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Old 11-22-2012, 10:01 PM   #1 
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Cotton Mouth

So I had a happy tank until yesterday when out of the blue, one of my rasboras died. I hadn't noticed any of them being lethargic or otherwise acting ill. I also noticed that the alpha female of my betta sorority was showing stress lines.

This morning, one of my female bettas was super-lethargic, so I isolated her. She was white with red coloring on her fins, so if there were any white spots on her body, I would have completely failed to notice. She was dead when I came home this evening.

Now I have a fish finally showing a physical symptom. My male betta's mouth is white, more on the lips and inside than on the outside. He's still moving around the tank, but sticks his head much further out of the water when breathing than usual. Of my remaining females, two are now showing stress lines more often than not, and the third is white so I can't tell.None of the other fish in the tank appear to have anything like what my male betta has. The algae eater is actively foraging and the rasboras as shoaling (the water change freaked them a bit) and one was spawning earlier today.

Is this cotton mouth or something else? What else, besides salt, should I use to treat it?

Picture below.

What size is your tank? 29 Gallons
What temperature is your tank? Mid 70s (I don't trust the sticky thermometer on the side of the tank to be more accurate than that)
Does your tank have a filter? Yes
Does your tank have an air stone or other type of aeration? No
Is your tank heated? Yes
What tank mates does your betta fish live with? 3 (used to be 4) female bettas, 7 (used to be 8) glowlight rasboras, and a juvenile chineese algae eater

What type of food do you feed your betta fish? commercial pellets and flakes
How often do you feed your betta fish? once or twice a day


How often do you perform a water change? once a week
What percentage of the water do you change when you perform a water change? ~20%
What type of additives do you add to the water when you perform a water change? API Aquarium salt at 1T per 10 gallons (about half the amount recommended on the container)

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

Ammonia: 0.25 (but I just did a water change and kicked up some waste. It was at 0 this morning)
Nitrite: No test
Nitrate: between 20 and 40 (closer to 40)
pH: No test
Hardness: No test
Alkalinity: No test

Symptoms and Treatment
How has your betta fish's appearance changed? White around the mouth (2 of my females are showing stress lines but I'm not sure that's related)
How has your betta fish's behavior changed? Somewhat less active
When did you start noticing the symptoms? Today
Have you started treating your fish? If so, how? water change with the stock of water I had available (about 5 gallons) with 1T aquarium salt.
Does your fish have any history of being ill? No
How old is your fish (approximately)?I've had him about 2 months

Last edited by CLCDiver; 11-22-2012 at 10:02 PM. Reason: typos
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Old 11-22-2012, 10:31 PM   #2 
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Google columnaris and read up on treatment and then determine what is available locally to you. This is a fast spreading disease so you don't want to wait around for an online order.

I am assuming your male is in a different tank - do you share nets, vacs or any other equipment between tanks that could cause cross contamination?
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Old 11-22-2012, 10:34 PM   #3 
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The male was in the same tank. He has now been isolated, but I'm treating the main tank as well.
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Old 11-22-2012, 11:24 PM   #4 
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Cotton mouth is another name for columnaris and is a gram negative bacteria. You need medication that will fight off the bacteria like Furan 2, Triple Sulfa or Kanaplex. I'm not sure if aquarium salt alone will be able to cure him.

However this is the advice one of the mods on here gave someone back in 2011 for columnaris

01-01-2011, 08:19 AM #8 Oldfishlady
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Sorry you are having this stage....

I would start making 100% water changes with aquarium salt 1tsp/gal and increase the aquarium salt over the next 30 minutes to total 3tsp/gal...make 100% daily water changes with the 3tsp/gal aquarium salt for the next 10 days
If you have tannins you can add-all the better-you can use either-naturally dried and fallen from the tree Oak leaf or Indian almond leaf or blackwater extract and in a pinch decaf green tea bags

I like to use a clean 1gal jug and pre-mix my treatment water-makes water changes and correct salt dosage easier and it allows the tannins to steep longer so the water will get darker amber colored (add dechlorinator if you normally use it)

You need a thermometer and monitor the water temp-I would keep the water temp in the 76F range for treatment and to check the water temp for the water changes-it is important to try and keep the water temp within a couple of degrees between new and old water so not to cause stress from sudden temp changes.

Hold food for now and then offer half feeding twice a day on day 3 of treatment and then every other day during treatment.
Personally I would skip straight to the meds if you can find them locally.
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Old 11-23-2012, 11:18 AM   #5 
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Thanks for the tips. Mostly I was hoping to confirm the diagnosis since it's a disease I've never seen before. My past experiences were with ich and external parasites.

Okay, the situation as it stands now. Last night my other white female betta died. Still no visible signs on any other fish besides my male betta. There is more white on my male betta, around (but not quite on) his eyes, and he's definitely struggling to breathe and in between breaths he just lets himself drift to the bottom of the tank. He is isolated in a 1 gallon container which I have dosed with aquarium salt and Maracyn 2. I'm in the process of bringing up some water to tank temperature to do a major water change in the main tank since I'm planning to treat that tank as well.
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Old 11-23-2012, 07:34 PM   #6 
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The death toll is now 4, as my male betta just succumbed. I'm treating the main tank with aquarium salt and maracyn two, but none of the other fish are showing any symptoms that are recognizable (the females bettas are still showing stress lines more often than not, but that's it). How do I tell if the maracyn is working and I only need one 5-day treatment or if I should do two?
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