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Old 06-16-2013, 04:28 PM   #1 
Juditko's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: Texas
Help! Very sick betta. Mods or experienced keepers, help!

What size is your tank? 10 GALLONS
What temperature is your tank? 82 F
Does your tank have a filter? SPONGE WITH AIR STONE
Does your tank have an air stone or other type of aeration?
Is your tank heated? YES
What tank mates does your betta fish live with? 5 RASBORAS

What type of food do you feed your betta fish? NLS SMALL FISH
How often do you feed your betta fish? 1X DAILY 4 PELLETS FAST ON SUNDAY


How often do you perform a water change? ONCE A WEEK
What percentage of the water do you change when you perform a water change? 80%
What type of additives do you add to the water when you perform a water change? SEACHEM PRIME

Water Parameters:
Have you tested your water? If so, what are the following parameters?

Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 5-10

Symptoms and Treatment
How has your betta fish's appearance changed? LOSS OF COLOR
When did you start noticing the symptoms? LAST WEEKEND
Have you started treating your fish? If so, how? I STARTED ON 1 TSP EPSOM SALTS PER GALLON FOR SWIM BLADDER. FASTED 3 DAYS
Does your fish have any history of being ill? MILD FIN ROT ONLY
How old is your fish (approximately)?PURCHASED IN DECEMBER FROM WALMART

So here he is:

Last weekend I started treatment for swim bladder; he was on the bottom, laying on his side, or when he did swim to the top, he was head up and tail down and uncontrollable. He's been on 1 tsp epsom salts per gallon all week; fasted three days. I have tried two pellets for the last two days; he wants to but isn't coordinated enough to get there. Yesterday I bought the breeder box (in the picture) to elevate him so he could get to the surface. Today I increased to 2 tsp epsom salts. He is just not improving.

I was doing some more reading here and his lethargy is similar to what some people describe with their fish with velvet. I grabbed a flashlight, and he is gold. There is no visible "dusting" but he is a golden color. My avatar is what he does look like normally...but he has a lot of turquoise too. However, with the lethargy and the golden color, plus his loss of color, I could see it could reasonably be velvet.

Here's the water chemistry: (OMG, the PH!)
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Old 06-16-2013, 04:30 PM   #2 
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Sorry, I posted before finishing. There is more orange in the nitrate than the pic, enough to reasonably be 5 - 10.

So immediately, here is my primary question: Should I start treatment for velvet? and if so, I have Jungle Fungus Clear on hand. Can I use that, and can I use it with the epsom salt in the tank already?
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Old 06-16-2013, 04:58 PM   #3 
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Secondary, bigger scale question: I honestly don't know if this guy is going to make it, as his condition looks pretty bad. I'm doing everything I can for him at present, and have spent a ton of time and some $ on larger tank, supplies, etc like we all do to try to do right by these little fish we love. If he doesn't make it, I would like to honestly evaluate whether we should get another betta in the future. Here are the challenges we've had with this one:

Mild fin rot, three rounds since December. Now this, whatever it is. If it is Velvet, that and the fin rot would point to water quality, from what I've read. Yet I am religious on the water changes and actually change more (80%) than what is recommended for the 10 gallon tank (OFL's recommendations were 50% weekly).

During one of the fin rot episodes, I had a good discussion on the forum with some members about ammonia in source water. I got a Seachem Ammonia Alert and stick to Prime. My ammonia alert never shows a problem; at water changes I consistently see the lightest shade of .25 (as in the photo in the above post). I tested the source water, untreated, straight from the tap today:

and the PH of our water is way up there, as mentioned in my first post.

So, rationally speaking, if Buzz the current betta does not make it, should I consider a new betta in the future under these water conditions? The five rasboras swim along quite happily and have not had a single problem the entire time; Buzz, however, has been quite the little prince to maintain. The aquarium is a family one and we do have a young child who needs my time, so if it's an uphill battle and Buzz has fallen ill because of our source water, do I need to just throw in the towel and just enjoy different fish than bettas? I don't want to just go get another if I lose this one without really examining what's happening here.
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Old 06-16-2013, 10:50 PM   #4 
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Update. I do still believe SBD is involved. His spine is now starting to a curve.
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Old 06-16-2013, 10:54 PM   #5 
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Hi Juditko. I'm sorry to hear about Buzz. :( Are the rasboras acting normally? If they are, then it's definitely just a Buzz problem. From the description of symptoms however, it could be just about anything: internal or external parasites, an internal bacterial infection. It doesn't sound like velvet; usually, you can tell right away if it is velvet because each velvet parasite can be clearly seen as a tiny gold dot. They say velvet looks like the fish was sprinkled with gold dust but to me, it looks more like they were sprinkled with corn crumbs. If the infestation is really severe, you can even see velvet on the eyeballs.

I'm not sure if you want to try to treat Buzz or if he may be past help, but if you do, the best medication to try is also the hardest to find: Seachem Kanaplex. Sadly, this med usually has to be ordered online and I'm not sure if Buzz will make it. You could try treating with API General Cure, which can be found at Petsmart. This is an anti-parasite med that can be somewhat effective with anaerobic internal bacterial infections as well.

About your water parameters: I'm wondering if you may have nitrate in your source water as well as ammonia because you really shouldn't have any nitrate at all with the size of water changes that you do. The ammonia you have is most likely ammonium, a slightly less toxic form of ammonia that still reads as ammonia in testing.

I don't see why you can't get another betta but if you have concerns about the water parameters, you may want to consider an R/O unit. This can be expensive to purchase though. Another alternative is using a half dechlorinated tap water/half bottled spring water mix. My personal feeling though is that it's not the water parameters so much as the fact that Buzz came from Walmart and therefore may not have had the strongest immune system.

If your pH is high, then your water hardness is also probably high unless your water is coming through a water softener. While most bettas adapt easily to hard water, it can be a little more stressful for them so in addition to possibly trying an R/O unit or a spring water combination, you can also use driftwood to soften the water or peat in the filter. A proprietary blackwater treatment like Kent's Blackwater will also safely soften the water and lower pH.

Hope this helps, sorry I'm a bit rambly today. Fingers crossed for Buzz.
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Old 06-16-2013, 11:00 PM   #6 
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Ok. Sorry I couldn't get back to you sooner.

A cycled tank will take care of source water ammonia. Continue using prime as your conditioner, it will neutalize the ammonia for 48 hours and in that time the bb will break it down into nitrate.

Your ph is high, but bettas are adaptable... Are you using ial?

It definitely looks like a swim bladder disorder of some sort... Honestly, although it is usually reserved for fish with more serious illnesses like dropsy, you can safley boost the epsom salt dose to 3tsp/g. Is he bloated at all?

I'm not so sure he has velvet...

I would definetely get LittleBlueFishlets to weigh in.

Edit- I wouldn't let your water params restrict you from getting another betta. I would, however, look into a hmpk as they are far less susceptible to fin rot.
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Old 06-16-2013, 11:06 PM   #7 
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Sakura, Thank you so much! I have always been a fan of the forum since we found Buzz in December. I have learned so much here and am thankful to learn more now. I don't have kanaplex but ocassionally see it at my pet smart...just not yesterday when I went. If he survives into tomorrow I will call about it. He just looks terrible though so I'm not sure. He does seem to "appreciate" the shallow water of the breeder box and at least looks more comfortable than at the bottom of the tank. Even if he isn't saved I will be thankful that I was able to do that for him. It's sure not for lack of trying!
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Old 06-16-2013, 11:14 PM   #8 
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Thanks, Matt. I pm'ed lil blue fishlets also. Not bloated that I can see at all, not even when the SBD started, which surprised me. I haven't used IAL yet as I haven't knowingly encountered the need until now. Yes, after another inspection this evening, I'm drifting away from velvet. Rasboras are fine and there's no dust on him at all. He has some brilliance in his scales which translates gold and I think would under normal conditions too. He's lost so much color that I'm probably seeing a lot more of that than normal.

I saw a really cool hmpk at petsmart last week. Sadly, I love the half moons. Go figure.

If he doesn't make it, what's the proper procedure / time to bring a new fish? I sure hate to have to break down that tank and mess up the cycle unless it's necessary.
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Old 06-17-2013, 02:52 AM   #9 
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Hi Juditko,

I have the utmost respect for Sakura, and I believe she gave you excellent advice. However, I'm going to respectfully disagree with her on one point.

The high pH of your water will cause a high level of ammonia, rather than the safer ammonium.

At low pH, more ammonium is present. At high pH, more ammonia is present. (Here is an article that describes the process: Surface Waters: Ammonium is Not Ammonia)

Therefore, I think you need to tackle two issues:
1) The ammonia level of your water.
2) The SBD issues that Buzz is dealing with.

As for why it's only affecting Buzz: I don't know anything about Rasboras. Is it possible that they're less affected by ammonia or pH levels than Bettas? If so, this would explain why only Buzz is affected.

1) Dealing with the ammonia issue:
I think this may be perhaps the most important component. Can you get some bottled drinking water? Look for one that says "Minerals added for flavor." These minerals are electrolytes that are needed to maintain good health (in people, as well as fish!).

There are many ways to do acclimate your fish to a new type of water. This is one way. If you have a method you prefer, you can definitely use it. It may be easier to treat him in a small container/tank/bowl for this, such as the breeder box you have him in:
  1. Note the temperature of the current tank water.
  2. Use bottled water that has "minerals added for flavor." (You should be able to get 1 gal jugs of this.) The water should be at the SAME temp as the tank water (within 2 degrees F / 1 degree C is OK).
  3. Be sure to add the correct amount of water conditioner.
  4. Since he's currently in Epsom salt (2 teaspoons/gal), add this same dosage to the new water. Be sure to stir/shake until the salt is completely dissolved.
  5. Remove about 25% of the water from his hospital tank.
  6. Replace this water with the bottled water mixture.
  7. Wait at least 15 min. (More time is OK!)
  8. Repeat the 25% water change process another 3 times. Be sure to wait at LEAST 15 min between changes.
  9. Tomorrow, do one 50% water change.

If the ammonia and/or other nitrogen-containing compounds are what's causing his problems, this should help.

Another way to lower pH slightly is to add a tannin source, such as dried IAL or oak leaves. Tannins are slightly acidic, which will help lower the water pH. They also have some soothing and antimicrobial properties, which may help him.

Put some plastic food wrap (Saran, Glad, etc) over the top of his tank. Be sure to leave several inches of air so he can breathe. The wrap will increase the humidity, and make it easier for him to breathe.

2) Dealing with Buzz's SBD symptoms, if they continue:
If the new water doesn't help improve his symptoms with 24 hours, I would increase the Epsom salt dosage by 0.5 teaspoon/gal every 12 hours until you're at a final dosage of 3 teaspoons Epsom salt per gallon:

Ie: Current dosage: 2 tsp Epsom salt/gal. After 24 hrs, if there is no improvement, increase this to 2.5 tsp/gal. Wait 12 hours, assess the situation. If no improvement, increase to 3 tsp/gal.

Also, if he doesn't improve within 24 hrs of being in the bottled water, I would start to look at medications.

As Sakura mentioned, Kanaplex would be an ideal antibiotic. It's broad spectrum, meaning it's effective against many types of bacteria. And it's able to treat internal bacteria.

JadaBlu had some success using tetracyline. It's also a broad spectrum antibiotic. She soaked the pellets in it, so that it acted internally. You may want to PM her to find out more about this. (Or do a search for her posts.)

Has he pooped recently? Did it look OK? If not, this could be a sign of internal parasites.

(It's 3am here, so I hope this post is coherent! )

Last edited by LittleBlueFishlets; 06-17-2013 at 02:58 AM.
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Old 06-17-2013, 06:13 AM   #10 
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Thank you Lil Blue! Very coherent. I will see how much I can do / get / he tolerates and report back some time this afternoon. Sadly I'm working today so I can't begin until after work.

I don't know much about rasboras either; there are some fish who are more ammonia / ph tolerant than bettas though, right?

No poop in last two days that I have seen since he's been in breeder box. But he hasn't eaten either.

I know that ph down products are generally not recommended here but would my case be an exception?

I'll try to do a complete test of the source water today.

Thank you all so much!
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