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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My friend and I went to PetCo yesterday, and we found this guy. His colour was the reason we picked him up and looked at him, and while we were deciding if we should get him or not, we noticed that he kept kind of tipping over to his side. Finally, he just laid down on his side and was breathing really hard. His water was dirty so we pulled a PetCo associate aside and asked him if he would do a water change for the fish, to see if that would help his condition. The associate notified his manager, and he did the water change for us. The fish's condition (clearly) did not improve, so we asked the manager if they did the free adoption of sick/disabled animals like PetSmart does (he said no) and then recommended that we just pick another fish since the one we wanted was sick. Then, he took this guy and put him in one of the larger tanks that they keep their community fish in (said that putting them in the bigger tanks usually "livens them up") and left to help customers. My friend and I stuck around pretending to browse while keeping an eye on the fish, who after a minute did start swimming around a little bit, but his swimming was/is very jerky, not smooth at all, like he has trouble staying afloat. He had a hard time making it to the surface for air in that big tank so after a few minutes we suggested that the associate should probably not leave him in the big tank, because of his swimming issues.
Long story short, we got the associate to put the fish back in his little cup and proceeded to buy him and bring him home with us.
We set up a "hospital tank" for him, a one gallon tank with a light, under gravel filter, heater, and one plant and a tiki man decoration we bought for this fish.
The fish sits at the bottom all the time, breathing hard and when he does swim, it's very jerky, like he hits a lot of speed bumps, not smooth at all, and he'll gasp for air at the surface before he goes back to lay on the bottom. He sits mostly on his side, though he sometimes will sit up, sometimes with the help of a plant or the side of the tank, sometimes by his own accord. He's responsive, if I put my finger up to him he moves, and he'll go to the surface to breathe. I've seen him curl up, almost bending in half, a few times, as well.
I have been giving him small doses of Stress Coat every 12 hours or so.
My friend looked his symptoms, trying to see what he might have (I worked today, so I didn't have time) and his symptoms all seem to point to Nitrate poisoning.
Aside from the water changes, bacteria supplements, and stress coat, I'm not sure if there's anything better or more to do for him, but if anyone has suggestions, I'm very much open to hearing them.

What size is your tank?: One Gallon
What temperature is your tank?: about 72 degrees
Does your tank have a filter?: Yes, and under gravel filter
Does your tank have an air stone or other type of aeration?: *see above*
Is your tank heated?: Yes
What tank mates does your betta fish live with?: He's by himself.

What type of food do you feed your betta fish?: I haven't fed this guy anything since I brought him home.
How often do you feed your betta fish?: I haven't fed him.

How often do you perform a water change?: Just out him in a day ago.
What percentage of the water do you change when you perform a water change?: Haven't but planning a 50% here within the next day or two.
What type of additives do you add to the water when you perform a water change?: I have: Jungle Start Right, API Stress Coat, a Top Fin Bacteria Supplement, and Aquarium Salt.

Water Parameters:
Have you tested your water? If so, what are the following parameters?


Symptoms and Treatment
How has your betta fish's appearance changed?: His colour lightens sometimes, and is normal other times, but since I've only had him for a day, I can't REALLY say.
How has your betta fish's behavior changed?:
When did you start noticing the symptoms?: At the store when I bought him.
Have you started treating your fish? If so, how?: Since at first we thought he might have just been in a severe state of shock, I've been giving him half doses of stress coat twice a day (about 1 ML every 12 hours or so) and I put a few drops of Bettafix in his tank, but not a whole lot as I didn't want to medicate him if he didn't need it or OD him. He also has about 2tsp of Aquarium Salt in his tank.
Does your fish have any history of being ill?: I've had my fish for a day, I really don't have a "history" with him at all.
How old is your fish (approximately)?: I've had him for a day. I don't know how to tell how old he really is, so... Your guess is as good as mine.

Here's a picture. It's sideways, because I took it with my phone, but you can see that I found him all curled like this when I came home from work tonight. Poor baby. =/


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6,461 Posts
This could possibly be a symptom of Swim Bladder Infection which is usually caused by over feeding. My recommendation towards treating this would be along the lins of introducing a dose Of Epsom salt at around 1 teaspoon per gallon

Swim Bladder Disease Information

- Bloating
- eradicated swimming
- floating towards the surface of the water
- trouble swimming up
- seems to be doing "rolls"

Treating this usually non fatal illness will be very easy to do. Usually a dose of aquarium salt, something along the lines of 1 teaspoon per 3 gallons for tetras, and 1 teaspoon per gallon for more salt tolerant fish such as Bettas. Typically after 1-2 Epsom salt treatments it will go away. Ideally during this treatment time you would also want to offer peas, and daphnia to the fish as this will also help

This illness is usually caused by incorrect feeding with diets that have little or no nutritional value, or over feeding. Or incorrectly feeding more than the needed periods in the day to feed, like feeding very often

This illness is easily prevented by going along the lines of not over feeding, providing a varied diet with many good foods, and avoiding feeding lots of low nutritional value foods

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804 Posts
The fish isn't bloated or anything like that, there's no way it's swim bladder and he's not over fed, he's not fat at all. It's definitely got to be Nitrate Poisoning or something to do with the Nitrates from when he was at the store. His water was filthy, i saw him cough up a poop from his lungs because he accidentally inhaled it.

So far I think she's doing everything right, but is there anything else that can be done to help him out aside from adding salt (which will be done)?


Also, he lays there and breathes very heavy. His gills are a brownish color, but he's also a brownish colored fish, so I don't know if that means anything..

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189 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
@Mo, he doesn't float at all and he isn't bloated, and he doesn't "roll" he sits on his side or curls up. He breathes very heavily (which actually has gotten better as of today, since right now he's just sitting in an upright position staring at me but he still falls over and leans on his tiki man).
From the state of his water when we first saw him, I really would lean into it being Nitrate poisoning rather than swim bladder.
@cjayBetta and fraizer71 I will start a salt treatment. I put AQ salt in when I initially put him in the tank (roughly 2tsp) And I think I'll keep giving him Stress Coat, that seems to help him a lot.

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11,190 Posts
With buoyancy issues its best to use Epsom salt (Not aquarium salt) with tannins along with increase heat/humidity above the water.....

Even though he is not bloated it could still be swim bladder related due to the buoyancy issues-sinking, floating, rolling...etc......sometime the duct can get inflamed and/or infected, swim bladder injury, genetic related and it can even be related to poor rearing at the fish farm-it can also be labyrinth related...

I would lower the water level by at least half and turn off the filter so he doesn't have to struggle so much to get to air-

Premix some treatment water in a 1gal jug of dechlorinated water-Add the Epsom salt 3tsp/gal and a tannin source if you have one-either IAL or dried Oak leaf-let this steep for at least 30min to start releasing the tannins and salt to dissolve-

Using this water-make 25% water change every 15min for 1 hour today-cover the top of the tank with plastic veggie wrap to help retain the heat/humidity for the labyrinth organ-water temp in the 77-78F range-dim lit quiet location

Tomorrow start 50% daily water changes with the premixed treatment water-this water should look darker every day-(the longer it steeps the more tannins released the darker the water the more the Betta likes it) sure and shake the premixed water well before use.....

Both the Epsom salt and tannins have antibacterial/fungal properties-the Epsom salt can help reduce edema and the tannins can help ease stress.

With some buoyancy issues especially when related to poor rearing, genetic or injury-they can be chronic and the Betta can have buoyancy issues all their life-while they can still live a normal life albeit with buoyancy problems-they may have to be kept in low dose of Epsom salt 1tsp/gal all the time-long term Epsom is safe where is long term aquarium salt is not....

Since both tannins and Epsom salt can change the chemistry of the water-it is important to acclimate them properly to avoid issues.

Nutrition is also really important-good quality varied diet fed in small frequent meals-and if you have access to mosquito larva offer several rinsed for one meal a day.

You also don't want to rule out Mycobacterious due to the bent spine-so be sure and wash your hands really good after working with him and the water.

With nitrite poisoning-usually the gills will have a brown look to them-if the gill are a nice healthy red color then it most likely is not nitrite poisoning.

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563 Posts
OFL - The OP thinks he has NitrAte poisoning, not NitrIte.

With Nitrate you have the following symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fish become listless
  • Fish experience loss of equilibrium
  • Fish lay at bottom of tank
  • Rapid gill movement
  • Fish curl head to tail (advanced stages)
With NitrIte you have:

  • Fish gasp for breath at the water surface
  • Fish hang near water outlets
  • Fish is listless
  • Tan or brown gills
  • Rapid gill movement

He does have the symptoms of NitrAte poisoning. The only problem I have with that conclusion is I doubt there are any Nitrates in Petco Betta cups. Nitrate is something you find in a cycled or cycling tank. Sometimes it can be found in tap water, but the only way to be sure would be to get a sample of Petco's tap water and use a liquid test kit.

I'm not positive, but I believe Petco uses tap water with water conditioner to clean the Betta cups. If I'm wrong though, and they use tank water instead, then Nitrate poisoning would be more likely.

Something to take into consideration though. The employee placed your Betta in a community tank thinking it would perk him up. If he went from 0 Nitrate in his cup to a high level of Nitrate in the community tank.... well I could see that easily causing him to become poisoned.

Sadly, there isn't much you can do (that you haven't already done) if it is Nitrate poisoning.

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189 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
This poor kid. :/
He seems to be doing a little better today, he hasn't been curled up as much as he was. He still lays on his side, or leans against his tiki guy. And he seems to be breathing a little better, or at least his gills aren't moving as heavily or as labored. He still spends most of his time at the bottom of the tank, but he's responsive to light taps on the sides of the tank and comes to the front to stare at me from time to time.
I really appreciate the help, and I hope he gets better. ^_^ Thank you LionCalie and OFL for the advice.

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6,718 Posts
Poor fishie. If he is suffering from poisioning, I would think ammonia poisining would be the most likely suspect - every single betta i got from petco had an ammonia reading of over 4.0 :shock: I am wondering if they took water from one of the larger fish tanks and used it for the bettas - that would explain the nitrAte poisioning symptoms...

I got one from walmart that was in about the same condition. what I did was I slowly took out his tank water and replaced it with clean water using a syringe. He could not swim at all the 1st few nights. I kept him in the cup and floated him in a heated tank and used amquel plus as I heard it may help with ammonia poisioning. I also used IAL. After 4 or so days he started eating and would try and flair with is "tank mate". At this point I moved him into his own tank with about 2 inches of water with epsom salt. It took about 5 weeks but he can swim normally now. I dont really know what happened to cause him to swim with a straight back. I left alaska it was crooked and when we got to New York - 10 days later, he could swim fine

The night I took him home

About a week ago
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