Diagnosing the Sickness

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    Measure your betta’s activity level. A healthy betta should be swimming around in the tank every so often. A sick betta may stay near the bottom of the tank and only come up infrequently for air, or stay up near the surface of the water, huddled in a corner.

    • Another sign of a potentially sick betta is continuous darting around and careening into gravel in an effort to itch itself. If you notice this happening, it may be a sign that your betta has an infection.
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    Look at your betta’s fins. Are they close to the betta’s body? Known also as clamped fins, this is a sign of poor water quality, and should be dealt with immediately with daily 50% water changes until the levels are back to normal.

    • If the betta has small white spots on its body and fins (they look like grains of salt), it as a parasite called “ich.”[1] This should be treated as soon as possible.
    • White cottony growths that are larger than ich are fungus. This can be treated with a medicine such as Maracyn or Rid Fungus.
    • Fins that look like they are being eaten away have fin-rot. Fin-rot needs to be cured quickly because it can be spread to the body. Treat with warm, clean water, a few drops of garlic juice, and a product that replaces the slime coat, such as Stress Coat by API.
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    Pay attention to how much your betta is eating. Normally, bettas have hearty appetites and will at least taste anything and everything you put in their tank. A sick betta may be neglectful of food or just show periodic disinterest in its food, barely touching or even spitting out its food.

    • If your betta looks bloated, he may be constipated. To treat this, get a frozen pea. Shell it, thaw it, and cut into tiny pieces. Feed a few of these to your betta, then feed him nothing for a few days. You can also try feeding live, frozen, or freeze-dried daphnia for the same results.
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    Pay attention gills and eyes. Normal eyes and gills have a healthy color; they do not look oversized or inflamed. Unhealthy eyes on bettas often protrude and look inflamed or bigger than normal; unhealthy gills may turn red and don’t close all the way because of inflammation.[2]

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    Check out your betta’s scales. If your betta’s scales look slick and effortlessly part of his regular body, they’re probably okay. If your betta’s scales are ruffled (almost like messy feathers) or stick out wider than normal (like a ripe pine cone), that’s a sign that there may be something wrong.

     Isolating and Treating the Illness

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    Isolate any sick betta living in a communal aquarium or bowl. If your betta gets sick but it’s in a tank with other bettas (or other fish), remove the betta and give it its own bowl or jar. Start off with a one-gallon bowl or jar. This ensures better water quality and is easier to introduce fresh water into.

    • Use the same water from your old tank when you first introduce the betta to a new environment. This will prevent the betta from experiencing shock, and allows you to better acclimate the betta to its new environment so you’re not compounding the illness.
    • When changing the old water out of the tank, remove about 3/4 of it and gradually add a little each hour until the water is at its normal level.
    • If the betta started off in a smaller jar, then it’s okay to do a complete water transfusion. Always use a sanitized jar, and never remove the betta from water completely.
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    Check your water for harmful chemicals such as ammonia, nitrites and nitrates.[3] These chemicals are extremely harmful to bettas and can be spotted using a liquid water test, which are more helpful than strip tests. Many illnesses or signs of sluggishness can be cured by introducing proper water into the bettas environment. Try this before adopting more drastic approaches.

    • Be on the lookout for extreme changes in water pH. Sand and lava rock or porous stones can make the water more basic, while certain vegetation can make the water more acidic. Shoot for a pH of 7, ideally.
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    Make sure your water is warm enough! Bettas absolutely need warm water. As tropical fish, they thrive in water that is between 78° and 82°F. Be sure to have a thermometer on hand and be sure to keep your betta’s water warm.

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    Treat your betta using salt treatment. One of the most effective treatments for many different kinds of illnesses is Aquarium salt, also known as sodium chloride. Aquarium salt helps heal wound and relax bettas, lowering their stress levels. Do not use aquarium salt for a prolonged period of time, and pay attention to dosing on the package you’re using. High doses of sodium chloride can be bad for bettas.

    • Try to use sodium chloride treatment before you move on to more serious medications. The conservative approach of AQ salt is usually more effective than blasting your bettas with medication, provided they’ve been isolated, and have clean, warm water.
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    Try therapeutic additives before giving medications a shot. Therapeutic additives include Indian almond leaves, tannins, black water extracts, and peat moss pellets. They should ideally be used at the first sign of illness rather than once the illness has gotten to an advanced stage.

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