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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi friends. I've lost two brand new bettas within the past 3 days - one lasted less than 12 hours and the second less than 72 hours. I'm heartbroken about this and can't identify what has gone wrong. I'm not sure if it's something that I'm doing wrong, the quality of the fish I'm receiving from the store or a combination, but I'm hoping that I'm in the right place for help. I would really love to have a betta for our family someday.

We decided to purchase a betta as a family pet. A good friend recently purchased two bettas (separate tanks) from Petsmart that died on the first day. Looking to avoid this scenario, I did not take this decision lightly and tried to do as much research as possible on the front end. I purchased a 5 gallon tank, heater, stand alone thermometer, gravel, faux plants, betta leaf, API test strips, Seachem prime and API quick start.

We set up the tank - I rinsed everything off with warm tap water. I treated the water with prime and API quick start. In hindsight, I do know there need to be fish to cycle the water or a fishless cycle needs to be performed - since I had not cycled the water, I'm not sure that testing the water is even relevant, but I did test it and all was normal.

We went to a small pet/aquarium store (not a chain) and picked out a betta (Jem). We brought her home in the late afternoon, floated her for 15 minutes, transferred her to the tank. We tried to feed her 3 pellets later that evening, but she refused to eat. She was acting lethargic, but I also knew the transition could cause stress. I tested her water with API test strips and saw no issues. When I got up the next morning around 6 am, she was gone.

I went back to the store where I purchased her that morning with a sample of the water. I had noticed the API strips didn't test for ammonia and was concerned she could have died from new tank syndrome. The employee told me the ammonia levels were 0. I explained what I had done to set up my tank which he said all sounded fine. He said they source their fish from a breeder so they're better quality than the chain stores and that it must have just been bad luck. I asked if I should start everything over with new water, filter etc. and he said no.

I returned to the store in the afternoon with my daughter and we purchased a new fish (Rainbow). I re-dosed with API quick start and prime prior to adding Rainbow to the tank. We floated her for about 45 minutes and added her to the tank.

The next morning (Tuesday), her water was a little cloudy. I knew the nitrogen cycle was likely starting and was concerned about ammonia levels with a fish in cycle. I reviewed the "two sentence" tutorial. I tested the water in the morning and nitrites were at 0. I tried to feed her 3 pellets, she refused to eat, but was otherwise swimming around the tank like normal. I ordered an API freshwater test kit and Seachem stability. I performed a 30% water change as I was concerned about ammonia levels and treated with prime per the fish in cycling protocols I had read about since my kit hadn't arrived.

Yesterday (Wednesday), her water was looking good and she was acting normal but continued to refuse to eat. By the end of the day, she seemed a little lethargic. Her color looked off as well. I tested with the API freshwater kit and her nitrite levels were 0.25ppm and ammonia appeared to be a color between 0-0.25, pH was about 7.5. I re-dosed with prime and added stability.

This morning (Thursday), Rainbow was super lethargic and her color was poor. I tested her water levels and they remained the same as they were the previous evening. I performed a 50% water change, treated the water with prime and ensured it was the same temperature as the water in her tank. She was gone by lunchtime :(

Housing:
How many gallons is your tank? 5 gallons
Does it have a filter? yes
Does it have a heater? yes
What temperature is your tank? ~78 degrees
Does your tank have an air stone or other type of aeration? No
Does your Betta have tank mates? No

Food:
What food brand do you use? Aqueon pellets - but both fish refused to eat
How often do you feed your Betta? 3 pellets 1x per day

Maintenance:
What percentage of water did you change? 30-50%
What is the source of your water? tap
Do you vacuum the substrate or just dip out water? dip out water 1st time, siphon 2nd
What additives do you use? Seachem prime, API quickstart (initially) Seachem stability
What brand of conditioner? Seachem

Water Parameters:
Ammonia: 0-0.25ppm
Nitrite: 0.25 ppm
Nitrate: 0
pH: ~7.5
Hardness (GH): 80-120
Alkalinity (KH): 120-180

Symptoms and Treatment:
When did you first notice the symptoms? between 4 hours (Jem) and 48 hours (Rainbow)
How has your Betta’s appearance changed? Yes, lost color
How has your Betta’s behavior changed? Yes, became lethargic, floating near top of tank
Is your Betta still eating? Neither ever ate - always refused
How long have you owned your Betta? Less than 3 days
Was he or she ill or suffering some sort of damage when purchased? Not that I know of

Any thoughts or steps on what to do differently next time? Could the first fish have contaminated the tank leading to the illness of the second fish? Could this be new tank syndrome anyway despite all the steps that I took to mitigate it? I'd really like to have a betta someday, but don't want to repeat this scenario a third time. Looking for any insight and input - I greatly appreciate it.
 

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Can you post a photo of the tank?

How did you clean the tank and decor? Did you use soap, bleach, vinegar?

It's possible something is leaching into the water from the decor. I'd remove all so only the heater and filter are left; do three 50% water changes. After that you can add another Betta. Some recommend purchasing a small fish, like a female Guppy, to "test" before adding a Betta.

Fish in cycling is safe but it's best to remove 25% of the water when Ammonia or Nitrites hit .25 ppm. And to use two drops of Prime per gallon every day to neutralize the Ammonia.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Here's a photo of the tank. I rinsed the tank/decor/gravel with warm water only - no soap, bleach, vinegar etc. I was wondering that about the decor and if it could possibly be an issue with the gravel since it is colored.

That is good to know that fish in cycling can be safe. I was using the prime daily but did a 50% water change when they hit .25, so it does sound like I might have changed too much water.

Plant Water Green Botany Pet supply
 

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Nice set-up for your fish.

I'd remove all of the decor, do the water changes and put a fish in the open tank. If it is still going strong after a week, add one piece of decor. And gradually add decor one piece at a time. This is what is often recommended when fish die so quickly.

And don't worry about a Betta (or other fish) not eating immediately. Sometimes it's the stress of going from a cup to a "mansion;" sometimes they've been fed freeze dried (pet store) or live (breeder) and don't recognize pellets as food. Just offer one pellet at a time and if it is not eaten, remove with a turkey baster. Keep trying until the Betta understands that's all it's going to get. I don't offer my Betta any food for 24 hours; nor do I turn on the tank lights for 24 hours.

I think you're right that 50% was too much.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you for all of your insight! I really appreciate it. I'll try that with the decor and adding it piece by piece after a waiting period. That makes sense about not always recognizing the pellets as food.

Is there any benefit to testing the water from the store to make sure it's not testing differently than mine or doing a water acclimation where I add water from the tank to the bag after floating? I've been trying to reflect on if there was anything I did differently between the two, given that the second did live a few days longer. With the first fish, the employee at the store said to dump the fish into a net over a cup and then put them in the tank after floating for 15 minutes. With the second fish, I spoke to a different employee who said there was no need to do that and to dump both the fish and the water into the tank after the floating period.
 
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