16 AM   #3 
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It sounds like the lack of siphoning alone could've caused this; I don't have a siphon hose that fits in such a small tank, plus I have a pair of small live plants that get unsettled from the gravel pretty easily. I have a turkey baster sort of thing that I use to get the big chunks out, but it's very time-consuming and awkward and not ideal, I know. I'll look into the master test kit; I've only ever seen that sort of thing at ludicrous prices in Petsmart, but Amazon's price for it is much more reasonable.

I didn't know that about the pH, but it makes sense. I did know about the wide changes being more upsetting to bettas than a chronic imbalance, though. I don't believe our water's pH is above 9, but I'll see if I can get a number on it next time I go to Petsmart.

I started soaking the betta pellets after reading about constipation being caused by overfeeding + feeding the standard pellets, which expand when wet and therefore expand inside the betta after they've eaten their fill. The dried bloodworms dissolve almost as soon as they hit the water, so soaking them would be next to impossible. The pellets are Top Fin, and (up until he started bloating) he was getting 3-5 a day, sometimes a couple more than that to allow for the fact that he often spits half of them back out and then the shrimp eats them. I was also fasting him one day a week.

I can hopefully get some Maracyn Plus tomorrow and see if I can get him better. I'm currently working on setting up a different tank that will be easier to clean and maintain, so hopefully this won't happen again. Thank you for all the advice!
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Old 12-30-2012, 01:24 AM   #4 
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Wheat filled pellets can swell and cause that issue but not all are like that. My favorite are new life spectrum betta pellets. They're little and there's so little wheat that they don't swell hardly at all and in fact they sink if the fish does t eat them quick enough. I feed 5 to 8 a day split up into two or three meals with a fast day a week. Omega one betta buffet is pretty good too and swells a lot less. They're more along the same size as what you've been feeding so you can feed 3 to 4 or 5 as well split up
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bloated, constipated, dropsy, fat fish, lethargic

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