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Old 08-06-2011, 06:55 PM   #1 
SVC
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New to Fishkeeping and Tank Emergency - PLS. Help!

Hi everyone, I just got a 10 gallon tank a couple of months ago for a betta (red veil tail) that my 5 year old daughter got as a lootbag from a birthday. I wanted to give it a nice home and have been having nothing but problems. After the betta, I added 6 neon tetra at the advice of the fish store and I am now seeing they were not the best choice for tank mates. At first they never bothered each other but lately the neons have been nipping my betta's tail a lot.

So far, I have dealt with a round of ich and cured that with Rid-Ich and then I started running into ammonia problems even though I don't feed the fish more than 2 pellets a day (for betta) and about 10 really mini pellets for the 5 tetra. I do weekly water changes with gravel vac and whenever I take my water in for testing (couple of times a week), they always say my water is really clean. Despite that, the last couple of weeks, I have started getting big time ammonia spikes, to the point where my tank smells like a sewer. The fish have seemed to be fine, but I noticed the betta started getting fin rot. At first I left it alone thinking the water changes would stop it but then I didn't want to take a chance so I was given triple sulfa and treated with the recommended 4 doses and w/c in beteween. One round didn't seem to knock it out, so I had started a second round and then all hell broke loose.

Thursday night after I went to bed, 2 of the tetras just died and the remaining three were kind of breathing heavy but not gasping at the top. The tetras that died had red streaks by their gills. The betta was also weak and wouldn't eat whichis extremely out of character for he who gobbles everything in site and then fights the other fish for their food and finally scavenges the gravel. The tetras were not interested in eating either. My tank really smelled bad and my water was double the ammonia of the last reading so it was at about 2ppm. The other readings however were so clean that the fish guy said it was like I had no fish in my tank. Weird.

On Friday morning, one more tetra had died and the betta was very pale and would not eat or move. It would sit on the gravel mostly on its side and every so often shakily go to the top for air and then coast back down sometimes nose first before settling in a spot for hours again. I really didn't think he would make it through the night.

This morning, I came down to see all three remaining fish still alive. I was so surprised. The betta even looked the slightest bit perkier although he still won't eat. The tetras came to eat today and the betta lifted his head like he wanted to but couldn't. He has some better colour today although I noticed this white thing hanging from its one gill. One of the tetras also had a couple of white flaky looking things on its fins. It is not ich and its not fuzzy. Yesterday, I also noticed the betta had some white poop stuck to its butt. I am thinking internal parasites? I did another PWC today and put in the ammonia detoxifier and upped the aeration and betta seemed to perk up a bit. One last thing, right after the water change, it moved its mouth a few times and threw up this white flaky looking stuff. Don't know what is going on but would REALLY appreciate some advice as I don't know whether the triple sulfa will help or do they need another med if it is even safe to give something else or should I just do what the fish guy said and leave the tank alone and let them recover (or die?).

I really want them to make it and if there is anything I can do, I will!

Sorry this is so long! My tank info is as follows:

10 gallon
1 betta
2 tetra left
ammonia is between 1-2 ppm
nitrite 0
nitrate 0
ph 7.5-7.8

Thanks all in advance for any help! I'm at the end of my wits with the problems in this tank and I don't want to tear down my tank and start all over, not after all this!
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Old 08-06-2011, 08:25 PM   #2 
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hi and welcome to the forum :)
first off, do you have a filter for your tank? if not, i highly suggest getting a filter. it keeps water cleaner and you can then get away with less water change after you cycle your tank. and the percentage of water change you do would be helpful for us. you could be getting ammonia spikes, which happens when the water isnt changed frequently enough or when the tank is trying to cycle. the tetras have red gills, so it could be ammonia poisoning. its a cycling process, you should look it up. :)
if your seeing white strands around your bettas gut, parasites is usually the issue.
while im not sure about what kinds of meds your using, AQ salt is very good usually for finrot and epsom salt can help with internal parasites. however these are just suggestions since im not totally sure of whats going on. pics would help alot if you can get some.
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Old 08-06-2011, 10:42 PM   #3 
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Thanks for the welcome and sorry for the missing info. In my long and involved story, I left out a few things.

Ok, so yes, I do have a filter. It came with my marineland half moon tank. It is a tetra whisper 10i (for 10 gallon tank) I believe. It has a black sponge in front which I was told is the bio filter and a carbon bag behind it. I was told to remove the carbon bag for medicationg purposes and I did that.

I also have a heater which is a 50 watt submersible and it maintains the temp at a steady 78 degrees. Only problem with that heater is that it can't be set any higher such as is warranted when trying to treat parasites with heat and salt.

I have a gravel substrate about an inch and a half thick as well as fake decorations. There are also two airstones in there. One is a clam that opens and closes which I have currently jammed so that it stays open and delivers a steady trickle of air as the current it was creating was too harsh for the betta, and the other is a bubble ring with colourful led lights that just makes light bubbles. I have them attached to two gang valves so I can control the flow as needed.

My normal maintenance schedule barring all sickness, is 25% water change once a week with gravel vacuuming. I use a Python like siphon (aqueon brand) and I always put the full 10g amount of dechlorinator (Novaqua Plus) and ammonia detoxifier (Amquel Plus). After 15 minutes, I put in a capful of the topfin bacteria supplement (poured into the filter). This normal routine seems to be good and they are very happy. I know it doesn't seem like much between illnesses but it seems to be a good routine. I am beginning to wonder if the betta was stressed with the tetras picking at it all the time and that is why it became more vulnerable to illness? It seems that the ammonia doesn't bother it usually.

Anyway, the medications I have administered are as follows:

Rid Ich in early July when betta got ich. Removed the carbon and treated the whole tank. Betta recovered and aside from the spots, never acted sick. Was also told to add a little API aquarium salt at that time to help replace electrolytes and speed healing so I added about 1 teaspoon to my whole tank.

After that when I started having ammonia spikes (readings of 1ppm and very cloudy water) used aqueon water clarifier and dosed with amquel plus whenever the ammonia got too high. Couldn't seem to get a control on the ammonia no matter what I did (even reduced feedings by half by giving betta one pellet presoaked and the tetras 7 or 8 teeny sinking pellets which by what I could see they all scarfed down. My betta in better spirits would spend a good part of the morning scavenging the gravel so I'm sure there was barely any uneaten food down there. Also, if I noticed a big poop sitting on the gravel, I would get it out with a net if it wasn't water change time yet so I am pretty careful about letting waste build up. Like I said, the lfs guy said my tank was so clean it was like there were no fish in there. lol

Anyway, to get a control over the ammonia problem the guy gave me some stress zyme plus and told me to double dose the tank on the 1st, 7th and 14th days, and then follow the regular dosing schedule for maintenance. He said that we needed to get live bacteria in the tank to build up fast enough to deal with the arising ammonia. It is still a mystery as to why the ammonia is going so high though.

I guess it was due to the ammonia that the betta got fin rot, that and the tetras nipping, and so I started treating with one pouch of triple sulfa which is exactly a 10g dose.

So basically a few days after the stress zyme plus and after the first course of triple sulfa, I noticed a marked difference in my water clarity and sure enough, when I took my water in for testing, the ammonia was down to .5ppm. I finally figured I had turned a corner in the ammonia/cycling war but a couple of days later it started to unravel again.

Sometime after the first course of triple sulfa, the ammonia sky rocketed again which is when I woke up to two dead tetra and a very stinky tank. Even now, after changing 25% of the water this afternoon and getting a lot of aeration going, I can smell the tank again. I am really confused as to what is going on. The two tetras have half recovered and are swimming around and ate some today, but the betta still remains gravel bound. Yesterday he was totally listless and on his side and very pale but today he has better overall colour and is at least trying to keep his head off the floor and not resting on the gravel so much as right abobve the gravel. Also, his fins are more upright today to like he wants to try to swim but is too weak still. His breathing is still laboured, but his little side beside his gills have been going all day as opposed to yesterday when they were mostly still except for when he moved a few inches. He still hasn't swam around today or eaten but it looks like he wants to at least.

I will try to put up a picture. Not sure yet how to do it. I hope that was better info. I really am grateful for any advice. My biggest concern is the betta. I really miss him flaring at me. :(
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Old 08-06-2011, 11:49 PM   #4 
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hm if i were you i would quarantine your sick fish away from the healthy ones. im not sure about whether you have to keep species separate, but i would for now, just for easier supervision. and if the tetras are bothering your betta he can get a rest from them :)

you are adding a lot of stuff in your tank, and honestly a lot that i feel wasnt really needed. granted i dont know what some of them are, i havent heard of them, but from what i see here, all you really needed was water change, water conditioner, and some AQ salt. MAYBE some meds if the finrot wasnt getting better. i wonder if they were stressed from the constant changes in their water?

i think the water chemistry got off balance when you added stuff like amquel. yes you should add water conditioners to detoxify chemicals like bleach, but i dont trust those ammonia removers since its like putting a bandaid over a wound rather than curing it. thats why you can get an ammonia spike. the only way to truly avoid ammonia issues is fresh water. also, the stress zyme from what i heard, doesnt really work. i personally havent used it before, but it just seems falsely advertised. i mean, how can the bacteria survive in a bottle without nutrients and oxygen that were supposed to be from your tank? naturally cycled tanks are more stable than the 'quick-start' ones. all it takes is time.

i dont think feeding him less would actually reduce ammonia. fish secrete ammonia no matter what. only cut back when you know he is being overfed.
25% water removal probably isnt enough with a new tank. i would go with 50%. maybe you added too many fish at the same time. did this issue start happening when you added new fish?
i hope things work out for you
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Old 08-06-2011, 11:53 PM   #5 
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Ok, I think I figured out the pics.

The first one is of the betta today more upright and fins not as droopy. Also his little fins have been going more today although I noticed that there is quite a bit of red in those small fins. Is that bleeding?

The second shot is a head on shot. I think in the first one, if you look closely you can see the white thing hanging from its gill.

Not sure what to make of all this. Hope this helps a bit. Sorry if the pics are not the greatest. Also I couldn't get any of the tetra as they wouldn't pose for me. That is a good thing. They are a lot more active than the betta although still breathing very fast and have red gills too.
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Old 08-06-2011, 11:57 PM   #6 
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Oops, the pic with the thing hanging from its gill never made it. I will try to put it here although I don't know how clear it will be. Seems the pics are coming out very fuzzy.
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Old 08-06-2011, 11:58 PM   #7 
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the thing hanging from his gills... is it fuzzy? im a bit worried about the top of his head. is that whitish splotch supposed to be there?
he isnt clamping his fins together, which is good.
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Old 08-07-2011, 12:31 AM   #8 
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In answer to your earlier reply, you are right, I think I did do too much to my tank in an effort to make things better. At first I was impatient and didn't want to wait for the tank to cycle. I knew a lot less about cycling then than I do now and when one pet store employee told me I could add bacteria supplement and be immediately able to put fish in, I was thrilled. Doh! I guess they say hindsight is always 20/20!

Anyhow, I actually didn't have any problems when I added the tetras in. I was told they were better in a school and so I added in 6 of them about a week after the betta who was very happy in there. In the beginning, no one bothered anyone and I ended up killing one tetra because I did a water change and accidentally the water was too warm so the shock made all the tetras gasp at the top and while the others recovered, one didn't make it. That was lesson #one about good fish keeping. ALWAYS make sure the temp is the same as the tank's so now I actually put a little water in a cup and stick my thermometre in there and make sure it is 78 degrees before filling the tank back up.

About the water changes, I am getting a lot of conflicting info about that. The pet store people keep telling me to not change a lot of the water and that the most I should change is 10-15% weekly. This doesn't make sense to me since if my tank is reeking like a sewer due to ammonia, changing more water is better right? In the end, they are telling me to put in the ammonia detoxifier so that the levels of ammonia don't get dangerously high for the fish. Problem is, I know it doesn't make ammonia go away, just turns it into a less nasty form but again, you are right, it is still there and we don't know why.

Now, about my betta's head. Right after the fin rot looked under control (after the first course of triple sulfa), I noticed that he had these gashes on his head. Again, the camera doesn't do it justice but up close, it looks more like a scratch than a fuzzy patch on his head. It looks like the skin has come off. It's that gash above his mouth and the dot on top of his head. I also checked his body with a flash light and didn't see any dusting of copper or gold looking dust, and the thing hanging from his gill is not fuzzy. It looks like almost like a small caviar egg except that it is white and opaque. That is the best way I can describe it. So far I don't see anything fuzzy. That with the little fins beside the gills being red worry me, as well as the fact that he threw up. I am only slightly encouraged that he is able to stay more upright as opposed to just lying on his side.

What do you suppose I should do? I think it doesn't help that at the pet store, while they are very willing to help, you don't always get the same person when you need advice and you just end up with lots of different advice that is sometimes conflicting.

I know I need to ease up with everything I am doing and it makes sense that the stress zyme isn't that great when you put it that way about the bacteria really staying alive. It's not that at this point I don't want to take the time to let things happen on their own, it's that I feel I can't afford the time because I don't want the fish to die.

Oh, and at this point there is no point separating them as there are only 3 fish left in the tank and they are all affected in some way. The tetras are leaving the betta alone right now. I haven't seen them bite his tail in a couple of days and I have been spending a lot of time in front of the tank. I don't think I am going to add more tetras though because I don't want to get the same situation going again where the betta is always harrassed.

Before I go, one last question. If I may ask, how do you maintain your tank(s)? Like when you do a water change. How many % do you change out and what do you put in the new water going back in the tank. I was told from day one to put in both the dechlorinator and ammonia detoxifier. The two bottles came as a set when I bought them so I assumed you needed to use both all the time.

Sorry for so much info and so many questions. In this short time, I have really grown attached to the little guys, esp. my male betta who my daughter promptly named "Princess the Goldie". Poor thing, he must feel emasculated!
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Old 08-07-2011, 02:07 AM   #9 
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In answer to your earlier reply, you are right, I think I did do too much to my tank in an effort to make things better. At first I was impatient and didn't want to wait for the tank to cycle. I knew a lot less about cycling then than I do now and when one pet store employee told me I could add bacteria supplement and be immediately able to put fish in, I was thrilled. Doh! I guess they say hindsight is always 20/20!

well an fyi about petstore employees.. alot of them dont know crap. sorry, but many of them just read the little pamphlets the stores give them and call it a day. yes, there are a few that are actually knoweldgable about the advice they are giving, but most dont. always take their word with a grain of salt.


Anyhow, I actually didn't have any problems when I added the tetras in. I was told they were better in a school and so I added in 6 of them about a week after the betta who was very happy in there. In the beginning, no one bothered anyone and I ended up killing one tetra because I did a water change and accidentally the water was too warm so the shock made all the tetras gasp at the top and while the others recovered, one didn't make it. That was lesson #one about good fish keeping. ALWAYS make sure the temp is the same as the tank's so now I actually put a little water in a cup and stick my thermometre in there and make sure it is 78 degrees before filling the tank back up.

About the water changes, I am getting a lot of conflicting info about that. The pet store people keep telling me to not change a lot of the water and that the most I should change is 10-15% weekly. This doesn't make sense to me since if my tank is reeking like a sewer due to ammonia, changing more water is better right? In the end, they are telling me to put in the ammonia detoxifier so that the levels of ammonia don't get dangerously high for the fish. Problem is, I know it doesn't make ammonia go away, just turns it into a less nasty form but again, you are right, it is still there and we don't know why.

dont listen to them on the water changes or the ammonia remover. you have to waterchange. otherwise things arent gonna look better. it DETOXIFIES, but doesnt actually get rid of it. im not totally sure how it works, but if ammonia isnt removed, it builds up. and actually there are nitrates and nitrites that also build up which is also toxic to fish. in short, ammonia is consumed by bacteria which give off a byproduct known as nitrites, and nitrites are consumed by more bacteria, which byproduct nitrates. in the end, you need to change the water to get rid of nitrates, which are also lethal in large amounts.
water change depends on how big your tank is, and your bioload,, live plants, etc. with live plants its easier to get away with things, since plants absorb the fish waste as fertilizer. but in the end, you still need to be consistent and water change. up your water changing scheduel if you are worried about the cycling. yes cycling would be a bit slower that way, but its safe for your fish since water changes will prevent the ammonia to skyrocket into unsafe zones. i would recommend doing a 25% then a 50% change every other day until things are stable. example: monday 25%, skip a day, wed 50%, skip a day, friday 25% and so on. never change out all of the water, otherwise your cycling efforts are gone waste.


Now, about my betta's head. Right after the fin rot looked under control (after the first course of triple sulfa), I noticed that he had these gashes on his head. Again, the camera doesn't do it justice but up close, it looks more like a scratch than a fuzzy patch on his head. It looks like the skin has come off. It's that gash above his mouth and the dot on top of his head. I also checked his body with a flash light and didn't see any dusting of copper or gold looking dust, and the thing hanging from his gill is not fuzzy. It looks like almost like a small caviar egg except that it is white and opaque. That is the best way I can describe it. So far I don't see anything fuzzy. That with the little fins beside the gills being red worry me, as well as the fact that he threw up. I am only slightly encouraged that he is able to stay more upright as opposed to just lying on his side.

hmm.. a few things come to mind.. could he have actually scratched himself somewhere on the decorations/gravel? columnaris, which is usually fuzzy in appearance, but white.. fungus, except true fungus is rare in bettas. or you may be lucky, could be fungus.. does he dart erratically or swim across objects like hes scratching? the thing hanging from his gill, does it look.... wormy? the pectoral fins being red.. are you sure its not his natural color? if not it could be from the finrot.. sorry without pics its hard to know whats really going on.. and he threw up? ive never heard of a betta throw up before?! more specifically, how did he throw up? as in he was chewing and spat food out? thats not throwing up.. sometimes they try to fit food in their mouth and realize its too big/tastes wierd/isnt to their taste , so they spit it out.


What do you suppose I should do? I think it doesn't help that at the pet store, while they are very willing to help, you don't always get the same person when you need advice and you just end up with lots of different advice that is sometimes conflicting.

sorry, but through all the info, i forgot if they are currently on meds? if not, i would conservatively try AQ salt to see if their patches or whatever start healing up. dosage of 1 gal per teaspoon. its always better to try a conservative method of healing ie, fresh water, or AQ salt before trying to medicate. sometimes meds can create resistant strains of illnesses, just like people.

I know I need to ease up with everything I am doing and it makes sense that the stress zyme isn't that great when you put it that way about the bacteria really staying alive. It's not that at this point I don't want to take the time to let things happen on their own, it's that I feel I can't afford the time because I don't want the fish to die.

Oh, and at this point there is no point separating them as there are only 3 fish left in the tank and they are all affected in some way. The tetras are leaving the betta alone right now. I haven't seen them bite his tail in a couple of days and I have been spending a lot of time in front of the tank. I don't think I am going to add more tetras though because I don't want to get the same situation going again where the betta is always harrassed.
hmm.. i dont keep tetras, but once things are okay in your tank (cycled, no sickness) you can try to add more tetras to allow for them to school. what you can do is buy a divider for a 10 gal (sold in petsmart and petcos for sure) and divide your betta to a side. just dont add too many at once.

Before I go, one last question. If I may ask, how do you maintain your tank(s)? Like when you do a water change. How many % do you change out and what do you put in the new water going back in the tank. I was told from day one to put in both the dechlorinator and ammonia detoxifier. The two bottles came as a set when I bought them so I assumed you needed to use both all the time.

personally i change my water 50% once a week. my tank is cycled. i replace the siphoned out water with the same amount of decholorinated water. decholorinator is all you really need. most of us on here simply use decholorinator and have no problems. unless your set specifically specifies that they need to used in conjunction, i wouldnt bother with the ammonia detoxifier. what brand are you using?

Sorry for so much info and so many questions. In this short time, I have really grown attached to the little guys, esp. my male betta who my daughter promptly named "Princess the Goldie". Poor thing, he must feel emasculated!

its alright, glad to help :D at least your trying to fix things. the saddest thing is when people just dont bother to even try understanding whats wrong, and leave at that.
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Old 08-07-2011, 10:46 AM   #10 
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Good morning Masshiimarro, I'm glad to report my trio is still alive this morning although tank continues to smell horrible.Water is crystal clear but boy does it stink. I am trying to keep aeration up to beat some of the stuff out of the water hopefully. The betta is moving about more in the water although still only along the gravel. I was wondering, shouldn't he be trying to get to the surface for air at least? All yesterday maybe he went up once that I saw.

So, about pet store employees. I go to Petsmart and I was lucky to find a couple of people, one in particular, who are very knowledgeable and very glad to help. They also don't try to sell me this, that and the other since sometimes I read things and ask if I shouldn't put it in the tank and they say not to bother etc. That said, if you don't get those people on any particular day (and it always happens to me when I have a crisis that I get the idiot that doesn't have a clue) it's hit or miss about the advice you will get. There have been times I have gone in and said what I did and the guy will be like why did you put that in there and I say, because so and so told me to and he shakes his head. Well he can't blame me because unless he wants to give me his home number so I can call anytime I have a problem, I'm going to have to do what people that supposedly know more than me on the subject tell me to. So yeah, it is difficult getting good advice there and aside from that some of them have very unconventional fishkeeping practices and take risks and experiment with stuff I would never dare do.

Regarding water changes, I will try your method of 25% alternating with 50% every other day. It won't shock/stress the fish to have 50% changed out? As for the things I put in the tank, what I have is made by Kordon and is Novaqua Plus, which is the water conditioner and it says "Adds protective fish slime. Detoxifies chlorine & chloramines and removes toxic chemicals". It came with the second bottle which is Amquel Plus and it says, " Detoxifies Nitrate, Nitrite, Ammonia, Chlorine and Chloramines". I see they both detoxify chlorine/chloramines but the former doesn't say anything about ammonia. Maybe this is something to use only when your tank is cycling? Btw, with water changes every other day, do I gravel vac each time or just once a week?

I also fed them this morning. The tetras swam for their food but only one of them is really eating voraciously, the other ate one pellet and swam away. Also, the betta wants so desperately to eat and when I put his pellet in, he swam up for it but didn't eat and swam back down. I wonder if he is too tired to stay up there any longer than a second or two. Normally he attacks his food like a lion tearing meat apart. At least today he swam all the way up for his food, yesterday all he could do was lift his head looking for the food.

About the splotches on bettas head, to my untrained eye, it looks more like he scratched himself somewhere. I do have hard decorations like the big clam shell aerator that he could have scratched his head on. The gash on his face looks more like a scratch than anything. The spot on top of his head is more a round spot but the same colour and type as the face one. If you look at it, it is not something growing on top of his skin, rather an absence of scales that has been scraped off maybe. It seems to have faded in intensity this morning and more matching his colouring. Hopefully that means he is healing.

As for the white thingy, it may have been a worm. It wasn't a long thing, more like a caviar shape as I said before. I am trying to see if it is still there but he is not really staying in one place right now so I have to wait till that side of him is facing me. That said, one of the tetras still has two white flake things attached to his fins. One on his dorsal fin and the other on his tail fin. I'll try to get better pictures today of everyone. The betta hasn't been darting at all that I have seen, although he might have initially been doing that and that is how he scratched up his face. Also, on either side of his face just before the gills his red colour seems to be gone and it looks silvery. Not sure if this was always like this and I am just seeing it becuase I am really inspecting him up close.

You asked about him throwing up. Honestly, I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it happen myself. I happened to be watching him at that moment when he started to make big chewing movements with his mouth and then this white,flaky stuff came out. It was definitely not uneaten food because at that point, he hadn't eaten in a couple of days. Also, I gave him his usual pellets which he normally devours and I have seen him spit it out a couple of times if it is too big and then eventually eat it. This was most def. puking! Oh, and I just saw his gill, it seems the thing hanging off of it is not there anymore but I did see some more white poop at its butt. That is not normal right? Doesn't that indicate some kind of parasite?

For meds, I treated with the third dose of triple sulfa yesterday (second round) but then the pet store guy told me to stop medicating, and he said to put the carbon filter back in. I am at a loss now as to what to do. I think there is something going on that needs treating but what is the right thing to treat with? I don't want to get my fish high on all kinds of different meds but I also don't want to ignore something that isn't going to get better on its own.

Thanks again, it's very kind of you to try to sort through these things with me. Sigh...
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