Sick Betta Fish

How to Treat a Sick Betta Fish?

Just like every other pet, your betta fish can fall ill. However, it is difficult to transport fist to a vet or even find a vet that will be able to treat your fish. Therefore, you will have to diagnose and treat your fish for most ailments. Most of the time, treating betta is not very difficult and the medications are often below $10 USD.

The treatment you need for your betta will depend on the type of ailment that is affecting your betta. Fortunately, these ailments are very different from one another and can normally be diagnosed by a beginner. Many different medications can be used to treat the same thing, but we will list the most effective medications. You must make sure to dose the proper amount of medicine because the side effects of an overdose can be worse than the illness.

In this article, we will discuss common betta illnesses, why you should have medications on hand, which medication to have on hand, determining the type of illness, abnormal illnesses, and how to dose medication.

Common Betta Illnesses

Fin rot- betta fish have long and flowing fins, but because their fins are so long, the ends of them have poor circulation. This easily leads to fin rot, in which the end of the fin rots in a jagged looking fashion. You can treat it with simple water changes and the addition of an Indian Almond leaf. You can treat aggressive strains with antibacterial medications, most anything except Melafix should work.

Pop Eye- Pop eye occurs when one or both of the betta’s eyes is bulging. Bad water quality normally causes this, so if you test any ammonia or nitrite, or your nitrates are over twenty, changing the water frequently should clear it up. Otherwise, you will need a moderately strong antibacterial medication, such as Erythromycin.

Dropsy- dropsy is a symptom of kidney failure in fish characterized by pine coning scales, extreme swelling, and bulging eyes. Most fish die from this condition and the prognosis is very poor. The only treatment is a mix of Kanaplex and the addition of unscented Epsom salt to the main tank at a rate of 1 tablespoon per 5 gallons.

Velvet- velvet is a parasite that often affects bettas. It causes a gold reflective sheen on the side of your betta and needs to be treated with parasitic medications. Medications for internal parasites will not work for this, but medications that work for external parasites should. API General Cure should treat both forms of parasites and is a good medication to use.

Swim Bladder Disorder- the swim bladder is an organ that allows fish to move up and down in the water column. Once the organ stops working, the fish will either float or sink. The best treatment is fasting for 3 days, feeding frozen daphnia, or the use of Epsom salt.

Why Have Medications on Hand?

Some diseases move extremely quickly, and it is essential to have medication on hand. It is easiest to have medications for all major types of illnesses on hand to make treating the fish more effectively.

If you only have one betta, you will need different medications than if you have your betta in a large community tank or a sorority. Since fish are prone to different diseases to others, keeping your betta in a community tank will open it up to more diseases than keeping it in a sorority.

In addition, keeping your betta alone will keep it safer than keeping it in a sorority. Sorority tanks are tanks that are at least 20 gallons (20 long preferred, 20 highs do not work) and contain more than five female bettas. Less than five female bettas will lead to a failed tank, as there are not enough bettas to spread out the aggression.

Due to the harassment that your betta will experience in a sorority, it will end up with some injuries. Any open wound can become infected with bacteria or have fungus set in. The Fungus can only set in on dead flesh, so the fish would have to suffer a bad injury or bacterial infection in order to see fungus set in.

Bacteria are constantly in the water and are extremely opportunistic. However, most fish have very strong immune systems so only one with a damaged immune system would develop an issue. Unfortunately, betta fish that become stressed, whether they are in a community tank, a solo tank, or a sorority, can become infected.

Which Medications to Always Have on Hand

Having something to treat bacterial infections is always a good idea. Tropical bacterial infections, which are the type your betta would most likely get, tend to move very quickly due to high water temperatures.

Once your fish is showing signs of a bacterial infection, you will have to treat it quickly. Infections can cause serious issues, such as Dropsy. As previously mentioned, dropsy is a symptom of kidney failure with a very low survival rate, so fast treatment is essential if you want to try and save your fish.

Columnaris is another fast-moving disease that looks like a puffy fungus. It most often starts on the back, mouth, or other body parts of the fish.

Bettas are not overly prone to this disease, but they are not immune to it. Since they are separated in cups, they will likely die before they can make it to the store if they have fast moving Columnaris.

Fast moving Columnaris will kill a fish in 12-48 hours on average and can wipe out a full tank in a week. Waiting for medicine to arrive may cause you to lose all your fish, as they may all have Columnaris by that point. Slow moving columnaris takes 24-72 hours to kill a fish, and most of them will show symptoms, unlike the fast strain.

In order to treat both dropsy and columnaris, you can use Kanaplex. For columnaris, a mix of Furan 2 and Kanaplex is the best combo to use. In terms of parasites, PraziPro and API General Cure are all you should need for the common parasites. For fungus, methylene blue is the best to use, but hydrogen peroxide can also come in handy.

Determining the Type of Illness

When it comes to “fungus” looking things, it will most likely be a bacterium. However, if you noticed an injury on your fish that then developed fungus on it, it is probably a true fungus. Unless your fish had a previous injury or infection, the chances of it being a fungus are incredibly low.

Since any fungus looking bacteria could be columnaris, you should begin to treat your whole tank immediately. At the very least, use Kanaplex, but if you notice other symptoms or your fish are deteriorating right before your eyes, use Furan 2 as well.

Dropsy will cause swelling all over the body, and scales will stick out to the side. On the other hand, severe bloat in betta will look more like there is a marble stuck in your betta’s belly. The scales will lay flat on the body.

In terms of parasites, most external ones are easily identifiable. Does your betta have a rapidly spreading metallic sheen that reflects light? It’s velvet. Does your betta have a thread on its side with two ends sticking out of it? It’s an anchor worm.

In terms of internal parasites, these can be more difficult to identify, as the symptoms are often very general. Symptoms can include lethargy, excessive eating, not wanting to eat, laying on the bottom excessively, and other things that could be any illness. The one thing that could point to internal parasites are clear poop or white poop.

However, all those symptoms could also be the result of a poor diet, so you should examine what you feed your fish first. If you feed a good variety of high protein and low-fat foods, it is probably internal parasites, which should be medicated with PraziPro.

Abnormal illnesses

Some illnesses are not very common in the hobby, but they are still something to be aware of. For bettas, the most common abnormal illness is tumors. Bettas are unfortunately prone to tumors and cancers, and these are only treatable by surgery, but they are not always fatal.

Lymphocystis is an uncommon viral infection that does not currently have a cure. It causes many lumps to appear all over the fish, and these could interfere with vital areas. This is contagious, so you should separate any fish showing signs of this.

How to Dose Medicine

Dosing normal store-bought medication is rather self-explanatory. The bottle will tell you the amount to dose and whether or not it needs to be diluted or dissolved beforehand. However, home remedies like hydrogen peroxide and Epsom salt are not as straightforward.

For hydrogen peroxide, you will need a Q-tip and a net. Dip the Q-tip in hydrogen peroxide, lift your fish out of the water, swab the affected region, hold it out of the water for 10-15 seconds, then place your fish back in the aquarium. Your fish should only be out of the water for 20-25 seconds if done correctly.

Epsom salts need to be unscented for aquarium use. For the main aquarium, dissolve 1 tablespoon for every 5 gallons of aquarium water in a separate container. Once it is fully dissolved, add it slowly over 10 minutes to the tank. Epsom salt has no impact on the salinity of the water, but it rapidly raises the gH and magnesium content of the water.

For baths, dissolve 1 tablespoon per 1 gallon of water in a separate container. Move in the fish you want to treat for 10-15 minutes and watch your fish closely. If it seems extremely stressed, disorientated, or begins to defecate, remove it back to the aquarium immediately.

In conclusion, there are many illnesses that betta fish are prone to. Luckily, most are easily treatable, but some require very fast treatment, and ordering medications may take too long. It is a good idea to always have some medications on hand, just in case, as fast-moving infections that cause kidney failure and dropsy can occur at any point in a fish’s life.

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