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Old 01-19-2013, 10:55 PM   #1 
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Sluggish, bloated, hard to feed betta...

Hey everyone, hate to join and beg for help right away, but my betta, named Alfa, is a bit ill. Alfa had a few illnesses about 6 months before now, but seemed to mostly recover (his eye that was infected became less clear, but other than that, was normal.

2 weeks ago, I noticed his heater had stopped working, and his temp had dropped to about 70 F. During this time he developed a sore on his forehead, and on his right cheek some white patches. They seemed minor and I did not want to resort to medicine, so I bought him a new heater, and his temp has been steady in the 76-80 F range for the last 10 days. Since then, while the sore on his forehead has healed completely and his white patches have disappeared, he has not moved more than necessary, lays on the bottom of his tank, and he has not wanted to eat any pellets (maybe 1 per day, when he goes up for air and happens to see it) or blood worms, and will eat the live Daphnia I feed him only if they happen to swim past his field of view when he's lying the tank bottom. Finally, his belly seems bigger than usual, on his underside just behind his gills, which tapers off rather steeply.

I assume his immune system was weakened by the colder than normal water, and some old illnesses might have resurfaced. His energy does not seem to have come back, and it's very difficult to get him to eat now. What do I do?

Please find the questionnaire and image link below.

What size is your tank? 5 gal
What temperature is your tank? 76-80
Does your tank have a filter? Yes, one running 24/7, and one a few days at a time with a UV filter.
Does your tank have an air stone or other type of aeration? Nothing separate, but it's pretty well aerated.
Is your tank heated? Has a submersible heater
What tank mates does your betta fish live with? Just water wisteria plants.

What type of food do you feed your betta fish? Betta pellets, 4-5 in the morning, freeze dried blood worms, live Daphnia that I culture
How often do you feed your betta fish? Twice a day

How often do you perform a water change? Weekly 25%, monthly 95+%
What percentage of the water do you change when you perform a water change? See above
What type of additives do you add to the water when you perform a water change? Nutrafin cycle, Nutrafin water condition, 1 tbsp aquarium salt

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

Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: 0 ppm
pH: 7.2
Hardness: ?
Alkalinity: ?

Symptoms and Treatment
How has your betta fish's appearance changed? He always was fat, but seems to be a bit bloated on his underbelly just behind his gills.
How has your betta fish's behavior changed? Does not flare, unresponsive to me when I chat with him, only moves to swim to top of tank and gulp air, no longer eats pellets or blood worms, and only eats Daphnia when they happen to swim in front of him while he's laying on the rocks. He will chase them to some small degree.
When did you start noticing the symptoms? 2 weeks ago
Have you started treating your fish? If so, how? No
Does your fish have any history of being ill? 6 months ago, had an external fungus infection (feathery sore on scales), treated with antifungal, got better. 2 weeks later had a bacterial infection (slight popeye), treated with Tetracycline, mostly normal.
How old is your fish (approximately)? 1.5 year
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Old 01-19-2013, 11:01 PM   #2 
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In a fully cycled 5 gallon a weekly 50% water change with gravel siphon to clean the gravel should be sufficient, especially with live plants.

How do you do a water change and acclimate after?

How come your tank temp is jumping around like that? It's really important to stabilize temp and 4 degrees jumps per day are going to wear down his immune system.

5 pellets is too many to feed at a time unless you're talking about teeny tiny micro pellets .5mm or smaller. 5 pellets a day is plenty + for most pellets, and should be split up into twice daily meals. Also what pellets are you using? Daphnia is fine once a week in place of pellet meal to keep fish regular and not constipated. Blood worms are like feeding candy and you should only feed a worm or two once a week in place of one pellet feeding. Frozen foods should be broken up into pellet size pieces and freeze dried foods need a thorough soaking for 10minutes in some dechlorinated water to soften then. No matter what you feed he needs a fast day a week.

Aquarium salt can only be safely used for up to 2 weeks, but 10 days is safer. Any longer can lead to early organ failure.. which will present itself as bloating with raising of scales.. are his scales raised?

You need to get the AQ out.

Is he pooping daily? What color is the poop?

"6 months ago, had an external fungus infection (feathery sore on scales), treated with antifungal, got better. 2 weeks later had a bacterial infection (slight popeye), treated with Tetracycline, mostly normal." Are you saying he's had popeye you've left untreated for almost 6 months? Tetracycline is no good for popeye

Last edited by callistra; 01-19-2013 at 11:05 PM.
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Old 01-20-2013, 12:45 AM   #3 
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The temperature, according to an in-tank thermometer, is just under 80 and I cannot discern much difference by eye, but the heater is designed to operate at 78 +/- 2, so that's the range I gave you. I guess it waits till the water is 76, and then heats it up till 80, and then turns off again?

Anyway, his popeye got down to a good level, and his eye was normal, except for being slightly more opaque, after I treated with tetracycline. I was under the impression that it was a good treatment since it is a broad spectrum antibiotic with action even on some amoebas, but I suppose there may have been a resistant bacteria in there. His eye was large again after the heater break, but since putting a new one back in it seems to be decreasing slowly. Do you suggest some other medicine that might work better on this popeye?

As far as the poop goes, for the over 18 months that I have owned him, I have never once seen him poop, but lately I have not even seen much poop around the tank at all, now that you mention it. Is he constipated?

Also, I do not add salt unless I'm doing my 100% water change. When I do such a change, I put him in a small tub (the one he came in) change the water that I left next to his tank for 24 hours, and then add a drip pump such that the water is pumped into his tub a drop at a time (and the excess drains back into the main tank). With the 25% changes, I just scoop out the water, and then drip the extra water in the same way.

Thank you for the advice on the feeding. I know for a fact that I overfed him for a while, but I never left any food that was uneaten left in the tank for fear for ammonia poisoning. Even when he was healthy and active, I knew he was a little overweight. I will keep him at 2-3 pellets, twice a day, and he has not eaten any blood worms for more than a month.

While I await a reply on the medicine for the popeye, my current plan is to keep him fasted for maybe two days, and then try to feed him a boiled pea to try to clear the constipation. I would really rather avoid medicating if possible, since his white patches and head sore healed up on their own and the eye is almost back to normal on its own. But with advice I will medicate. Any other advice?

Last edited by greywolfangel; 01-20-2013 at 12:53 AM.
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Old 01-20-2013, 12:48 AM   #4 
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If it's doing that it's not okay and you should get a different heater that will hold it one steady temp. Swings are hard on bettas. A good adjustable 25w or 50w heater like Aqueon Pro, Jager or Marineland Visitherm are good choices.

Tetracycline in not a broad spectrum antibiotic. It's a gram negative antibiotic with limited use and effects. Also popeye and cloudy eye are gram positive infections. If his eye is still cloudy he still has a bacterial infection.. at this point it could have spread internally.

I would use epsom salts at 1 tsp per gallon and Kanaplex, Maracyn Plus or Furan 2 for two weeks along with the salt. You will probably want to treat outside the tank in something you can keep warm because the meds will hurt your cycle. During this time I would leave the bottom bare and monitor poop. The meds should also be good for any internal infection.

I would change your water change routine to once 50% weekly with gravel vac in the main tank. More frequent changes will be needed in the QT tank depending on the size.

Last edited by callistra; 01-20-2013 at 12:51 AM.
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Old 01-25-2013, 02:02 PM   #5 
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Thanks a lot. Here's an update. I did not have Kanaplex handy, so I ordered it. In the meanwhile, I fasted him, removed the rocks from the tank so I could monitor poop, and kept his temperature as steady as possible. I attempted the pea thing, but of course he didn't even look at them. I read that daphnia are a great alternative to peas, and since he does want to eat them, I gave him some 3 days later. Probably bad, since he's still not pooped despite having eaten some daphnia. Kanaplex came in today. Should I use it with Furan-2, or alone? Also, I'm a bit hesitant about the epsom salt since I don't really trust myself to do the bath well, and I'm not confident about being able to keep my QT tank as steady temperature-wise.

I plan to treat him with Kanaplex in his tank, and just monitor the ammonia levels as much as I can. I figure since he's not pooping and I'm not feeding him, ammonia shouldn't be too bad a problem, and I'll deal with re-cycling when he's better. Is this a good plan, or have I made some glaring mistake? Please let me know if you can. Also, should I continue to fast him in hopes that he'll eventually poop, or should I keep feeding daphnia to help him poop?

Thanks for your time.
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Old 01-25-2013, 08:38 PM   #6 
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What pellets are you feeding? He does sound constipated, but also there is more going on.

You've killed off a lot of your bb while taking out the gravel.. that's why I suggested treating in QT. You're going to have to recycle once he is well. In the meantime, since you are treating in the tank he will need two weekly water changes of 50% and 100% with same temp water

Epsom salts are important for treating this. You don't need to do baths. Just add it to the tank, predissolved at 1 tsp per gallon slowly over an hour. They need to be pure 100% magnesium sulfate with no dyes, perfumes or any other additives. You only need to redose along with a water change. I would use just Kanaplex at this point and not combine it with anything else.
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Old 01-26-2013, 01:54 PM   #7 
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Per your suggestion, I have added pure epsom salt and Kanaplex. He is currently on his second Kanaplex dose (I put one dose in yesterday). I am not currently feeding him any pellets at all, and I have not fed him daphnia for 3 days now. When he was eating normally, I fed him Top Fin Color Enhancing Betta Bits, live daphnia, and freeze-dried blood worms. As of today he has still not pooped at all, and his tummy looks bloated. Luckily his scales are not pineconing so I don't suspect kidney failure yet (though I have nightmares about it).

Poor thing. He's still so beautiful. I'm just glad there is no fin rot or any external problems now. Just need to get his digestive tract working, darn it.
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