Betta problem. Ich? hole in head? Shedding scales? Not sure what's going on, please help!


Hello, as the cliché goes, "long time reader, first time poster." But it's true, I've been browsing fishlore since December when our family got into fish tanks. We exploded from one tank for each of little girls to 9 tanks throughout the house. Five months in, we're still pretty new to fish diseases. We've had some death here and there, but mostly pretty successful.

Onto the problem, I was shopping petsmart (for better or for worse depending on your opinion) and found a Betta I really liked. It had a white patch on its head so I asked someone at the store who I'm familiar with that I know has experience with fish and she said it might have Ich. She offered a discount on the Betta and I used the savings on the discount to buy API Super Ich cure. I followed the instructions precisely. The patch grew. I decided to use some API General Cure. Tried MelaFix (at a reduced concentration since BettaFix is at 1/5th concentration of MelaFix) and PimaFix. No change. I did all the requisite water changes that come with the instructions. I also waited a day between treatments (except Mela/Pim fix which are supposed to go together and work "synergistically"). After a recent water change the water got clearer so I could see better and I noticed his cheeks and chin were reddish.
He otherwise seems happy and healthy. Comes to the glass to say hi, eats an appropriate amount, swims about. Doesn't lay on the bottom, isn't lethargic or listless.
Please help us with our fishy! I made a video on youtube so you can see pictures and video of it. (

Ok, onto the Fish Emergency Template:


What is the water volume of the tank? It's a 5 gallon portrait style tank with filter in the compartment in the back, I imagine there's 4 gallons of water after filter media, substrate, driftwood, rocks, plants is removed. Additionally, it has organic potting soil as the base underneath black diamond blasting sand cap.
How long has the tank been running? Approximately two months.
Does it have a filter? Yes it has a filter in tank. I have lava rocks in a media bag as well as filter foam and some filter floss. Additionally there are several lucky bamboo sticking out of the top.
Does it have a heater? Yes, it's a 50W IIRC.
What is the water temperature? Solidly at 78F
What is the entire stocking of this tank? (Please list all fish and inverts.) One male betta, one blue mystery snail.
Plants (category I'm adding). Moss on driftwood, two small amazon swords, a "mondo grass," a temple compacta, two anubius plants, some frog bits floating on top. Four lucky bamboo sticking out the top of the filter area.

How often do you change the water? I changed water at requisite times for each of the treatments listed above.
How much of the water do you change? Most of the treatments asked for a 25% change of water after completion. I recently did a 50% change. The water parameters were solid at the time, I simply wanted to have clearer water so I could see and monitor his condition better since I've run out of treatment options. The water is tinted with tannins from the driftwood.
What do you use to treat your water? Seachem Prime or API StressCoat+ Our water is not chlorinated, and tests 0 for chlorine compounds (not sure if the test strips test for chloramine which is why I still use treatment).
Do you vacuum the substrate or just the water? I do not vacuum the substrate. Our snail does a pretty good job of scooping up plant detritus.

*Parameters - Very Important
Did you cycle your tank before adding fish? Yes, our tank rank for almost a month without critters. We didn't rely on it just naturally happening tho. I used filter media from an established tank, and I put in API StressZyme (for sludge bacteria) and Tetra SafeStart+ (but didn't put that in until a couple days after the water conditioners as I've read that is counterproductive).
What do you use to test the water? No, I don't have an API Master kit, I use the Tetra test strips.
What are your parameters? We need to know the exact numbers, not just “fine” or “safe”.

Ammonia: Unknown, I don't have an ammonia test kit.
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: Barely registers, probably 10.
pH: 6.4-6.6
GH: ~200ppm
KH: pretty low, like 20ppm.

How often do you feed your fish? once a day, 5 times a week, Tuesdays/Thursdays off.
How much do you feed your fish? I feed him a pinch and watch him eat.
What brand of food do you feed your fish? TopFin Tropical flakes, Tetra BettaMin flake medley, Wardley Betta food pellets, home grown baby brine shrimp, blanched and mushed peas with the shells diced up (he loves these).
Do you feed frozen or freeze-dried foods? Technically, yes, the peas were frozen and then blanched.

Illness & Symptoms
How long have you had this fish? Approximately one month (purchased april 16, 2020).
How long ago did you first notice these symptoms? Pre-existing symptoms from store.
In a few words, can you explain the symptoms? White patch on his head that didn't look like normal colorations. It does not appear to protrude upwards like a fungal growth or something. I can't quite tell if it's loss of pigmentation or loss of scales or what.
Have you started any treatment for the illness? Yes, I ran through API SuperIch. Then API General Cure. Then API Pima/MelaFix together. Requisite water changes between each treatment as directed on the packaging. Left a day or two between each treatment.
Was your fish physically ill or injured upon purchase? Yes. Patch has grown from maybe 5 millimeters to like 15. The growth rate seems to have stopped approximately 2 weeks ago.
How has its behavior and appearance changed, if at all? His behavior has not changed. He has been swimming about, comes to the glass to say hi, eats an appropriate amount. A week ago I did notice his cheeks and chin had some red tint. (see video)

Explain your emergency situation in detail. (Please give a clear explanation of what is going on, include details from the beginning of the illness leading up to now)
I guess it's not technically an emergency because he doesn't seem in distress. I just want to find out what's wrong, is it contagious, and when can I add him to the community tank and out of quarantine.
Please let me know if I need to answer more questions or provide more detail. It is very difficult to get pictures of him, but I did take a video and posted it on youtube (
). Thanks for your help!


I think your betta has ich. Have you noticed any other dots/blotches?


That’s not ich. I think your betta may have columnaris, not sure on treatment but it seems to be in a later stage of it. My guess is that the red on his gills are ammonia burns, are you able to do daily 25% water changes for a few days to a week?
Ich looks like small white dots that are scattered on fins/body whereas columnaris usually just stays above or behind his head.


Watermelon: There may have been some ich on the fins when I first got him, that's where the store employee saw it aside from the white patch on the head.

jkkgron: I will do some research on that disease. yes I can absolutely do daily water changes for as long as necessary to get him healthy. I understand ammonia burns can show as red on gills, I've also read that can be from gill flukes or am I wrong there? I do know that I have no ammonia test and thus no way to be sure ammonia is not present and his gills aren't burnt from ammonia, but with how long the tank has been running and what's in it, I don't see how it couldn't be a fully cycled tank as nitrates are present. I guess I'll have to get an ammonia kit as well.

Would aquarium salt (pickling salt) be helpful as well? I've been hesitant to do that since there's a mystery snail in there. Should I throw in Seachem prime and/or API StressCoat+ as they both say they help with the fish's slime coat?

Thanks so far and for future responses.


I think it's columnaris... which can spread to other fish quickly and results from poor water conditions. To treat it mainly you have to lower the temperature of your tank and add medications. I doubt your tank is cycled, in a small 5 gallon you would have to do water changes more often than others. As for salt, you could try since snails are actually pretty hardy and can survive, but it's no guarantee.


Ok, I'm about to head out unto the world for "essential" activities in a few minutes. What treatment for columnaris is available at PetSmart or Petco? I didn't seen Furan-2 on their website. I will also get an ammonia test.

edit: Also, I understand I'm new and without an ammonia reading I can not definitively state it is a fully cycled tank, but keep in mind I'm working with a condition that started in a cup in PetSmart. With all I've put into the tank for biological filtration, bacterial supplements (I know not 100% effective as it could have been an old bottle), media from a previous tank, tons of plants, and the fact the tank was allowed to do its thing for an entire month before introducing a fish (I did put fish food in to be broken down by resident bacteria for the cycle), leads me to believe it's a high probability it's a cycled tank. Now, it's possible I could have broken the cycle with water changes and all these medications perhaps killing off the BB I guess?

Edit Part Deux: The Ammonia Side-Trackening- got back from LFS. Got some API Furan-2 (as indicated in the columnaris thread on fishlore this is one of the treatments for it in concert with some aquarium salt and water changes and lower water temp) if the consensus is that it's columnaris. I could not locate the Maracyn or Kanaplax that was also recommended in that thread.
I also got an API Ammonia Test kit. I was going to just get strips because, well, I'm lazy at times, but they only had the liquid drops. I understand the drop and vial kits are more accurate than strips and in the interest of trouble shooting and not just quicky maintenance checkups, here are the results of the ammonia test on my tank. Looks pretty yeller to me (0ppm ammonia). I did a general test strip yesterday. 0ppm nitrite. Barely registerable on the nitrate, like 10ppm? It has read higher on the nitrate, maybe tops 20ppm, but with all the water changes with treatments I'm not surprised it's so low.
So, is my tank cycled or not? It's at least two months old, with nitrogen sources, lots of store bought BB supplements, and introduced bacteria from other filter media.

Thanks all for your time.


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Ok that’s good that you got the right meds and an ammonia test . Hopefully this should stop the spread and cure him.


: ) As far as "the right meds" I am going based off of this fishlore post: (Columnaris Symptoms And Treatment | Freshwater Fish Disease 263058) with the Furan-2. I don't have the other stuff. Since it's likely bacterial, I'm gonna do another round of the pima/mela fix. Add 4tsp aquarium salt (1tsp per actual gallon) every 12 hours for a total of three times. Then leave it like that until I change the water out from meds I guess.


I'm not convinced this is an illness. I would expect to see some upward growth if it was fungal, or erosion of the tissue if it was bacterial. If his scales are still there and there seems to be no true growth of any microorganisms on him, I might be inclined to say this is simply a loss of pigmentation... And nothing more.

That being said, this is a tricky case and I can't say it's not an illness either. I wouldn't be opposed to you trying out other meds just to see what happens, but since he's otherwise completely fine, if nothing else works, I might just say leave it be, and chalk it up to marbling.


SM1199: I can't see it well enough to see if it's a loss of scales or loss of pigmentation. It's the red that really concerned me. I'm not horribly opposed to riding it out, but I'm anxious to declare him good to go so I can put him into the main community tank (45 gallon).

I haven't seen any changes in the size of the patch in a week or so. Not better or worse. I did, since it seems possible it's columnaris, start with the furan2, aquarium salt, and another round of pima/mela fix.

We shall see where this goes...


So i was reading in this thread (Colomnaris? lymphocystosis? Help - | 455331) and the patch looks very much like my betta's. I also read where someone said tetracycline is the way to treat and someone also linked to that has medicated fish flakes. They have type one and two. Type one says it treats gram negative bacteria, which columnaris is noted as gram negative. Type two flakes have tetracycline.

Sooo, which is it? For the price I'm not opposed to getting both and running him thru each round separately.


Just wanted to add my two cents.

"Ammonia: Unknown, I don't have an ammonia test kit.
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: Barely registers, probably 10.
pH: 6.4-6.6
GH: ~200ppm
KH: pretty low, like 20ppm."

This suggests that at the beginning, when you added the discounted betta, your tank could have been uncycled

MEDS: API Super Ich cure. I followed the instructions precisely. The patch grew. I decided to use some API General Cure. Tried MelaFix (at a reduced concentration since BettaFix is at 1/5th concentration of MelaFix) and PimaFix API Furan-2, aquarium salt

That's an awful lot in 1 month. You could totally edit melafix and pimafix out of your arsenal.

"I do not vacuum the substrate. Our snail does a pretty good job of scooping up plant detritus."

Best not to rely on livestock to do our work. It's not just plant detritus on the substrate.

"organic potting soil as the base underneath black diamond blasting sand cap."

As you couldn't test for ammonia in the beginning, the potting soil could have released very high levels of ammonia that your filter couldn't deal with. With all the water changes, that could have brought it down but in the meantime, your fish could have been subjected to ammonia.

Ultimately, a potentially iss, discounted betta has cost how much in meds? I'm sorry you and your fish have gone through all this.

Since it's near impossible to nail down what's wrong with him, he's been medicated out the wazoo (sorry, but honest) and nothing has worked, I do suggest keeping him in clean water from here on in. I know you are trying your best but in this case, less is probably best.


Fisheye: you're absolutely right, the soil could've and likely did leach, totally a possibility since I didn't have an ammonia kit. I did however wait a month, do water changes, and add bacteria supplements and waited until nitrite stabilized and nitrates were present before adding the betta. Moving forward I have a test kit for ammonia and I will verify.
On meds, I agree it's a lot at once. Yes I spent a chunk of change, but these meds I have tons of leftovers and I totally could have skipped the betta but I liked it a lot in the store. And with 60 plus fish imagine I'll need one or the other at some point.
Why do you say ditch the mela/pima fix? Do you mean in this instance or in general? And why?
You said potentially 'iss' is this a term I'm not familiar with?
I'm stubborn. Yes it's medicated a lot. But, I would feel remiss if I felt I had not done all i could do.

My goal is to get the discoloration under control. The red on his cheeks and chin seems to be dissipating. After its under control I would like to feel comfortable that it is free of contagion. I bought him as a center piece for our 45 gallon community tank.

Thank you all.


Oh you caught my typo! I had intended to type potentially "diseased". Sorry for the confusion.

Just because we can buy meds, doesn't mean we should dump them in one after another to see what works. Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease and frequently, improper dosing/med selection has become the demise of many fish. It's not possible to diagnose with 100% accuracy anyway unless you send the remains to vet college for post mortem...and then it's too late. Even the biologists/scientists among us give best suggestions based on experience and evidence given.

I'm in Canada and we can't get anything now so must rely on choosing healthy stock from reliable sources and providing proper housing and maintaining properly.

Regarding the "fix" meds, I don't see them being a substitute for clean water and haven't found any studies proving otherwise.

I hope he pulls through and is a happy centerpiece in your 45!


Fisheye: I agree with you on just because you can doesn't mean you should for meds. I tend towards the natural way as much as I can, I personally avoid meds unless it's truely necessary. Which is why I was trying the fix concoctions since they're just herbal extracts. I think I'll finish this round of furan and just do frequent water changes for a while.
The white patch has definitely has definitely not increased in size and may have reduce a little. Also the red on his cheeks and under his chin I cant see anymore even with my bright flashlight unless he actually opens up his gills. But then that's kinda inside his body and makes sense it would be red. He's never been gasping for air or lethargic.


So he seems healthy and after getting him in the 45g I could see him better. At this point it almost appears that it was removed scales on part.
He unfortunately is not a centerpiece in the 45g anymore, he ate all my guppy fry!


So he seems healthy and after getting him in the 45g I could see him better. At this point it almost appears that it was removed scales on part.
He unfortunately is not a centerpiece in the 45g anymore, he ate all my guppy fry!
Hopefully he pulls through, he's a nice betta!


Thanks. He's been fine. Still has the white patch. He's solo in a planted ten gallon right now. He was in my 45 but he was a jerk face and ate all my guppy fry.

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