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Hi, completely new member here. Finally come to this forum as I am in two minds about whether or not to stay far away from Betta fish from here on.

My first Betta was a shortfin elephant ear. He was gorgeous and I adored him. My set-up was a Fluvial Flex 34L with baffles on the filter output. Heater set to 25°C. Fully planted and cycled. Plenty of places for him to hide and rest. No sharp corners or small holes for him to get stuck. Shrimp and snails in with him. Almond leaf added with every water change. Water changes done on a needs only basis to avoid tank crash. Testing kit in test tube form and strips as a backup. Parameters were always good, 0/0 ammonia/nitrite, healthy levels of nitrate, pH neutral. kH and GH I will go into later.

He was fed on a diet of high protein Betta pellets, about 6 per day, and frozen/live, incl. bloodworm. I suspect I overfed him bloodworm, and have since learnt to avoid this live food with Betta. He began suffering from sporadic periods of bloat, so I would fast him for several days, and this seemed to help him. After a week of being away and him being in my family's care with strict instructions, which they say they followed, I came back to a lethargic bloated Betta. I fasted him like normal, he did not get better. I set up a hospital tank, medicated for early stage dropsy, and used an epsom salt bath. Despite this, he reached pineconing stage and passed.

I did a 75% water change, and cycled the tank for 3 weeks. I bought my second Betta, a female, also from the UK pet store where I work, like my first Betta (to make reading/writing easier, I'll give names- Diogenes was my first, Chihiro my second, Hephaestus my third). When I bought Dio, he was showing no signs of illness or poor breeding, though I know corp pet store suppliers are not renowned for their five star breeding. Chihiro was however in a below-average state when I bought her. I'd become attached to her as she came in as a candy cane, became sick, and reverted to a pale grey blotchy pattern, but refused to give up like many of her tank mates over her days in the pet store. I was trying to exercise self-control, but eventually gave in. Conditions are not great for female Betta where I work- they are kept in groups of 20+ in small tanks with little decor/plants.

When she came home with me, she had a chunk missing from her lip, which appeared healed. She was active and feeding despite her ragged appearance. Once in my tank, she made a gradual recovery. Her colour began to return. However, about two months in, she again began to suffer from the bloat I'd seen in Dio. She was fed on Betta flake with dried shrimp as she refused to take pellet. She was very infrequently fed bloodworm. She too developed early-stage dropsy, for which she was quarantined and medicated. Like Dio, she pineconed and passed, despite all my best efforts.

I blamed my continued occasional frozen bloodworm treat/the freeze-dried shrimp chunks in the flake for the bloating. Water parameters throughout both these deaths were reading fine. Again I will go in to GH/kH at the conclusion of the story, as it needs it's own paragraph.

At this point I am suspecting diet. I retire both the Betta pellets and the Betta flake, which I'd researched/been recommended by fishkeeper friends, to treat foods. Bloodworm is off the menu completely. I do a 75% water change and wait 3 months before my next Betta. I add a (small- tank is not overstocked) school of ember tetra, and more shrimp. There is a thriving cherry population in the tank when my next Betta goes in.

Hephaestus was a shortfin galaxy koi. He had my heart just as much as the other two. He seemed much more robust in temperament, and thrived on a mix of frozen/live Cyclops and daphnia, and the micro pellets the tetra ate. I only ever put a third of the provided tiny scoop in at a time to prevent him overfeeding. Again all parameters were stable. He showed no signs of illness for two months.

He began gorging on the cherry shrimp in the tank and experiencing sporadic bloat, which at first he bounced back from by himself. Then fasts became necessary, which sometimes remedied the issue, sometimes not. I cut out the micro pellets when it became too frequent, and only fed the live/frozen, only the smaller more digestible options. He seemed to improve a little.

I then had to go away for a week for a work placement, and left him in the care of my housemate with strict instructions. She followed them exactly, but contacted me midway through the trip to say his bloat had returned. I requested a fast. She then called me two days later in the evening, showing me Heph in a concerning state. I immediately asked her to check the temperature, and discovered the heater had broken and was cooking the tank. She seems to have noticed as it was happening, as he progressively worsened and then brightened a little as she took emergency steps to save him.

I thought he was going to make it through the temperature shock, and was pleased to hear he was swimming around. However, when I got home, he was sitting at the bottom, and had visibly pineconed. I had a breakdown at 2am whilst I gave him an epsom salt bath, but he passed.

I loved them all so much. I feel like I failed them. Should I have gutted the tank completely after the first or second death? Is there bacteria established in the tank attacking all my Betta when their immune system is low? How am I messing up their diet this bad when some owners I know feed only flake and their betta never get bloat and are living to old age? Is this poor luck or am I doing something plainly wrong?

GH/kH: the third possible culprit besides dropsy-causing bacteria/diet. kH soared in my tank as I was recommended an additive to raise it for my shrimp and it was too strong. I brought the kH down and pH down to 8 after the mishap, but it never fell back to 7. This was with Heph, a month before he got sick.

I have always had problems with GH. My water is extremely hard. I have shoved as many botanicals in that tank as I can. Nothing has made a difference. If this is the issue, I will use R/O water in future if the consensus is I shouldn't dismissn aother betta. Is this a massive contributor to my bettas' deaths? The embers and the shrimp are fine, shrimps molt normally, the snails' shells are of good quality.

Sorry for a very messy post. In summary, is this bad luck, or is there something I'm doing? Should I stay away from Betta or try again? I love them, and don't want to cause any more fish unnecessary suffering if I am the issue here. Any advice or knowledge appreciated. Thank you to anyone who responds.
 

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2 bettas (MOON) (TANK) 3 mollies 1 african dwarf frog 2 dogs 2 cats 2 leopard geckos 1 baby guinea
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Welcome don't give up on bettas there amazing fish I believe you should start from scratch new tank new food new decor so you don't risk this happening again get some recommendations from the experts have you been getting bettas from the same store if so try a new one
 

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2 bettas (MOON) (TANK) 3 mollies 1 african dwarf frog 2 dogs 2 cats 2 leopard geckos 1 baby guinea
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My best advice is buying the betta thats the best in shape at the store.
just seeing them from the store and their condition already shows you how healthy they will be when you buy them.
I've seen bettas that look healthy but are actually very sick and I don't think that there is problem with the bettas if there is than try a different store
 

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So sorry that you have gone through all of this! I think most of us are like you in that we love our bettas unconditionally and are crushed when they get ill and pass. It is true that bettas are mass bred and that makes them genetically weak. Perhaps getting a betta from a breeder would be better, or finding a very young betta at the pet store may help, as long as the fish looks healthy. I will try to pass on some things, in my opinion, that may help should you decide to get another betta.

I always like the idea of a betta only tank. Having a betta only tank prevents all kinds of possibile problems. But I know this is not a popular idea, as many in the hobby like community tanks. Bettas are unpredictable. What is ok today may not be tomorrow, so I would say that same thing - betta only with no shrimp. If you want to add a nerite snail or two, they are pretty safe. Again, just my opinion...

I, too, have a problem with hard water. The ph is not the issue; bettas will adjust to higher ph levels. The GH is what causes a problem and can negatively affect the osmostic pressure and breathing processes of the fish. I think that if you can try using RO water, that would be great. If not, then peat moss is really good at lowering the hardness of water, if you haven't tried that yet. I know some people with a true black water tank, and this is how they lower their levels to reach the parameters that they need (along with lots of leaves and driftwood).

As for bloat that progresses to dropsy, some food can cause the initial problem which then leads to dropsy. I would recommend that you soak the betta's food in garlic juice (water that garlic has soaked in for a little while). The garlic will give the fish an immune boost, and garlic is often used for picky eaters. Or, you can use some Seachem Garlic Guard, if that is available at your pet store. I would feed frozen daphnia (this helps to prevent bloat and constipation), and frozen brine shrimp or mysis shrimp. If you can get New Life Spectrum Thera +A, it is a pellet that comes in very small sizes, and is already laced with garlic. If you want to use any other pellet food, just make sure that you soak it before you feed it to your betta. It's best to feed 60 to 70% frozen food /40% to 30% pellet-type food, if you can.

The last thing that I will mention is keeping the tank water super clean. I don't think that the normal beneficial bacteria is causing your bettas to get sick. Keeping up with water changes helps a ton. Adding humic substances/botanicals, like Indian almond leaves, alder cones, or using rooibos tea will help to decrease fish stress. The water needs to be brown, not barely tinted.

I hope that I have given you some info that will help your next betta thrive!!! If you do decide to get another, please post a pic so we can all see him/her!!! :)
 

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2 bettas (MOON) (TANK) 3 mollies 1 african dwarf frog 2 dogs 2 cats 2 leopard geckos 1 baby guinea
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I've had fish die 2 days later but could you show us pictures of past fish so we can see what's really happening thanks
 
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