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Looking For Advice - Betta With Swim Bladder Issue

  1. E

    EverHopeful New Member Member

    I picked up three free Betta fish on Craigslist six weeks ago. One of them appears to have a swim bladder issue, which he has had since I first got him.

    As I understand it, swim bladder issues can be caused by several things - over feeding, bacterial infection, parasites, injury - and at this point, I am not sure of the cause. The three were in cups when I got them, and their water was very dirty. (The ammonia was literally off the chart - over 8ppm). So maybe the poor water quality could have contributed - either directly or by making him more susceptible to disease and/or parasites. He panicked when I transfered him out of the cup and he could have injured himself then. Or he could have been overfed prior to me getting him.

    He is now in a heated (79 degree) filtered (but currently not cycled) 10 gallon tank. I just did a 50% water change. Prior to that there was a touch (<.25ppm) of ammonia, 0 nitrites and 0 nitrates.

    I have fasted him a few times, though never more than two days. He didn't seem that strong, so I didn't want him to go too long without eating. I have fed him peas. He is currently eating frozen brine shrimp and daphnia along with his Omega One Betta flakes. I treated him with two rounds of amoxicillin. Starting a week ago I have been adding epsom salt to his tank at a rate of 1/2 tsp per 10 gallons.

    So far he seems to have gained strength, his color is better, and his fins look better. Instead of darting quickly away (and then "passing out" - rolling over on his side seemingly unconscious) when he sees me, he now comes up hoping for food. He still spends much of his time behind the filter, but he is swimming around more. And passing out less. (And when he does pass out now, it seems more like he is resting than unconscious.)

    I am hoping that those with more experience may be able to offer me some advice on where to go from here.

    Is there anything else I should try to treat him? Another antibiotic? (The local stores have limited options, which is why I went with the amoxicillin, but I can order online.) Something to treat parasites? Anything else? I don't want to do dips/baths with him, as he seems easily stressed, but otherwise I am open to suggestions.

    Or, given that it hasn't gotten worse in the six weeks, is it more likely to be an injury, or even just old age? (I don't know how old he is.)

    I have read that sometimes swim bladder issues are a permanent condition. If that is the case, what can I do to make his life better? He currently has a couple of betta hammock leafs, which he uses occasionally, but nothing else at the top of the tank where he can reach it. He still isn't swimming real well, so I worry about him getting hung up in something at the top, but maybe there is something safe that would add some interest, and/or make him feel more secure? I have added a few small Indain Almond Leaves, and one was floating for a while, but sank when I did the water change.

    He tries to swim down to the lower areas of the tank, and is having a little more success, though that may be more that he is stronger now rather than any improvement in his swim bladder. I do hope at some point he gets better. I don't know what his life was like before, and I certainly hope he hadn't spent his entire life in that little cup, but I hate that now that he has a 10 gallon home, he isn't able to enjoy it. :(

    Here is the best I could do for a picture - with him "resting" on his side.

    Thanks to anyone who read through my little novel. :shame: Suggestions welcome.
  2. kuhlkid

    kuhlkid Valued Member Member

    It sounds as if the formula you're using for epsom salts is the one typically recommended for aquarium salt--two different things. I'd recommend giving him daily baths in epsom salts, not dosing the whole tank, as leaving him in them for extended periods of time may just cause him undue stress. Change out the water over the next few days until you've accounted for 100% of the water being removed, and do up to 15 minute dips with him in a container of 1tbsp epsom salt per gallon, then 2-3 minutes in a transition container of 1/4th that concentration before putting him back in the tank (to minimize shock). When the epsom salts are out of the tank, you can consider dosing with aquarium salt for his fin rot.

    What is your plan for cycling this tank? It sounds as if this is the fish who survived the worst ammonia spike ever, but the nitrite spike to come will be a horse of a different, bad color. Do you have access to any filtered media, to spare him that stress?
  3. OP

    EverHopeful New Member Member

    Thanks, kuhlkid! I appreciate your suggestions.

    I got the dosage for epsom salts added directly to the tank from this thread:
    Help - Betta Has Dropsy - Epsom Salt Bath Made Him More Comfortable But What Should I Do Now?
    I have seen higher doses recommended in other places, but I trust @CindiL's judgement.

    When dosing epsom salt baths, from what I have read, the fish should be removed as soon as he shows signs of stress - such as "passing out". Based on my experience with this guy, he will be passed out before I can even get him into a bath, so that's not something I am gong to try. Especially since I am not sure at this point if bloating is causing the issue.

    I am currently managing his tank with water changes. He has not had more than .25ppm of either ammonia or nitrite since he has been in there, and he gets a water change with Prime if either show up at all. His filter started out being seeded with media from an established tank, but between the low amount of ammonia produced from his sparse feeding schedule and the amoxicillin, the cycle has been lost. I will re-seed the filter once I know I will not be medicating the tank.

    He is a crowntail, so I am not sure if he has finrot, or that is just how his fins are. His fins do look better than they did, but I think it is mostly that he is carrying them better - they looked like a jumbled mess when he first arrived. I know it is hard to tell, since he is resting on his side in the picture, and not swimming. From my reading, aquarium salt could result in fluid retention and could exacerbate his swim bladder issue, so at this point I am not going to add aquarium salt to his tank, but I will keep an eye on his fins and will reevaluate if they seem to get worse.