Well everyone, last night I went to check on Raphael after watching the ball drop for New Year's and I found him dead in his tank.
Over the past few days the lump had gotten a little bit bigger and he lost appetite. He was also beginning to show some swelling/bloating around his head and chest area. He began to swim a little funny and so I put him in his cup floating in the tank, to make it easier for him to reach the air.
When I found him he was on his side and his body had lost much of its color and his head and chest were still swollen.
I tested the water after he died and all of the tank stats were exactly what they should be.
While searching for possible ideas as to what could be wrong with him I had gotten on to the topic of blue-green tank algae (which I seemed to have in his tank) while I was talking with my boyfriend. He had been told (while dealing with this in one of his own tanks) by a fellow betta keeper and fish store employee that certain kinds of the blue-green algae can be connected with some bacteria outbreaks and that the algae should be treated. Now, I will say that this employee has given us good advice in the past and generally knows his stuff. He recommended API's E.M Erythromycin.
While I was out I looked at the medication and one of the things on the box caught my eye:
It was described as a bacterial infection of the bloodstream where fish may show blood streaks on the body and fins, red patches and localized swelling.
That jumped out at me as sounding like it might be similar to what Raphael was dealing with. He was a red fish, so blood streaks may have been harder to see, but I wonder if that may explain the discoloration, the lump, the chest swelling and some problems he was having with his fins a short while back.
I decided to try the medicine, thinking maybe I finally had some sort of answer. I put in the proper amount for one dose after his weekly water change. By then he had already lost his appetite and was showing constant signs of bloating/swelling.
That first dose was two days ago, and because I wasn't 100% certain, I did not add other doses for fear of overdoing it.
...and now he's dead. I hope my attempt at finding an answer didn't just speed thing up.
I still don't know for sure exactly what the problem was, so the idea of putting another fish in his tank right now has me freaked out. I'm taking the tank down and doing a thorough cleaning and putting in new sand. I'll add new media from another cycled tank before I put another fish in there.
Rest in peace Raphael, I'm sorry I couldn't do better for you. :(