Hello fellow Betta lovers! I have only written a few times before, but have been more of a lurker than a contributor here. You've all taught me so much about how to properly and lovingly care for these special fish. Something happened recently and I wanted to pass it along as I hadn't found much else about the topic online. Beware driftwood, even the wood sold in pet stores deemed "safe" for freshwater aquariums.
We've had our veil-tail Betta "Buddy" for over a year now and he's always curious, lively and fun. He's in a 10 gallon, cycled and heated tank and always had pristine water test results. About 2 months ago we decided to go for the plunge and get him a friend who would also help with algae buildup. We got a little ottocinclus catfish, cutest thing ever.
We named the otto "Beaker" because he would zip around the tank locating algae. In a few days, he'd cleaned the entire tank. We switched out the lights to brighter leds to encourage more algae and it worked. Little Beaker was getting quite plump after 2 months and Buddy loved hanging out near him. All seemed well.
I read online that otto's love driftwood, so I stopped off at the pet store one night and bought a piece. I asked multiple times, "Is this safe for a freshwater tank?" "Yes," he said and pointed to the tank on the counter, "We use it in our tanks." I boiled the wood for 20 minutes and soaked it over night regardless. Then put it in the tank the next day. Beaker loved it. Wouldn't let it go. Then about a week later we couldn't find him.
Otto's are shy and sometimes hard to find, but when the algae was really building up, we knew he was gone. Cleaning the tank, we found him under the gravel. We blamed poor Buddy, thinking he must have attacked Beaker.
Recently, we left on a weekend trip and came back to find Buddy almost in a Zombie like state. He had no color, was struggling to breath and his eyes were glossed over. I tested the water. Amonia was through the roof! We quickly took out the wood and did a 60% water change. Buddy colored up almost in minutes, he was still sluggish but his breathing was much better and he was moving around. After another 30% water change a few hours later, he was doing much better, but there was still trace amonia the next day. Another 30% water change and the ammonia was gone.
The only thing that had changed in the tank was the driftwood, but I wanted to know for sure that's what did it. I soaked the driftwood for two days in a bucket of our tap water, and then tested the water. The amonia was off the charts. Again, this is wood the owner of the pet store (specializing in fish) told me could go right into a tank without any problems. Needless to say, we knew it wasn't Buddy that took Beaker. Ottos are not nearly as resilient as Bettas, it had to be the ammonia spike.
Anyway, I hope you'll forgive this post being so long, I just had to sort of get it out since I feel so guilty about the situation. I will never put anything into our tank again without testing it first. And I will not just take the pet store owner's "word" for it. (And please be careful with driftwood!!)
Thanks and happy bubble nest building to all!