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Accidental Fight; Floating Sideways


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#1 dawnpaw

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 12:31 AM

This makes me feel like an awful Beta owner, but I believe my 2 males got into a fight last night. They live in a 5 gallon divided and filtered tank, and have been together for 3 months now with no issues. I did a water change last night and apparently I shifted the divider or over filled the tank, enabling them to leap over to opposite sides, because when I woke up this morning, they were on opposite sides of the tank! Other than plenty of torn fins, they both looked relatively fine... (one is an awful tail biter, so I know the fins will regrow, and that wasn't worrying me too much).
I fed them their normal meal of 4 pellets each, and tonight I come in to find that Jack, the chronic tail biter, is having some problems. He can't seem to stay upright in the water, and his right eye is swolen. The eye may have been like this all day, I just didn't look close enough this morning because I was in a hurry. But now he has to put out a constant effort to stay even in the water. When he stops struggling he slowly floats sideways, always so his right side(the side with the enlarged eye) is facing up. He also seems stuck at the top of the tank, he tries to swim down and bounces right back up again like somebody trying to force an air filled balloon under water.
I feel like such a horrible and irresponsible owner. As soon as I can tomorrow, I'm going to buy another tank to seperate these guys (if poor Jack even survives) so nothing like this will ever happen again.

Main tank water stats:
PH: 8.2
Ammonia:.5ppm (yikes thats high, I know I really need to test more often)
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: somewhere from 40 to 80ppm (the colors on the chart look exactly the same.) My tap water has naturally high nitrates (it's well water, but we don't use fertilizer or anything) I try to get water from friends houses when I can to help lower the nitrate level, but it's a bit wierd carrying around gallon jugs and asking people to take home their water...

I have been reading stuff about swim bladder issues making them go sideways like this, but would that have anything to do with their fight? Please, i just want to know peoples theories about what is wrong with him - and more importantly, is there a way to help him?

I have been treating it as if it was only swim bladder so far, I moved him to a seperate, clean one gallon bowl. Maybe eating after the stress of the fight gave him constipation? I'm not going to feed him for a few days, and then give him a pea. Some sites reccommended adding marine salt, but I don't want to do anything drastic so I haven't done that yet.

Isolation tank water stats:
PH: 8.1
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 40-80 ppm, like I said above its difficult to tell



EDIT::
Here is a video of what he looked like when i first saw him. Sorry for the awful quality, my nice camera is dead at the moment, and I don't want to turn the tank light on because that gets them excited for food and I wanted to get him acting 'normally'.

Edited by dawnpaw, 16 August 2012 - 01:53 AM.


#2 Etcetera

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 07:57 AM

Oh boy. Looks like a bit of a swim bladder issue coupled with popeye--this likely resulted from the ammonia and excessive nitrate in the water and the injuries from the fight. Swim bladder problems are not always the result of constipation, sometimes when a fish is prone to it already, they can have issues following a traumatic experience.

For now, it's important that you get the infected fish in a stress-free 100% clean environment away from the other fish. Quarantine will help prevent the spread of infection and create a low stress environment for both fish. A second heater and a temporary container such as a sterilite/rubbermaid plastic storage bin can be obtained cheaply and easily. Once you've got it all set up, I would add a medicinal dose of aquarium salt to each betta's water, which is about 1 tbsp/5gallons iirc. Make sure you pre-dissolve the salt before use and add it very slowly--over the course of about a half hour.

Aquarium salt is not marine salt. It is simply table salt without the iodine and anti-clumping agents that would be unhealthy for fish. Also, considering your high ammonia and nitrate readings, you really need to get on top of your water changing routine. You should consider yourself lucky that your fish did not have any problems sooner. :( Could you tell us more about your feeding and water changing routine? With more information we might be able to give you some advice about how to prevent this in the future. Your fish will be much healthier, more active, and more beautiful once you make a few improvements.

Edited by Etcetera, 16 August 2012 - 08:04 AM.


#3 WigglePuppy

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 09:10 AM

To add to what's already been said, if your nitrates are coming out of the tap so insanely high you're going to have to be using something like Prime when you condition the water. Prime not only deals with chlorine and chloramine but it'll detoxify high levels of nitrates. Mostly this is for sudden nitrate spike emergencies but it looks like it's something you're going to need every water change if you're going to use tap water. Good luck!

#4 marko

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 09:51 AM

with your very high ph (my reef tank is around 8.15, lower than your betta tank), you likely have very high carbonates. that plus high nitrates, doesnt make for the best tank water in the world. you may want to invest in a reverse osmosis (RO) unit, or better a reverse osmosis and deionizer (RODI) unit. then you can mix some RODI water (which is as pure as distilled, or purer if gasses are allowed into the distillation unit), with some tap to get good water.

#5 dawnpaw

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 12:27 PM

By marine salt, I meant aquarium salt - I have Instant Ocean brand that I use for my land hermit crab's salt water dish, and I myself am actually constantly explaining to new hermit crab owners on a different forum that table salt is not acceptable to make 'salt water' for the hermit crabs, and it will in fact kill them. I picked the wrong word, I definitely meant marine salt! Sorry for the confusion.


I got four gallon jugs full of good quality water from the barn today(not as unsanitary as it sounds, I filled the jugs inside the house at the kitchen sink)
Stats for this water were the same both before and after I put in my conditioner (prime):
PH: 8 (a little better, I guess...)
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite:0
Nitrate:0

I moved the sick fish last night into a one gallon glass bowl with a heater. His swim bladder issues actually seem a little better now, but his eye is still popped out. He is currently in my tap water, conditioned with Prime. Should I change the water to the new water I got before putting the aquarium salt in? I don't want to stress him out with so much change.


I normally change about 1/5 of the water every week (a gallon jug full, out of my 5 gallon tank). I was away for almost 2 weeks before this happened and I had my parents feeding them. I explained the water changes, but I'm not sure what they actually did or not. But is 20% a week a good enough water change for 2 betas? Should I be doing more? Usually the ammonia is fine, but the nitrates and PH are always on the higher end. Would using Prime more often help with the Nitrate issue?


I bought a new tank off of cragslist for my hermit crabs, and it came with a bunch of fish stuff as well. one of the things that came with it is called Seachem Neutral Regulator. It claims to adjust high or low PH to 7.0. I know Seachem is a good brand, but I've read a lot of posts that advise steering away from products that mess with the PH of the water. In my situation, do you think this would help? I know I would have to monitor it closely so it doesn't fluctuate and stress out the fish. I do have hard water ( the test strip measures GM, and my tap water is around 250-300 ppm while the barn water is around 100-150ppm)

EDIT:: Would buying gallons of distilled water from the grocery store be the same as using a RO unit? I just googled it pretty quickly, but it looks like most RO filters are intended for larger tanks. Having only a 5 gallon tank I couldn't possibly need more than a gallon a week, and i'm not sure I want to spend $100 for something that is capable of producing 50 gallons per day when I won't need the extra 49.

Edited by dawnpaw, 16 August 2012 - 12:54 PM.


#6 Susurro

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 01:20 PM

You haven't mentioned if your tank has a filter or not. I'm going to assume since you have ammonia and some nitrates and no nitrites that you tank is in no way cycled or cycling so you need to be doing 100% water changes once a week.

You said that "usually the ammonia is fine", what do you mean by that? If there is anything other than 0 ammonia, it is harming your fish. 100% water changes are the only way to keep a small uncycled tank safe for your fish.

Also, I would not use the natural regulator. The thing with pH is that it will swing, often dangerously fast which will stress your fish possibly to the point of death, and checking it won't always catch it. I don't know a lot about it since I don't mess with my pH but if you want to lower your pH without chemicals then Indian Almond Leaves are a great alternative for that. You can order a ton of them off of Ebay for pretty cheap and since you don't need large pieces of them they will last you a while.

#7 Stars

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 03:40 PM

You haven't mentioned if your tank has a filter or not. I'm going to assume since you have ammonia and some nitrates and no nitrites that you tank is in no way cycled or cycling so you need to be doing 100% water changes once a week.

You said that "usually the ammonia is fine", what do you mean by that? If there is anything other than 0 ammonia, it is harming your fish. 100% water changes are the only way to keep a small uncycled tank safe for your fish.

Also, I would not use the natural regulator. The thing with pH is that it will swing, often dangerously fast which will stress your fish possibly to the point of death, and checking it won't always catch it. I don't know a lot about it since I don't mess with my pH but if you want to lower your pH without chemicals then Indian Almond Leaves are a great alternative for that. You can order a ton of them off of Ebay for pretty cheap and since you don't need large pieces of them they will last you a while.


The poster said that the tank is divided and filtered for 3 month...

If she has nitrate then the cycle has either been completed or almost complete since nitrate is the final step in the nitrogen cycle, ammonia -> nitrite -> nitrate. High nitrate and 0.5 ammonia just means she needs to up her water changes.

Generally speaking, in cycled tanks, if you have 1 betta, I say 25% per is usually enough but with 2 bettas, you should be doing a 50% water change every week.

Your water stats always should read:

ammonia - 0
nitrite - 0
nitrate - less than 10ppm

A good way to ensure clean water is test ammonia, nitrite, nitrate levels before the water change. If you find any traces of ammonia and nitrate above 10ppm, it means you need to either remove more water or do your cleaning more frequently. You should also check the levels after the water change to make sure your removing enough. In a cycled tank, after a water change, I like my nitrate to either be less or equivalent to 5.

I wouldn't mess with pH either, unless your fish must have a certain pH, its best to leave it along. Most fish can adapt to pH as long as the water is free of toxins like ammonia. Most betta in the US have been bred and born here for many generations so pH is not a huge issue in my opinion.

#8 Susurro

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 04:05 PM

Except that her water naturally contains nitrates so it doesn't mean the tank is actually cycled.

#9 Stars

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 04:30 PM

Except that her water naturally contains nitrates so it doesn't mean the tank is actually cycled.


Oh, I see, in that case she needs to figure out whether her tank is cycled or not. If she had a filter running for 3 month, the could be cycled or not cycled at all, its hard to say now since the nitrate is so naturally high between 40-80ppm.

I say for now, its best to keep ammonia 0 so before a water change, test the water for ammonia to make sure its 0 or do 100% water changes every week,

In this situation, a cycled tank is your friend so if you haven't cycled or aren't sure you should try. If you use other source without nitrates and your tank is cycled, you only have use 2.5 gallons of water per water change or whatever it takes to keep nitrate around 10ppm which isn't too much. You can try using drinking water from a grocery store, I think its like $5 for 5 gallons. You can use 75% store water and 25% tap water or at least until your nitrite is low around 10ish.

p.s. Other idea is to try running the water through a Brita filter to see if removes some of the nitrate/lowers the pH?

p.s.s. Live plants are also great for soaking up nitrate so you could try densely planting the tank. This can really help stablize a tank too! Didn't know why I haven't thought of this, but yes, live plants will soak up nitrate readily.

Edited by Stars, 16 August 2012 - 04:33 PM.


#10 dawnpaw

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 05:43 PM

Sorry, I should have been more clear. My tank has a filter and is cycled, I completed the cycle this past February. It took a month of waiting and feeding the tank daily, I tested the water almost daily and waited an extra week to make sure it was done before putting my first fish in. After a few months I then added the second fish. When I said that the ammonia was usually fine, I meant at 0ppm. I know that anything above that is harmful.
The only reason it was high on that testing is because I will admit that I was irresponsible and did not partially change the water regularly enough. This has been taken care of by now, I just posted the stats with ammonia to help better understand what was going on with my sick betta. As soon as I got those readings I added some Prime (I measured it out, it's 2 drops per gallon, so 9 drops for a 5 gallon tank not quite filled to capacity). As soon as I came home with the water from my barn (which doesn't have the naturally occurring nitrates like my water has) I did a 50% water change (after conditioning the new water with Prime as well)
The new stats in the main (cycled, filtered 5 gallon) tank are as follows:
PH: 8.2
Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: 35 ppm

I also changed most of the water in the isolation tank (the smaller tank that has the sick fish in it), and the water readings in there are the same as above. I am currently in the process of adding a small dose of Instant Ocean brand aquarium salt to both tanks, I'm doing it very gradually to let then get acclimated.


Thank you for all the information, I will try 50% changes every week, faithfully. I admit my fish keeping got a bit lazy, because they seemed to be doing so well, but this has really knocked some sense into me. I will never miss a water change again, and I will be doing much more frequent testing as well.

#11 Etcetera

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 06:11 PM

Are you SURE what you have is not marine salt? You do not want the kind of salt you use for your hermit crabs or for a salt water tank. Aquarium Salt for a freshwater aquarium is simply table salt--the same as the kind we sprinkle on food except that it's missing the iodine and clumping agents. Kosher salt will also work in many cases.

Good to hear that you've decided to change your routine. Things should work out much better--hopefully your fish will simply recover on their own. Many do once they're introduced to better water conditions. Keeping two in a 5 gallon like that is also a pretty heavy bioload.. it might not be feasible to keep them together like that if the nitrates keep jumping that quickly. You should have a backup plan in case it doesn't seem to be working out.

#12 WigglePuppy

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 06:17 PM

Instant Ocean brand aquarium salt to both tanks, I'm doing it very gradually to let then get acclimated.



Instant Ocean doesn't make "aquarium salt" only marine salt for marine aquariums as Etcetera has been trying to suggest. That said, Instant Ocean is the only salt I keep in the house as I keep both marine and brackish tanks and you can use it safely the same way you use "aquarium salt" (I do it all the time). However, a little goes a long way so use much less marine salt than you would aquarium salt until you know the fish is handling it fine.




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