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Old 02-08-2012, 10:51 PM   #1 
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Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Athens, Ga
Sick Betta, Tail Rot

Hey guys, just having some trouble with my Betta. His fins are looking quite short and ragged, but he is still eating very well. I think I've given all of the necessary info, but please let me know if there's anything else I can tell you. Thanks for your help!


What size is your tank? 10 gallons
What temperature is your tank? ~78F
Does your tank have a filter? Yes, power and undergravel
Does your tank have an air stone or other type of aeration? Undergravel filter
Is your tank heated? Yes
What tank mates does your betta fish live with? 4 Neon Tetras and an Apple Snail

What type of food do you feed your betta fish? BettaMin Tropical Medley Flakes
How often do you feed your betta fish? 2x per day


How often do you perform a water change? 2-3 times per week
What percentage of the water do you change when you perform a water change? 50%
What type of additives do you add to the water when you perform a water change? Water conditioner, pH balancer, Ammonia Neutralizer

Water Parameters:
Have you tested your water? If so, what are the following parameters?

Ammonia: Acceptable (according to color-indicating strips)
Nitrite: NA
Nitrate: NA
pH: NA
Hardness: NA
Alkalinity: NA

Symptoms and Treatment
How has your betta fish's appearance changed? Deteriorating fins, diminished color
How has your betta fish's behavior changed? Lays at bottom of tank. Still eats very well.
When did you start noticing the symptoms? Over the past couple of weeks, but it got more serious recently.
Have you started treating your fish? If so, how? Yes, Seachem PolyGuard.
Does your fish have any history of being ill? No.
How old is your fish (approximately)? Six months.
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Old 02-09-2012, 06:15 AM   #2 
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Welcome to the forum.

Photos are always helpful. So we are looking at possible fin rot, or self inflicting tail biting, or both or rough decoration issue.

There are some things that need your clarification. For a 10 gal tank, you seem to be doing water changes quite a bit at 2-3 times at 50% each time. Are you trying to cycle your tank? Why are you using pH balancer? What is your normal pH? Why are you using Ammonia Neutralizer? What is the normal value before adding?

Diminished color could mean stress usually among other things. Are you using SeaChem "ParaGuard"? How long now and for what specific purpose?

Sorry I seem to have more questions than answer for you. Just needed to get all these clarified, and for us reading this, can help us better understand what the situation is.

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Old 02-09-2012, 07:34 AM   #3 
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Have to agree with Earth- could be either or- for fin rot you are wanting to see blackened edges of the tail with pieces crusting/flaking off.. if the edges are normal coloration then it would be fin biting.. which tends to be stress related.
I honestly think it's fin biting with all the stresses (both physical and chemical) being placed on him.

The amount of water changes would easily stress them out- and create a very unbalanced system.
Even if cycling the tank, you would be doing smaller water changes.

pH stabilizers can be very dangerous depending upon fish- using a stabilizer with a betta can actually be deadly to the betta. The fish you have in the tank aren't picky and (especially the betta) can adjust to the pH you have naturally, which is safer then the ups and downs the stabilizer can cause. Always wise to just allow the fish to adjust on their own (in this case- but certain fish do need regulations of the pH).
If you are using a water conditioner, there is no need for the ammonia neutralizer- as the water conditioner does that.. and some turns the ammonia into ammonium which is safe for the fish (but will still register as ammonia when testing).

Too many chemicals are being used in your tank, along with an unsteady tank due to the frequency of the water changes is most likely catching up to your fish and causing stress and soon, health issues. You can over do things and lose everything.

Ideally you will want to be doing (if no live plants, and with your stock of the tetras and large snail) 1 50% water change per week, using a gravel siphon, only adding in the water conditioner (they normally work immediately on neutralizing the ammonia, chlorine, etc).
AquaScience Ultimate, Seachem Prime, Tetra Aquasafe are the ideal conditioners as they are a complete removal of chlorine/chloramine, ammonia, heavy metals and slime coat protection- but be aware Prime will turn ammonia into ammonium and you will test for that, but it's safe- and the 1 50% weekly with siphoning is enough to keep your tank healthy. To test more correctly, ideal is the liquid test, the strips tend not to be accurate.

Also recommend not to use the Polyguard- as it says it prevents diseases (which is not true, as in time whatever chemical it has that is "preventing", the bacteria/viruses/fish will become resistant to it and it won't be effective), it's not going to help him.. and it's an added chemical that is just hurting his organs.

Have to keep in mind, fish are sensitive to chemicals and such, their organs can't tolerate a whole lot- and this includes chemicals for water and chemicals in medications. When you have quite a few different chemicals in the tank, the fish are absorbing them and in time, will start harming them.

Right now he needs a clean system- why I recommend a 50% water change and add in only water conditioner, and a day after that another 50% with only water conditioner.. after that you will want to wait a week and do another 50% with only water conditioner and so forth (don't forget to vacuum the substrate as forgoing the vacuuming can cause ammonia build up that even all those chemicals won't take away).

You really seem to care and want to make sure you are doing everything right, but sometimes it can be too much for these guys. They require so much, but yet they can't always handle it all. But your size tank, your stock, requires very little in the way of chemicals and water changes. Too much can be just as deadly and worse as too little.

After you get into a healthy routine of just once a week water changes, and remove the chemicals, your guy may stop fin biting and become healthy and color back up.

Good luck with everything.
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Old 02-09-2012, 08:19 AM   #4 
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Location: Athens, Ga
Thanks for the help guys.
As a note, I am using Seachem Polyguard, not paraguard (click here for more info). I'm not sure if there's much difference.
As for the water changes, I've been doing so because algae begins to build up in the tank otherwise. I think my problem is a lot of the uneaten flakes are falling into the gravel. I have pellets, but my Betta doesn't particularly like them, and the tetras cannot fit them in their mouths.

Here is Betta when I first got him:

And here he is now:

As far as rough decorations, the only one that seems like it could do any harm is a plastic plant I have (pictured on left of above picture). I have seashells but I keep their edges buried in the gravel. I also have a portion of a milk carton (seen in 2nd image) to dampen the filter's flow, but the edges are smooth and I never see Betta go over there anyway. I also am not seeing any aggression amongst the fish.
So you think Betta is doing this to himself? His fins don't seem to have the black coloration you described. I have the carbon filters removed for the medication, should I add them back?

It is definitely overwhelming trying to take all of the parameters into consideration (pH, ammonia, etc). I have ammonia test strips but they seem to tell me that there is a "stressful" (0.5 ppm) amount of ammonia whether I've just done a full water change and totally scrubbed the tank clean or the water has been sitting unchanged for a week. And I have been dumping ammonia neutralizer just about every time I do a water change. So if these chemicals stress Betta out like you guys are suggesting, then this definitely could be a contributor.
Sorry for the huge amount of new information and questions. Thanks for your guys' help!

Last edited by GaBulldawg; 02-09-2012 at 08:30 AM.
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Old 02-09-2012, 09:31 AM   #5 
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Cute CT guy.. still hard to see him clearly (they just are too camera shy..)
Going to have to go on your eyes whether or not the edges are black and crusty, or looks like they just got cut off..

I know you used Seachem Polyguard, did a reference check before I said anything to make sure I remembered correctly. I still stand by my opinion on it's use though- it's like with a lot of preventative medications, or over use of anti-biotics for us.. things become resistant in time, and over exposure to some chemicals can lead to organ damage.

As far as feeding.. feeding in a community tank can be tricky- so what you can do is use a turkey baster to remove any uneaten food that has fallen to the bottom after feeding.. it will help keep the tank clean, and prevent those nasty little planarian worms from popping up in your tank. For algae control, you can get a snail or some ghost shrimp- as they will eat certain types of algae and the shrimp will possibly eat any leftover food off the bottom.
Leftover food is also why it's important to siphon/vacuum out the gravel weekly in unplanted tanks- removing the uneaten food and waste. Filters don't remove the waste, just hides it for the most part.

There are only 4 neons, not enough for them to be brave and try to nip the betta's fins (but who knows, you may have one with guts)- ideally I would suggest getting a couple more as they do better in 6+ groups.

It may be the chemicals and/or conditioner that is giving you those ammonia readings- as mentioned before, a lot of times they will turn ammonia into safe ammonium, but you will get ammonia readings. Why when a proper water change schedule is being done, you will know that unless a change of stock (fish) have been made, you aren't seeing true ammonia, but ammonium instead.

I would go ahead and return the carbon filters.. and replace them shortly. Do a 25% water change daily for the next 3 days.. then after that wait a week and start a regular routine of once a week 50% with vacuuming of the gravel and the tank should be just fine.
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Old 02-09-2012, 09:52 AM   #6 
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There definitely is no black crust on his tail. I just did a 100% change last night, will it be OK if I begin the regimen you suggested starting tomorrow? I have already installed the carbon filters on both the power filter and under gravel filter.
I have an apple snail that I feed Omega One Veggie Rounds. I figured it probably has more nutrition than just allowing him to eat algae. Should I just allow him to eat algae? Also, I have a local pet store I go to that has a very knowledgeable aquarium guy. He has pointed me in the direction of small algae-eating fish (I don't remember the name, but he said they will do well in my 10 gallon and won't grow as large as a pleco).
I will also add a few more neons as you suggested, although it seems whenever I add any, half die very quickly and the other half are very healthy...perhaps that's a topic for an entirely new thread.
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