HELP!!! The head of my betta fish looks frozen?!

  • #1
I have searched all over the internet for help but couldn't find any answers, so I created an account in hopes to help my poor girly! It's not the greatest first thread to start as a new member, but...
My female betta fish, Cynthia, is around 5 months old.
I have had my aquarium set up for 3 weeks.
I used distilled water and spring water to fill my tank, a 13 gal, and before I put Cynthia in I tested the water parameters:
0 nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia (obviously), alkalinity was about 200 which I know 180 is better condition but I tried. pH was exactly 7 and the water was soft.
I just tested the water today and everything looks the same except my nitrite has gone up to 2, which I know is stressful to fish!!! Nitrate has also gone up but barely even noticeable.
Cynthia is having a LOT of trouble opening her mouth to get air and she is very lethargic. Her head looks as if there is a thin covering of shed skin or something, giving her head a frozen appearance. Even her eyes are frosted over. I don't think she can see at all, she is bobbing into things. After she is able to get air she just sinks to the bottom motionless and I'd swear she is a dead fish! PLEASE help! I have no idea what is wrong with her!
Here are pictures of her current state:



UPDATE: I swear she just died!!! She was at the bottom of the tank on her side and not moving at all! I picked her up and there was no response. I knew she was dead so I went ahead and tried CPR on her, opening her mouth and doing little compressions. There was no response for a good 10 seconds until she flapped out of my hand and into the water. She started swimming a little again but I am afraid I have lost this fish. She is living just barely and I don't know how to keep her alive!! PLEASE HELP!!!!!!!!!
  • #2
HI HallieMae welcome to FishLore!
I'm so sorry Cynthia isn't doing well.

Your Nitrite level isn't just stressful but dangerous.
It would be a good idea to do a series of water changes to get it down to 0. Hopefully that will make her feel better.
  • #3
If you want a chance at saving her only have a heater and filter in her tank. No decor or substrate. 100% water changes or when nitrites appear on your test.
  • #4
What is your ratio of distilled to spring water? I never recommend using distilled water in a fish tank because it is water that has had EVERYTHING but the wet taken out of it. Your tank needs the minerals normally found in tap water.

You need to be doing water changes --at least 50% all the way up to 75% for right now, just be sure to declorinate the water if you're using tap water and make sure the temp is as close as you can get it to the temp she is in now.

I do hope your little girl pulls through.
  • #5
You really did CPR on a fish?
  • #6
I'm sorry to hear about the problems with your fish. And welcome to FishLore

By the sounds of it I assume your tank got never cycled. When you start the tank all levels are 0, depending on the origin of the water. Once fish are in the tank you get ammonia due to the bio load.

Please read about the Nitrogen Cycle, this will help you to avoid a repeat of this experience.
  • #7
Welcome to fishlore! I agree , large water changes are necessary. I recommend 90%. Sounds like she has a fungus of some sort, poor girl.

Once your tank is cycled, you should have 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and <20 nitrate. At this point I would worry more about daily water changes though.
  • Thread Starter
  • #8
Thank you to everyone who has given me feedback. I deeply appreciate it, but sadly Cynthia ended up passing away. I'm going to respond to a few comments just in this post:

Lucy and delta5:
I do weekly water changes of 25% for all of my tanks, though I hadn't done Cynthia's tank yet this week and as soon as I found out the nitrite was so high I did a very substantial water change. I had already moved Cynthia into a cup and into another tank just to steal the heat until I had the quarantine tank set up with no decor, just a heater and a filter, which I then put her in after I made this post. I appreciate your input on the danger of the nitrite because I had been informed a nitrite of 2 was stressful but not dangerous until it hit above 3, but I'll be extra careful from now on. I'll definitely be doing a water change ASAP next time I see a bad nitrite reading... ):

I know that distilled water does not have minerals in it so I only it for 25% of the water, mostly to balance out my parameters. Thank you mattgirl for your concern. I do use tap water, but only once it has been set up in a separate 10 gal tank I keep with just one mystery snail. I do this to essentially age the water for it to cycle before I use it with my own fish since my tap water, though from a well, is very alkaline and has a very high pH. I'm only able to do this because my sister gave me an old tank of hers and I have an extra heater and 2 extra filters on hand at all times, and so I decided to treat tap water with my extra supplies because I'm not interested in getting another fish at this time. The pH is definitely at least 8.4 in my tap water and pH Down is not sufficient enough to create a safer pH zone for my betta fish. I put 25% of tap water in my tanks, only if the current tap water in the 10 gal tank had been in there for a month and at this time it hadn't so I didn't include tap water in Cynthia's tank. I much rather just spend a few more bucks on spring water than to risk the life of my fish and I have no problem with it! Sadly, Cynthia passed anyway.

Yes, I did do CPR on a fish. She couldn't open her mouth to get air in the first place so I opened her mouth and did compressions figuring it was worth a shot and I do know how to perform CPR on a human and went on to learn how to perform CPR on a dog. I definitely was not expecting it to work because I have lost one other fish before and I had tried to no avail. It seemed silly of me at the time, but when Cynthia suddenly jumped out of my hands I was very surprised, myself. Still, it was no competition with whatever she was dealing with...

I know all about the nitrogen cycle. I do a 25% water change every week in all my tanks. I use a syphon in all of my tanks to specifically pick up the poo that lays on top of the sand. I had Cynthia for practically all of her life in this same tank, then moved her to a 5 gal tank for a month, then moved her back into this tank which I had cleaned out completely and redecorated but I still used 50% of the old water. Even then, I let my tank set up for 3 weeks before putting Cynthia back in from the 5 gal and even then I put 75% of the 5gal water in her big 13 gal tank! I am very, VERY careful with my fish and I am sorry she had gotten like this. It was all over night. I breed betta fish for side money (after my parents had recently spent a lot of money on tanks, filters, heaters, almond leaves, various API products whilst I was still 17, so I actually am able to get money out of this right at the start) so I have to know all of this before getting into such a business. All I want to know is what disease this actually was. Thank you for being a caring fish person who makes sure people know about the nitrogen cycle!!!

Thank you so much for offering that it may have been a fungal infection. None of my fish before have gotten sick besides one outbreak of ick(luckily in just one solo betta tank). Therefor I haven't searched up on fungal! I will be doing daily water changes next time something like this happens, but last night Cynthia was completely fine and the next morning she died so fast!

If anyone has ever experienced a disease of this sort please let me know! Or if you just know what I had dealt with, please let me know so I can learn what to do next time this happens. Hopefully there never is a next time!

Thank you everyone who replied! It means a lot that you tried to save my beautiful female betta! RIP Cynthia. She was a gorgeous girl, 2 inches big with parents that were imported from Thailand and she, herself, was very playful! I miss her so much already.
  • #9
Sorry you lost her

Two things about your post concern me. You shouldn't be altering the PH. It causes more stress to the fish than a stable one, and that might be what caused Cynthia's illness. Second, Aquarium water can't be "cycled" its the beneficial bacteria in the filter that turn ammonia into nitrite, and nitrite into nitrate. I wouldn't worry about using tap water honestly. I have well water too, and my high PH(8.4) doesn't affect my fish in the slightest. I would get a good water conditioner such as seachem prime and use that instead of aging it.

Once again, I'm very sorry you lost Cynthia, she was beautiful
  • #10
Sorry for your loss.
  • #11
Flowingfins is correct. It could be the personal loss coupled with the long post, but your understanding of the nitrogen cycle sounds incomplete.
Please don't read this as a personal attack, I kept fish for years with only a limited understanding of the cycle. Our concern is just making sure that you don't have to go through this with another fish again. It sounds like your deep cleaning of the bettas tank may have kicked off a Mini-cycle. If you replaced the filter cartridge or allowed it to dry out, it almost certainly restarted the cycle. Leaving it sit for 3 weeks does nothing without an active ammonia source.

  • #12
I'm so sorry to hear she didn't make it.
  • #13
Welcome to the forum, sorry it had to start this way. Sorry for your loss.
  • Thread Starter
  • #14
Flowingfins and l3uckethead:
I used to adjust the pH but stopped about two months ago because it didn't seem to work much. That's why I had mentioned pH down as being not sufficient enough, not because I was still using it. I didn't stop because of the stress and illness it can cause fish, though I later did read that on different forums on here before I joined and have learned. I should have clarified I'm not still using that! There is so much to say that I forget details.. Especially in the first post when I was just hoping someone could quickly give me answers.
Also, the reason I do use a little distilled water is to bring down the pH and alkalinity a tad but I have read from multiple sites that it doesn't matter that much while other fish keepers will say somebody's pH is out of whack and dangerous. I just haven't known what to believe because of all the opinions on it, though I do know betta are hardy fish anyway and have had one seemingly happy while in a high pH when I was just starting out. So basically what I'm trying to ask is, is it okay that I use 25% distilled water?
Also, why do so many people refer to it as "letting the aquarium cycle" if that's not a true statement? I thought cycling WAS letting the bacteria get started up. What is cycling then since everyone talks about it? I'm just confused, I do not think I'm coming under attack! I understand everyone's intentions and would like answers from the experts so I do provide as much information as possible and ask these questions for you to answer. After all, I'm STILL a newbie though a little over a year down the line.
I put Stress Zyme by API in all my tanks while they 'cycle' (or I guess that wasn't the right word..) Along with fish flakes. Will the fish flakes not create an active ammonia source as I've read online? If not, I will start also putting a mystery snail in my tanks if I'm starting one up.
BTW, thank you for your information! It really does help to get feedback from experts. I have only been a serious fish keeper for a little while now so I appreciate it greatly.
  • #15
I've been keeping miserable fish in glass boxes off and on my whole life with some success. I only recently learned the correct way to do it when I murdered my 2yo's glofish and shark and broke his heart. If you're only a year in, you're doing way better than me.

There should be a link on the words "nitrogen cycle" if you're on a browser, not the mobile app. Start there.
The fish tank cycle has a lot to do with microbiology and chemistry, so how far down that rabbit hole you want to go is up to you.

At the very top of the beginner forum is a sticky post with a bunch of links explaining the nitrogen cycle, how it works, and how to do it.

This is also a good read.

After you've done a little reading and have a better understanding, you'll understand that the pet store employees have no idea what they're talking about, and you'll be able to identify what you may have been doing wrong.

Feel free to ask questions as you go. There's too much info to type everything out for every, new member, but don't take a referral to links as us being unwilling to help.

Good luck, welcome to fishlore, and again, sorry for your loss.

  • Thread Starter
  • #16
Thank you for this link! I'm going to go ahead and start reading it now and I'll ask questions if I need to.
  • #17
Sorry for your loss!!!
I hope you stay here and share with us your experiences and knowledge
  • #18
I truly am sorry to hear that your beautiful little girl didn't make it. We do understand your pain and will try our best to keep it from happening again.

As you read through the nitrogen cycle information you will see that you should never see nitrites in a tank that is fully cycled. If I am understanding correctly, what you are actually doing is adding distilled water/spring water and aging the water in a separate tank because you are concerned about your high PH. It is my understanding that most fish can and will adapt to a very wide range of PH and your tap water is within that range.

A truly cycled (basically meaning stable) tank will always have 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites and some nitrates (under 20 is the recommended number). The tank you are using to hold and age the water for your water changes can never truly cycle and in my opinion, really is an unnecessary step that you are taking. If you are trying to cycle that water then it will use up the minerals needed to complete the cycle and there will be none left for the tanks you are using it for.

All of your tanks need the minerals that are in your tap water to thrive. There are products out there that claim to replace the necessary minerals but since I've never personally used any of them I will have to leave recommendations up to someone else.

I do hope you understand that all I say is because I am concerned and hope something I say will help you help your fish friends.
  • #19
First of all, fish don't shed skin

  • #20
I'm so sorry for your loss! Losing a fish always sad and you have ny condolences. Swim in peace pretty betta!

It looks like you're getting a lot of good advise here, and you have a great attitude about it! Keep pushing forward

Sent from my SM-J320P using Fish Lore Aquarium Fish Forum mobile app
  • #21
If you want a chance at saving her only have a heater and filter in her tank. No decor or substrate. 100% water changes or when nitrites appear on your test.

100% water change seems like a terrible idea. I'm pretty sure that would just cause water parameters to constantly shift and never stabilize.

  • #22
First of all, fish don't shed skin

Where's your second of all?

She was likening it to shed skin. You know, being as descriptive as possible.

On topic, sorry for your loss, and I think it's awesome you gave your fish compressions.

Sent from my HTC6525LVW using Fish Lore Aquarium Fish Forum mobile app
  • #23
100% water change seems like a terrible idea. I'm pretty sure that would just cause water parameters to constantly shift and never stabilize.

100% water changes are only bad if you can't match temp and Ph. Clean water doesn't hurt fish and has little effect on a cycle.

  • #24
Did you make sure to use water purifier when you put water in? Have you been doing regular water changes? Its essential to use water purifier in your tank because even bottled water potentially has chemicals that can be toxic to fish. Its sounds like some sort of fungus, I have had a betta get cotton wool before in a 5 gallon tank and they were acting the same way. Sitting on the bottom and swimming disabled like. At the time I actually didn't know anything about fish and just had the fish in with bottled water as it sounds like you do. This was the first time I ever learned about water changes and I did 50% water changes every day for 3 weeks and everything went back to normal. I agree with Delta5 and I would take all decor out. But I would recommend getting a live floating plant as this gives the fish a place to rest and they won't have to swim as far to grab some air. 13 gallons is a small tank and water parameters will be a little harder to control. But like I said, Water purifier is essential, and its a lot cheaper than buying pre purified water from the LFS. I hope everything goes well for you fish although it seems to be a little late for that. Good luck!
  • #25
Sorry for your fish, she was very beautiful before she died. Any plans for getting another? As a beginner usually we suffer a lost or many losts before we become better aquarist.

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