Your DIY guide to caring for a finny friend in a mini home.

Betta Diseases

Fish kept in a bowl is prone to disease due to the small volume of water, where wastes can easily accumulate and cause a bacterial bloom. Here are guidelines on how to prevent this from happening.

Keeping The Water Clean. The biggest, most important factor in keeping your fish disease-free is to keep the water clean. This can be done in several ways:

•  Perform regular, small water changes to remove any accumulated waste and to remove any decaying organic matter (primarily from excess feeding and dead leaves or roots from plants). This also helps prevent the build-up of minerals or toxins in the water as water evaporates and dust and debris settle into the tank.

•  Provide your fish with a well-decorated bowl to help reduce stress. Putting plenty of hiding places such as plants and broken clay pots make your fish feel secured.

•  Keep the bowl at the correct temperature for the fish. Fish that are kept in water that is significantly too warm or too cold, or even fish that are kept slightly too warm or cold for long periods of time are going to be stressed and this will repress their immune systems.

•  If your fish bowl has a filter, check it to be sure that it is clean and the water is flowing at the usual rate.

•  Treat tap water with chlorine neutralizer and add a pinch of aquarium salt or rock salt (not iodized salt). Salt kills many types of bacteria, and it is safe for the fish.

•  Feed your fish no more than twice a day. Don't feed him more than he will eat within 2 minutes. Remove all uneaten bits of food.

•  Be conservative with medications. Almost all medications are stressful to your fish, so medicating when not necessary can actually increase your fish's chances of contracting something, so only medicate when necessary.

•  Check the water regularly. Is the water cloudy or foamy? Does the water have an unusual odor? If so take immediate action. Cloudy, foamy, or smelly water are signs of bacterial infestation. A full water change and sanitation is necessary on such occasion. To sanitize the bowl, soak empty bowl, fish net, plastic plants and filter in a mixture of tap water and Clorox (1 part Clorox to 20 parts water). Soak for about one hour, then rinse very thoroughly several times. Wipe dry. Throw away any live plants. Rocks and gravel CANNOT be soaked in Clorox as they will absorb it and then probably poison your fish. Heat them in an oven at 450°F for about an hour. Then let them cool off and put them back in your bowl. Put brand new filtering media in your filter, and put your bowl back together. Fill with new water and let the filter run for 24 hours before adding your fish back to it.

•  Check your fish for signs of stress and disease. Does he not eat at all and spit out his food? Does he lay at the bottom and come up only for air? Does he dart and purposely run into anything he can (gravel, rocks, etc) in an effort to scratch himself? Is he looking paler and dull? Are his fins clumped, closed, stiff looking or falling apart? Does his body have open sores, white cottony patches, red spots, lumps or white spots? Does his belly look too hollow or on the contrary is abnormally swollen and big? The earlier you spot a sick fish and begin to give that fish special care, the sooner it will recover. Should your fish become sick, there are many medications on the market that will quickly and accurately treat most of the diseases your fish are likely to encounter.

Common Betta Diseases. Here is a list of some common Betta diseases, including symptoms, and possible treatment.

•  FUR COAT SYNDROME — a dermal bacterial infection. Bettas are very susceptible to this ailment. It is generally characterized by discoloration of tissue, particularly the fins to a dark brown or black and a grey or brown ‘fur’ or mold over the body, usually starting across the back and at the base of the fins and rapidly spreading to cover most of the body. Loss of appetite and listlessness are also common signs. This disease can be readily prevented by keeping your Betta in warm enough water, providing them with a good diet, and treating your water with aquarium salt or rock salt. ‘Fur coat syndrome’ is almost always fatal within 30 hours of the first signs or symptoms. In cases where you know that your fish has caught this disease, using a targeted Betta antibiotic greatly increases the fish's survival rate in the face of this illness.

•  FIN ROT — this disease comes mainly from dirty water. If you keep the water VERY CLEAN your Betta will never get fin rot. Your Betta has fin rot if his fins and/or tail seem to be getting shorter and shorter, or they seem to be falling apart and dissolving. There may be a darker color (or a reddish one) to the edge of the Betta's fins/tail. He may be still active and eating normally, or may have stopped eating, fins may be clumped, color may be pale. If your fish has caught this disease, do a full water change and use a medication such as Neosulfex or an antibiotic such as Tetracycline. A small pinch of aquarium salt or rock salt will also help the healing process. Get a new bowl and sanitize old bowl every week until healed.

•  ICH — Ich is a parasite. If you always add aquarium salt or rock salt to your Betta's water he will probably never get Ich. Your Betta has Ich if he has white spots all over his body. He may be less active, may have stopped eating, and fins may be clumped. Do a full water change and add more salt (up to 1 teaspoon per gallon) to the water. You can also use medication specially made to kill Ich.

•  VELVET — Velvet is another parasite. If you always add aquarium salt or rock salt to your Betta's water he will probably never get velvet. It is hard to spot, but can be best spotted with a flashlight. Shine the light on the Betta's body. If it looks like it is covered with a fine gold or rust mist, then it has velvet. A Betta with velvet will act sick, so look for clamped fins, scratching against rocks/gravel/tank, loss of appetite, loss of color etc. Increase the amount of salt as the procedure for ick (see above). Use a medication for velvet such as Maracide.

•  DROPSY — the most common and most fatal Betta disease. Very little is known about it, other than it is abdominal bloating and that the tissues of Betta get filled with fluids. It is easy to diagnose a Betta with Dropsy. Look for two signs: an abnormally big (bloated) belly and if you look at the Betta from the top, raised scales. Scales will look like an open pine cone. If you see this, you are out of luck, and so is your Betta. There is no known cure for Dropsy. Sadly, the fish will probably die. Keep the water clean to prevent Dropsy and any other disease.