Help Sick Betta, Need Advice

Teresa64151

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I bought my betta 5 days ago for my 6 yr old, and it has been a journey. I knew nothing about the nitrogen cycle, I do now and parameters are good but I'm afraid damage has been done. That also wasn't my only mistake. I thought aqua safe also took care of ammonia/nitrate/ph, obviously it does not.

Day 1- bought 2 gallon aquarium with filter. Now I realize he needs a bigger tank and will buy one. My first priority is getting him well. Went home, conditioned tap water, added safe start. Went and bought fish, acclimated him, then added to tank. He ate 4 pellets, but this is the only time he has eaten. Later that day, he started to stay at the top of tank and wouldn't go back down.
Day 2- fish still at top of tank. Took sample of water to petsmart, low ph and high ammonia/nitrate although never told me how high. They said fish may not make it, but said wasn't anything I should do. I specifically asked about water changes, they said it wouldn't help. I went home, and did alot of reading. It didnt seem right to leave the fish in toxic water, so I did a 75% water change, used water conditioner and seachem prime. Checked water, parameters were good (at 0.)

Day 3- now fish is at bottom of tank, seems to be breathing hard. I assume he was sick with ammonia/nitrate poisoning on day 1, so I researched ways to help him I learned about methylene blue baths. I bought that, and started giving him baths daily using his tank water when I changed it.
Day 4- fish still at bottom, but parameters are good (0s.) Continue with MB baths. It seems like his eyes were a little buggy, but hard to tell only having him a few days. It seemed like there was something white when he turns his eye a certain way, but thought maybe it was just me. Still doing daily water changes
Day 5 (today)- still at bottom, no change, parameters good. After his MB bath, I put him in the cup I bought him in with some tank water. I took him to the patio because lighting is much better. Plus I wanted to take some photos. When i came in and looked at the pics, i saw white dots. I had to zoom in and increase light on camera, could they just be sediment from the water or is that ich? It's not as noticeable when you look at him, but I dont know what I'm looking for either. His face seems a little discolored, almost like hes getting some patches. Is this from the ammonia burning, or does he have another infection that needs treated? Hes the only fish in a new aquarium, can they catch that after only 5 days?
 

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LilBlub

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I don’t think that’s ich, it just looks like something in the water. As for the rest, I think you just need to keep him in clean water and let him recover. Sometimes fish will take a while to get better after being sick. Just keeping doing the daily water changes and make sure he’s not getting worse.

Is he constantly sitting on the bottom or is he swimming up to get air? Bettas breathe both through their gills and atmospheric air, so if he’s not able to get up to the surface you may need to lower the water level in the tank.
 

Teresa64151

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Will do, thank you! No, he doesnt move from his spot or go up for air at all. He seems really weak and hard to hold himself upright. If I drop the water level too low, I'm afraid the filter wont reach the water. Sometimes in the morning I see that he is laying in a different spot in the tank. I think that is because the filter current causes him to move, so he tries to move someplace where it doesnt stir him up as much. How long can these guys go without eating? After his MB bath and he is in the quarantine tank, I try to offer him a pellet but he shows no interest.
 

LilBlub

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They can go quite a while without food, I wouldn’t worry about him eating right now. He probably won’t until he starts feeling better. Is there something you could put in the tank that he could sit on close to the surface?

I had a betta that was having similar problems to yours, laying on his side and not moving. Sadly mine passed away after a week, but I purchased him sick (my plan was to nurse him back to health and then give him to a friend). However, after a few days of clean water and a floating plant to sit on by the surface he did perk up a bit and start eating. I think I just bought him too late to save him, but yours could definitely still make a recovery.

He could have a swim bladder infection that’s causing him to sink to the bottom. Have you noticed him poop? Sometimes swim bladder problems are caused by constipation, sometimes they’re caused by bad water.
 

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I often see bettas on their sides when they are in bad conditions, such as in pet stores. However, it's possible that there's something else going on with the swim bladder, as LilBlub mentioned. In addition to his poop, how does he swim? Does he seem off-balanced, struggling, floating, etc.?

What exactly are you trying to treat with the MB baths? Medicating unnecessarily can stress the body out.

You may want to add an airstone into his tank. Bettas are designed to live in low oxygen environments and can breathe directly from the surface if the water doesn't have enough oxygen, but every bit helps, especially for a lethargic betta. The filter may or may not be adding oxygen to the water. I definitely recommend adding oxygen to the baths, which is the most stressful time for him.

I can't tell what the white spots are.

The best thing you can do in the main tank is large daily water changes to remove the ammonia and nitrites while your tank is cycling. That'll go a long way in helping him out.
 

Teresa64151

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I often see bettas on their sides when they are in bad conditions, such as in pet stores. However, it's possible that there's something else going on with the swim bladder, as LilBlub mentioned. In addition to his poop, how does he swim? Does he seem off-balanced, struggling, floating, etc.?

What exactly are you trying to treat with the MB baths? Medicating unnecessarily can stress the body out.

You may want to add an airstone into his tank. Bettas are designed to live in low oxygen environments and can breathe directly from the surface if the water doesn't have enough oxygen, but every bit helps, especially for a lethargic betta. The filter may or may not be adding oxygen to the water. I definitely recommend adding oxygen to the baths, which is the most stressful time for him.

I can't tell what the white spots are.
Thanks for the info, I'll look into the air stones. Especially since he is not going to the surface for oxygen at all. If it weren't for that, I might have turned the filter off completely since it seems to disturb him so much but he needs as much oxygen as he can get. Hopefully the filter wont be an issue once I get a bigger tank. Are there supposed to be air bubbles on the side of the tank inside and on objects in the tank?
From what I understand, MB is supposed to help the ammonia/nitrate poisoning, help with oxygen, and calm a stressed fish (prophylactic?). Since he is red, it's hard to tell if his gills are reddened. This is day 3 of the MB, so I may stop it altogether but I wanted to do everything possible to help him. I just dont know if it is helping or just stressing him more. I feel like his eyes might look a little better today.

I meant to add, I have not seen him poop or any poop floating. This is my first fish but I haven't seen anything that might remotely look like poop. He isn't swimming well, he is weak. When he does try, it seems like a drunken swim, that's the best way I can describe it. He definitely seems off balanced, not so much with floating although the first day or 2 he seemed to float at the top.

They can go quite a while without food, I wouldn’t worry about him eating right now. He probably won’t until he starts feeling better. Is there something you could put in the tank that he could sit on close to the surface?

I had a betta that was having similar problems to yours, laying on his side and not moving. Sadly mine passed away after a week, but I purchased him sick (my plan was to nurse him back to health and then give him to a friend). However, after a few days of clean water and a floating plant to sit on by the surface he did perk up a bit and start eating. I think I just bought him too late to save him, but yours could definitely still make a recovery.

He could have a swim bladder infection that’s causing him to sink to the bottom. Have you noticed him poop? Sometimes swim bladder problems are caused by constipation, sometimes they’re caused by bad water.
Thanks, I will try to figure out some way to keep him at the top. Either a floating plant or maybe I can find put something else in there. I'm guessing he needs to be able to go all the way to the surface. I haven't seen him poop at all. I'll look into some information about swim bladder. I hate to see him suffer so much, especially due to my ignorance. :-( I thought about taking him back to the pet store in hopes that they could heal him but not sure how much they'd care or pay attention to him. I feel very undeserving of him after this. I had no idea there was so much involved in having fish!
 
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CheshireKat

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MB is supposed to help the ammonia/nitrate poisoning, help with oxygen, and calm a stressed fish (prophylactic?)
Hm. I've never heard of it being used for that, but I just read that as well. I've never seen it being recommended by other fish keepers myself. I personally wouldn't stress out a sick, possibly poisoned fish by taking it out and giving it a bath in such a medication without a really good reason, and I'm not convinced there is one here. But whether you continue thr treatment or not is up to you. Do you think it's helped at all?

feel like his eyes might look a little better today.
If he had an infection or something, yes, that makes sense. MB is typically used to treat fungus and some bacteria.
 

LilBlub

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I don’t think the pet store would do much for him. Most chain stores will just let the sick fish die so the others don’t get infected (even if it’s not infectious... Better safe than sorry I guess). I think you’re the best chance he has of getting better, and you obviously care about him a lot. Just keep the water nice and clean, and he may recover and go on to live for a long time!
 

Teresa64151

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Hm. I've never heard of it being used for that, but I just read that as well. I've never seen it being recommended by other fish keepers myself. I personally wouldn't stress out a sick, possibly poisoned fish by taking it out and giving it a bath in such a medication without a really good reason, and I'm not convinced there is one here. But whether you continue thr treatment or not is up to you. Do you think it's helped at all?


If he had an infection or something, yes, that makes sense. MB is typically used to treat fungus and some bacteria.

It's really hard to say. I think his face looks better today than it did yesterday, and the eyes dont seem as swollen. But he is not any more active, still staying at the bottom, etc. I wasn't sure if the stuff on his face was ammonia burns or if there was something bacterial going on.

I don’t think the pet store would do much for him. Most chain stores will just let the sick fish die so the others don’t get infected (even if it’s not infectious... Better safe than sorry I guess). I think you’re the best chance he has of getting better, and you obviously care about him a lot. Just keep the water nice and clean, and he may recover and go on to live for a long time!
I sure hope so. I'll keep up the daily water changes and try to find a way to keep him close to the top. And hope for the best! Thanks for all of your feedback, I appreciate it. :)
 
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CheshireKat

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I had no idea there was so much involved in having fish!
Unfortunately, most people don't. They're not a creature you can get, plop in a tank, and forget about besides feeding every few days. They require love and attention just as much as any other pet or live creature. But you're learning now and trying to take steps to be a good fish owner, so that's a good thing! If stores properly educated their staff and therefore properly educated their customers to begin with, new fish owners wouldn't be so stressed and potentially discouraged from the hobby. I doubt the store, unless it's a good fish store and not a pet store, would know what to do. He's better off with you.

Pet stores often feed bettas very poorly. I bought a baby betta after seeing him trying to eat a piece of food bigger than this head! It broke my heart. He was so determined but couldn't move properly and he was too small to eat it. Most of the fish in that store are malnourished and wasting away.
So my point is is that your betta may have been fed improperly, maybe too much or food that expands in the belly, causing his stomach or blocked intestines to put pressure on his swim bladder, an organ that keeps them balanced and afloat. When something affects the swimbladder, the fish will struggle to swim properly.

If he's constipated or bloated, feeding a fiber-rich food such as cooked deshelled pea mashed into pieces or spinach chopped finely can help if he's willing to eat. Epsom salt baths also can work as a laxative.
 

LilBlub

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Mysis shrimp can also help with constipation and I’ve found that carnivorous fish (like (bettas) are more willing to eat them. You can buy frozen ones in most pet stores.
 

CheshireKat

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Mysis shrimp can also help with constipation and I’ve found that carnivorous fish (like (bettas) are more willing to eat them. You can buy frozen ones in most pet stores.
Ah yes, and I think daphnia, too. I tend to forget about other options since I have unpicky bettas and when I feed my livebearers their weekly peas, I feed my bettas a bit of pea too and they gobble it down. They'll go for anything, including my fingers.

high ammonia/nitrate although never told me how high.
By the way, are you sure it's high nitrate and not nitrite? If you have high nitrates on day 2, you probably have nitrates in your tap water like I do. I recommend getting a test kit yourself because "high" doesn't tell us where you're at and is very unhelpful when cycling. They also may have a different opinion of "high."
 
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Teresa64151

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If you can, get him a Betta Hammock. Someone from the forum gave me the idea and my new Betta loves it.

Yours could just rest on it and breathe easily by raising his head a little.

https://www.amazon.com/Zoo-Med-Laboratories-AZMBL20-Hammock/dp/B0027IZ6KW/ref=sr_1_3?crid=25GOCEYWA09RY&keywords=betta+hammock&qid=1566168938&s=gateway&sprefix=Betta+hammock,aps,140&sr=8-3
Awesome, thanks so much!!

By the way, are you sure it's high nitrate and not nitrite? If you have high nitrates on day 2, you probably have nitrates in your tap water like I do. I recommend getting a test kit yourself because "high" doesn't tell us where you're at and is very unhelpful when cycling. They also may have a different opinion of "high."
I really dont remember if she said nitrate or nitrite. Honestly, I've been using gallons of bottled water ever since she told me that because my tap water is also really low in ph. I'm not sure how to raise it up, but I'm sure theres a product that fixes that. I dont plan on using bottled water forever, but at least until he is better.

Ah yes, and I think daphnia, too. I tend to forget about other options since I have unpicky bettas and when I feed my livebearers their weekly peas, I feed my bettas a bit of pea too and they gobble it down. They'll go for anything, including my fingers.
Thank you both! Once I get him closer to the surface, hopefully that will perk him up. Then I will give him either the pea or the shrimp. Maybe that'll get him to eat. I have heard that typically bettas dont have an issue eating and they are normally little piggies lol.

Unfortunately, most people don't. They're not a creature you can get, plop in a tank, and forget about besides feeding every few days. They require love and attention just as much as any other pet or live creature. But you're learning now and trying to take steps to be a good fish owner, so that's a good thing! If stores properly educated their staff and therefore properly educated their customers to begin with, new fish owners wouldn't be so stressed and potentially discouraged from the hobby. I doubt the store, unless it's a good fish store and not a pet store, would know what to do. He's better off with you.

Pet stores often feed bettas very poorly. I bought a baby betta after seeing him trying to eat a piece of food bigger than this head! It broke my heart. He was so determined but couldn't move properly and he was too small to eat it. Most of the fish in that store are malnourished and wasting away.
So my point is is that your betta may have been fed improperly, maybe too much or food that expands in the belly, causing his stomach or blocked intestines to put pressure on his swim bladder, an organ that keeps them balanced and afloat. When something affects the swimbladder, the fish will struggle to swim properly.

If he's constipated or bloated, feeding a fiber-rich food such as cooked deshelled pea mashed into pieces or spinach chopped finely can help if he's willing to eat. Epsom salt baths also can work as a laxative.
That is so unfortunate about the pet stores. You are right about being discouraged, I've told myself if he dies we are not getting any more. But truthfully, fish are probably the ideal pets for us. I work alot, and cant give a dog the care it needs as far as letting it out to pee. I can't have cats either. I like to watch fish, but I never realized they actually had little personalities. This little fish looks directly at me every time I check on him. He looks so pitiful, I hope he finds some kind of comfort in knowing someone is looking after him and only him.
I even told the girl when buying him that I had never had fish, I explained everything I had done so far, including the aqua safe. Not once did she mention that product did nothing for ph or ammonia, etc. The only thing she said was to change the water daily or at least every other. And to only feed 4 pellets once a day. I should have read up on it more myself, but it would have saved alot of suffering if she'd have mentioned all the other. The aquarium instructions also mentioned to use aqua start and safe start to set up the aquarium and water, but nothing else. Obviously, I harmed him by having bad water quality. But I never thought that he might have been sick or not well taken care of when I bought him. I didnt see poop in his cup either, and who knows how long he'd been in it.
Strange question, but how do you guys cook the pea? Do you boil a single frozen pea? Or maybe it's in something else you cook?
Do you put the epsom salt in your aquarium?
 

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really low in ph
Well, personally "really low in pH" doesn't mean much to me because what is "really low" to some people might not be to others. I don't really trust what store workers say since most of the time they don't really know much, but it depends on the store. If they're trained that any pH lower or higher than 7 is too low or too high, their opinion is a little skewed. You need actual numbers, not just "high" or "low."
I'm not sure how to raise it up, but I'm sure theres a product that fixes that
You can buffer up your pH with things like crushed coral and other things that add minerals to your water and harden it but nothing is a "fix." Things can go wrong when you're trying to alter the water parameters. But you can explore all that at a later time.
Is the water distilled or spring water? Distilled water has no minerals in it, nothing in it at all and that could make your fish sick as well. There's no guarantee the bottled water is better than what you have without testing it.
 

Teresa64151

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Well, personally "really low in pH" doesn't mean much to me because what is "really low" to some people might not be to others. I don't really trust what store workers say since most of the time they don't really know much, but it depends on the store. If they're trained that any pH lower or higher than 7 is too low or too high, their opinion is a little skewed. You need actual numbers, not just "high" or "low."

You can buffer up your pH with things like crushed coral and other things that add minerals to your water and harden it but nothing is a "fix." Things can go wrong when you're trying to alter the water parameters. But you can explore all that at a later time.
Is the water distilled or spring water? Distilled water has no minerals in it, nothing in it at all and that could make your fish sick as well. There's no guarantee the bottled water is better than what you have without testing it.
The first thing she said was everything was off. I had to ask her specifically what, just to find it was ammonia, ph and nitrate/nitrite. I didnt think to ask for the numbers, but she did say ph was as low as it could go, whatever that means. Not sure if she meant purely acidic or as low as the test strip showed.
I did read up on water before purchasing. Although, I have to be careful with that too because there is so much conflicting advice on the internet so I just try to use my judgement. I have been using nestle pure life, which has the minerals in it. I chose that one because the PH is supposedly 7.something and came in gallon size. I had it tested, and they said the ammonia and nitrates were 0. The PH registered at 6.6 but I thought maybe that was because I didnt do 100% water change from the "bad water" (more like 75-80%) so that probably diluted the ph a little. The store told me the ph wasn't a big deal as long as it didnt fluctuate alot, so I've been using the same type of water every day. I know one thing, I've learned not to seek the store out for expert advice!!
 

CheshireKat

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Strange question, but how do you guys cook the pea? Do you boil a single frozen pea? Or maybe it's in something else you cook?
Do you put the epsom salt in your aquarium?
So, what I do is take out a frozen pea or two (I feed peas to lots of fish every week, so I usually do more than 1 pea), put it in a little container with some water, and cook it for 30 seconds. The water is usually boiling and sometimes the shell even pops off. If not, I dump out the water and remove the shells. Then I cool off the peas in front of my fan so I can mash them up. Then I just use my fingers to add bits of pea and they'll suck it up. That's why my bettas are obsessed with my fingers... They know they provide food. It's okay if he doesn't eat the whole pea. Bettas have stomachs about the size of their eyes, maybe a bit bigger, which is why they're prone to overfeeding and overeating (I had to remove my female betta from my livebearer tank because she got so fat... Took a couple weeks for her to slim down!). Just as long as he gets some good-sized pieces of pea, it should help. Hopefully he'll eat it.

You'll want to get a little tub or container and dissolve maybe 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Epsom salt per gallon of water, then put in your betta for no more than 15 minutes and put him back on the tank afterwards.
 

CheshireKat

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The store told me the ph wasn't a big deal as long as it didnt fluctuate alot
This much is true at least. The bigger problem is fluctuating pH because that means the water contents such as minerals, etc. are likely changing and the fish's body has to adapt to those changes.
Sounds like you're fine with the bottled water then, at least until we can get this all sorted. Something like the API Freshwater Master Test Kit would help you a lot so you don't have to rely on store workers for vital information. (I personally use test strips but people always say they're not reliable... Some videos have shown that the test strips from Tetra actually aren't too far off from the chemical tests, though... Personally, if I had to play chemist every time I wanted to test a tank, I don't think I'd test much at all. At least with the strips, I have some idea of what's going on. You might want to get the chemical tests though since you're struggling with your water parameters.)

Fish definitely have personalities, habits, quirks, etc. Bettas are very personable and smart. You can teach and train fish, especially when it comes to habitual things like feeding times. They'll learn patterns and associations such as when the tank lights comes on, they'll get food. Mine see me come home and get excited. Well, they get excited seeing me at any time really, hoping I'll feed them. I've heard of people training their bettas jump through hoops, though I've never seen it.

I understand feeling discouraged and frustrated. I still feel that way sometimes when things go wrong and I've been keeping fish nearly all my life. It sucks that stores often don't set you up for success when you're new or worse, a kid wanting a pet.
 

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I would consider placing him into a shallower bowl or Betta bowl with the tank water so he has an easier time reaching the surface for one. Secondly, if you are worried about illnesses such as ich or others, there are 8 dollar fixes you can buy that might do the trick for him. As for his listlessness and tiredness, it can happen. I had that with my original Betta, and after a few days he perked up and has lived wonderfully since then, up to a year ago. A three year span. I would say try a few different types of food. My current Betta hates flakes but loves pellets, my previous was the other way around. And one thing most Bettas love, even when somewhat ill, is peas. Raw peas squeezed out of the thin skin coz they can’t eat that. How’s the little guy doing?
 
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