Sick Betta?


HI everyone!

My betta, Polaris, seems to not be doing so well. First, to establish his personality, he's a very quiet boy; he likes to keep to himself, and enjoys living with his other tankmates. Any time I put my hand in the tank, he'll come over and "cuddle" with me, rubbing his body against my fingers. Recently, I haven't seen a whole lot of him in the tank, but I chalked it up to a combintation of my being away at class all the time and him hiding in his castle. However, today as I was cleaning the tank, I came across Polaris huddled between the gravel and some driftwood I have in the tank, as if he was trying to become one with the wood. As I gently shifted him so I could vacuum the gravel more, it became apparent that his fins were more tattered than they had been before (he had a bad case of finrot over Thanksgiving, fortunately he's been very healthy since then). He then swam over to another nook and almost lodged himself under it, as if trying not to float away. Concerned, I gently moved the water around him, causing him to swim away, but when he did so, his head was down with his tail up, almost vertical, and he looked like he was having some trouble even moving at all. I left him alone and he swam into his castle. I threw in some peas for good measure, but I'm worried about him. Could it be constipation or swimbladder? Whatever it is, it looks to be serious. He's very listliss and doesn't look well at all.

I should probably also mention that Castor, my Gourami, being a semi-agressive fish, does like to have his way around the tank, and this sometimes leads to some mild bullying of some other fish. Usually this only consists of getting them to move when there's some food to be had, and I've only rarely noticed any nipping. It's not a territory or space problem, he's just being he usual ornery self. Could Polaris be stressed out by Castor? Could Castor be responsible for the damage to Polaris's fins? Could I be overreacting? 

Here's some additional info that may help:

Co-inhabitants 1 Opaline GouramI (about 3 inches in size), 3 Cory Cats, 4 Cardinal Tetras, 2 Hillstream Loaches (about an inch in size) 

Tank size 10 gal

Tank has been running for 5 months, no problems whatsoever since the finrot over Thanksgiving

I use an undergravel filter and a Fluval 2+ filter for filtration

Water was last changed today (Jan 30), about 25%, used DeChlor

Temperature 75* F (24*C)

Unfortunately, the water paramaters are unknown; I've run out of test strips and need to get more from the store. For what it's worth, all of the fish are very healthy, with the exception of Polaris.

Feeding takes place twice a day, in the morning and the evening, with a small amount of food being given each time

Does anyone have a diagnosis? Polaris has been a very lovable fish, and I don't want to lose him if at all possible. Any and all advice is appreciated!



I'm not sure but I think the problem is your gourami. Gouramis don't get along with bettas, and he has mostly likely scared your betta into hiding, and caused some of those missing fins.


You should remove the Betta and treat him with medication for finrot if his fins are torn. Bettas should never be kept with Gouramis. They are related and will fight to the death or one will harrass the other until the stress kills him. Tetras are also often fin nippers and could be tearing his fins. I don't know anything about the loaches you have so I can't comment. The Cories are fine and one of the few fish that are pretty much always okay to keep with Bettas.
He definitely needs to be removed asap and treated. The stress alone will kill him. If he is hiding then he is being bullied (probably the gourami) and he won't live long like that.
Also, Bettas need water temps of 80-82 degrees for best health. After you isolate him and medicate him for torn fins, try giving him peas. Make sure the pieces are tiny and that he sees them drop in front of him and takes them, otherwise they will just pollute the tank.


You might try reading the above and getting some idea of the needs of the betta. He should definitely be removed from the presence of the gourami. It sounds like he is taking a beating for him to be hiding and shredded. I am doubting that the problem was finrot totally before. It probably started with getting nipped and then the fins became infected. If he is not removed and put in a good clean medicated and heated (to 82) environment and treated with TLC he will probably not make it. They get depressed very easily when they are bullied and this stresses them to the point where they just give up and let themselves die. He needs to be away from all the other fish even if he is put in a brand new bucket with a 25 watt heater and a small sponge filter.

He will need some Maracyn and Maracyn2 in combination and some gravel from the cycled tank placed in the bucket to help get the filter cycled. It is going to take a long time to get him in good shape so I hope you are patient.

Also you should get a master test kit to do your testing as the strips are not reliable and give false negative readings at times that can be bad.

Please let us know how Polaris is doing as we are really interested. I hope he does okay and that he will respond to you as this is going to be an important part of his recovery.



Sounds like your Betta questions have been covered, but I have some concerns about your other fish.

First of all, even after removing the Betta (which needs to be done as others stated), your tank is WAY overstocked. The general rule for stocking is 1 inch of fish per gallon, or 10 inches of fish in your 10 gallon tank. Your fish adult sizes are as follows:
Opaline Gourami--4.5 in
Cories--2-3 in x 3 = 6-9 in
Tetras--2 in x 4 = 8 in
Loaches--3-4 in x 2 = 6-8 in
TOTAL--around 30 inches (not including Betta)
Which would need a 30 gallon tank, or 3 10 gallon tanks, to house your fish (again not including betta)

However, there are still a few problems. Since your GouramI will get pretty big, he needs at least a 20-30 gallon tank. Also, I don't know much about gouramis, but he may not be compatible with all your fish. I would guess after he killed your Betta (which could happen if you leave him in there) he may start picking on your cories and tetras. Gouramis can be bullies and you need to be careful who to put them with. I suggest you post on the GouramI board for suggestions about what to do with him since I don't know much about gouramis. However, for sure he can NOT stay in the 10 gallon.

Your Cardinal tetras are also not suitable for a 10 gal. First of all, they need to be kept in a shoal of at very least 6 fish. In smaller groups they are insecure and unhappy. A shoal of 6 Cardinals adds up to 12 inches, which is too much for a 10 gal. But beside that, tetras are very active fish and I would say Cardinals need more swimming space than a 10 gal. Also, just so you know you shouldn't keep tetras with Bettas because they tend to be nippy.

It may be that you could keep the tetras and gouramI together. However, first check as I am not sure that the gouramI wouldn't do the same thing to your tetras he did to your betta.

The Cories and Betta are fine together and they could be put in their own 10 gallon. They would get along and not overstock the tank. If you plan on keeping the Betta in a 5 gallon tank (the smallest suitable size of tank for a betta), then there is not room for them in there. I would hesitate to leave the cories with the gouramI as cories tend to be sensitive to bullying and I would hate to see them killed or injured.

The hillstream loaches are probably compatible with all the fish you have (except not positive about the gourami)...except that your betta needs 80 degree water while hillstreams are actually only semi-tropical and don't like temps over 75.

If you hear from people that the gouramI should be fine with the other fish, and only is aggressive towards other anabantoids (such as your Betta), then I might recommend the following:

29 gallon tank @ 75 degrees with:
1 Opaline Gourami
2 Hillstream Loaches
6 Cardinal tetras
+ a few more fish of choice, perhaps more hillstreams or cardinals, just make SURE they are all compatible and don't overstock the tank

10 gallon @ 80 degrees with:
1 Betta
3 Cories

Now just one more thing, I promise. You should really chuck the under gravel filter. All they do is suck junk under the gravel, where it will be nearly impossible to clean when the filter gets clogged. Since you need to move your betta to another tank to medicate, and move most others to a bigger tank, all you would have to do is temporarily put the Cories in a separate container with the heater and filter, and strip down the tank, chuck UGF, put stuff back in and then back in go the Cories, if you plan on keeping them in that same 10 gallon tank. And you know about the nitrogen cycle right?

Well, I really hope Polaris gets better and I'm sorry this happened to him. Don't hesitate to ask questions. and I nearly forgot to say.......Welcome to Fishlore!!!!!!!!! ;D
  • Thread Starter


Thanks for your advice, here’s what’s happening. I moved Polaris to a new 5.5 gal tank with a heater, which will probably be his permanent home. I moved some gravel from the old tank to the new one, and also transferred some of the water from old to new, rather than putting him through the shock of completely different water.  He's perked up a lot, and seems to really like the new location on my desk where he can watch me. In fact, he's reading the computer screen right now. Though he does seem a little lonely by himself. Perhaps in a week or two I'll give him a friend (a very kind one). Being a college student, don’t have room for a big tank in my dorm, but I think I can get by with the 10 gallon and the new 5.5 gallon tank. I’ve been really enjoying the relaxation of watching my fish while I study.

Some other thoughts; it seems that what was bothering Polaris was the Gourami, so should I still put the maracyn in his tank? Or should I get some of the "fin grow" stuff I've seen on the market to help in that way? Also, since the 5.5 gal is sort of functioning as a medical tank and probably shouldn't have any outside influence, I'm wondering, would it be okay/safe to put a small plant in and perhaps a small rock? I was thinking a Dwarf Anubias, as I have one in the 10 gal, and it's been a cast-iron plant, and stayed pretty small (as I would hope a dwarf plant would ) Right now Polaris's tank is very bare, as it only has a bit of gravel and a small piece of aquarium driftwood I had on hand. If possible, I'd like to spruce it up a bit and make it an interesting place for him to live.

One of the other things I think I'm going to do is put the GouramI up for adoption. I'd love to keep him, but he may be too aggressive for either tank. Fortunately, the local Petco has a great adoption program; I periodically see fish in there for adoption, and my parents were even able to adopt a large Golden Pleco for their 30 gal at home. So while I hate to see him go, I'm sure the gouramI will find another home where he'll be happier (and my other fish will be too since he'll be gone).

Thanks for all your help!


Oh goodness yes he can have a cave or rock and as many plants and little homey touches as you want to give him. I know he would be oh so happy with a tall plant that he could sleep in. They have to go to the surface to breathe through their Labyrinth organ every little bit and I think a tall plant that goes close to the surface for him to sleep in is wonderful as it is a gift of love to a sleepy little buddy so he can just go a short ways to the top to breathe and then slip down onto the plant to go back to sleep.

Yes he still needs to be medicated and Please no Fin Grow stuff. I think he probably has had those fins chewed and ripped and they need an antibiotic. They will grow back pretty well on their own with a clean and warm and medicated environment. (with clean and warm being the most important of the things.) NO Melafix in case you have not seen the article at the top of the Betta Board posts. Melafix and Pimafix are dangerous drugs to use on all Labyrinth organ fishes and 2 of us lost our bettas because of these meds.

The Dwarf or Petite Anubias are lovely plants, my favorite plants in the world but hard to find. The bettas love them and like to use them for a little chair or pillow.

Your decision to put the gouramI up for adoption sounds like a good one as once a fish becomes a bully, they do not tolerate other fish at all. I am afraid that removing the betta would only make him shift his attention to the other fish.

Take care and keep us informed of your progress and let us know how Polaris is doing for sure!

  • Thread Starter


The Dwarf Anubias is one of my favorite plants too. Fortunately, the LFS one town over has them, so I'll make a run tomorrow.

Another question, while you're online. I've read about the problems with Melafix. I have some medicine on hand called "Fungus Clear" by Jungle Labs. It clears up fungus, finrot, hemorrhagic septicemia, clamped fins, and dropsy. I've used this a few times before with Polaris in the tank and haven't had any problems, but after the Melafix scare I want to ask, is it safe to be using with bettas? If it helps, the active ingredients are nitrofurazone, furazolidone, and potassium dichromate. The website is



I have it, I use it, I like it. It is safe and the first thing to try for finrot when it is not bad. But for bad cases or advanced tearing or such they need an antibiotic like Maracyn2 or if this does not work then the next step is Maracyn.

  • Thread Starter


Great, I'll put it in right away. Thanks!
  • Thread Starter


HI everyone, here's an update.

Polaris is doing fine in his new tank; he now has a full bed of gravel (rinsed thoroughly beforehand), a dwarf anubias, and a tank ornament with several holes in it for him to swim through, and with a very tall (and very rediculous looking) silk plant coming out of it. I'd get rid of the plant, but it's tall enough that he can sleep in it at the surface of the water, and besides, its loud colors are sort of amusing to look at. Fortunately, Polaris doesn't seem to mind the color scheme

He's even happy enough that he's building a bubble nest! And his fins are looking much much better!

He also has a new 50W Visi-therm Stealth Heater (I absolutely love these; they're so easy to use and do a great job). For the filter, I'm using a Fluval 1plus that I pulled out of my 10 gal. I then put a new filter (same kind) in the 10 gal. I did this for two reasons. I figured that since Polaris's tank hasn't been through the nitrogen cycle, the previously established bacteria colonies could help with the cycling process. Also, since the 10 gal has been established for five months, and has an undergravel filter (which was working very well in there long before I decided to put the Fluval in), it wouldn't be hit so hard by adding a new filter. I also added some extra filter foam in the nozzle of the filter to slow down the current after I saw some of the posts here about bettas being swept away.

Unfortunately, I've run into a new set of problems. Since Polaris's tank is on my desk, and my desk sits under a window, it's getting direct sunlight during the day. As a result, I'm seeing the first signs of (massive) algae growth; it's filmy and clear at the moment and clings to everything. I'm sure it'll be a very pretty green in a few days.  There's nowhere else in my room I can put the tank, and if I close the window, I lose my source of light for my room (the lamp doesn't do a whole lot). I know that sun+water=algae problem waiting to happen, but does anyone have any advice?

The bigger problem though relates to the nitrogen cycle. Since this was an emergency situation, there was no time to cycle the tank. I've done what I can by adding the established filter, but my water parameters are still way off. My readings from the liquid master test kit are:

Nitrates: 10-20 ppm (depending on the light you read it by)
Nitrites: 5ppm
Ammonia: 0-.25ppm

Seeing as the tank is just beginning to cycle, these aren't very surprising. But I'm at a loss as to what to do about Polaris. I know that bettas are very hearty fish, and he seems fine and cheery (what with building the bubble nest and all), but I don't want the high level of NO2 and NO3 (and eventually the ammonia) to make him sick. I have a few options. 1.) I could leave him in his current tank, keep a close watch on him, and do frequent water changes. 2.) I could add some Amquel Plus to the water to try and bring the readings down, but I don't know what this will do to the cycling process. 3.) I could move him back into the 10 gal (which has normal readings), and move the gouramI into the 5.5 gal (haven't had a chance to adopt him out yet). The problem with this is that the rapid change in water paramaters could very well kill the gourami.

Any and all advice is appreciated. Because of your help, Polaris is alive and happy, and he and I are very greatful.


~Kelly and Polaris


You can keep him in his current (new) tank but you need to do daily water changes of about 40-50% to keep the levels safe for him until his tank is cycled. Don't use any Amquel yet as this will just slow down the cycle. Water changes daily should keep Polaris safe. I wouldn't switch him with the gouramI as there is still other fish like the tetras which could cause him problems in the old tank.
As for the algae, you need to keep sunlight away from his tank. If you cannot move it then the blinds/curtains need to stay closed. Could you buy yourself a cheap lamp for extra light in the room or a stronger bulb in the one you have? Use an aquarium algae sponge or even a piece of filter floss to wipe the algae off the inside of the tank glass every few days. Don't let it get a strong foothold. Once the tank is cycled you could get yourself a couple of Otos to keep the tank clean. They are gentle and harmless to Bettas.

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