When I adopted Dobby from his previous owner, she told me that he liked to play dead: float on his side at the surface of the water, but if you tapped on the glass he would swim away. Since I've adopted him, Dobby hasn't played dead once, I believed it was because I'm taking better care of him than before. But today when I changed his water, he started playing dead again. He'd swim around all frightened, and then just float to the top on his side. *sigh* Is he really that stressed out?? Could this be because he's already not feeling well? Or is he just "playing"?
That's what it sounds like to me. The "Swimming around scared" could be the fish fighting to stay down.
When you did the water change the water may have been a bit cold or there could have been something in it that shocked his system. The few times my bettas have gotten that way I just watch them carefully and do more frequent water changes (with some testing to make sure it isn't the water) and the Betta was fine in a few days.
Thank you both for your quick replies. I did some research on swim bladder, and that might be what it is, although he doesn't look bloated. Some of what I read on the other boards indicated that it could be due to cold/dry air -- I accidentally left the lid off last night, and Dobby's water dropped down to 74, and there was no moisture at the surface like there is when the lid is on. Another possible cause could be constipation apparently. I read somewhere that brine shrimp are supposed to provide fiber, but I guess the freeze dried stuff actually causes constipation?
*sigh* I feel really defeated today. I'm trying to take good care of Dobby, I have been since I got him, and it seems like I'm always getting it wrong. His fins haven't gotten much better yet either. (See "Does Dobby Have Fin Rot" thread in Emergencies/Diseases).
What happened to Bettas are hardy fishes? Am I really screwing up that badly?
I'm sure you're doing everything you can, Bettas are quite hardy compared to other tropical fish but they are still affected by changes in their environment. The hardy part comes in with how well they bounce back and how many changes they can handle.
you're learning, don't be too hard on yourself, sometimes getting the hang of this can be difficult. :) When I got my first betta, it seems like everything went wrong for a long time. It took awhile, but he got better.
With freeze dried food, make sure you only use it as a treat. Frozen foods are great as well as pellets (pre-soaked)
Bettas are hardy, but sometimes they do get sick. once you get him all better, chances are he'll stay better. :)
It does sound slightly like swim bladder disorder, so keep an eye on him. Do you fast him at all?
What sized tank and water changes, it's heated, right?
When you have Bettas that float on their side but otherwise are fine-it could be related to the swim bladder-not really disease per se...sometimes it can be genetic related or due to husbandry at the fish farm or breeders.
Some Bettas when not given the right environment during growth and development stage can develop deformed swim bladder-from poor water quality, too cold/dry air, overfeeding, too warm or too cold water-some will usually die and other will get over it and be sold only for the symptoms to come back later
Fry that show signs of poor swim bladder development should be culled-these fish are sometimes called fallers, surface skimmers, jumpers and a few other names....good responsible breeders cull these
Sometimes you can use Epsom salt 1tsp/gal treatment and the fish will get better...sometimes it is just temporary fix and the symptoms keep coming back and they will always be a floater-the damage is done-usually they will be fine-but if they seem to struggle a lot and seem to be suffering...you need to do what is best for the fish
Other things you can do to help make them comfy-lower the water level, cover the top with something to maintain warm/humid air above the water line, feed small frequent meals, avoid freeze dried food, use Epsom salt treatment as needed, water temp in the 80-82F range, maintain good water quality at all times-be careful with water changes and keep water temp close so not to shock with any sudden changes