Betta With Poor Genetics? Cancer Maybe?

Greengirl87

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Let me start this by saying that I am talking about betta fish getting disease here, but I am not looking for help or advice on treating them. I don't believe there to be much more I can do for him. That being said, if people think they may have some good advice, go ahead and share it. But really I'm just seeing if there are others out there in the same situation.

So I have had this betta for about a year. He is always sick. Fin rot(omg constant bouts with it), fungal(maybe bacterial), and most recently a mild case of pop eye. I think I caught the pop eye early enough, because he is responding well to treatment.

Anyway, it seems like I get him healthy from one thing, he is fine for a little bit, then gets something else. His tank conditions are fine. I started him in 5.5 gallon-cycled, filtered, heated(78-80), planted. Then after a few months I moved him to a 20 gallon(same conditions just bigger with more plants). He was there until this weekend when I had to move him back to the 5.5 to treat him for pop eye. It is less expensive to medicate a 5.5 and also the filter for it doesn't have as strong of a flow so he can swim easier. It doesn't have as bright of a light, and I think he likes that better as well.

These tanks(and all my tanks) are always around 7.3-7.4 ph, 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and never more than 40 ppm nitrate(on a normal basis). Depends how close I am to water change when testing, if it has been medicated, fertilized, etc. So I don't think it should be tank conditions making him sick.

I feed him cobalt ultra betta pellets. Which he loves! I've tried other brands of pellets, he won't touch them. Every now and then I feed him some freeze dried bloodworms. He kind of likes those, but not like he goes after these cobalt pellets. And cobalt is one of the best brands of fish food out there, so nutrition shouldn't be an issue.

Here is the thing, he has a lump on his side, pretty much along his lateral line on the back half, only on one side. It isn't round, but more of an oval oblong shape. He has had it the whole time I've had him. It doesn't look caulflowifery like a lymph. It isn't on the outside. There is no sore there. And this lump doesn't seem to really change size. I mean, it might a tiny bit, but nothing massively noticeable.

It isn't bloat or a swimbladder issue. The rest of him is normal size and shape, he is maybe a little skinny. But he wasn't eating for a few days before I started treating him for pop eye. He is eating again now. He always swims fine, until something does affect him. But then he just doesn't swim as much, his act of swimming looks normal, I think he just tires easily. Once I treat him for something, he perks back up and becomes an active swimmer again. This just happened with the pop eye. He still isn't swimming quite as vigorously, but at least he is. Before he would just stay in his cave and only swim if something(me) disturbed him.

This is the 2nd betta I've had with such a lump. The other had the same issues. Just constantly getting sick even though I kept him in good conditions. That one lived about a year. He ended up getting dropsy and treating him didn't work. He passed. It was heartbreaking. Not even gonna lie here, I cried.

Everytime my current betta gets sick, I worry it will be the time I won't be able to treat him successfully and he'll die. It makes me so sad. As far as I can tell, there isn't anything I'm doing wrong, they are just like this. I just got unfortunate enough to get 2 of them in a row. Idk if it is cancer, bad genetics, or what. The only thing I can think to do is just do pwc more frequently than I was, even though my tests are always fine. Like maybe 20-40 ppm nitrates is fine for normal fish, but a little too high for this sickly betta? I might start putting IAL in his tank again too. Idk if it really helps, but he likes playing around it.

I just wondered if anyone else had a betta like this and is as frustrated and disheartened with it as I am? I love keeping bettas. They are beautiful, fun to watch, and really responsive to people. But watching the slow decline of them like this is really hard, mentally and emotionally.
 

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My daughter's betta has a lump. He's always been really healthy and still acts fine, eats well, but just has this bump on the side. Apparently they are prone to cancer. I'm guessing due to the massive amounts of careless mass breeding that happens just to keep cranking them out for the big chain stores. Like puppy mills for fish. Her previous betta only lived about two years and we fought case after case of fin rot...I chalk those up to some of the fishes' ridiculously long fins. I mean, bettas are really such an overbred species they have to be kind of a genetic mess by now.
 
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Greengirl87

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My daughter's betta has a lump. He's always been really healthy and still acts fine, eats well, but just has this bump on the side. Apparently they are prone to cancer. I'm guessing due to the massive amounts of careless mass breeding that happens just to keep cranking them out for the big chain stores. Like puppy mills for fish. Her previous betta only lived about two years and we fought case after case of fin rot...I chalk those up to some of the fishes' ridiculously long fins. I mean, bettas are really such an overbred species they have to be kind of a genetic mess by now.
Ya, I kinda thought it might be some bad genetics to overbreeding. Whether it be a predisposition to cancer or something else. It is so sad. I might have to look into getting one from a reputable breeder instead of a chain store in the future.
 

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So far I've had a horrific experience with bettas (killed 8 in two months before I was convinced it wasn't me screwing up or isolated incidents)... I've had so few health issues with all my other tank inhabitants that I ended up buying a variety of medications to treat the bettas as I had none previously, it was never necessary. Death, death, death. Two were fine for over a month in their tanks that, as far as I know, ticked all of the happy-betta-boxes. And then they fell ill and died.
I'm still not sure if there was something wrong with the bettas or if I ended up introducing some scary bacteria to my tanks. But none of my other fish, amphibians or inverts have gotten sick or died. If nothing else, at the very least the ones I owned had a poor immune system compared to other fish. It is extremely disheartening.
 
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Greengirl87

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So far I've had a horrific experience with bettas (killed 8 in two months before I was convinced it wasn't me screwing up or isolated incidents)... I've had so few health issues with all my other tank inhabitants that I ended up buying a variety of medications to treat the bettas as I had none previously, it was never necessary. Death, death, death. Two were fine for over a month in their tanks that, as far as I know, ticked all of the happy-betta-boxes. And then they fell ill and died.
I'm still not sure if there was something wrong with the bettas or if I ended up introducing some scary bacteria to my tanks. But none of my other fish, amphibians or inverts have gotten sick or died. If nothing else, at the very least the ones I owned had a poor immune system compared to other fish. It is extremely disheartening.
I'm curious where you got them? One of mine was from walmart. I normally wouldn't get a betta from there. All big chains treat their bettas terribly, but walmart seems to be one of the worst. Their cups are smaller than other places. They don't ever change the water. And are super slow about removing the ones that died. But this lil guy was an ugly yellow color, so dull compared to the others. I was like, this poor dude is never gonna get bought by anyone else. So I bought him.

The current one I have I got from a small pet store chain that I think is a division of petco, called petsense. They take good care of their bettas, relatively. They still keep them in "cups", but like the biggest sized ones I've ever seen at a pet store. I regularly see them changing the water. And I almost never see a dead one on the shelf. So I thought I'd have a better chance getting one from there. But nope. Ended up the same.

It has to just be the big suppliers for chain stores way overbreeding them. And not just bettas, other fish have problems from overbreeding too.
 

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They seem to have a lot of issues. I have 5 that have lived over a year but I have had quite a few pass within months for getting them. I’ve had some unexplained deaths... dropsy perhaps...a few babies that just never thrived... some of my older guys bite their tails so I’m struggling to keep them from getting infected. I have a female who suddenly keeps getting swollen on one side looks like she is going to explode went away once don’t know what will happen this time. I’m crazy I do water changes usually usually twice weekly on all 10 tanks, test my water, and I still have issues. I have to agree there has to be some poor genetics. I keep hearing stories of people getting weird illness from their pups and having to have limbs amputated. I wonder why there seems more of this lately, maybe poor breeding as well?
 
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Greengirl87

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They seem to have a lot of issues. I have 5 that have lived over a year but I have had quite a few pass within months for getting them. I’ve had some unexplained deaths... dropsy perhaps...a few babies that just never thrived... some of my older guys bite their tails so I’m struggling to keep them from getting infected. I have a female who suddenly keeps getting swollen on one side looks like she is going to explode went away once don’t know what will happen this time. I’m crazy I do water changes usually usually twice weekly on all 10 tanks, test my water, and I still have issues. I have to agree there has to be some poor genetics. I keep hearing stories of people getting weird illness from their pups and having to have limbs amputated. I wonder why there seems more of this lately, maybe poor breeding as well?
The one you say is swollen, does it look like a lump? Or really just swelling? I'm very curious about bettas with this weird lump like mine.
 

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I'm curious where you got them? One of mine was from walmart. I normally wouldn't get a betta from there. All big chains treat their bettas terribly, but walmart seems to be one of the worst. Their cups are smaller than other places. They don't ever change the water. And are super slow about removing the ones that died. But this lil guy was an ugly yellow color, so dull compared to the others. I was like, this poor dude is never gonna get bought by anyone else. So I bought him.

The current one I have I got from a small pet store chain that I think is a division of petco, called petsense. They take good care of their bettas, relatively. They still keep them in "cups", but like the biggest sized ones I've ever seen at a pet store. I regularly see them changing the water. And I almost never see a dead one on the shelf. So I thought I'd have a better chance getting one from there. But nope. Ended up the same.

It has to just be the big suppliers for chain stores way overbreeding them. And not just bettas, other fish have problems from overbreeding too.
We don't have massive chainstores over here like the U.S. has, well perhaps one or two in a major city, but not really. Most pet/fish stores near me are uh, privately owned? I don't really want to call them mom 'n pop stores as some are as stocked and slick looking as the chains. Chains usually have only a tiny selection of fish and I only buy supplies there. Of the 8 I mentioned, 1 of them came from a private breeder (who was new to breeding though), 5 came from one pet store that imported them directly from thailand. I do trust them very much and have made other purchases there that are doing very well. The first three bettas I got there were the last to die (lasting 3 weeks - 5 weeks), the other two died within a few days, one even within 24 hours. So not sure what was up with that. The remaining 2 came from another pet store near me that I have also made other purchases that I'm happy about, though they do sometimes have issues with illnesses (that get addressed promptly so I usually avoid buying that day and come back next week). All of the females I bought came from sorority tanks (10 or 20 gallon tanks with anywhere from 2 - 10 girls in them). The three males I bought were in their own tanks, only 1 in a cup with almond leaf, the other two in what I guess is a 2 gallon and the last one maybe a 10 gallon?
Only the male from the 10 gallon, from that store where I bought the 5, is still alive. I'm a little worried about him still though, as he is slowly changing coloration in a way that makes me unsure whether it is marbling (he does have the gene) or graying from some kind of internal problem. He's also got this bright white spot on his lip that would have scared me a lot if I didn't learn from past scares to take pictures of my fish in their bags the day I get them so I can be sure later what issues developed in my tanks and which didn't It still looks the same, and I've now had him for almost two months so I'm guessing it is just part of his coloration. He has a similar washed out patch on his caudal that is nearly-but-not-quite transparent but I'm now also thinking it is probably normal. I'll knock on wood now...
Strange thing is, though, all my females died first and the two males I lost died last, regardless of the order in which I got them. When all those females where dying whereas my males were fine, I thought it was some kind of issue with sororities so stupid me contacted an experienced breeder and bought - yes really - a set of females in a cup. Bigger than the ones I've seen on pictures from walmart, though, and obviously they did rigorous water changes (50% daily, 100% once a week) and kept them in a heated room (75F).
Welp, again I will knock on wood, but I still have ALL of those. It has now been two weeks since I got them. Not out of the woods yet, but I'm hopeful. Maybe it was a genetics thing. With the exception of my still living male, all of the dead bettas were koi. The new ones are all black lace with the exception of two, that are koi. So far they are doing excellent though. I decided to keep half of the new females with the same routine that the breeder used (in the cup, quiet, heated space with dark surroundings, 50-75% gentle daily changes) and they seem no worse than the other half that I put in tanks varying from 3 to 20 gallons. Weirdly enough the ones in the largest tanks (15 and 20 gallons) don't seem to be doing well. The girl in the 15 gallon seems to have developed ich (though 100% rather that than some scary fast-killing bacteria). Started treating the day before yesterday and she already seems better. The girl in the 20 gallon is just off, permanently stressed or something. A betta died in there before and I didn't want to tear down my heavily planted tank without even knowing if something infectious was in there, so I popped in a tiny spare fish that I had. It has been doing great in there for two weeks. Popped the betta in, tiny fish still great, betta depressed. Sigh.

They seem to have a lot of issues. I have 5 that have lived over a year but I have had quite a few pass within months for getting them. I’ve had some unexplained deaths... dropsy perhaps...a few babies that just never thrived... some of my older guys bite their tails so I’m struggling to keep them from getting infected. I have a female who suddenly keeps getting swollen on one side looks like she is going to explode went away once don’t know what will happen this time. I’m crazy I do water changes usually usually twice weekly on all 10 tanks, test my water, and I still have issues. I have to agree there has to be some poor genetics. I keep hearing stories of people getting weird illness from their pups and having to have limbs amputated. I wonder why there seems more of this lately, maybe poor breeding as well?
Yes, I actually found it quite surprising to hear how line-bred these fish are when I spoke to a breeder picking up a few betta a couple weeks ago. My parents bred dogs and I have done it on occasion. It used to be different back in the day but since the 90s or so it has really dawned on breeders how terrible a practice it is in the long run (not that it was scientifically known way earlier), really does not weigh up to the benefits because at some point, you will end up with animals that simply cannot live. They all quit doing it. Don't know how it is over there in the U.S., but over here linebreeding is specifically forbidden for purebreds (you can't get a pedigree for pups if the dogs used for breeding are directly related or descendants within 2 generations) and since the late 2000s they have started obligating certain health tests and minimal scores in certain breeds in order for litters to be granted a pedigree. And with good cause (in fact, for some breeds a little too late).
Obviously none of that would be a thing for fish, but it hasn't even dawned on breeders that it wasn't outlawed with dogs willy nilly but due to the actual real life consequences of the practice, which are infinitely worse for fish because they reproduce much more rapidly and so can cram way more generations in the same time frame. You don't even have to stop fancying fish breeds, just take more precautions like outcrossing more regularly or taking more effort to swap good breeding stock with other, similar lines. The idea of having F10 and beyond indicating linebreeding of a stunning *10 generations* is just bizarre to me. I would never consider that.
Heck, I don't want to make this wall of text even longer but I can give you details about the particular breed of dog my parents used to breed, which is now irrevocably stuck with a very bad recessive genetic anomaly spread through the breed by linebreeding from the 1980s. I'm not kidding, it is such a huge problem for the dogs today they actually invested in genetic testing of hundreds of dogs and managed to trace that anomaly back to an individual animal from the 1950s. Then in the 1980s a handful of its descendants became champions in shows, and everyone wanted a litter from them. 10 years ago they estimated 98% of dogs from the breed carried that gene (pedigree or lookalike). In sample tests with vets last year they couldn't even find a single dog in samples of over 300 that did not have it. That is how toxic linebreeding is. There are hundreds of thousands of dogs of that breed in my country alone, and every single one of them carries a gene that originated from a single dog 70 years ago. That is somewhere around 20-25 generations. Imagine what is happening with fish like bettas and guppies that can breed after just a handful of months.


First people thought tumor, now thinking bloating even though I feed sparingly. Swims fine eats fine just on one side, same side both times.
Definitely looks like a tumor to me. If it was bloating then it would be caused by internal pressure, either from organs or fluid in the surrounding tissue, and though it could exert a little more pressure on one side compared to the other, no way it could be this extreme. The right side looks almost normal, the left side is bulging to nearly twice the size of the fish. Also very abruptly cuts off towards the tail where the contour appears normal again.
 

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would a tumor get smaller then big again?
Good point. I don't know enough about fish anatomy to be sure, but I don't know what would be so squarely only on that one side that could bloat like this and not affect the other side nor allow the fish to still move around relatively well. Seems to me if any of its organs were that swollen, it would be (near) dead already.
I don't know what swollen lymph nodes look like on fish or where they are located, but those could swell and slink and swell again with a massive infection...?

Edit: Also, again I don't know that much about fish anatomy and physiology, but in humans tumors can spontaneously recede. Though it seems a little suspect it would then grow again so soon.
Edit #2: Well... again xD Fish medical knowledge disclaimer. But based on canines (and humans), it could be a mucus buildup underneath the scale layer. It happens sometimes in mammals that excreting organs in the skin, e.g. the sebaceous gland gets clogged up or infected or blocked somehow and continues to produce. That then builds up underneath the skin into a mount with increased pressure. A zit, basically, but unlike the zit it can be under a much thicker layer of skin and won't burst quite as readily. One of our dogs has bulges like this under her skin in several places that feel like tumors, but they are actually full of the yellow smear and sometimes blood. They can sometimes burst, or dissolve slowly, or just stay in place for years. Doesn't have to be harmful as long as the pressure itself is not causing trouble. Perhaps fish have a similar organ for producing mucus and that can block? In mammals a similar effect can be caused by subdermal infection of hair follicles, you get these slightly raised, sometimes bruise-coloured bulges on your skin that then feel like huge tumors when you apply pressure. But it's just a harmless localised irritation.
Just grasping at straws here though, I still think a tumor is likely.
 
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AJ34

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I’m sorta baffled by it last time it got this big I thought she’d be dead In days. Then I went on vacation and had to go longer than normal without water change sadly figuring she’d be worse when I got back but to my surprise it shrunk a lot. She’s moving around fine, eating fine though I’ve been fasting her some to see if it helps any but it hasn’t.
 

Debbie1986

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How long did you fast her? have you tried shelled peas after? That doesn't look like a tumor to me but I'm no expert. It's more like I'd think of bloat/trapped air.
 

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How long did you fast her? have you tried shelled peas after? That doesn't look like a tumor to me but I'm no expert. It's more like I'd think of bloat/trapped air.
Trapped air of that magnitude should cause buoyancy problems especially when concentrated on the side like that, I don't think SBD was mentioned as a symptom.
 

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Done fasting no luck... tried some daphnia she’s sill really big on one side only but active, hungry, and no buoyancy issues. So weird
 

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I've had 2 bettas get random lumps. Not a sore or wound, just looked like normal body tissue/scales that protruded outward like a small, betta sized tumor. I didn't really notice any health issues with one of them, although his lump was much smaller. The other started out with a small lump that grew quickly and she ended up with a curved spine and occasional bloating after her spine bent. From what I've read, some lines of betta like marbles and dragons seem to be more prone to these "tumors". My 2 just so happened to be a female marble and male dragon, so that would make sense.

I'm not sure if they're cancerous tumors, benign tumors or even tumors at all. There has been cancer documented in fish, not necessarily bettas in specific, but fish species as a whole. It's usually a genetic predisposition but it can also be caused by viral infection and even thyroid conditions.
 
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Greengirl87

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Done fasting no luck... tried some daphnia she’s sill really big on one side only but active, hungry, and no buoyancy issues. So weird
The lump on mine never seemed to affect how they swam or ate. Only that they would keep getting other illness, even when their tank conditions were good. But as soon as I'd treat them for whatever they had and it cleared up, they'd go back to swimming and eating fine. I actually have that going on with my current one. Treatef him. He showed improvement after the 1st dose, a lot more after 2nd, and back to normal by the 3rd. It has been over a week since the treatment finished and he is still doing great. Though his one eye still seems a little bigger than the other. Though not as big as it was. Idk.

I've had 2 bettas get random lumps. Not a sore or wound, just looked like normal body tissue/scales that protruded outward like a small, betta sized tumor. I didn't really notice any health issues with one of them, although his lump was much smaller. The other started out with a small lump that grew quickly and she ended up with a curved spine and occasional bloating after her spine bent. From what I've read, some lines of betta like marbles and dragons seem to be more prone to these "tumors". My 2 just so happened to be a female marble and male dragon, so that would make sense.

I'm not sure if they're cancerous tumors, benign tumors or even tumors at all. There has been cancer documented in fish, not necessarily bettas in specific, but fish species as a whole. It's usually a genetic predisposition but it can also be caused by viral infection and even thyroid conditions.
I don't think either my last or current betta are marble or dragon. Just standard bettas. But they both got the lump. And no matter how good I keep their tanks, they just always get sick. I treat them, they recover, are fine for awhile, then get sick again. It is very trying.
 
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I don't know, I'm starting to think either the care they received before I bought them or genetics, or both (as those seem to go hand in hand) may have played a huge part in the disaster that struck my, eh, first generation of bettas. When the last female died (and all my males were alive) I blamed sorority tanks so I contacted a private breeder that seemed trustworthy and bought a bunch of siblings that they had left over (i.e. were cheap because I was sick of losing $20 bettas). I got around to talking with them for several hours about care and breeding and their experience of the industry, etc., which was interesting. I told them what had happened to my previous bettas and they threw in a free girl when I picked an additional betta of the same coloration - I was impressed by how relaxed and well their bettas looked. I ended up bringing 10 bettas home... this is now three weeks ago. In the meantime, I lost 2 of the 3 males that I had (they were dead before you started this thread) and last week, the final one got sick. I'm currently treating him and he seems to have improved a little (his scales were starting to raise but they are back to normal now), unlike any of the other ones, but I hold out little hope. The first male to die barely showed any symptoms before kicking the bucket so the fact that he doesn't look so ill anymore does not mean he'll live in my mind.

On the flip side.... 10/10 bettas from the 'second generation', all from that one breeder, are still with me. *knocks on wood* I was actually expecting to lose a bunch this time...
Heck I kept a few of those in the 1/2 gallon cup they came in (mostly to keep them sterile because I thought I might have some scary bacteria lurking in my tanks) and just followed that breeder's routine (50% daily changes, keeping them in a dark, warm space) and even those are doing well. I'm in the process of putting those last ones in their permanent tanks because I will be on holiday next week and don't want to burden the temporary caretaker with that bothersome routine... but I guess that it has proven not all bettas are that fragile.
 
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Greengirl87

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I don't know, I'm starting to think either the care they received before I bought them or genetics, or both (as those seem to go hand in hand) may have played a huge part in the disaster that struck my, eh, first generation of bettas. When the last female died (and all my males were alive) I blamed sorority tanks so I contacted a private breeder that seemed trustworthy and bought a bunch of siblings that they had left over (i.e. were cheap because I was sick of losing $20 bettas). I got around to talking with them for several hours about care and breeding and their experience of the industry, etc., which was interesting. I told them what had happened to my previous bettas and they threw in a free girl when I picked an additional betta of the same coloration - I was impressed by how relaxed and well their bettas looked. I ended up bringing 10 bettas home... this is now three weeks ago. In the meantime, I lost 2 of the 3 males that I had (they were dead before you started this thread) and last week, the final one got sick. I'm currently treating him and he seems to have improved a little (his scales were starting to raise but they are back to normal now), unlike any of the other ones, but I hold out little hope. The first male to die barely showed any symptoms before kicking the bucket so the fact that he doesn't look so ill anymore does not mean he'll live in my mind.

On the flip side.... 10/10 bettas from the 'second generation', all from that one breeder, are still with me. *knocks on wood* I was actually expecting to lose a bunch this time...
Heck I kept a few of those in the 1/2 gallon cup they came in (mostly to keep them sterile because I thought I might have some scary bacteria lurking in my tanks) and just followed that breeder's routine (50% daily changes, keeping them in a dark, warm space) and even those are doing well. I'm in the process of putting those last ones in their permanent tanks because I will be on holiday next week and don't want to burden the temporary caretaker with that bothersome routine... but I guess that it has proven not all bettas are that fragile.
Ya I know a girl with a betta and she has pretty much done everything that should have killed it. Yet it is still alive. So some of them are incredibly hardy. A lot of it is genetics and down to the luck of the draw I suppose. I know another girl getting into breeding bettas. She says using ro water instead of tap has helped hers a lot. I can see that where we live, our tap water is pretty bad. But until recently I've always used ro in all my tanks. Just remineralizef to the degree needed for the fish. So for my betta, very little. I knew a guy who kept a lot of bettas, told him about my troubles, he suggested indian almond leaf. As had yet another person I knew who kept bettas. But I've found that ial helps maybe a little? My last betta with the lump didn't care about it being in there, and it didn't seem to help his health any. My current betta likes playing under the leaf, but idk if it is doing him any good. Time will tell I guess. Idk. I think it really is just luck of the draw.
 
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