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Fin Biting vs. Fin Rot​

Every now and then there is an influx of posts on if my Betta has fin rot and what to do! So here is a thread to explain what you all what to know.

As first time keepers we may read a page on fin rot and then look at our fish and suddenly believe our fish has fin rot! So what do we do? We research and ask around online generally to help your fish because the last thing you want is for your fishes fins to fall off! However, often times we mistake fin rot for fin biting, two very different things for our fish and different approaches are made.

Fin Biting
First let's take a look at Fin Biting. Fin biting can be caused by a many various things including; stress, boredom and unknown reasons. Stress is usually the biggest factor first, often when a first is brought home from the store they are stressed and sometimes they take it out on their fins. You may see fish at the store with bitten fins because males are constantly in sight of each other, this frustrates them and since they can't get at the other fish, they take it out on their own fins by biting them. Boredom can also effect the fish if they have nothing to do; no plants to swim through, no décor to hide in and play in and little to no human interaction, they can get bored and decide to bite their fins. Another factor, especially for long finned Halfmoon males, if their tails are so large that it drags the fish down and inhibits their swimming that they will give themselves a "haircut" so they can swim easier.

Fin biting will look rugged at times; sometimes little U shape bites are taken out of the fins. It will never look just simply split, that will be from some décor or plants. Fin biting will happen practically overnight or in a split second and most of the time you won't be around to see it happen. Here are some pictures of fish who have bitten their fins:

Notice the Ribbon effect he now has:
Pink Magenta

Photo credit Reagan

Tail Plant Paper Wing Art

Photo credit Reagan

Feather Blue Cobalt blue Wing Tail


Notice this boy has natural black coloration, that is not fin rot.
Red Feather Organism Adaptation Bird

Photo credit anothernewbetta

Treatment: Sometimes you can cure their biting by finding out what their "tick" is. If they are in view of another Betta, perhaps isolate them and see if that helps. It's all trial and error, some fish love their décor moved around while others absolutely hate it. But in all cases the keeper needs to keep their water clean so their fins do not get infected.
Depending on the tank size its generally recommended twice or three times a week to change the water, getting the bad bacteria out of the water and hopefully keep your fish safe. Using tannins will also help since they are natural antibacterial. Where do you get these tannins? They leach from things such as driftwood, IAL (Indian Almond Leaf), Oak Leaves and non-caffeinated tea (such as Rooibos).
You can also use vitamins, I generally like to use Vita-Chem bought online to help keep the fish healthy while they regenerate their fins.

Fin Rot

Now Fin Rot is different, fin rot happens because water quality declines and an infection sets in the fins. This is a bacterial infection that can infect any fish but fish that live in smaller environments that aren't properly cared for are more susceptible to getting this rot. This will not happen overnight and you will notice a steady decrease in finnage. Fin rot is not only black but comes in a variety of coloration, black is the more common one seen on mostly blue fish from simply the coloration. White, orange, red and yellow fish tend to see reddened edges like they are sore and they recede. And then the fin will look dead and no longer healthy.
Fin rot can set in from the result of fin biting but it doesn't have to have fin biting to set in.

Treatment: in most cases you only need to do a few things to help your Betta fight off the infection. First off is to improve your water quality, do frequent water changes through the week to help balance out electrolytes and promote the fish to fight off the infection. A high quality diet will also help out*. Warm, clean water is ideal and if you can get a tannins source that will also help stop the infection.
Many people believe that Aquarium Salt is the key to fighting off the infection; this is indeed false and doesn't do what most people believe it does. What aquarium salt does is balance out electrolytes which is a nice thing but not necessary, and secondly it aggravates the slime coat. This is why when you use AQ salt you often will notice a stringy substance coming off your fish, this is extra slime coat he has produced and is now shedding the old coat he had as the new one comes in. This is effective for helping to get rid of Ich, the old slime coat knocks off the parasite which helps to kill off the parasite.
You will notice that in the two major things that salt does, it does not cure fin rot. What it does do is it can sterilize an open wound. This is helpful when your fish does bite his fins; this creates an open wound on the fin for a day or so until it closes up. Fin Rot is not an open wound, think of it as a nasty scab, you wouldn't pour salt on a scab since it doesn't do anything! Now if you opened that scab, then you can use a saline solution to keep it clean until it heals.
So in most cases of fin rot you can; do frequent water changes, use a tannin source for antibacterial properties and make sure his water is warm (80-84*F).

In very bad cases of fin rot medications will be needed, skip the salt and head right for an antibacterial medication such as Triple Sulfa, Erythromycin, Tetracycline, General Cure or KanaPlex. KanaPlex is the best to get if the fin rot is aggressive, you may use a combination of medications but further diagnosis will be needed to tell that.

This boy has obvious fin deterioration on top of being emaciated. Notice the reddened edges that look sore.
Fish Fish Tail Organism Freshwater aquarium


Again, this boy has obvious deterioration.
Leaf Plant Flower Botany Plant stem


This poor boy has gotten so far as body rot as well, notice the fin he does have left just looks sort of dead and just hanging onto him.
Fish Fish Marine biology Underwater Bony-fish



Regrowth is often mistaken for more fin rot but there are easy ways to tell if it is regrowth. Regenerating fins will appear white or clear in nature, sometimes a little grey-ish depending on the color of the fish. Most of the time though it comes out as white and colors up as normal as it grows out. Sometimes you won't even notice it. Often on dark or black fishes you will see little clear dots at the end of the tail that seemed to appear overnight, this is regrowth which is good!

Also there is natural black coloration. Here is one of my old boys who had a natural black band around his fins, notice how even it looks. Sometimes a fish won't always have an even band around their fins like Jarvis did here but you see that in some parts of the black you can actually see through it and it seems thin. Fin Rot will look much more black than that.


Photo credit lilnaugrim

The same boy from earlier, notice the clear spots that look like holes? Well those aren't holes but in fact they are regrowth of his fin!
Screenshot Ipad Games Technology Electronic device

Photo credit anothernewbetta

This one also has the clear regrowth, that is what you are aiming for!
Blue Cobalt blue Fish Electric blue Fish


It takes time for Betta's to regrow their fins, be patient with them and they will soon flourish. Sometimes it can take months to regrow their fins depending on the damage, sometimes only a few days or a few weeks. As long as you keep their water quality good, you shouldn't have issues with fin rot.



**Note on food quality** for those who are wondering if their food is good enough or not: not all foods are created equal. Many companies use something in their foods called Fillers, they exist simply to do that; fill the food so they don't have to use all the expensive product in their food; cheaper for them to make it. These fillers consist of Wheat, Corn and Soybean which are things that fish cannot digest, same goes for cat and dog foods. Whole Wheat however is often used as a food binder to hold the pellet together so that one is fine, you just don't want it to be the top ingredient.

Take a look at your food ingredients and list the top three, what do they say? In a quality food you are looking for no fillers in the top three ingredients, you want something like Whole Krill, Whole Halibut, Whole Salmon even, these are good products. You don't want Soybean Meal or Corn there. One out of three ingredients as a filler is okay, not the best but it is much better than having all three ingredients as fillers.

New Life Spectrum is currently one of the leading brands along with Atisons Pro Betta (however, I don't believe that food is still being made but I do know some people still sell it online from overstock and whatnot). Omega One comes in second and Aqueon around third or fourth. Foods like TopFin, Tetra and Hikari are no good, again, take a look at the ingredients and tell me what you find.

NLS does have Whole Wheat in it's first three but it is the third food listed and it is a binder in this case, much better than if it were corn or soybean. Another reason I love NLS is because the Thera A formulas have garlic in their food, this is a natural anti-parasitic food which will help ward off internal parasites. Also Betta's loooooove the taste of garlic, I have yet to see a healthy fish turn down NLS. And since NLS is a high quality food, it is easily digestible for your fish, making them healthier. Healthy fish produces healthy fins, a healthy diet will also encourage fin regeneration.

**Note on Pictures** All pictures are from google unless otherwise noted and I do not take credit.

I believe I have covered everything, let me know if you all have any questions and I will do my best to answer them.
 

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This is awesome. Thank you!
Quick question, if it appears that damage is only being done to the caudal fin, can one assume it's just tail biting?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
This is awesome. Thank you!
Quick question, if it appears that damage is only being done to the caudal fin, can one assume it's just tail biting?
You're welcome!

Good question, and the answer is no. I forgot to add about that too so thanks for reminding me! Fish can bite all their fins to a degree, of course pectoral fins and ventrals are usually a little hard to reach but they can bend around and bite their anal fin, caudal and dorsal if they wanted to. This is harder for PK's or generally short finned girls/boys but they can still do it if they really want to. Generally for short finned fish though, they won't bite their fins because they are heavy since they aren't, but they will bite more from the stress related side of it or boredom. I find though that PK's tend to keep themselves more occupied for whatever reason, whether they can get around faster or whatever, I'm not very sure about that.

Fin biting does come around more with long finned fish in general, the first and foremost reason because their fins are dragging them down and it's frustrating them. But again, they can reach any fin. However, they are more likely to just bite their caudal than the other fins since that one is the easiest for them to reach (lazy fish lol).

If the damage is quick and almost overnight, it is most likely fin biting. Some fish like to nom on their fins slower so they won't take out as big of chunks as much as other fish do. Each fish is different in that aspect, but you will see the U shape marks or ribbon effect like the first picture I posted up there. Where as with fin rot, generally if it starts at the edge of a healthy fin it will look more like it's being burnt off with some flame. Like burnt edges of a paper, how it looks seared and continues to work its way into the fin.

Hope that helped, sorry it was a long answer XD
 

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Perfect timing on this post... I was starting to notice a few ragged ends on my HM (Knox). It became noticeable about the same time I started seeing some red coloring coming through on his fins, which made me a little nervous thinking it was fin rot (which would be strange considering how religious I am about keeping his water clean).

Now I believe my beautiful blue and white butterfly (who is changing to teal and white) is adding a new color to his spectrum...but it happened so quickly that I'm still watching the red closely. Here are his before biting and after biting (also before red fins and after red fins) photos. Please let me know if you think the red is natural or if I'm being an overly paranoid mother. Tried to include some close up shots but he is a VERY active fish and hard to get pictures of.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Perfect timing on this post... I was starting to notice a few ragged ends on my HM (Knox). It became noticeable about the same time I started seeing some red coloring coming through on his fins, which made me a little nervous thinking it was fin rot (which would be strange considering how religious I am about keeping his water clean).

Now I believe my beautiful blue and white butterfly (who is changing to teal and white) is adding a new color to his spectrum...but it happened so quickly that I'm still watching the red closely. Here are his before biting and after biting (also before red fins and after red fins) photos. Please let me know if you think the red is natural or if I'm being an overly paranoid mother. Tried to include some close up shots but he is a VERY active fish and hard to get pictures of.
Oh my, my! He's beautiful! Yeah, that red is his natural coloration. If it was going to be fin rot or bleeding fins, that tends to happen at the edge of their fins. I need to find a picture of the difference in red, you will notice the red coloration looks different than bleeding red, but I know picture references would help. I'll try to see if I can find refs for you guys later.

But no, he looks like he's just been biting and the red is normal coloration. That often happens to Butterflies where their nice white band turns into the color of the rest of them; normally blue or turquoise (green). And then sometimes they get other colors like red or yellow :)
 

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Thank you! When the red first started coming in (obviously more noticeable on the ends in the white) it looked to be a bloody red color and scared the poo out of me! I Googled the heck out of it but could not come up with any good reference pics myself. Now I see the red in his dorsal fin too where he has fin regrowth (it was torn when I got him).

He's become our red, white and blue 'Merica! fish...(my boyfriend's words, not mine)

But he's loved no matter what colors show up on him! Now if I can just get him to quit biting his fins! UGH. I'm thinking this was a case of "this thing is holding me back so I'm going to trim it up"...I hope.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Lol, that's adorable. I would totally name a fish "Murica" and once almost did but unfortunately a friend bought the fish, well a friend from here and she was like 'ooooh heck no, this fish is too pretty to be called Murica!' lol oh well, one day!

But yes, his looks natural and I can see he's got fin regrowth under the red, that clear part is most likely regrowth. He's still growing and he's most likely going to continue to grow his fins out as well as he ages. Hopefully he stops, Fin biting is something I wouldn't even wish upon my worst enemy!
 

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I appreciate your help! And I'll be doing a water change tonight and some rearranging in his tank...just in case it's boredom. But I'm pretty sure that since I've seen him struggling here and there to get himself turned around (and when he would flare he would just tip over in a different direction every time) that I'm dealing with a little kid who decided to cut their own hair.

He's so active and playful that I couldn't imagine him getting bored. Especially in his divided tank with his buddy on the other side (they've gotten past the flaring and just "chase" each other back and forth for a minute or two every now and then).
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Yeah, most likely it's just the hair cut option. I don't find Betta's often who bite from boredom, it has happened of course but it's just not as common as the stress factor or the haircut one is all.
 

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Love that you made this thread! I think every new betta owner should see this thread since it's so easy for new owners to mistake tail biting for fin rot! (I know I did!)

This is Gray's one month journey with tail biting:
He's a marble, who shimmers an electric blue in the right lighting. If you look closely enough at this photo, you can see his tail is fully intact, he just has a clear outline of his marbled tail. (Any red you see in his fins is also natural colour)

I apologize for the poor quality of the photos - he's a very active fish and I only have an iPhone for a camera...
Blue Electric blue Tail


He started tail biting in his 1.5gallon tank, so I moved him into a divided 10 gallon with another male on the other side, hoping the extra space would stop the tail biting. He and the other male rarely flared at each other.
Blue Majorelle blue Aquarium Leaf Freshwater aquarium


A couple days later, I glance over to see this:
Green Blue Leaf Aquarium Botany

Aquarium Organism Freshwater aquarium Tail Wing

He literally tore a strip out of his tail and was carrying it around like a prize.

So I took out the other male, removed the divider and gave Gray the whole 10 gallon. He was so restless, I would just watch him glass surf, then turn around and chomp on his tail. So I tried tank mates (neons and corydoras), and badda bing badda boom, he has stopped munching on his tail and is slowly letting it grow back!
This is Gray today. You can see the white regrowth on his tail and by his body where he had torn out a strip.
Aquarium Fish Freshwater aquarium Botany Organism

Aquarium Yellow Purple Freshwater aquarium Organism



Also, here's Gajeel, who was on the other side of the divided 10 gallon. He started tail biting when I made the boys switch sides and he could see Gray better. He also has naturally black outlined fins.
Before:
Green Organism Tail Fish Glass


After:
Blue Aquarium Freshwater aquarium Organism Water


He has since been moved to his own tank and is much happier and has stopped tail biting :)

Just thought I'd throw these in for more references, and because I like showing off my boys lol
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks for that Sathori! Great pictures and info as well! And yeah, who doesn't like to show off their boys or girls? haha

Also I did forget to mention that, you can use AQ salt at first to sterilize the wound of the fish, around a day is alright to use it for but by then the wound should already be starting to heal unless the fish continues to bite. If it's a chronic biter I wouldn't even use salt since it would end up being too much for the fish and too much salt or medication use can cause Dropsy and ultimately; death.
 

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I am requesting this either become a sticky or the mods can hopefully move this information elsewhere. I know many people will want to read this over time and I had to trawl through several pages to find it to find the thread link.
 

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This is what I woke up to this morning:



I think Flareon is biting his fin :( I'm doing a water change today, hopefully it won't stress him out even more, if that's the cause...
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I am requesting this either become a sticky or the mods can hopefully move this information elsewhere. I know many people will want to read this over time and I had to trawl through several pages to find it to find the thread link.
I have my own thread bookmarked lol but I agree, this is what I wrote it for; so people would have some sort of reference!

This is what I woke up to this morning:



I think Flareon is biting his fin :( I'm doing a water change today, hopefully it won't stress him out even more, if that's the cause...
This looks a little more like fin ripping which I didn't include much in the original post. Looks like he's done a little nipping at the top of his caudal but for the most part they are not chunks taken out but they are clean slices in the fins. I see you have many fake plants in the back. Plastic plants are the number one cause for Betta's fins to rip like this. In which time I suggest (I know this takes money and time) to remove all plastic plants and either replace with silk/fabric plants or live plants.

The old trick for most decorations is to run old pantyhose over the decor to see if it snags the hose, if it does then it will also snag your Betta's thin fins. This trick doesn't work as well for plastic plants I find since most edges are fairly smooth but it doesn't mean that they can't cut through thin finnage. So for now, I would suggest taking out all plastic plants so that he doesn't do further damage and then let him heal up while you accumulate some soft fabric plants or real ones if you decide to jump into that.

Live plants is a whole other ordeal and world when it comes down to it so I don't expect anyone to just jump into it, although that's how most of us start in this hobby and then into the plant world too! lol and then from there you learn proper care of what each plant needs and you move on :)
 

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If the Powers that Be would sticky this it would be great! I spent like 20 mins looking for this thread last night!! SUCH good information!
 

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What an awesome thread!! My Valentino has a tear in his "dorsal" fin that is probably a 1/4 inch big. He's in a 2.5- how often should I do water changes to make it grow back quickly?? Should I add any salt?
 

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I was also wondering if I could add something nice to Flareon's water to speed his healing and ensure that his fin doesn't get infected :(

I did test all of his decorations on pantyhose and everything was fine. I will definitely see about replacing everything with silk plants
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
What an awesome thread!! My Valentino has a tear in his "dorsal" fin that is probably a 1/4 inch big. He's in a 2.5- how often should I do water changes to make it grow back quickly?? Should I add any salt?
As I said about salt in my original post, it is no good for anything except aggrivating the slime coat which can help a little with Ich but not the best course of action if you can help it. It can sterilize wounds like open fins but if it's not a large chunk of fin then I wouldn't use it. Simply water changes and if you can, tannin source will help. Driftwood, IAL, Dried Oak Leaves or a naturally decaffeinated tea like Rooibos tea will add in tannins which have better antibacterial properties than salt does and it's natural for Bettas whereas salt is not naturally found in their habitat.

For a 2.5, just twice weekly water changes around 50% or more will help him :)

I was also wondering if I could add something nice to Flareon's water to speed his healing and ensure that his fin doesn't get infected :(

I did test all of his decorations on pantyhose and everything was fine. I will definitely see about replacing everything with silk plants
As posted above, tannins will be your best friend and his along with just frequent water changes. Usually twice a week is good for two weeks or more if they are minor fin ripping or biting issues.

I find that plants don't adhere to the rule with the pantyhose. I've even had silk plants that were stiffer, rip my boys fins. It's more about how thin the edges are, the thinner the edge of the plant I've found, the more likely they are to rip fins. Silk/fabric plants don't tend to rip as much and hence they are recommended over plastic. No fake plant is technically safe for them though, but of course as I pointed out, we normally don't all go running to the live plants lol. It's just that silk/fabric are safer than all plastic plants, less likely to rip fins.
 

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New Life Spectrum is currently one of the leading brands along with Atisons Pro Betta (however, I don't believe that food is still being made but I do know some people still sell it online from overstock and whatnot). Omega One comes in second and Aqueon around third or fourth. Foods like TopFin, Tetra and Hikari are no good, again, take a look at the ingredients and tell me what you find.
New Life Spectrum is currently one of the leading brands along with Atisons Pro Betta (however, I don't believe that food is still being made but I do know some people still sell it online from overstock and whatnot). Omega One comes in second and Aqueon around third or fourth. Foods like TopFin, Tetra and Hikari are no good, again, take a look at the ingredients and tell me what you find.
Yes Atisons is still making the food. I found their website. I just ordered some NLS.
 

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Yes Atisons is still making the food. I found their website. I just ordered some NLS.
I know they had gone out of business or something for a while where they weren't making it. I don't believe it is the same exact formula they were using before though. If you can find the old formula then that is good! But if I remember correctly, the new formula isn't as good.
 
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