Frightened Betta

Phloxface

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I am having problems with my poor boy "Phlox".  I rescued him 3 weeks ago from a horrid cup at Petsmart (4 of his "brothers" next to him were already dead or dying in their cups covered with ick and finrot) He is a cute little Crowntail with deep red fins and tail and a dark blue and red striped (like a tiger) body.  Surprisingly healthy considering the conditions I found him in... I didn't have the funds at the moment to get the tank I wanted (he was an impulse buy/rescue) so I got what I could afford for now, a medium sized plastic "critter keeper" which is about 2 gallons and has a ventilated lid. Considering he was living in a splash of water (I measured it, it was 3/4 cup!) which was also so dirty and cloudy I could barely see him, I figured this tank would seem like a mansion to him until I get the 10 gallon tank in a couple weeks.  I bought some supplies (a net, gravel, plastic plant, Splendid Betta water conditioner, thermometer, Hikari Tropical Betta Bio gold pellets, some freeze-dried bloodworms and a little aquarium salt)
When I got him home I prepared his new home (couldn't cycle it, no time) using Britta filtered water+the water conditioner. I made sure the water was 78-80 degrees and I slowly replaced the water in his cup with fresh water. Finally, I was ready to introduce him to his new home. I opened the cup and started to put it in the water to gently sink the cup and let him swim out, when he saw his opportunity to escape and leaped out of the cup and (fortunately) directly into his new tank. The look on his face was sheer joy and amazement. He waggled his tail with excitement and swam around his tank inspecting all his furniture. I doubt he's ever seen gravel or plants.
I wondered how to keep his water warm enough as the tank is too small for a heater. I have a computer desk with a hutch and shelf right over my monitor. There is a lot of heat coming from the monitor so I placed his tank on the shelf above the monitor  and keep a close watch on the temp to see if it would get too hot. Luckily it didn't and as long as I leave the monitor on all the time, his temp stays a consistent 78-79 degrees.  It seems to be quite comfortable for him for now.
I do a water change (1/3 of his water) every second day and a complete cleaning each week.
He's been a happy little guy up until now, eating his pellets the moment I drop them (I give him a moment to chew before giving him the next one) and wagging his tail like a puppy. He always responded to seeing me and seemed friendly and happy. I noticed he liked looking at colorful things (he spent hours facing downwards staring at his multi-colored gravel and gently touching various pieces with his chin.) I would put different postcards and pictures with bright colors near his tank and he loved to just stare at them. I could see his eyes moving back ond forth, his head moving from side to side, up and down inspecting the whole picture.
Anyways, that's his background. The trouble started yesterday as I was feeding him. He was all excited as he always is when feeding time comes. I dropped a pellet in and he snapped it up. I reached for a second pellet and my ring accidently tapped (very lightly) against his tank. He TOTALLY freaked out. He started racing around his tank smashing against the sides, into his plant and jamming himself violently between the thermometer and side of tank. All I could do was watch in horror. Then he swam out and lay down on the bottom really still. He stayed like that for a long time and I thought he had had a heart attack. He wasn't moving and even when I VERY gently tried to get his attention he didn't move. I was very upset, I thought he was dead. Finally after what seemed like hours, he sprung back to life for a moment, rose to the top to take in some air and then went back to the bottom and lay there. I thought I'd just let him rest and he'd be back to normal. This morning I was in the kitchen and saw him freak out like that again, for no reason that I could see this time. He swam around in a panic and hid behind his plant. No one was near his tank. I approached him slowly and showed him his pellets (he would usually get all excited as soon as I picked up the packet) and no response. He used to come right up to the side I was on and follow my hands waiting for his food. I slowly and gently opened the feeding window in his lid and dropped in a pellet. He saw it and didn't move. He seemed afraid to go eat. After a lot of coaxing I finally got him to come take the pellet and two more after that. This is very unusual behaviour for him as he is usually a little piggy and also very friendly and happy to see me. He no longer seems to trust me. I am worried he will never be the same little fishy he was before this trauma. Has anyone here had an otherwise friendly, bold fish that became frightened and shy suddenly? How can I win back his trust? I have to clean his whole tank today but I am worried about traumatizing him more with the net.  (he is usually extra happy after tank cleaning and really seems to appreciate the clean water) What should I do?
I am planning on getting a nice ten gallon tank for him sometime in Oct. I will cycle it properly and would like to add some live plants and ornaments (some greek pillars and a rock cave) I'm thinking of a Bio Wheel filter for the tank. Anyone know if these are good? I'd also like to get him some little friends. (yes, I will put them in first, before Phlox) I've been reading about other people's experiences here and have decided I'll get maybe 4 neon tetras, an Oto, a Cory and a Mystery Snail. Does that seem like too much for a ten gallon tank? I'm hoping he isn't so skittish now that he'll be afraid of the other fish. I'll make sure he has lots of plants and places to hide.
Sorry for all the questions. I'm just worried for this little guy. I'll post up a picture of him as soon as I get a decent one. I don't want to freak him out right now, more than he already is.
 

0morrokh

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First of all, I am so glad you rescued that Betta and are giving him such good care. He will be so happy in his 10 gallon tank.
About tankmates. I do not recommend Neons with Bettas. A few people have had success with that combination, But in a much bigger tank, and the Neons were kept in a bigger group to keep them occupied with each other rather than the Betta. Tetras can be really nippy, and the last thing you want is fish nipping at your betta's long fins. If you ever do get Neons (in a different tank), they should be kept in groups of 6, just so you know.
Catfish and snails are great choices for tankmates. However, both Cories and Otos need to be kept in groups in order to be happy and feel secure. Do not just get one of each. I would get maybe 3-4 Cories OR Otos, a snail, and then the Betta. That should be a good amount for a 10 gallon.
Your Betta's behavior is quite perplexing. When your ring bumped the tank, you probably just scared him. Remember, he's probably still a bit skittish in his new environment. I know if I accidently bump my 20 gallon, the little Cories totally freak out. However, he shouldn't be just laying on the bottom, or refusing to eat. Perhaps he associates tapping with something bad. Maybe at the store kids would come up and bang on his bowl or something, except in that tiny thing he couldn't hide. You never know what bad experiences he had in the store. Maybe since you tapped the tank, he now associates you with something bad, hence the freaking out for no reason.
Well, that's all I could come up with. Don't worry, it's not your fault at all, and if my theory is right, you'll earn back his trust quickly, since he trusted you so much before the incident. But perhaps there's something else wrong with him, like a disease. Do you think he could be sick or anything? This really is strange.
Well, I'd better stop before I bore you to death. Hope this helps a bit. Let's see what Chickadee has to say, she's the Betta expert around here.
 
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Phloxface

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Well, I've cleaned his whole tank without too much trauma and added some salt to the water. He seems to have perked right up. He's still a little nervous, but he's swimming around happily instead of laying on the bottom. I put a new photo beside his tank for him to look at. He's staring at it with fascination.  I used a flashlight to inspect him (I don't have a lighted hood) to see if he is healthy. His tail fringes look a bit ragged and shorter than they were. Maybe he has a little case of fin rot? I'm going to the store now to get him some medicine just in case. I'm just glad he seems better...
I'll take your advice about the neons.  Phlox's fringy tail might be a little too irresistable.

Thanks for your response.  I'll post a photo of my little guy when I can.
 

0morrokh

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I'm glad he seems better. It does sound like he has a bit of finrot, but if you treat right away that should go away.
Please do post pics! ;D
 

poefox

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As far as the behavior goes...that might have something to do with why he got sick, the anxiety. Anxiety can make animals and people ill.

My betta reacted same as yours when I accidentaly made a loud tap on the side of his tank. You have to bear in mind that water is a great conductor of sound, and it might have sounded like Big Ben starting up right beside him...unexpectedly. So yes, he freaked out. For a bit he probably associated you with the noise--not unreasonably, since you made it. It was just an accident but he has had to take time to realize that, specially since this is a different environment.
 

chickadee

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The small containers like you are keeping him in are very thin walled also. The sound would travel and be much more pronounced than if he were in a big thicker walled acrylic tank. He will get used to your kindness and care eventually. Please just remember that the male Bettas are especially not used to being treated well and it does take them a while to get used to being loved and appreciated. When he does come around he will be yours for life. They are much more attached to their humans than they will ever be to any other tank mates so please do your best to get to know him. They do not play well with other fish because they were not taught to do so by their mothers .

As far as the finrot goes, I do not know what you are medicating him with, but I recently have been researching the advantages of using Pimafix and Melafix at the same time. They are meant to be used together on finrot it seems and in an article I read from Aquarium Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (the manufacturer), they explained the way that it works. Pimafix actually attacks the cause of finrot and helps with the infection and Melafix is the help to regenerate the new fin growth. It is also really nice that they are not the type of medications that the fish will build up a tolerance to so they can be used again with good results. Most antibiotics can usually be used on the fish once and then they are pretty well shot. The fish has built up a tolerance for the medication and it will not work on their problems again.

I do hope Phlox continues to get better and my little ones want to welcome him to the Betta community. So, Phlox, welcome from Marty, Alex, Sara and Emma (the Bettas) and Sneezy, Doc, Tuck, Dopey, and Dingbat (the Otos).

Rose
 

emilai333

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I, too, had a betta who would freak out at small things. Caurus was my "spaz" boy, simply because I swear he could sense me looking at him and would instantly begin going nuts, precisely as you described. My others will do the same thing once in a while, but in general they tend towards being rational about things. And, of course, I also had one betta who NEVER freaked at ANYTHING. And, there is aoSul, who is the reason that my filter is stuck on at an angle. He doesn't spaz out, but he does jam himself under or behind things until he is completely stuck. Good luck with your rescue fish!
 

chickadee

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Now that I have 4 tanks and 1 betta in each tank it is much easier on them and they tend to be much braver but the females tended to hide and be timid when I had them together. I also noted that when the temperature creeps up in the tanks as it sometimes does if the water has just been a massive change which I have done frequently lately they get a bit more touchy. So watch the temperature and see if that has anything to do with the irritability of the fish. I do however believe that getting him into a larger more thick walled tank where the noise level is less will do wonders. The sounds right now are going to sound like drums and guns going off and scare him silly.

Rose
 
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