Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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Aoffke 01-23-2008 01:28 PM

Betta w/ raised scales. Dropsy?
My female betta is sick. Here is the story:

I have a 6.6 gallon AquaVista "picture frame" tank. I got it for christmas, and rather than do the right thing and let it cycle, I put fish in early like the instructions said (mistake #1). Put in 2 female bettas and a dwarf gourarmi.

Kept watching the tank chemistry and everything looked fine. I know it's supposed to take 4 weeks or so for a tank to cycle, but being a beginner I followed the instructions and put the fish in after only letting the thing cycle fishless (no ammonia source) for two days.

Anyways, after two weeks, I decided to put two more fish in, because the dwarf gourami was looking pretty lonely. Got another dwarf gourami and a cory cat.

Next day, I check the tank chemistry. Didn't have an ammonia test at th etime, but nitrites were about 3ppm and nitrates about 15-20ppm. This freaked me out, because a few days prior both were reading about zero. I now understand a bit more about the nitrogen cycle, and tossing those two extra fish in there probably made the nitrites skyrocket.

So I got afraid for the fish, as 3ppm nitrites is terrible. I decide to do some emergency water changing. And, also being a beginner, I was stupid and used distilled water (the original water was conditioned tap water). So I did a 30% water change. I didn't have an external thermometer at the time, so I just tested water temps by hand to match the tank temperature (~77F/25C). The digital temp gauge on the tank didn't change when I added the water. Retested nitrites and they were down to about 2.5. Did another 30% water change about 30 minutes later. Nitrites down to about 2. And another 30% change 30% later, down to about 1.2. I did one more change and got it down to about 1. The last two changes were with conditioned tap water, because I ran out of distilled. I now know that using distilled water is a bad idea....

Before I went to bed, I dropped an ammonia clear tablet in the water. I know those things are sorta bogus, but I figured it couldn't hurt. All this time the fish are acting entirely normal.

Next morning (monday of this week), I check the tank and one of the bettas is laying on the bottom barely moving. I can't get her to respond, so I try moving her with a stick, and she moves about a half inch and then just lays on the bottom again. She wouldn't swim around at all, except a couple of times to the surface to breathe pure air. I also notice that her scales seem the very slightest bit raised but only around her abdomen. And her abdomen is quite swollen. Also one of her eyes was bulging.

I check the tank and the nitrites are down to about 0.4. I decide she is sick and put her in a hospital tank, and turn the temperature up to 82F. I put marcyn and marcyn two in the water (two days of treatment so far), and last night I put some epsom salt in the water. Her eye bulging has gone away, but the scales are very raised now, and seem to be getting more raised. But every so often she swim around entirely normally, only to eventually lay on the bottom or sit at the top breathing air.

Here are pics of her from a few moments ago:

Looks like dropsy to me from the pics I see on the web. She was always the pig and overate all the time (frozen bloodworms), so maybe she ate way too much protein and her kidneys were freaked? And then the water change + distilled water stressed her out and she got sick? Any ideas?

I figure she's pretty much going to to to fish heaven soon... but I'd like to figure out what I did to cause this, because I certainly don't want to do it again. All of the other fish in the tank are still entirely healthy.

okiemavis 01-23-2008 01:58 PM

That definitely looks like dropsy, and it sounds like you're doing all you can for this fish. Dropsy can be caused by poor water conditions, but it can also randomly pop up. I'd say in this case that it was caused by the water conditions, nitrates are so hard on fish.

Aoffke 01-23-2008 02:08 PM

Yeah I'm a little confused about the chemistry readings. Originally I was using some jungle labs 6 in 1 test strips, and that's how I noticed the high readings.

But I bought an API liquid master test kit, and now I have been using that. But I don't know which one to trust. For example, I just tested the main tank with the strips, and it read about 0.5 nitrites. But I tested with the API kit, and it read 0. I'd think the liquid kit would be more accurate?

okiemavis 01-23-2008 03:31 PM

Yeah, test strips are awful. I fully cycled tank will have nitrite readings. It's nitrates that are the very dangerous ones. I'd trust the liquid test kit, you'll get nitrite readings as high as 10ppm in a healthy fully cycled tank.

Aoffke 01-23-2008 03:57 PM

I thought the toxicity levels were something like:

ammonia > nitrite > nitrate

Which would make sense... NH3 has a free electron pair, NO2 is sharing one of its bonds across two oxygens, and NO3 is sharing it across 3 oxygens. Or am I crazy?

Aoffke 01-25-2008 12:33 AM

Unfortunately, blanche (the betta) was looking miserable today. She seemed to be in immense pain. She had lodged herself between the heater wire and the tank and was breathing straight air. When aroused, she was acting erratic.

Having not shown any improvement during 4 days of antibiotic and epsom salt treatment, we decided to put her down.

We put her in a glass of tank water, and slowly added vodka until she stopped breathing. I hope this was a humane way for her to go. We wanted to use clove oil, but didn't know where to source it. Didn't want her to suffer any longer, so we decided it was her time.


So sad over a $3 fish, but it is still a living being that was relying on me to stay alive. :(

okiemavis 01-25-2008 11:48 AM

So sorry for your loss. Just another reminder of how screwed up the fish business is to tell you it's ok to stock your brand new tank like that! I hope all your other fish do well and it sounds like you took the best care of that betta that anyone could have!

jeaninel 01-25-2008 12:29 PM

So sorry to hear about your betta. :cry:

Just wanted to add that ammonia and nitrites are the toxic ones and should read 0 on a cycled tank. Nitrates should be kept under 40 ppm (under 20 being even better).

SST 01-25-2008 12:44 PM

I'm so sorry. It's always hard to lose a pet.

Aoffke 01-26-2008 05:51 AM

Thanks for the kind words. I truly appreciate it.

The fish in the main tank seem healthy... but every few days those jungle lab s dip strips show about 2ppm nitrite. The API liquid test shows 0 nitrite and 0 ammonia...

I want to trust the API test, but if I treat with Amquel Plus even the jungle labs strips show 0 nitrite. Not sure what's going on.

I'm new to this, but I wish the products sold were a little more consistent, accurate, and honest :(

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