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We bought our first tank, a 26 gallon bowfront early in 2016. We made a lot of beginner mistakes and I almost killed Jack with overfeeding and Seachem Excel. We managed to bring him back and promptly moved him into a 10 gallon with a couple live plants, flourite sand and a clay pot. Things seemed well, Jack seemed to recover but not to his original state. He seemed less active and had a harder time swimming from that point forward but he was as healthy as we could get him after his near death.

Around August I noticed a pinhole in Jack's fin. He seemed ok though and I had gotten a little over paranoid about him since I almost killed him. My husband couldn't see the pinhole and we chalked it up to me being me. In September I thought his fins were starting to get more black on them but once again it was barely noticeable and my husband couldn't see it. I also noticed a tacky feeling yellowish build up on his filter output. I couldn't smell it in the water but when I removed it and disturbed it, it had a sharp, bitter(?) smell. If you really gave it a good sniff it kind of made your nostrils burn for a second. It can't be wiped off it has to be scrubbed off with a toothbrush and even then you can still smell it. When it gets on my fingers I can't snap them, if that makes sense. They just kind of won't slide against each other. I made posts on various forums trying to identify it but had no luck. A couple people said they had it too but it wasn't causing any issue and they just cleaned it off during water changes. October came and went and I was feeling pretty certain that I wasn't imagining Jack's fins deteriorating anymore but I still wasn't certain because it was so SLOW. In early November Jack's fins suddenly started deteriorating very quickly and now I was sure something was wrong. I upped my water changes to 2x weekly about 25% and he continued to slowly deteriorate. After 2 weeks I pulled him out of his tank and placed him in a 1 gallon fish bowl with a heater and began treating him with Kordon Methylene Blue as directed by the bottle. After the 5 day treatment Jack's fin rot appeared to stop. He perked up and we waited 3 more days to place him back in his tank. During Jack's treatment I did 50% water changes daily on his 10 gallon. A few days after placing Jack back in his tank the rot started again, this time with a vengeance! I pulled him back out and began retreating him with Meth Blue but I couldn't get it under control and he was deteriorating quickly. I decided it was time for stronger meds as advised by various forums. I began giving him daily baths in dbl dose meth blue, Kanamycin, Furan 2 and AQ salt for 30 mins. I know this is extreme but his rot was extreme. Chunks of fin were falling off him daily and he was basically just floating in his breeder box. He continued to deteriorate more each day and on December 1st I couldn't watch him suffer anymore and I put him down.

In September I also cycled a 5 gallon and bought another betta named Tyler. I bought fake plants as we were still really struggling with planted tanks and I wanted to see if I had better luck "just keeping fish". I should mention that when I got him I believe he had ammonia stress as he his gills were very red and took it me about a month to get his very bloated belly down to a healthy looking size. He seemed well and happy going forward however. On January 8th 2017 I visited a new Petsmart that opened in town and saw a halfmoon betta ( I named Angelface) with curled, transparent fins and I just couldn't leave him there. His cup was full of feces and cloudy and when I got home and tested for Ammonia it was over 4ppm! Since Jack's death I had done 50% water changes 2x weekly on his tank and I really really cleaned his 106 canister filter. I didn't worry about a mini-cycle since I didn't have a fish in there and I wanted to really flush it out from whatever made Jack sick. I continued to research that yellow icky stuff on the filter but could find nothing. Angelface was placed in this tank 3 weeks after the major filter cleaning and excessive water changes and from day one he was a pacer. Back and forth, back and forth across the front of the tank glass. His fins didn't get any worse than they had been when I got him but they didn't seem to get better either. I did some reading and there's no clear answer as to how long it takes for fins to recover. Some a say a couple weeks some say months. He ate well, had regular bowel movements but paid little attention to me when I came close and he just casually but constantly paced. We considered renaming him to Pacer! He never appeared stressed to us, we thought it was just his personality. Tank parameters were all normal with no ammonia or nitrites and nitrates about 5ppm. He began getting black spots on him and I tried to research it but apparently it's normal for a white betta to change colors and so I tried not to worry about it.

On February 5th on a visit to my local lfs, I fell in love with and immediately purchased a Fluval Flex 9 gallon all in one tank which I promptly brought home and switched out for Angel's (Jack's) 10 gallon. I reused the flourite substrate ( I rinsed it in a bucket for a long time until the water was pretty much clear) and plants. Since the tank came with it's own filter I decided to move the 106 canister and Angel to a previously cycled 10 gallon I had been cycling for a third betta instead of stressing him out with 2 moves. I also wanted the new Flex to have a chance to complete it's cycle. I used media I had stored in my 26 g canister filter for just such an occasion. I completed weekly water changes and tested for ammonia and nitrite and found none. On the February 19th I found my third betta in perfect health and I brought him home. I checked parameters all were good and noticed a large build up of the nasty yellow stuff on the pump and cleaned it off, did a water change and acclimated Qwerty and put him in the Flex. Immediately the pacing began. I thought it was the current because the Flex pump is pretty strong so I started trying to slow it with the usual tricks over the next week or so. I ended up buying a ball valve at a grow shop and cut the pump tube and placed the valve on it. The pacing worsened over this time and and was out of control. I tried adding a little cave for more hiding but nothing would calm him down. He wouldn't eat and he just was going nuts in there.

At this time I made a connection. Angel stopped pacing when I moved him over to the 10 gallon with his filter. He became more friendly while Qwerty became more and more agitated. He was constantly flying back and forth across the glass, he wouldn't eat and paid 0 attention to anything outside his tank. He would literally fall onto a plant leaf and lay there gasping until he caught his breath and then start up again, nothing would calm him. I pulled him out and put him in a 1 gallon bowl with a heater. I had never been able to have a good look at him because he was always on the move but he calmed down within a day of being removed from the tank and I could see he had fin rot starting already:( He ate for the first time and became friendly. Angel's fin rot suddenly started progressing again and I think he started losing some scales although his behavior was calm. I pulled him out as well.

I had placed the 2" clay pot from Jack's 10 gallon into Tyler's 5 gallon when I switched it for the Flex. Over the months since I've had Tyler the tips of his fins have turned black. Incredibly slowly but definitely. I kept an eye on it but he is orange with black so once again my research suggested it was normal for a betta to change color over his life. Suddenly I could tell it wasn't a color change because the tips started bending and breaking. I pulled him out as well. I have treated all 3 of them with Kordon Methylene Blue and they are currently still in temporary bowls which I change daily.

I'm really at a loss as to what's going on with my bettas. My current idea/hope is that it's the clay pot leaching something. Many people use these without issue I know but what else can it be?? It's been in Jack's 10 gallon since the start. I inspected it carefully and it didn't appear to be glazed, it's not shiny at all. I soaked it in water and cleaned it well, I checked PH and other parameters for a week before I placed it in. Nothing showed up. But Jack slowly started to get sick and eventually died, Angel could not regrow his fins and was always pacing in that tank and began turning black and when I made the tank switch and moved the pot into Tyler's tank it quickly became clear that he had fin rot and Qwerty went absolutely insane and instantly developed fin rot when placed into the Flex even though I cleaned the sand really well before putting it in there from the other 10 gallon.

The only other thing it could be is some sort of infection that got into Jack's original tank that has been carried over to the other tanks via plant/decorations that I've moved or the bio media that was taken from it to cycle the new tanks. It seems odd that it hasn't hit the main tank if that's the case though. It does have a lower temperature and a higher flow rate that could be keeping it under check but my gut says that's not the problem. All my research and reading suggests an infection wouldn't drag out for months and that it would be cleared with lots of water changes and a good filter cleaning. It seems like columaris is about the only thing you can't remove via water changes but that disease doesn't sound like a slow silent killer, it is described as moving VERY fast. This has not been the case for me.

The only thing I can come up with at this point is that damn clay pot. It's never been in the big tank, only Jack and Tyler's tanks. It has never been in the 10 gallon I moved Angel into but I'm thinking that his time in Jack's tank did a lot of damage that maybe didn't really show itself until he was moved out. I'm thinking that the reason Qwerty showed such crazy behavior as soon as he was placed into the Flex is because I disturbed all that sand with the washing and moving it to the new Flex which really brought whatever has been leaching from the pot over the months up front and center. Tyler quickly showed clear signs of fin rot when the pot was put in his tank. Maybe sitting in the water for months on end has made it start leaching faster and faster?

I'm still not 100% convinced it's this though because I am sure I could smell that nasty smell from the yellow stuff in the other tanks prior to having the pot in them. Faintly and it never built up the way it did on the original filter output I discovered it on. Possibly I transferred small amounts of it with bio media when starting up the new tanks? I really can't be sure though because I never suspected the pot until recently. I'm feeling embarrassed, disheartened and extremely frustrated at this point. I just want to enjoy the hobby and my fish. I'm so tired of always trying to troubleshoot something. I can't handle many more fish deaths at my hand but I don't know what to do.
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