Mystery diseases ruining my tank - please help!!

  • #1

I have a 10 gallon tank that's had no problems for about 3 years until now. I have 2 female bettas, 2 corys, 1 mystery snail, some live plants, and 2 recently added African dwarf frogs. I do partial water changes monthly (by gravel vacuum) and check water quality a few times a month - nitrate, nitrite, chlorine, ammonia, pH, alkalinity, hardness all within the "safe" zone, and tank is mechanically filtered, heated to 78 deg. F, and supplemented with aquarium salt.

About three weeks ago I changed two things - I added two African dwarf frogs and switched my fish food to frozen brine shrimp and/or frozen blood worms from a common packaged brand that says they're disease/parasite-free. Since then, the health of my tank has PLUMMETED.
1. betta 1 developed severely ragged fins with spines sticking out, grotesquely swollen lips, tiny (almost can't see) white spots on face and fins, 1-2mm lump under right pectoral fin
2. betta 2 has pinhead-sized white, round protrusion on side of head.
3. cory 1 has white tuft on nose that appears to be spreading
4. nitrates and nitrates rocketed and are in the "stress-unsafe" zone of my testing kit and stay there despite more gravel vacuuming and partial water changes...
5. fish are swimming normally, appear to be eating fine, and only betta 1 has lost some weight (I think due to difficulty of feeding with ragged fins and swollen lips)

On advice from a local pet store guy, I tried treating with Maracyn and Maracyn Two for the full 5-day cycle but no change. I purchased Maracyn-Oxy and am planning on trying that. But...WHAT IS GOING ON?! - why is my tank suddenly terribly diseased + has toxic nitrate/nitrites? Can frogs cause this? Or the change of food? Or something else completely? Also, I've been removing my frogs and snail when I treat because I don't know if it's this necessary?

ANY help very much appreciated because I have no clue.
  • #2
Hopefully someone with more disease experience chimes in.

I'm no disease expert, so I won't say anything about that. The ragged fins are consistent with poor water quality though. I also don't know if the medicine is safe for your snail and frogs.

As far as the nitrite/nitrate: you're sure you are performing your tests properly, and they are not expired?

It does sound like its possible you are overfeeding the tank.

Its also possible there has been a problem with the filter. Is it functioning normally? Have you done any recent filter maintenance (around the time the problem started)?

Any changes in other parameters like pH? Is the heater functioning properly?

Hopefully we can all help you figure something out.
  • #3
Welcome to the forum!

Many people on the forum reccomend that african dwarf frogs should be in a species-only tank. They have poor eyesight and are often outcompeted for food when housed with other fish. Some people are able to make it work, but I have had zero luck when trying it myself. I would say (if it doesn't work for you), either rehome the frogs or put them in their own, separate tank.

The white spots on the first betta sound like ich. The second betta could also have ich, or could be developing something new. The first cory sounds like it has some sort of fungus. The best way to determine what each has is from pictures.

What kind of test kits are you using? Strips can be very unreliable, I would reccomend API liquid test kits. Your kits could also be expired, as posted above. For now, even if water changes don't seem to be helping, keep it up! Pristine water can really benefit a fish
  • #4
Welcome to Fishlore!

I am sorry about your fish.

Yes you need to remove the Frogs and Snails for med treatments.

What test kit are you using? Wanted to add if you could post the test results. NitrAtes are less toxic and should be kept under 20ppm.

Sounds like you've got ICH, looks like salt has been sprinkled on the fins on your 1st Betta with secondary infections like fin rot (bacterial). Fin rot is from poor water quality as well as stress. ICH brought on by stress.

All the issues you are having I say is from poor water quality. Are you feeding frozen foods on a daily bases?

The problem is is that you've got multiple infections + toxins. ICH is treated with the heat treatment of 86F and daily 50% water changes for 2-weeks. Fin rot heals with prestine water conditions and warmer water. But you've got the Cory and other Betta that have infections that could thrive in warmer water. Meaning infection will spread faster.

Since you have toxins present meds are out as you need to be doing daily 50% water changes with Prime to detox the toxins. Make sure you do a really good vac and Gravel vacs should be done every few days after. This is most likely why your fish are getting infections. Pristine water conditions at this time would be best.

I agree, overstocking and adding those Frogs may have sent your tank into a mini-cycle. I'm not familiar with ADFs bio load though.
  • #5
Welcome to FishLore!

Great advice from everyone so far A few things I'd like to add:

A. Even without the ADF, I think your tank is overstocked, which is definitely contributing to the poor water quality.
B. Only very experienced fish keepers keep female bettas together, and even then they keep more of them together and in a larger tank.
C. Water changes once a month are very very infrequent, which is another factor contributing to the poor water quality. Many member do partial water changes once a week, and as has been recommended, when parameters are out of whack, many people will do daily water changes to help get things back on track. Clean water does wonders for fish, and many diseases can be cured with clean water alone.
D. As for the ich, if that is indeed what one of your fish has, Dena (one of the moderators) has a great thread on how to cure it naturally without the use of meds. I will try to find it and post it here
E. Could you possibly take pictures of the affected fish? This will help experienced members be able to help you more effectively.

As mentioned, I suggest you purchase the API master test kit - it's much more accurate than the strip tests.

Hope this helps! Best of luck to you and your fishes

Edit: Here it is. I know a lot of people have had luck curing ich without meds.
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
Thanks for all of your great advice! When I set up my tank, I purchased everything from the fish dept of a big-name chain that advised me on twice the number of fish I have now + no water changes since I have a filter, so I thought I was doing more than enough - thanks for setting me straight!

I have room for 2 10 gallon tanks (but not 1 big one) so I'm going to keep 1 betta, 2 corys, and snail in Tank One and 1 betta and the 2 frogs in Tank Two - does this sound better?

I was feeding frozen food daily and removing what they didn't eat, but I'm wondering if there's a lot of waste I'm missing. I had switched from freeze-dried bloodworms because I'd read bettas prefer frozen, and I thought it would make them happier. Do you recommend switching back to freeze-dried?

I will purchase the API master test and get a better idea of what's going on.

I think the filter is still working. It's a basic Aqueon filter that came with my tank, and I change the cartridges per the box instructions. I also purchased the heater I'm currently using now the same day I brought in the frogs + food switch b/c my other one was malfunctioning, but I have a thermometer in the tank which matches the temp settings.

So for now, I'll split the tank, do daily water changes + gravel vacuum, and treat the "Ich-y" betta per your very helpful instructions. Should I also use Maracyn-Oxy, since one of my corys seems to have fungal growth?

Thanks again for all of your help - I will try to take pictures this evening.
  • #7
Ooh, if there's anything you'll learn on here, it's to not trust employees at pet stores Many are well-meaning but simply misinformed.

I've never kept ADF, but I've heard they should be kept in their own tank because they don't see well (that may have been someone in this thread so my apologies if I'm repeating information! Sort of a pain to do on my phone...). I think a betta and two cories sounds okay for a ten gallon, but maybe wait for confirmation from someone else too.

Well, I don't think anyone is certain your fish has ich, we're simply going off your description. However there are multiple causes for whiteness on fish, so I would wait until you upload a picture so members can better diagnose. I would definitely not treat without being sure what the illness is, but we don't want to wait too long either, so the quicker you can upload some pics, the better!

Siphoning out uneaten food is a great idea (I find a turkey baster is pretty handy); if you can figure out timing/volumes such that there isn't any wasted food, even better! However, cories will help with uneaten food that falls to the substrate. Daily water changes is a great idea; personally I don't think daily gravel vacs are necessary unless you think there is a LOT of debris in the substrate.

As for the food, many members will suggest you avoid freeze dried food - I think it can lead to constipation. Frozen is definitely the way to go if you want to feed brine shrimp
  • #8
You mentioned 'changing the cartridges per the box instructions'.... I would strongly suggest not doing that in the future. The filter cartridge/media is where much of the bacteria you need to sustain a cycled tank resides. By throwing it out you are basically sending the tank into a 'minI cycle' each time. Rather then throwing out the cartridge and replacing it I would suggest rinsing it off in the water you removed during a water change and returning it to the filter. The main reason the companies recommend replacing the cartridges are 1) to sell more product, and 2) because the carbon insert does need to be changed. Carbon does not need to be used although many people do, especially for removing meds from a tank. You can cut the used carbon out of the cartridge without problems.
  • Thread Starter
  • #9
Thanks again for all the advice! Here are some pictures. Unfortunately my local fish store doesn't carry the API kit so I have to wait until the weekend to pick one up elsewhere.

Pic 1 - white tuft on cory's nose
Pic 2 - Betta 1's ragged fins and swollen lips (they look much more abnormal head-on but I couldn't get a picture)
Pic 3 - Betta 2 has white spot by eye that's getting bigger
Pic 4 - Betta 1 has lump under pectoral fin.


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  • #10
Well, the good news is it doesn't look like anybody has ich. I'm not an expert on funguses, so I'll let somebody else figure out what's going on with your fish. If the frogs look ok, I would reccomend returning them to the pet store (make sure that they're healthy, because it's not right to return a diseased fish) or move it to it's own tank. The cories should really be in a school of at least 5, so I might think about rehoming them as well, or upping the school. What I would do is, since you have two tanks available, split the bettas in one ten gallon, and if you want to keep the cories, you can move them into the other ten. Are there any other fish in the tank that you haven't mentioned?
  • Thread Starter
  • #11
Thanks for your help - I'm going to either rehome the frogs or keep them in their own tank, and increase the number of corys to 5. Sadly, I don't think Betta 2 will make it - today is day 2 of Maracyn-Oxy and the white thing on her face went from a round bump to a stringy-looking thing, and her head, gills, and throat look very bloated/faded in color and she's "breathing" very rapidly.

Anyone have any more advice or know what could be wrong with my fish?

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