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Feb 25, 2009
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There are major problems here. First issue...do not under any circumstance rely on advice from the employees at this store. It has been way off on several issues, which I will address as they are serious. I amnot going to suggest morivation, just stating the fact that according to what you say they advised, they do not have very much knowledge of the requirements of the fish involved.

Second, bettas are not community fish. A male betta is best alone, in a suitably aquascaped tank. Having said that, substrate fish like cories can sometimes work, but sometimes not. If the cories remain on the substrate, the betta may not feel threatened by fish invading his space. But cories need to surface to "breathe," and this means they are continually invading the betta's perceived territory--and a male betta will view the entire tank space when it is this small as "his," period. It would be best to return or rehome the poor cories, not just for this reason but what follows.

Third, the cories. They need sand. Not gravel. They are filter feeders that dig into the sand, take a mouthful and filter out food bits, and expel the sand through their gills. This is how they feed, it is programmed into their genetics so they "expect" it. They cannot do this with gravel. Another issue with gravel-size is bacterial. Rough substrate (the gravel is rough in the photos) is one thing, but gravel harbours uneaten food and this means serious bacterial issues. So the cories are not going to do well in this environment, regardless of the betta.

Fourth...when cories respirate rapidly, there is a serious issue. It takes a bit of time for any new aquarist to recognize normal respiration and abnormal (rapid) respiration, but with cories any sign of rapid respiration must immediately be looked into. This is normal when feeding, because they are charging around. And it wold be normal if two or three decide to engage in spawning activity. But it is not normal at other times, and when spotted, a major water change is advisable. Provided the parameters--these are GH, pH and temperature--between tank water and tap water are basically identical, you cannot do any harm with large water changes. Sometimes this alone solves the respiration, it all depends what is causing it. But we cannot jump to conclusions of "x" or "y" as it often takes much more experience than many of us including me have.

Space. A 10g tqnk really is not large enough for a decent-sized group of cories, and decent size means 9+. More bad advice. These fish are shoaling, meaning they live in huge groups and this too is part of their genetic makeup and they need around 10 or (preferably) more. They are social, but the main reason is simply safety in numbers. They "know" they are more safe the more there are, so stress is increased with fewer. Another reason I would either get a much larger tank, or return/rehome the cories.

I will say nothing about possible dropsy or other disease, I know too little on these issues. I rarely had them over 30 years, one reason being I researched the species and made sure I could provide what it needs, and this goes a long way to healthy fish. We all began not knowing anything, and we had to learn along the way. Even with 30 years, I still learn.

And, welcome to TFF. :hi:
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Fish Fanatic
May 27, 2020
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Denver, CO
Hi all,
New to this forum. I've had a betta for about two years and recently decided to expand into cories. My local tropical fish store is run by hobbyists and has high reviews, so I decided to trust them when I bought two pepper and one albino cory to accompany my betta in my 10 gallon tank. They told me that they're happy in groups of three, and that I could do different variations. Sadly, further research and actual observation has definitely revealed otherwise. The peppered corys settled in very nicely (my betta hasn't shown any animosity toward them!) but the albino did not - After some research, I purchased two more albinos, but a week in to getting them, my heater spontaneously failed. The temperature dipped to 69F leading to the death of one of the new albinos from what appeared to be dropsy. After buying a new heater and digital thermometer, I did two rounds of kanaplex in the tank to cure the remaining new albino of his own dropsy. He recovered, and it seemed like things were getting better. The remaining two albinos were generally active, the betta was fine, but the two peppered cories spent most of their time hiding in one of the caves in my tank. I saw that they would come out to eat once the lights went out and most everyone in the house was in bed, so I decided to give them time. Its been about three weeks since this has all happened, and over the last week the albino cories have begun to join the peppers in the cave. They also stopped their activity unless its time to eat and now spend most of their time on the gravel panting. From what I can tell, they have no visual signs of parasites or wounds and their barbells are in tact, and I've obsessively been checking my water quality and it seems to be good. My pH is a bit high at 7.6, temp fluctuates between 75-79, nitrates/nitrite is 0, GH and KH are at 120 ppm, and I do 25% water changes weekly, conditioning with Prime each time and using a gravel vacuum. I feed them Hikari sinking wafers and every couple days supplement with Bug Bites chichlid formula. I'm very hesitant about getting more fish since these guys aren't doing well, but I also know I should have at least three of each type, so I'm uncertain what to do about that. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated!
Hello! Sounds like you've had one heck of a time! Normally I wouldn't recommend homing anything with Bettas. There's constant debate on this on both sides, but in my long experience they have never done well with other fish... they tend to be too aggressive and chase anything that they think might look as pretty as they are 😆. That being said, you already have the fish, so my advice on that is too late. My Cory's are in a huge group in my 55 gallon and they still scatter and hide when I walk up to feed them. I think it's just them. When I hear "panting", the first thing I think of is a dangerous ammonia level and you didn't mention that with your water stats. Did you cycle your tank before you added fish? Do you have some kind of filter circulating the tank? If so, do you have any kind of bubbler that adds oxygen to the water? For a long time I was told you didn't need to use oxygen bubblers anymore. Well, I had tons of Columnaris break out in my tanks because it likes low oxygen levels. So if you have no oxygen source, that'd be my second recommendation right after you check your ammonia. Also, make sure you add tap water conditioner, if you forget even once it'll damage their gills and will also cause panting. Hope this helps!

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