Please help me figure out what I did wrong that caused my betta to die.
A few days ago, I bought my first betta - a gorgeous bi-colored/half moon with black-tipped fins and black striping on his face. Zaboo (named as his coloring reminded me of Zaboo's avatar on The Guild) had a 2.5 gallon Aqueon bowfront tank with a small filter. I used Betta Plants (from Zoo Med) in his aquarium because they were soft and wouldn't scratch him, and positioned them so that the filter's current would lessen and not bother him. Our water is a bit hard where I live, so I used Aqueon's Betta Bowl Plus water conditioner. I did forget to wash the gravel (Pure Water Pebbles for freshwater fish - I DID wash everything else in hot water, no soap) but the water was perfectly clear, and I ran the filter for several hours before introducing Zaboo to his new home. Please note that I'm not trying to drop brand names for promotional purposes, but because I want to make absolutely sure that I'm providing all the facts in order to help understand what happened to him.
For two full days, he seemed incredibly happy: he had places to hide, he swam all day and slept through the night, and he was eating just fine. This is him the day after I brought him home, in his favorite napping spot:
The next night, I noticed he looked like he had a very tiny piece of lint stuck to his head. I ignored it and went to bed, but by the next morning it was bigger, and he had lost two scales on his gills, and he refused to eat his food. He was also zipping about in small zigzaging patterns at the bottom of the tank. I immediately got online to look up the symptoms and learned he probably had Columnaris. I drove to the pet store and spoke with a clerk there about what I should do. She sold me a carton of aquarium salts and a package of Mardel Maracyn-Two. I went home and read the directions, and used the items according to their instructions/my tank size. This was yesterday morning. By nighttime, there was no change, but I assumed the medicine would take several days to work. I offered him a pellet but he still refused to eat it. This is a photo of how he looked last night in his hammock before I went to bed (the lighting quality throws off the colors; he did not look as washed out as the picture suggests):
I woke up half an hour ago and checked on Zaboo, and he died sometime during the night, floating head-first at the top of the tank, the linty-like stuff having moved to most of his face.
I'm absolutely devastated. When I saw him stressed out and wedged between two other males in a small container at the pet store, I thought I was bringing him to a better home. Now all I can feel is awful guilt for somehow having made him suffer, despite doing my best to research his species and how to care for them before I bought him.
Based on what I've posted, can any more experienced betta owners suggest where I went wrong, or what mistakes I made in his housing that caused him to contract this disease? Why didn't the medicine help?
You went wrong with the medication. You should have got a gram negative treatment like furan-2 or something more broad spectrum like kanaplex (only really available online) maracyn plus (using this for columnaris right now) or even triple sulfa.
But now you know for next time if there is a next time!
I'm sorry for the loss of your fish! It's not your fault that he got it though. Fish have been exposed to it 48+ hours before it shows up. (he probably got it at the petstore during a water change) It is highly contagious so make sure not to cross contaminate anything if you have other fish.
Thank you for the reply. I used the Maracyn-Two only because the guy who stocks the fish at my local pet store swore up and down that it was the medication I needed. I wish I'd known about this site sooner, so I could have asked people far more experienced with betta diseases for help instead. At least I know now where I can get more reliable information in the future.
I went ahead and called the shop to let them know that my fish was sick so that they could check on their other fish and make sure no one else was sick as well. Most of them are in separate containers (as was mine) so it was unlikely that the others would catch it, but the owner said he would double check just to be sure.
Good idea! Glad you called them. I am sure it wasn't just your fish that caught it, must have been from an infected net or something.
Maracy 2 could have helped, if it had been used in conjunction with maracyn 1, columnaris is hard to treat and there isn't a ton of information on it out there. If you have to deal with it in the future here is what to do:: get a medication that treats both gram positive and negative bacteria (like the ones I suggested in an earlier post) put an aerator in your tank (columnaris doesn't like a lot of air) and keep the temp at below 76. You can also add Epsom or aquarium salt, I've read that columnaris hates salt.
Basically, the perfect habitat for a betta (still, warm water) is what is perfect for columnaris to breed as well.
I hope you don't ever have to deal with it again, but its good to know about all the different diseases you could face - if you go to the diseases a emergencies section there are some good stickies about different diseases and treatments as wellx
Sorry for your loss and don't be too hard on yourself and above all don't give up.
How did you acclimate him to the new tank when you first got him, water temp and additive used.
There are lots of pathogens normally in the water, on/in the fish that are waiting for the right conditions to infect the fish. What prevent them from becoming pathogenic is the fish immune response. The immune response can be compromised from something as simple as stress.
Often stress can be caused by improper acclimation, extreme temp/chemistry changes, over stimulation, water movement to name a few common causes with a new to you Betta. Lots of other stress factors that can compromise a fish in general too-like, water quality, overstock, poorly stocked, nutrition related...etc.....
IMO/E-most likely what happened was stress induced that compromised the immune response that allowed an infection and not anyone fault per se.....
What I would recommend-do a full tear down of the tank and start over. Run the filter for 24h. Then get a new Betta-turn off the filter and wait at least 7-10 days before you use it. Properly acclimate the Betta to the new fresh dechlorinated water.
To properly acclimate-if he comes in one of those small temporary cups with a lid (keep this for a Qt if needed later) Pour half the water out of the cup-then add small amounts of the tank water until full over 10-15min-Repeat...Then pour as much of the water out or pour both the fish and water through a net and add the Betta to the tank-you want to try and not get any of the pet shop water in the new tank if it can be avoided.
Depending on how he tolerates this-If he goes and hides-turn off the light and hold food for the first 24h. If he tolerates it okay and is responding to you by begging, wagging his tail...etc....offer a small amount of food...Most of all Enjoy...this is a great hobby.....
Look forward to seeing pic and hearing about your Betta adventures with your new Betta....
Thank you for these suggestions - initially I let my filter run for 12 hours after setting up and adding conditioner, used a temperature gauge to make sure the water in the cup and tank were both room temperature (68-70 degrees for us but I am trying to find an affordable and appropriate heater for a 2.5 gallon tank), and then submerged his full cup into the tank until he was comfortable enough to swim out. All of the pet shop water ended up in the tank.
The filter was off when he was introduced, but I turned it on that night when he was sleeping underneath his rock archway (where the current is blocked). He seemed to be responding okay, he was exploring and not hiding and eating whenever I fed him. But I could tell he did not like the filter, so I only ran it a few hours a day. I have bought a large silk plant (didn't arrive in time for me to install it when he was alive) that's top leaves will drape under the surface and form a small barrier right beneath the filter output and lessen the current dramatically for any future fish.
I will definitely take all of the steps you have suggested to make sure my next fish arrives in his new home as stress-free as possible. I was a little hesitant about getting another betta, but the pet shop owner called me back to let me know all of his fish were okay (he did say that the fish I picked had just arrived that same day I'd bought him, so he might have been overstressed) and that if I came in later this week he'd let me choose another one. I'm going to keep looking through the forums here and I think I will take him up on his offer.
Oldfishlady, thank you so much for your help! I introduced a new betta using all of your tips, and he is responding so much better than my previous fish. He is active and interested in his decor, follows my finger, and even begged for some food this morning! He loves the long plant I got him to soften the current caused by the filter intake and output (though I am waiting for a week to use the filter as you instructed so he can get used to his new home) and he LOVES swimming through the long tendrils - he's even blown a few bubbles under the leaves! He doesn't seem to like the light that came with the tank, though. I think I will see if I can find a lower wattage bulb that fits the aquarium.
His heater was delayed in the mail, but hopefully I will have it by this weekend. Until then, I keep him in the room where our fireplace is, which currently keeps his tank around 71, and - silly as it sounds - zip his tank up in a sweater (with an opening on top so there's no blockage of oxygen) at night when it gets colder.
Your welcome and good to hear your new Betta is doing good-Watch that temp as I am sure you are...but 70F is getting into the danger zone-especially when going into 24h-Short term, a healthy Betta can usually handle it-You might need to lower the water level and add a hot water bottle to float and keep the tank close to the fireplace tonight-Good that you put a sweater on him...lol....Also, if the air in the room is pretty cool-I would cover the top of the tank with plastic veggie wrap to help keep the air above the water warm and humid-Don't worry about him having enough air over the water as long as you have at least half to 1in dead air space. Its a small fish and they don't use up that much oxygen. You want to see condensation buildup on the walls inside the tank.