I could fill out the form, but to be honest I don't think it will help as much as my detailed history, because I feel like there's something bigger going on here due to circumstances. Sorry for the mega long post. I felt all information over the last year was necessary. And maybe I'm just being paranoid but I see so much similar in behavior I can't help but be worried.
It's the same song and dance from one year ago. Let me go back to that time and explain what happened with my Petco bettas for some history.
First one. Looked healthy in the store. And that was enough of a challenge. My local Petco is AWFUL for taking care of the bettas. If any of them don't eat; they don't remove the food. It sits there and rots, or grows mold. So in most of their cups there are fuzzy particles of organic matter, which I can only assume is food or feces. While the water itself is always clear, sometimes the plastic cups are dirty enough to have what appears to look like diatoms on the bottom; or at least something that resembles it, as it is a brown slime that is not free floating. So a year ago, I did the best I could finding a betta that looked interactive and did not have particles of anything mysterious in the water.
I brought him home. He explored for maybe one day, ate a little (fed lightly the first day). Woke up the next day and he spent all day hiding in the cave I had in the tank. He also refused to eat. So, hiding all day and not eating were his two symptoms. Physically...there was absolutely no indication that there was anything wrong. No fuzz, bright color, etc. Over the next 6 days he just withered away, until one day I found him dead. In all; I had him 7 days.
So I took him back to Petco and picked out another, thinking it was just a fluke of circumstances. When I went back , 70% of their stock of bettas were either dying or dead. The ones that looked like they were dying, were floating at the surface, had clamped fins, etc. I picked a healthy looking one, with "mostly" visibly clean water. I brought him home; he did his part exploring the first day, again, ate a little, even flared for a mirror as the first one had. The next day it was the same scenario all over again. He hid and would not eat. And almost a mirror image of what had happened with the first..he died in another exactly 7 days.
I took him back again; and got store credit. I feared that I would have a problem with their stock for a 3rd time. To be safe, in case it was a virulent disease, I put scalding hot water in the tank (2.5 gallon) with an EXTREME concentration of aquarium salt, and ran that mixture through the filter and everything for a day or two, so it had time to run through all the parts, in the hopes I would nuke any bacteria or parasites that would be hiding out. I realize that procedure would not necessarily kill all of them; but the only bacteria I am aware of that might survive such a temperature and salt concentration was the mycobacteria (TB) and I did not have any suspicion that it was the cause of death. In any case, I did this and rinsed out really well; and trotted off to Petsmart for another because I did not trust Petco's stock anymore.
The little guy I got from Petsmart behaved completely normally and delightfully. So I chalked up the experience with Petco to a disease being shared around their bettas, as undoubtedly there would have been cross contamination involved.
So now here we are a 1 year+ later. And conditions of the fish in there have not changed. I went in there yesterday with trepidation, because of what happened last time. So I fairly harrassed 2 employees with multiple questions, one of which looked to be at the least a department manager (not the fish section though). I told them what happened a year ago, and explained that I lost them both in exactly 7 days. I also explained that I did not come back for so long because I lost faith in the store. I told them if I lost this one, that I would never buy live fish from them again, of any sort. Some of the things I asked: how hard was the water? My water is hard, and has a nitrate reading out of the tap. This is why when I get any new fish at all, be it betta or community fish, that I take care acclimating them. Many on this forum just float the cups for proper temp. and then replace half the water at once. I don't do that. I take maybe 2 oz. of water out of the cup at a time, and replace that with another 2 oz. of fresh water from my tank. Once I have what looks to be all the water out of the old cup; I release them. And as what happened yesterday; this usually takes over an hour. So except for drip acclimation, I feel like my procedures for it should be solid enough for bettas. Anyway, when I asked (and this was the one that looked like management, based on how he was dressed), I was told they used "filtered water" for the bettas. What does that mean?? If I am umderstanding right...doesn't that mean it likely lacks essential minerals, and why we don't normally recommend using it for our bettas? I was always under the impression that dechlorinated and treated tap water (or well water) was best for them. In any case...doesn't this also mean the water is probably really soft? And mine is really hard...
Anyway I also scolded him a bit on how horrible the cups were being taken care of (if at all). The moldy food or feces, the brown slime on the bottom of the cups. And I was told they "just lost 3 people" so the water isn't getting changed as often as it should. But since I was there a year ago and saw the same conditions I didn't really believe that was the reason, not that there is any excuse for it. They would be better off not feeding them but once a week if they are going to leave rotten food in the cups. I pointed all this out; and the guy I talked to told me he got a couple bettas from the store and didn't lose them like I did. But I bet ya he picked his bettas up right after a shipment when they didn't have much time to ferment in their own waste.
So anyway I picked up Danzig; and while he looked probably the healthiest, he didn't have that "zing" that my other bettas at home have. He was slow, looked shy, wasn't flaring at his neighbors. But I figured once I had him in some clean water that he would pull through. I spent about an hour and 20 minutes acclimating him to my water; and he ate 2 pellets, of the smaller sort (so the meals are bigger as a rule). So basically all he had was a snack. But he did eat them, so I felt like he had a chance. I didn't want to stress him too much, so I let him see his reflection for maybe 30 seconds or so; I mostly just wanted to see if he would react to it, and I figured he wouldn't flare if he was ill. He flared yesterday, so I felt more confident. But I had forgotten; that the 2 I had a year ago from Petco also flared on the first day.
Today I woke up and opened the drapes, so he had enough light to know it was morning. He didn't come to the front for food. But I did try to feed him again; and he ate 2 pellets again, albeit very cautiously. But regardless, I fear for him now. He is lying around, either at the bottom, or floating at the top. While I wouldn't say his fins are clamped; he is holding them closer than he did yesterday. ALL my other bettas...aside from the ones from Petco, by the second day (and sometimes the first day), they would always start exploring their tank. I always give my bettas enough to entertain themselves; and seeing how much they enjoy it is the reason I never recommend less than 2.5 gallons for them when someone asks. But Danzig is not doing that. He looks like he has gone downhill already. And he is behaving EXACTLY (so far ) as the other two I lost from Petco previously.
Now maybe he will improve...I don't really know. But based on past history I am not feeling all that confident. And I can't figure out what I can really do to make it better, because at this point I don't even think this is a disease situation anymore. I'm wondering, if maybe they are kept too long in horrible water in the store; and that going from super horrid to super clean water is too much for their weakened systems to bear. Or, if their water is filtered...the chemistry is so vastly different that no amount of acclimating will help them get over the shock of the difference?? Or being filtered they have been denied essential minerals that have weakened them? I'm at a loss.
I know it's only been a day and I could be a nervous nellie. But since his health seems to have degraded some overnight, when he is in vastly superior conditions, I am not feeling that he will make it. Based on past history...I suspect he will degrade over the next few days and I will lose him..just like the other two, unless he has some miraculous will to survive and can make it past this stage.
The only other thing that sent off the alarm bells in my head. In the conversation with the manager type I was told they had increased their return policy on the bettas to 30 days. If they really needed to do that that should tell them they aren't doing something right. So basically I have a month for my heart to be broken again.
I'm sorry for this long novel. But I don't know what to do. I feel like I have done everything I can; and that my clean water might kill him. I don't see any sign of disease; so if you have any other ideas on what could be doing this with their bettas, please let me know. I would love to be able to give a Petco betta a loving home...especially since I feel like they are all being abused in that environment. But I can't do that if my efforts are going to kill them.
(continued on next post due to character limits)