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Discussion Starter #1
I'm new to betta ownership, at least in my adult life. I've had three fish. The first died after a week. I then did a 50% water change when adding the second one. He died after three days. I let the tank cycle for 3 weeks and then added a fish again. He has been here for 4 days now but is going to die any minute now. I got my water tested and they said it was fine. I took my fish out of the tank to completely rinse it and noticed that my fish had moldy, cottony looking stuff on his body and mouth. After much searching, I'm almost positive it's cotton wool disease. I've put some aquarium salts in with my struggling betta but I don't think he's going to make it. My question is how do I now sanitize my tank before bringing home a new fish (if the unfortunate but increasingly unavoidable happens) so that he doesn't contract it as well.

My 3 gallon tank has some gravel and decorations, thermostat, filter, heater, and a snail. I want to make sure whatever has been making my fish sick is gone before I try again.

Housing
What size is your tank? 3 gallons
What temperature is your tank? 78 degrees
Does your tank have a filter? Yes
Does your tank have an air stone or other type of aeration? No
Is your tank heated? Yes
What tank mates does your betta fish live with? A snail

Food
What type of food do you feed your betta fish? Pellets (I know now, not the best, but honestly they never even show interest in food)
How often do you feed your betta fish? Once a day, if that, but they don't eat

Maintenance
How often do you perform a water change? Twice a week
What percentage of the water do you change when you perform a water change?
25%
What type of additives do you add to the water when you perform a water change? De chlorinating

Water Parameters:
Have you tested your water? If so, what are the following parameters?
Got tested at petco, they said everything was fine
Ammonia:
Nitrite:
Nitrate:
pH:
Hardness:
Alkalinity:

Symptoms and Treatment
How has your betta fish's appearance changed? Barely breathing, extreme lethargy, cottony patches growing off body and mouth
How has your betta fish's behavior changed?
When did you start noticing the symptoms?
Have you started treating your fish? If so, how? Aquarium salt
Does your fish have any history of being ill?
How old is your fish (approximately)?
 

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With a tank that size you should definitely be doing larger water changes. This thread is a good guide: http://www.bettafish.com/showthread.php?t=115758 Even if your tank is cycled, larger changes are recommended. A lot of people will forgo a cycle at that size since it is much more unstable.

Take a look at the disease and treatment thread: http://www.bettafish.com/showthread.php?t=73332

It sounds like you might have columnaris in your tank and you will definitely need to do 100% change and disinfect everything before getting more fish. To help your current fish, follow the directions on the disease thread. You will need to do 100% daily changes. This will kill your cycle if you keep your fish in there, but it's worth it since you will have to kill the cycle before getting new fish anyway.

What kind of snail do you have? Most people will say that 3 gallons is close to minimum size for a healthy betta and it is not recommended to put more things in there. Maybe ghost shrimp or a nerite since they are small, but you are still pushing your luck. Nonetheless your snail should be quarantined from any fish because the bacteria or parasites (if that's what it is) may be on his body too.

A side note: from my experience the pet stores use sticks to test, which are notoriously inaccurate. If you can't get your own liquid test kit, then at least ask them what the levels are. I've had a pet store tell me the water was fine, then I received my liquid test kit in the mail that day and I got an ammonia reading of .25 so I'm not sure that I trust them anymore.

I'm really sorry I tend to ramble. I hope something I've said helped. Following directions from those two threads should help this fish and any in the future.
 

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pics of the fish would definitely help to see what it could be but it sounds like it's fungus.

like wiggy said larger and more water changes should be done. always ask for the numbers. don't just go by "o it's ok" people here would be able to let you know if it really is ok or not. even better would be to take a pic of the strips(cuz they use those now) along side the chart.

if the fish died really quick like yours did i wouldn't put in a new fish in the same water even with a 50% water change. i would completely change the water and do tons of rinses of everything then let sit to dry out for about a week. then i would start up again with new water for the new fish.

Edit: i just saw that you put that they weren't all that hungry? betta's usually eat like little piggies so with them not eating much that's a first sign saying that something is wrong.
 

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I wouldn't give up on this guy so quickly. Do you have a PetSmart or other fish store nearby where you can get medication?

Also, what type of snail do you have?

ETA: As already mentioned pictures would allow for a better diagnoses.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Here are two pictures. You can't see in it but where the discoloration on the body is and under the mouth is coated with a white cottony moldy looking substance. I'm honestly surprised he's still alive but I guess the salts have possibly helped some.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Also, this is a temporary recovery home for him. I just wanted to get him out of the tank that I felt was contaminated. And I believe it's a black mystery snail? I would be willing to do much more frequent water changes to keep him in there. He's held strong through my rotating fish, I just don't want him to recontaminate a clean setup if he's carrying something too.
 

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A separate container for the fish is the best thing for him right now. As long as you're doing salts and changing 100% water everyday, that is all you can ask for at the moment. After a week if there are still no results, you may want to look into the anti fungal products also mentioned on the disease page.

I think that the general consensus is that the harmful beings in the water can survive up to 3 weeks without a host. So if you were to run a cycled tank without any fish for a while, it would take at least 3 weeks to get rid of anything. If you're doing 100% changes on the tank and disinfecting, you will be ok, but I'm not sure about the snail. They don't carry the same diseases as fish for the most part, but I would not recommend rushing to put him back in with a fish, even if you've disinfected everything.

Mystery snails are BIG. If you don't have another home for the snail, then I would definitely recommend skipping the cycle when you reintroduce a fish to the tank and just do 1 to 2-50% and 1-100% water changes a week. (Other people might have more experience with this and have another opinion). It might just be better to give the snail a different permanent home if you can.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks for the advice. I'll continue doing what I'm doing and hope he pulls through. If mystery snails are BIG than that's not what my guy is. He's under an inch in diameter.
 

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That's big for a 3g tank and they can grow a lot bigger. Mine started out at maybe 3/4 in and it's been a month, he's already over an inch. That does depend on water hardness and food available, but they increase ammonia much more than a nerite does.
 

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The problem with mystery snails isn't so much the size (they start out extremely tiny and then can grow to be the size of a golfball), it's their bioload. Mystery snails are extremely dirty. When I first got a mystery snail I kept it in a 2.5g tank. It nearly killed my fish, even with proper water changes, because of the bioload. I moved them both into a 10g, and started to learn about mystery snails. They are a snail that is close to my heart, and this is the first time in a long time I've been without one. But, I wouldn't keep one in anything smaller than a 10g with a fish.

As for your boy, the gray area on him.. that is the cotton growth that you are talking about correct? That is not the flesh itself, but something on top of the flesh?
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Yes. It's become dis colored there and there is white fuzzy moldy looking growth on top of it as well as under his mouth like a beard. His face looks very deathly and sick too. He was sinking to the bottom an hour ago but perked back up and went back to this floating with his mouth by the surface position. I feel bad for him, he's such a fighter. If he's still kicking tomorrow I'll do a 100% water change and add the salts again.
 

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Yes. It's become dis colored there and there is white fuzzy moldy looking growth on top of it as well as under his mouth like a beard. His face looks very deathly and sick too. He was sinking to the bottom an hour ago but perked back up and went back to this floating with his mouth by the surface position. I feel bad for him, he's such a fighter. If he's still kicking tomorrow I'll do a 100% water change and add the salts again.
Since it looks pretty large, and he is clearly pretty sick, I would recommend going an antibiotic route. API Triple Sulfa or API Furan 2 would probably be the route I would go.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks. Unfortunately he didn't make it through the night. I initially wasn't going to even try again because it's tough to keep on losing them so quickly; but I think realizing there was a fungus or bacteria in there helped a lot. I feel fairly confident that if I sterilize everything before introducing a fish again, he'll have a much better chance.
 

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Sorry for your loss. I wish you luck with future fish.

If you can, wait about 3 weeks before adding a fish, so that you can make sure he isn't carrying anything. As I and others previously stated, the mystery snail might fair better in a bigger home or a home by himself, but that's your call. They are cute but have nasty enormous bioloads. And poop everywhere!
 

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How are you going to sanitize the tank? I usually use bleach water, let it soak, then leave it empty to dry for a few weeks in the sun to ensure everything is dead. I've never had a problem with recontamination.

I would also recommend taking some time to learn about Betta diseases. That way when they get sick you can treat it. Most fish survive when diseases are caught early and treated properly.
 
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