This certainly isnt the first time ive seen this, but the first in a long long time. I have 2 female bettas in a 20L (long, not liter) with a bolivian ram, some glass cats, a handful of cories, and a lonely neon. One of the 2 female bettas started to get a little bloated, so we slowed feeding down in frequency and quantity, but the bloating continued to get worse.
She is able to swim just fine, she eats and poops just fine, but she looks like she swallowed a marble. In the past I have tried every trick on the forums, but 99% of those remedies ive been directed to were for constipation. Fasting, peas, homemade concoctions, nothing has worked.
tank is heavily planted (amazon swords, red ludwigia, red crypt, tiger lotus, java fern) and params have always been (and still are, just tested last night) rock solid. Filtration is an AC20, around 79 degrees, gravel substrate. feeding is everything from frozen brine shrimp, frozen bloodworms (rarely), tropicolor crisps, tetra algae crisps, hikari wafers, the occasional algae wafer, i think thats it.
Since she is otherwise acting, eating, swimming and pooping normally...it sounds more like she is either just a fat female or eggy and not uncommon-especially as the females mature they tend to get larger around the tummy-often they will also start to swim in a more head down position too and nothing to worry about...if at any time she start to have behavior changes, buoyancy issues, stops eating, pooping, become lethargic, hiding more or the scale start to stick up along with the enlarged tummy...then she may have bloat and system failure.....you would want to QT and start treatment right away...but until then...just watch her for signs/symptoms of bloat...
Females have unripe eggs in them all the time and will either drop and eat them or not or reabsorb them on a regular basis-if they eat or reabsorb the eggs-often the poop will take on a creamy/white appearance for a few days-not to be confused with internal parasites and treat needlessly.....
I will gladly take pictures tomorrow when I get over there (temporary rental, fish had to stay at my parents :( ) but oh yes, the scales are popping out like a porcupine, and in another few days she will be deceased, like the rest have been, with her hollow belly still bloated with just a hole along the bottom about the diameter of a #2 pencil.
the tank was originally all females. I had 8 at one time many moons ago. The problems stopped when I added places for them to get away from another. like I said ill have to go tomorrow and take pictures, but every time this happens its like they swell to a complete perfect sphere, and even stay that way after death. Its like they just swell until they rupture :(
Pineconing is always dropsy.. it is never just eggy.
I hate to say this but your tank needs to be broken down and sterilized. Everything needs to be bleached or boiled/baked (anything less than pressure cooked is no guarantee but baked/boiled gets most.. and personally I'd toss anything I can't bleach.. but your choice..) because there's something in there spreading around and it's just not safe to keep putting fish in there until you remove the source of the infection.
As for your female, she can hopefully be saved with the right treatment. Move to a hospital tank and treat with epsoms and a good internal antibiotic. Kanaplex (Kanamyacin Seachem) both bathed and fed (small ammount of fresh not from tank treated aquarium water or garlic guard which is pure garlic extra and one measure each of the kanaplex and preferably focus by seachem as well and then soak pellets for 10-15min. feed 2 twice a day of regular sized. no nls as they don't soak well. hikari is really good with all the wheat. omega one works too.sure others do as well.), Maracyns in combo (can also be fed but I don't know about bathe and fed at the same time, no experience with that) or possibly Maracyn plus would be what I recommend. Epsom dosage is controversial. I've never used epsom in greater than 1/2tsp per gallon, but there are people who say they've used 1tsp safely.. in fact some people say more than that even but I would argue strongly against it unless it's for a short 15-20min dip.
The epsoms will help remove the fluids and buy time for the meds to fix the source of the problem.
Ive been doing all sorts of research this morning on dropsy, as you suggested. I have decided that the best thing for the poor little thing is to just put her down, as the articles ive read all suggest that severe internal damage has already been done. I will have to check my nitrates today, as thats not something I normally test, especially in a tank that gets such good maintenance and is so heavily planted. Many of the articles point to nitrates as the initial factor that leads to dropsy.
As for the rest of the tank, nothing else is currently or has ever displayed signs of dropsy, aside from female bettas, and one tetra whom was a soul survivor and a transplant from another tank. I suspect breaking the tank down would do more harm than good, so I will be watching my parameters, and the other fish like a hawk for symptoms. Ill keep you all posted of my findings, thanks guys.
Hang on...don't break the tank down just yet......most of the pathogen in the tank will always be in the tank...its the fish immune response that prevent infection....you never want to boil rock or gravel since they can explode at high heat....bleach will not kill some pathogens.....get the tank healthy and balance to prevent stress that compromises the immune response......
If that fish has raised scale...Qt and make a 50% water change on the tank....humane euthanasia may be in order....