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Old 04-13-2013, 12:45 AM   #1 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Please help! I don't want him to die!

I've had my betta, Chief, for almost one month exactly. When I first got him, his fins were gorgeous and spread out. Over the past week or so, I've noticed that his fins look "clamped." He is still very active and swims around a lot. He also loves to eat and gobbles up his food every morning as soon as I put it in the tank. It's really just his fins that are concerning me.

Tank size - He is in a 2.5 gallon tank. I would love to get him a 5 gallon, but I'm a student with limited space. He has two silk plants, a hiding place, and some live moss.

Heater - I have a heater, but last year when I tried it for my last betta, the water went up to almost 90 degrees, so I took it out. That was also a 1 gallon tank (before I learned that that was a bad idea), so maybe it was only because the tank was so small that it got so hot? Should I put the heater back in? It's an Aqueon Mini Heater 10W that says it's ideal for tanks up to 5 gallons. I also have a thermometer that usually reads around 75 (it's warming up down here in GA though, so it has been a little cooler in his tank).

Filter - I also have a filter, which I just put in his tank for the first time tonight after changing his water and conditioning it. It's the filter that comes with the Aqueon MiniBow 2.5 tank that he's in right now. However, the current just kept pushing him around when he swam to the stop. So I turned it off for the night. Should I leave it on? Will he get used to the current?

Water - I have to admit that it has been about three weeks since I last changed his water (I know, I know...). I don't like excuses, but law school exams are fast approaching, and I've been home for holidays and family events these past two weekends. So I did do a 100% water change a few hours ago. Usually, I put him in water that has been sitting out for over 24 hours. Tonight I used some conditioner that came with the tank so that I could get him in new water as quickly as possible. I'll make sure to change his water more frequently.

Food - I feed him 2-3 pellets or a small pinch of flakes 6/7 days a week and leave Sunday for fasting.

From these pictures and information, can anyone help me figure out what is going on? I hate that he seems unhappy. The first week I got him, he was making bubble nests (as you can see in the second picture), but he never does that anymore. The first picture is when I first got him, and the third picture is from tonight. (Sorry the pictures are flipped! I can't figure out how to change it.)

Any help would be greatly appreciated!
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Old 04-13-2013, 01:43 AM   #2 
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Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Midwest
Don't turn on the filter if he isn't feeling well that won't help if he has to fight the current. He probably got an overdose of ammonia and it looks like he has fin rot.
If you want to use the heater you should test it in a 2.5 gallon container like a bucket for 24 hours and see if if the temperature stays in an acceptable range.

You probably need AQ salt but I flipped your picture and made them clearer so other people can look and give their opinion. They are in an album right now which I will delete after 3 days if you need them for future use save them.

Last edited by jadaBlu; 04-13-2013 at 01:45 AM.
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Old 04-13-2013, 01:48 AM   #3 
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: West Palm Beach, FL
Get an adjustable heater and a thermometer (not stick on). The Hydor Theo is a good one. 25w is fine.

You need to baffle the filter if you are going to use it. Sponge on the outflow area usually does it, but you may need one on the intake pipe as well. You can also go with a sponge filter. If you search the forum you will find a great thread on setting one up.

Having said those things, do you have a liquid test kit? You can order one from amazon much cheaper than from the LFS. I am asking because you need to keep track of the tank parameters, especially since (I am assuming) your tank isn't cycled.

In my four gallon tank, ammonia gets up to a toxic level in 48 hours, necessitating a 50% water change. Your fish has been exposed to a lot higher level than that, for far longer. You are very lucky he isn't showing more serious signs of illness. Even a cycled 2.5 gallon tank will need a weekly 25-50% water change.

I'm a lawyer, so I get that exam time is no picnic. You have my sympathies. But it also takes very little time to do a 50% water change. If you can't find that time, rehome him to someone who can. I don't mean to be harsh about it, but your life gets way busier after law school. If you aren't able to keep up with required care now, the kind thing to do is find a new home for him while he is healthy.

If you decide you want to keep him, and commit to the care he needs, hooray! They are great pets, and really help with stress relief. I have my three guys at the office, and it makes my job way more tolerable.

Good luck with exams!
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Old 04-13-2013, 02:08 AM   #4 
Join Date: Apr 2013
I really want to keep him, since he is a huge stress-reliever. Honestly, I'd rather have a dog, but I figured a fish was the easiest thing to care for. Guess I was wrong. And now I feel like I'm killing my fish. I've seen the teeny tiny tanks and heard stories of people who kept their betta in horrible conditions for years, so I figured I was doing enough to keep him happy and healthy. And the one I had before lived in the same tank for almost a year (he was a jumper and jumped out of the back slit in the lid one day when I was at school..), and he was perfectly healthy and making bubble nests all the time. But now Chief is reacting much worse to the same environment. I know that fish are different, but I just didn't know that a betta required so much care.

If I use the filter, how often would I need to change the water? If I got a 5 gallon tank with a filter, how often would I need to change the water then?

If it turns out that I just can't do what is best for him, do you think an aquarium store would take him, like a "rescue" fish or something? I doubt any of my friends would do much better than I have done. I know that I'm clearly not giving him everything he needs, but I'm still worried that someone else might treat him even worse, and I really don't want that to happen.
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Old 04-13-2013, 02:10 AM   #5 
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Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: California
I have the same tank and I don't use the filter. A filter isn't required for such a small tank as long as you keep up with water changes, but looking at your conditions, it seems like you may not be able to... but I don't think a filter helps too much to where you have less water changes, it's still going to have to be twice a week. Also, a reason he wasn't making bubbles nests is probably due to the currents of the filter, if they feel disturbances, they won't make one. And whether or not he makes a bubble nest doesn't neccesarily mean he's happy or unhappy, it's a primal instinct, so don't worry about that too much. But yea, try out what jadaBlu and/or VJM said, good luck

Just saw your post,
According to Oldfishlady:
1-4gal with a filter
Twice weekly-1-50% water only and 1-50% with substrate cleaning by vacuum or stir and dip method.
Filter media needs a swish/rinse in old tank water a couple of times a month.

5-9gal with a filter
Weekly 50% with vacuum
Filter media needs a swish/rinse in old tank water a couple of times a month.

Find something to cover up the back, or put the heater there, I put a blue towel on the tank, I've heard people put plastic wrap as well.

Last edited by Twixies; 04-13-2013 at 02:16 AM.
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Old 04-13-2013, 03:19 AM   #6 
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: West Palm Beach, FL
You can do a couple things:

1. Commit to following the above water change schedules. Put it in your calendar like any other "must do" item. Find a day and time that works for you and just do it. Net result: happy fish, happy you!

2. Make your tank into an NPT. You would need a light with at least a 6500k bulb. I have a cheap desk lamp from Home Depot with a Daylight cfl bulb for my 2.5g tank and it is working out perfectly. No algae, slow and steady plant growth. You need substrate (Miracle Gro Organic Potting Mix is cheap) with a cap (Petco sand, also cheap). Mostly, you need a lot of plants. Once the plants are established and growing, you would be down to one 25-50% change per week. Result: seriously happy fish, happy you!

3. Decide that this is all honestly more than you wanted to or can deal with right now. If so, you could put an ad in the classifieds section of this forum looking for a new home for him. If you don't have any luck with that, you could try craigslist. In either case, make sure the person who takes him knows what they are doing and has appropriate care products. If that doesnt work, an LFS may take him (last resort). Result: happy fish. You don't get the stress relief, but you also don't have the stress of care.

None of these is a bad option, so lots of upside here.

My two cents: when you find a job, you will be working a lot of hours per week. 80-90 in civil is pretty common at the beginning. Don't get a dog until you have about three years of practice under your belt. Then you will really know how much time you have available. I would love to have one too, but I am never home.

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Old 04-13-2013, 06:50 AM   #7 
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Location: Midwest

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Old 04-13-2013, 08:22 AM   #8 
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Join Date: Nov 2012
I believe that we often overcomplicate things. My opinion:

1) A 2.5 gal tank is fine. (I have four 3 gal tanks.) Don't use the filter. (We can discuss filters later. For now, just take it out.)

2) Do two water changes per week. Do either one 100% and one 50%, or two 100%s. Do whichever is easier for you.

3) Use a heater. Since you already have a one, test it out in a bucket of water for 24 hrs to see if it heats properly. If it doesn't, get a new one. (You can get another Aqueon Mini Heater or a different brand. The Marina Betta heater is $12 at Petsmart.)

4) Feed a quality pellet food. (Pellets are easy to count out, and don't make a mess like flakes do.)

5) Enjoy watching him.

I feel that if you keep them in warm, clean water and feed them good food, then they generally do pretty well.


I think the reason that his fins are clamped are that:
a) The delayed water change results in high ammonia levels in the tank.
b) If you didn't acclimate (reintroduce) him into the tank slowly, it may have shocked his system.

There are many ways to do a water change and acclimate (reintroduce) your fish back into the tank. Here is one variation that's pretty simple:
  1. Note the temperature of the water.
  2. Using a plastic cup, scoop him, along with some of his water, into the cup.
  3. Clean out the tank. Refill with water at the SAME temp. Be sure to add the correct amount of water conditioner.
  4. Float his cup in the tank for about 15 min. (Study during this time. If he sits longer, it's OK.)
  5. Add a SMALL amount of NEW water to the cup. (Several tablespoons, or about 1.5 ounces.)
  6. Let his cup float for about 10 min. (Study during this time. If he sits longer, it's OK.)
  7. If the cup starts to fill too much, remove a SMALL amount of water from the cup. Discard it.
  8. Repeat steps 5-7, until about an hour has passed. (If he sits longer because you're studying, that's OK.)
  9. Gently release him into the tank.

Last edited by LittleBlueFishlets; 04-13-2013 at 08:35 AM.
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Old 04-15-2013, 06:07 PM   #9 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Thank you everyone for your advice! I changed his water 100% on Friday, and I am planning on changing it 100% tomorrow, Tuesday, and then again this weekend, and so on until I have found a schedule that works for me. It'll be easier this summer when exams are over and I have regular job hours.

I bought some new conditioner today, and also a few water jugs to make water changes easier. I poured out the distilled water, and I now have three gallons of conditioned tap water sitting on my floor so that the temperature can acclimate by tomorrow. His tank is about 75* right now, and it stays about that temperature. I took out the filter, as well.

I also bought an ammonia test kit! I tested it today, and if I read it right, his water is in the "safe" zone, one level up from "ideal." Could y'all take a look at it and tell me if I'm reading it correctly? The square is darker around the edges, so I'm not sure which part to read.

Last thing, when I left for class this morning, his water was clear. But now (about 9 hours later), it's kind of cloudy. Is that from the conditioner? Will it be ok like that until I change it in less than 12 hours? It's a little cloudier than the picture shows.

Ok really last thing - Do y'all think he looks better than the "clamped" picture from a few days ago?? Or is it just wishful thinking on my part? He's still eating and active and seems happier! All of these pictures are from less than an hour ago.
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Old 04-15-2013, 11:18 PM   #10 
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: West Palm Beach, FL
Good for you! It sounds like you made a lot of great changes. Keep 'em up and you are sure to see a difference.

Sadly, the strip test kits are not reliable. You need a liquid test kit (API or Sera) which are way cheaper on Amazon. With the correct water change schedule, you *theoretically* don't need a test kit. Regular changes will ensure parameters stay in the safe zone.

I am a compulsive water checker, so I would get the kit.

You have a beautiful Betta, and I am sure you guys are on the upswing! Hang in there, it takes awhile to cycle and get health back in line.
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