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Parasites or PH differences?


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I've been trying to figure out what's going on in my heavily-planted 20 gallon hexagon. I've had a betta in there for about 3 months. His fins are looking a little haggard, but that could be explained by other factors resulting from inexperience/experimentation:


My plan was to move him to a smaller 10 gallon mostly plantless column tank that is currently a grow out tank for some juvenile platys, treat him with some salt and see if I can't get some fin regrowth. I haven't had any previous parasite issues or ich (as far as I know), so I thought it might just be stress or something about the environment that he didn't like. Before doing, that, though I wanted to see how the betta would do with the platys (and to see if they could make a dent in the hair algae that's been growing), so I moved two into the 20 gallon as my "canaries in the mineshaft" if you will. I kinda just dropped them in and didn't acclimate them at all. The betta flared at them a bit initially, but has since mellowed out.

However, I have now noticed that at least one of the platys have been flashing off of my crypts and anubias for about a week. It's not super frequent as far as I can tell--I only see her do it 2 or 3 times once or twice a day. The tank is on my desk, so I'm able to keep a pretty good eye on them. I don't see any signs of ich or irritation to their scales and the betta and otos that are in there don't seem to be affected.

Last Friday, when I did my weekly water change, I added the standard 1 tbsp of salt per 5 gallons and let them sit in it over the weekend. The flashing is still happening and my plants are already looking a little rough. Hesitant to continue down this road, I did a 50% water change yesterday and plan on doing another 50% today in an effort to get some of the salt out.

Current tank parameters:

  • pH: 6.8 - 7.0
  • Ammonia: 0
  • Nitrites: 0
  • Nitrates: 20 - 30ppm
  • GH: 25
  • KH: 0 (?)
  • Temp: 78 - 80

My questions:

  1. Is the flashing something to be concerned about? Could it be an external parasites or just the result of a different pH than the tank they were raised in? The pH in the tank that the platys came from is 7.6 thanks to some crushed corral in the filter and I know platys tend to like a bit of a higher pH
  2. If I move the betta and the platys into the 10 gallon in order to treat them, that leaves the 20 gallon empty, but potentially with parasite issues. I would assume that the parasites require a host to survive, but is it risky to put the platys from the 10 gallon in the 20 straight away or would the 20 gallon need to be treated in some way?
  3. If I can't move them into the 20 gallon, what can I do to treat the tank without killing the plants? I'm not too concerned about the bacteria in the tank because I have plenty of other tanks that I can use to jump start it if the bacteria are killed off. I would just hate to lose my plants.

Any recommendations on a course of action here?

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Thanks for sharing. Sorry to hear about apparent stresses. It's possible there's something going on. Your water changes should be helping. But water changes may also stress a tank out. I've found that a tank which has about a 10% water change every other day or so is preferable to a tank that gets a 50% change weekly. But if you forget to add conditioner, the chlorine burn can cause fish to flash.

Bettas are just notorious for getting fin rot. It's hard to keep them really healthy. If your substrate has a build up, the fish sleep on bottom, their fins can get infected easily.

As far as parameters, they look OK to me. Just beware of Ich. Sometimes fish flash before you see the white spots show up. Have Ich-X ready to roll.

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