Betta With Swollen Head, Lethargic.

  • #1
Hello. My Betta Louie has a swollen head and I can't figure out what to do about it. He is still eating but is spending quite a bit of time near the bottom of the tank. He also seems to have a hard time seeing the food (maybe his vision is distorted by the swelling). It's been this way for months now. I thought it would go away on it's own but I'm starting to doubt it. Is there anything I can try? Here's some background info:

How many gallons is your tank? 10g
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? What kind? No

What food brand do you use? Gold Pellets
Do you feed flakes or pellets? Pellets
Freeze-dried? Don't know
How often do you feed your Betta? How much? 4x pellets 2x daily

Before your Betta became ill how often did you perform a water change? Every 2-3 weeks
What percentage of water did you change? 50%
What is the source of your water? Tap
Do you vacuum the substrate or just dip out water? Vac
What additives do you use other than conditioner? What brand of conditioner? Prime

Water Parameters:
What are your water parameters? Please give exact numbers. If tested by pet store please get exact numbers. "Fine" or "Safe" won't help us help you. Important: Test your water before the regular water change; not after one.

Ammonia: None
Nitrite: None
Nitrate: less than 5 ppm
Hardness (GH): Not tested
Alkalinity (KH): 7.2

Symptoms and Treatment:
When did you first notice the symptoms? 3 months ago
How has your Betta’s appearance changed? Swollen head. We had battled fin rot before that. His fins are still not great.
How has your Betta’s behavior changed? Eating well but hanging out near the bottom of the tank more.
Is your Betta still eating? Yes
Have you started treating your Betta? If so, how? Tried Kanaplex for fin rot. It has not gotten better but not worse.
Does your Betta have any history of being ill? fin rot
How long have you owned your Betta? 1 year 3 months
Was he or she ill or suffering some sort of damage when purchased? I don't think so, but maybe he already had mild fin rot and we didn't know better.

This is the unaffected side but you can see the swelling on the other side.

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Rose of Sharon
  • #2

So sorry that Louie is having some issues! He is a pretty boy! He has a cute little face!!!

The first thing that I would do to address the fin rot is to start dong some water changes every other day, maybe 25%, for a couple of weeks. Pristine water will go a long way in helping his fins. After you start seeing some regrowth (it will be translucent), then I would do a 50% water change every week, regardless of the water parameter levels.

You can add some Indian almond leaves (catappa leaves) to the tank to provide tannins to the water. Tannins will tint the water brown, but tannins contain some mile antibacterial and antifungal properties to the water. Bettas do love tannins, too.

He looks very thin in that 2nd pic. I would beef up his diet with some good, protein rich foods. If you can get some frozen brine shrimp, dahpnia, blood worms or mysis shrimp, that would be great. Fluval bug bites are good, too. Avoid freeze dried blood worms as they are not good and can lead to bloat/constipation. A varied protein rich diet will give him an immune system boost. You don't have to over feed him, but giving him some better quality foods will help.

Can you get a pic from the side, on the side of his head that is swollen? I'd like to see his gills/gill plate. That swollen side can be from a number of things, and a side view may help.
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
I'm doing the water changes and the almond leaves. But he is not eating consistently and seems almost too weak to stay near the water surface for very long to eat. Starting to think he won't last much longer. I'll try to get a photo but he isn't moving much at this point so it's hard.
Rose of Sharon
  • #4
So sorry, mrspock!!! If I had to hazard a guess, I would say he has some form of tumor if you don't see anything on or near his gills/gill plate on that side of his head or any open sores or lesions, and if you don't see him gasping for air. I say that because the bump looks completely internal with no protruding white or gray spots. The scales also still look good and flat. If it's a tumor, there's really nothing that can be done.

If it was an internal infection, I don't think that he would have lasted this long (since he has had the condition for months).

You can try adding a little aquarium salt to help with his osmoregulation processes (breathing, gas exchange). It can also help with his fin issue.

You can also try soaking his food in garlic juice. It is used for picky eaters and is a natural immune booster for fish. You can make some of the juice yourself by cutting up a little garlic, and soaking it in water for a little while. Or, you can get a jar of garlic that is already cut up from most grocery stores, and drain the water from it.

I wish I could do more to help!!!
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
There are no open sores or lesions. He just has a swollen head on one side since about maybe 4-5 months ago. He was eating and had energy but the swelling never went away. His energy is down and his fin rot is clearly back. I got a good pic of his head today and he seems to have some discoloration on his left eye (oddly on the side that is NOT swollen), it's like brown or something.

Here's the thing: I don't know whether to treat the fin rot (with Kanaplex or other antibiotic), euthanize him or just do water changes and hope for the best. The fin rot will kill him if I don't treat it so I guess I just need to figure out if treating him is worth keeping him alive for it or if whatever is going on with his head is incurable and we should just say goodbye to him and end his suffering. I am also worried the meds for fin rot will kill him. He's our first fish and we've had him for about 15 months.


Here's what he used to look like for reference.

Rose of Sharon
  • #6
Wow, that is a big difference in before and after pics. Since many bettas can be almost a year old when you buy them, then he is over the age of 2. They usually have a life span of 3 years. And since bettas are so over bred these days, they are often genetically weak, which leads to declining health and shorter life spans.

I usually try to treat them as long as they are still eating (even a little bit), still breathing ok, and can move around a bit. But this is just the way I do things. You can try the kanaplex treatment for one round to see if it has any effect, if you feel that he still has some fight in him. Once they stop eating, start having trouble breathing, and stop moving, then that is when I euthanize.

I understand that this is not an easy decision to make. If his quality of life is no longer good, and he is suffering, then it would be best to euthanize him.

I use clove oil to euthanize. I put the fish in a disposable plastic container with some tank water. I then take a plastic water bottle, fill it about one third of the way with some tank water, and then add about 5 to 10 drops of the clove oil, and shake it up really well. He is going to freak out when you add the clove oil water to the container - just getting you ready for that. Add the clove oil water slowly. He will then settle down, and you will see him stop breathing. I usually leave the fish in the container for a good 10 to 20 minutes to make sure that he is gone.

Again, so sorry about this!!! :(
  • Thread Starter
  • #7
Thank you so much for your help. I had to say goodbye to Louie today. He was just sitting on the bottom of the tank, not eating, barely moving but breathing fast. He would try to come up to eat but had not the energy and was getting very skinny. I couldn't watch him die painfully in slow motion so I used clove oil. It was quick, though he did struggle for maybe 5-7 seconds. Again, thank you for your help. Take care.
Rose of Sharon
  • #8
So sorry for your loss!!! :emoji_cry:

SIP, Louie!

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