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Discussion Starter · #1 ·

I just discovered this community as I was looking for information on common Betta fish diseases. Happy to be a part of it!
Plouf is my first Betta fish, a twin-tail halfmoon male that I adopted in January.

He's been fairly lethargic today, and scared us this morning as he was curled up in his house at the bottom of the aquarium. He seemed like he could not go back up to breathe.
Recently we've been having brown algae covering his gravel and the filter of his pump. The water was smelling like fungus. I looked for information, and sometimes people say it's a sign of a great ecosystem, and sometimes not. Anyway - after seeing Plouf like that this morning, I changed the gravel completely and about 60% of the water. I also removed a third of the plants that were in his aquarium - they had been propagating and had maybe become too invasive...

My care was a 30% water change every 10-15 days at max, no gravel vacuuming.

Since then he seems fine, but less active than usual. He ate after his water change. Looking at the pictures, do you see anything wrong with him? Any advice on water care? Thank you so much for your help and advice!

How many gallons is your tank?
2 gallons

Does it have a filter?

Does it have a heater?
No, but it's always warm in our apartment.

What temperature is your tank?
His water is currently at 80.6 Fahrenheit.

Does your tank have an air stone or other type of aeration?

Does your Betta have tank mates? What kind?

What food brand do you use?

Do you feed flakes or pellets?


How often do you feed your Betta? How much?
2x a day, morning and evening, 3 pellets each time

your Betta became ill how often did you perform a water change?
Once every 10-15 days maximum

What percentage of water did you change?
30 to 50%

What is the source of your water?
Tap water with Tetra Aquasafe for Bettas conditioner

Do you vacuum the substrate or just dip out water?
Just dip out water (but just invested in a vacuum!)

What additives do you use? What brand of conditioner?
Tetra Aquasafe for Bettas 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: I don't know :( I use test strips from API and they don't check Ammonia.
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 0
pH: 6.5 / 7
Hardness (GH): 60
Alkalinity (KH): 40-ish

Symptoms and Treatment:
When did you first notice the symptoms?
Today (4/14/2020)

How has your Betta’s appearance changed?
I don't see any change... maybe his fins are thinner...

How has your Betta’s behavior changed?
He hides more, and tends to be lethargic.

Is your Betta still eating?

Have you started treating your Betta? If so, how?

Does your Betta have any history of being ill?

How long have you owned your Betta?
4 months

Was he or she ill or suffering some sort of damage when purchased?


· Registered
1,040 Posts
Welcome to the forum!

In general, it looks to me like Plouf is healthy. So you can be reassured on that front.

Many bettas, especially ones with a lot of finnage like a Doubletail HM has, become somewhat ragged in a home aquarium simply because they have to actually swim around with those fins instead of sitting in a tiny cup. As long as the edges are clean and uninfected (fin rot usually appears as a black or reddish edge on the torn fin) then it isn't a major problem.

If you want you can add in a tannin source like India Almond Leaves or Rooibos Tea (pure, no flavors or additives), which have mild antiseptic properties and will help keep his fins clean. They will also make the water darker and slightly more acidic, which bettas generally prefer. You can simply plunk the leave/tea bag in the water, or boil them with some tank water in a very clean mug and add it to the tank once it's cooled.

Also, upgrading to a better food is always a good idea. Wardley isn't terrible because they do have "fish meal" as the first ingredient, but their next two are plant-based and are basically just fillers. So if you can, look for Omega One, New Life Spectrum, Northfin, or Bug Bites as a better brand. Or any that have fish/seafood as the first ingredients, with as few plant ingredients as possible. You can also give him frozen foods like bloodworms or brine shrimp as a supplement (Freeze-dried is good for a snack, but are more like potato chips than a healthy meal).

Some more general advice for your tank:

Your test strips aren't showing any Nitrite or Nitrate, which suggests to me that your tank isn't cycled yet (AKA the Nitrogen Cycle). This would mean that you are building up Ammonia in the tank in-between water changes, which isn't great for your betta's health.

Small tanks generally need more frequent water changes than larger ones, because anything bad builds up faster without more water to dilute it. In a 2g tank that isn't cycled, I would change 25-50% twice a week, instead of every two weeks. Once the tank is cycled, you may only need a once-weekly water change. And definitely start vacuuming the gravel once your siphon comes in, or at least stir up the gravel with a skewer/chopstick and suck up the gunk that floats up.

If you can get a water sample tested by a store, or can afford to buy a liquid test kit (API Master Kit is usually the best value), they are more reliable than paper strips and will show in more detail where your tank is in terms of being cycled. In the mean time please read the stickied posts we have on cycling- CYCLING: the two-sentence tutorial & A Beginner's Guide to the Freshwater Aquarium Cycle

Brown algae is perfectly normal, it is actually a form of "diatom" that looks brown because of the minerals it uses to build its body. They usually show up within a few weeks of a new tank being set up, and will die off on their own. If they bother you, or are covering the filter intake, you can wipe them off any surfaces they appear on. If the algae is brown because it was green but died, clean it up ASAP because dead algae contributes to poor water quality.

As long as the plants in your tank are alive & healthy, you really can't have "too many"! Some people thin them out for aesthetics, or if they get so overgrown the betta can't swim between them at all, but more plants will really only help water quality. So don't worry about them "taking over" in that sense. Dead or dying plants can do the opposite, however, and should indeed be removed ASAP in a tank your size.

The moldy smell... Well, it depends. Is there any visible mold in or around your tank? A little bit of white fuzz at the water line or on driftwood is pretty normal and harmless, it just looks ugly. You can wipe it off with a damp paper towel to help keep it down (But in my experience, it'll just show back up again. Sigh). Big fluffy pieces, or mold in another color than white, can mean a much more serious problem and we'd need more information.

I've found that my planted tank smells not necessarily moldy, but "earthy and musty" in a way that's different from any of my non-planted tanks. It was strange to get used to, but doesn't seem to be a sign of any problems. The smell will also be helped by more-frequent water changes.

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hi @Rana,

Wow, thank you SO MUCH for your detailed answer. Very, very useful.

Glad to read that Plouf seems healthy to you :) Today he was back to his old self, swimming around and being a goof.

Thank you for your recommendations for food. I'll definitely upgrade it and pick one of the brands you mentioned.

Regarding the tank being cycled, it is my understanding that in order to know if it's cycled or not, I need to test the water and look for ammonia, correct? When ammonia reads 0.0ppm, nitrite reads 0.0ppm and nitrate increases slightly between water changes, then the tank is cycled - right?

About 2 months ago, Plouf's water became blurry and cleared up all by itself in a few days. I had read somewhere that this happens when the tank cycles. Not sure if this is correct or not, but in any case I'll buy the API Master Test kit.

Lastly, regarding the brown algae - good to know is normal! And yes, the smell could have been described as "earthy and musty" :) No real mold and no dead plants.

I received my vacuum today, so at the next water change I'll use it.

Thank you again so, so much!

· Registered
25 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Hi there!

Thanks again for your help and recommendations.
Plouf's new food arrives tomorrow :)

I received the water testing kit today, and here are the results. I changed about 50/60% of the water on Monday (roughly 5 days ago):

PH: 7.4
Ammonia: 0.25 (but the color was lighter than for 0.25, so probably less than that)
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 0

I believe these numbers are normal, and I should change about 25% of the water to reduce the ammonia. Am I correct?

Thank you so much!

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1,040 Posts
Yup, pretty normal! Your tank is going to start cycling soon (it's inevitable when you have a filter) so make sure you read up on the nitrogen cycle. Bettas don't put out a ton of ammonia so it doesn't usually build up very quickly, especially with live plants to help soak it up, but any amount on a test is a sign to do a water change.

The short version of fish-in cycling is: change 25% of the water whenever your test shows .25 or higher ammonia, or any nitrite. When in doubt, it's better to do a water change than to skip it. When you consistently reach 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and 5+ nitrate, you're done. It usually takes about four-six weeks to fully cycle a tank, but can be slower or faster depending on other factors.

Also, since you've had the tank up for four months already and don't seem to have cycled yet... Have you been changing out the filter cartridge/media? If so, you should stop. Manufacturers say to change them only so you buy more, and they get money. The media is where 80% of the beneficial bacteria live, and changing the cartridge means taking out all those BB. Instead, just rinse under tank water to get the gunk out, and only replace when it's literally falling apart- ideally, wedge the new one inside the filter alongside the old for a few weeks, to make sure the BB start to colonize it.

If you haven't been replacing the filter media... It's possible that the tank has already started cycling, but the plants have sucked up all the ammonia and nitrates before they show up on your test (A phenomenon known as a "silent cycle"). Or that for whatever reason, your tank is just taking its time. You can add in a bottled bacteria supplement to jump-start the process if you are concerned, or just keep an eye on your tests and wait for it to happen the old fashioned way.

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thank you @Rana !
Indeed, I used about 3 filters in the past 4 months. I changed it a week ago when I posted here for the first time when Plouf was acting weirdly.
It was all brown and "earthy" so I thought it was responsible for potential bad water quality.
It's been a week now and it started turning yellow-light brown, but I'll make sure not to change it before a while!

Last water test and water change was on Friday, I'll do another one tonight or tomorrow to keep an eye on the cycle.

Plouf loves his new Omega One pellets, but couldn't care less about the flash frozen blood worms I got for him as snacks :)

Thank you again for all your advice!

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1,040 Posts
I'm glad I could help!

Yup, that brownish-reddish color and slightly funky smell on the filter media is perfectly normal. You do want to rinse it off periodically in tank water so it doesn't get too funky, since it is trapping bits of poo and leftover food, but it's also where most of the BB live so you don't want to replace it completely unless you have to.

And glad to hear about the new food! None of my bettas have ever cared for freeze-dried treats either, I have to give them frozen or they just turn their noses up at it. Ah well, that's pets for you. :b
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