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Fish/Betta Health Issues


Close-up of betta
Close-up of betta  

whole body shot
whole body shot  
Hello! I hope you are enjoying this terrific weather we've been having, and I want to thank you for taking the time to read this message (Please forgive the length)!

I have a betta splendens, and for about three months he's been having health problems and I can't figure out what might be wrong. It started out with his abdomen becoming very swollen and his having trouble swimming. I figured he must be constipated and it took over three weeks of fasting, epsom salts, and a frozen-only diet to finally get the swelling to go away. Despite this, he still has trouble swimming; it looks like he has trouble turning. He isn't sinking, floating, or flipping over yet so he doesn't look terribly encumbered by this.

In the meantime his tail has started deteriorating. I would have thought water quality problems, but I test his water weekly and everything is normal. The ends are not black, fuzzy or bloody, and the damage has not advanced beyond the ends of his fins. It's also very 'clean'-looking, if I can say that; no ragged edges or rips, almost as if the ends were cut with scissors.

He also seems to have lost weight. He has a pale, boney-looking stripe sticking out of both his sides and his general body shape seems thin. He was never a big fish like those show-quality bettas, but he had a fuller appearance up until he started swelling up. There's also this flat, black, patchy-looking colouring right behind his gills. I noticed it about two weeks ago.

I know three months seems a long time to go without any sort of action on my part, but his activity levels haven't dropped, his appetite is excellent, and his colours are just as vibrant as when I got him. I thought medicating might do more harm than good considering his behavior hasn't changed.

He's housed in a cycled, heavily planted, 10 gallon aquarium. I keep indian almond leaves in the water and change about 25% of the water weekly, sometimes twice a week if I have the time.

I feed him a rotating mix of New Life Spectrum Thera-A pellets, Northfin cichlid pellets, frozen bloodworms, plankton, mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, and mosquito larvae.

Here are the water parameters :

Ph : 7.8
Ammonia : 0ppm
Nitrites : 0ppm
Nitrates : 5-10ppm
Gh : 8-9
Kh: 6-7

Thank you for any information you can give me, and have a nice day!



Hi Emilie,
  You have definitely written a very complete description of the problem.  Unfortunately I see no obvious solution.  Sadly it sounds to me like he is simply getting old.  Bettas generally don't live much over a year, though some will surprise you and live 2, 3 or 4 years.  It sounds like you are taking very good care of him.  

-- Ron C.
  Cichlid Research Home Page <>


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Ron Coleman


I am an expert on cichlid fishes, particularly New World cichlids. My broader expertise includes the behavior, ecology and reproduction of fishes in general. (I am NOT an expert on Goldfish). Please do not use abbreviations, such as "my GT has a swollen eye" because I don't know what a "GT" is. The more clearly you can explain your question, the better chance I have of understanding what it is that you seek. I keep fishes both as a scientist and as a hobbyist and I currently maintain about 140 aquariums.


I am an Associate Professor at the California State University, Sacramento in the Department of Biological Sciences, and I run a website, called the Cichlid Research Home Page . I also write for many popular aquarist magazines, and I was editor of Cichlid News magazine for several years. I am a scientist and I spend my time teaching fish biology, ecology, behavior and evolution and doing research on the reproductive biology of fishes, particularly cichlids. I do research in the laboratory and in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Mexico. My main interest is understanding the evolution of parental care in fishes. I am interested in encouraging greater public awareness, understanding and participation in science.

Cichlid News, Tropical Fish Hobbyist, Freshwater and Marine Aquarium, Science, Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology, Copeia, Canadian Journal of Zoology, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, AUK, Environmental Biology of Fishes

PhD (Toronto, 1993) MSc (Simon Fraser, 1986) BSc (British Columbia, 1983)

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