Bettas and swim bladder issues; Is it just me?
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Bettas and swim bladder issues; Is it just me?

This is a discussion on Bettas and swim bladder issues; Is it just me? within the Freshwater Chat forums, part of the Aquarium Related Chat category; In my short time in owning bettas, I've had a total of 6 bettas. 4 of them have had swim ...

  1. #1
    Forum Novice BullDog's Avatar
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    Apr 2010

    Default Bettas and swim bladder issues; Is it just me?

    In my short time in owning bettas, I've had a total of 6 bettas. 4 of them have had swim bladder issues. 2 of them ended up dying of some undiagnosed illness, the first symptom being swim bladder issues.

    I know that problems with the swim bladder can be caused by a wide range of things, but with so many issues, I'm wondering if it's something I'm doing wrong, or just really bad luck.

    My first betta, Morbo, a plakat, I had for about 6 months, though I know he was already a few years old, since he was a surrender to the pet store. Then he started swimming like his tail was too heavy, but otherwise acting totally normal. Started with the usual suspects - fasted for a few days, tried some pea, and did an epsom salt bath. Nothing changed. Then, for his last week, he got really lathargic. At this point I tried Maracyn 2, but with no luck. Right up to his last day, he was still had his normal appetite, but I guess I was just too late, or he was too sick, and he passed.

    Time passes, and after a while I get Rosemary, a female. She spent a short time in the same tank that Morbo resided in, but after about a week she was transfered to a brand new tank. I didn't notice it until several weeks later, but she actually has a birth defect, where one of her pectoral fins looks under-developed, and is about half the normal size. Didn't seem to slow her down at all though. After a few months, she starts swimming like her tail is too heavy. Posted a new thread here, but I basically chalked it up perhaps another birth defect that didn't show up until she was older.

    At the same I'm I got Rosey, I got Mango, a male Plakat. He also spent about a week in Morbo's old tank, before getting transfered to the divided 10g he shares with Rosey. About a month after getting into the new tank, I find him with a broken ventral fin, a wonky looking mouth, and a big bump on his head. I don't know how he injured himself. Best I can figure is he tried to jump, but hit the egg crate lid, hard. Took him a couple weeks, but the bump subsided. He now has a stubby fin, and his mouth is still a bit wonky, and black, like it didn't heal quite right and perhaps he knocked out some teeth. But other than that, he was totally normal.

    Several months later (I have it written down as May 14), I decided to switch the waterfall filter from Rosey's side to Mango's side, since Rosey is having swim bladder issues (so it seems). A couple weeks later, Mango starts swimming like his tail is too heavy. Now I'm getting a bit worried. First I tried the usual fasting (for up to 5 days), plus a bit of pea at the end. Nothing. Tried an antibacterial food for a week. No difference. On June 22, 2010, I decided to try a round of TC Tetracycline. Some really discoloured water, but no difference in the fish.

    A few weeks after noticing Mango's issues, my newest addition, Marmaduke a veiltail, starts swimming with his tail too heavy too. Same as the others, acting otherwise normal, at least for a time. Then he started getting lethargic. That's when I got worried and started the Tetracycline on both Rosey/Mango's tank AND Marm's 2.5 gal.
    After treating Marm for just about everything under the sun, he just didn't make it.

    My current two healthy bettas (*knock on wood!*) are Enigma, male plakat in Morbo's old 15g community, and Pixel, male plakat, in his own 5g.

    Morbo was from Total Pet, and all the others have been from PetSmart.

    All the tanks get a partial water change once a week (give or take a few days), changing 25-60% of the water.
    I don't add anything to any of the tanks, except for Aqua Plus for the water changes.
    The 15 gal has java moss, corkscrew val, water wisteria. Besides Enigma, it has currently 10 white cloud minnows and 1 oto.
    The divided 10 gal just has java moss, and the two bettas.
    The 5g has no plants in it.

    Right now my main concern is Mango and Rosey.
    Is it possible that both have injured swim bladders, Rosey from her birth defect and Mango from his earlier injury, and the swim bladder injury just didn't show up until several months later?
    Or could it be they have some sort of illness?
    They're otherwise totally normal, bright colours, begging, cruising the tank a bit, eating like pigs (but pooping/not bloated), and even flirting with each other if they see one another through the barrier.

    I'd like to hear anyone else who's had issues with swim bladders in bettas, and if you were able to fix it, or if you've got a betta who's been living with the issues for a while.

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  3. #2
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    Apr 2010


    It could be anything from a viral to bacteria.... but with the antibiotic treatment it should have gone away. that leaves viral.... contagious infection of some sort... Maybe acttacking internal organs..... If i remember right unless i'm confusing your post with some else your one betta showed signs of dropsy right before he past too. Also with the meds the (antibiotic Maracyn 2) you were nuking your biological filter too.... as they are gram negative bacteria. It is possible that they all just devleoped dropsy and died... But it just doesn't seem likely to me. I'd Nuke all your tanks and start from scratch..... nuke hard with bleach...

    It's alos possible that it a gram positive antibioctic might be more effective...

  4. #3
    Forum God
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Vancouver - right in the middle


    About ten years ago, one of my sons got a beautiful betta and put it in his Eclipse 6 gallon tank. After awhile, the betta started having problems swimming and I think that his fins also didn't look very good. We transferred him to a container of some sort and gave him antibiotics. He bounced back a little but eventually died of dropsy.

    Months later, my son then put another betta into the same tank. The same thing happened to the betta -- he was healthy for a time, then slowly sickened and died despite our best efforts.

    After that experience, we gave up on bettas for almost a decade. Now we have two and they're doing well. One is a female with short fins and she's in a 12 gallon Eclipse tank with strong filtration. The other is a long-finned male, and he's in an unfiltered planted 5 gallon tank.

    We decided that two things had gone wrong for us with our first bettas. The bettas were probably not very healthy. (And I think that this is probably the same thing that happened to your bettas.) They were in small plastic cups when we bought them, and in each case a number of the bettas in the store were in coloured water. I think they were being medicated but when I asked, the staff person told me that they were 'always like that, it's good for them.' I think that that some bettas arrive in the stores already weak or stressed and possibly with an infection that the store holds off with medication. I think that bettas are very prone to velvet and to fin rot and other infections that lead to dropsy. After being medicated in the store they do well in the clean environment of your tank but eventually the illness gets the upper hand.

    My second thought was that the long-finned bettas couldn't handle strong water current in a small tank very well. The bettas didn't seem to be having difficulty swimming but I noticed that they had a tendency to hover at the corner opposite the filter. The fish had to work hard to maintain a position when in a current. This may not have been as much fun for him as we assumed.

    When we got our next betta, a decade later, we chose a betta from a pet store that I had confidence in, where all of the bettas looked well-cared for and were kept in glass bowls, not plastic party cups. Then, I opted to keep him (Joe) in a 5 gallon tank without filtration. No water flow at all. I just put in some gravel, a rock, and many plants, and did very regular water changes.

    I found that Joe did very well in this planted, unfiltered tank and that after awhile, the tank cycled itself even though it wasn't filtered. I think that nitrifying bacteria grew on the gravel and the rock and perhaps the plants. Joe has been very healthy even though he has exactly the same kind of long fins that our other betta had, that rotted away.

    Our female betta has shorter fins and a bigger tank with strong filtration and seems very happy with that arrangement.

    I know that it seems heretical, but if you want to try another betta, I'd suggest putting the fish into a disinfected or new tank and keeping him without any filtration at all but with some plants. Change the water just as you would if he were in a bowl. And see how he does. If your water is very soft, consider using a buffered water conditioner like the one that Seachem makes for bettas.

    If the fish is carrying a disease when you get it, then there's not much that you can do except perhaps add Quick Cure to your tank for the first few days, just in case there's something protozoan going on. With bettas and chain pet stores, there's a little bit of luck involved. But once you get a healthy one, they can live a long time and be very personable. So, I encourage you to try again even though you must feel very discouraged.
    Last edited by Morainy; 07-28-2010 at 10:50 AM.

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  6. #4
    Forum Newbie
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    South Vancouver


    i first got into bettas last year. my first betta was a male halfmoon from Arovillage, and was also an Atison betta from Thailand. a couple months later i went back and got 3 female bettas, also from Atison's in Thailand. the females were placed together in a community tank, but one of them got dropsy and died about a month after i got them. a couple of months go by and another female dies. and another couple of months, and another dead female. all three females died of dropsy. the other fish in the community tank were not affected.

    along the way i also bought 2 females from IPU. the same story goes for them too, and also by dropsy, although the last one to go was in an isolated tank for quite awhile.

    so i dunno. my male halfmoon is still here after more than a year. it's possible that the community tank that i originally put them in was overcrowded. but i'm not sure why only the female bettas died, and why they all died of dropsy.

    i do know that the female bettas ate like pigs. my male betta is a very finicky eater and is uber skinny. not sure if there's a correlation there.

  7. #5
    Forum Snooper
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    North Shore


    Personally I think that breeding bettas for long fins rather than for strength or health causes a lot of internal deformities that we can't see. The ones with curved spines probably don't get sold in the pet stores but there's no way to know what other internal problems a fancy betta might have.



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