I wouldn't use distilled water-it not only lacks electrolytes and minerals-but oxygen too. Too clean and sterile conditions are not healthy and hard to support life. You have both good and bad bacteria in the system and by removing too much of the slower growing good the fast growing bad can take over....Balance is the key...
Sometimes with buoyancy issues-especially chronic-can be due to genetic reason or how they are reared at the fish farm and not a lot we can do. Generally with buoyancy issues the Betta can still live a somewhat normal life. As long as they can still swim well enough to reach the surface for air, eat...etc.... However, sometimes we may need to keep the water level low, limit water movement, use low dose Epsom salt 1tsp/gal and maintain heat/humidity over the water-for our special needs Betta.
Buoyancy problems can be due to-swim bladder-from a deformity, constipation, injury, infection, impacted duct or labyrinth organ related to name a few other reason/causes.
Curved spine can be a few things-poor nutrition, birth defect and fish TB to name the most common reason.
IMO/E-as long as your collection site for live food is free of harmful chemicals, pollution, pesticides...etc....they are generally safe to feed. I have been feeding live foods-mainly aquatic-like mosquito larva, daphania, infusoria and other aquatic critters for many, many years without issue.
As for flake food, other than my live food and homemade food-I use flake food to wean my Bettas off live and homemade without any problems. With that said, pellets are sometimes easier to feed-but IMO/E flakes are fine too-especially if you have live plants or inverts since flake food is a great plant fert and inverts will clean up any missed flakes.
He has deteriorated very badly today. He is now laying completely on his side, and sometimes on a plant leaf he is completely upside down. This must be the last stages, I would assume. He also swims at the surface upside down when up there for air. He doesn't swim to the bottom anymore, he just sinks down to bottom, usually in a vertical pose with head above and tails below. And he is now visibly gulping.
On second thought, his eyes do appear to be more pronounced lately.
I didn't have any epsom salts here at home (must have thrown out the last container I ever had some time back), so I have them on order. I used some of this BettaFix that I had on hand. Assuming he will expire soon, I don't see the harm in trying.
Something is definitely wrong with his central nervous system, so it must be internal. I don't have any other tank mates for him, in order for me to see what would happen to them.
The live food I caught outside was back in August, so if that is what caused this malady, I don't know if it would take that long to manifest itself. But I don't know much about that stuff.
He's looking real, real bad now.
I take it the iodine in iodized table salt would harm a fish? It has to be epsom salt, correct?
This does sound familiar to me though, it sounds like he was getting older and his swim bladder was not working anymore. The swim bladder is what fills with air and causes your betta to be able to float and be able to rise to the surface, sink to the bottom, and stay upright. I've had a few bettas with swim bladder problems a month or two before they passed away but they'd still be eating just fine. As time would pass their appetites would become less as well. None of them had any signs of diseases so I figured it as just old age. As I was reading your post, I was about to ask you if he was sinking vertically to the bottom tail first or looking like an S shape spine. Both of these are signs of swim bladder problems. The reason why they dart up quickly to get air (if it is what i'm thinking) is because it's hard for them to stay up at the surface. Sometimes bettas that you think are not very old can in fact be a year or so old. I had a betta that I rescued over the summer from disgusting conditions in his cup at the store, who had swim bladder issues and was only with me about two months, no signs of anything wrong. I wondered if he had been sitting there for a long time or if someone had not wanted him and brought him in because his fins were very long when I got him.
As a matter of fact, he did sink to the bottom (after rising for air) and do it vertically. Sometimes he would sink down head first and other times back-end first. Sorry, I tried to say all that earlier but didn't word it quite well.
And he did curve his spine markedly. Both of these came only at the very end.
The last day or two he was actually swimming upside down at the surface. He did it so quickly, darting back and forth, that I didn't at first notice he was upside down. The few times I watched him skim the surface rapidly he looked as if he was keeping his mouth on the surface. Whereas before, he would gingerly go to surface and hold mouth at surface for a second and then pull back down, release a bubble of the air and then go on about his routine.
His eyes did seem, at the end, to be protruding noticeably. Now, out of the water and under a microscope, his eyes don't seem bulged out. ????????
I didn't think he was that old, but I'm no fish expert as well as no betta expert.
I thought when I bought him about five months ago that he was only partly grown. I fed him regularly and he seemed to grow almost to twice his original size. Since he was growing the first month or two, I thought it was the first year of his life.
His colors were always until the end vivid and vibrant. He always was an active swimmer before the problems. When he became sedentary, resting on plant leaf, I thought he was just bored with the surroundings, but know I wonder if that was the beginning of his malady.
He harassed his tank mates when I first got him home. There were some ghost shrimp and a crab. Man oh man, was he a bully to them. When they passed away, I thought he was just settling down, was finally used to his surroundings etc. Just before his malady came along, he was making bubbles on the surface. At least, I thought all those bubbles came from him.
I think I said it before, that I didn't think he was constipated. He defecated regularly and it looked to all appearances that he was passing what he ate. Doesn't that make sense? He had not eaten for a week, so he must have been very weakened by hunger.
Well, I ordered a new one today. I'll give betta fish keeping another try.
Thanks for the info, Thomas
Last edited by sterplaz; 12-29-2012 at 11:17 AM.
Reason: extra comments
Curved spine is marked by fish TB or malnutrition. Birth defect could cause it but not if it developed later on in life. Sometimes really old bettas will get curved spines but you said you only had him a matter of months so he probably wasn't old. Maybe some of those outside random flies carried a disease or poison.. just a potential guess that might cause some malformations.
I'd be very careful about reusing anything you had if it was fish TB. It's extremely contagious and hard to disinfect anything. I've heard that even bleach wont' kill it, but I don't know if that was a melodramatic exaggeration or not - I tend to think it is. I'm unaware of any bacteria that bleach won't kill, even really nasty human ones, though I know there are some parasites that will survive it. I would bleach what you can - the tank itself and anything non porous by making a 10% bleach solution and soaking for 15 minutes. Anything porous or that can't be bleached, I'd toss.
Who knows what happened..but hopefully you'll have better luck with the next one.