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Old 04-07-2013, 07:03 PM   #1 
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Join Date: Apr 2013
Fin rot? Ammonia burn? Ammonia in tap water? We need help!

We got two bettas in December and have had nothing but trouble since. We have kept bettas before, sometimes for many years, and have never had trouble like this. I will note that this is our first time keeping bettas where we live now.

To summarize, it looks like fin rot, but the tips are sometimes bright red. I've only recently learned that this can (or does) indicate ammonia burn and I always see people say "change the water immediately". The problem is, this happens right after changing the water.

One is a blue and red halfmoon, the other a chocolate delta tail with a dark body and black trim on the tips of the fins.

Previously with fin rot we just added some aquarium salt and Melafix with more frequent water changes and things got better. But these went much, much worse. After searching these forums and other locations, we learned about Maracyn II and decided to try it. That seems to work, but as soon as we stop treatment, the problem comes back.

Two water changes ago, I tried spring water from a store. I was leery sent it said it was ozonated, etc, but the first were fine. The chocolate betta started growing the black trim back and things were looking hopeful. While they were in the spring water, we researched further and we're almost 100% sure it's something with our tap water, and likely ammonia burn. We also discovered that Seachem Prime will convert ammonia, so we bought it.

But the water change two evenings ago, this time with tap water with aquarium salt, Melafix, and Seachem Prime, brought the problem again. We noticed the redness on the chocolate yesterday. Today we almost just watched a quarter-inch of the fin disappear from one area (it was there in the morning, gone in the afternoon). It's heartrending to see this happen.

What size is your tank? 1 gal, each
What temperature is your tank? around 76-78, does sometimes cool to 72 at night.
Does your tank have a filter? No
Does your tank have an air stone or other type of aeration? No
Is your tank heated? No
What tank mates does your betta fish live with? None

What type of food do you feed your betta fish? New Life Spectrum Betta Formula and Tetra freeze-dried bloodworms.
How often do you feed your betta fish? Once a day. About 4 pellets of the Spectrum or a couple blood worms. Food is never left to decay. Food that drops is removed.


How often do you perform a water change? Normally 5-7 days, unless water appears to need it sooner.
What percentage of the water do you change when you perform a water change? 100%
What type of additives do you add to the water when you perform a water change? 10-15 drops Tetra Aquasafe (not Plus), 1/2 tsp Aquarium salt, 7 drops Melafix. These amounts are more than I did for previous bettas.

Water Parameters:
Have you tested your water? If so, what are the following parameters? Yes, but only at pet stores. Both used test strips.
The first time was with untreated water before fist had been in it. They said everything looked good. (Even chlorine was fine, which surprised me since I hadn't done any conditioning.)
The second time was after the fish had been in it a couple days. They said everything looked good except that the pH was slightly low, but nothing to worry about.

Symptoms and Treatment
How has your betta fish's appearance changed? Both have rotted fins. The worst of the two is almost continuously pale.
How has your betta fish's behavior changed? Less active. Stay at the bottom now. They both do eat fine.
When did you start noticing the symptoms? Shortly after getting them, four months ago.
Have you started treating your fish? If so, how? Yes, they only seem to do well with Maracyn II.
Does your fish have any history of being ill? Can't really say since they're pretty new.
How old is your fish (approximately)? 4 months + however long before being sold.

Sorry this post is so long, but it has been a four month struggle and I wanted to get in everything I knew in hopes that someone will have a suggestion.

Thanks for reading!

(Edited to attach some pictures. The "after" pictures have some air bubbles due to the most recent water change (today) to get them back on Maracyn II to heal yet again.)
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Last edited by adambiser; 04-07-2013 at 07:20 PM. Reason: Making title less generic
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Old 04-07-2013, 09:23 PM   #2 
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Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Queensland, Australia
Hi there,

So sorry to hear about the trouble with your guys Some tap water actually already contains ammonia in it) which is probably why they did better with the spring water. 1 gallon tanks are really too small to keep a betta in permanently and cleaning them out every 5-7 days really is not enough. A tank that size should really be cleaned every 2-3 days to prevent ammonia spike as well as harmful bacteria blooms which can commonly cause fin rot.

Also when treating them for fin rot it is important to keep treating them until you see a good amount of fin regrowth appearing. Stopping the treatment as soon as the fins have appeared to stop breaking away will lead to reoccurances of the fin rot. Just thought I would mention it.

I would treat with the maracyn and continue to do water changes every 2-3 days and see how they go.

Good Luck
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Old 04-07-2013, 09:37 PM   #3 
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Hi, water changes every 5-7 days for a 1 gallon is not often enough. For one gallon you would need to do at LEAST every other day, maybe every day in my opinion. Those are very small tanks, 2.5 gallon is usually the very smallest that's recommended for bettas to live in, can you get them bigger tanks, at least 2.5 gallons?

In the meantime I'd do water changes every day or every other day, until you can get them into something bigger. What I'm thinking is that the water quality is getting really bad over the coarse of the week and then when you change their water to clean water, it's such a big change in the water parameters that the fin rot/burn gets much worse.

From the pictures I definitely see fin rot. Ammonia can also burn their fins.

I'd buy a test kit and test your tap water if you think something is up with it, and then you can use the test kit to make sure you are changing the water enough, making sure the ammonia is at a safe level and the ph is staying stable, no nitrates or nitrites. A good all in one test kit + ammonia strips would be perfect. You won't be able to see ammonia or nitrates/nitrites in the water so the test and lots of water changes is the way to go.

Bettas also need heaters, their water is best at 78-80 degrees and you can't put heaters in those 1 gallons safely so a 2.5 gallon with a heater for each betta is what is really needed. The temperature fluctuation you're getting at night from 76-78 all the way down to 72 stresses the fish and lowers their immunity, especially if this is happening every night.

I would discontinue the melafix because it can damage the betta's labarynth organ that they use to breathe so it's dangerous for bettas.

How long have you been using the aquarium salt? If its been more than a week or two, I'd discontinue that too, because using it for two long can cause kidney damage. For right now I'd just stick with very clean water and a temp of 78-80 and see if the fin rot doesnt improve.
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Old 04-07-2013, 09:48 PM   #4 
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Hi, the best way to treat fin rot is with lots of warm, clean water.

I recommend increasing your water changes. Ammonia and toxins build up quickly in small tanks, such as your 1 gallon ones. Fin rot won't heal in water that contains ammonia or toxins. (You can't "see" ammonia. So it's not a matter of the water looking clean, or not clean. The only way to know it's present is to measure the level with a testing kit. Or, you could simply do frequent water changes so it doesn't build up in the tank.)

The recommended water change schedule for 1 gallon tanks is at LEAST one 100% water change and one 50% water change per week. However, many people on this forum feel that a 1 gal tank needs one 100% and TWO 50% changes per week.

Since your two fish are dealing with persistent fin rot, I recommend doing one 100% and two 50% water changes per week. (Or you could do two 100% changes, if your fish don't get stressed out by the procedure. Some fish are OK with water changes, others aren't.)

I suggest discontinuing the Melafix. Medications that end with "-fix" (Bettafix, Melafix, etc) all contain oils. There is a lot of controversy about using these with bettas. Many people feel that the oils can coat the labyrinth (breathing organ) of bettas, making it difficult for them to breathe. Until more is known for sure, I recommend avoiding these additives.

How long have you been using the Aquarium salt? Bettas are sensitive to aquarium salt. The sodium in it can cause fluid retention, and puts stress on their kidneys. It's not recommended to use Aquarium salt for more than 10 days, since using it more than this can cause damage to their internal organs.

It sounds like you had some success with Maracyn II. It contains a gram negative antibiotic, and fin rot is often caused by gram negative bacteria, so this treatment sounds appropriate. However, medications are harsh, so it's best not to overmedicate. I'm going to do some research on alternative meds, and then I'll post that info for you.

Always use water conditioner. Both the Prime and Tetra Aqua Safe products will do the job. Prime also temporarily neutralizes ammonia, so I recommend using it since ammonia can build up so quickly in small tanks.

The best way to treat fin rot is with warm, clean water, so here's what I suggest:
  • Do at least one 100% water change and two 50% water changes per week. (Even better, do two 100% water changes per week.)
  • Add a heater. Your daytime temperature is fine, but if the water temp drops to 72 at night, this is cold. Bettas are tropical fish, and do best at temps between 75-82F.
  • Consider upgrading to larger tanks. Many people do keep Bettas successfully in 1 gal tanks, but it's easier to keep them in larger tanks. Fewer water changes are needed, and it's easier to heat the tank to a consistent temperature.

To be honest, I think the biggest factor that's keeping their fins from healing is that they are in water that contains a high level of ammonia and toxins. Fins simply won't heal in that sort of environment.
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Old 04-07-2013, 09:49 PM   #5 
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Location: Queensland, Australia
Oh just realised that your tanks are not heated, this is likely to be a large contributing factor . Please if you can rehouse your bettas in tanks at least 2.5 gallons and provide them with heaters your fish are likely to be much healthier.
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Old 04-07-2013, 09:51 PM   #6 
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I agree with the posts above you need more water changes and heaters would also help as the temp needs to be more stable and not dropping at night. Prime only lasts for 48 hours and then you need to do a water change and add more, its 2 drops per gallon. Sometimes all that is needed is clean warm water for them to heal. Good luck I hope they get better soon !
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Old 04-07-2013, 11:35 PM   #7 
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I appreciate the responses and guessed that most would point to the water change frequency. To give a bit of background, we have kept 4 bettas before these two and have had them in the same environment and conditions. None lived less than 18 months and one lasted into his third year. Only with our fourth betta did we experience fin rot after about a year. With it we discovered Melafix and aquarium salt and began using them with each water change. The fish lived another couple years with this and was a healthy, active fish.

I am aware of the arguments for/against Melafix and also for/against aquarium salt. If I can get them healthy and stable without them, I'd be extremely happy, but if I can only keep them healthy by adding small amounts with each water change, I'm also happy.

With these two fish, I've sometimes had to do extremely frequent water changes. For instance, a couple times when taking them off Maracyn II because they were had been healing and things were looking good again, within an hour in conditioned tap water, the red tips appeared, so I switched back.

Last week, we had them in conditioned spring water for 5 days and the chocolate betta looked very close to the "before" picture (about 95% healed, most of the black trim was back). I don't think the blue/red one will ever fully recover, but we're just hoping to keep him healthy, even if his fins look bad.

Seeing how well they responded to the spring water kind of indicated that the tap water is the problem. After some more research, I thought it might be ammonia even though the previous tests did not indicate a problem with it. This is also when we first read about Seachem Prime, so we got that to use when we changed them back to tap water.

We changed them to tap water two evenings ago and by the next morning (about 12 hours), the red fin tips had started on the chocolate. I added another drop of Prime, but after 36 hours, he looked like the “after” picture.

Why does this problem appear so soon after changing them into fresh new water? The worst of it seems to take place in the first day or two. Prime converts the ammonia and is supposed to last 48 hours... I thought/hoped that it would take care of things.

Which brands are good test kits? As mentioned in the first post, I've had the water tested before putting fish in and after they've been in it a few days with nothing to note (according to the store employees, I didn't get the chance to do my own color comparisons and note the reading amounts).

Also, I have noted the comments about tank size and heaters. Since we had success with how we did things before, we did things this way this time, too. If it does turn out to be the problem, we'll go that route.

Last edited by adambiser; 04-07-2013 at 11:37 PM.
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Old 04-07-2013, 11:46 PM   #8 
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I recommend the API Freshwater Master Test Kit. You can get it at Petsmart or Petco, but it's usually cheaper through Amazon.
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Old 04-08-2013, 12:14 AM   #9 
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Location: NKY
Every fish is different, just like people. Some do well in the conditions you've provided your previous fish, some need more care/space/warmth.
Yes, API test kits are awesome. I've an amazing LFS and I can get them for 15 or so from there. My Local petsmarts/petcos don't carry them, I'd have to order it from their website, and that's such a hassle when 20 minutes away there's a 15 dollar one sitting on a shelf. So I'd call around to your local pet stores and see if any of them carry them, especially if they mainly deal in fish.
Remember, just because the way you kept your previous fish worked, doesn't mean it will work with all.
For instance, Raph likes to be in a divided tank, or at least able to see another betta. Jonnie, my new boy, turns into a tail-biter as soon as he sees another fish.
Tap water may be the issue, or it may be the way you're treating it.
I'd upgrade my tanks (at least 2.5 gal. Maybe get a ten gal and divide it, more space for everyone) and drop the melafix, as that can damage their labyrinth, but to each their own, I suppose.
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Old 04-08-2013, 08:16 AM   #10 
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Thanks for mentioning the API Test Kit. I'll check into that.

Reading one of the comments on Amazon about the ammonia test seems very different from what I saw in the store. They used a strip, and I don't remember them leaving it in the water for very long (not the 30 seconds or so mentioned), so I'm wondering now whether the ammonia tests were completely valid.

I'll stop by the pet store today and see. I will check into larger, heated tanks as well, though I think the problem is with the water since they did well with the spring water.

Thanks again. Will try to keep this thread up-to-date as things develop, especially if they improve, so the information might be helpful to others as well.
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