Hello everyone, I wrote this a few years ago as a general guide for myself and friends on DeviantArt. I finally finished revamping it as times have changes since I wrote the original article. The information below is based on years of research and first hand experience but everyone treats illnesses differently. This is just how I do it. There are a number of sources, including VIN (Veterinary Information Network) and BettaTalk.
The Four Most Important Aspects of Betta Care Are:
1) Proper Water Changes
2) Warm Water (78*-82*F)
3) Varied Diet
4) Quarentine New Fish/Plants/Tankmates
If you do these 4 things, you can greatly reduce the chances of your betta getting sick.
Things to keep on hand at all times
•Extra nets and 1 gallon containers
•Aquarium Salt (Aq.Salt)
•Epsom Salt (ES)
•Potassium Permanganate (PP)
•Quarantine tank (QT)
Before you treat your fish for everything under the sun, check the water chemistry. Toxic levels of Ammonia, Nitrites and Nitrates are extremely harmful and weaken your betta's immune system resulting in illness. Many petstores will test your water for free. Liquid tests are much more accurate than strip tests.
•If your fish look like they are lethargic, gasping for air or are swimming head down do a water change immediately because they probably have nitrate, nitrite, or ammonia poisoning. Do not use chemicals to remove them as they are ineffective. Prime does remove nitrites/nitrates but it is still most effective to do a water change.
•Extreme pH variation can also cause illness. Sand and porous rocks like sandstone or lava rock make water more basic (>7.0) while Indian almond leaves, peat moss and oak leaves make the water more acidic (<7.0).
•Are there chlorinates in the water? Did you forget to add the water conditioner? If so, quickly add your water conditioner!!
•Many issues can be cured by a simple water change so it should be the first thing you try.
Conservative Treatment Versus Medication:
There are two ways to treat a sick fish. One is the conservative route. It involves increased water changes and (usually) salt treatments. The other route is using medication. There are some illnesses that respond better to medication than water changes and salt, however most illnesses can be cured simply with a bit of TLC and salt. In general, you should always attempt conservative treatment methods before using medicines as medicines can be hard on your fish’s internal organs and over using medicine or not completing the treatment cycle can result in the creation of medicine-resistance bugs.
There are a number of things you can do for your betta to reduce stress and support their immune system. Indian Almond leaves, tannins, black water extracts, and peat moss pellets are all things that you can add to help prevent illness or help recovery. API Stress Coat and Kordon’s Fish Protector are water conditioners/additives that help slime coat production and skin repair. They can be added at any time your fish shows signs of illness.
True Fungal Infections
•Symptoms: White cottony like patches on its body or head, Lethargic, Not eating, Clamped Fins, Pale Colors
•Treatment: Conservative: Lower temperature below 76* F and treat with Aq.Salt at 1 tsp/gal. Increase water changes to 100% daily. Replace accurate amount of salt following water changes. Never continue salt treatments for more than 10 days. Medication: If Conservative treatment is ineffective after 10 days or you see the fungus spread rapidly during the course of conservative treatment, move to medication. Add “Fungus Eliminator” by Jungle, API Erythromycin, API Fungus Cure, API Triple Sulfa, OR Mardel’s Maracyn II. Change water every day and add a new dose of the same medication. Continue until all fungus has disappeared.
Tail rot or fin rot
•Symptoms: Betta’s fins and/or tail seem to be getting shorter and shorter or they seem to be falling apart and dissolving, Black or red along the edge of the betta’s fins/tail, Bloody tips, Behavior may not change
Treatment: Conservative: Treat with Aq.Salt at 1 tsp/gal. Increase water changes to 100% daily. Replace accurate amount of salt following water changes. Add Stress Coat to help repair tissue. If there is little to no improvement within the first 5 days, you can increase the salt dosage gradually to 2tsp/gal but do not continue any salt treatments past 10 days. Medication: If Conservative treatment is ineffective use API Tetracycline, API Fungus Cure, API Triple Sulfa, OR API Erythromycin. Also add Stress Coat to help regrowth. Continue until fins/tail stop receding and start showing some new growth.
Advanced Fin and Tail rot
•Symptoms: Fins and or tail start rotting away, usually starting from the edge, but sometimes it starts at the base of the fin (especially dorsal) and attacks the body directly. Diseases progresses rapidly as the tissues are being eaten away. Once fins have been consumed, rot will proceed onto the body. At this stage the disease is hard to reverse although the betta might continue to live for months if treated properly. If not treated, it will die promptly.
•Treatment: If the rot has advanced onto the body, skip conservative treatment. Do 100% daily water changes. Use a combination of Fungus Eliminator and Tetracycline. Continue until fins/tail stop receding and start showing some new growth. It may take up to 4 weeks to work, so don’t give up.
•Symptoms: Not to be confused with Fin/Tail Rot, Fin or Tail biting is when a betta bites his own tail, tearing off pieces. Fins will be ragged, they will look like there are chunks missing, Fin loss can occur overnight, The tips of the fins are clean, no black or red edging, You may spot him swimming in circles, chasing his tail, There may be no other behavioral change
Bettas bite their own tails out of boredom or misplaced aggression. To cure his boredom, try getting him a larger tank, move things around in the tank to spark his interest, put a mirror up to the tank a few times per day to let him exercise, offer a variety of foods, get him some tank mates (research into this first though), or put his tank next to another betta’s tank ect… Owners of fin biters often have to deal with their tendency for a lifetime but do what you can to draw his attention from his fins. When your betta does have a fin biting episode, it is important to keep his water extra clean to prevent infection. You can treat him for a few days with Aquarium Salt until you see regrowth but you do not want to overuse it. Using Stress Coat as the water conditioner will help fin regrowth.
•Symptoms: Betta has white dots (looks like he was sprinkled with salt) all over his body and head, even eyes. Lethargic, No appetite, Clamped Fins, Might dart and scratching against decor
•Treatment: You can treat Ick either conservatively or with medication. Ick is a parasite. Because ick is contagious, it is preferable to treat the whole tank when one fish is found to have it. Ick is temperature sensitive: Leave your betta in the community tank and raise temperature to 85 F. Then you can choose to treat with salt or medication. Conservative: Add 1 tsp/gal Aquarium Salt 3 times, 12 hours apart so that you end up with 3 times the normal concentration. Perform daily 100% water changes to remove fallen parasites before they can reproduce. Replace the water with the right amount of salt. Do not continue this treatment for more than 14 days. If it fails or you do not want to use salt, treat with Jungle’s Parasite Clear, API Super Ick Cure, or Kordon Rid Ich Plus. If your betta lives in a jar/bowl, then it can be difficult to heat the water. There are heaters for smaller containers, but you can also float the quarantine container in a larger heated tank during treatment. Do a full water change every day and add an appropriate amount of medication to the water.
•Alternative Treatment: Personally, I have not found Ick medications very effective. I prefer to use PP to treat all external parasites. In the past, I have used 3 or 4 different ick medications unsuccessfully, and every time I resort to PP which works like a charm. Do lots of research before using PP as it is a more dangerous chemical than most.
•Symptoms: Can be found by shining a flashlight on your betta. If it looks like it is covered in fine gold of rust colored dust then it has velvet. Clamped Fins, no appetite, darting/rubbing, loss of color, lethargic
•Treatment: It is very contagious so you should treat the entire tank. Treat as you would treat Ick. PP is also my favorite for treating Velvet.