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Old 06-15-2010, 09:20 AM   #1 
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Join Date: Jun 2010
Inflamed gill - What to do?

Hello everyone,

I had trouble cycling my 5gl Marineland Hex5, but I thought it worked (or was it peer pressure from all who made fun of my testing the water for 3 months) so I put a betta in. Of course my entire family got very attached to the little guy and I started monitoring the water and making changes religiously, aware that the tank might not be cycled.

This morning I noticed one of his gills is inflamed (the gill cover is sticking out). I read the forums and it sounds very bad. What do I do?

My water history is this:

Water out of the tap comes at pH8.1. Tank doesn't look cycled so I get a bit of ammonia. Whenever I think see any kind of greenish in the test tube and/or test strip (yellow for 0 ammonia) I do a 50% water change. Nitrites and Nitrates are at 0.

I use both the API liquid test kit (all fresh reactants) and strips as backup.

I use Professor James E. Alleman's formulas to calculate "Free Ammonia" (I know it's all empirical, but it's the most science that makes sense) and make sure I'm always way beyond 0.02ppm.

I started using all sorts of pH lowering products (to make it safer, as my pH is way too high), but it always bounces back. I came up with this idea: Use Poland Spring bottled water to keep pH "naturally" down and this way make sure ammonia is less damaging. I started doing gradual water changes of 25% to not stress the fish and got it down to pH7.4 (yesterday).

I use Prime in my change water, let it sit overnight and heat it up to 80F with a heater prior to change. My tank's water is at 80F.

I feed my fish soaked pellets (2 feedings a day, 1 and 2pellets) plus freeze dried brine shrimp and daphnia as treats. His belly looks good.

My fish did not change color, his fins look great. He is dark red, not easy to say if his gills turned red, they are always red.

The other day I noticed a lot of brown growth on my fake plants so last night I took them out and washed them under water. Also vacuumed the gravel and did a 25% water change.

This morning we noticed that one of his gills is inflamed. Gill cover stays open. Not 100% certain of this statement, but I though I saw some fuzzy stuff coming out of the inflamed gill, right after he ate his pellet. Again, not 100%.

Forums say nitrate poisoning - but I have no nitrates. They also mention bacteria, but you kind of need to know which one.... Some say put aquarium salt, some say antibiotics, some say fish will definitely die.

What is the best/safest thing to do? Can I save my fish??

Any help/guidance will be greatly appreciated :(
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Old 06-15-2010, 12:14 PM   #2 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: USA
First, I would leave the pH alone, fish will adapt to the pH of your tap water and be just fine, those sudden pH swings can be deadly and stressful.
Bottled water can also contain chlorine and chloramine so good that you are still using Prime, however, the filtration process can also remove the minerals the fish needs for good health, I would either switch back to you tap water or do a 50/50 mix with tap and bottled.
Inflamed gill can be several things, parasites, ammonia burns and then scar tissues from the ammonia burns.
What you may have seen coming out of the gills could have been food since you had just fed him and this is normal
Treatment, daily water changes 50-100% with aquarium salt 1tsp/gal for 10 days, this is best done in QT, if it is parasites, the natural treatment is fresh crushed garlic mixed in their food twice a day for 6 weeks or get a OTC anti-parasite medication, I don't use OTC products so I can't recommend anything.
Once scar tissue forms there is nothing we can do and depending on how bad it is, he still could live a normal life, but you want to prevent anymore ammonia or nitrite due to affects on his breathing.
You also want to keep the nitrate at 5-10ppm for a strong active immune response.
On the 5g with filtration and cycled, twice weekly 50% water changes with one substrate vacuuming with one of the water changes and filter media swished/rinsed in old tank water to remove the big gunk 1-2 times a month or when the water flow slows.
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Old 06-15-2010, 02:04 PM   #3 
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Join Date: Jun 2010
Thank you very much. Your expertise is appreciated! I hate drugs myself, I'm happy to know there are 'natural' remedies. Did not know a bout the garlic... I've been reading this forum and I understand that clean water with stable chemistry is the key to the life of a fish.

I don't think my tank cycled. I did a fishless cycle with ammonia for months, but I believe that I starved my nitrite producing bacteria (on vacation for a week, did not feed tank with ammonia) - it was at the time when my nitrites spiked and the tank started converting nitrites to nitrates, so I was so happy about that, I though it's done. But then it broke, so now I have no cycle and a fish in the tank that I really care about.

What do you recommend - do frequent water changes and wait, use one of the commercial products? (Stability, Safe Start, Biozyme, etc.. except Biospira, which is impossible to find)

What else can I do to jumpstart a normal cycle and keep the betta from being harmed?

Thanks a lot.
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Old 06-15-2010, 03:30 PM   #4 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: USA
IMO the cycle type products are a waste of time and money.
You can safely cycle the tank with the fish as long as you are dedicated to making the needed water changes, since you have testing produces on hand this will make your job easier.
When you see any reading of ammonia or nitrite of 0.25ppm and greater make a water only change starting at 50% until you have 0ppm.
Once you have nitrate reading of 5-10ppm and 0ppm on both ammonia and nitrite, you are most likely cycled.
Don't vacuum the substrate more than once a week or over clean the filter media, a swish/rinse in old tank water with a water change 1-2 times a month or if the water flow slows is all that is needed so to prevent a mini cycle.
Remember that the nitrifying bacteria are sticky and adhere to everything in the tank like the walls, decoration, plants both real and fake, in the top layer of the substrate and in the filter media, very little are in the water column itself- so water only changes will not hurt the cycling process and can save the fish during the fish-in cycle....
Looking forward to seeing some pics......
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Old 06-16-2010, 09:54 AM   #5 
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Join Date: Jun 2010

My betta Indy is doing great now, his gill looks normal and the gill cover goes back all the way and there are no signs of scarring (I think, can't really see). I'm following your advice and doing 50% water changes daily. I'm using 50/50 bottled/tap water, this way I'm not paranoid about my high pH, the fish is not stressed by water chemistry changes and he gets his minerals. I'm also adding the usual Prime, aquarium salt to help with his gills. The bucket sits overnight and get heated to 80F with a "bucket heater" contraption I picked on Amazon. Ammonia, nitrite & nitrate are at 0, pH is at 7.6 (steady now).

I also realized that my stick-um thermometer is just a silly toy. I used an old fashioned floating one and realized that my water temp. goes up to 85 F in the middle of the day. I set the tank in March and it was cold, so the heater set at 80 F was doing a great job. My house tends to get hot, then the light makes heat too (I know the answer to that one - just shut it off). But even with the light off, it's still over 83 F. And it's not the heater, that one is on a thermostat, it's my house...

My question I guess is: is it damaging to the fish that the temp. fluctuates this much (80 - 85 F)? What to do when the summer heat waves arrive?

Thank you again for all your help.
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Old 06-16-2010, 10:10 AM   #6 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: USA
Stable temps are always better, however, IME the fish will tolerate those swings and usually the tank will still have a cool spot in the tank when the temp is related to the lights especially without filters or water movement.
If the fish looks to be fine and stress free I would not stress too much over it, you may want to lower the temp on the heater to 76F and turn the light off during the heat of the day.
I use a kitchen digital thermometer to check my temps, it cost under $4 and used only on the aquariums, great for quick temp checks, I don't always trust those stick on or floating thermometers either.....
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Old 06-18-2010, 08:38 AM   #7 
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Join Date: Jun 2010
Betta is doing good (tried to take pictures but came out crappy - didn't realize snapping fish in a tank is such a challenge), however I have a new scare now:

Tank started cycling, so ammonia is zero (yeah!!!) but now I have a big NITRITE INVASION and still no nitrates (third day).

I'm changing water like a mad man once in the morning and once at night, and can barely keep the nitrite level below 0.25ppm. This morning I freaked out, it was almost 0.5ppm. Still using aq. salt and Prime.

What should I expect - is there going to be a larger spike (when I was doing fishless cycling, I remember nitrites going completely off the chart - literally - for a long time), how many more days? Is there anything else I can do to keep the fish as unharmed as possible?

Thank you again.
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