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Need Help Diagnosing Betta Issue

mookat

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I've just decided to try my luck with bettas again after not having an aquarium for several years. Today I came home to find a weird mark on my betta's head and want to be sure I diagnose the issue properly so that I can get Ruthie back to good health. 
 
Tank Facts
>6 gallon Marineland pillar
>Attempted to cycle a tank for the first time with this one, ammonia levels were at zero when fish introduced
>All decorations, substrate, etc cleaned with water that had been treated with Tetra Betta Safe before introduction to tank
>Tank includes the Betta Log, Betta Leaf Bed, a mock driftwood piece, two marimo moss balls, indian almond leaf (changed if it starts to sink, have a pack of them), and only silk plants
 
Water/Fish Treatments
>Water treated with Tetra Betta Safe before being added to the tank.
>My betta had a small piece of his fin missing when we brought him home, so I treated him with Hikari Betta Revive for the first two days
>API Stress Coat Water Conditioner added to water
>20% of water changed weekly
>I've been testing for ammonia every day since it was my first time trying to cycle a tank. I noticed that the ammonia level was at .5 so I changed 20% of the water again mid-week. The next day it was still not at 0, so I did use some ammonia remover in the water. 
>Tank temperature kept at 80.2 degrees and checked with in-tank thermometer regularly. 
>Fishie eating Betta Pellets daily and freeze-dried blood worms every other day, only what he can eat within 2 minutes. 
 
My Betta (Ruthie, yes I know it's a male fish) came from a Petco a few weeks ago with a small piece of his dumbo ear fin missing on his left side. Since adding him to his tank (very slow introduction over 24 hours, slowly adding water from new tank to his container, letting the container float to adjust to temperature in tank, etc), he has been very active, seemingly happy, exploring his new environment, resting on his betta leaf, and generally loving life. 
 
Today i noticed the spot on the left side of his head as pictured below. It looks like it could be a missing scale, but I wanted to post it here to be sure it's not ammonia burn or something else unpleasant. I've been working really hard to keep the ammonia out of this tank, but have been having trouble cleaning such a small tank with the manual siphons, so the water is still a bit cloudy even after changing 20% of the water two days ago (am ordering a different style pump). Any idea what the red spot on his head his? 
 
With Injury - Close up.JPGWith-Injury.JPG
 

attibones

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What are your ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels right now?
 
That spot looks like it could be a scrape or just discoloration. The fake driftwood would be the most likely culprit, unless your betta has a habit of running into the filter. 
 
If you are getting ammonia levels at all, then you did not properly cycle the aquarium. Every time you get a reading for ammonia or nitrite you need to do a water change of at least 50 percent. If your ammonia level is .50 ppm and you only change 20 percent, then you still have an ammonia reading of about .30 or something (I don't feel like getting a calculator out). If you do a 75 percent water change, then your ammonia levels will be fairly close to zero. However, if your ammonia ever gets to the point where it is skyrocketing, you should do total water changes. These are far less stressful on the fish than living in ammonia. 
 
It is also very important to keep an eye on your nitrite levels. When ammonia comes down (due to the nitrifying bacteria, not due to water changes), nitrite goes up. Nitrite exposure is also detrimental to a fish's health. 
 
It would be ideal in this situation to increase weekly water changes to about 75%, keeping in mind that if you fish-in cycle, you may have to do more than one water change a day. 
 

NickAu

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Fishie eating Betta Pellets daily and freeze-dried blood worms every other day, only what he can eat within 2 minutes.
I had a betta once, And he could eat an awful lot of pellets  in 2 minutes, Remember a bettas stomach is only about the size small, I used to feed mine 3 pellets in the morning and 3 at night and 1 or 2 extras during the day as a treat and some people would say that's over feeding him.
 
 
indian almond leaf (changed if it starts to sink, have a pack of them)
I never bothered to remove the IAL from the tank. It just sort of  sunk to the bottom and melted away of its own accord. I also had glass shrimp in the tank and they seemed to love munching on the rotting leaf.
 
Did you know you can get IAL in teabags?
http://www.indianalmondleaves.com.au/product/small-ial-teabags-100-pack/
 
If you want to make him real happy, add some real plants to the tank including some floating plants, Not only will this make the little guy happier he will love the cover from the floating plants, it will also improve your water conditions a bit, Plants reduce some of the bad stuff.
 

essjay

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Freeze dried blood worms aren't the best for bettas, frozen ones are better. With just one betta it is not worth buying live ones but frozen cubes can be kept in the freezer and a small corner cut off and defrosted for one meal.
If you want to continue with freeze dried (so as not to waste them) make sure they are thoroughly rehydrated before feeding to the fish.
 

NickAu

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If you want to make him real happy, Throw in a few live baby shrimp see if he loves to hunt, I had mine in a heavily planted tank and he would spend hours everyday looking for the little shrimp among the plants, Bettas are quite smart and love interacting with their owners. I could pick mine up in the palm of my hand and he didn't panic,  Great for those times you need to catch him for some reason.
 
 
Freeze dried blood worms aren't the best for bettas
I agree, I wouldn't feed freeze dried to any fish.
 
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mookat

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I did an 80-90% water change last night, rinsed and cleaned the plants and substrate again, ammonia levels are down to 0 ppm, thank goodness. Ruthie has been active and seemingly happy the whole time, but the red marks on his gills made me panic. I thought these were the sign of ammonia poisoning, but without the gasping/lethargy/etc that usually accompanies it, could those just be coloration that i missed? 
 
 
NickAu said:
If you want to make him real happy, Throw in a few live baby shrimp
 
I've been nervous to try live food, as so many people have mentioned disease from live food. Best sources? 
 
essjay said:
Freeze dried blood worms aren't the best for bettas
 
I wasn't aware, as it was sold as betta food! I feel terrible. I'll rehydrate some and use them a bit but will probably just switch to something else rather than using them up if they aren't great for the fish. Re: The 2 minutes, that was what recommended on the package but I can definitely lower the amount of food fishie is getting.
 

Did you know you can get IAL in teabags?
http://www.indianalmondleaves.com.au/product/small-ial-teabags-100-pack 
 
 
I did not know that, these are awesome! That being said, he LOVES hanging out next to the IAL as it is. He'll rest on top of it like a bed or hover under it as a stealthy cover. 
 
If you want to make him real happy, add some real plants to the tank including some floating plants, Not only will this make the little guy happier he will love the cover from the floating plants, it will also improve your water conditions a bit, Plants reduce some of the bad stuff.
 

I've been thinking about doing a planted tank, but I've never tried one before, so tons of research is going on for now. I got the marimo balls as a start just to have something in there to help. 
 
attibones said:
That spot looks like it could be a scrape or just discoloration. The fake driftwood would be the most likely culprit, unless your betta has a habit of running into the filter. 
 
It would be ideal in this situation to increase weekly water changes to about 75%, keeping in mind that if you fish-in cycle, you may have to do more than one water change a day. 
 
I did the "panty hose test" with the drift wood and it seemed okay, but I may check it again. I've also been trying to see if he's a filter fish...my last betta was bad about that. 
 
I know that fish-in cycle is generally not recommended, but I don't have a secondary tank with a filter, and he's used to having water at 80 degrees. I would be hesitant to move him to a bowl while the tank was cycled without a heater, etc. Do you think he would be okay? 
 

NickAu

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I've been nervous to try live food, as so many people have mentioned disease from live food. Best sources?
He may not want to eat them.  I cant say if its a disease risk or not, I always place the shrimp and fish in a QT tank ( Ok its a plastic tub full of water with plants ) for at least 2 weeks before introducing them into a tank.
 
I get my shrimp online, I know this is in Australia and not much help to you.
https://www.livefish.com.au/tropicals/shrimp-and-crays/glass-shrimp-100-package-free-shipping.html
 

essjay

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Frozen live food is safer than alive live food, has more nutritional value than dried and doesn't cause the same problems as dried (swelling up inside the fish as it absorbs water). In the UK you can buy packs of frozen cubes from the LFS, I don't know if it's the same in the US. For one fish you would need to chop a small piece off a cube and thaw in some water before feeding to the betta.
 
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mookat

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essjay said:
Frozen live food is safer than alive live food, has more nutritional value than dried and doesn't cause the same problems as dried (swelling up inside the fish as it absorbs water). In the UK you can buy packs of frozen cubes from the LFS, I don't know if it's the same in the US. For one fish you would need to chop a small piece off a cube and thaw in some water before feeding to the betta.
I'll look for frozen here and see what I can find!
 
An update: Ruthie seems to be okay for now, swimming around happily, healthy appetite, etc. I checked the water again today and the ammonia is still at 0 ppm, so at least that has improved. I'm going to continue with aggressive water changes until I see some healed wounds and can set up a hospital/QT tank, then will remove Ruthie to that until we can correctly cycle the tank. The last time, I cycled it for a week, but apparently didn't give it proper time or tested incorrectly, so hopefully this time will fair better.
 
That being said, I have noticed a bit of a tattered look to Ruthie's back fins.  Either he has the start of fin rot, is super attracted to the filter, or is dealing with something else i'm not as aware of. 
 
The solutions I was going to try tomorrow are aquarium salt (6 gallon tank, could be mild-mod fin rot--he was missing a bit of his side fin when I got him, so could have come with fin rot, which is where I would think moderate) and covering the intake with a layer of panty hose (suggested elsewhere) to keep Ruth from being suctioned to it. Any other ideas? 
 

Vethian

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A sponge filter with biomedia is cheap and easy to build.  I picked up a sponge filter replacement from top fin.

http://www.petsmart.com/fish/filters-filter-media/top-fin-filter-cartridge-zid36-20869/cat-36-catid-300019?var_id=36-20869&_t=pfm%3Dcategory%26pfmvalue%3Dfaceted
 
Then I took a empty water bottle and drilled holes in the bottom and on at the neck and one in the middle for a suction cup.  I fill the bottle with ceramic media.  Put the bottle top into the sponge after removing the carbon.  Put an air line in the hole at the neck.  flip over so the sponge is at the bottom and place in tank on side.  Plug in air pump.  the bubbles flow up threw the media out the holes in the bottle.  The displacement pulls water through the sponge.  
 
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mookat

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I've got the Marineland Pillar tank and the filter that it came with unfortunately. It has a current that is too strong for a betta, so I have tall plants to soften the flow and also used the betta log (http://www.amazon.com/Zoo-Med-Floating-Betta-Log/dp/B0027ITKBS) to help redirect and break up the current by propping it on top of the driftwood sculpture. 
 
The filter itself is a Penguin 100 filter with a bio wheel. I bought the tank (2013 I believe?) before I knew what a sponge filter was and how beneficial they could be for a betta. I'd love to convert my current set up to a sponge filter, but have no idea how to do that. Most suggestions I had read on how to alter this filter to soften the flow and be safer for longer fins was the panty hose alteration to the intake. 
 

Vethian

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You can put a sponge on the intake.  But the return will cause a strong current.  Do you have an air stone running?  If so, that can be turned into a sponge filter cheap and easy.
 
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mookat

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Thanks for all of the help, everyone. If It helps, here are some photos of my tank and updated photos of Ruth. The spot on her head has healed. You can see some of the fin damage I'm seeing in the close ups. There's a picture of the tank set up, a picture of the overall tank with Ruth, one of her snuggling up to her IAL (her favorite spot in the tank) and a close up to show the fin damage. Struggling like crazy with the photo upload options here, so here's an imgur link: http://imgur.com/a/UVFoq
 
 
Tonight I did another 80% water change and added 4 tsp of AQ Salt + Tetra Safe Start Plus + Stress Coat + Betta Safe to get the tank off to the right start with this water change. All water readings were great, temperature was right, and Ruth is back in her tank and seems to be doing pretty well. 
 
PS: I've given up on saying him. The fish's full name is Ruth Betta Finsberg (who can resist a good pun?) so we've just unanimously voted that Ruthie has a female gender identity, no matter what biology says. Forgive me. 
 
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mookat

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attibones said:
 
That spot looks like it could be a scrape or just discoloration. The fake driftwood would be the most likely culprit, unless your betta has a habit of running into the filter. 

 
^ Is where we're at now with the fins. They keep looking more torn. I've removed the driftwood, added some live plants and a smooth coffee cup as a cave to help, just in case the drift wood was the culprit here. I'm hoping that with that and the AQ salt we'll see an improvement. Could this be a fungus? Fin biting? Trying to nail down the cause so I can help fishy get better. 
 
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