How to Spot and Treat Common Betta Fish Diseases
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Keeping a Betta fish is one of the more colorful experiences in the fish keeping world but it can also be particularly challenging. Unlike other pets, keeping a Betta fish can be frustrating because your fish cannot communicate its needs. There are a number of common Betta fish diseases. Find out how they can be identified and what should be done to treat them. Read on to find out what signs you should be looking out for to ensure that your Betta fish does not get sick.
Timing is Everything
There are a wide variety of Betta fish diseases and while it may seem to the untrained eye that the symptoms of these diseases are similar, often times they can be distinguished when you know what you are looking for. Becoming educated in regards to the health of your Betta is one of the biggest steps that you must take in order to ensure that your fish remains healthy. Something else that is just as crucial however, is timing. Knowing what to look for when your Betta fish is feeling under the weather is important but so too is having the appropriate medications on hand in order to treat your Betta as soon as possible. Many of the common Betta fish diseases are fast-moving and it is important that once you ascertain that your Betta is in need of medical care, that you have the appropriate treatment on hand in order to stop the progression of the disease in question. Timing is everything when it comes to treating any Betta fish disease.
Create Your Betta Fish First Aid Kit
Like most pet owners you are likely to already be attached to your Betta fish which means that you are prepared to care for it like you would any other pet, this means that you should always have a first aid kit handy for your fish. It may sound absurd to create a first aid kit for a Betta fish but the truth of the matter is that the medications most often required to treat Betta fish diseases are not available in most pet stores. If the time comes that your Betta fish is ill we have already discussed the importance of timing and this means that mail order medication for your fish’s treatment may take too long to arrive in order to treat your fish before it expires. As a responsible Betta fish owner you should always have a basic first aid kit available to treat the most common Betta fish diseases.
What Should Be Included in a Betta First Aid Kit?
To make things simple a number of Betta fish experts actually sell premade Betta fish first aid kits that can be purchased online; however, if you choose to put together your own first aid kit you should think about including the following products:
BettaZing or Bettamax
BettaZing and Bettamax are anti-parasitic, anti-fungal and anti-protozoan medications that are great when used as a preventative medication to prevent the development of clamped fins or velvet fins. This medication should be applied as a preventative measure any time you acclimate a Betta to a new environment or anytime you add a new Betta fish to your tank.
Most top of the line fish stores will carry Kanamycin, an antibiotic that is most commonly used for more serious bacterial infections that your Betta fish may contract.
Tetracyclin is available from a number of pet stores and is also used as an antibiotic to treat bacterial infections. Where Kanamycin is used to treat more serious bacterial infections, Tetracyclin is used more often for less serious bacterial infections.
Ampicillin is another antibiotic worth carrying in your Betta fish first aid kit and is available in specialty fish stores as well as online. Ampicillin is used for gram positive infections, some gram negative infections and pop-eye.
Jungle Fungus Eliminator
Jungle Fungus Eliminator is an anti-fungal treatment that can be purchased online or from fish specialty stores. This treatment is generally used for a number of fungus infections and is particularly useful to keep on hand for any Betta fish owner.
Maracin 1 and Maracin 2
Maracin 1 and Maracin 2 come in hard tablet form and are both anti-fungal and antibiotic treatments. These medications are utilized when your Betta fish has contracted a mild infection like fin rot but they are not as effective as some of the other medications listed when it comes to the more serious infections.
How to Treat a Sick Betta Fish
Chris Simms from Aquatic Central in San Francisco, CA explains how to treat a sick Betta fish. You need to identify the illness (fungal ailment) and administer a treatment (curing the fungus).
Recognizing Signs of a Sick Betta Fish
The first step in treating any Betta fish disease is to recognize when a Betta fish is sick, this can be particularly difficult due to the limited communication that Betta fish can provide to their owners. There are, however, behaviors that healthy Betta fish exhibit and the first sign of a potentially sick Betta fish is a change in these behaviors. Below are some signs that you should watch for that may suggest a sick Betta fish:
- A fish that stays at the surface of the water in the corner of its tank.
- A fish that lies at the bottom of the tank and only comes to the surface to breathe.
- A fish that does not eat, does not show an “excited” reaction to being fed or a fish that spits out its food. It should be noted that some Betta fish pellet food can come in pellets that may be too large for your Betta fish, a healthy Betta may spit these out and wait for them to become soggy before trying to consume them a second time – this does not indicate a sick fish.
- A fish that appears to have “lost” its color or appears to be a much less vibrant colorful shade.
- A fish that appears to be scratching itself by rubbing against items in its tank.
- A fish that appears to have unusual sores or markings on its body that were not present previously.
- A fish whose tail or fins are no longer spread out and have the appearance of being unhealthy, closed or clumped together.
- A fish with gills that do not close completely due to inflammation, inflammation can also cause the gills to appear red in color.
- Swollen or protruding eyes.
- A swollen stomach or “hollow” appearing stomach.
- Raised scales that give your Betta the appearance of having a prickly texture.
A Betta fish that exhibits any of these signs should always be isolated from any other fish if it is being kept in a community aquarium because a number of common Betta fish diseases can be easily communicated from one fish to another. Having a disease pass from one fish to another is not only unfortunate for the fish involved and more expensive to treat but it is also a way for the disease to be contracted a second time by a fish that has already been effectively treated. If you have a Betta fish that has become ill that is kept in a community tank make sure that you do keep an eye on other fish in the tank for any signs of the disease in question being contracted by them.
ALWAYS wash your hands with an antibacterial soap if you handle a fish that has any type of illness or disease to ensure that you do not spread the disease from one fish to another – not to mention that this is the sanitary thing to do whenever you handle your fish.
Identifying Common Betta Fish Diseases
Only a licensed veterinarian or fish expert can identify particular Betta fish diseases accurately in order to treat them; however, a number of Betta fish diseases are so common that they can be readily identified by someone who has experienced them before or knows what to look for. With that said however, this information should not be taken as professional advice or utilized for diagnosis to treat a sick Betta fish.
Fin Rot and Tail Rot
Fin rot and tail rot are often classified together however, they may or may not both occur together. Tail or fin rot tend to be contracted by a Betta fish through contact with dirty water so it is important to ensure that you maintain a clean and healthy Betta fish tank. Fortunately for the Betta fish that contracts tail or fin rot damage done to the fins or tail is repairable if treatment is issued in a timely manner and fin and tail tissue will regrow (although it may not be as resplendent as it previously was.) A fish with fin or tail rot will exhibit a variety of symptoms but the most obvious are clumped fins or tail tissue or fin or tail tissue that appears to be disintegrating and disappearing little by little. This type of Betta fish disease should be treated with Ampicillin or Tetracycline and your Betta fish tank should be thoroughly cleaned and clean water should be used in the new tank. Ensure to treat the new water before filling the tank. A fungus eliminator should also be utilized in the new tank to ensure that your Betta begins recovery. It is important to be consistent with tank cleaning and water change when treating fin or tail rot, this should be done once every three days or so with medication being added with each water change. Once your Betta fish no longer shows signs of losing tissue on their tail or fins and begins to show signs of new growth you can resume a normal tank cleaning schedule.
Ich may sound funny but there is nothing funny about this parasite! This parasite is most commonly contracted by your fish through frozen live food and most commonly presents as small white dots on your fish’s body, head, tail and fins. Ich can be prevented by ensuring that you add a small amount of aquarium salt and Aquarisol to your Betta fish tank when maintaining your tank; however, if your fish does contract this parasite it should be treated quickly. Fishes with ich not only present with small white dots but
they also appear to be scratching themselves against items in the tank and may become less active than normal. Ich is an extremely contagious parasite and if one fish in a community tank has it there is an extremely high likelihood that other fish have it or will develop it so you should always treat the entire tank. Ich is most commonly treated by raising the temperature of the Betta fish tank; however, this can only be successfully done in tanks lager than 5 gallons since smaller tanks can quickly overheat killing your Betta fish. In larger tanks, temperatures of 85 degrees will quickly kill off the ich parasite. If heating the tank is not an option because of a smaller tank you should completely clean your tank, replace all water in the tank and treat with Aquarisol and aquarium salt. It is also commonly recommended to put your Betta fish in a holding container after cleaning the smaller tank and raising the temperature of the water to 85 degrees to kill any remaining parasites without risking overheating your Betta fish.
Fungus is common in tanks that are not treated with salt and Aquarisol when water is added. Once a single fish in a community tank contracts a fungal infection there is a high likelihood that another fish may also contract the fungal infection so it should be treated quickly when spotted. Betta fish that have fungal infections can appear to be a much more pale hue of their normal color, they may not be as active as they usually are and their fins may have a clumped appearance. A fish with a fungal infection can have patches of a white cotton-like appearance on their body. Eliminating fungus should begin with a full water change and treatment of the new water with a fungus eliminator, this type of medication will cause the water to change to a gold-like color, this is normal. Every three days the water in the tank should be replaced and a new dose of fungus eliminator should be administered. Once all visible signs of the fungal infection have disappeared ensure that you treat your tank with BettaZing or Bettamax to treat any trace signs of the fungal infection that may remain.
Popeye is one of the more noticeable diseases in Betta fish because as its name suggests, a fish with this disease will appear to have one or both eyes protruding from the head. Most commonly popeye develops from dirty tank water because it is a bacterial infection; however, popeye can also be the result of a much more serious illness. Most commonly when popeye does not respond to treatment it is a symptom of a much more serious disease like tuberculosis which is incurable and your Betta fish will be unable to survive. For the fish that has contracted popeye as a result of dirty tank water however, treatment can quickly remedy the bulging eyes that result from this disease. Treatment for popeye should be immediate in order to prevent any long-term damage or loss of sight in your fish. To treat popeye clean your tank and do a complete water change and add Ampicillin to the clean water. Clean water should be changed every three days and medication should continue to be added until one week after your fish’s popeye symptoms disappear.
Advanced Fin and Body Rot
Advanced fin and body rot is a case of regular fin rot that goes on for far too long. When regular fin rot is not treated or when it progresses extremely quickly it can be extremely difficult to stop. A fish with this disease will experience a loss of fin and body tissue as the rot progresses. Once the rot progresses on to body tissues there is very little that you can do to help your fish as the bacteria quickly eats your fish alive. In cases of extreme fin or body rot you may begin to see small bones protruding from your fish’s body. If the affected fish is not treated in time they will die quickly but this death likely causes the fish to suffer a lot of pain. It is occasionally possible to control the progress of advanced rot and the fish can continue to live while being treated.
Stopping advanced fin and body rot is difficult and you will need to completely change your fish’s water and combine a number of medications designed to treat fin rot. In cases of severe rot you may want to over medicate the water and then continue cleaning your fish’s water every three days adding new medication each time. Once your fish shows new growth in the fins and on the body you can switch to a medication designed to prevent bacteria from growing in the water again.
Velvet is a parasite that can be prevented completely by adding aquarium salt and water conditioner to your fish’s tank. Velvet is particularly contagious and if you have shared aquarium nets between tanks and have a case of velvet, you will want to ensure that you treat all of your fish for velvet. Velvet is completely treatable but it can be difficult to see in your fish. In order to check your fish for velvet you will want to shine a flashlight on your betta and if they have velvet you will see a fine mist over their body that looks gold or rusty in color. Betta fish that have velvet will clamp their fins to their body, will lose its color, will not eat normally and they will scratch against the gravel of the tank.
Velvet is a parasite and it can be treated. If you have a number of fish in a tank and one shows signs of velvet, it is best to treat all of the fish due to how contagious velvet is. A medication called BettaZing is effective at eliminating velvet completely.
Dropsy is seen often in betta fish and it is particularly fatal. Dropsy is most often contracted through the feeding of live food. Not a lot is known about dropsy other than the fact that it comes from feeding contaminated food. A betta fish with dropsy will present with raised scales as a result of a buildup of fluid underneath the fish’s scales. The buildup of fluid is the result of kidney failure and just as with any animal, once the betta fish’s kidneys fail, the fish will die. The bacteria that cause dropsy are very contagious and it is these bacteria that cause kidney failure. Spotting dropsy in your betta fish is relatively easy, your fish will have puffed out scales that look similar to pine cones and it may also appear to have a big bloated stomach.
There really is no known cure for dropsy but a good preventative is to avoid feeding worms to bettas. It is important if you have a betta that presents with dropsy, that you keep it away from other fish.
Swim Bladder Disorder
Swim bladder disorder is not contagious but it is a common illness among betta fish that comes as the result of overfeeding. Young bettas and double tailed bettas are susceptible to this illness. The swim bladder of the fish is located between the belly and the spine of the fish. When the betta fish has a swim bladder that is too short they will not be able to swim horizontally. When a betta fish has a swim bladder that is swollen they will float on one side. Many times when fish have shorter swim bladders they will prefer to lie at the bottom of the tank because swimming is too difficult.
A betta fish with a swim bladder disorder can recover by themselves but it is also important to pay attention to how much food you are feeding your fish. You should know that swim bladder disorder does not hurt the fish and at any point it can recover from this condition so you should not kill your fish out of “mercy.”
It is possible for a betta fish to contract external parasites in the pet store or from the foot that they are being fed or from other fish being introduced to the tank. It is usually possible to see parasites by looking closely at your fish. In the case of some parasites like anchor worms, you will have no problem spotting them. A fish that has external parasites will show symptoms of needing to scratch itself against anything it can find and it will not behave as it normally would showing signs of being uncomfortable in its tank.
If your betta fish shows signs of external parasites you will want to change out 70% of your fish tank’s water. Changing out a percentage of your fish’s water will help to reduce the population of the parasites and their eggs but it will not remove them all completely so it is important to treat the remaining water. After replenishing the water you will want to treat it with BettaZing, a product designed to clean the water and kill the remaining parasites and their eggs.
The Importance of Prevention
Prevention is the most important part of Betta fish diseases because prevention is much easier than treating or trying to cure Betta fish diseases. Most Betta fish diseases require a large amount of work in order to save your Betta fish from succumbing to the disease that they have contracted, most often this involves cleaning the tank and replacing your Betta’s water once every three days in addition to the application of medication. In most cases Betta fish diseases are easily preventable by maintaining a clean tank and feeding a healthy diet. There are, however, occasions where a Betta fish is purchased with a pre-existing disease or condition and in this case treatment is required in addition to taking preventative measures in the future. It is important to note that while prevention is the preferred method of “treatment” it is not always possible but purchasing a Betta fish with a pre-existing condition does not mean that your fish is doomed to die. As it has already been mentioned, the majority of these diseases are completely curable when treated appropriately and often times purchasing the fish that appears to have a pre-existing disease may be the only chance it has at survival. If you feel up to the challenge of Betta fish first aid, why not give a sick Betta a chance and put your fish doctoring skills to work!
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