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Discussion Starter #1
Please note: I am adopting this betta, Pedro, from my workplace. When he was in the office, the filter was never running because my coworkers believed he did not like the current it created. The water was never changed; water was only added when it began to run low due to evaporation. They would run the filter for an hour once a week to remove detritus.

Housing:
How many gallons is your tank?
10 gallons
Does it have a filter? Yes - Aqueon QuietFlow 10 I believe.
Does it have a heater? Yes - Aqueon Present Heater 50w
What temperature is your tank? 78 F
Does your tank have an air stone or other type of aeration? No
Does your Betta have tank mates? What kind? 3 neon tetras, countless red snails. The tetras seem absolutely fine. The snails are perhaps losing their color slightly, but otherwise no significant change.

Food:
What food brand do you use?
New Life Spectrum
Do you feed flakes or pellets? Pellets
Freeze-dried? no
How often do you feed your Betta? How much? Every other day, 4-5 small pellets.

Maintenance:
Before your Betta became ill how often did you perform a water change?
Never, only added after evaporation.
What percentage of water did you change? 10-20%
What is the source of your water? Tap water, with conditioner
Do you vacuum the substrate or just dip out water? Dip out water (I have begun vacuuming once a week)
What additives do you use? What brand of conditioner? Aqueon conditioner

Water Parameters:
What are your water parameters? Please give exact numbers. If tested by pet store please get exact numbers. "Fine" or "Safe" won't help us help you. Important: Test your water before the regular water change; not after one.

Ammonia: 0 ppm (although I assume much higher before I adopted him)
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 0
pH: 7.0
Hardness (GH): unknown
Alkalinity (KH): unknown

Symptoms and Treatment:
When did you first notice the symptoms?
Two months ago, while he was still in the office. He showed symptoms of swim bladder infection; floating on the surface, unable to sink. Fed him a frozen pea, and that improved but would reoccur. One month ago, noticed change in symptoms: lethargy, clamped fins, drastic color change, loss of appetite.
How has your Betta’s appearance changed? Went from deep blue and purple to very light pink, white in spots. Mottled skin on his forehead and back, probably from swim bladder infection and back being exposed to air. Spine curving to the side near is tail. When he had swim bladder issues, his belly became swollen right behind his fins. Now it is not as swollen, but still larger than when we first got him.
How has your Betta’s behavior changed? Laying on the bottom of the tank almost constantly, not responding to food, occasionally swimming rapidly to surface to breathe but then floats back down. Clamped fins. Generally much more lethargic.
Is your Betta still eating? In the past few days he has begun to stop being responsive to pellets.
Have you started treating your Betta? If so, how? I began testing the water every other day, and doing 25-50% water changes once a week. I hesitated on doing treatments in his main tank, as it has aquatic plants, and I have read that adding the Aquarium Salt would not be good for them. Instead I have now created a 5.5 gallon quarantine tank, with a 50w preset heater and three ornamental caves for him to hide. I kept him in a baggie for 30 minutes floating in the water of the quarantine tank, slowly adding in new water, before releasing him. I then used Erythromycin as directed on the package. I put in half of a packet per the 5 gallons of water in his tank. I put in the other half of the packet after 24 hours. It is nearly 24 hours now, when the packet instructs me to do a 25% water change and then repeat treatment. However, I began to panic because he became very lethargic, laying completely on his side on the bottom of the tank, seemed to be gasping for air. So I put him in a little floating tupperware and I am currently bobbing that at the top of the tank. I am worried he was reacting poorly to the medication, so I decided to bob him in the water, and post on this forum for advice. I have not been able to concentrate all day on my work because I am so worried for him. I don't know what I would do if he died.
Does your Betta have any history of being ill? When he was in the office environment, he began to develop I believe a swim bladder infection. One of my coworkers would put in pinches of pellets at a time, so I believe he would overeat. He began to float near the surface, with small parts of his back and forehead peeking through the water surface. He had quite an appetite, but could not sink at all to catch food. He had to be fed with me holding a spoon to his face. I fed him a boiled pea for 2 days, and he was able to swim along the bottom again. He was okay for a week, but then the problem started again. Soon after that he transitioned to my home; I fed him a pea for another two days, and that seemed to fix the problem. But then began the color change and lethargy.
How long have you owned your Betta? The office purchased him from a pet store in mid-December. He came to my home around March 16.
Was he or she ill or suffering some sort of damage when purchased? He did not appear to have any illness when purchased. He had significant trouble swimming when the filter was running. My coworkers opted to leave the filter off. When I brought him home, I created a baffle for the filter, and he appeared to swim well for a few weeks. Then he began to become increasingly lethargic, laying on the floor of the tank, clamped fins, slightly bent spine, slightly swollen belly, and significant color change.

Here are two pictures of him before he began to dramatically change in color and behavior.
IMG_3260.jpg


1017099


Here are two images of him now:

1017100


1017101


I am desperate on any sound advice that will help me save Pedro. I've lost sleep over this, cried over this. It hurts to see him clearly hurting, and I'm not sure if what I am doing is helping or hurting him. I would be eternally grateful for any help I can get. Thank you in advance.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Or If he is very stressed do a 25% water change. If you can't do a water change try getting his tank water temperature to around 80 degrees.
Thank you for your quick reply!! He is currently in the quarantine tank, where I gave him two doses of Erythromycin. The next step would be to do a 25% water change, so I will do that now as based on your advice. Should I stop the Erythromycin treatment altogether? Should I move him back to his main tank, and just focus on doing 25% water changes daily/every other day?
 

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Erythromycin is an antibiotic, so If it isn't a a fungal or bacterial infection your fish is dealing with than it will weaken his immune system. I personally haven't treated a betta with the same problem that your fish has, but keeping the tank warm and clean speeds the healing process.
 

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It's very commendable for you to take on Pedro's care!

First: some good news is that the pink/white color he's developing is normal and harmless, it is just a "marble" gene which can cause a betta's colors to change unexpectedly throughout their life. He may end up completely white, he may go back to his original colors, or settle on something new altogether. So don't worry about that.


His swim bladder problems are probably caused by one of three reasons: a congenital defect, an infection, or constipation. If it is congenital then he was born with it and there's no cure, just ways to help him stay comfortable.

If it's an infection it could be bacterial or parasites, both of which are curable. You have already started him on antibiotics so finish the recommended course of those, it's not a good idea to end early. When he poos, what color is it, and what texture? You can try to encourage him to poop by flaring him with a mirror, if he's feeling well enough to respond. Normal poop is about the same color as their food, and is fairly solid but breaks easily. White or clear-ish poo is a sign of parasites, especially if it's stringy.

Constipation is usually caused by what he's being fed, and/or how much. Since he hasn't been eating the past few days, constipation seems less likely in this case. NLS is a good brand and you don't seem to be overfeeding him, however I would suggest trying to feed two small meals a day rather than every other day. It may be better for his system to work through small amounts more frequently, rather than handling it all at once.

He doesn't look skinny so going without food for a few days isn't going to be a major problem. You can offer frozen daphnia or brine shrimp- not only are they tasty to encourage him to eat, but they act as "fiber" to help him have bowel movements, and are recommended instead of peas. Or you can soak some pellets in garlic juice which also encourages appetite, and can have some health benefits as well.


I would recommend getting Epsom salt (pure, no scents or dye) and adding some to his tank. It helps with constipation, bloating, and often helps bettas with SBD keep their balance. Start with 1/4 teaspoon per gallon added to his tank, you can increase it over a few days to a full 2 tsp if you need to (This is higher than normal but some bettas need a high dose in these cases). If you try it and it helps him, experiment to find the lowest dose that still works. Normally it's not recommended to keep bettas in Epsom for longer than about ten days, but some bettas with chronic SBD end up needing it their entire lives. If even a high dose doesn't help after a week, it probably won't and you can remove it from the water.


Right now, I think the best thing to do is to keep Pedro calm. Antibiotics are stressful on fish, and because of that the fish can often seem worse before they get better. Do the water change the medicine recommends and add the second dose, as well as the Epsom if you are going to try that, then turn off any lights over the tank and cover it with a towel or blanket.

If you keep him floating in the tupperware, add a fake plant to give him someplace to hide and rest against. If you put him directly back into the 5g, you can lower the water level to make it easier for him to get to the surface.

It's very hard to hear that the best thing you can do is just step away, but it's often the case with fish that they need time for their own bodies to fight off whatever is ailing them.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
It's very commendable for you to take on Pedro's care!

First: some good news is that the pink/white color he's developing is normal and harmless, it is just a "marble" gene which can cause a betta's colors to change unexpectedly throughout their life. He may end up completely white, he may go back to his original colors, or settle on something new altogether. So don't worry about that.


His swim bladder problems are probably caused by one of three reasons: a congenital defect, an infection, or constipation. If it is congenital then he was born with it and there's no cure, just ways to help him stay comfortable.

If it's an infection it could be bacterial or parasites, both of which are curable. You have already started him on antibiotics so finish the recommended course of those, it's not a good idea to end early. When he poos, what color is it, and what texture? You can try to encourage him to poop by flaring him with a mirror, if he's feeling well enough to respond. Normal poop is about the same color as their food, and is fairly solid but breaks easily. White or clear-ish poo is a sign of parasites, especially if it's stringy.

Constipation is usually caused by what he's being fed, and/or how much. Since he hasn't been eating the past few days, constipation seems less likely in this case. NLS is a good brand and you don't seem to be overfeeding him, however I would suggest trying to feed two small meals a day rather than every other day. It may be better for his system to work through small amounts more frequently, rather than handling it all at once.

He doesn't look skinny so going without food for a few days isn't going to be a major problem. You can offer frozen daphnia or brine shrimp- not only are they tasty to encourage him to eat, but they act as "fiber" to help him have bowel movements, and are recommended instead of peas. Or you can soak some pellets in garlic juice which also encourages appetite, and can have some health benefits as well.


I would recommend getting Epsom salt (pure, no scents or dye) and adding some to his tank. It helps with constipation, bloating, and often helps bettas with SBD keep their balance. Start with 1/4 teaspoon per gallon added to his tank, you can increase it over a few days to a full 2 tsp if you need to (This is higher than normal but some bettas need a high dose in these cases). If you try it and it helps him, experiment to find the lowest dose that still works. Normally it's not recommended to keep bettas in Epsom for longer than about ten days, but some bettas with chronic SBD end up needing it their entire lives. If even a high dose doesn't help after a week, it probably won't and you can remove it from the water.


Right now, I think the best thing to do is to keep Pedro calm. Antibiotics are stressful on fish, and because of that the fish can often seem worse before they get better. Do the water change the medicine recommends and add the second dose, as well as the Epsom if you are going to try that, then turn off any lights over the tank and cover it with a towel or blanket.

If you keep him floating in the tupperware, add a fake plant to give him someplace to hide and rest against. If you put him directly back into the 5g, you can lower the water level to make it easier for him to get to the surface.

It's very hard to hear that the best thing you can do is just step away, but it's often the case with fish that they need time for their own bodies to fight off whatever is ailing them.
Thank you so much!! I feel such relief for the first time in days.
I will be picking up some Epsom salt in the morning, and I will complete the course of the Erythromycin. I will order some brine shrimp now, but I will try tonight to soak some pellets in garlic juice and entice him to eat. Hopefully then I can see if he's constipated, or if not, what the state of his poo is.
I'll try my best to just keep Pedro, and myself, calm. I think his initially stressed reaction to the antibiotics put me in crisis mode, and I immediately ran to this forum for help.
I will likely post here in a day or two if I get him to produce some poop, or if anything else improves/worsens.
Thank you so much for your time~
 

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I am glad to help, and am hoping that everything goes well for you & Pedro!

Forgot to mention: if you get freeze-dried as opposed to frozen, you'll want to soak them in some tank water (or garlic juice) before feeding it, otherwise it can actually cause more stomach upset in your betta. Soaking his pellets beforehand is also not a bad idea. The reason is that dry foods can sometimes swell up with liquid after they're in the stomach, and while most bettas can handle that, since yours seems to have a delicate stomach pre-soaking his food is a good idea in general.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Well, Pedro has passed away. I'm wondering if anyone can help me figure out what went wrong.
I gave him his final Erythromycin dosage, and a treatment of Epsom salt as advised. I covered his tank with a towel, and generally left him be. I went to give him his final water change this evening, and by then he was gone.
I noticed he really struggled to swim up even a few inches, so I lowered the water level by a wide margin so he was close to the surface. I'm not sure if it was low enough, he still might not have been able to reach the surface. Could that have been a factor?
I also noticed after he passed that the area where his swim bladder is was discolored yellow, as though it was so yellow that it showed through his scales. Does anyone know what this might indicate?
Finally, as I lifted him out of his tank to prepare him for burial, I noticed several pieces of his fins had fallen of; he had long strands of red fins, and a couple of these had fallen off.
Also, I would appreciate any words of advice as to how I can feel better. Right now I feel... miserable. I tried so hard to help him, and it makes me sick to my stomach to think that I might have been hurting him, or that he died in pain. Do you think he was uncomfortable or in pain? Do you think I provided him some comfort in his final couple of days?
Could he have just been too far gone, and nothing I could have done would have made him well, or was I too incompetent?
Thank you for all the advice you've given me.
 

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Sorry about Pedro. Know that nothing you did while trying to treat him was wrong. You did everything right. And what you describe in death (fins, discoloration) are natural and have nothing to do with your care.

While I cannot answer exactly why he died I can offer suggestions.

1. Living three months in an unfiltered tank that did not have frequent 50% water changes and vacuum is not good.

2. When tanks are topped off the TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) and TSS (Total Suspended Solids) become more and more concentrated which leads to all sorts of physical problems including impact on kidneys and osmoregulation. It can give fish the symptoms of bloat: Not swimming well, floating, sinking. See link below.


3. Fish deplete critical minerals in from their water. Doing regular water changes replenishes these minerals. Top-offs really do not; at least not the amount needed.

All of this being said, Pedro's demise was your fault in any sense of the word. I believe it all started when he was at the office. This is especially true if the tank was less than 10 gallons If smaller and filterless they should have done 2-3 x weekly 50% water changes with vacuum, fed him a nutritional food, kept his tank at a constant 78-80.

And, fish are extremely slow to show any sort of symptoms from poor care. Just as an example, it can take months for fish to exhibit outward symptoms of the internal problems malnutrition can cause.

My belief is we all do what we think is best. Sometimes we are successful and sometimes we are not. If one of my fish dies and I did my best I cannot feel guilty. And neither can you.

Our wonderful boy, Russell the Shih Tzu, developed thoracic cancer. We did our best for him (Chemo, etc.) but he succumbed one year ago on April 23 after two months of treatment. People asked me if I would do it again? Did Russell suffer? Shouldn't I have let him go sooner?

I would bite my tongue and answered: Yes, I don't know and an emphatic "No!" For 7.5 years Russell had a wonderful life full of love and caring.

So, please, keep reminding yourself that until he became sick you gave him a much better life that he had at the office. That, from the sound of it, he had a wonderful life while in your care. Instead of feeling guilty, you should feel proud that you gave him a month of love.
 

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I'm very sorry that he didn't pull through. I agree with RussellTheShihTzu, you really tried your best to give him a better life but sometimes a betta just can't overcome earlier neglect.

I don't think he was in pain at the end. It's hard to be certain because fish are so different from humans, but he passed away warm and cared for, with an owner who wanted the best for him, which means in my opinion he wasn't suffering.

Don't feel bad about your own reaction to his death either. It may seem silly to be upset because he was "just a fish" but anyone who falls in love with bettas will tell you, there is a real connection and emotional attachment.

If you haven't taken care of the body yet, a nice memorial is to bury it in a flower pot with a plant- the average size pot is large enough that there's no smell or anything like that, and the body will help feed the plant- that way you can keep your betta's memory close to you. Out in the garden if you have one is also a perfect spot.

Also, the changes you noticed after his passing are normal, and don't necessarily indicate anything. Fish don't stay well preserved after death and amateur examinations are often more upsetting than useful when looking for clues as to what happened.
 
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