EMERGENCY: Fish on floor of tank, gasping for breath

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schaffercollateral

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Hello,

Unfortunately, my betta has grown worse since I started kanamycin medicated food the day before yesterday. He has grown tired and listless, to the point that he spent the last hour lying on the floor of his tank, breathing heavily. Thankfully, he was finally able to pull himself up to rest in his floating log, next to which I placed a bubbler to enhance aeration.

Half an hour ago, I started the process of transitioning from the distilled/tap water mix that I’ve been using to straight tap water. I removed one gallon of (distilled/tap)water from his ten gallon tank and added one gallon of (pure tap) water, as per a recommendation on a betta forum, and I’ll repeat this process over the next several hours. I’ll also discontinue the kanamycin medicated food in case that’s causing his decline.

I performed a quick dip-stick test of my tank’s water parameters and everything appeared to be normal.

Is there anything else that I can do to help my dear fish?


Here is a bit of history regarding my fish’s current illness:

Several weeks ago, my betta began developing a darkened patch on the right side of his body. Since then, the patch has deepened into a browny hue and has spread onto his left side. Initially my betta’s behaviour seems largely unaltered, but he slowly began showing signs of lethargy and laboured breathing. He also developed a fairly large rip in his tail fin, followed by spreading small rips.

Shortly before these problems started, the glass thermometer in my tank shattered, scattering tiny metal pellets around the gravel. I quickly transferred my betta into a holding container and removed all the gravel from the tank, then suctioned the tank to remove any remaining pellets or glass shards.

Since my betta fell ill, I have been performing 20% water changes once every day or second day and at one point added a bottle of Tetra Safe Start to the filter.

Here are my aquarium details:



Housing:
How many gallons is your tank?
My main tank is 10 gal.

Does it have a filter?
My main tank has a baffled Aquaclear 30 HOB filter as well as a spare sponge heater.

Does it have a heater?
I have 50 W Eheim Jager TruTemp heater running in my main tank.

What temperature is your tank?
I maintain the temp in my main tank at 78 degrees F.

Does your tank have an air stone or other type of aeration?
I have a Fluval bubbler in my main tank.


Does your Betta have tank mates? What kind?
None.

Food:
What food brand do you use?
Hikari freeze dried daphnia, Cobalt 1.5 mm betta pellets, TopFin brand betta crumbles, and NorthFin 1mm betta pellets.

Do you feed flakes, pellets, or freeze dried?
I feed my betta a variety of pellets as well as freeze-dried treats.

How often do you feed your Betta? How much?
I usually feed my betta about four or five 1mm Northfin pellets or a comparable amount of other food twice daily.

Housing:
How many gallons is your tank?
My main tank is 10 gal.

Does it have a filter?
My main tank has a baffled Aquaclear 30 HOB filter as well as a spare sponge heater.

Does it have a heater?
I have 50 W Eheim Jager TruTemp heater running in my main tank.

What temperature is your tank?
I maintain the temp in my main tank at 78 degrees F.

Does your tank have an air stone or other type of aeration?
I have a Fluval bubbler in my main tank.


Does your Betta have tank mates? What kind?
None.

Food:
What food brand do you use?
Hikari freeze dried daphnia, Cobalt 1.5 mm betta pellets, TopFin brand betta crumbles, and NorthFin 1mm betta pellets.

Do you feed flakes, pellets, or freeze dried?
I feed my betta a variety of pellets as well as freeze-dried treats.

How often do you feed your Betta? How much?
I usually feed my betta about four or five 1mm Northfin pellets or a comparable amount of other food twice daily.

Maintenance:
Before your Betta became ill how often did you perform a water change?
Once weekly.

What percentage of water did you change?
About 20% of the water volume.

What is the source of your water?
Until today, I used a 50-50 mix of tap water and bottled distilled water to reduce the pH and hardness of my tap water.

Do you vacuum the substrate or just dip out water?
Presently, my tank doesn’t have gravel because of the thermometer de able I detailed above. Generally, though, I vacuum the gravel whenever I change the water.

What additives do you use other than conditioner? What brand of conditioner?
I always add Seachem Prime conditioner to the replacement water.

Water Parameters:
These values are from a Tetra Easy Strips test that I performed today.

Main Tank:
Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: 0 ppm
pH: 7.8
Hardness (GH): 150 ppm
Alkalinity (KH): 80 ppm
Chlorine: 0
 

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Fishmanic

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Be patient… this is a slow period right now… someone should offer some help within several hours
 

Fishmanic

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Be patient… this is a slow period right now… someone should offer some help within by mid morning
 

wasmewasntit

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From what is being described in regard to the aquarium and the photo's of the fish, it looks alot like a chain reaction

The thermometer shattering and then the colour change and lethargy etc potentially comes from an ammonia spike followed by a nitrite spike

A Betta is quite a fragile animal and is extremely sensitive to any change in water chemistry...typical symptomatic changes for an ammonia and nitrite spike are the browning of the body along with laboured breathing and lethargy.

The damage to the tail is potentially down to the fish itself trying to lose weight and allow itself to get to the surface to breathe....they are surface breathers and the combination of feeling whooszy from the combined spikes and having a huge (to it) tail is likely to have forced it to tail bite to lighten the load in order to reach the surface and breathe...which would also tie into the laboured breathing and being on the substrate looking really unwell

The maintenance routine of 20% water changes in a small aquarium (10 gallon is small tbh even if it is larger than the minimum required for a Betta) is really not sufficient. Try to get 50% in future, as long as the new water is as close as possible to the temperature of the water already inside the aquarium, it will not do any harm

The pH dropping that you have been doing is also a stumbling block. Get it wrong by the tiniest amount and the chemistry will be all over the place and certainly not helping the spikes that almost certainly occurred here. I think the shattered thermomenter might be a red herring since they are inert (they have to be for obvious reasons). I think the issues started with the water changes being small and the pH changes. The perfect storm for ammonia and nitrite spikes that have resulted in what you are seeing now with the fish.

As for a remedial path from here.....the fish is in a very bad way. The medicated food is for fungal and bacterial issues which I am not convinced is the problem here (it is never a good plan to dive into meds before looking at everything else). If anything I have a feeling the meds made things worse, so please stop using it.

I would suggest that you catch the fish and place it into a different container that is heated. Empty the aquarium and do a 100% water change without any change to the pH and only use the water conditioner. Get that aquarium reheated slowly and put the fish back in once accomplished.

A pH stability is way more important than one that is being brought down (or up) artificially. Too much space for error when messing with pH can and does cost the lives of fish.

As for this fish, it is 50/50 as to whether it can be saved...ammonia and nitrite poisoning where it has reached the level that the fish exhibits these symptoms is severe and not always recoverable from.
 
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schaffercollateral

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I thank you so much for your very detailed and insightful reply, @wasmewasntit . I wonder, too, if my removal and subsequent discarding of the gravel following the thermometer shattering had initiated an ammonia/nitrate spike. After disposing of the gravel, I tried to make up for the lost bacteria by dosing the tank with Tetra Safe Start, which consists of nitrosomas bacteria as well as a few other strains of nitrifying bacteria, but perhaps my efforts were insufficient.

I’m wondering, though, why my water tests haven’t shown a spike in ammonia, nitrites, or nitrates. Throughout this period, I’ve tested my water on several occasions, using both my API Master Test Kit as well as Tetra Easy Strips. None of the results that I have received have been out of the ordinary.

I thank you so much for your help. I will implement your care plan for my fish once I return from the hospital this afternoon.
 

GaryE

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My opinion differs. I see a possible to probably Mycobacter infection, for which kanamycin does nothing. Myco infection, or fish tb, is a problem with many farmed bettas. It presents with a squarish to rectangular raised patch, which often opens up. There is no cure, and the fish declines. If there are other fish, it spreads quickly if the sore is open or if the fish dies.

Fish can carry, and fight it for years, but eventually, it breaks loose.

As air breathers, Bettas are very resistant to ammonia.
 
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schaffercollateral

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Thank you so much, @GaryE and @wasmewasntit. I bought some nitrifying bacteria (Tetra Safe Start), continuous ammonia and pH monitors, and a few more betta hammocks to give my betta plenty of places to rest near the surface. I’m going to treat for ammonia poisoning by performing a full water change with treated tap water as per @wasitwasntit ‘s recommendation, dose the new gravel with the Tetra Safe Start, add all of the bubblers I have into the tank, and try to get my betta comfortable.
 

Uberhoust

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Most items have been covered by other members but I am wondering how you control the flow from a AquaClear 30 in this situation, is this what you mean by baffled. My experience with an AC 30 and a 10 gallon tank was the betta could not maintain their position well even at the lowest setting. It is possible that during the night the fish is getting pushed into the heater and has suffered burns. This is just another possibility.

The metal pellets are likely lead or something similar that will not react in a freshwater environment but may react if the fish was so inclined to eat one. The fluid will be alcohol, I honestly don't know what that would do to a fish, the volume would very low.
 
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schaffercollateral

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Most items have been covered by other members but I am wondering how you control the flow from a AquaClear 30 in this situation, is this what you mean by baffled. My experience with an AC 30 and a 10 gallon tank was the betta could not maintain their position well even at the lowest setting. It is possible that during the night the fish is getting pushed into the heater and has suffered burns. This is just another possibility.

The metal pellets are likely lead or something similar that will not react in a freshwater environment but may react if the fish was so inclined to eat one. The fluid will be alcohol, I honestly don't know what that would do to a fish, the volume would very low.
I constructed a baffle by cutting out a segment of a water bottle and lining the sharp edges with silicone tubing. I affixed the baffle over the AquaClear outflow and secured the baffle to the lid of the AquaClear with non-adhesive rubber tape.

I haven’t seen my fish hanging around the heater at any point, but he could be doing so in the times when I’m not there.
 

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schaffercollateral

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@wasmewasntit , it looks as though you were right: yesterday, I tested my water with my API Master Test Kit and found elevated levels of ammonia (somewhere between 0 ppm and 20 ppm) and nitrates (around 10 ppm). I immediately performed a 50% water change, added a new bag of Seachem Purigen, and inserted ammonia and nitrate reducing pads into my AquaClear filter. I also doubled my usual amount of Seachem Prime to detoxify any ammonia in the tank.

Right now, I’ve got my betta in a breeding net near the surface of the tank, surrounded by several Fluval bubblers operating at full blast. He seems to have a little more energy today - he sprung at his food when I fed him this morning - so I’m hopeful that he’ll recover.

I plan to perform twice daily water tests until things stabilize. I’m not entirely sure why my previous testing didn’t pick up the ammonia or nitrates, but perhaps the spikes occurred between tests. I’m hoping that twice-daily testing will prevent that from reoccurring. Additionally, I had been using the Tetra Easy Strip dip-style tests for some of my testing, though I just learned that these tests can be inaccurate. I’ll stick with the API colorimetric tests in the future.

After I get the ammonia down, I plan to switch my betta’s tank to conditioned tap water as opposed to a conditioned mix of tap water and distilled. I held off on performing the switch when I performed the big water change yesterday as I was concerned about shocking my betta.
 
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schaffercollateral

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@wasmewasntit , it looks as though you were right: yesterday, I tested my water with my API Master Test Kit and found elevated levels of ammonia (somewhere between 0 ppm and 20 ppm) and nitrates (around 10 ppm). I immediately performed a 50% water change, added a new bag of Seachem Purigen, and inserted ammonia and nitrate reducing pads into my AquaClear filter. I also doubled my usual amount of Seachem Prime to detoxify any ammonia in the tank.

Right now, I’ve got my betta in a breeding net near the surface of the tank, surrounded by several Fluval bubblers operating at full blast. He seems to have a little more energy today - he sprung at his food when I fed him this morning - so I’m hopeful that he’ll recover.

I plan to perform twice daily water tests until things stabilize. I’m not entirely sure why my previous testing didn’t pick up the ammonia or nitrates, but perhaps the spikes occurred between tests. I’m hoping that twice-daily testing will prevent that from reoccurring. Additionally, I had been using the Tetra Easy Strip dip-style tests for some of my testing, though I just learned that these tests can be inaccurate. I’ll stick with the API colorimetric tests in the future.

After I get the ammonia down, I plan to switch my betta’s tank to conditioned tap water as opposed to a conditioned mix of tap water and distilled. I held off on performing the switch when I performed the big water change yesterday as I was concerned about shocking my betta.

This morning, I tested my water with my API Master Test Kit and determined the level of ammonia to be midway between 0 and 0.25 ppm and the level of nitrates to be 5 ppm. Additionally, my Seachem Ammonia Alert badge is reading 0 ppm.

I performed a 20% water change without removing my betta from his breeding net box so as to put less stress on him. Unfortunately, I had to reposition the breeding net box somewhat to perform the water change, which stressed my betta out a great deal. After swimming around frantically during the water change, my betta is now in shock, immobile but breathing. I’ll let him recover for a while before I attempt to perform another water change.

When I change the water next, should I add aquarium salt in an effort to improve my betta’s gill function? An associate at the pet store recommended this, but I’m hoping to get a second opinion before adding anything new.

I thank you so much for all of your assistance. This is a wonderful community.
 
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Naughts

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This morning, I tested my water with my API Master Test Kit and determined the level of ammonia to be midway between 0 and 0.25 ppm and the level of nitrates to be 5 ppm. Additionally, my Seachem Ammonia Alert badge is reading 0 ppm.
This is not dangerous. Unless you are confusing nitrite and nitrate, what is the test result for nitrite?
 

Essjay

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Ammonia exists in 2 forms in water - toxic ammonia and much less toxic ammonium. The amount in each form depends on the pH.
Our test kits measure both forms combined. The Seachem Ammonia Alert measures only ammonia and not ammonium.

If your pH is below 7.0, just about all the reading from the tester will be ammonium so the Seachem alert will read zero.
 

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