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Swim bladder issue, not constipated

983 Views 8 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  liam2317
What size is your tank? 2 Gal hospital - 4.5 Gal home tank
What temperature is your tank? 26C / 79F
Does your tank have a filter? No
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? Pond Snails

What type of food do you feed your betta fish? Hikari Betta Bio-Gold Pellets - Some live mosquito larva in the summers
How often do you feed your betta fish? Twice daily, aprox. 8 pellets each feeding, they are small pellets.


How often do you perform a water change? Usually weekly but have been doing 75% daily changes since he went in the hospital tank
What percentage of the water do you change when you perform a water change? Home tank: 30%
What type of additives do you add to the water when you perform a water change? Prime Water Conditioner and Flourish Excel

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

Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: 0 ppm
pH: not tested recently but never been an issue
Hardness: unknown
Alkalinity: unknown

Symptoms and Treatment
How has your betta fish's appearance changed? No - does not appear bloated or otherwise different
How has your betta fish's behavior changed? Yes - Always at the bottom of the tank or resting on something. Not able to float at surface anymore. Lethargic and less responsive. Still eating well and pooping well, does not seem constipated.
When did you start noticing the symptoms? 3 days ago
Have you started treating your fish? If so, how? No but he was already in the hospital tank.
Does your fish have any history of being ill? Was already in the hospital tank being treated for an open wound on his face which seems mostly healed up at this point.
How old is your fish (approximately)? At least 2 years.

Our fish Raffi has been in his hospital tank for nearly two weeks now. He went in due to an open sore on his face which was not going away. We treated him for 9 days with aquarium salt in the hospital tank doing religious daily water changes. The good news is that his sore is just about completely gone! After the salt treatment was done we decided to leave him in the hospital tank a little while longer to heal completely as we were worried he may have got the sore originally from trying to force his way between rocks or plants in his home tank.

Over the last couple days however we noticed that he is staying at the bottom of the tank and does not seem to have the same ability to float that he used to. This lead us to believe he has a swim bladder issue. He does not appear to be bloated and does not seem constipated as there is fresh poop to vacuum up every day with the water change. His poop does not appear to be white or stringy, it looks normal. It does seem to be harder to get his attention lately but once he catches on that it's feeding time h
e still seems to have a normal appetite.

Most recommend treating this with epsom salts however he just finished a 9 day aquarium salt bath and we are worried that more salt would be bad. Another common option is fasting but he seems to be pooping fine. Should we try that anyway?

Any advice or recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
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Did you buy Raffi at a pet store or off of a breeder directly? It's an unfortunate side effect of store-bought bettas in that their life span is only a couple of years maximum. I dunno about how old age would ultimately effect him, but honestly it sounds like he's just getting older and closer to the end of a healthy lifespan. You might try lowering the water level so he doesn't have as far to swim to get to the surface but that's my two cents.

I don't think the epsom salts will help, unfortunately, because as you said he's not bloated or constipated, is pooping, and eats well enough and the salts are there to help with those issues. Again, my opinion, but another member might have something else to say.

Edit: Just thought of it, but he could also be recovering from the wound still and thus resting more often/lethargic as you've pointed out. Just another idea but I'm moving more towards old age as an option.
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Skitters, thanks for your advice.
Raffi was purchased from a big box pet store. I considered the old age angle too but it just happened so fast it seems like something else must be at play here. He is still in the hospital tank with only 2 gallons of water so the water level is currently as low as the heater will allow for without it being out of the water.

I don't really think it is him recovering from the wound either as the whole time he had it he was his normal energetic self, the wound really didn't seem to bother him at all.

I hate the idea of treating this with a general antibiotic since I really don't know if it is a bacterial infection or not and I really am a firm believer that we should not use antibiotics unless necessary. Even if I was absolutely sure he had an infection I am still not sure using antibiotics on fish is ethically okay, creating super bugs and all that... Not really sure what else to do though.
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Everything is always a possibility, considering. Perhaps the injury wiped him out and combined with age? Who knows. Perhaps getting one of the older members here(Lil, vivian, or Taeanna) would help, since they know a lot more than I. Unless things change drastically, I would wait on meds and just try and keep him as happy as possible.
I agree that you should not use meds unless it is necessary.

I also think that age could be a possibility. 2 years is a very good age for a betta from a large chain store. I think the longest I had a betta that come from a chain store was maybe 3 years and some change. They usually do not live as long as betta that came from a breeder (stupid cups with dirty and cold water).

It is very possible that due to his age recovering from a wound would drain him.

When you say he lays at the bottom and can't get to the surface, does it seem like "sinks like a stone"? SBD is not only caused by overfeed (although this is usually the cause), it also comes from a simple infection. If he is sinking like a stone when I would add some Epsom Salt 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon per gallon of water. The reason why Epsom Salt helps with bloating/constipation is because it draws excess fluids and toxins from the fish. Epsom Salt is actually fairly mild on fish. I have a female betta with Chronic SBD so she always has a very low dosage of Epsom Salt in her tank and i've experienced no problems with using it.

My other guess that he got some sort of infection from his wound, even though it is now healed.
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Vivian, thank you for your suggestions.

I would say he is "sinking like a stone". When he isn't actively swimming he is always sinking, he is never motionless at the surface.

Do you think that a 3/4tsp of Epsom salt per gallon is safe considering he just recently (aprox 6 days ago) finished 9 days of 1tsp/gallon aquarium salt? I have read that too long exposure to salt is not good for bettas. I assume this is the case for both aquarium and Epsom salt.

When you say you keep your fish with SBD on a constant low dosage of Epsom salt what dosage level are you talking about there? His home tank is also quite heavily planted and has pond sails. Any idea if this low dosage is tolerated by plants and snails?

Thanks for the help, it is very much appreciated!
Epsom Salt is actually much less harsh then AQ Salt. you can use it for prolonged periods of time where you can only use AQ for 10 days max. He will be fine if you add 3/4 of a teaspoon per gallon, you can even do 1 teaspoon if you wanted.

It will take a few days for it take effect. If after a week you see no improvement then it is time to move on to meds. I recommend API General Cure. It is very mild on the betta's system and i've had good luck with it treating SBD due to infection. You can find this online and at Petsmart (Canada has Petsmart I believe).

The dosage I keep is about 1/4 teaspoon per gallon, sometimes a bit less. Epsom Salt will not harm your plants. It will however harm the snail. However, having a betta that needs a low dosage of Epsom Salt in their water is EXTREMELY rare. I've had bettas for 15 years and this betta is the first betta that i've had to do it with. So the odds are you will not need it in your tank.

I would treat him in his 2 gallons QT tank with the Epsom Salt. You do not want to do baths with the Epsom salt but rather add it into his water in the QT and have it be in there all the time. Since Epsom Salt can take some time to show effect, baths do not give the fish a chance to be exposed to the benefits. To add it, remove a cup or so of water from the tank, dissolve the salt in that and then over the course of 45mins to an hour, slowly add the salted water back into the tank. Epsom salt is very mild on the fish so it will not hurt him. Epsom Salt does not evaporate out but you will need to add some to new water during water changes to keep the dosage constant. So for example if add 1 teaspoon per gallon of water, when you change 1 gallon you will add 1 teaspoon to the new water.
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Vivian, again, thank you for taking the time to give us such a thoughtful reply.

We will give the Epsom salt a try in the QT tank and report back in a week.

Thank you.
Great news! Six days of 1tsp/gallon Epsom salt has done the trick. Raffi is floating again and went straight to building a bubble nest. We'll probably give him a full dose again tomorrow and then start to ease him off of it. If it becomes a reoccurring problem we may try a constant very low dose in his home tank.

Thanks again for the help! It's fantastic to have a community like this to help solve problems.
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