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Old 02-15-2013, 04:35 PM   #1 
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Fin Rot- Trying to diagnose and treat lone betta in planted tank.

Have previously noticed my betta, Bilbo, with chunks missing in his back tail, but assumed it was him biting it. It grew back, so I didn't worry about it. Admittedly, I had gotten bad about his water changes (going 2 weeks in between 100% changes, with no changes in between), so I may have exacerbated a fin rot situation. On Sunday, I did a 100% water change, and noticed what seemed to be very clear fin rot. I accidentally left out the water conditioning, which I did not realize until Monday night, when the light dawned as he was acting weird. I added conditioner immediately, and then did a 100% water change, adding conditioner this time, and reacclimated him to the tank. Pre-water change, his lower fin was very closed up and melted looking. His tail fin was all chopped down (but still there- looks like about a half-tail loss situation). I researched fin rot and was planning to QT Bilbo outside of his normal tank and treat him with Aquarium salt. I went to PETCO and they told me to use the Bettafix treatment. I've begun doing that, but am now reading that it won't solve the problem. So, I need to be sure what to do next. I have live plants in Bilbo's tank. No other fish or aquarium mates. He is acting normal- hungry and eating normally. Swimming around. Flaring for me when I come up to the tank. Etc. I've noticed that his head has some white, cottony spots on it and his left gill seems to have a pinhole in it, too (so am not sure if he has a fungal infection, too?!?).

I guess the questions I have are:

1. Do I get a small .5 gal tank to QT Bilbo in, with no plants, to treat him for the next week. Will my existing tank heater be usable in this smaller tank? Do they make a really small heater I can use in such a small temporary tank?

2. If I QT Bilbo to treat him, do I treat only with AQ salt (and do I treat for mild or moderate fin rot?)? Do I treat with something for fungal infection, too? Will the AQ salt handle both issues?

3. If I am able to treat/heal him, when I return him to the tank with the live plants, what treatments can I continue in his planted tank? Will more frequent water changes ensure that the fin rot doesn't come back?

My details are below:

What size is your tank? 3 gal. cube
What temperature is your tank? 76-78 degrees
Does your tank have a filter? No.
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? None. Only Live Plants

What type of food do you feed your betta fish? Betta pellets
How often do you feed your betta fish? 2x's per day. Approx 5-10 pellets each feeding.

How often do you perform a water change? (I admittedly got bad about this recently, not changing water except for biweekly 100% changes. Since discovering my error with the water and his likely fin rot, I've done 100% water changes every 3 days.
What percentage of the water do you change when you perform a water change? 100% (when Bilbo is healed, will return to a 50% change + 100% change, twice per week).
What type of additives do you add to the water when you perform a water change? None.

Water Parameters:
Have you tested your water? Not since doing the most recent water changes.

If so, what are the following parameters?


Symptoms and Treatment
How has your betta fish's appearance changed? Fins damaged and now missing, melted looking bottom fin. Tail fin may be growing back in, as it has a slightly see through appearance at the end (unless that is the sign of damage/rot still in process); cottony spots on his head and gills. More drab color (Bilbo is a scarlet betta with the purple undercoat color).
How has your betta fish's behavior changed? He is acting normally now that I'm not killing him with chlorine. Even have a few tiny bubbles, though not his usual fullsized bubblenest yet.
When did you start noticing the symptoms? Probably noticed the first tail damage a month and a half ago, noticed the more severe damage on Monday night.
Have you started treating your fish? If so, how? Yes. Using Bettafix. But am planning to get AQ salt and quarantining Bilbo away from the planted tank for up to 10 days to treat the fin rot and perhaps fungus.
Does your fish have any history of being ill? None.
How old is your fish (approximately)? I got him in October 2012. No idea how old he was at the time (pet store fish).
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Old 02-15-2013, 04:55 PM   #2 
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I can't answer all of your questions, but I think an adjustable 25W heater can safely heat a .5 gallon :) If the small size of the tank makes you nervous, do you have a big tupperware you can use instead? Im sure they sell them for cheap at the store, it looks ugly but for a QT tank... :P

The fuzz sounds like fungus. You should try the regular doses of salt before you start using meds since I believe meds tend to stress fish out more. If the salt doesn't work in time, you can dose salt simultaneously with most if not all meds.
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Old 02-15-2013, 09:32 PM   #3 
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Sounds like he has come down with columnaris due to poor water conditions and stress.

You need an antibiotic like Kanaplex or Triple Sulfa. Treat for 2 weeks and do 100% water change every other day during this time.
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Old 02-16-2013, 04:36 PM   #4 
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Didn't see the above before hitting the store to purchase a temp QT tank and aquarium salt. Was planning to start treating him for the fin rot beginning today, but when I got home the new temp tank had a pinsized hole in it and was leaking. It is snowing here and the tires on my car are bad, so it may be tomorrow before I can get back to the store to exchange the tank for a new one. In the meanwhile, I went ahead and tested his current water (which would be getting changed tomorrow, anyway).

Ammonia: .5 ppm (per testing kit chart, I need to add Ammonia Clear or ACE to the water. Will this harm my live plants? Aren't the plants supposed to be helping with this? I have several live plants now in the tank: Anubia, Java Fern, Java Moss (which is growing like a weed on the floating ball), Crypto (which was doing great, but recently all of the longer stems have died), and Amazon sword. I had mondo grass in there, but I recently exchanged it for some other stringy freshwater grassy plant (can't remember the name of it right now and can't find it on PETCO online). I have some rock/stones which were sterilized originally and which I wash with hot tap water during each 100% water change.

Nitrate: 0 (safe)
Nitrite: 1.0 ppm (stress)
Hardness: 25 ppm (very soft)
Alkalinity: 0-40 ppm (low)
pH: 6.8 (neutral)

My concern is obviously wanting to treat Bilbo, without harming the live plants. I am still thinking he has fin rot which needs to be treated in a QT tank for 7-10 days. Can I treat him for fin rot and columnaris at the same time in the QT tank?

If I still have ammonia issues in the main tank after a complete water change, do I just get the ammonia treatment (and I'm assuming it is safe for the live plants- right?)? What about my other numbers?

I took some photos of Bilbo in the tank last night, which I will upload via my phone after it is charged up again. Not sure if they show the possible columnaris or just the fin rot. I'm not sure if I am seeing evidence of fins repairing themselves now, or further evidence of encroaching fin rot. It actually looks like his fins are getting better to me. And his behavior is within his usual range of normal. He swims around, flares up at me, eats normally, etc. So, I think I'm catching whatever this is pretty early and he has a good chance of recovering fully from it, once I figure it all out and get him appropriately treated.
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Old 02-16-2013, 04:48 PM   #5 
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Chemicals are not going to help. You have to do water changes to remove ammonia and nitrite. Nothing above 0 is okay. If you're seeing this much ammonia and nitrite I would do a series of 3-4 50% changes. I'd spread it out over at least 10 minutes, or maybe even an hour per change. I'm sorry but your planted tank is clearly not developed enough to provide a proper biofilter, so I would look into expanding your plants a lot (include stem plants and root plants.. stems work on ammonia while roots work on nitrates) or adding an actual filter. And in the meantime, once he is well and goes back into the tank, be testing daily and doing 50% change with siphon any time you see either ammonia or nitrite, as well as extra 50% weekly change with siphon, or he may need 50% and 100% weekly changes with no filter but this will be hard on the plants.

After this I would do water changes and meds as above, in the QT is fine so long as you can keep it warm.

Last edited by callistra; 02-16-2013 at 04:51 PM.
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Old 02-16-2013, 05:19 PM   #6 
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None of your plants are fast growing enough to provide much immediate benefit to any ammonia or nitrate levels, but the bigger problem is that without any water movement your betta is basically living in stagnant water, and if there is any ammonia present it's only going to make him get worse, not better. Water changes in addition to supportive care (medications) are the only way to manage his condition at this point.

I would suggest adding an airstone or small power filter just to get *some* water movement going while he is recovering. It will be better for the plants and better for your fish.

I would do daily 50% water changes until his fins are looking better. You may need to do several repeated 50% water changes to get your tests in range first. 100% water changes are physically very hard on plants because most are not meant to support their weight without water... I don't recommend doing more of those.
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Old 02-16-2013, 05:54 PM   #7 
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Thanks for all the advice. I'll definitely get started on the water changes beginning tonight.

Here's a couple photos I took of him last night. You can see the damaged tail and lower fin I think. I'm not sure if the ends of the tail are showing growing back or receding further. (I'm gonna treat him starting tomorrow for fin rot, so hopefully, that will take care of that).

As for the medication suggested for the columnaris- so far I am only seeing places to order it online. Does anyone know if a pet store would carry it? I'll order it from online, if not, so that it arrives as soon as possible this coming week.

Also, the pic where he flared for me and the side pic may show the fungus. I think it's only a mild case right now. (some of the larger silvery spots in the photo are actually a water spot on the outside of his tank when I photographed him at night).

I've also included a pic that shows the plants and hardscape in the tank. Some of the plants in there are brand new (from Friday), so I am not at all surprised if they haven't established enough to do much as a biofilter. It's only a 3 gallon cube and is already starting to get a bit crowded, so I'm not sure what more I can add to it, plantwise, that will help with things. Should I remove one of the tunnel stones to make room for more plants? Which plants would be best to add at this point? I just got the Amazon sword and anubias and the grasses you are seeing in the corners (to give him something to swim around in).

Would his tank benefit from having a snail or two in it? Or those little frogs?

Appreciate the input and help!
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Old 02-16-2013, 06:01 PM   #8 
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By way of comparison: Here are photos of Bilbo when I first had him.
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Old 02-16-2013, 06:16 PM   #9 
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Also, after reading a different thread, I wondered if I may be feeding him too much? I feed him twice per day, but I've been giving him 5-10 pellets at each feeding (and he's always begging for more). I haven't given him a fasting day yet (a few feedings were morning or evening only).

Just want to know if I should reduce his amount of feeding and see if that might also help with the ammonia levels in the water (going forward).
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Old 02-16-2013, 07:02 PM   #10 
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Your betta should get 2-3 pellets max per feeding twice a day (you could also just feed 3-4 once a day), so I'd definitely cut back. Just because he will eat more doesn't mean he needs more, and overfeeding can lead to other problems, so while you are dealing with his fin problems and water problems, feeding him less is probably better.

Snails don't have much bio mass but wouldn't do anything positive at this point other than possibly eat any uneaten food - but it's better to just not overfeed. No frogs until your water is stable since being amphibians frogs are even more sensitive to water chemistry.
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