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My betta is having trouble swimming, stays on the bottom of the tank. Advice please?

1431 Views 7 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  Pendulum
My crowntail betta Firecracker is very ill. I asked for advice from a fellow betta owner I know online and she suggested here for getting some guesses at what might be wrong. Firecracker has always been an active fish, but I noticed earlier this week he wasn't acting right. All he does now is lay on the bottom of the tank, either on his side or facing upwards. He seems to have trouble breathing, swimming and eating as well. I went back to the fish store I bought him from 5 months ago to see if they might know what was wrong, but they didn't tell me much other than, "they don't live long, it's probably old age." Is there anything I can do for him? More information below.

What size is your tank? 2.5 gallons.
What temperature is your tank? 80 degrees.
Does your tank have a filter? Yes.
Does your tank have an air stone or other type of aeration? Yes.
Is your tank heated? Yes.
What tank mates does your betta fish live with? He lives alone.

What type of food do you feed your betta fish? Flakes and freeze-dried blood worms. I have learned recently these foods are not good for him and can cause serious bowel issues apparently? I feel completely terrible.
How often do you feed your betta fish? Once a day. I think I may have been overfeeding him though.

How often do you perform a water change? Once a week.
What percentage of the water do you change when you perform a water change? I guess around 25-30%.
What type of additives do you add to the water when you perform a water change?I use room temperature bottled water, but I do also add Zoo Med Betta H2O Conditioner.

Water Parameters:
Have you tested your water? If so, what are the following parameters? I'm sorry, I am not sure how to do that?


Symptoms and Treatment
How has your betta fish's appearance changed? Not much. He looks a little bit paler and after more close observation I think I found a tiny tear in his tail fin.
How has your betta fish's behavior changed? He used to be very active, but now he seems to have no energy. He lays on his side or facing up on the bottom of the tank, seems to have a lot of trouble swimming and labored breathing. He does still try to swim to the top when he sees me in the room, but does not have the strength to go far. It's very sad. :(
When did you start noticing the symptoms? A few days ago, almost a week.
Have you started treating your fish? If so, how? I looked online and most sites seem to suggest he was constipated. It said to fast him for three days and than try feeding him a frozen thawed pea. I did this, but he has refused to eat the pea. I tried giving him some pellets today and he ate two, but it looked very hard for him. He has always had issues swallowing pellets though, which was why I originally switched to flakes.
Does your fish have any history of being ill? Not since I have owned him up until now.
How old is your fish (approximately)? I am not sure. I bought him at a fish store 5 months ago, but when I asked the store employees today they said most of their bettas are around 1 year old when they sell them.

I have recently put him in a smaller fish bowl in a very warm room since he is having so much trouble swimming and reaching the top of the tank. Would it be better to keep him in there for now or just put him back? Any help you can give me is very appreciated.
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Do more frequent water changes. In a tank your size you need to be doing at least one 50% and one 100% water changes per week.

also get some high quality pellets for food. Omega One and New Life Spectrum are the best. If money is a problem Omega One pellets are the same price as lower quality pellets.

also test your water. You can buy liquid test kits at all pet store, including petco and petsmart. Buy the liquid kind, not the stripes because they are unreliable. At least buy the one for ammonia.
Alternatively, you can take a sample of your tank water to a local pet store and usually they'll test the waters for you for free. Just call ahead of time to see if they're willing to help. I've seen small stores and large chain stores offer these kinds of help for free.

VivianKJean has pointed out some key suggestions. The water needs to be changed with one 50% and one 100% per week. I use 2.5 gallons for my two bettas and perform one 50% water change with gravel vacuum on Wednesdays and a 100% water change with hot washes four days after that.

As VivianKJean also posted, a dietary adjustment may be needed with high protein foods. Reading labels on fish food is very important when finding the right foods, making sure that the first couple of ingredients include whole fish, krill, shrimp, etc. Although flakes are generally okay for bettas, I find it much easier to measure the right amount with pellets. I actually had the opposite problem where my male betta had trouble eating the flakes so I had to switch to the pellets. If your betta has trouble eating the pellets, you can find mini pellets that are also available in your local Petco or Petsmart store. Just make sure you read the ingredients! Freeze dried bloodworms are okay as occasional treats but should not be used as a stapled diet.

I've read feeding peas is no longer a good method to help with constipation and that fasting and adjusting or changing the diet help instead. It sounds like your fish is constipated or has Swim Bladder Disorder and just needs 2-3 days of fasting and the correct amount of food after that. If he has trouble swimming, you can place him back in his 2.5 gallon tank with lowered water levels so he can reach the surface easier for air.

Try changing the water more frequently with one 50% and another at 100% as VivianKJean suggested. Even with a filter, a 2.5 gallon tank still requires water changes of twice a week. Remember to always acclimate your betta properly before letting them in their newly washed homes. Always follow the directions on your water conditioner.
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I agree with Pendulum. It sounds like SBD, possibly caused by constipation although I think it can also be caused by poor water quality. If he's been ill for a while, I would go ahead and put him in 1 tsp of epsom salt per gallon. My constipated bettas have always needed epsom salt to make them poo. I would do what Pendulum said and lower the water level too.
I had heard changing the water 100% is usually bad for the fish though? Is this untrue then? I did clean the whole tank out about 2 weeks ago and have just been changing out some of the water and used a gravel cleaner. I feel pretty stupid now, my poor fish! Since he's already in a different bowl right now I'll clean the whole tank and put him back in. I will look into buying better food, epsom salt and a water tester tomorrow as well. Thank you so much for the advice! While I'm at it though, I was thinking of eventually buying him a better tank when I have the money. Ideally, what is the best tank size for a betta?
No, 100% water changes are fine for bettas. I suppose that if you had an established cycle then it might be a problem but it doesn't sound like you do. If you are still concerned I usually add a couple of cups of old tank water to the new before I add it to the tank, so it is probably more like a 95% water change. You need to keep up with water changes to keep ammonia and nitrate levels down, both of which are very harmful to the fish
Alright, I'll make sure I do that from now on. I'll probably do as Pendulum suggested and pick out two days a week to always change the water on so I have a schedule and won't forget.
There are various opinions on "minimum tank size" for one betta fish. Some will say 2 gallons is enough but I've read many people suggest 5 gallons for one betta. With the lack of space and my scare on filters, I decided to keep the tank under 5 gallons. But many enthusiasts will suggest minimum 5 gallons for a thriving betta. After all, isn't a larger bathroom better than a small one, lol. Just make sure you don't believe the store employees that tell you "a tiny cup is okay for them to live". All LIES! Quarantine tanks can be small (0.5 - 1g) since it's only a short temporary amount of time.
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