Fin rot with perfect water parameters

brendadrummond

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I have 4 betta fish (2 mine, 2 my kids') and I've been betta-keeping for about 2 years now, so I have a very good understanding about it all (I read a ton online), and I know all about the nitrogen cycle. My question is this... There have been numerous times that a fish will randomly get fin rot, even though my water is changed every 5 days or so & parameters are perfect. And this past week, I changed all of their waters the day before we left because we were going away for 4 days, and I fed everyone the morning we left, and when I returned, 3 of them had fin rot! I tested all of their water and everyone is at Am-0, Ni-0, Na-0, pH-7 (I use the API Master test kit). This makes no sense to me. Does anyone have any advice? Do they get stressed out when they don't see you or get fed for 3 straight days?? I just can't figure any other reason. We haven't travelled in months, and they've all been in perfect shape until I went away. I'm so frustrated. I'd appreciate any insights or advice.

Edit:
Sorry, I should have had all this info included:

Tank

What is the water volume of the tank? 2 are 5 gallon, 1 is 3 gallon
How long has the tank been running? About a year for all 3
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.) 5 gallons both have a betta and a nerite snail. 3 gallon has just a betta

Maintenance
How often do you change the water? Once a week
How much of the water do you change? 50%
What do you use to treat your water? I use RO water with Seachem Replenish
Do you vacuum the substrate or just the water? Lightly on the substrate; different sections each cleaning

*Parameters - Very Important
Did you cycle your tank before adding fish? No
What do you use to test the water? API Master kit
What are your parameters? We need to know the exact numbers, not just “fine” or “safe”.

Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 0
pH: 7.0

Feeding
How often do you feed your fish? 6 days a week, once per day
How much do you feed your fish? 6 pellets
What brand of food do you feed your fish? Omega One Betta Buffet Pellets
Do you feed frozen or freeze-dried foods? Once in a while frozen brine shrimp or bloodworms

Illness & Symptoms
How long have you had this fish? 1 year
How long ago did you first notice these symptoms? yesterday
In a few words, can you explain the symptoms? Please read above
Have you started any treatment for the illness? Seachem Paraguard & StressGuard
Was your fish physically ill or injured upon purchase? no
How has its behavior and appearance changed, if at all? Behavior perfect, fins with rot
 
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brendadrummond

brendadrummond

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yukondog said:
If your tank is cycled you should not have 0 nitrates.
I have never had any nitrates in any of my tanks. And they've been running a long time, so they're definitely cycled.
 

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Photo of the tank and fin rot? As well as tank specs? ( volume, inhabitants, filter, heater? Etc.)

I find it strange fin rot would pop up and be noticeable after only 3-4 days.
 
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brendadrummond

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brendadrummond said:
I have never had any nitrates in any of my tanks. And they've been running a long time, so they're definitely cycled.
Are you saying there should always be nitrates in your tank?
 

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brendadrummond said:
Are you saying there should always be nitrates in your tank?
Pretty much. Even in my heavily planted tanks I can still normally get at least a 5ppm nitrate reading. There are a few exceptions but most cycled tanks have nitrates, and if they don’t it’s normally being kept low on purpose by the owner of the tank.
 
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brendadrummond

brendadrummond

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FreshwaterHG said:
Pretty much. Even in my heavily planted tanks I can still normally get at least a 5ppm nitrate reading. There are a few exceptions but most cycled tanks have nitrates, and if they don’t it’s normally being kept low on purpose by the owner of the tank.
Ok this is making me think that maybe I am being too aggressive in my water changes and I'm messing up my cycles by taking out too much water. 3 of the tanks are 5 gallon, 1 is 3 gallon. All heated and filtered. I always feel like 10-20% is hardly anything, so I usually do like 50%. It just always seemed that if someone started to get fin rot, those aggressive changes cured it in no time. Do you think that might be what's happening?
 

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brendadrummond said:
Ok this is making me think that maybe I am being too aggressive in my water changes and I'm messing up my cycles by taking out too much water. 3 of the tanks are 5 gallon, 1 is 3 gallon. All heated and filtered. I always feel like 10-20% is hardly anything, so I usually do like 50%. It just always seemed that if someone started to get fin rot, those aggressive changes cured it in no time. Do you think that might be what's happening?
50% is probably what you need to be doing on those smaller tanks. Its what I do on my 5 gal. Just do 50% weekly and more often if there is fin rot going on. Do you ever get ammonia or nitrite readings?
 
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brendadrummond

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FreshwaterHG said:
50% is probably what you need to be doing on those smaller tanks. Its what I do on my 5 gal. Just do 50% weekly and more often if there is fin rot going on. Do you ever get ammonia or nitrite readings?
Ok that's good to hear. That is just about what I always do - 50% once a week. That's why I get so incredibly frustrated when someone starts to get fin rot. I hate the 3-gallon tank, but it's my daughter's and she will be taking it back to college next month and doesn't want a bigger one. Her fish fights fin rot the most. You'll see from some pics I'm going to post (another user requested) that her tail fin has issues. But it totally escalated over the 4-day trip. There have been times where if I go more than a week on that tank, that I will get like .10-.25 reading on the ammonia on that tank. It's just way too small. But 90% of the time, it's 0, and the 5-gallon tanks are always 0. I've never had nitrites, not once, even when I was cycling. I find it odd, but all 4 tanks were that way. I've had nitrates here and there, but never above 5, and the majority of the time they're at 0. That's so odd. I have no idea why.
 
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brendadrummond

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FreshwaterHG said:
Photo of the tank and fin rot? As well as tank specs? ( volume, inhabitants, filter, heater? Etc.)

I find it strange fin rot would pop up and be noticeable after only 3-4 days.
Sorry, it took a bit to get a good photo of each fish. Phones aren't the best, and they get way too excited when they see me near the tank lol. Anyway, I've got them posted here. And I do agree this seems odd to have it go from 0-60 in 4 days.

My crowntail, Ziggy, I'm not 100% sure he has fin rot, it looks very slight. It's hard to tell with crowntails. But I do think it's starting on the very edges. He is in a 5-gallon heated, filtered tank with 1 nerite snail.

The half-moon, Mowgli, definitely has a huge amount! He's the one I'm most upset about. He did have a ripped off fin a few weeks ago, but it's been growing back fantastically. But no other fin rot until this. I included a photo of him peeking his head out his favorite window, because I'm curious if you think maybe he ripped it on that? He's always sticking his head out there. But I've had that decoration for 6 months with no issues. He is also in a 5-gallon heated, filtered tank with 1 nerite snail. Both 5 gallons have mechanical, chemical & biological filters. Both have been set up for a long time.

The female delta tail, Debbie, has been fighting this black area on her tail fin for 6 months. My daughter keeps her at college and isn't always the best about water changes, so she had a little bit when she brought her home in December. I had it completely cleared up and grown back as of beginning of June. We went away for just 2 days and when we returned it had started rotting again. Then after this 4-day trip, it looks just awful. I keep a log of water changes, and I never go more than 8 days with this tank. Usually between 4-7 with 50% changes. She is in a 3-gallon heated, filtered tank alone. It only has chemical filtration, but I dropped some bio rings in the filter area to help.
 

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FreshwaterHG

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Hmm. Yeah If your getting ammonia readings I would say it’s not cycled. Definitely get some more media in those filters, it will really help establish that bacteira. I also wouldn’t keep a female is anything less then 5, they are so active due to their short fins, it’s hard for them being in small tanks. If you can maybe swap two of them. If your daughter is brining the fish to college make sure she does keep up on water changes. I just finished my freshman year tanking 17-18 credits a term. It’s a lot and it’s stressful but if she’s not prepared to do the water changes, it’s not a great idea to being the fish along.

I would say just keep doing those water changes and checking on ammonia, get some more mechanical filtration and media to give more room for bacteira to establish and you should be ok.
 
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brendadrummond

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brendadrummond

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FreshwaterHG said:
Hmm. Yeah If your getting ammonia readings I would say it’s not cycled. Definitely get some more media in those filters, it will really help establish that bacteira. I also wouldn’t keep a female is anything less then 5, they are so active due to their short fins, it’s hard for them being in small tanks. If you can maybe swap two of them. If your daughter is brining the fish to college make sure she does keep up on water changes. I just finished my freshman year tanking 17-18 credits a term. It’s a lot and it’s stressful but if she’s not prepared to do the water changes, it’s not a great idea to being the fish along.

I would say just keep doing those water changes and checking on ammonia, get some more mechanical filtration and media to give more room for bacteira to establish and you should be ok.
I appreciate the advice. I may just keep her here with me because my daughter is the same with 18 credits per term, and she's an aerospace engineer in her senior year, so not a lot of free time. It would kill me if we lost this fish, because we've had her the longest. If she agrees to leave her here, I agree with you 100% that this tank is way too small. She is actually my least active fish, she's very lazy, but I think it's just hard to keep the water good when it's so small. And with the displacement from decor, etc, it's probably more like 2.5 gallons. It rarely has ammonia readings, but once every few months I will get a tiny bit, like .10. I would think it's cycled since it's been set up for 7 months? But either way, it's just too small without enough filtration imo. Thanks for the feedback!
 
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erbear said:
Maybe try adding an Indian almond leaf (or half) to each tank. They have natural antibacterial/antifungal properties. They are great for Betas
I may do that. I was reading about that. I just don't love that they change the water color. But the health of my fish is definitely more important of course. Thanks!
 

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brendadrummond said:
I may do that. I was reading about that. I just don't love that they change the water color. But the health of my fish is definitely more important of course. Thanks!
You can boil them so they release most of initial tannins (that darken the water) but it's all good stuff you'd be taking away.

I keep 2 leaves in my 10 gallon shrimp tank at any one time but I've never come close to the "tea water" some people talk about. Just a slight brown/yellow color. I understand why some people would be discouraged by the color. I just think the benefits outweigh the negatives.
 

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So just from reading it seems like you're doing great with these fish, but I'm now wondering if there was a typo in the fist line of your original post.
My girlfriend's betta who we set up a tank for a few months ago went through a short bout with fin rot that we treated with a salt bath for him and a good water change and tank cleaning ( probably more cleaning then we should have, but she was fairly new, thankfully I was able to keep her away from the filter).
Going by what is in your tanks, it seems like dosing with meds should be helping, but it could also be possible that the fungus is beginning to resist the meds your using, especially if you use them often.
My thoughts align with what's above, try using botanicals (I would research this, but many kinds of dried leaves, some kinds of cones, some seed pods, and even driftwood count), and possibly a salt solution in your tanks to see if that pushes back the rot. The salt shouldn't hurt any of the inhabitants, but removing the apple snail(s) would make sure no one is at risk. (Shrimp aren't hurt by it, and nerrite snails actually breed and live in brackish water, Apples were the only ones I was able to find that it would annoy)
Aquarium Co-op has a good piece about using salt ( )
 
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SilverLake said:
So just from reading it seems like you're doing great with these fish, but I'm now wondering if there was a typo in the fist line of your original post.
My girlfriend's betta who we set up a tank for a few months ago went through a short bout with fin rot that we treated with a salt bath for him and a good water change and tank cleaning ( probably more cleaning then we should have, but she was fairly new, thankfully I was able to keep her away from the filter).
Going by what is in your tanks, it seems like dosing with meds should be helping, but it could also be possible that the fungus is beginning to resist the meds your using, especially if you use them often.
My thoughts align with what's above, try using botanicals (I would research this, but many kinds of dried leaves, some kinds of cones, some seed pods, and even driftwood count), and possibly a salt solution in your tanks to see if that pushes back the rot. The salt shouldn't hurt any of the inhabitants, but removing the apple snail(s) would make sure no one is at risk. (Shrimp aren't hurt by it, and nerrite snails actually breed and live in brackish water, Apples were the only ones I was able to find that it would annoy)
Aquarium Co-op has a good piece about using salt ( )
Thanks for the reply. I'm confused about which part you thought was a typo though. I don't medicate a lot. I think when I filled out that form above that someone said I should do, that it only confused things. Those are just meds I've tried in the past. All I wanted from this post was to hear if anyone else had ever experienced fin rot when tank parameters were where they should be. I don't like to medicate. I usually just do more frequent water changes if I see the beginnings of fin rot, and that works very well for me. I am going to look into the botanicals for sure because I'm all about keeping things as natural as possible and not medicating unless absolutely necessary, so I do appreciate those recommendations!
 

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brendadrummond said:
Thanks for the reply. I'm confused about which part you thought was a typo though. I don't medicate a lot. I think when I filled out that form above that someone said I should do, that it only confused things. Those are just meds I've tried in the past. All I wanted from this post was to hear if anyone else had ever experienced fin rot when tank parameters were where they should be. I don't like to medicate. I usually just do more frequent water changes if I see the beginnings of fin rot, and that works very well for me. I am going to look into the botanicals for sure because I'm all about keeping things as natural as possible and not medicating unless absolutely necessary, so I do appreciate those recommendations!
the number of bettas, you said you had 4, but have only talked about 3, but maybe the 4th has passed (SIP) or isn't an issue.
I agree with you about chemical medication, its a last resort in my opinion, but still better to have some on hand then be sorry when you don't and would have needed it. I don't find salt to be in the same category as it doesn't have harmful effects to almost all aquarium creatures, but there are a few who shouldn't be treated with it, apple snails and other inverts are ones that come to mind.
I absolutely support the use of botanicals, especially if you can live with tinted water, they have a surprisingly long list of good things they do for your tank, and a number of medicines for sale on the market are derived from botanicals (API PIMAFIX for example)
 

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