Betta is eating his tail - Help!

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Jendayi

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Hello everyone, I have been browsing your forum for a short while, but this is my first desperate cry for help. I am a total fish noobie, but I am trying to do right by my walmart betta Cujo who I've had for a month now. At first I had him on my desk in a gallon tank with some gravel and a soft plastic plant. It had no filtration system, so I was doing 75% water changes every Sunday for his first three weeks. I had a thermometer in his tank that showed his water to be generally between 74 and 76 degrees.

Here he is on March 12. By early last week the tear in his tail had completely healed up. Unfortunately I didn't get a pic of it while it still looked nice...

28.jpg

Then last Wednesday, sometime between his morning feeding and his evening feeding, he started to demolish his tail. Of course I panicked, went searching the web for answers, and that is how I found you guys here. I read that his tank was too small, his water was too cold, I was changing his water too often and stressing him out.... etc About the only thing I was doing right was feeding him decent food (Hikari betta bio-gold, about 5 pieces in the morning and another 5 in the evening). Here is his tail on the day that I panicked:

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So I went and bought him an Aqua-tech Hex 5 gallon tank with the filtration system, a visi-therm stealth heater which is keeping the tank around 79 to 80 degrees, new gravel, more plants, a little cave with no sharp edges... a very nice setup for one little walmart fish. It only took him a short time to adjust to his new surroundings and he seems very happy. He zooms around in laps, hides in his cave, rests in his plants, comes right to me when I feed him and eats eagerly... and still is demolishing his tail a bit at a time. He chases it around in circles and then darts and nips at it. I've only seen him do it a couple times, he seems to really work at it when I'm not in the room. Here it is today, a total mess:

30.jpg 31.jpg

Sorry about the one where the flash didn't go off right, but you can really see the shape of it in sillouette (sp?) quite well. I put him in a small tank to get his pic, it was too hard in the big tank.

I tested his water a bit ago and here are the values:

Nitrate = 0
Nitrite = 0
Chlorine = 0
Alkalinity = 120 (which says ideal on the chart)
pH - 7.2 (which says neutral on the chart)
and I don't know if it matters or not, but the water is soft - 75

I apologize for the very long first post, but I wanted to try to give as much info as possible. And for the record, I only do the mirror flaring thing when I want to get pictures, so exactly 3 times in a month.

What more can I do for this now very expensive little walmart fish? A friend suggested putting another fish in there with him (not a betta of course) to give him something more of interest. But I have read so many pros and cons I don't even know what to think about that. I guess I'm just hoping that someone out there has had this same problem and knows how I can help Cujo to stop doing this... If you've made it this far, thank you for reading
 

COBettaCouple

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Hmm.. it looks like tail rot from the pics. He probably picked it up from the tear he had earlier, but hard to say for sure. He could be feeling irritation from exposed nerve endings and that's why he's nipping at his tail, especially if the tank hasn't cycled. It might be a good idea to give him a dose or 2 of Fungus Clear (walmart & pet stores should have it).

If other members agree with that course of action, take the carbon out of the filter (or whole filter if you can't take the carbon out) & any decor you don't want stained out of the tank and do a 25% water change before starting the fungus clear. Adding a little Prime or NovAqua+ before starting the fungus clear too could help. You can break a tablet in 1/2 for your 5 gallon.

If you're testing using those strips, they're fairly inaccurate & you'd get better results from the API master kit - http://www.drfostersandsmith.com has them for a great price.. Getting an ammonia reading is important.
 

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Hi Jendayi - welcome to you and Cujo to the forum.

Though tail-chasing may have one of a couple of underlying causes, my guess is that Cujo is suffering from fin rot, and the tail-chasing may be a result of irritation.  (Though he may be chasing his tail, do you actually see him take a bite out of it?)

Some fish may act weird because of stress or because they're not happy with the surroundings.  In one case here recently, rearranging the tank solved the problem.  There have also been cases where the tail has started to deteriorate due to injury by dragging the tail/fins across decorations or plants that have sharp edges to them.  (If the object can put a run in a pair of nylons, it can also damage a Betta's finnage.)   However, it seems Cujo's tail-chasing has been going on regardless of the environment he has been in, so, my guess is that it is due to fin rot.

The first thing most will tell you to do to treat fin rot is improve the water conditions.  Keep the ammonia levels as close to zero as possible and gradually raise the tank temp to 82 degrees.  With respect to testing equipment, most here have found the API Master Test Kit to work best for them.  The testing strips are highly inaccurate and, thus, worthless.  (I know, more $$ to spend.)

If Cujo's condition doesn't improve within a day or two of improving the water quality, then it is time for medication.  Most here start with Jungle Labs Fungus Clear for fin rot cases (among other disorders).  Before medicating start off with a large water change (50% to 60%).  For water changes always use dechlorinated water that has been warmed to tank temperature before putting it into the tank.  After that, follow the directions on the med box.  JLFC comes in tabs that, IIRC, are one tab per 10 gallons of water.  So, break a tab in half and drop it right into the tank.

As flbettacouple suggested, the charcoal filter needs to come out.  You can replace it with a piece of bulk filter material that has been cut to size, or open the filter you have now (just break off a couple of the plastic strips from the housing) and dump the charcoal out of the filter assembly before putting it back into the filter body.  You'll need to get a new filter anyway to remove the meds from the water after the treatment is finished.

Typically, fin rot cases have a good prognosis if caught early enough.  It sounds like Cujo may have been stressed enough in the mid-70s water of the 1-gallon container to make him vulnerable to FR.  Then, all it took was being in water warm enough to support the bacteria involved.

There are medications available to move to if Cujo doesn't respond to the JLFC.  Often, the next step is to try Maracyn 2, though some seem to be having luck using Maracyn Plus, a liquid that makes dosing the tank easier.  But, unless you want to start building a med kit (which is not a bad idea), you can give Cujo a treatment or two with the JLFC and take it as it goes.

Keep us posted and good luck.

Mike
 

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Hi Jendayi - Welcome to the betta support group forum -LOL - it is like the 12 Step Program for Betta owners. I also am a relatively new betta owner, so would not hazard to give advice other than : there are good people on this site, so read, read, read and ask, ask , ask. ???

And to let you know you are not alone in your struggle: When I saw your "before" picture of Cujo, it reminded me of how long and beautiful Neptune's ( my betta) fins used to be. LOL. He also is a Walmart betta ( $4.95) or something like that.....he now is a beloved $$$$ investment pet with fin rot who is receiving the gold standard $$$ of care, and has made me believe betta keeping is a black hole to throw money into. ( they do deserve the help !) On the bright side, they are adorable, friendly, naughty, curious, funny, fish with personalities that will have you laughing out loud.

I too had panic attacks several times a day, turned to this forum, and was calmed, soothed and guided by the very knowledgeable and caring members . While Neptune isn't healed,( he is a work in progress ) he is still a delight that brings me joy everyday, and the bonus is, you will make "fish friends" to help you keep things in perspective.

It sounds like you have made all the right changes regarding tank, heater, etc. So heed the advice of the more experienced members regarding medicating and you and Cujo will be on the road to healing. From my time with Neptune, fin rot hasn't slowed him down a bit - he is still kooky and fun.

Neptune and I wish you all the best - there is lots of support here for you and Cujo as he experiences his "bad hair day" :-\-- LOL.

Val & Neptune
 
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Jendayi

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Hello folks, and thank you so much for your quick and kind replies.

Well, of course I have more questions!

FLBettaCouple said:
He could be feeling irritation from exposed nerve endings and that's why he's nipping at his tail, especially if the tank hasn't cycled.
First, could someone explain in simple terms what 'cycled' means in regards to Cujo's tank/water? I have seen it used many times on this site, but no explanation. I'm sure it has something to do with his tank filtration and water quality, but isn't that being taken care of by the carbon filter and BIO-wheel which came included in the tank kit?

LZ Floyd said:
With respect to testing equipment, most here have found the API Master Test Kit to work best for them.  The testing strips are highly inaccurate and, thus, worthless.  (I know, more $$ to spend.)
Of course they must be worthless... How could I have thought that something inexpensive would actually be effective... *smacks forhead*  : When I was at PetSmart last week getting Cujo's new digs I saw on the medication aisle a kit that had 4 or so water testing type bottles in it, and passed it over because it was expensive. I will head out and get one of these kits today.

Ok, now on to the questions raised about Cujo's tail fin. And please know that I am not trying to question your knowledge or advice, I am still just trying to learn and understand.

If what is going on with his tail is indeed fin rot, how could it have happened so quickly? And why only to the tail fin and not his other fins? If you look at the second picture I posted, that damage happened between his morning feeding and that afternoon when I noticed it after getting back from lunch. Before that time his fin was completely whole, without any signs of a problem, which is why I panicked and was so blind-sided by it. There was no gradual progression, just fine to tattered. My common sense is screaming that there should have been some kind of sign/symptom and a progression. Maybe there was and I am just too unaware of fish behavior or anatomy to have seen it. But since I posted those pictures late last night, his lower tail has become more frayed, and what I want to say is that it's too hard for him to reach the top part now that it's so short, and has moved on the lower part which is easier to reach. It has been less than a week since this started, and he has less than half the tail he had when it started. The rapidness is just so counter-intuitive to me to attibute to a disease process...

LZ Floyd said:
There have also been cases where the tail has started to deteriorate due to injury by dragging the tail/fins across decorations or plants that have sharp edges to them.  (If the object can put a run in a pair of nylons, it can also damage a Betta's finnage.)   However, it seems Cujo's tail-chasing has been going on regardless of the environment he has been in, so, my guess is that it is due to fin rot.
I just don't think his injuries are caused by his environment. He was in the one gallon tank for three weeks prior to his tail distruction without any incident whatsoever. He was blowing bubble nests in one corner almost every day, and as I said that tear in his fin that was there when I bought him had completely healed up. The only decoration in that tank (aside from gravel) was a soft plastic plant that I did the nylon trick with and there was no snagging. The only other thing that he would do was push the base of the plant away from the side of the tank so he had a little hiding place to trick me and make me think my fish had gone missing. He seemed very happy to me...

LZ Floyd said:
Though tail-chasing may have one of a couple of underlying causes, my guess is that Cujo is suffering from fin rot, and the tail-chasing may be a result of irritation.  (Though he may be chasing his tail, do you actually see him take a bite out of it?)
It's really hard to say if I have seen him take a bite out of his tail. I have seen him cram himself into a small space, turn most of the way around as if he were trying to bend in half, and then DART at his tail very quickly, then swim away. Like I said before, it seems most of the damage occurs when I am not in the room. His tank sits to the left of my monitor so he is constantly in my peripheral sight, and I watch him all the time because he is so active and such a fun distraction. He seems so full of himself that he just makes me smile almost constantly. (My office and desk are in my home, and I am here at my desk for most of the day inbetween chores and taking care of my dogs. So the only time Cujo is really alone is when I sleep.)

voiceless_kat said:
I too had panic attacks several times a day, turned to this forum, and was calmed, soothed and guided by the very knowledgeable and caring members . While Neptune isn't healed,( he is a work in progress ) he is still a delight that brings me joy everyday, and the bonus is, you will make "fish friends" to help you keep things in perspective.

...

Neptune and I wish you all the best - there is lots of support here for you and Cujo as he experiences his "bad hair day" :-\-- LOL.
Thank you so much for your kind words and support - to everyone! I got this fish on an impulse, but since then he has been named and my family and I have given him a personality and a story, and he really has become important to me. Cujo (Stephen King's rabid St. Bernard lol) is a ninja-fish, and he will go forth into the world to protect and defend his family, patrolling the perimeter of his tank and taking care of business - that sort of thing I never would have thought I'd get so attached to a fish. He is breaking my heart with his tail injury and I feel so frustrated and powerless. It means a lot to know there are other people struggling with the same thing.
 

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Okay, I'll take a stab at a few of your questions.
-Fin Rot can happen FAST. Grim (my vtail male betta) went from being fine, to missing a quarter of is tail in about 2 days. One day the tail was whole, when I came to work the nect day, it quite was tattered!

-A tank is 'Cycled' when Ammonia = 0; NitrItes = 0; and NitrAtes are under 20 ppm. This is called the Nitrogen Cycle. When a fish poops, the poop settles on the gravel or in the filter. Where it breaks down. Now the tank water is running through the filter, so anything in your filter is still, for all pratical purposes, in your tank. The filter keeps larger material out of the water and it provides a place for good bacteria to live. Good bacteria will also develop in your gravel. The poop from the fish breaks down and becomes ammonia. The good bacteria will 'eat' the ammonia that is produced from the fish waste. The ammonia that is 'eaten' by the bacteria then become nitrites. Nitrites and ammonia are both toxic to fish. The nitrite is then broken down by more good bacteria and is turned into Nitrate. Nitrate is less harmfull for fish and can be controled through regular water changes.

So simply put, the Cycle is the bacteria eating the waste and making it not toxic to the fish.

It takes time for enough bacteria to grow to take care of the waste that a fish produces.
 

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Not much to add to timesdragonfly's post, or this one: https://www.fishlore.com/NitrogenCycle.htm.

As far as how quickly the tail/fins can deteriorate, ours lost more than half his tail in the past two days.  And I thought he might be coming out of it.  Here we go with the Furan 2, again.

Good luck with the meds and keep us updated.

Mike
 

voiceless_kat

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Me again...reading your post is like reading the ones I first did. Neptune's fin rot happened in a couple hours. I fed him, we went out for dinner, came home, it was shredded ( or frayed as I now like to call it). I was stunned it could happen that fast. My post is a page or so back, with all the panic of yours and some great answers and support. You will see all the self doubt, guilt, frustration I had also........and there is no need. The fact that you are looking for help and advice is a great thing!! I am sure many on here wanted to say "Chill out, lady" ( maybe still do ) - LOL - but they didn't.......they helped.

I also got Neptune on a whim, however, I did read up about them first, ( library & internet) and then found this forum. I thought they were low maintenance!! Some say Neptune may have had this when I bought him - perhaps Cujo is the same - they sure are in deplorable conditions when you buy them!!

I have only been comfortable with medicating for about 2 weeks, even though I have been doing it since February! I was terrified I was going to kill him. Now, I have actually made a couple of decisions on my own!! Could never have done that if all these guys/gals hadn't babied me along. It really feels so much better not to have that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach whenever you look at your fish.......and you see those beautiful fins getting shorter and shorter, just so you know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Good thing these critters are so entertaining and fun instead of just pretty to look at ---hmmmm I think there is a lesson in there somewhere. LOL

Also, the cycle things has my head spinning still, and my tank still hasn't cycled, because I have been medicating!! :-\ I hope it helps to know that you are not alone in your fears and questions........everyday I learn something by reading this forum.

Again, all the best, lots of good advice here!!

Val & Neptune
 
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Jendayi

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Thank you for the information and the link on cycling. Very informative, and yet another thing that I have done completely wrong... *sighs* In my defense, tho, the Hex 5 tank information said to treat the water for chlorine and then let it run for 24 hours before adding a fish, which I did. I'm guessing the BIO-wheel does essentially the same thing as the BIO-spira?

So basicly, if I understand you all correctly, my attack plan is this:

- Raise the temp of his tank to 82 degrees.
- Get a water testing kit and find out the true state of his water.
- Treat the water if anything is out of whack. From that nitrogen cycle link I see that if I have Ammonia I need to lower the pH of the water to below 7 to produce Ammonium. Is this correct? Anything else to look out for?
- Wait a couple days to see if the improved water condition helps his tail fin.
- Do a 50% water change and medicate with Fungus Clear (to begin with) if no improvement is seen.

Please correct me now if I have missed a step or misunderstood anything, before I go making any more blunders. I will go to petsmart tonight to get the water testing kit and something to lower the pH of the water if needed. I got some of the Fungus Clear at walmart a little bit ago.

Even though I am sorry to hear that others are going thru the damaged fin thing, I'm glad to find out I'm not alone. It is still hard for me to not be alarmed when I look at him, but I will try to find some perspective. I will take your word that fin rot can happen so quickly like this, and I will try to believe that Cujo is not self-mutilating for yet more attention.
 

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Okay, here ya go... I don't wanna discourage you, cus your gettin it, you just have a few things a little wrong so lets see if I can help!


-First off, the temp needs to be at 82, ya got that right!
-Second, BioSpira is a product that contains the bacteria that I explained earlier. It isn't at all like the bio-wheel. The bio-wheel simply acts as another home for the bacteria so that when you change your filter you don't loose all the bacteria.
-don't use chemicals to adjust the cycle. the chemicals starve the bacteria so you will become dependent on them. And they don't really do a good job at keeping things stable, manage the water quality with water changes. You will need to do them frequently for the first few weeks.
-ammonia and pH are tottaly different! Don't use chemicals to adjust pH either!


I know the box says wait 24 hours and you're good to go., It's wrong. So are a lot of pet store ppl, unfortunately.

I hope this helps. You are on your way to having an excellent set up!
 

COBettaCouple

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Don't worry about making some mistakes at the beginning.. I've got a LONG list of mistakes I made. It's a learning process and sadly, you get bad information at the pet stores far too often.

The BioSpira is basically a bag full of live bacteria that zip your thru the nitrogen cycle - there's another product called Zymbac Freshwater that is similiar to BioSpira but cheaper, lasts longer and is slower than BioSpira. If you can find BioSpira locally, that'd be great since you'd not have to pay the big overnight shipping costs to get some.
The Bio-wheel is a biological filter that is supposed to help the beneficial bacteria grow by exposing them to water & air:


I don't like to use pH modifying products as sudden pH changes can cause more stress to a Betta, plus I found them to not be very effective.
What you might want to get is a bottle of Prime (and an eye-dropper at whatever store you can find it because you need such a small amount per gallon - Walgreens type store probably). I believe 1/10 of a mL per gallon.
- The Prime is what you use for treating your tap water and at the same time it will help detoxify the ammonia and nitrites. I've found a LOT of people prefer Prime to other products for treating tap water and I think it would be the best one for sure while you are waiting for the cycle to advance.. Hopefully you can get the BioSpira too.

Your plan sounds good, I'd just get the Prime if you can and do a partial water change asap, maybe 25% using Prime-treated tap water rather than trying to alter the pH. You're doing fine, best of luck to you & Cujo.
 
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Jendayi

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Thank you all so much for your patience and your responses. We are out the door to petsmart with my list in one hand and one of my dogs in the other I will not bother with any chemicals for water altering, thanks for that tip. Hopefully I'll be able to find the other products that you folks have listed.

I know I will definately be back with more questions, so run and hide while you can!
 

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have fun!
 

COBettaCouple

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Jendayi said:
Thank you all so much for your patience and your responses. We are out the door to petsmart with my list in one hand and one of my dogs in the other I will not bother with any chemicals for water altering, thanks for that tip. Hopefully I'll be able to find the other products that you folks have listed.

I know I will definately be back with more questions, so run and hide while you can!
Best of luck with your shopping and we'll be waiting to find out how it all goes for you.
 
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Well we were able to get the API test kit and some Prime at Petsmart, but they didn't have any of the BIO-spira. I will do some calling around today, I'm sure it must be around the DFW area somewhere...

I felt just like a little chemist testing Cujo's water with all the solutions and test tubes lol I even started a spread sheet to keep track of the results.

Here are the values from the first water test:

pH - 7.6
Ammonia - 1
Nitrite - 0
Nitrate - for this one the color fell between the zero yellow and the 5 color. So I am saying 2.5. After reading the information here about the Nitrogen cycle, this reading doesn't make a lot of sense to me now, maybe my test was bad?

So I did a 25% water change a little bit ago, adding the Prime into the new tap water.

Now, how often should I do the water testing/water changing until the tank cycles? Every day or every other day?

Also, I am having a slight problem keeping his tank at a steady temperature. It seems if I turn the light on in the tank hood for even a short amount of time the temperature raises by a few degrees. I have the stealth heater set to 79 degrees, but the tank is hovering in the low 80's. The bulb that came with the tank is a clear 15W bulb, so I got a new bulb at Petsmart last night - a 15W incandescent aquarium bulb by Marina called Aqua Glo. It puts off a low red light that makes Cujo look purple, and doesn't really do anything for visibility in the tank. It also seems to heat the water. Do you guys have any suggestions for a better light bulb that I could get that doesn't heat the water?

Cujo's tail is not any worse today, so that is something I am thankful for
 

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Hi and welcome to Fishlore!

I know all of this is kind of confusing, but eventually you will get the hang of it. As far as the bulb goes, you need to get a fluorescent bulb. Get the regular bulb, not the 50/50. Incandescent bulbs will raise the temp on the tank, but the fluorescent bulb won't.

Using the Prime water conditioner will get you through the medication process without having to worry about elevated ammonia levels, but it will not help cycle the tank at all. Ammonia and nitrites are needed to make the tank cycle and the Prime water conditioner neutralizes them. Just use the Prime until you are finished medicating Cujo, then switch to a regular water conditioner, such as Stresscoat, to start the cycling of the tank.

As far as the water readings go, you may have a nitrate reading because there are nitrates in your tap water. I would suggest testing your untreated tap water so you know what the water stats are like before you add the water conditioner.

Another product you can look for that will cycle the tank quickly is Turbostart. It is a live bacteria culture like Bio-Spira and works just as quickly. I could not find the Bio-Spira, but a local fish store had the Turbostart and I used that. Lil Blue's tank was cycled in 5 days.

Hope this helps and hang in there. You are doing great!

Nicole
 

COBettaCouple

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Yea, we found that the 10w FL bulb doesn't heat up the tank like the 15w incandescents. Your tank has plastic guard over the light, right? It seems the FL bulbs won't put up with getting wet like the incandscents. We blew out the 1st FL bulb from the droplets of water that fly up out of the water from the air bubbles of the air stone because our 5 gallon hex didn't have a guard over the light so i 'borrowed' one from a 10 gallon tank. We need to find a place to buy those plastic light guards though.

I hope you can find the BioSpira, Zymbac Freshwater or Turbostart near you to accelerate your cycle. If not, you could try one of the other methods described at: https://www.fishlore.com/NitrogenCycle.htm. Also, check with the long-time fish owners like chickadee or butterfly (who know tons more than i do) to see if Prime is good to use as your tap water conditioner once the tank is cycled.. from what i've read in their posts, it is ok after cycling the tank.

LOL, we have a spreadsheet too, to keep track of the results for all the tanks.
 
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Jendayi

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Thank you for the information on the light bulbs. Walmart didn't have any lower wattage than 25W, so I will have to look elsewhere.

When I got up this morning Cujo's tail had frayed some more, so I made the decision to start him on medication. I did a 50% water change with Prime treated water, took out the silk plants, and dropped in half of a Fungus Clear tablet. It was very funny to watch him dart around the tank chasing the little blue 'worms' of Fungus clear that showed up while the tablet was dissolving. He would catch one and then look surprised that there was nothing to chew on, and then dart off for another one. His little personality makes all of this worth while.

So now what can I expect (or hope?) to see with him being treated? Will there be any results as immediate as the destruction happened? I'm sure that healing is much slower, that seems to be the way of things...
 

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poor cujo and poor you! fish are like kids....they cause alot of worry but alot of smiles too!! hope he's getting better and the fin rot is at least halted from getting worse. hopefully they'll grow back soon. i'd love to have a betta....one day! also glad its not just me that uses spreadsheets! i have a spread sheet for the water tests, and a calandar where i write on what fish i have bought, which have died, when i've used meds, fertiliser etc. i thought i was becoming slightly ocd, and my sister thought i'd lost the plot!! i do like to be organised though because i am so forgetful, so things like fortnightly fertilser...i couldnt remember when i last did it!
anyway, good luck with cujo and keep us updated!
tan
 

COBettaCouple

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Too bad your walmart didn't have any of the 10w FL bulbs on the fish aisle.. Petco & Petsmart often will have this (or you can order it from the DFS website):
- the colormax, not the 50/50.

Yea, the healing is slower.. often it takes a few days to see a positive change and sometimes you have to make a decision on the 4th day based on what you think, not see.. but he will start showing the whitish/clear regrowth around the affected areas which will eventually gain color.

They are always such little characters, you can't help but smile.
 
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