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Old 12-14-2012, 12:40 AM   #1 
Sagat's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: Champaign, Illinois
New owner questions - My betta has split, raggedy fins :/

[Apologies in advance if this should be in the fish disease forum, but I figured I was generally clueless enough that the general forum would be the safest place to post.]

Hi all, like I posted in the intro forum, I just got back into the fish hobby. This time around, I decided to be a lot more serious about it than in the past, which leads me to this:

Long story short, I'm not sure I can trust the people at my local pet store and I was hoping you all could help me diagnose what's happened to my betta in the last few weeks.
The week before Thanksgiving, my sons and I got our betta at our local pet store. The original plan was to house him in our 29g tank, but after some reading, it seemed like a shallower tank would lead to a happier fish. So we ended up getting a 1G minibow for him instead and putting neon tetras in the 29g tank

Things went ok for awhile, until I noticed his fins started looking a little ragged. At no time did his behavior change, and he's been happily building bubblenests the entire time.

The progression went something like this:
Week 1 - NH3: 0.5 / NO2: 0 / pH 7.6 / Avg Temp 70F
  • Betta kinda pale. I think that's his normal coloring, since he looks kinda marbley.
  • Local pet store employee recommends moving tank to a warmer location to get temperature up

Week 2 - NH3: .25 / NO2: 0 / pH 7.8 / Avg Temp 74F
  • Strange shredding in caudal and anal fins (first image).
  • Ammonia levels have me worried (and I've been looking for an excuse to buy plants), so I pick up a java fern from Petsmart and put it in the tank.
  • At the end of the week, a pinhole appeared in his caudal fin, but healed two days later.
  • Reading the interwebs implies poor water quality can cause this, change water 50% as recommended by OldFishLady. LPS employee contradicts this and suggests 4oz change every day to allow beneficial bacteria to grow

Week 3 - NH3: 0 / NO2: 2 / NO3: 30ppm / pH 7.8 / Avg Temp 76F
  • Fins heal. Not sure whose advice was responsible for it, but doing 4oz water changes daily now.
  • Homemade cardboard heat deflector built to use house heat to warm the tank
  • By the end of the week, the dorsal fin curls up. Caudal and Anal fins start to split again
  • Got concerned about water quality and purchased a liquid test kit. Now testing daily. Home results seem to consistently be twice that of the LPS
This week - NH3: 0 / NO2: 2 / NO3 30ppm / pH 7.8 / Temp 76F
  1. Tuesday night, his caudal fin split clear in half (last image).
  2. I get concerned about tail rot again. LPS employee sees the picture and comes to the same conclusion. I buy aquarium salt and dose the tank. Panic sets in after I read the box, which says 1/2 tsp per gallon. An immediate 10% water change happens.
  3. Catch my betta swimming around and chasing his tail. Grr.
  4. Read alot about bored bettas
At this point, I've got three thoughts, but I'd appreciate your guys' advice

  1. Just let the tank go for a week and see what happens, but a part of me is convinced that I need to be doing more water changes for a tank that small.
  2. Buy a divider and move him to my 29G tank with my neon tetras. The water is a consistent 79F and all my experience with aquariums has been with 29G tanks, so I know I could keep water quality good for him.
  3. Put him in the 20gallon long tank that arrives on Tuesday. I was intending to set it up as a NPT, but I have zero experience with them and was going to spend my three-week vacation leisurely setting it up and doing a fishless cycle, even though all my reading implies that cycles aren't as important with a planted tank.
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Last edited by Sagat; 12-14-2012 at 12:44 AM.
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Old 12-14-2012, 01:34 AM   #2 
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Looks like he's biting his fins,which means hes stressed. You cant cycle a tank that small so you should be doing atleast 50% water changes/day. Regaurdless of if it were able to cycle or not thats what you should be doing because its on the small side for a betta (not saying its awful, I have a couple of mine in 1 gallons too, but water changes need to be done daily and 50%) Also, you should have his temp at 78-80.
I would suggest making a DIY divider for him in the tank you have right now and then when you get the NPT set up put him in there.
The only thing you can really do is figure out what could be stressing him, and change it. Its more than likely the temp or size of tank IME. So I'd start with that. You also need extra clean warm water to promote healing on him so I suggest doing 100% changes daily (if you keep him in that tank) till he heals.
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Old 12-14-2012, 01:42 AM   #3 
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It doesn't quite look like tail biting, it looks like the filter. I had this happen to my boys in their BettaBow tanks.. the 1 gallon, 2.5 and 5 gallon, the filter intake is horrible on their finnage. In that size of an aquarium it's not needed to have a filter so you can either take it out or buy some cheese cloth and wrap around the intake. I've heard of people using using pantyhoes as well to cover the intake.

If this doesn't help then it's fin biting but it really looks like it was just shredded from the intake and maybe if he's swimming around flaring alot then his tail could have gotten the big rip from that, but that usually looks like a clean tear, while this looks more shredded.

Clean water is key to getting his tail to heal back properly and not get something like fin rot.


Some slight fin curling it's much to worry about, it typically happens in hard water. I have 4 boys right now, the only one who has a curled fin is my VT, it's just his dorsal fin and he's always been like that. It's usually not much to worry about.

Last edited by TheCheese909; 12-14-2012 at 01:46 AM.
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Old 12-14-2012, 02:07 AM   #4 
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I had forgotten that on week 2, I had shut the filter off for a few days because I thought that might have been the cause.

I'll address the filter first, just to buy me a few days to find a divider I'm happy with.

Thanks for the responses guys.

Last edited by Sagat; 12-14-2012 at 02:11 AM.
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Old 12-14-2012, 08:17 AM   #5 
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Welcome to the forum, pretty boy you have :)

If he is in the salt water still, make sure he is removed (in case needed in the future, make sure to remove any live plants as the AQ salt can easily kill them). Treatment dose for fin rot is 1-3tsp per gallon, dissolved before placing fish in it as it can burn while in crystal form, daily 100% water changes re-adding in new salt/conditioner each time.
The package recommendations usually are just generic, or for creating brackish water - which isn't what you are wanting to do.

Luckily, I don't see fin rot, and the salt you did place in him would of killed off any bacteria that would of been in there.

For a 1g with a live plant, 2 50% water changes per week is what would be recommended - bacteria will grow in the gravel on it's own, a 1g tank won't cycle as there isn't enough surface area to keep it steady. No 100% water changes with live plants.. siphon the substrate once every other week, as the plant(s) will use the fish waste as fertilizer.

You honestly don't need a filter in a 1 gallon - the plant will help keep the water a bit cleaner, along with the 2 water changes a week.. the filter basically is just taking up space for the most part. The plant will create it's own oxygen for itself, the betta doesn't need the aeration. Be careful when doing too many water changes, as the tank can become too sterile (you want that when treating a sick fish, but not for a healthy fish), which wouldn't be good for your fish or plants. They do need to be exposed to some bacteria and such to gain the proper immunity.

It looks as if it is fin biting, possibly a decoration that is spiky.. but with chunks missing rather than splitting (a filter/decoration/flaring will cause splitting) it points mostly towards self biting.
Males tend to do that mostly because their fins are heavy, they feel the drag and their muscles aren't always built up (at the breeders they are placed in containers roughly the size of 32oz cups, sometimes smaller, from when they are very young (depending upon when that individual fish gets aggressive. Then they are placed in tiny bags/cups for shipping) so going into a tank of even 1g can be a bit of a scary thing for them. Flow from the filter (due to the tank being small) could easily of caused too much current for him (can't avoid a current in a 1g), which would lead him to bite off his fins in order to make swimming a bit easier/comfortable.

In time he may stop once he builds up his strength. Stress can cause it, being shipped and then introduced into a new home can cause them to bite their fins - I would say at most it is a mix of stress from moving into a new home + the filter flow/drag issue.

If you decide to leave in the filter, make sure not to turn it off for any extended time (nothing over 12hrs), otherwise the bacteria will die (even if tank isn't cycled, there will still be beneficial bacteria) and the next time you turn on the tank, the dead bacteria will be pushed into the water which could cause some quality issues.

No real reason to divide him in a 29g.. the tetras may nip at his fins, but they tend to be peaceful enough that most of the time they don't bother the betta, and vise versa.

The pin hole is from ammonia - either from the cup when you purchased him, or your tank had a spike in it after set up (normal). Should heal up just fine.
Curling is due to hard water - very common, won't hinder him any. Bettas are fine in a wide range of pH, and it's safer to let them adjust and stay in your normal pH rather than try to mess with it - fluctuations can easily kill the betta. But the curling won't bother him, and it's common mostly in VTs and CTs.

It looks like you really are trying to give this guy the best, and that's great :) Lots to learn about them! And there are lots of easy/hardy beginning plants out there... I definitely would search online at aquarium plant stores to find ones that would work best for your wants/needs, etc. Petco and Petsmart has some (and some aren't true aquatic plants), but are limited on their selection.

Good luck with everything.. have any more questions, just ask!

Last edited by Myates; 12-14-2012 at 08:19 AM.
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Old 12-14-2012, 01:52 PM   #6 
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Thank you all so much for your responses. I've learned about ten times more than I have in my ten trips to the pet store.

I did have a spiky fake plant in there, you can see a glimmer of it to the right of the white flower in the image. I'm thinking it was either that, or the filter that caused the damage.

I decided to move him over to my 29G tank and see how it goes without a divider, which needed to be done anyway, because he'll probably be safer in the 29G when we're gone for 7 days than in his previous tank.

Even though the pH difference between my two tanks was less than .4, I slowly acclimated him to the new tank water over the course of 2 hours; by an hour and a half, he was trying to swim through the bottom of my holding tank.

I didn't have time to do a proper water test before heading back into work, so I used my test strips:
Avg Temp: 79F
GH: 30 / KH: 180 / pH: 7.5 / NO2 - 3 / NO3: 80

Picked up some big silk plants to give him somewhere to hide in his new home, moved his java ferns over to the piece of driftwood in the new tank and put in the recommended dosage of StressCoat+ for repairing fins.

Hopefully I'll have some pictures of him for you guys soon. Again, many thanks!
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Old 01-02-2013, 03:30 AM   #7 
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It's been a long time, but here's an update (with pictures)

Shortly after I posted, I moved him into my 29G tank, where he lived with a quartet of tetras. Other than the occassional surly flare, my betta pretty much left them alone.

I started to suspect the tetras were nibbling his caudal down, so I purchased 4 more neons, but before I could see if that would cause them to ignore the betta, I moved him into my newly set up NPT 20G long tank.

After about two days, his dorsal fin has finally started to uncurl and his caudal seems to be on the mend. Everything I keep reading says time, so hopefully in a few months I can post a picture of him with his full finnage.
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Old 01-02-2013, 03:44 AM   #8 
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I love hearing about Bettas in big setups. My VT is in a 10 and has always had that little curl in his dorsal, I've never been able to straighten it out. I'm glad your guy is doing better.
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Old 01-02-2013, 09:44 AM   #9 
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He's doing great! Pretty boy too :)

Tetras are notorious for nipping fins.. even the smallest ones will be bold enough to go after a betta's fins hehe

I hope he allows his fins to grow out completely for you.. it's nice to see them at their best. Good luck!
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