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Discussion Starter #21
OK, we did a water change today (third day after teh last one). Ammonia still low (max .25), no nitrites, no nitrates. Still using a small amount of salt (will do this for one more change then stop). Used cycle.

Feeding is improved. he eats like a champ, and is more active, but still has a long ways to go. In my view, his fins are looking worse, with lots of tearing at the ends. I imagine a lot of weakened and dead stuff will have to fall off, and we will need to wait several days (As he builds up strength) to see any signs of improvement.

One step at a time. First feeding, and getting the tank correct.
 

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Get a SeaChem Ammonia Alert. I use them on all of my tanks. Without going into a bunch of detail:

The API test reads Total Ammonia; i.e. both toxic NH3 (Free) and non-toxic NH4 (Ammonium). Some conditioners neutralize NH3 and render it the harmless NH4. As API reads them both you might be seeing Ammonium and not Free Ammonia.

The SeaChem Ammonia Alert, on the other hand, only reads Free Ammonia. So if it doesn't register you know you have Ammonium and there's no danger to your boy.

When you start to see clear growth on his fins they are starting to regenerate.
 

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Discussion Starter #23
Another update...

Apologies for hogging the site. So, Sammy seems to be much, much more active and eating a lot. He swims around more, though I feel his swimming is some what erratic and less fluid. We finally received the proper test kit (better than the strips). It also looks to me like his fins are in a way worse: shorter, maybe some more holes or thin bits. Though also the very frayed "strings" at the ends of his fins have mostly disappear, presumably fallen off. So maybe he is slowly on the mend.

I just can't tell if there is still active infection, or if it's just the wound healing stage.

I do think he looks a little less thin, but here still long way to go. We are feeding frozen bloodworms every morning (5-7 pieces), and then Nutrafin Bug Bites in the evening. (Nutrafin was the only high end brand in the local store; I am going to order some Omega One pellets).

In the meanwhile, we are continuing 10-25% water change every three days. This is the last change today with low dose salt. After that, no more.

With the new text kit: Ammonia and Nitrites are 0, and the Nitrates look like somewhere between 0 and 20, so maybe just maybe we are growing the colony.

However, the pH on the better test kit came out 8.5. We were shocked. My wife tested the water out of the tap: 8.2. So now we need to look at controlling the pH in the system.

I will try to upload an updated picture today or tomorrow, if I can get a good one with his fins exposed, and with his coloration more visible.
 

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Both samples should be the same "age." That makes a huge difference.

In a nutshell, do not mess with the pH. Fish can get used to high or low pH but not fluctuating. Those pH up/down additives can do more harm than good. If you want to lower it do it slowly by using shells or coral. But add just a small amount so pH doesn't drop too fast.
 

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Discussion Starter #25
OK, understood about pH.

As promised, here are several updated photos, from today--a little more than one week from the last set. Again, to my eye his fins look to be in worse shape: more holes, shorter, weird colouring. But maybe this is because he is more active and moving around more and spreading his fins a bit more widely, which lets me inspect the damage more closely. Certainly I do not see any signs of regrowth. What I cannot tell is if the infection is still active, or if he is healing (ie, the infection is going away and maybe dead bits are sloughing off). I cannot tell i the darker part along the bottom of his anal fin is rot (black) or simply colouring. I suspect rot.

I think he looks a little better nourished, though obviously it will take a long time for the new feeding regimen to really have effect. I just feel like I am fighting a losing battle with his fins.

At least the water quality is apparently taken care of, and we have a proper test kit finally in order to monitor.

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IMO, his fins look so much better. Just eight days ago he was nearly at death's door. I am impressed with what you've managed to do in such a short space of time.

Left is before; right is today. Notice they are much cleaner and not as ragged and not "melting:. It can take a while for fins to regenerate as it depends on overall health.

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Discussion Starter #27
well this is reassuring! It’s been about ten days now using small doses of aquarium salt, so time to desalinate. Is there a preferred method? My plan is simply to continue 20/25% every few days as we have been doing, only not adding salt. I'm trying not to stress him, and hopefully get back to a more regular schedule once the tank is finally cycled. however, that at that rate it will take a long time to remove all of the salt (Zeno's betta tank paradox, I suppose!). Should we instead do bigger water changes to bring down the salt more quickly?
 

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I can't remember how much salt you are using? As AS won't hurt Betta, you can continue with the current water change schedule/percentage.

Do you not think his fins look better? They are not "melted" together as they were in the first photos. And his color is so much brighter. Sammy's not completely out of the woods; but he's nearing the edge of the forest. :)

If you want to send me weekly photos I can keep doing comparisons for you. I have PhotoScape. It's a free program although I "donate" every year.
 

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Discussion Starter #29
Following Rana's suggestion, we put in .5 teaspoons AS per gallon. With each change, we have replaced the prorated amount, ie if we replace one gallon we add .5 teaspoons back in.

it is hard for me to tell if his fins are improving. They do look brighter and perhaps less ragged. But then sometimes I think I see more damage than before. It’s difficult to tell since he was not spreading his fins much. It’s also hard to tell if I'm seeing a hole in the fin or where overlapping fin rays look like a hole. I don’t think I see new growth but then I’m an amateur. Sometimes he looks brighter, sometimes I think it’s just how I happen to catch the light when taking the picture.

He is certainly more active, though he still spends a fair time resting. This is probably normal, but it’s been so long that he’s been in bad shape that I don’t have a behaviour baseline. he doesn’t flare or build bubble nests, but he never did much even when we first got him. He swims a lot more. Sometimes his swimming seems a bit jerky and not as easy or fluid, presumably as he is compensating for the loss of fins.

i am trying to monitor his weight now that we are feeding him more. Again his body Shape seems a bit fuller but he still looks much thinner than photos of other bettas that I see. Not sure how long it will take to fully compensate for his under feeding.

I will definitely post updated photos every week or so!
 

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Discussion Starter #30
i think we have the water under control. I’d like to see the nitrates appear more clearly in tests, but ammonia and nitrites are virtually 0 with each water change, so we’re not poisoning him!

i figure going forward, we will settle on two smaller (20/25%) changes per week, with a good vacuuming once a week. Unless we have a good colony development, in which case maybe once a week will be fine.

From everything that I have read, a small tank like ours (5g) should have 50% water changed per week.
 

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I did one 25% with vacuum as regular maintenance with a healthy fish. With an ailing one, two 25% per week.

You can back off the salt by not replacing when you do water changes.

Progress toward total healing often takes quit a while and one that's been ill will take longer to regenerate fins. However, often when fully regenerated the fins will not look the same.
 

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Discussion Starter #32
Updated photos as promised. I know the quality is poor--it's virtually impossible to get a good focus through the tank. In my view, his anal fin seems still to me losing bits, esp. at the bottom, and it looks melty. However the color is overall better (though tough to tell depending on the light). I think I can see one or two new holes in the fins. His ventral fins are in terrible shape. One is visibly shorter than the other, though when he opens them (which is rare) it is "fuller." The longer one is pretty stringy. The ends of the ventrals look like they have "balls" on them. The caudal and dorsal fins look a bout the same, or better.

He should;d be looking a bit fat in these photos as he just ate a big meal. We are still keeping him on a big diet of frozen bloodworms for one meal and nutrafin bug bites for the second meal. Water change and vacuum every three days.

I will try to get some better pics later today.

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Discussion Starter #34
OK, some better photos this morning (July 25), better focus and clearer views of the anal fin. Since I am a newbie (and obviously not skilled at caring for betts), I cannot tell if the darker fringes on the fins are active fin rot, dead tissue that is falling off, or natural colouring. In short, while he's much better in terms of diet an behaviours, I cannot tell if we are making real progress with his fins. At what point--if ever--do we try antibiotics?

Everyone has been so helpful here. No expectation of an immediate response, just wanted to post these for reference. Will post again in a few few days when we do the next water change and, hopefully, we are making more progress toward getting the tank cycled.
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Discussion Starter #36
Apparently here in Canada one cannot get fish antibiotics without a prescription. The Seachem product is not available as a result. We are now searching for a vet to issue a prescription but the chances are not good. I am amazed.

i suppose in the meanwhile, after a break, we'll try a heavier dose of AS.
 

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Discussion Starter #37
Now poor Sammy has developed a number of white/rough sores along his back. HIs anal fins look so fragile, but maybe it's my imagination. He keeps what's left of his pectoral fins clamped all the time. I just don't know what to do any more. We are trying to obtain antibiotics, but that is very hard in Canada.

I'm beginning to think that all I can do is watch him waste away.
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Discussion Starter #40
The rot continues unabated: anal tail basically dissolving. I will post some more pictures later in the week.

What should we do??

We have ordered antibiotics (not available here in Canada), but they will not arrive for weeks, if they even come.

We have used aquarium salt already, but we should wait at least another few days before trying again--and I do think that the AS stressed him.

We change the water twice a week now, ends up being about 40%.

Should we try to remove him into another container and do a 100% water change, and totally clean everything in the main aquarium?

What else can we do to try to slow the bacteria and/or fungus that is eating through his fins?
 
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