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Chronic Swim Bladder Betta Fish


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Hi all,

In need of some help. I bought a betta fish from a big box pet store about two months ago (so, rescued from a cup). I took him off the shelf when I saw he was floating on his side (immediately righted himself once I touched the cup so I knew he wasn’t dead, lol). Based off this I strongly suspected swim bladder problems and wanted to help as the average person who walked into the store might not know what’s wrong. Additionally, he is also very petite for a male betta, even a younger one from the pet store. I have him by himself in a 9 gallon Fluval flex tank (with live plants and the output flow is slowed down a lot with sponges so he’s not blown around). When I first put him in his new tank, the swim bladder issue seemed to correct itself and he was able to swim normally and explore. From there I fed him about one pellet a day. Occasionally he would seem to have problems and be stuck at the top again and then I’d back off the food. I think after awhile he seemed to be doing ok (still didn’t seem quite normal some or a lot of the time as far as spending a lot of time at the surface of the tank) so I graduated him to a pellet in the morning and one at night for several days. The swim bladder issues became more frequent (this started to get worse weeks ago) so of course I backed off the food and started fasting. When that only seemed to help a little I tried a small piece of cooked pea. Fast forward the issues have continued and now they are worse. I have alternated fasting, small pieces of pea, fasting again, daphnia, fasting, and a few epsom salt baths (spread out a couple days apart). I had aquarium salt in his normal tank but I read that can make it worse so I’ve done enough water changes to remove it.

After the first Epsom salt bath, when I removed him from the recovery bath to his tank, he immediately went to the bottom, swam normally, and hid under a plant, but within minutes was swimming right at the top again. The  last two did not seem to help at all. He is at the point where when he rests he is always on his side now. And he is having trouble getting around (he’s flopping/side swimming). The last food he had was a small piece of pea again last night (he hadn’t had food for a few days and I tried a pea once more as a last ditch effort). I did notice during the bath today he had some feces coming out, but at this point pooping doesn’t really seem to help him (although he definitely has abdominal swelling). Overall he has an appetite and energy (well when he gets startled or tries to swim away) he just can’t get around properly anymore and I feel so bad for him after trying multiple things. Also, no pine coning of the scales is happening, his scales and fins and color appear very healthy. Just keep in mind he is very petite still so I’m wondering if this is a birth defect issue.

Water parameters are: 0 (or less than 5ppm nitrites/nitrates). Ammonia is fine. pH is 7.5, KH is around 80 and GH is around 120 (water is a little hard where I live normally so I’m thinking of using spring water instead of my treated tap water?)

Any feedback is welcome. I saw another thread where kanaplex was recommended. I can try that, but has anyone else had this problem before and is it possible he just has some sort of birth defect or internal issue not caused by constipation or overeating?

Pictures are attached of his tank and him in the salt baths (side resting and bloated abdomen). He also frequently has the trademark S curve in his back.







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Personally it seems like you have a betta with bad genes. When the big chain stores first started selling the dumbos, they were relatively healthy. But as time went on and demand grew, they lowered their quality standards and started shipping fish that should have been culled. Your betta's "S" shape tells me that it is affecting the swim bladder. In bettas, the bladder stretches straight through their bodies, and those with curvy spines are often affected with swim bladder disease. Same goes with his abdomen, with a curved back, the stomach doesn't fit right so it has to expand more in the front rather than all around the base. To improve your betta's quality of life, you can move him to a shallow tank with dim lights and plenty of tannins. That way he is doesn't have to fight to get to the bottom as much. With that being said, his fins and color are quite impressive. 

Its a real shame that these chains focus on profits rather than quality of life, im sure if they were careful with their breeding, they wouldn't have these birth defects all the time. 

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At this stage he looks really thin  he could be getting weak if it were swim bladder most cases are caused by over eating and the stomach putting pressure on the swim bladder constipation or a bacterial infection  as you have tried epsom salt bath with not much of an improvement just looking at the pictures chance of recovery is small but you could do a course of kanaplex  just in case its bacterial infection of the swim bladder 

Edited by Colu
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On 9/14/2021 at 2:01 AM, Nooby said:

To add to what @Keeg said I think some betta fin types have worse genes that others like dumbos,veiltail compared to like plakats 

Thats kind of true. While plakats are deemed one of the healthiest domestic fish on the market, it really depends on color after choosing a plakat. Blues get graphite disease, red and marble tumors, yellow and purple deformities. 

The bettas without diseases from domestication are the wild types. Mahachanesis and imbellis (among others) are the go to for healthy, long lasting, and classic looking bettas.

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Just as a side note I took the lid off of the tank to give him some food and the light coming from the lid on side of the tank illuminated his insides while he was floating on his side and I saw what looked like three air bubbles in his stomach area stacked on each other. This could be air build up that can’t escape? Or they could be organs, I am clueless when it comes to fish anatomy. I have heard of people removing air from their fish’s abdomens by using a syringe but he’s so petite and I feel like it would be too risky. Anyway just thought I’d mention it. Thanks for everyone’s input and any more is appreciated

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