Gray On Male Betta's Gills

  • #1

Please help! About a month ago, I purchased a beautiful male betta. He lived his first few weeks in a 2.5 gallon tank, where he swam around gracefully. Just recently, I moved him into a 10 gallon tank which is divided. He shares it with a baby female betta.

Just a few days ago, I noticed this gray spot on his left gill. The next day, it moved to his right gill and it looks like it's lining the outer flap of his gills. He is also lethargic. Not extremely, but he mostly just lays around in his glass jar or on the floor leaning next to the divider. He usually stays at the bottom except for feeding time or when something spooks him. The baby is acting a bit lethargic, too. She usually stays at the top or in between the thermometer and the wall of the aquarium.

I feed him a mix of frozen food like daphnia, bloodworms, brine shrimp, spirinula, romaine lettuce, plankton, etc. He refuses to eat flakes or pellets, even the day I got him.

I treat the tank water with a daily dosage of Seachem Prime. This is because the tank is currently cycling and there are levels of ammonia present in the water. There are no nitrates or nitrites yet.

The tank is heated and filtered. I also added some aquarium salt today to make him feel better. The tank also has plants and a nerite snail.

Could this be fungus? Velvet? It doesn't look cottony, it looks more interior, like his whole gill is gray. Maybe it's old age, he looks kinda old. My other betta had a gray chin and he passed from columnaris. Don't tell me it's columnaris.. I can't handle any more deaths from terrible diseases.

Should I turn up the temperature? Should I use a product like pimafix? Please help.

I only got a picture of his left side, but imagine that metallic color lining the rest of his gill openings. There is also a pic of the baby which looks perfectly healthy.

P.S. I also added some live gravel from a small fish shop a few miles away. After that, the gray gills thing started to happen. It had live bacteria in it and I bought it to help cycle my tank. Could this have cause the problem? :/

  • #2
Welcome to the forum
Pimafix/Melafix/Bettafix all contain melaleuca oil. This causes the labyrinth organ to expand, suffocating the fish. Aquarium salt has no place in freshwater tanks, if overdosed or left in too long, it can cause kidney and liver failure.
I couldn't see the pictures, so I'm not going by those, but to me it sounds like the gravel from the store either brought something in, or the stress of cycling your aquarium.
Can you try posting the pictures again? What are your current parameters?
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
Thank you for responding.

Okay, I'll be sure not to use those medicines again, and aquarium salt, too.

Sorry, I just realized there's an app. I thought it was something with the gravel, too, but wouldn't the baby be affected?

My current parameters are
ammonia: 0ppm
nitrite: 0ppm
nitrate: 0ppm

there was .25ppm of ammonia yesterday, could this mean the bacteria is finally forming and eating up the ammonia?

The gray lines the outer edge of his gills, even the bottom.

You could also see frayed fins. This started happening a few weeks ago and I thought he was biting his tail. Some of it has grown back, but it's still growing slowly. Could this be a sign of something, too?
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  • #4
If you look at the picture, you could see brownish-reddish spots spread around his "beard" and there are also some spots on his mouth. He keeps on opening his mouth whenever I look at him, almost like he needs air.

Should I move him to a 2.5 gallon half filled tank? It'd be easier for him to go to the surface and get a breath of air.
  • #5
I'm afraid I'm not entirely sure about diseases or such, possibly gill flukes or column. from what I know. (This is my ideas, NOT diagnosis)

Did you use meds while quarantining? Did you QT? When did his tail/fins start to rot/fade/etc?... Yes they will heal with time slowly, using a stress coat will help this process, (will dechlor water also, get a 2nd opinion if this can replace Prime for the ammonia in water, also, will primed ammonia still cycle your bacteria? Did you add TSS or any bacteria to help cycle?)

My best bet would be a combination of medicines and make it a QT tank. I'm currently going to remed all my fish, and process a thread on it.
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  • #6
Oh no, does this mean the baby is endangered? Betta fry can't fight diseases as much as adults, am I correct? Will I be able to treat the baby betta? Will she handle the medications? Sorry I'm asking so many questions. I'm really scared for both my bettas, I was planning on making this a guppy tank and have the female be in there, too. :/

I didn't start quarantining, but I guess I will have to treat the whole tank if it's gill flukes. Ughh, I'm trying to avoid the fact that it's columnaris because treating that is a pain.

His tail started rotting in the beginning of June, when he was in the 2.5 gallon without prime. I'm pretty sure he was biting them as there were chunks missing, leading to fin rot.

I have stress coat on hand, so that's good.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure primed ammonia will still "feed" the bacteria. I was told this by some experienced users on another forum. I added TSS and the live gravel as I mentioned.

Speaking of live gravel, the gravel probably would've brought the flukes into the tank, right? If it is flukes.

Ughh. This is going to be terrible, I'm leaving for a month in a few days, and dad is going to be in charge of the fish. He doesn't have time to dose medicines, what if he messes up?

If you are experienced with diseases, could you recommend some medicines? I don't know what it is yet but I need to treat it asap.

Thank you.

I'm going to petsmart tomorrow to buy apI general cure. It's the closest I could get to curing him as I don't know exactly what it is and no one will probably respond at this time of day.

Is this a good idea? Please help.
  • #7
He doesn't look bad to me. In pale bettas there may not be enough pigment to hide the structure (bone and cartilage) under the skin and scales. I would hold off on medications and just stick with regular water changes
  • #8
I'm gonna do some google research for you quick, idk if petsmart will have that med.

Today I dosed 3 of my 4 tanks with :::

API E.M. Erythromycin
API General Cure
Aquarium Solutions (Hikari) Ich X

Yes, all at the same time, and yes all simultaneously, they will be kept in for a week, no water changes, good feedings including pellets, and bloodworms.

I will not be redosing. This is how I QT. again, I will be doing a large post on my QT setups, unfortunately not tonight.

My betta (10g cycled) received the above treatment today, SaSL is doing just fine, hes still swimming about, we removed some decor so we could keep a better eye on him.

I'm unsure what your baby betta would do w/ meds, my assumption, it should be just fine. These meds scientists make thousands of dollars testing these meds, and they have factored in many things. Sometimes its better to not overthink this.

Once again, I will do some quick googling, and repost before I sleep, hope you get this. (PS the meds together costed 30$, treats 100 gallon per med which I need, but yes, meds get expensive. You could probably skip Ich X in this scenario, but it is the cheap med.)

In regards to your father watching your fish, I would suggest the meds in the tank for a week. The meds will deteriorate (meaning non effective over time, no ammonia spikes etc) make sure when you medicate to remove carbon from filter.

Have him feed twice a day enough they will eat in 2 minutes each.

(Assuming you do meds be/f you leave) have him do a 50% waterchange 7 days later.

Continue dosing prime, If Stress coat neutralizes ammonia use that instead, you could MAYBE use both, or MAYBE use stress coat and skip prime. (Ammonia won't build up too much in a week, my suggestion, do 1ML per Gallon Stress Coat for fin repairs every other day, and prime 1mL per 10 Gallons on opposite day)
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  • #9
Aquaphobia but what would explain the lethargy? he seems to have pretty translucent skin cause I can see his swim bladder, along with his other organs.
Skyy2112 Thank you for your help. I checked my local petco and petsmart and petsmart was the only store that had that med. I'm not sure about the erythromycin.

I'm literally broke and I only have 20 dollars, but my mother will probably help me pay. I hope so at least.

Once again, thank you for all your help and I will probably be back with updates a few days prior, maybe even earlier if things get worse.

Also, let's say after keeping the meds in for a week, nothing gets better. He still is showing the same symptoms. Is my dad going to be able to re-dose those two meds and leave them for a week? I'm asking this as I'm going to be in another country and I don't know how well communication between my dad and I is going to be.

I took a really close look at the baby and she has red marks over her gills.
  • #10
After looking over a couple google posts, I somewhat agree with @Aquaphobia , many people have claimed bettas will change their appearance over their aging, also white bettas especially may change their tone.

Assuming he is on the mend, which you should know by his active-ness and appetite, I would probably relax.

If you think hes more lethargic, I would try General Cure, and/or Erythro.

If there's any chance you could see into his gills, if they have abnormal colored spots,...

Columnaris usually presents with raised scales I believe,
Gill flukes may often present with raised gills.
Both may have spots in the inner gill tissue, but that should narrow it down. If I had a guess, I would guess general cure.

My personal bet, would be to use General cure in your tank, and sit a week.

Even if its not flukes, this may also increase the health of your fish. (I didnt QT my fish and am doing so now)

I wish you so much luck on this, please keep us updated when you can.


The combination of meds I used today are more for a QT, some other/additional meds may be required, however they together cover a very broad spectrum. If I was in your situation I would go with General Cure for a week, then waterchange. If no change I would probably redose.

Day 1, waterchange 50% and dose API, remove carbon
Day 2-6 feed twice daily what they will eat.
Day 7, waterchange, if no change in health redose API
Day 8 feed twice
Day 9 waterchange and redose if continuation--- however at this point if nothing there is a more likely chance it is something else, and the meds aren't helping.

(Still feed waterchange days, rec. 50% each time, you could get away with 20-35%, but I highly rec 50%)

Also, if on day 7 they are much more active, but the coloration is still apparent, like @Aquaphobia said, this very well could be normal, but the General did help lethargy.

Fish can be so fickle, and diagnosing can be very difficult. =[
  • #11
What is the temperature in the tank?
  • #12
I believe 70* F, but stable.

Perhaps I read somewhere else. On assumption stated tank is heated and filtered, what is the heat, and what filter? How much flow is given? Bettas can be very susceptible to current and many get stressed due to their small fins.
  • #13
That's far too low for Bettas. Can you turn it up to at least 78?
  • #14
If it is below 78*, adjust temp daily by 2-4 degree.
  • Thread Starter
  • #15
Yeah, the color thing could happen.

He is barely active, only staying in one spot. Today he was darting around the tank a bit. He usually eats 3-5 bloodworms daily, but lately he has only been eating 1-2, mostly spitting them out.

General Cure I am for sure going to try. I will probably get the Erythro, too.

In an earlier post on this thread, I stated there were brown dots on his "beard". I didn't know the technical term, but I mean the inner part where there is like a thin clear flap that is shown when he flares. He has brown spots there, too, that he didn't have before.

I've dealt with columnaris before. In my case though, it was fatal. My fish only showed signs of a fungal infection when it hit him overnight and boom, cotton filling his mouth and insides.

He's been opening his gills more often, and not like he's flaring.

The problem is, if it's columnaris, general cure will probably not cure it, (depending on if it's a gram-negative med or a gram-positive med). I guess we'll see if API cures it, whatever this is.

Thank you for your advice, I'll make my dad follow this schedule. He'll update me and I'll update you.
Aquaphobia the temperature is always at 80 degrees but I am raising it 1 by 1 until it reaches 84 degrees because I heard this will help kill parasites if there is any.

I'm guessing you thought that the lethargy had to do with low temperatures, am I correct?
  • #16
Apart from Ich (which I still don't recommend) would raising the temp be helpful Aqua? I know it speeds up the lifecycle of Ich, which ironically, can make it fatal. Would it not speed up bacteria/fungus/infection?
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  • #17
woah sorry I updated you guys before I have seen the recent updates.
Skyy2112 Aquaphobia the temperature is always at 80 but as I said I'm turning it up.

The filter is an Aqueon quiet flow 10, but it had a strong flow so I cut up a bottle and attached it to the out take so that the flow is slower.
  • #18
I felt it was a possibility, yes, but that temperature is perfect so that's ruled out.

Does he get fed anything other than bloodworms?
Skyy2112, yes it could.
  • Thread Starter
  • #19
Yeah I feed him a mix of frozen foods. These include daphnia, brine shrimp, spirinula, etc.
  • #20
My betta is currently pellet/Bloodworm. Havent bought anything else. =\

I would keep the temp @ 78/80. Adjusting too many things can cause bad diagnoses.
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  • #21
He will not even touch pellets or flakes. He's a very picky eater.

I'll go turn it down to 80 rn, thank you.
  • #22
I can't remember if I asked this, but what's your water change schedule? Are you dosing Prime every day? How long has the tank and filter been running with fish in it?

And do you shake the heck out of Nitrate Test Bottle #2?
  • #23
She said primed daily. Will live gravel cycle a tank faster? No mention to how often water changed. You think a misread on Nitrate?
  • #24
It's worth checking. And I missed the Prime mention, I was awake too early
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  • #25
Aquaphobia I change 25% of the water weekly. Sadly the ammonia usually stays under .25ppm so I don't think it's gonna cycle very quickly.

Yes, I'm dosing prime everyday. The tank has been running for about a week.

I shake all of the bottles until my arm hurts.
  • #26
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  • #27
yeah I have about 7.
  • #28
That could be what's eating all your ammonia
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  • #29
Yeah, I was thinking that, too. Maybe I should take them out? At least some of them? Or should I just leave them to be? I don't think the two bettas are producing enough ammonia.
  • #30
Just leave them be. They will have brought in some bacteria from the tank they came from and what little ammonia gets past them will be processed soon enough. As long as the ammonia is eaten, it doesn't really matter whether it's by bacteria or plants
  • Thread Starter
  • #31
Okay, I'll keep them in. Thanks.

I'm currently being driven to PetSmart and I'm now realizing that when I took a look at him in the morning, he had a lot more brown spots. His gills also looked more red, maybe he was rubbing against something? I don't know what these brown spots mean.
  • #32
Have you started meds?
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  • #33
Nope I'm on my way home right now and I'll start them immediately.
  • #34
Dont forget your waterchange and remove carbon
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  • #35
  1. I just started the water change a few minutes ago but my mom had me watch my brother. I can't continue it for a while. It's supposed to be a 50% water change, correct?

should the filter be on while I'm treating the water?

I just put in one packet of the meds in and he keeps on trying to eat the little pieces that float on top.

Hopefully this treatment works. I'll update you guys later.
  • #36
Yes keep the filter on, and your bio media in. I would agitate the water until it dissolves. When I fill my tanks I mix it in the bucket first.

And yes 50% change is ideal, but less can be sufficient.
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  • #37
I took a magnifying glass that magnifies 6 times the size and I noticed a little stringy thing that looked a bit like a worm. It moved around when he moved his gills to breath. I'll take a picture of it later.

When looking at the larger brown spots, they just looked like brown spots. No fuzz or anything, kinda like there are flat pieces of brown lettuce on his gills. I'll have to wait until he's not moving to look more into that.
  • #38
Worms get covered by an API in my regiment.

Unsure if its eryth, or GC. Either way I'd start GC.
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  • #39
I will probably get it tomorrow, but would it be good to use Erythro? Maybe the gray represents a bacterial infection? Would I be able to add it in tomorrow even though the general cure is already in there?
  • #40
Yes you can do them both, or add one in tomorrow to the second. If you do that you may want to prolong the waterchange one more day.

Honestly, this completely passed over me, but treating is different then QTing. I might suggest redosing daily until you see a difference. (50% change daily, and redose) if that isn't possible every other day change/dose would be good too.

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