My 1 year-old betta has been acting really strangely for about a week and a half now. I think it's swim bladder disease, but I'm not sure. He first started swimming vertically and "gasping" at the surface for air. Then after a water change, the vertical swimming stopped, but he would swim lopsided or just completely flop to the bottom, pathetically. Either way he seems very weak and swimming seems very difficult for him. He'll try to make a mad dash to the surface every few minutes, but for the most part, he just lies on the bottom, motionless. He seems to be unable to keep himself afloat, hence, the sinking.
I tried to research swim bladder disorder and all anyone said to do was to try fasting him for several days. It's been over a week now, and still so sign of improvement. Also someone said to try feeding him a shelled pea, but he made no attempts to eat it. I've only ever fed him dried bloodworms, without pre-soaking them, which is probably why he got this way in the first place. Does this sound like swim bladder disorder? Is there anything I can or should be doing for him?
1. Lower the water level for him.
2. Start him on 1 tsp/gal epsom salt (premix in some tank water before a water change. Add him after the salt has been dissolved and added to the tank).
3. Raise the tank temp to around 80 if possible.
4. 100% water changes every day while redosing the salt at 1 tsp/gal each time.
Try and get him onto a better diet of pellets (Find the one with the highest protein content that doesn't have too many soy and/or wheat products since bettas cannot digest those well). He should have pellets as the staple of his diet with blood worms as a weekly treat or meal replacement. they aren't high in fiber or anything else other than protein, so it's best as a treat instead of his main diet.
Fast him for a few more days while he's on the epsom salt and watch his poop closely (The epsom salt will make him go while helping his swim bladder). It should still be normal, if not a little bit less dense than regular since the epsom salt is a laxative. If his poop is stringy and white, however, then you should post back and let us know immediately.
Also, the pea method is not so good for bettas. It's actually for constipated goldfish, but some people have used it to some success with bettas. Bettas are insectivores primarily, so they can't digest plant matter very well. Daphnia is what you should try feeding if fasting doesn't work within a few days since it works as a natural laxative for them. Epsom should be a last resort.
I'll try the epsom salt and also try looking for some daphnia for him. I should add though, I did feed him a couple bloodworms last night and he finally managed to swim up to them. I felt too guilty fasting him!
Also important to add is his coloration. He seems really pale along his ridge and on his body, especially toward his head. Whereas he's usually a deep red, he's now a pale grey/yellow color. His head is almost all white, and his fins look like they've been splashed with shiny silver paint. His stomach is a scaly shiny-reflective silver, although maybe that's just part of his normal coloration?
Okay, here's some pictures. As you can see, his head is almost white and his once rich red color is now washed-out and dull. I just changed out his water with the epsom salt, and he's just lying on the bottom on his side and gasping. What can I do?