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Old 08-11-2011, 12:11 AM   #1 
SVC
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Betta Hanging In a Corner and Parameters Question

I wrote in a few days ago on the issues I was having in my roughly 2 month old tank.

In a nutshell for anyone who hasn't seen that thread, I have a 10 gallon, heated, filtered tank that used to house 5 neon tetras and a red veil tail Betta.

Just before the weekend, I started losing tetras and the betta was really lethargic for a day or two. I had been battling ammonia problems in my tank for a couple of weeks before that and my levels around that time had reached about 1-2 ppm. Also in the short history of my tank, the fish had been treated for ich (Rid Ich) and fin rot (Triple Sulfa). Yes, there was a lot going on in my tank and as I have been told, it likely wiped out any good bacteria I had going.

Currently, of my two remaining tetras, one looks like it won't make it to tomorrow. It has lost a significant amount of colour and has been really breathing fast. The other tetra looks stronger than him but not by much. I thought I saw goldish dust on them but that is supposed to be uncommon in a freshwater tank and the betta is not showing any outward signs of this, so neon tetra disease is the other thing that comes to mind. I am sure this was all brought on by the problems w/water quality.

The issue is this; my betta has been a lot more active this past day or two, I would say mostly back to normal, but he has picked up a couple of new habits. One is that he likes to go hide under the gravel/decorations, to a point where I couldn't find him for a good 15 minutes, and the other is that he has taken to hanging vertically (nose up) in the one inch space between my filter and tank wall. He sometimes stays there for a few minutes, and others longer and he is blowing what looks like a bubble nest. At first I was excited thinking that he must be feeling better and happier, but then I read somewhere that a betta who is very sick, almost dying, will sometimes hang vertically and blow bubbles. I don't know what to think. Is he that sick and I don't know it or is it just something he's doing? When he is not up there, he is swimming around and even flaring. He seems much more alert and active than he was a couple of days ago but I am worrying because he was sick and because these are new behaviours. If anyone has some experience on this suject, I would greatly appreciate it.

My second question is about water parameters. Like I said I had been having ammonia problems and was taking my water into Petsmart for testing and it was always ammonia high, rest of the readings 0. I got an API Master test kit and when I tested yesterday and today, my ammonia was only a touch above 0, I would give it 0.1, nitrite 0, nitrate 0. Yesterday a few hours after a PWC, my PH was 6.8-7.0 and today it has gone down to 6.2. Why would that drop so much in one day? Also, I tested my untreated tap water and I had ammonia between .25 and .5 just in my tap water. Could this be contributing to my ammonia problems in my tank? What do I do to combat this problem as no one seems to recommend using ammonia detoxifiers.

Sorry this was so long. There is just a lot going on in my tank. I wish it would settle down and I could enjoy it some instead of constantly worrying and treating things! lol

Needless to say, thanks in advance for any input!
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Old 08-11-2011, 02:16 AM   #2 
Sakura8
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What water conditioner are you using? If you don't already use it, I would highly suggest using Seachem Prime for your tank because it will help to neutralize ammonia by turning it into the less toxic ammonium. It can also be used in a pinch to neutralize an ammonia spike (instructions on bottle). Also, I wouldn't advise getting any more tetras until the tank has stabilized. They're rather delicate and I don't think they'd survive the recycling process you appear to be going through. I'm not sure about your dropping pH, though. I would retest again and see what the results are.

One other note: don't use any bacterial agents to help cycle your tank. I hear they really screw the cycle up and make your readings all wonky, causing you to think the tank is cycled when it's not. If you need more help with cycling, you can PM me or check the forum for tips.

Is your betta eating? If your betta is active, I don't think he is hanging there blowing death bubbles. Normally, those bettas who hang nose to the top and blow bubbles are so sick they can't swim right and so end up on their tails like that and the bubbles come from them gasping for air. Those bettas don't swim around, they just hang there like that until they die. :( It sounds like your guy feels better. Hopefully. Keep an eye on him to make sure he is eating and not acting abnormally, like darting or flashing or acting lethargic.

Hope this helps. Keep us posted.
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Old 08-11-2011, 09:23 AM   #3 
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Good morning Sakura8! Thanks for responding. :)

All along, I have been using Kordon's Novaqua Plus as a dechlorinator and Amquel ammonia detoxifier with every water change. This is per Pet store where I bought all my equipment. I knew nothing of fishkeeping when I started so whatever they told me, I did. Now having read a lot online and especially in light of the last week's probems, I have seen that I should not be using the Amquel as a regular thing. I thought it was part of treating the new water each time. In addition, I was told to put in some bacteria supplement. The one I have is Top Fin. Later on when I kept having ammonia problems, I was given Stress Zyme Plus in an effort to quickly boost my good bacteria to help deal with the ammonia. I didn't know it could screw things up. :/

On my last trip to the pet store to get my water test kit, the guy that set me up on the whole system (and knows my whole sordid tank history from start to finish), suggested I go with Prime. Apparently it dechlorinates as well as neutralizes ammonia. Isn't that just the same as what I was currently using though with the two Kordon products? Anyway, I will use the Prime on my next water change.

I just tested my PH again, and this time it is a definite 6. Since it is the lowest on the scale, could it be even lower and I don't know it? I am very hesitant about adding PH upping products whether store bought or baking soda type because I don't want to make things unstable rising and dropping all the time but I can't figure out why my ph would drop so much. At one point a couple of weeks ago, it was almost at 8! I know bettas prefer slightly acidic but perhaps this is why he was so lethargic a few days ago. I did read that ph crashes can weaken/kill fish too.

I also tested my ammonia this morning and it is now showing 0 but it smells so bad like a sewer! Should I do another water change? The last one was two days ago.

As of this morning, the two tetras were STILL alive. The one that I thought wouldn't last has pretty much lost all his colour though and is now a silvery white, yet he still has the energy to run away from the other one who is trying to pick at him. Since they are in the small QT sitting in display tank, do I need to do a complete water change or just half? There's only about 2-2.5 inches of water in there. Oh, and assuming these two don't eventually make it, I will not be adding more tetras period because they have not been kind to my betta (nipping, no chomping his fins and stressing him out). I will do more research and not take pet store input as bible when choosing future tank mates - but nothing for now till this tank is cycled properly for real!

Finally, my betta hasn't surfaced yet since I have been up . I think he is in his new hiding/sleeping place under the clam shell aerator. I am tempted to probe him out but I want to see if he will emerge on his own. Yesterday he was pretty energetic and while he looked very creepy hanging in the corner blowing bubbles, it was definitely not the kind where he couldn't move and was gasping for air. He would do it and then go swimming all over the place. I wouldn't say he was darting or flashing per se, but he was a bit hyper for lack of a better word. Like sometimes he would purposely get close to a decoration, barely touch it and then jump away. Is this him playing? I think flashing is more like ramming into things hard to scratch themselves. So yesterday, he ate for the first time and actually kept it down. Prior he was eating but spitting back up again and this morning, he also spat back up. Something is definitely not right with him. Tomorrow it will be a week since he hasn't eaten properly. Don't know if I am dealing with some kind of parasite or bacteria or what. All I know is that this fish needs something. Any ideas?
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Old 08-11-2011, 10:35 AM   #4 
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And good morning to you.

Per your water conditioner. I don't have any experience with Amquel but it does seem like Prime does the same thing as Amquel and your Kordon Novaquel, just in one product. If Amquel neutralizes the ammonia by turning it into ammonium, then they work the same. I will say an added benefit of Prime is that it is highly concentrated so it only takes a tiny bit for each water change, meaning one medium-size bottle can go a long way.

I've used Stress Zyme Plus myself but that was before I was involved in someone else's unfortunate cycling experience where false readings led to the death of the betta. I believe it's very hard to keep the proper kinds of bacteria alive while sitting on a shelf so often the types of bacteria in the biological agents are the wrong kind, usually of a more terrestrial persuasion. It seems that those kind of products add something that gives you nitrate readings right from the start, which shouldn't happen. During a normal cycle, the ammonia will get high and then level out as the ammonia-eating bacteria grow and nitrite appears. This first part can take about 2 weeks or more. But because you're waiting for the ammonia-eating bacteria, which puts out nitrite as its waste, it should be IMPOSSIBLE to get any nitrate readings during the first few weeks unless you are cycling with an established filter or gravel from an established tank. Nitrate usually doesn't show up until maybe the 4th or 5th week of the cycling process.

If your ammonia is consistently reading 0, then it's time to start testing for nitrites as well. If the nitrites get too high, that can also cause the fish harm so maybe that's why the tank smells awful? Aaah, that lovely sewer tank smell. Yup, I've smelled it before. I would test for nitrite and then do a partial water change.

I'm incredibly puzzled as to why your pH keeps plummeting. Do you have hard or soft water? And do you happen to know what the pH is from untreated tap water? Usually pH isn't such a big deal with bettas, or most fish for that matter. If the change is fairly gradual, they will adjust to almost any pH. Mine is at the high end of the scale, around 7.8, but all my bettas adapted and are doing fine. Using any kind of pH uppers/downers can get very tricky because you have to match the pH exactly with each water change to avoid shocking your fish. A wildly fluctuating pH is way more harmful than a pH that higher or lower than what they are accustomed to. So, basically, what we need to do is find out why your pH is fluctuating and fix it so it doesn't do that. Ergh, easier said than done.

I would probably do a complete water change on the tetras' QT tank since there isn't much water in there. I'm surprised they're still alive. If they do make it, will you put them back in or just keep them in a separate tank? And yeah, pet store employees unfortunately don't always (if ever) know what they are talking about. Some people have had success with tetras as tankmates but usually it's what you've experienced: a lot of nipping and chasing. If you do want tetras, I'd suggest bigger ones. Rasboras are a good choice because they're a lot calmer than tetras. Also try platies.

I would say if your guy hasn't come up for air in the next hour, definitely start poking around in case he got trapped. If he can't surface for air, he'll drown. I know, a fish drowning. As for his food. It's possible his pellets are too big, the way he spits them out seems to indicate that. Have you tried crushing them into smaller pieces? You can also try presoaking them in tank water to soften them. If that fails, you can try frozen bloodworms to see if he'll eat anything at all. If he won't eat frozen bloodworms, he's definitely getting sick.

It's possible the pH fluctuations are causing him to act jumpy and a little crazy. Flashing is as you said, usually contact with something in an attempt to dislodge external parasites. Is he bloated at all? You can use a flashlight to see if he has any white or golden spots.
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Old 08-11-2011, 11:18 AM   #5 
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Ok, lots to go through and absorb (is there a dizzy emoticon?? lol).

First, I am finally getting the nitrogen cycle through my head gradually which is a big improvement on my original idea of buy fishtank, insert fish, enjoy! The only thing is that I am encountering a lot of bumps along the way. It seems to me that after 2 months, my tank is still pretty much uncycled! This may be due to the round with rid ich and two rounds of triple sulfa it was fed in such a short time.

I also hear you where Stress Zyme is concerned. It seemed like a miracle product when my tank was going through the really cloudy, ugly period and after weeks of that, it cleared it up within a few days. That said, every since I started the tank, I have been getting 0 readings for everything but ammonia. First I would take my water into pet store for testing and finally I broke down and bought my own master test kit. I made sure not to get strips b/c I have ready EVERYWHERE that they are not as reliable as the liquid tests. Probably the cloudiness was a bacterial bloom and had I ridden it out, I would have had the good bacteria to eat up my ammonia and complete my cycle. Live and learn, right?

Anyway, where readings are concerned, my ammonia was 0 this morning and nitrites/nitrates were both 0 last night (around midnight) and the night before. I didn't test those this morning because they are always 0. The guy at the pet store said my tank was so clean, it was like there were no fish living in there. That probably translates to uncycled tank because if it was cycled, I should have seen numbers in the nitrates/ites by now. So nitrites being 0, what would account for that horrible smell. It makes me lightheaded as it takes over the room especially a few days after a water change when whatever it is is buidling up. I haven't tested my tap water for nitrites/ates, however I did test my tap water for ammonia and right out of the spout, the ammonia is around 0.5 so that must mean something right? That means that I probably don't have true 0 ammonia in my tank as the Amquel Plus I had been using is just converting that to ammonium.

The PH is a whole other issue. I don't know either why it is falling like that after a water change. I also realize that having a stable but not perfect ph is better than having a good ph that won't stay where it is. I don't know if my water is hard or soft, I'll have to ask my utility company. The guy at pet smart told me I could put a sea shell in the tank to help with the ph. Is that ok or would that be the same as using ph up like product? I know factors like KH and GH have some bearing on the overall ph too although I haven't got my head wrapped around that one yet. In a way it is better that my ph is low because if it was high, the results would have been really bad when mixed with the ammonia spikes I was having!

As for the fish; yes, I am surprised too that the tetras are still alive. I feel so bad watching them just get worse but I don't know if I have the guts to euthanize them. I always have this hope that they might recover somehow. If they survive, I will keep them separated because I know they will just harrass the betta again. They never bothered him in the beginning, it has just been this last few weeks that they have been after his tail.

Speaking of mr. betta, he didn't surface and I prodded and prodded and he had really wedged himself under the clam decoration. He was fine though and keeps going back in there despite my efforts at covering the access with gravel. It's one of those things that opens and closes as air comes through the tube and the bottom of it is not flat, but concave so when he goes under there, he's got a half to three quarter inch space under there. I had to lift the thing up with my reacher and he reluctantly came out. I don't know why he wants to hide away all day.

Unfortunately, he didn't want to eat this morning. Yesterday he came to the surface waiting for food, today I had to really get his attention and when it was right in front of his nose, he ate it but then just spat it back out a few seconds later. I have always pre soaked his food as some of the pellets are quite big and I try to give him freeze dried worms/daphnia/mysis shrimp and he wants none of it. He will take it in and spit it out from day one. All he wants are the pellets. I haven't tried the frozen foods though but I doubt he'll want them. He's weird, I guess.

So far he has been out and about after I probed him out and aside from not eating and hiding under that decoration, he seems pretty active. I have been taking a flashlight to both him and the tetras for the last couple of days, and while I suspected the tetras had some fine gold dust looking thing, the betta does not. Nor does he have spots or anything.

I will do another water change this afternoon and see how things go. I also had some aquarium salt in the tank (maybe a couple of teaspoons total). Could that decrease the ph?

Thanks for all your input. I hope there will be a light at the end of the tunnel soon.
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Old 08-11-2011, 12:05 PM   #6 
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Dizzy emoticon:

Yeah, even if you remove the carbon in your filter, that many rounds of meds could probably mess with the tank cycle. Also, it's just a crazy process and it seems to get more and more complicated, even though it's supposed to be straightforward. I'll be honest: I gave up on consciously trying to cycle my tank. I just did lots of water changes and let it figure things out on its own. But I also only had one betta to worry about. I was like you, I did so many water changes because I was afraid my betta was suffering that there was never any ammonia in the tank for it to cycle with. That's why I eventually gave up. It did cycle, just very slowly. I sent you a message that hopefully clears up the entire cycling process.

Now I'm cycling a community tank with 4 cory cats and 6 danios. I didn't realize I needed to cycle the tank, it was established or so I thought. Then I remembered the filter broke and I had to get a new one, with all new filter media. Yay.

Yes, you're right, you most likely don't have absolute 0 ammonia if your tap water has ammonia in it to start with. I believe, and I may be wrong, that the API test kits only test for true ammonia whereas some kits don't differentiate between ammonia and ammonium but will give you a false reading.

As for your pH, I'm just not sure about it. I did send a message to a friend who is a water chemistry genius so hopefully she'll find the thread and check on it within the day or so. She'll know more about whether or not aquarium salt would affect pH and that sort of thing than me.

It sounds like your betta definitely doesn't feel well if he wants to hide. Not the most promising of signs. Normally I would say try AQ salt but since you've had some in there and it doesn't seem to be helping, I might suggest putting him in a small QT container for observation. It can be a small bowl or ideally a 1 gallon tank, something that can be heated. A loss of appetite can mean a bacterial infection, parasites or constipation. Is he bloated at all and has he been pooping?

As for his food, I would definitely suggest trying to crush them up. You could also try soaking the pellet in garlic juice (crush some garlic, add tank water, soak). Garlic is an appetite booster as well as an immune system booster. You could also try smaller pellets such as New Life Spectrum Small Fish Formula .5mm pellets. Those are seriously tiny so if the size of the pellet is the issue, these would be easy to eat. Your tetras can eat them too. Has he eaten anything at all in the past several days, aside from the pellet he ate yesterday or the day before yesterday?
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Old 08-11-2011, 12:50 PM   #7 
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lol @ dizzy/crazy emoticon = ME!

When medicating, I did indeed remove the carbon but not the black sponge. The Rid Ich bottle says "will not harm biological filters" wihile the Triple Sulfa says nothing. Probably the latter did a number on any good stuff I had growing. Anyway, part of my problem is the constant conflict of information I got along the way. Not blaming anyone here, everyone has their own methods and theories and I am sure if you ask 10 people how to cycle a tank, you'll get at least 11 answers. Ha! For instance, the guy I got most of my advice from at pet store, is extremely smart, knowledgeable and has been doing this a long time BUT, he is most experimental and will try to push limits on everything he does to constantly see what he can come up with next. Someone like that giving advice to a newbie might not be the best match. Beyond that, the other guy there that is supposed to be an even bigger fish expert than the first guy, said he doesn't bother with any cycling. He just plops the fish in the tank and that's it. He also said his betta never got fed for 3 months while he was away at school and when he came home, it was fat, and well and healthy as anything. Go figure. I guess he has a green, er, wet thumb? So the sad truth remains, that my experience will probably be similar to yours. I was actually discouraged from doing frequent water changes because it would mess with my bacteria but if my ammonia was climbing to more than dangerous levels, what else should a person do? In any case, I will read your nitrogen cycle email very gladly!! Thanks for sending it., Also, good luck with your community tank! Despite the bummer about the broken filter, I am sure this round of cycling will go easier for you! I look forward to that one day myself. Yeah, my head is in the clouds!

As for the PH, I will look forward to hearing from your friend if they have a chance. I definitely need enlightening. Makes me wish I paid more attention in science class back in the day! Funny how the stuff we hated back then becomes so interesting later on in life. I was almost giddy dropping the chemicals in the vials for the water test. lol But I digress...

So yes, while my betta is quite active when he is out, he is hiding quite a bit and I don't like that at all. He will go under there and disappear for hours at a time or when I poke him out.

Also, I have heard about the garlic juice trick. I might have to try that to coax him to eat. I put in a couple of pellets for the tetras and the less sick one gobbled them up and wanted more but the sick one didn't eat. I do indeed have the New Life Brand teeny pellets and that is what I always give the tetras. i squirt them in the water with a plastic kids meds syringe and that way the get to eat them before the betta attacks them. For the betta, I am feeding the Omega One super colour pellets but I find them quite large and so I always presoak the pellets before giving them to him. Once they are soaked, he has never had a problem eating them even if it takes a couple of bites to do it. So when he didn't eat this morning but came up and was looking hungry at the top a little while ago, I tried a few of the tetras small pellets and he ate them. As far as I saw he didn't spit them out although I don't know what happens when he hides under the decor again. I just feel better that he ate something. It was a week ago today that he was really lethargic and totally uninterested in eating or moving. So he had a pellet yesterday, and a few mini ones today. He hung around looking for more but I didn't want to push it since he's not 100%.

Regarding what could be wrong with him, at this point I'm stumped. He doesn't really have any outward signs of anything. I was treating him for fin rot and had completed one full course of 4 doses and then was on my second one, when I was told to stop and leave the tank alone. When I started treatment for fin rot though, he was fine and acting and eating normal. However, there is something in this tank that killed 3 tetras and is doing in the others too. The one tetra has totally lost its colour and has very rapid breathing. Like I said I saw some goldish looking stuff on the top along the spine but not sure if that is velvet or just him shining as they are pearly looking to begin with. Since they are pretty much at death's door in the QT tank, I added a drop of Rid Ich to see if there would be any improvement. I figure I had nothing to lose with them.

As for the betta, I don't know if he has pooped. I usually see his quite large brown mounds on the gravel but not lately. When he was really sick a few days ago, I noticed there was white poop stuck to his butt. i thought that meant parasites. There is also a lot of white dandruff like flakes floating all in the water when you disturb the gravel. Different than the usual brownish residue that comes up. I have no idea what that is and looked online but the only thing I could find is some kind of worms etc and itis not like that. They are outright flakes. I think I will go out and buy another little critter keeper like the one the tetras are in and float the betta in there so I can monitor his intake/output. Also, since the tank will be empty, hopefully if there is some parasite in there, they'll die off faster without a host.

Wow, that is quite an eyeful for you! Sorry ._. I will actually try to upload a couple of pictures I took of him so that you can see if you detect anything off about him. Btw, HIS name is Princess the Goldie - named of course by my 5 year old!
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Old 08-11-2011, 01:16 PM   #8 
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Here are some pics.

One is of the underside of his gills. Is it supposed to be white? On one side there is more of a white section (size of a pencil eraser) but he wouldn't let me get him on that side.

There's one that is him from the side and the angle makes him look more bloated than he really is. Too look at him, he doesn't look bloated.

The others are his whole body.
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Old 08-11-2011, 11:19 PM   #9 
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Just glancing at the pics I can say, yes, usually the underside of the gills on a red fish like him are paler and he does look just a teeeeeensy bit bloated but as you said, it could be the pics. He looks like a big guy or is that my imagination?
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Old 08-12-2011, 04:22 AM   #10 
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Hello there~ I apologize for not seeing this thread earlier...also I apologize for not reading this entire thing, I sort of skimmed through it because it was somewhat repetitive.

Could you please help me by answering the following questions:
a) How often and how much have you been changing the water in the attempt to fix your pH?
b) Do you know the KH or dKH of your water?
c) How often and how much do you normally change your water?

Another thing you can do for me is to leave a bucket of freshly treated water over the course of 24h, testing it periodically.

For your ammonia spike, low pH can cause your beneficial bacteria to cease functioning, or at least under perform. They don't like it, xD

As it stands right now, my *personal* course of action would be to do the largest water change you can physically do (something like 95%). I believe that the amount of medication you have been using may have caused some disruption in your water's buffering capacity, and still lingers.

I will check back on this tomorrow! I hope your tetras and betta get well soon :)
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