Please help, bettas dying in cycled tank

Dogwoods79

Hi, I just wanted to see if anyone could help. I’ve had three bettas since Feb die on me, and the fourth is seriously sick right now. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. The first one died within one week due to catastrophic new owner errors on my part (uncycled tank, heater failure, not acclimating to hospital tank, etc). The second one lasted a couple of months but I think I overfed him — he got bloated, which turned into dropsy. The third one seemed to have a little bit of fin rot when I got him but thought he would recover in fresh water — he never ate and slowly declined over the span of two weeks. This last one I thought would be great — cycled tank, working heaters, seemed healthy at the store, tried not to overfeed (though he did eat an algae wafer for one of my snails and was temporarily bloated). But yet here he is, after only two weeks, hiding and lethargic at the bottom of the tank. He was great the first week and then suddenly started declining. I even waited three weeks before putting him in the tank after the last one in case there were bacteria in the water.

I have two different cycled, heated, planted tanks after all of this and frankly I’m only successful at keeping snails and shrimp (and randomly two neon tetras, which is another story). Even though I have spent countless hours (and $$) on this hobby, I feel so discouraged and am fairly tempted to just give up. Any suggestions???

For reference, all of parameters are good (test regularly with API kit), pH 7.2, nitrates stay low due to salvinia, do a PWC of 20% about once a week. I heat the water to the same temperature and add Prime before the WC. Have two small nerites, one mystery snail and two ghost shrimp in the tank with betta. Again the shrimp and snails are all healthy and growing.

Thanks for any advice or encouragement.
 

dcutl002

Clearly, something is not right. I have some questions:
  • What size tank are you using?
    • filtered or unfiltered?
    • If filtered, how strong is the water flow?
  • What is the water temperature?
  • What is your Ammonia reading?
  • What is your Nitrite reading?
 

Dogwoods79

10 gallon
Filtered — have both HOB and small sponge filter. Flow is at lowest setting for HOB and I have even baffled it with a small sponge on the front.
Heated to 78 degrees.
Just tested earlier — 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 5 nitrate (the salvinia floaters seem to really suck up the nitrates)
I do have some hair algae but trying to control that.

Really no idea what could be going wrong.
Here’s a picture of the betta tank:


2E408B21-5C69-4F76-A514-2382DB81EAEC.jpeg
 

dcutl002

The floating plants are a great touch and really good for sucking up Nitrates. But, back to your issue. I feed my Betta about 3-4 small pellets per day. How much do you feed?
 

Dogwoods79

Honestly that might be one of the causes. I’m positive I overfed the second fish — however the third one never ate after it got acclimated to the tank, and it died within 8 days. I have been feeding the current fish 5 pellets of the Hikari biogold food 2x day because the pellets are so small, and a few freeze dried daphnia here and there. Unfortunately my eyesight is bad (use reading glasses) so it’s possible that I have given him more than that if I didn’t have my glasses on. If I have overfed him, would he go downhill this quickly though? He seemed fine up until a few days ago and I’ve really only had him for two weeks!
 

Rose of Sharon

This is truly a mystery....and that is a nice looking tank!

Don't give up! Maybe we can figure this out....

Are you using the same food that you used for the previous bettas? I am thinking that if you are using the same food, then maybe there is an issue with the food itself. Is it possible that there is something wrong with it?

My other thought would be where are you getting the bettas from... a local lfs, or a big box pet store?

Can you post a pic of the betta? Any other symptoms besides being lethargic and hiding?
 

Dogwoods79

I was wondering the same thing about the food. Have been using the same food since the first betta (which I definitely overfed and also got dropsy but there were a myriad of other beginner errors). Am definitely going to throw out this package.

The first fish was LFS but I definitely caused that death — lots that I didn’t know and did wrong. That’s when I poured a lot of time and money into the hobby to make sure I got it right for the next fish… to no avail (yet).

The subsequent fish have come from big box stores. It was so sad when the second one died after he did well for a couple of months. (They all had names and I got attached to all of them!). So it’s possible that they’re not healthy to begin with…

Can’t get a pic right now of the betta as he is in serious hiding mode but will post one when I can.
 

dcutl002

This last one I thought would be great — cycled tank, working heaters, seemed healthy at the store, tried not to overfeed (though he did eat an algae wafer for one of my snails and was temporarily bloated). But yet here he is, after only two weeks, hiding and lethargic at the bottom of the tank. He was great the first week and then suddenly started declining. I even waited three weeks before putting him in the tank after the last one in case there were bacteria in the water.
He may be bloated from eating the algae wafer. He may be ok once he passes everything.
 

Frank the Fish guy

Lethargic fish, then they die.

I wonder if your tank is low on oxygen?

Do you aerate? Is the only aeration from the flow of the filter (which you say is low)?
 

Dogwoods79

Lethargic fish, then they die.

I wonder if your tank is low on oxygen?

Do you aerate? Is the only aeration from the flow of the filter (which you say is low)?
Only aeration is from the sponge filter and baffled HOB. I was wondering about that too because the water is pretty stagnant at the surface and the salvinia has been growing well due to lack of surface movement. But I didn’t think that bettas needed a lot of aeration due to their labyrinth organ? But perhaps they’re getting exhausted…
 

Rose of Sharon

Bettas are labyrinth fish, so they should be able to get the air that they need from the surface of the tank, that is correct.

Sometimes you will see biofilm form on the surface of the water, but that is fine. You can soak it up with a paper towel, or break it up with a small air stone if you prefer that.

I would definitely get rid of the food and buy new, just in case something wonky is going on there. Omega One betta buffet pellets are pretty good, high protein, low filler pellets if you can find them. And New Life Spectrum makes something called New Life Spectrum Thera +A, which is food laced with garlic, and garlic gives a good immune system boost. I would recommend that you try the regular sized pellets. I have the small size, and they are more like powder than pellets, so the regular size would be better for a betta, I think.

The daphnia that you are feeding will help keep his digestive track working well.

I would love to know if/when you see other symptoms.

Also, do you turn out the aquarium lights at night? Too much bright light will cause stress. Bettas need a good 14 hours or so without light. They do have a type of sleep cycle.
 

Dogwoods79

Bettas are labyrinth fish, so they should be able to get the air that they need from the surface of the tank, that is correct.

Sometimes you will see biofilm form on the surface of the water, but that is fine. You can soak it up with a paper towel, or break it up with a small air stone if you prefer that.

I would definitely get rid of the food and buy new, just in case something wonky is going on there. Omega One betta buffet pellets are pretty good, high protein, low filler pellets if you can find them. And New Life Spectrum makes something called New Life Spectrum Thera +A, which is food laced with garlic, and garlic gives a good immune system boost. I would recommend that you try the regular sized pellets. I have the small size, and they are more like powder than pellets, so the regular size would be better for a betta, I think.

The daphnia that you are feeding will help keep his digestive track working well.

I would love to know if/when you see other symptoms.

Also, do you turn out the aquarium lights at night? Too much bright light will cause stress. Bettas need a good 14 hours or so without light. They do have a type of sleep cycle.

Hmm, aquarium lights are on from 7:30am-2:30pm and back on from 6:00-8:00pm. I could adjust so that they’re off for a longer stretch. (And would prob help with algae.) The other thing that I have been wondering re: stressors is that this aquarium is on a dresser in my bedroom w/hardwood floors — my husband and I walk by multiple times a day. Could the footsteps be vibrating the tank too much?
 

Nopsu

Do you have any decoration that are might leech anything toxic? Something you dont have in the tank without issue? Sometimes cheap plastic deco might have something bad leeching into your water. Nothing else I could think of..
LIKE the hut thing you have or the gravel is something cheap and colored?
 

Rose of Sharon

I don't think that the vibrations of you guys walking by is causing an issue for the betta. And your light schedule sounds good, too!
 

Dogwoods79

Do you have any decoration that are might leech anything toxic? Something you dont have in the tank without issue? Sometimes cheap plastic deco might have something bad leeching into your water. Nothing else I could think of..
LIKE the hut thing you have or the gravel is something cheap and colored?
All of the decor/gravel is either from the fish section at Petsmart or the LFS, so it’s supposed to be fish safe… but no guarantee I guess.

The odd thing is that the snails and shrimp are doing just fine — I’d think that they would be affected more if there were something in the water? (As I’m typing this the mystery snail is entertaining himself by climbing up the side of the aquarium and launching off.). That’s where I started wondering if it’s either bad food, overfeeding, or some sort of bacteria or parasite in the tank…
 

Nopsu

All of the decor/gravel is either from the fish section at Petsmart or the LFS, so it’s supposed to be fish safe… but no guarantee I guess.

The odd thing is that the snails and shrimp are doing just fine — I’d think that they would be affected more if there were something in the water? (As I’m typing this the mystery snail is entertaining himself by climbing up the side of the aquarium and launching off.)
Were they all in the same tank? I was just guessing something so no idea really what is wrong with the bettas :/ how much difference is there between tank and room temperature? Do you have a lid on this tank?
 

Nopsu

The film then is probably also due not enough surface movement
 

Dogwoods79

Yes, and I also just read that overgrowth of salvinia could deplete the oxygen as well….
 

Frank the Fish guy

The film then is probably also due not enough surface movement
Indeed, the film on the surface also causes low oxygen in bodies of water due to the reduced gas exchange.

Beta fish need oxygen in the water. While they can survive for a time gulping air from the surface, they require dissolved oxygen to breath through the gills to live.
 

Dogwoods79

Well, I turned up the sponge filter last night and did a PWC with some good new oxygenated water this morning, and Mars (the betta) made a brief appearance. He swam around a bit and started to rub against the little hut and then got super jumpy and swam back into hiding. Any chance he could have a parasite? If so, can I use general cure in the tank with shrimp/snails/plants? I’ve had so little success with hospital tanks that I’m just hesitant to set that up…

Also the shrimp are going kind of crazy swimming all around this morning (even before water change) but I know that it’s not an ammonia/nitrite problem (tested zero). I’m baffled.
 

Frank the Fish guy

If you have low oxygen, then the fish are stressed, and then their natural defenses are lowered and they can get any kind of opportunist infection. This will take a while to heal. Keep the water well oxygenated for healthy fish.
 

dcutl002

Dogwoods79, is there an update on your Betta? How is he doing?
 

Dogwoods79

Dogwoods79, is there an update on your Betta? How is he doing?
Unfortunately not so great. He made an appearance but seems to have trouble swimming normally — his back end keeps dropping down, I’m thinking swim bladder disorder — and his fins seem slightly deteriorated. He tried to eat one pellet but kept spitting it back out. Finally gave up, sunk back to the bottom and then went into hiding again. :(
 

Aaronious

The last ones you said came from big box stores. They could have been there for a long time even if the employees said otherwise. If you go to one they should be able to feed one if you have one picked out as your favorite and see how it reacts.

Sometimes these ones from stores also just haven't had the best life either in general or the last couple months or so. It's rough, but sometimes they just don't get the start they deserve.
 

Rose of Sharon

So if it is a swim bladder issue, then you know what to try - fasting for a couple of days, and then feed him some daphnia. If you can get some frozen daphnia, that would be a bit better than the freeze dried stuff, but I know it can be hard to find these days.

Adding a small air stone would be good. As far as signs for parasites go, you can look for white specs (would be ich) or gold dust (would be velvet). If he is breathing very heavily, and you see his gills receeding, or see an excess of slime coat, especially around the gills, then that could be gill flukes. But just seeing him rub once doesn't necessarily mean parasites.

Hope this helps! I hope Mars gets better soon!!!
 

Dogwoods79

So if it is a swim bladder issue, then you know what to try - fasting for a couple of days, and then feed him some daphnia. If you can get some frozen daphnia, that would be a bit better than the freeze dried stuff, but I know it can be hard to find these days.

Adding a small air stone would be good. As far as signs for parasites go, you can look for white specs (would be ich) or gold dust (would be velvet). If he is breathing very heavily, and you see his gills receeding, or see an excess of slime coat, especially around the gills, then that could be gill flukes. But just seeing him rub once doesn't necessarily mean parasites.

Hope this helps! I hope Mars gets better soon!!!

So I thought he was on deaths door last night (was hanging vertically in corners) but after I tuned up the air on the airstone this morning he actually seems to be improved — slightly less lethargic, swimming around a little more and investigating things. I managed to get a picture — I don’t see any signs of ich. I do notice a little bit of fin deterioration from when I got him. He also seems to be breathing a bit heavily and opening and closing his mouth, which I never think of as a good sign. I have a short video but not sure how to post that here. Any thoughts? Should I give him some aquarium salt baths or just let him be?
 

Attachments

  • B31ED80F-4A4E-4C94-A091-712CDB8B55A1.jpeg
    B31ED80F-4A4E-4C94-A091-712CDB8B55A1.jpeg
    245.8 KB · Views: 17

Rose of Sharon

He actually looks good from what I can see in that pic...

I would leave him alone for a day or two and observe his breathing. It may right itself with the air stone circulation.

If he continues to struggle, then you can do a couple of aquarium salt baths to see if they help. The thing about doing baths is that they will stress him out when you chase him down to take him out of the tank. At this point, I don't think he will voluntarily swim into a container since he is hiding so much. That would mean that you would have to either net him, or catch him in a container.
 

NearMeBettas

1. Your tank looks beautiful!! Add a few more live plants. It should reduce your Nitrate level to nothing with a 5% weekly wc.

2. Get a betta from a breeder. I would recommend a breeder (not someone rehoming there pet fish) on fishlore in the bstf once you reach 50 post, or Betta Squad USA. It's best to strate with a top quality healthy healthy fish.

3.Get a feeding schedule. I would recommend 4 high quality pellets such as Northfin, Omega 1, or Fluvle brand twice a day or the equivalent in live food which is preferred.

4. Get a plaket betta (I prefer half moon planek due to their beauty) as they have easy fins with little to no chance of rot, also make sure nothing in your tank is sharp and could damage fins. You can run pantyhose over the item, and if it snags its a nono.
So I thought he was on deaths door last night (was hanging vertically in corners) but after I tuned up the air on the airstone this morning he actually seems to be improved — slightly less lethargic, swimming around a little more and investigating things. I managed to get a picture — I don’t see any signs of ich. I do notice a little bit of fin deterioration from when I got him. He also seems to be breathing a bit heavily and opening and closing his mouth, which I never think of as a good sign. I have a short video but not sure how to post that here. Any thoughts? Should I give him some aquarium salt baths or just let him be?
He doesn't look to have ich, I would just leave him be. What I would recommend though is adding stress coat and AI to his water if you could, put him on live food. Mosquitoe larvae cam be locally wildly collected in most places.
 

Dogwoods79

Hi all, thanks so much for your help this far. Here’s the update:

Mars continued to decline, hiding all the time and fins deteriorating very badly, so in a last-ditch effort I put him in a hospital tank on Thursday. I gave him kanaplex, a mild dose of aquarium salt in the tank, and Jungle Fungus Clear. I didn’t set everything up quite right on Thursday so yesterday I did a 100% water change, re-dosed the meds and added a sponge filter from his original tank. Today he is like his old self again! Wanting to eat, exploring the tank, fins unclamped and looking *slightly* better. I’m amazed, I thought he wasn’t going to make it. So now I have a couple of questions:

I’m using a turkey baster in the hospital tank to try to get up any poop or food waste, but I’m still worried about ammonia. I am hoping the sponge filter will have kept all its good bacteria, but just not sure. I didn’t know if I should do more water changes — it would dilute the medication. Should I wait and leave the water alone for now? Or when/ how much do I change it?

I’m doing a big cleanup of his original aquarium and even got a different filter (but trying to transfer over a lot of the filter media). Wondering at what point I should reintroduce him to the original tank… I’m out of town for 5 days starting Saturday — terrible timing. I have some auto feeders but worried about leaving the tanks that long. Should I do a big water change in hospital aquarium and then wait until I get back to reintroduce?

Thanks all!
 

Nopsu

Should I do a big water change in hospital aquarium and then wait until I get back to reintroduce?
This could work I think
 

Blacksheep1

I just wanted to say the fact you are keeping shrimp alive tells me it’s isn’t your care that’s the issue. betta’s are notorious for fin problems and genetics from poorly stocked box stores ( not all of them but a lot ). You’re giving the best care you can which sounds good.

I will say be careful doing large wc with shrimp, they don’t always tolerate the difference in parameters well and can lead to moulting problems. Can you drip water back in the tank if you do a large wc ? You just need some airline tubing with a loose knot in it .
 

Dogwoods79

I just wanted to say the fact you are keeping shrimp alive tells me it’s isn’t your care that’s the issue. betta’s are notorious for fin problems and genetics from poorly stocked box stores ( not all of them but a lot ). You’re giving the best care you can which sounds good.

I will say be careful doing large wc with shrimp, they don’t always tolerate the difference in parameters well and can lead to moulting problems. Can you drip water back in the tank if you do a large wc ? You just need some airline tubing with a loose knot in it .
Thanks — unfortunately I did about a 20% WC on the tank earlier today before reading this. I lost a ghost shrimp recently on my other tank and I’m wondering if a WC was the problem. It could have been my other betta (Neptune) that killed him though, he’s maturing and I caught him flaring at a Nerite yesterday. I like the shrimp more than I thought I would — but since they are hard to see and hide a lot, they also make me nervous that I’ll miss a shrimp death and it will cause an ammonia spike.

But I digress. Anyone have thoughts on when I should change the water in the hospital tank?
 

Blacksheep1

20% should be fine for a ghost shrimp if it’s temperature matched and slowly re added. Each betta will have a personality and a different tolerance to tank mates, that’s nothing new.

If it’s just the betta in the hospital tank you could do 50% every day ( or even twice a day ) if you feel it’s needed. Personally I’d not dose salt directly into the tank but you can do salt baths , if you feel that catching and returning the fish is worth the stress of it.
 

Dogwoods79

There is a fish vet that works in my town — I kind of wish I had called her. I’m just now realizing that the combo of meds likely killed any beneficial bacteria on my sponge filter that’s running in the hospital tank. And I borrowed the sponge from the shrimp and snail tank and put a brand new one in there. Luckily it already had a HOB filter on that tank too but I hope I didn’t remove too much BB at one time. Ugh. Now I’ve got to figure out what to do when I go out of town… :(
 

Similar Aquarium Threads

  • Question
Replies
2
Views
189
cdwag29
Replies
3
Views
187
Rose of Sharon
  • Question
Replies
2
Views
144
BigManAquatics
Replies
8
Views
253
Addictedtobettas
Replies
5
Views
239
Dunk2

Random Great Thread!

New Betta Threads

Latest Aquarium Threads

Top Bottom