My betta has a bulge in it's side - Page 2 - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #11 of 15 Old 06-16-2008, 10:44 AM
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I'm here, sorry it took so long. So far, very very good advice from the group! I am more than impressed, and encourage you to take their words to heart.
It does indeed sound like a bacterial infection, though a picture would help to further diagnose this properly.

A few important notes for you about keeping a betta.
1. bettas are solitary fish, and do best alone. They are extemely aggressive, especially with other bettas, and that would explain his having eaten his tankmates. I'm surprised Petco didn't at least warn you about that.

2. bettas are quite temperature sensitive, and while some climates will allow for no heater in their tank, most still require it just to keep it steady. Bettas thrive most in temps of 80 - 83, but the important thing is that the temp be steady. Without a heater, unless the room they are in is very warm year round, temp controlled, it's not possible to keep their temp steady. Room temps will fluctuate with day & night changes, even in southern CA. I lived in Barstow for a few years, so I understand the climate in southern CA, and yes... there can be significant temp changes from day to night even there. Constant and/or rapid temp fluctuations will weaken a fish's immune system, which leaves them prone to illness.

3. There should be no need for any type of air stone in a betta tank. Betta's are air breathers, so they need to be able to reach the surface to breathe. They belong to a group of fishes called labyrinth fish. The labyrinth gland is what allows them to breathe air instead of pulling water through the gills to get oxygen. Most bettas prefer a very still environment. The circulation from an air stone can cause stress, which also weakens the immune system.

4. Water changes are extremely important. Bettas are strong fish, but there is still a limit to what they can withstand. The smaller the container the more often water changes need to be done. In 1 gallon or less, without filter, the water should be changed at least twice/wk, though it is much safer to do at least a partial change every other day.

5. While this is a great group of people here on the forum, I don't always agree with everything that is said. The required feeding of twice/day is not something most bettas need unless they are fry (babies). Once/day is plenty, whatever he can finish within 1 - 2 minutes. A betta has a very small stomach, and over feeding will cause a number of problems, though I've not known constipation to be one of them. Polluted water is the worst part of over feeding, but a fish needs time to digest what he has eaten. Feeding once/day and a water change every other day will ensure that he has time to digest his food properly and will keep the waste levels down to a minumum.

6. Water testing is very important, but the good part about a betta is that they tolerate 100% water changes very well... provided the changes are done frequent enough so that water params are never "bad".

7. Most bettas also don't tolerate a filter running, again... a stress issue. If working with a small enough filter, preferably something you can control the flow on, then it can be known to work, and this will reduce the need for such frequent water changes.

In your situation, I see a number of things that have probably played into the problem. The lack of water changes is the #1, temp fluctuations would be #2. Dirty water will expose your fish to bacterial and fungal issues, and temp fluctuations will make him more vulnerable to both of those things, as will water that isn't warm enough.

I really don't like to give out medication suggestions until we are positive of what we're treating for, but in your case I am going to suggest a combination of methylene blue and fungus eliminator. If he is in a plastic/acrylic tank, it would be a good idea to move him to a glass bowl for the 10 days of treatment, or upgrade him to a small glass tank of 5 gallons or less.
Get a bucket, mix the meds into a bucket of water, dosing both according to directions on the bottles. Methylene blue is 1 drop per gallon, fungus eliminator is 1 tsp for each 5 gallons. The easiest way to dose this is using a 5 - 6 gallon bucket. Measure the water going in, please be sure not to overdose these medications. Mix meds into bucket of water and then let sit for 10 minutes, then mix again to be sure everything is thoroughly dissolved and mixed. Use the medicated water to do a 100% water change daily. Once mixed the water is good for 48 hrs, or 2 changes, then must be remixed fresh.
Continue this treatment for a full 10 days, even if your fish appears to be doing better before then.

These types of bacterial infections can be difficult to get rid of, so I can't promise you a 100% success rate. It will depend on how strong your fish is, how serious and advanced the infection is, and age. Average life span for a betta is 3 - 5 yrs, so he is getting up there in age already. I have seen some very sick fish recover from these infections, but that was when all criteria listed above for their conditions was met.

The meds I suggested will be useful in the future should you attempt to keep another betta. This is a great combination of preventive meds that are potent and still safe for a betta. If he's not sick, they won't hurt him, will simply give his immune system a boost. If he is sick, these 2 medications together will treat most of the bacterial and fungal issues bettas are most prone to. Standard treatment is 10 days, but longer treatments can sometimes be needed. Hang onto those meds once you get them, every betta owner should have those 2 things on hand. Any new betta coming home from the store should spend the first 10 days on that treatment.

With all that said, I also have to mention one more thing before I go. The deal with constipation has arisen again, as I read a suggestion to feed your betta peas to relieve it. Please don't do this! Bettas are carinvores, which means they eat meat. Their pellet foods are made of primarily meaty ingredients to ensure they have good nutrition. The digestive tract of a betta is not designed to handle heavy vegetable matter, such as peas. While the fish may eat the peas, that does not make it good for him. Babies eat candy, that doesn't make it healthy. I don't know who started the whole idea of feeding a betta peas to relieve constipation, but I strongly warn everyone against it. Peas act as a laxative. Imagine making castor oil a regular part of your child's diet... or running for it everytime your child fails to poop on schedule. All that does is mess up the stomach and digestive tract, and the end result is an early and very painful death in the fish.

It sounds to me like you got some very poor help at Petco, which doesn't surprise me. Most of those people don't know squat about fish, and the few who actually do, most of those know very little. You have gotten some good advice here thus far, I hope it's enough to teach you what Petco should have taught you from the start.
Best of luck to you and Petal!
If you need more help or have further questions, please ask.

Dawn Moneyhan
Aquatics Specialist/Nutritionist
Juneau, WI
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post #12 of 15 Old 06-16-2008, 10:36 PM Thread Starter
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betta with the bubble

Thanks everyone for all of your great and well needed advice. And thank you bettababy for responding so quickly. Ok, I had the water tested and it reads as such: Ammonia 0.25, which was in the middle of the "good" category, Nitrates-10 and safe, Nitrites-0, water hardiness-150, alkilinity(help me with the spelling!)-160, and pH-78, a little high. I couldn't find any methylene blue but I know what it is so I will start calling stores to see who carries it. But I did get some fungus eliminator. Should I wait until I have the meth blue(hopefully by tomorrow) or should I start using it solo? As for a photo, like I said I'm a complete computer know-nothing so I've got the picture, now I just need to figure out how to attach it to this. The bubble is the same size still so at least it's not growing.
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post #13 of 15 Old 06-16-2008, 11:00 PM
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If you have the ability to get the methylene blue in the next day or so, wait and use them together. Changing medications mid course can have adverse effects, and just 1 of those 2 meds is not going to cure something like this alone. I have done a lot of years of research, and yes, experimenting, with these meds and these kinds of health problems in bettas, among others. Working at the store gave me a great opportunity to save as many as I could, and to find out what worked and what didn't, and why the results were the way they were. Overall, the end result and the reason I suggest keeping these 2 meds together for this, the active ingredients in these medications is the key to their potency, while still being safe. Most of the medications used for this sort of illness are simply not potent enough alone, and not safe to mix with each other to have the desired effect. There has been only 1 other medication that worked this well for the bettas, called Nitrofura G, but the company who made it went out of business years ago. When that happened, I was forced to find the equivelant in ingredients to help the bettas that came in. Our betta shipments averaged 150 - 200/wk, and when I started this med treatment in the store, the death rate went from 50 - 60 losses each wk to 0, and provided we were treating for bacterial and fungal infection problems, that is a pretty good success rate, and it was long standing.

I explained that so you have an idea of what is really at play here. I don't expect people to just take my word for everything, and it's a good opportunity for everyone to learn a little bit about meds and bettas.

Your water params with the .25 ammonia level.... let me guess this was done using a strip test? I say that based on the "range" u listed as being safe, and also the specific tests that were listed as being done. For starters, strip tests are extremely inaccurate. Most importantly here, the toxic level for ammonia, the level that is considered unsafe... anything detectable on a test. Ammonia in any amount is toxic, as is nitrite.
I see nothing wrong with your pH reading, either. 7.8 is fine for a betta unless it is wild caught. If this is a colorful fish with long fancy fins, then it is captive bred, and most captive bred bettas now are being spawned in pH of anywhere from 7.2 - 8.0. Provided the pH is steady, there is no danger in 7.8 for a betta.

Dawn Moneyhan
Aquatics Specialist/Nutritionist
Juneau, WI
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post #14 of 15 Old 06-17-2008, 01:48 AM
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Just a note on the pea.

I don't think anyone here (at least, this is my hope) recommends the use of peas as a regular supplement to a betta's diet. The laxative properties of the pea are the exact reason it's recommended to people with constipated bettas.

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post #15 of 15 Old 06-22-2008, 11:17 PM Thread Starter
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betta with the side bubble

I can't believe how hard it was to find methylene blue! After calling numerous pet and fish stores I was finally able to get some yesterday. The good news is that Petals still doesn't seem to be showing any adverse affects to this "bubble" under his skin and it's not getting any bigger. Now to see if I can clear this up. I'll let you guys all know if this gets better or not after treatment. Thanks everyone for all your help, thank you bettababy!
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