Depressed Betta Fish?

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Carolyn V

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Tank
  • What is the water volume of the tank? 5 gallons
  • Does it have a filter? Yes
  • Does it have a heater? Yes
  • What is the water temperature? 78
  • What is the entire stocking of this tank? (Please list all fish and inverts.) Betta is the only fish in the tank.

Maintenance
  • How often do you change the water? 1 to 2 times a week
  • How much of the water do you change? 50%
  • What do you use to treat your water? Seachem Prime and Stability each time.
  • Do you vacuum the substrate or just the water? Both

Parameters
  • Did you cycle your tank before adding fish? Yes
  • What do you use to test the water? API Freshwater Master Test Water Kith
  • What are your parameters? We need the exact numbers, not just “fine” or “safe”. Ammonia 0 ppm Nitrite 0 ppm Nitrate, up to 10 ppm at the end of the week
I have a male betta since March of 2018 and for most of that time he has been very happy in his 5 gallon tank swimming around and eagerly wanting to eat but lately he has seemed very depressed. A few months ago this happened to him and I could not figure out what was wrong with him. I checked him against all the listed diseases and he did not seem to have any of them. All that was wrong with him was that he seemed extremely depressed and stopped wanting to eat and would just lay around on the bottom of the tank doing nothing. I remember then that I started to change the water more frequently. I usually change it once or twice a week, changing out about 50% of it, but then I changed it more often. That was the only thing I did and he eventually came out of his depression and started swimming and eating again. He prefers to eat Fluval Bug Bites and very rarely will he eat anything else but they are so small that most of them go uneaten and lay around in the tank and I wonder if the uneaten food does anything to the water quality.

A few days ago he went back into his depression. He just lays around at the bottom of the tank or hidden in his coconut hut and he does not want to eat. Last night he was swimming around and he even flared at his reflection but he did not do that for long. But when he was swimming around he looked completely healthy and in great form. When he was in his first depression a few weeks ago I got him a floating mirror thinking he was lonely but he never paid attention to it and even swam away from it.Now seeing his reflection in the mirror does nothing for him and he usually swims away from it. I keep wondering if he is depressed and needs another fish or just what is wrong with him. Yesterday when I saw him in the morning he was laying on his side and he looked dead and he scared me quite a bit. If I chase him around he swims okay and he looks normal. I can't see anything wrong with him but when he does swim he seems to tire out easily and goes back to the bottom of the tank or back in his hut or somewhere else where he can't be seen. I am driving myself crazy trying to figure out what is wrong with him. His normal behavior is to swim around a lot and to have a good appetite. He knows that when I turn on the light in the morning that means breakfast time and he usually swims to the top of the tank to be fed, but he no longer comes to the top to eat and he hasn't done that for 3 days. So I was wondering if anyone has any idea what might be wrong with him. Can a betta fish get depressed or lonely? I am scared that he will die and I feel helpless to do anything about it.
 

CaptAnnDuchow

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Bubbles_and_Fins
 

Guanchy

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uneaten food would turn into ammonia, but since your ammonia is 0 i highly doubt thats the problem. and he is definitely not feeling lonely as bettas prefer to be alone than with other fish. can you show photos of fish and tank set up?
 

Brett S.

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Photos?
 

Rylan

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Does he appear to be a normal weight? How’s his breathing when he does this? Have you ever seen him seizing?
 

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Huh, how very odd. I've had mine get sad every now and then, and I have a few little tricks that help, but they weren't as bad as your little guy.
Adding a new snail friend, normally a baby mystery (because their antennae grow back really fast if they get bitten off) gets them flaring and following it around for a few days, some perk up with new stem and floating plants, and live food makes them go mad, mainly black worms and white worms, I've had sad ones ignore baby brine and the like.
 

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to rule out lethargy from starvation, or signs of finrot or anything, some pictures would help a ton!
 
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Some of you who responded asked for photos so I managed to get some but wasn't sure how to post them. I think I did post them but couldn't figure out how to post them in the same message as my reply. I managed to get the photos by literally chasing my betta around the tank with a spoon, otherwise I can almost never see him. He basically has taken to hiding when he sees me which is not normal for him. When he would see me normally, he would go up to the top to get fed or if he was not hungry he would ignore me. But now, when he sees me he goes into hiding which I don't understand. After his little swim he rested on the bridge where I took the last photo of him and as far as I know he is still there as I turned off the light for him to go to sleep. He seems to get exhausted after a little bit of swimming. He doesn't seem to breathe hard, but instead he almost doesn't breathe at all. To me he looks like he has always looked except that as the months have gone by he has gotten bigger and more colorful. He did do this a couple of months ago and managed to come out of it but I don't know why. I am now changing his water every day, with 50% changes but I am at my wit's end as to what else I can do for him. I just hope that he is still alive when I wake up tomorrow morning.
 

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I’m kind of at a loss as to what it could be. He’s a bit skinny but not to the point of starvation. Although since he is refusing food currently he could be feeling weak and stressed from that.

I feel like I see stress stripes, but that might just be me. Does anyone else see that too?

How long have you had this guy? I didn’t see it in your first post. It might just be old age.
 

New fishes

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You could try frozen food? Mine like it as a special treat or even live brine shrimp. He doesn't look unhealthy maybe old age? Bettas with longer fins have more trouble getting around in general.
 

Rylan

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This is about your Betta, not mine, but I used to have a Betta that would exhibit the same sort of symptoms despite the water being clean and my best efforts. Just every few weeks, he would hide in his house and not come out for 2-3 days.

I used to post on Fishlore about him and none of us could figure it out. He was Halfmoon and I was told several times he was just lazy. Toward the very end of his life though, I suspected internal parasites but I still am not certain.

On one occasion shortly before he passed away suddenly, I saw him seizing and immediately after it was over he hid in his house and didn’t come out. Never saw him do that again. After a few days he was normal again. It was then the behavior sort of made sense to me. I once had a dog with epilepsy. Only saw him seizing once but we always knew he’d had a seizure because he wouldn’t stop sleeping for a few days. I dismissed the notion of fish seizures as ridiculous but I still wonder about that fish.

I hope your Betta is alright this morning.

Keep an eye out of any unusual colored/stringy poop, or other strange behavior you can’t quite put your finger on. Even if it seems like you’re imagining it, report it here anyway. I’m not telling you this story to make you uneasy, just to let you know not to be shy about speaking up about ANYTHING you see as unusual.

I wonder if we should tag NickAu maybe he can help you, if it’s not too late.
 
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Carolyn V

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Bubbles_and_Fins said:
I’m kind of at a loss as to what it could be. He’s a bit skinny but not to the point of starvation. Although since he is refusing food currently he could be feeling weak and stressed from that.

I feel like I see stress stripes, but that might just be me. Does anyone else see that too?

How long have you had this guy? I didn’t see it in your first post. It might just be old age.
Thanks for replying. I have never seen stripes on him. His body is sort of like an irridescent blue with a beautiful burgundy colored tail. I have had him since March of 2018 and he was a lot smaller than. I know that he was young. Certainly he is not starved as I feed him twice a day and he is usually hungry although he only wants to eat Fluval Bugbites. If I offer him anything else including freeze dried blood worms or freeze dried brine shrimp he will not eat it. I can sometimes get him to eat some betta pellets but for the most part he refuses them. But on a normal day he gobbles up the Fluval Bugbites but now he is not interested in food at all. Today for the first time in days he was outside his hut which is progress. He still doesn't show interest in food as normally as soon as he sees me in the morning he goes to the top to be fed but now he just hangs around. I am wondering if my change in filter might have something to do with his condition. A while back I took out the chemical filtration part and replaced it with Purigen which I read great things about but it has been since that change, a few days afterward that I started to see a difference in his behavior. I have since taken out the Purigen and replaced the carbon part of the filter so I am hoping that might make a difference but at this stage it is all a guess. His body looks healthy to me but it is his attitude that is concerning me. It is almost as if he has given up on life but I am not sure that I fish could think like that. I changed his water again today and am hoping that he will pull out of whatever is bothering him. Today is the fourth day that he is not eating.
 
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New fishes said:
You could try frozen food? Mine like it as a special treat or even live brine shrimp. He doesn't look unhealthy maybe old age? Bettas with longer fins have more trouble getting around in general.
No he is not old. I bought him in March of 2018 from Petco. He was small then but has grown quite bit. He usually is very active so I am not sure what his problem is now. He will not eat freeze dried shrimp or blood worms and no store around here sells frozen brine shrimp which I doubt he would eat anyway. Normally when I put the light on in the morning he goes to the top to be fed but now he shows no interest in doing that. At least this morning he swam out of his hut and hung out a bit which is more than he has been doing. A couple of weeks ago I changed the filter ingredients and added Purigen and took out the carbon and it was a while after that that I noticed a change in him so I wonder, but have no idea, if that was the reason. I have since put back the carbon and took out the Purigen and waiting to see if that, and my daily water changes will make a difference for him. That is interesting about bettas with long fins as many times I do notice that his long heavy fins seems to pull him down although when he flares then out he looks beautiful. He still does that, but only at night and not for long, as if it is too much energy for him to do it. His body still looks beautiful to me but his behavior is very scary and concerning to me. Thanks.
 

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I found a cool article that you should take a look at: Fish Depression Is Not a Joke . Your little guy is showing the same symptoms as the fish in the study.
 
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Rylan said:
This is about your Betta, not mine, but I used to have a Betta that would exhibit the same sort of symptoms despite the water being clean and my best efforts. Just every few weeks, he would hide in his house and not come out for 2-3 days.

I used to post on Fishlore about him and none of us could figure it out. He was Halfmoon and I was told several times he was just lazy. Toward the very end of his life though, I suspected internal parasites but I still am not certain.

On one occasion shortly before he passed away suddenly, I saw him seizing and immediately after it was over he hid in his house and didn’t come out. Never saw him do that again. After a few days he was normal again. It was then the behavior sort of made sense to me. I once had a dog with epilepsy. Only saw him seizing once but we always knew he’d had a seizure because he wouldn’t stop sleeping for a few days. I dismissed the notion of fish seizures as ridiculous but I still wonder about that fish.

I hope your Betta is alright this morning.

Keep an eye out of any unusual colored/stringy poop, or other strange behavior you can’t quite put your finger on. Even if it seems like you’re imagining it, report it here anyway. I’m not telling you this story to make you uneasy, just to let you know not to be shy about speaking up about ANYTHING you see as unusual.

I wonder if we should tag NickAu maybe he can help you, if it’s not too late.
I had no idea that fish could have seizures. What do they look like when they do have one? I am not looking at my fish all the time so it would be possible for him to have had one and I wouldn't know it. I also have no idea what his poop looks like as I have never seen him poop. I am sure that he does but I have never seen it happen. So far he is still alive but he looks so depressed. Not anything like himself. And other than to keep changing his water I just cannot figure out what to do.
 
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Bubbles_and_Fins said:
I found a cool article that you should take a look at: Fish Depression Is Not a Joke . Your little guy is showing the same symptoms as the fish in the study.
Thank you so much for finding the article. It makes me think that my betta might well be depressed but if he is I have no idea what to do about it. I have thought of getting neon tetras but have no idea if that might help. Also my tank is only 5 gallons so I don't want to put too much in there and if he doesn't like the tetras I am afraid that he might do something to them, or worse, that they might do something to him. In the past when I tried to play with him he would not participate in that. Sometimes I just stay by his tank and look at him to try to make him feel like he is not alone but it never seemed to matter to him. He has no interest in the mirror. In the beginning he would flare at his reflection in the tank but he has long since gotten over that. I just don't know what I can do for him. Maybe chasing him around might at least give him some exercise. I am not sure what to do. I have absolutely no experience dealing with a depressed fish but he has stopped eating altogether and I don't know how long he can go without eating. Its very frustrating.
 

NickAu

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Hi
I have thought of getting neon tetras but have no idea if that might help.
Neon Tetras rate as among the worst tank mates for a Betta. They prefer cooler water than a Betta is comfortable at.

Wanna make your fish happy?
Here's my advice. Get rid of all those ornaments and add more plants.

Something like this
k81QjLh.jpg
 

CaptAnnDuchow

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Maybe a snail for company or maybe just chasing him out of hiding a few times a day amd getting him moving will help? I feel so bad for the little guy. He looks so sad
 

Rylan

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Carolyn V said:
I had no idea that fish could have seizures. What do they look like when they do have one? I am not looking at my fish all the time so it would be possible for him to have had one and I wouldn't know it. I also have no idea what his poop looks like as I have never seen him poop. I am sure that he does but I have never seen it happen. So far he is still alive but he looks so depressed. Not anything like himself. And other than to keep changing his water I just cannot figure out what to do.
I know it can be very frustrating. Yours has already outlived mine by several months. Which is a good thing, and it’s very possible what your is experiencing is a completely different and not scary issue.

The only reason I brought it up was because the behavior sounded so similar to my little guy.

What I thought was seizure looked to me like it did with my dog who had epilepsy. All muscles were convulsing uncontrollably. It looked completely different than flashing. Flashing has purpose. He looked as though he’d lost all control of his body for a moment. He went back to normal spunky behavior after a few days. I don’t know for certain if they can have seizures. I’ve only found a few mentions of it on this forum and elsewhere.

Your fish may be very well be displaying behavior closer to what Bubbles_and_Fins posted a link to.

With my poor little guy, when I first got him he was underweight, colorless, and had Ich. He had several problems and I’m really not certain to this day whether what I saw the one time was in fact a seizure or not, or rather a symptom of an internal parasite or viral infection.

All I can see is you’re really doing everything you can for your fish, so I doubt this behavior has anything to do with you. I’m sorry I can’t offer real advice and I absolutely did not intend to worry you. I just would advise keeping a close eye out for any additional strangeness and don’t be afraid to post about it (stringy poop, discolored scales) I know for myself I never posted about the seizure because I thought maybe I was just too worried about him.
 
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