How To Help My Betta's Fins?

Hazel8

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This is Fleta. I've had him for just about three months, and a lot of it has been a struggle regarding his fins. He arrived with perfect, long fins and a very, very active disposition. I set him up in a 5 gallon filtered tank with a heater and thermometer (stays at 78 Fahrenheit), gravel substrate, ornaments and
silk plants. Fleta on arrival: Healthy fins.jpg



After a week of having him in my office, I went out of town for just over a day. After 30 hours of being alone, I arrived back to see his caudal fin shredded and feathery. First shred.jpg

While researching how to help Fleta, I realized that I had not cycled my tank correctly. I had used the 'API Perfect Start' kit but clearly that wasn't sufficient. I got the API Freshwater Liquid Test Kit and began doing daily 30% water changes along with water testing. I started out with Stress Coat as my dechlorinator but switched to Seachem Prime after reading about how it helps neutralize ammonia during a fish-in cycle. As of this past week his cycle has now finished and is reading 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites and small amounts (more than 0 but less than 10) nitrates. The PH is right about 7 and stays that way after several days of being in the tank.

Still unclear on whether this was fin biting, fin rot or tearing on something in the tank I switched out most of his decor. All of the silk plants are gone and everything has been tested for sharpness. He currently has a piece of Mopani wood (sanded and with Java Moss, Ferns and Anubias attached) as well as his mossed bridge and the lantern he sleeps in. He likes playing in the floating Frogbit- but the glass lid seems to keep it too damp on top so I'm planning on replacing it with something that can handle more top-down moisture. This is Fleta's tank today. Tank today.jpg



Throughout all of this, his fins would grow back over time and then disappear overnight in chunks. This morning there was a brand new 'U' shaped bit missing out of the lower part of his caudal fin. I've never seen him tail biting but he's an overwhelmingly active fish so I wouldn't put it past him. This is Fleta today. Fleta fins today.jpg

Solutions I've tried:
  • I've tried small amounts of Bettafix which did appear to help, but stopped after reading about the dangers of it with labyrinth fish.
  • I've added Indian Almond leaves to his tank, which is why the water appears darker.
  • I've stifled the filter of the tank to reduce the flow, blocked the intake with a sponge and added the sponge filter in the back.
He eats like a shark - North Fin Betta Bits four days a week, frozen brine shrimp one day and frozen bloodworms one day. He's got a light on a timer for the plants, and I make sure that the room is completely dark at night. His behaviour seems equally active during the light and lights-off times, with the exception of after 11PM when he goes into his lantern to sleep. I thought he might be upset at his reflection but after trying (and removing) a background, I found out what it looks like when he actually sees his reflection.

Things I have not yet tried or found ineffective:
  • Aquarium salt. There seems to be mixed opinions online as to whether this will help or harm my fish, so I haven't tried it. He's the only fish in there so I'm willing to try it if it's safe.
  • Tankmates. It's only a 5 gallon and he's proved extremely territorial. We had a short Mystery Snail experiment which I ended after a few days because Fleta was ripping off the snail tentacles, and their messiness wasn't helping his fins heal.

Anything I can do to help my buddy? I know that the fish-in cycle was my mistake and exacerbated the problem, but I was hoping that now it's cycled he would heal up and stop biting (if that's what's happening). Thanks for reading!
 

Rtessy

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Do the ends look like a bunch of raggety "split ends", all jagged and uneven? Because sorry I can't really tell from the picture. But hey, you're doing really really well care wise. To me, it seems a bit more like fin biting but it could go either way. Though I'm partial to thinking it's fin biting since it would partially grow back. You may want to try daily 30-50% changes for a week or two, the pristine water will aid in healing. Don't feel bad about the fish in cycling, bettas are very hardy, and pretty much everyone on here started out the same way.
 
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Hazel8

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The initial damage was very ragged and uneven and just his tail fin. Since then it disappears in small chunks at a time (about once a week) but it's growing back more slowly, and the torn edges look less clean. The tips of the fin rays on the torn edge look a bit swollen/enlarged, although less so than they were a week ago. I'll keep up with the daily water changes!

He's been quite the gateway fish and has me dying to set up a separate community tank, but I would love to get this under control before I go starting up anything new.
 

Rtessy

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Good plan on waiting, and I totally understand. I started with a carnival goldfish, and now I have eight tanks.... oops.
The ragged ends indicate finrot, so far the care you've taken will clean up most cases, and if not, the majority will clear up with daily water changes. If it happens to be a different strain or something, you may want to try methylene blue dip, 10 drops per 1/2 gallon for 30min in a separate container, dip your betta in a yet another different container for a bit to get most of it off, then back into the main tank. Some also say kanaplex works, didn't work on an aggressive strain for me, and erythromycin is highly recommended. I'd only do these more as a last resort because if meds can be avoided, it's often better, and the water changes should heal him up. He's gorgeous, btw, really nice coloration.
 
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Hazel8

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Thanks so much! I'll plan for 3 weeks of daily WC and then look into meds if that doesn't do it. His behavior and eating has been A+ this whole time so I'm trying to not overworry and reactively treat him. Reading these forums has been a really great resource for newbies like me.

I'm very flattered on his behalf. He was marked at Petsmart as a Dragonscale but based on his coloring I'm inclined to think he's just shiny!
 

WanhiBetta

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That's finrot, you can tell by the black ends of the fins. The best and safest treatement is pristine water. For medication in extreme cases you can do methylene blue baths, but I wouldn't right now and just start with daily water changes.
 
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Hazel8

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One week (ish) update on Fleta:

After a few days of daily water changes, the swelling on the ends of his fin rays was gone down, the blackness had lightened a bit (his fin edges were dark even when they were unscathed so I think that some dark edging is natural for him) and I was seeing noticeable new fin regrowth every day. I'm feeling good that the water changes will be sufficient to cure his fin rot, and I'm keeping up with them for as long as he has damaged/regrowing fins.

However, he is still incurring fresh damage every couple of days. He's had some pinholes in his dorsal fin (that the next day turned into an open wide rip) that looks to be from flaring and he's also got some new splits with small chunks missing from his caudal fin. With this still happening, I decided to take some further action on what's actually in the tank. I had previously covered the intake of the built-in filter but I've now decided to turn that off entirely and run his (5 gallon) tank just on the sponge filter just in case. His water quality readings are still coming up with 0 ammonia and 0 nitrites, so I'm happy with that decision so far.
IMG_0405.JPG

I've also removed the mopani wood as well as the bridge ornament. I cut the plants off them and left them free-floating in the aquarium for now (it looks like a disaster but he's been having a ball pushing them around and nibbling on roots). I'm planning to also remove the lantern ornament and replace it with a sanded coconut shell hide sometime next week. I've been staggering the changes I make out to one every couple of days to ward against crashing my cycle. So far so good. I did also replace the melting Frogbit with Salvinia, which has been doing much better. IMG_0403.JPG

I also plan to completely remove the gravel substrate and replace it with a fine sand. I don't know if he's tearing his fins on the gravel but he's extremely active and worms himself absolutely everywhere (he likes wiggling under the moss ball) so it's a possibility. It's starting to feel impossible to keep his fancy butt intact so my plan is to have the tank be just sand substrate, the sanded shell hide and bunches of live plants glued to smooth stones (or planted in the new substrate if I get brave enough to branch out from my java fern/anubias/java moss life).

In good news, the plants are putting on tons of growth and Fleta's still eating like a Labrador. He's a charming dude who's a delight to have in my office and I hope we can restore him to his flowy-finned glory soon.
 
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Hazel8

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One month Fleta update:

The substrate and decor swap went well. Everything (including the glue that holds the plants onto the stones) has been sanded. I put a plant in the hole that was drilled in the top of the coconut hide to prevent him from getting stuck in there. Here is his tank today.
Tank June 26.jpg


I kept up with daily water changes for a solid three weeks, and have moved to every second day (with a turkey-baster spot cleaning on off days). His fin infection is gone and most of his fins are back! He does still split them (especially his dorsal) now and then but there's been much less damage, and it's healing more quickly. I never did end up getting medication for him so his progress can be put down to clean water. Here's the best picture I could get of his fins today.
Fleta update.jpg

Thanks for reading!
 
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