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How I'm Treating Fin Rot in my Betta


Lizzie Block
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Thought I'd share my success story here ☺️ - my betta has been battling fin rot for a good few months now. Or at least that's how long I've been noticing issues. I believe one of the most important aspects of treating fish is identifying the root cause. In this case, I determined that I had simply gotten a bit lazy with his tank.

Knowing bettas can be exceptionally hardy and the fact that my tank was already cycled, I was only doing water changes every 2 weeks or so. Sometimes longer. Fast forward about 4 or 5 months to mid-April, when it peaked. The fin rot began as some red discoloration on the ends of his fins where they had previously been white. This is usually the first warning sign, discoloration.

Nearly 5 days after I started noticing this, it had progressed to almost the entire loss of his tail (top photo) and I could knew acting fast was my only option. I got my 5 gallon hospital tank ready with my air pump, airstone, heater and a few silk plants I had on hand to make him feel comfortable. 

My first step was water changes - a lot of them. Keeping the tank CLEAN. I was doing a 50% change every three days with a teaspoon added of aquarium salt per gallon that I was changing. (PS. never add SALTwater to top off SALTwater, only add it when you're changing the water as you could easily build up too many salts for the betta and stress him/her out even further.) I repeated this process for about 2 weeks. 

I could tell with the salt that the fin rot wasn't getting worse, but it also wasn't really getting any better. So, I progressed to treating with meds. I usually use this as a last resort, but I didn't have much time to decide and I didn't want to lose my fish while I waited around for things to improve. I used erythromycin to treat him as this antibiotic is commonly used to treat fin rot, is very accessible and widely understood. A good one is Mardel Maracyn found here. There was the potential that the fin rot could have been caused by a fungus. But in my research, I found that many people had success treating it as a bacterial infection with an antibiotic, so I wanted to start there and move to an antifungal if needed such as Ich-x.

I followed the instructions for the erythromycin and before the treatment was even over, I began to see improvements. I did not run a second round. His tail began growing back a clear-ish white color and later began to turn a dark blue/black which was very similar to his original coloration. 

Now, I am feeding him a variety of his favorite foods and changing his water about every 5 - 6 days (with no salt) and just working as hard as I can to keep his tank sparkly clean. He isn't 100% yet as this type of infection causes a lot of damage which takes a long time to repair, but we are definitely in the home stretch!! 

  • Water changes
  • Try Aquarium Salt, UP to 3 teaspoons (1 tablespoon) per gallon
  • Or Antibiotics, Antifungal or both
  • More Water changes forever 

 

Top photo is just before I started antibiotic meds (April 19th, 2020) and bottom photos are from today. 

PicsArt_07-12-09_18_30.jpg.1c74d2d1986334119f8d3d7be479e317.jpg

 

What he looked like the first 6 months or so after I got him! 🥺

20200204183842_IMG_7231.jpg.c82be84e25b9b182c6d713c5662cc2eb.jpg

Edited by Lizzie Block
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39 minutes ago, Irene said:

Super helpful! Thanks for documenting your success story with his treatment. 

Thanks, Irene! We've been making so much progress, I couldn't come to terms with the idea of leaving him here in PA, so he's coming with us to Washington along with Jimmy's Mata mata turtle 😂 This fish is going to be a world traveler!! 

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44 minutes ago, Lizzie Block said:

Thanks, Irene! We've been making so much progress, I couldn't come to terms with the idea of leaving him here in PA, so he's coming with us to Washington along with Jimmy's Mata mata turtle 😂 This fish is going to be a world traveler!! 

No way, that's so cool! Haha, you'll have to share their traveling adventures here as well. 

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My son's Betta Mizu seems to have some fin issues.  I've had Bettas before.  I bred my best blue and he lived well over 6 years. I keep wondering if he's fin nipping.  He is in my son'e room (4.5) happy.  Water change twice a week at least with this fin thing looking weird...I've checked surfaces.  He's spunky and happy.  I walk in and out to make sure he gets some day action.  Not seeing any glare/reflection.  Getting him the silly fish training kit to try and get them both interacting more.  He's in a 5.5 gallon with 2 nerites....I don't want to overdo the bioload.

I've added aquarium salt and IAL....maybe I need to up the salt.  I've been conservative.  We're in Jersey near Philly and the water is very hard.

 

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@Tre I'm around the Philly area too! So I can relate with the hard water situation, it's a struggle sometimes.

Your setup is really nice! 🙂

You could definitely up salt if you've been conservative or go ahead and run meds if you feel so compelled. Furan and the Erythromycin work well. I'd recommend to remove your Anubias and other plants there if you decide to increase the salt a hefty amount - salt can damage plants through dehydration.

If Mizu is fin nipping though, I'm thinking that may be a whole different problem to solve to figure out what is stressing him out! 😛

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 7/13/2020 at 1:30 PM, Irene said:

No way, that's so cool! Haha, you'll have to share their traveling adventures here as well. 

Hi Irene,

I have a betta that has fin rot and I saw your Youtube video re dosing maracyn and Ich-x which I did yesterday.  He is in a 5 gal tank by himself and the water parameters are all in range and temp is 80.2.  He was doing alright this morning, swimming around the tank and breathing normal, but when I check on him this afternoon he is breathing hard and staying on the bottom of the tank.  My question is; do the fish sometimes get worse before they get better? Do you have any suggestions?

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23 hours ago, Lynn M said:

Hi Irene,

I have a betta that has fin rot and I saw your Youtube video re dosing maracyn and Ich-x which I did yesterday.  He is in a 5 gal tank by himself and the water parameters are all in range and temp is 80.2.  He was doing alright this morning, swimming around the tank and breathing normal, but when I check on him this afternoon he is breathing hard and staying on the bottom of the tank.  My question is; do the fish sometimes get worse before they get better? Do you have any suggestions?

I'm sorry to hear that! Hmm, when I see hard breathing and lethargy, I often think of environmental factors (like chlorine in the water or pH crash) or internal organ failure from a long-term disease. Depending on how weak he is or how long he's been sick, it may not be possible to save him. I'm not a professional vet by any means, but if it were me, I would probably try doing a water change to clear up any possible environmental issues and redosing the medications since he's in the middle of treatment. If the meds didn't work, I would try aquarium salt next. Let us know what happens, Lynn. 

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6 hours ago, Irene said:

I'm sorry to hear that! Hmm, when I see hard breathing and lethargy, I often think of environmental factors (like chlorine in the water or pH crash) or internal organ failure from a long-term disease. Depending on how weak he is or how long he's been sick, it may not be possible to save him. I'm not a professional vet by any means, but if it were me, I would probably try doing a water change to clear up any possible environmental issues and redosing the medications since he's in the middle of treatment. If the meds didn't work, I would try aquarium salt next. Let us know what happens, Lynn. 

Thank you Irene for your response.  My little guy has improved some.😏

I did a 2.5 gal water change last night to reduce the meds.  I really didn't think he would make it through the night.  He was so exhausted an breathing pretty hard.  I was very surprised that he was still alive this morning.  He came to the front of the tank to be fed like he usually does and he ate.  But then returned to the bottom as it tired him quite a bit.  Breathing increased from the exertion but not as bad as the previous night.

With regard to the environmental factors, I have well water and use RO water and add Equilibrium for the PH so I know chlorine is not a factor unless it is sneaking in somewhere that I don't know about.   I just did a water test and the PH is 6.8, Ammonia is 0, Nitrites are 0 and and Nitrates are 5.0 ppm. 

As far as the meds...I treated the tank with maracyn about a month or two ago for green algae and it worked well and the little guy had no problems with that.  I'm thinking that maybe it was the Ick-X or the combination of the two that might have caused the problem.  I think I might give it a few days and do another water change and maybe just dose the maracyn and see what results I get.  Then try the Ick-X next if I don't see any fin improvement with the maracyn.  If neither one of those work move on to the salt assuming he has survived all this.

As you also mentioned he may have internal organ failure so it will end when it ends. 

He is a tough little guy.  I almost cried when he came over and asked to be fed.😪

Thanks again for your help. I'll keep you posted as the situations unfolds.

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Hello Irene,

Last night after my post to you I watch your video on GH & KH and did the tests.  Sure enough PH crash.  So I added some Equilibrium. This morning the boy is much improved, breathing better and more active.  His fins look terrible.  Could the PH crash, which probably has been going on for a while, cause the deterioration of his fins?

Once I get the tank perimeters corrected and the boy feel back to his old self I will try again with the maracyn/Ich-x.  

Thank you again for all your help!😊

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On 7/25/2020 at 5:47 AM, Lynn M said:

Hello Irene,

Last night after my post to you I watch your video on GH & KH and did the tests.  Sure enough PH crash.  So I added some Equilibrium. This morning the boy is much improved, breathing better and more active.  His fins look terrible.  Could the PH crash, which probably has been going on for a while, cause the deterioration of his fins?

Once I get the tank perimeters corrected and the boy feel back to his old self I will try again with the maracyn/Ich-x.  

Thank you again for all your help!😊

I'm so glad you figured it out!! That really warms my heart to hear that I was able to help a little. Yes, pH that is too acidic can potentially burn a fish's fins, gills, etc. It usually effects the "thinner" organs first, so that would make sense. 

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 7/12/2020 at 11:26 PM, Lizzie Block said:

Thought I'd share my success story here ☺️ - my betta has been battling fin rot for a good few months now. Or at least that's how long I've been noticing issues. I believe one of the most important aspects of treating fish is identifying the root cause. In this case, I determined that I had simply gotten a bit lazy with his tank.

Knowing bettas can be exceptionally hardy and the fact that my tank was already cycled, I was only doing water changes every 2 weeks or so. Sometimes longer. Fast forward about 4 or 5 months to mid-April, when it peaked. The fin rot began as some red discoloration on the ends of his fins where they had previously been white. This is usually the first warning sign, discoloration.

Nearly 5 days after I started noticing this, it had progressed to almost the entire loss of his tail (top photo) and I could knew acting fast was my only option. I got my 5 gallon hospital tank ready with my air pump, airstone, heater and a few silk plants I had on hand to make him feel comfortable. 

My first step was water changes - a lot of them. Keeping the tank CLEAN. I was doing a 50% change every three days with a teaspoon added of aquarium salt per gallon that I was changing. (PS. never add SALTwater to top off SALTwater, only add it when you're changing the water as you could easily build up too many salts for the betta and stress him/her out even further.) I repeated this process for about 2 weeks. 

I could tell with the salt that the fin rot wasn't getting worse, but it also wasn't really getting any better. So, I progressed to treating with meds. I usually use this as a last resort, but I didn't have much time to decide and I didn't want to lose my fish while I waited around for things to improve. I used erythromycin to treat him as this antibiotic is commonly used to treat fin rot, is very accessible and widely understood. A good one is Mardel Maracyn found here. There was the potential that the fin rot could have been caused by a fungus. But in my research, I found that many people had success treating it as a bacterial infection with an antibiotic, so I wanted to start there and move to an antifungal if needed such as Ich-x.

I followed the instructions for the erythromycin and before the treatment was even over, I began to see improvements. I did not run a second round. His tail began growing back a clear-ish white color and later began to turn a dark blue/black which was very similar to his original coloration. 

Now, I am feeding him a variety of his favorite foods and changing his water about every 5 - 6 days (with no salt) and just working as hard as I can to keep his tank sparkly clean. He isn't 100% yet as this type of infection causes a lot of damage which takes a long time to repair, but we are definitely in the home stretch!! 

  • Water changes
  • Try Aquarium Salt, UP to 3 teaspoons (1 tablespoon) per gallon
  • Or Antibiotics, Antifungal or both
  • More Water changes forever 

 

Top photo is just before I started antibiotic meds (April 19th, 2020) and bottom photos are from today. 

PicsArt_07-12-09_18_30.jpg.1c74d2d1986334119f8d3d7be479e317.jpg

 

What he looked like the first 6 months or so after I got him! 🥺

20200204183842_IMG_7231.jpg.c82be84e25b9b182c6d713c5662cc2eb.jpg

Hello Lizzie!

Your post was forwarded to me because I think I am dealing with a similar problem! I can't get quite as good of pictures as yours (you take AMAZING shots); do you think this is also fin rot? I made a (very long) post earlier today about my struggles if you would like more context about this specific situation.

Thanks so much,

Lanna

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Omg @BeetleLann I'm so sorry for missing your post! I hope your little guy is doing well. If he is a veil tail like you mentioned, my suspicion would be fin rot... His affected area looks similar to my fish. For some reason, his bottom fin always stays totally in tact, but it's his tail that we were losing. I actually had a recurrence where my fish lost all the new growth on his tail again because I stuck him in a bag to transport him across the country with me for a week. He did not appreciate it, but he's doing absolutely excellent now a couple weeks later.

I saw someone suggested Indian Almond Leaves - we sell them at the Co-Op and you can buy them virtually anywhere at a fish store. I have been putting a couple in his tank to decompose and release all those good chemicals to promote healing. It really seems to be working well combined with water changes every 3-4 days or so. I've also been feeding a wider mix of foods, some live, frozen and dried. A varied diet really helps too to build strength and I'd recommend it if your fish is still taking food.

I would suggest treating with meds as a last resort if he's still eating and swimming around normally. If not, Erythromycin, Maracyn or Furan 2 for bacterial diseases. Ich x if it's fungal. It's usually hard to tell until you start treating. BUT, if he's still healthy otherwise, it's probably a water quality or stress issue. Salt, water changes, Indian Almond Leaves, varied foods, limit outside stimuli. Emphasis on water changes lol I also keep a gentle sponge filter running and live plants to keep the water oxygen-rich. 

Let me know how everything is going!! I've got eyeballs on your post now haha. Best of luck ❤️ 

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18 hours ago, Lizzie Block said:

Omg @BeetleLann I'm so sorry for missing your post! I hope your little guy is doing well. If he is a veil tail like you mentioned, my suspicion would be fin rot... His affected area looks similar to my fish. For some reason, his bottom fin always stays totally in tact, but it's his tail that we were losing. I actually had a recurrence where my fish lost all the new growth on his tail again because I stuck him in a bag to transport him across the country with me for a week. He did not appreciate it, but he's doing absolutely excellent now a couple weeks later.

I saw someone suggested Indian Almond Leaves - we sell them at the Co-Op and you can buy them virtually anywhere at a fish store. I have been putting a couple in his tank to decompose and release all those good chemicals to promote healing. It really seems to be working well combined with water changes every 3-4 days or so. I've also been feeding a wider mix of foods, some live, frozen and dried. A varied diet really helps too to build strength and I'd recommend it if your fish is still taking food.

I would suggest treating with meds as a last resort if he's still eating and swimming around normally. If not, Erythromycin, Maracyn or Furan 2 for bacterial diseases. Ich x if it's fungal. It's usually hard to tell until you start treating. BUT, if he's still healthy otherwise, it's probably a water quality or stress issue. Salt, water changes, Indian Almond Leaves, varied foods, limit outside stimuli. Emphasis on water changes lol I also keep a gentle sponge filter running and live plants to keep the water oxygen-rich. 

Let me know how everything is going!! I've got eyeballs on your post now haha. Best of luck ❤️ 

Hey @Lizzie Blockno worries! We all get busy. My guy is doing okay, but there's been a lot of stressors in his life lately, so he doesn't look great, either. I must say, though, your statement about his fins and the bottom being fine but the tail being the worst is SO ACCURATE. That perfectly sums up my guy's fins, too. I won't be moving my guy quite as far as you did, but we had to move houses within the city this week, and this weekend we're moving again an hour away. I feel like a bad fish mom for getting him while renting and not in a stable housing situation. I'll probably be moving again within the next 4 months.

And thanks for the product suggestions! I have a bunch of almond leaves in the tank, maybe too many? I don't know. I will continue trying to mix up his diet.

Gonna keep trying all the other suggestions! They're basically what I've been doing (Water changes, aquarium salt, almond leaves, driftwood, coconut shells), but again, the moving situation is probably very stressful for him (and me, too!).

Any ideas how to tell if it isn't fin rot? I'm thinking maybe velvet, but at present I don't have great lighting. It just seems to me his colour is less vibrant. I've also noticed a couple white dots appearing on his face, but those disappear when I treat with Betta Revive (http://www.hikariusa.com/wp/solutions/healthaid/betta-revive/).

Thanks for everything, I'll keep you updated, and keep me posted on your situation, too! I love knowing you had difficulties, but have found ways to work through them and see improvement.

All the best, Lanna

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@BeetleLann Girl, I understand this all too well. I'm a renter too and have been moving around like crazy for years. It's honestly so stressful and having an extra thing to worry about makes it even more difficult. So, definitely don't beat yourself up about it. You are doing the absolute best things you can for your little guy, so keep that in mind!!

Whenever I'm moving, I always just have some supplies ready to go so that I can get my fish into a stable (ish) environment right off the bat. Even before moving couches and boxes. My moving kit for my betta is just a 5 gallon tank, dechlor, bottle of Fluval bug bites (his fave), heater, filter/air stone and a couple fake plants. It's always packed last so it's easily accessible. He's still living in there about 3 weeks after our move lol. 

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Ways to tell if it's not fin rot? I think behavior is a big one... With all my cases of fin rot in bettas, it seems that they still act and swim fairly normally even though they're losing fins. I've also lost a betta to dropsy and there was a huge difference in behavior. Diseases like velvet and ich (similar symptoms to what you've described with loss of color and white spots) are caused by protozoa which actually can normally live in our aquariums without issue. The unfortunate part is that they mainly become problematic with stress. Watch him for awhile around his tank - is he active or just sitting near the bottom or top? Does he repeatedly rub up against decor or glass? Is he eating? If you're also seeing behavioral issues, you may possibly be looking at something other than just fin rot. 

Betta Revive contains chemicals called malachite green and methylene blue - Api's melafix and pimafix. I believe malachite green is in Ich-x too. Known to help treat both ich and velvet, so if your diagnosis is correct, you are on the right path! 

My suspicion is that he's struggling with some secondary issues based on the stress of moving 😞 Keep up on water changes and take things one day at a time especially after your next move this weekend. You got this!!!

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 8/27/2020 at 6:53 PM, Lizzie Block said:

@BeetleLann Girl, I understand this all too well. I'm a renter too and have been moving around like crazy for years. It's honestly so stressful and having an extra thing to worry about makes it even more difficult. So, definitely don't beat yourself up about it. You are doing the absolute best things you can for your little guy, so keep that in mind!!

Whenever I'm moving, I always just have some supplies ready to go so that I can get my fish into a stable (ish) environment right off the bat. Even before moving couches and boxes. My moving kit for my betta is just a 5 gallon tank, dechlor, bottle of Fluval bug bites (his fave), heater, filter/air stone and a couple fake plants. It's always packed last so it's easily accessible. He's still living in there about 3 weeks after our move lol. 

20200827_151236.jpg.96bbf8ec1692172a92f9431c1c6a6381.jpg

Ways to tell if it's not fin rot? I think behavior is a big one... With all my cases of fin rot in bettas, it seems that they still act and swim fairly normally even though they're losing fins. I've also lost a betta to dropsy and there was a huge difference in behavior. Diseases like velvet and ich (similar symptoms to what you've described with loss of color and white spots) are caused by protozoa which actually can normally live in our aquariums without issue. The unfortunate part is that they mainly become problematic with stress. Watch him for awhile around his tank - is he active or just sitting near the bottom or top? Does he repeatedly rub up against decor or glass? Is he eating? If you're also seeing behavioral issues, you may possibly be looking at something other than just fin rot. 

Betta Revive contains chemicals called malachite green and methylene blue - Api's melafix and pimafix. I believe malachite green is in Ich-x too. Known to help treat both ich and velvet, so if your diagnosis is correct, you are on the right path! 

My suspicion is that he's struggling with some secondary issues based on the stress of moving 😞 Keep up on water changes and take things one day at a time especially after your next move this weekend. You got this!!!

Hey Lizzie, I am sorry for the very late reply! I just started grad school and things have been hectic here.

I just want to thank you for replying to me, and again apologize for taking eons to get back to you. A kind lady in Boston is going to send me some meds from the States, so I am hoping this will resolve the underlying issues.

Wishing you all the best ❤️

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@BeetleLann That's totally okay! I completely overlooked the fact that you're in Ontario and it's difficult to get meds there. I'm glad your little betta is still doing okay and hope the meds work well for him. So sweet of her to send those. Also major congrats and best of luck in grad school!! ❤️ 

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