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Hi, I'm new here, but I'm not new to betta fish! My previous fish, Little Boy Blue, was with me for almost 2 years before he passed last year. I brought home a new fish, Smaug, one week ago. He's a crowntail betta and I bought him at my local PetSmart.
In the pictures below you'll see my hobbit themed tank! My tank is cycled thanks to my two mystery snails, Goldberry and Tom Bombadil. I use a sponge filter with an air stone inside connected to an air pump, and a heater, and I have just one live plant. The tank is 10 gallons. With just the snails, the tank was a little empty, which just the hobbit hole and plants in it (more on that below).
Smaug acclimated really well and seemed to adjust quickly to his new home. I floated his container in the tank for about an hour before letting him swim out of it. He hid a lot for the first couple of days, but on Day 3 he really showed himself off. He seemed to really enjoy having all the space and swam around all day. He wasn't bothered at all by the snails, to my knowledge, and I'm not even sure if he noticed they were there. By Day 4, he was even coming up to see me at the glass and flared at me once! He has a great appetite and eats TetraBetta Plus pellets once a day, four pellets. I offered him a dried bloodworm once but he didn't seem to know how to eat it and I ended up scooping it out. In the first several days after I bought him, he seemed to be a very relaxed and curious little guy.

Yesterday, (Day 8 since I brought him home) I noticed Smaug spending a lot of time in one corner of the tank - the back right corner up at the top. When I first saw him there, I thought he was dead. I didn't see any gill movement and his fins weren't moving. I tapped on the tank stand to ripple the water, and thankfully he moved. I must have startled him because he took off toward the center of the tank, but then came right back to that corner and settled in again. I thought that was strange, but I let him be for a little while. When I came back an hour later, he was in the same spot, still just as unresponsive, but still came to life again when disturbed. This time, though, I noticed his swimming around the tank was very jerky, as if he was twitching.
So of course I did a water change, about 20%. I didn't test the water first because I was sure that the water change would fix whatever seemed to be wrong with him (spoilers: it did not). I let him settle for an hour after the change, and he was still up in that corner again, so that's when I tested the water. I use the liquid test kit with the vials.

The parameters I got after the water change were:
pH: 7.0
Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: 5 ppm

I use Stability and Prime with every water change.

I gave the fish a break and ate dinner, all the while he was still swimming very strangely and when not swimming he spent his time napping exclusively in that corner. Instead of moving all around the tank like he'd been doing throughout the week, he was staying at the very back of the tank, at the top of the water, taking a big breath every couple of seconds. I turned the light off to give him a break.
The internet wasn't giving me any good information. The tank is aerated, thanks to the air pump and air stone inside the sponge filter, and there are living plants so he shouldn't be starved for oxygen. I tested the water and the parameters are safe for betta fish. I tested the temperature with an instant-read thermometer and it's a balmy 78.5 degrees Fahrenheit, reasonably consistent throughout the whole tank (+/- 0.3 degrees), so he's not too cold nor too hot. The only thing that made sense to me was that maybe he was feeling exposed, since there was really only one hiding spot in the tank and he has to share it with the snails; I went out last night and bought a leaf hammock, a tall (fake) plant, and two short (also fake) plants, but it didn't change his behavior except that instead of "sleeping" exclusively in the back corner of the tank, he now does the same thing on the hammock, which is at the front of the tank. While I was at the store, I had them check the parameters of the water, and they matched what I got at home (I know they just use the strips and those aren't considered very reliable, but they match what I got with my liquid test kit so I don't think it was a coincidence).

Today, Smaug has spent most of his day (and I mean hours on end) "napping" in one of the right-hand corners of the tank, at the very top of the water. I have seen him swim down into the hobbit hole a few times and he'll hang out there usually overnight, but during the day he's in a corner. He did eat his pellets this morning. He doesn't seem to be rubbing himself on any surfaces, he doesn't have any indication of a parasite or fin rot or anything like that. The parameters are stable, the tank is clean, the snails are happy and aren't exhibiting any changes in behavior. It doesn't seem to be linked to light usage either, as he hangs out in the corner when the light is off too. I just don't know what to make of this. The only time I've seen a fish hang out at the top of the tank like this is when they were on death's door. I feel like I've checked for everything that could be hurting him and none of it fits. Is there anything I can do?? Do fish go through phases like this and should I just wait to see if this passes?

Plant Green Nature Botany Natural landscape

Plant Botany Leaf Terrestrial plant Grass Plant Green Leaf Wood Natural environment
Water Fin Underwater Fluid Plant
Plant Vertebrate Fluid Mammal Grass
 

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Hey! Thanks for all the info and pics! I feel like you've done everything right. The only two things that I find wrong are, maybe adding more plants around the tank and feeding him more. I feel like the tank is a little empty. He may be bored because he doesn't have much to interact with. The other thing is that 4 pellets a day is not enough in my opinion. I feel that more would be better but spread out through out the day. Could you please take a picture of Smaug from above? I would also appreciate an above picture of the whole tank to see the tank's layout from above.
 

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I just went through this exact same situation. My Betta fish seemed depressed. He had so much energy and curiosity when I brought him home. I loved his behavior so much but then things started going south. I couldn't figure it out but the symptoms were obvious and the same as yours. His water quality was pristine. I did 50% water changes daily for a week just in case I was missing something. Tried different temperatures, bought new toys for the tack, caves, everything.

Finally, as a last ditch effort I decided to upgrade his tank size from 3.5 gallons to 5.5 gallons and added both salt and API's "general cure". I'm not proud of changing so many variables at once but I was getting desperate and feared dropsy was not far away. I had nothing to lose.

Low and behold, through some divine intervention, my boy started coming through! Two days into treatment and he started getting his old self back. He was no longer spending literally the entire day sleeping against a wall in the corner. He started getting curious again and even ventured out into his new tank a little bit. His appetite came back.

So all of this said it may be worth a shot to try upgrading tank size, adding table salt to the entire aquarium, and/or API's General Cure.
I know how sad it can be "losing" an interesting betta so I wish you and your boy the best of luck. Keep me posted on his recovery if you could please!
 
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