Here are the pics. It was difficult to take and I can't see any black areas or anything that is gill flukes. I think they actually look kinda pinkish reddish?
The only other thing I can think is that I retested my water after WC and it now says moderately hard. And I know Thai water is very soft. Also he actually has dragon scales that hang off the edge of his top gill area and perhaps that necessitates him taking big gulps?
I have my fluval set to very little water agitation to reduce stress, but I can turn up the filtration to create more aeration as well. I just don't know if that will hurt or help.
more pics coming next. Thank you guys sooooooo much for responses. Freaking out!
I put an ammonia remover called microbe lift that says it will not disturb bacterial systems. And plan on putting a very low amount of salt that I have read both java fern and anubias can take. Other than that and perhaps alter the filtration I am at a loss.
He seems pretty healthy otherwise. Maybe you're right, those dragon scales are slightly hindering his breathing. And it's also possible the difference in water had an effect. Keep an eye on him and keep us posted. He's sooo handsome, it would be a shame for anything to happen to him.
Well it is not like he is lingering at the top of the tank all the time gulping for air. He just surfaces more often than one should in a filtered tank and when he does the gills open out fully and the breath is very long (although usually just one breath). It is nothing I have ever seen, but I have never owned a dragon betta and his scaling is quite heavy and it is everywhere including a scale on each side that extends beyond normal gill cover.
But I feel that if is was a matter of scales, someone would have experienced it and shared it before. My guess at this point though with the sudden fin shedding and air gulping, is that there is some ammonia burn, but not enough to warrant changing his tank (he seems to enjoy every inch of it currently). I think I see some faint black areas underneath the dragon scales behind the side fins... but then I think it is just darker there because that's where his internal organs are. No major black areas I can see easily.
I may move him to my fluval edge in a week when it is done cycling (with the water level down of course) because it provides more aeration and surface area and is shallower.
But just to be sure it is not gill flukes... would I always see flashing? Could moving back and forth against the glass (which looks like typical feed me and pay attention to me behavior) be a form of trying to itch his gills? I don't see him doing this against the sand though for sure.
BTW yes my transhipper was Julie TRan. And although it was in a styrofoam insulator there were no cold packs, hot packs or anything but the fish in his water. And the weather was ridiculously warm those 2 days of transit reaching into the high 90s in both our cities. Having never shipped before I don't know if this was a standard packing.
My seller was elegantbetta. In his defense, the betta finniage looked nice for 2 days besides the air gulping and listlessness upon arrival.
If it was extremely mild gill flukes, you might not see flashing or rubbing but if it was that mild, it wouldn't cause him to gulp for air. He probably has some mild ammonia burn which will hopefully heal up soon.
I've never bought fish online so I don't know how things would go but I do think you can request a heat or cold pack as the weather requires if the transshipper doesn't offer one herself. I know some of the local US sellers offer them voluntarily (basementbettas out of Texas, for example). I do think he may have gotten a tad too warm en route because as you mentioned, the weather was pretty darn warm and even in a styrofoam insulator, those UPS/FedEx truck holds get hot. That would explain the listlessness upon arrival.
As long as he's active and eating, he should be okay.
Thanks Sakura8... But I now have a new problem... I went out and bought an API masters kit based upon someone's recommendation that perhaps my ammonia liquid testers (since crusty) were throwing inaccurate results.
When I re-tested all of the parameters with the more accurate liquid testers (I used paper for nitrates & ph before) the Ph results were vastly different. The ph of my water is extremely high - 8.1-8.2. Could this be causing the gasping? (The rest are currently within good parameters)
I asked my husband to pick up ph down since he is next store to petco right now. But now I have read it is best not to use chemicals to alter ph. I am so confused... Should I use bottled water? Or is it better as some say to have high ph than fluctuating ph.
I also have removed all plants and used aquarium salt to salt the entire tank at 3 teaspoons in 6.6 gallons (a low level according to instructions). I am very hesitant to salt dip him.
Hmm. That is pretty high Ph. I'm not sure but tannins from IAL or decaf green tea may lower that. Also, if you can find aquarium peat, you can filter the water over that and it will lower the Ph. Chemicals are unstable and you'll have to redo it every water change, trying to match it exactly each time so you don't shock the little guy. You can use bottled water but it may get expensive. Only way to reliably lower Ph is to use an RO machine but those are expensive and I think you have to add something back into the RO water to replace minerals. You could try him in bottled water for a week and see if he stops gasping. If he does, then it probably is the high Ph. If he still gasps, then I wouldn't mess with the Ph and would look into what else might be causing his problem.
Thank you again Sakura8 for your quick advice. Caught husband with chemicals in hand and passed on it. Although it is awfully tempting when it feels so dangerously high.
He is now picking up both distilled and RO water and decaf green tea bags. But I am not sure how to much to use. I already did a 30% WC today to introduce the aquarium salt (and did one yesterday to keep ammonia & nitrites down).
Do I do yet another PWC with the steam distilled water? And if so how much? Or should I just add a tea bag to the fountain filter?
He seems okay with water changes (I use the bioorb pump style siphon which is a gentle start and draining pace) but it seems that changing out so much water would be risky.
As far as long term, not into using driftwood for the fin rippage risk, but may put peat moss underneath the sand? Will that work? or in the filter? Not sure where to find "aquarium peat" but if any place has it I imagine Aquaforest in SF will have an answer.
Thanks again! Feeling overwhelmed and hope to not lose sleep over this again...