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Old 11-17-2011, 11:13 AM   #1 
chicagojo
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Join Date: Oct 2011
Fish "stuck" at surface and eating own bubbles - SBD or something else?

Housing
What size is your tank? currently in .75G QT
What temperature is your tank? around 70 (heater is supposed to arrive today and then my plan is to float the QT tank in a 2.5G heated tank until this issue is resolved)
Does your tank have a filter? No
Does your tank have an air stone or other type of aeration? No
Is your tank heated? No but heater is ordered & due to arrive today
What tank mates does your betta fish live with? None

Food
What type of food do you feed your betta fish? Hikari Gold pellets
How often do you feed your betta fish? Was feeding 2 pellets 2x/day (4 total) before issues began; fasted for 3 days last week, then fed 1 pellet/day for 2 days, now fasting again starting today

Maintenance

How often do you perform a water change? Daily right now, was doing 2x/week previously
What percentage of the water do you change when you perform a water change? 100% now due to small QT tank
What type of additives do you add to the water when you perform a water change? Water conditioner (was using Betta Plus, switched to API Stress Coat) and I have been putting Epsom salt 1 tsp/G - did this for 4 days (3 days beyond when he was last on his side per a rec I got here previously when a different fish had SBD), then stopped for 2 days but he got worse again so I added the Epsom with last night's water change.

Water Parameters:
Have you tested your water? If so, what are the following parameters?
Have not tested
Ammonia:
Nitrite:
Nitrate:
pH:
Hardness:
Alkalinity:

Symptoms and Treatment
How has your betta fish's appearance changed? Looks a little bloated. Color is still same/good.
How has your betta fish's behavior changed? Last Thurs he seemed to have classic symptoms of SBD - bloating, struggling to swim, trouble getting away from the surface of the water, and even started swimming on his side. He also kept blowing these HUGE bubbles and then "eating" them. I put him in QT tank with Epsom Salts and began fasting him. He pooped that day and seemed 100% better by Monday evening so I stopped the Epsom Salts and started feeding him 1 pellet/day again. Last night I noticed he seemed to be getting worse again - floating at the surface, looking more bloated again, struggling when swimming, and doing the weird bubble eating thing again. I did a 100% water change re-introducing the Epsom and began fasting him again. He pooped within 30 min of that and seemed to be doing a bit better and swimming around more actively and easily last night, but this morning (still in the Epsom bath) he is able to swim downward in the QT tank but keeps popping right back up to the top and still appears a little bloated. Overall, he has been less active although he had regained his usual activity level Sunday/Monday which was why I declared him "cured"
When did you start noticing the symptoms? Last Thursday, then again last night.
Have you started treating your fish? If so, how? Yes, as described above.
Does your fish have any history of being ill? Not before last Thursday
How old is your fish (approximately)? Not sure, I got him from my LPS about 1 month ago. His fins are mature so I am guessing he is about a year?

I tried to take a pic but it didn't turn out too well so I will try again later. I have been assuming this is SBD but could it be something else? My plan now is to do a full 10-day course of Epsom because maybe I stopped too soon before? Should I fast him that whole time as well? That would be a total of more than 2 weeks with eating only 2 pellets the whole time. I could also see if I can get frozen daphnia - my LPS doesn't have but there is a Petco not too far away that might carry. Anything else I should be considering? And I've searched for other posts about fish eating their own bubbles but couldn't find anything - is this behavior a sign of anything specific?
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Old 11-17-2011, 06:23 PM   #2 
chicagojo
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Just a quick update - I got home from work just now and he seems to be more active, swimming around more but he still seems to just automatically float straight up towards the top of the tank the moment he stops to rest - it's like he's too buoyant and can't keep himself on the bottom even if he wants to. The heater did arrive while I was at work so I'm hoping to get everything set up tonight so I can gradually acclimate him to a more appropriate temperature starting tomorrow - not sure if that will help?

So other than heating his tank (which I was planning to do anyway before any of this started but had some fiascos with the heater order that delayed things a bit beyond what I expected), continuing the Epsom salts, and fasting, anything else anyone would recommend?
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Old 11-18-2011, 01:25 AM   #3 
Sakura8
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Location: Elk Grove, California
Is he still eating? And did you perchance do a water change right before this happened? Sometimes if the temperature of the old water and the new water is too different, it can cause a kind of temperature shock that results in swim bladder problems.

Continue with the epsom salts for 10 days at least and then maybe 3 days after that to make extra sure. You can keep them in epsom salts indefinitely if needed so no worries there. If you can't find daphnia, go with frozen brine shrimp. It has a lot of fiber and also acts as a laxative. Hopefully this will help your little guy.
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Old 11-18-2011, 07:55 AM   #4 
chicagojo
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On the 2 recent days I offered him food (Mon & Tues) he was eating. I stopped feeding him again because I wasn't sure if maybe I didn't fast him too long. Should I still give him 1 pellet per day like I was before?

I didn't know temperature change from a water change could cause SBD. I did the water change last Wed morning and the symptoms didn't start until Thurs evening so not sure if that was a factor or not, but that is definitely good to know!

His new tank has been heating up overnight - it's not quite reached my 78F goal yet (it's around 72 now) but I am hoping to get his QT tank floating in there by tonight.

I will check for either frozen daphnia or frozen brine shrimp. There are quite a few large "chain" pet stores within a 30-45 min drive from here so hopefully I can find one that has one or the other.

Thanks for the advice!!!
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Old 11-18-2011, 04:06 PM   #5 
Sakura8
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I think it's fine to give him 1 pellet a day for now, as long as his belly isn't grossly bloated. This doesn't seem to be constipation related since he has pooped so food shouldn't hurt for now.

And you're right, usually temperature-induced SBD symptoms show up within an hour or less of the water change so that's probably not a factor.

If his floating gets worse, you can up the dosage of his epsom salts to 2 tsps per gallon.
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Old 11-18-2011, 04:13 PM   #6 
chicagojo
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Thank you SO much. This morning he seemed to be doing a bit better - he is able to swim to the bottom more easily now but I will take the conservative approach this time and keep him in the epsom salts for the full course and up the dosage as you suggest if things get worse again.
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Old 11-18-2011, 04:14 PM   #7 
Sakura8
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You're welcome. I'm glad I could help. Good luck to you, I hope he feels better soon. :) Keep us posted.
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Old 11-19-2011, 01:50 PM   #8 
chicagojo
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I don't know if this is possible, but it seems that the warmer tank is helping him a LOT. I started floating his QT tank in the 2.5G last night once it got up to 74F and am now gradually increasing it still trying to eventually get up to 78F (now that I have a sense of how the heater works I know it takes a LONG time to get each incremental degree higher so I'm pretty sure the change will be slow enough for him, plus his QT tank is lagging a degree or so behind the main tank). Already he is swimming normally and able to linger on the bottom of the QT tank. My daughter REALLY wants to release him into the bigger tank but I'm reminding her that he got worse last time when we ended his treatment as soon as he seemed better, so we're holding on for another 8 days...we also fed him a pellet last night and he ate it right away. I am so happy that he is on the road to recovery! Thanks again! I can't get a good pic of him because he is swimming around crazy fast right now but will hope to post one soon!
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Old 11-20-2011, 04:11 AM   #9 
Sakura8
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Warm water really does help. :) Because bettas are tropical fish who come from very warm waters, when the temperature of their water dips too low, they become lethargic and more prone to illness. While in colder water, a betta will use up all his energy just staying alive so he won't be able to move around much and his immune system will be compromised. So yup, it's totally possible for warm water to bring about a big change. I'm really glad the little guy is improving. As long as he doesn't bloat at all, you can probably start feeding him two pellets a day. Just make sure he is passing waste and not bloating.

Thanks for the happy update and keep us posted. :)
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Old 11-20-2011, 01:30 PM   #10 
chicagojo
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Thanks! He still seems to be doing well and he pooped again just now so starting tomorrow we will feed him 2 pellets a day and see how he does with that. Thanks so much - I was getting a bit worried about him when I first posted, thinking that maybe this was turning into some kind of a chronic issue that would be hard to help him manage, but now I am feeling more confident that he's going to be just fine.
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