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Old 01-30-2013, 08:27 PM   #1 
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E. Coli killed my fish -- a warning.

In October, my roommate bought me Quentin, my beloved betta, for my birthday. I go to a boarding school and was very excited to have a little friend to take care of. She gave me a half gallon bowl, which I upgraded to a one gallon in November. I changed his water every Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday. Quentin was great, making bubble nests, very active and a voracious eater.

Then, over Christmas break, I bought him a two gallon tank with a heater. Previously, I had only used bottled water to fill his bowl because it was so small. However, the price of only using bottled water quickly piled up and my mom suggested that I start using tap water instead. I was a little skeptical, because the water here has always tasted a little strange, but she had kept bettas before and told me that as long as I used conditioner to get rid of the chlorine, I would be fine. I started using tap water with Seachem conditioner and everything was fine. He had a much richer color and seemed to be much happier.

However, about a week after Christmas break, things took a turn for the worse. I noticed that Quentin wouldn't eat one morning and it was kind of worrisome, but he looked fine and I figured he was probably just constipated. But when I got back from school that same day, there was obviously something very wrong. He was pale, his tail was split, and his water (after a 75% water change the night before) was inexplicably cloudy. Even his log toy, seemed to be covered in some kind of slime. I quickly changed his water (about 80% this time) and he seemed to be fine, if not a little lethargic. The next day after school, there was once again something wrong: he was pale, his tail was clamped, and there was a suspicious black edge on a noticeably more jagged tail. My baby had fin rot. I ran out and bought him Myxocure, a bath treatment specifically for bacterial fin rot. It didn't seem to do much, but he was more active and almost back to normal. I took him from the boarding school and brought him home with me that weekend so I could keep and eye on him and administer his treatment.

He seemed to do much better that weekend, and I let out a little breath of relief. I was using the water in my home town, and he was doing great. Then I took him back to school with me on Sunday night, changed his water, and things took a turn for the worse again. Despite all of my efforts, he stopped eating and slept almost all day. In just three short days, by baby Quentin was dead. I had just changed his water before dinner, and when I got back to my room he was laying on his side and breathing heavily. I freaked out, but he still had a little spark left and even swam up to greet me when I saw him. Not five minutes later, I looked over again and he was no longer breathing.

After an emotional fish vigil, my roommate and I were determined to get down to the cause of his mysterious death. We remembered that there was a town hall meeting that night concerning tap water conditions, and did our research on the local news. The water system apparently has been aging and recent tests had indicated a high amount of bacteria known as coliform. The name seemed familiar, and because Quentin's fin rot was bacterial, I looked into it.

It turns out that coliform bacteria comes from the fecal matter of mammals. If that doesn't ring any bells, fecal coliform is just a nice psuedonym for E. coli. That's right. When I used bottled water and water in my hometown, he was fine. But when he was at the boarding school, I was changing his water with E. coli. E. coli is a natural bacteria in our digestive system that de-oxidizes stomach acid and material in the colon. Consequently, it was also destroying the oxygen in Quentin's water. My baby literally couldn't breath except for his small, frenzied gasps at the top of the tank. Coupled with the same bacteria attacking his fins, he couldn't make it.

This is a warning to any of you who live in small, old towns. I thought the water was fine because he seemed to be doing great at first, but his health gradually declined and I am so furious with myself for not putting two and two together in the first place. Love your bettas and cherish them, and always, always, always test the water first.

RIP Quentin. I love you.
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Old 01-30-2013, 09:05 PM   #2 
Join Date: Jul 2010
This happened where I lived years ago. We got a letter from the town one autumn informing us of e-coli in our water the previous JUNE! It said if you were sick in June that was why. A dead mouse was found in a water supply tank
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Old 01-30-2013, 10:18 PM   #3 
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Awwww, that is very sad! RIP Quentin!

I may have to do something with my water deal too, as it is high in Ammonia and I can't get it lowered even with ammonia lock type stuff. Either that out my API master kit ammonia test is faulty.

Right now he has ich. Poor Phineas. I got him 10 days ago and have been trying to keep him alive ever since. My previous Betta lived a year but died of Dropsy, so not giving up on this guy.
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Old 01-30-2013, 10:31 PM   #4 
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Location: North Central, OH
Wow, I'm so sorry for your loss. SIP Quenton!!!

I didnt even know fish could get e. coli! I mean I dont know how rare or not it is, but I think I'm going to have to do some research on it.
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Old 01-30-2013, 10:43 PM   #5 
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It's a scary thing. They wouldn't let anyone but the police and city council members in the meeting, and they're not telling us anything. There are so many people sick at school with a supposed "stomach bug."

If it kills fish, chances are it's not good for you.

Dragonfin---Seachem Prime dechlorinates and neutralizes ammonia, you can get it at PetCo or order it online. It always worked tried and true for Quentin before the contaminated water thing.
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Old 01-30-2013, 11:22 PM   #6 
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I'm sorry for your loss. That said....

Not all coliform bacteria are fecal coliform. There are MANY types of coliform bacteria, most of which are harmless.

That said, the presence of coliform bacteria in drinking water indicates that there is a source of contamination entering the system. And if it can enter the water so can other contaminants, such as fecal coliform. However, the presence of coliform bacteria does not prove that E. coli is present. (Plus, not all strains of E. coli cause illness.)

Here is a good article describing the types of coliform bacteria, their effect on drinking water, and the actions that the water company takes to investigate the issue:

Also, Bettas are labyrinth breathers. In their natural habitat, they live in oxygen poor water. Therefore, they have a special organ that allows them to breath air. This is why their tanks don't need special aeration.

Here is an article about labyrinth breathers:

As an aside, you wrote that E. coli "de-oxidizes stomach acid and material in the colon." I am not sure what you mean by this. The E. coli in our small intestines actually produce acidic substances, which helps us digest food and inhibits the growth of other bacteria.

Again, I'm sorry for your loss. But I feel that the information you've provided warrants further investigation/information before any definitive conclusions are reached.

Last edited by LittleBlueFishlets; 01-30-2013 at 11:41 PM.
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