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Old 08-01-2012, 10:21 PM   #1 
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Ammonia Poisoning

Alright, so unfortunately I'm pretty sure my little guy has picked up ammonia poisoning. Very similar symptoms to my last betta that died, ie: lethargic, silver around his gills, gasping, sinks to the bottom of the tank and has recently destroyed his fins that took over a year to NEARLY grow back.

Based on the previous battle I had with the old fish, I'm certain it's ammonia poisoning this time around as nothing else fits.

We've been trying to save him by doing water changes (started with a 50% day one, and 20% each day since) just trying to keep his water as clean as possible. He has a heater, it's a 5 gallon tank and he gets plenty of light during the day. We don't over feed him.

I've read a lot about ammonia poisoning but never about any possible cures. What I find odd is he showed no symptoms like these while in the bad water, but once we started with a 50% the symptoms appeared and have gotten worse.

With the silver around his gills I'm pretty certain he's reached the point of no return and it's only a matter of time, but I still want to try and at least make it a peaceful passing and ideally prevent him from passing.

What should I do?
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Old 08-01-2012, 10:37 PM   #2 
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have you tried putting aq salt in the water? it'll help the gills absorb oxygen and if anything help him feel like he's not suffocating.
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Old 08-01-2012, 10:38 PM   #3 
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How much should I use?
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Old 08-01-2012, 10:50 PM   #4 
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It should say how much on the box (dose for repairing fins and damaged scales).
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Old 08-01-2012, 11:21 PM   #5 
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I'm not sure what water conditioner you are using but if its not Prime start using it immediately for ammonia poisoning. Here is an informative link.

Let's hope your betta is not past the point of no return.

Best of Luck......
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Old 08-01-2012, 11:25 PM   #6 
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I don't think there is an actual cure for ammonia poisioning but he can bounce back from it depending on how much damage has been done. I have picked up a few from petstores that looked like they were gonna die before I got home but have bounced back with proper care...


  • Fish gasp for breath at the water surface
  • Purple or red gills
  • Fish is lethargic
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fish lays at the bottom of the tank
  • Red streaking on the fins or body
Ammonia poisoning can happen suddenly, or over a period of days. Initially the fish may be seen gasping at the surface for air. The gills will begin to turn red or lilac in color, and may appear to be bleeding. The fish will being to lose its appetite and become increasingly lethargic. In some cases fish may be observed laying at the bottom of the tank with clamped fins.

As the damage from the ammonia poisoning continues, the tissues will be damaged as evidenced by red streaks or bloody patches that appear on the body and fins. Internal damage is occurring to the brain, organs, and central nervous system. The fish begins to hemorrhage internally and externally, and eventually dies.
Lowering the pH of the water will provide immediate relief, as will a 50% water change (be sure to use water that is the same temperature as the aquarium). Several water changes within a short period of time may be required to drop the ammonia to below 1 ppm.

If the fish are in severe distress, the use of a chemical to neutralize the ammonia is recommended. Feedings should be restricted so that additional waste is reduced. In cases of very high ammonia levels, feedings should be discontinued for several days.

Because ammonia toxicity is linked to the pH, testing of both ammonia and pH levels are critical. Ammonia becomes increasingly toxic as the pH rises above 7.0. Because there are so many variables, there is no magic number to watch for. However, there are general guidelines to follow.
I have no idea what my PH is but when I have treated fish with ammonia poisioning thanks to poor pet shop care, i focused more on water changes. I would start out small and gradually work your way up to larger changes. You don't want to change the chemistry too much as that can do more damage then good.

I also use aquarium salt and amquel plus as the conditioner. Prime does the same thing but amquel plus dosen't stink up the room like prime (think cat piss smell). If you use AQ salt, don't use it for more then 10 days.

you also may want to pick up the liquid ammonia test kit that way you know for sure what you are dealing with.

Do you have a filter? how often are your water changes?

when you say silver around the gills, do you mean like the silver "scar" this fish has?

I "think" that was caused by ammonia burning him as were the red gill covers and I think the missing fins were also burnt off - they were floating around in his cup >.< His ammonia tested at 8.0

Last edited by Tikibirds; 08-01-2012 at 11:32 PM.
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Old 08-02-2012, 01:00 AM   #7 
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Good info up there ^

Oldfishlady made a great post once abut why fish get ammonia poisoning when transitioning from filthy conditions to clean ones - it's to do with the dirty water making its own adjustments to chemistry that turn ammonia into ammonium.... really not great for the fish at all, and very bad in the long term, but that's how bettas survive in those horrible little cups in stores, with ammonia of 8 - the filth is actually keeping them alive (though they are rotting slowly and prone to disease..).

The answer is to acclimate fish slowly when changing from dirty water to clean, adding a tiny bit of new water to dilute the old until the fish can adjust. A little AQ salt can help throw off the effects of nitrite and ammonia poisoning too, by clearing the toxins from its blood. Doing 100% water change, scrubbing the tank and generally making it clean prior to upping water changes thus seems like good sense also.

Fish don't 'pick up' ammonia poisoning, they get it from having to live in ammonia, which is usually to do with inadequate water changes. If you're changing the water regularly now, great - but as another poster has said, the damage caused may be permanent and your fish may never be "quite right" as a result. He may yet live a long life, though, so just keep him clean and give him good food so he can be the best he can be.

But with your next fish, do consider acclimating after purchase (if he's in a dirty cup) and keeping to a good water change schedule for the tank size. Also, an ammonia and nitrite test kit is very helpful for figuring out when changes are necessary.

ETA: I'm not sure what's happening as far his past goes... from what you've said, I'm assuming you didn't know about water changes with your previous fish, and until recently this one too...

I'm sorry if I'm wrong. And if I am wrong, then perhaps you might want to look into the possibility of gill flukes, too. Ammonia is the obvious problem if he wasn't getting clean water -- if he was, then perhaps it's something else.

Last edited by Aus; 08-02-2012 at 01:06 AM.
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Old 08-02-2012, 01:22 AM   #8 
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does ur 5 gallon have a filter and is it cycled? did you do a weekly water change of 30% or more? if so, the chances of ammonia poisoning seems quite slim...
but if it isnt cycled....most likely your tank will need a 100% water change every week :)hopefully this information will help you in the future! and good luck to the poor fish :(
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Old 08-02-2012, 10:04 AM   #9 
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Hi Orsini, long time no see. I'm sorry it's under these circumstances. :(

You did the right thing by doing all the water changes. 99% of the time, water changes can reverse negative symptoms. It's that 1% where it doesn't work that baffles us.

Did you happen to test the water before or after he started showing his symptoms? If his tank stayed cycled and if you kept up on the water changes, I'm just not sure how he could get ammonia poisoning. There is a slight possibility it's not ammonia but nitrite or nitrate poisoning that's affecting him but there's also a possibility it's something else entirely.

For now, I'd definitely recommend changing the water at least partially every other day and adding 1 tsp of aquarium salt per gallon. If you have live plants in his tank, you might actually want to remove him to a hospital tank for treatment, as salt kills plants.

Is he bloated? Does he still eat?

I'd also agree with Aus on gill flukes being a possibility. If so, AQ salt and frequent water changes could help cure that. You could also try treating him with General Cure to see if that relieves any of his symptoms.

I hope he pulls through. Good luck and keep us posted.
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Old 08-02-2012, 08:42 PM   #10 
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I added a tbsp of AQS last night to his water. I believe it's actually a 2.5 gallon tank and I was never able to get it to cycle, and he absolutely hated the filter so I resorted to frequent water changes.

Trying to answer all the questions.. I did weekly 50% water changes ( Sunday : 25% in the morning, 25% at night), I use Prime, I tested the water when I noticed his symptoms (after I returned from vacation) and noticed his ammonia level was high, his water was a bit murky and there were fuzzy things starting to grow inside the tank. I believe it had been about 3 weeks since he had a water change, so plenty of time for damage.

I cleaned the tank out, put him in new water at the same temp and have always used Prime. I've been adding some stress coat to hopefully help things a little.

We've removed everything from the tank except his cave which he's not using but didnt want to put him in a completely new environment so we lowered the water and installed a floating leaf so he can lay close to the surface.

I'm bringing him up to a new house a few hundred miles away which should have better lighting and lower ph levels. The ph levels in San Francisco are quite shockingly high, so I'm going to start adding in new water from here which is quite lower. About that... I'm assuming I should do it slowly so he can adjust... like 20% water changes? How will this coincide with the AQS treatments?

His gills are not red yet and he does still eat, but lays on his side all day long, gasps for water and races to the top for air and sinks back down. He WAS bloated when I returned so I fasted him for about a week and it vanished, that's about the only thing I've been able to cure since.

Last edited by Orsini; 08-02-2012 at 08:47 PM.
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