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So we’re gonna start with a bit of a backstory to get the full scope. I have a 10 gallon tank (which had a divider) and my 2 bettas passed away within 2 weeks of each other, one from old age(I had him for 2 years) and the other from a tumor(he was with me 20 months). The water perimeters stayed stable and I took out all the silk plants, but kept the gravel, rocks, moss balls, and wood. I deep cleaned, suctioning the gravel, and did 3 water changes (80%, 50%, and 70%) and added new plants over the next 2 weeks to prepare for my new fish. Harry (an opal) and Adam (a delta) seemed to be doing well in their new tank, but Harry only lasted 8 weeks, the last 2 of which he was dealing with swim bladder issues. After 1 or 2 deep cleans of Harry’s side, and a month of water changes, I took out the divider and let Adam have run of the tank. He was never happier! It has now been 4 months that I’ve had Adam, and as of Wednesday, I thought he was a little constipated, but daphnia, peas, and fasting didn’t help, then last night he was more bloated and started pineconing, though he was still alert and attentive. (Picture from last night) He looked worse this morning and was slow to respond, though he did eat with some difficulty, but now it’s evening and he hasn’t eaten dinner, seems sluggish (though he can still zoom if the net gets close to him) and I don’t think it will be much longer before he passes. If I diagnosed correctly, he has dropsy. I know the success of treatment is really low, and though I love him and don’t want to lose him, I feel that trying to treat him would do more harm than good. My water has always been at a safe level and I’ve always been really careful when cleaning and everything. I don’t know what could have caused this string of deaths…. Am I doing something wrong, or could it just be that I’ve gotten bettas with hidden health issues?

It’s just been hard, soon to be 4 deaths in 6 months. Especially as my fish are my emotional support.

Also, when the time does come, what do I do to clean the tank to make sure it is safe for a new betta? I will definitely be replacing all the silk plants, and doing a standard deep cleaning, but is something more needed? (This is the first case of dropsy I’ve had) And what about the gravel, rocks, moss balls, and driftwood? Or the filters? Can they all stay or do they need to be replaced as well?

Thank you so much for your help!


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@BettaMamaPDJ I'm really very sorry for your losses. Despite popular information Bettas are not easy fish to keep. I've lost a betta myself to Dropsy so I understand your distress. 

What I would ask in order to better help you is if you could post pics of your whole set up, tell us how many gallons and what your waters last tested at including temperature. What kind of filtration do you use etc. This will help us help you and your future bettas

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I have a 10 gallon tank with 2 small sponge filters from Aquarium Co-Op with air stones (I have 2 due to the fact that I had a divider in the tank until a month ago, but Adam loved the bubbles so much I kept them both in when I removed the divider since there was still low water movement). 

I’m attaching pictures of my tank, though they appear to be loading upside down, I don’t know why…

Currently the tank is 82 degrees and I just tested with the following results:

Nitrate .5 (approximately)

Nitrate 0

Hardness 120 (approximately)

Chlorine 0

Alkalinity 100 (approximately)

PH 7.2

I live in the high desert, so our outdoor temperature can fluctuate quite a bit. Generally in the morning, the tank is around 79.6 degrees and by night it has peaked at 82.6 max. Summer is another story, as I don’t even use a heater, and still have to keep an eye on the tank to make sure it doesn’t get too warm. 

My tank has been at these levels and temperatures for almost 3 years, and 2 of my betta lived fairly long lives (2 years and 20 months, which seems to be average when they come from Petco in my brothers experience, and he has kept a lot of betta)

I hope that this helps, and thank you for your time in responding.





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Your tank looks like a lot of fun and the parameters look pretty good. I'm sorry you lost your Bettas and one isn't doing so good. 

You are correct dropsy is hard to treat even when you can treat the swelling the organ failure is already well on its way. 

It sounds to me you did pretty well with Bettas getting them to live over 3 years old! That's great!

There are a few ways you can approach this if you think the tank could be infected:

1. You can as you said before pull what you think might be a problem like the silk plants (but really they can be washed/sanitized and dried), and do a deep cleaning. I would leave a previously infected tank empty for 4 or 5 weeks myself. 

2. You can empty the tank entirely, sanitize using diluted bleach or white vinegar solution, rinse several times and have it dry out in the sun for a couple of weeks and start entirely over with new everything (or completely sanitized old stuff)

3. You could raise the temperature in the tank (taking out any other living things like plants or snails you want to save) as high as your heater will go and essentially "boil" the tank sanitary- this would likely kill off beneficial bacteria and you'd have to start over anyway. (you could do 1 and 3 together)

I would personally opt for 2 as it would give me an opportunity to redo the tank which I like to do anyway and give me some "mourning" or contemplation time between the loss of the last fish and what I'd like to do with the tank after. 


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Thank you so much for your advice!

I am definitely planning on just doing one betta this time. I’ve really enjoyed the one on one time with Adam and would like that again. 

Option 1 & 3 together will probably be the best option for me, I just have a few questions:

Do I leave the filters in while I “boil” the tank? And how long would I “boil” it for? And should there be a max temperature that I don’t want to exceed that could ruin the tank or it’s seams?

And am I correct that I would wait 4-5 weeks after the boiling for the good bacteria to regrow?

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You can leave the filters in, shouldn't hurt them. 85-87 degrees for a few days to a week should work pretty well, the tank should handle it fine, silicone is very temperature tolerant. After do some water changes.

Yes, essentially you will be resetting the tank's cycle so you'll have to watch for the nitrogen cycle before you add your new baby. Whatever your preferred method is for starting that can begin after you do the boil and water changes.

If you did option 1 by itself you'd leave it for 4-5 weeks as most harmful things should die off in that time without a host but not guaranteed. The cycle would remain mostly intact tho.

Edited by xXInkedPhoenixX
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You are so helpful!

My brother actually set up my tank initially and he had brought filters from his tank that had the good bacteria in them already.  So starting the cycle from scratch is kinda new for me. Do you have any suggestions for resetting the tank cycle?

Sorry for all of my questions, but I really do appreciate all your help!

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Haha, it's ok, I work nights so I'm up. 🙂 

Does your brother still have tanks? If so I'd just ask him for some filters or media (even buy one and have him run it in his tank a couple of weeks) That would be the best and easiest way. 

The good bacteria grows on the filters but even a handful of substrate from a good established tank will help out here. 

Edited by xXInkedPhoenixX
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Here is where opinions differ in how to cycle a tank- there are so many ways some better than others. This is where the science of aquarium keeping can be fun! I recommend you watch these videos from Aquarium Co-op:


Also Irene's video series is great, this is the first video in the series, I recommend you watch them all!: 



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Some people suggest plants from your fish store or even ordering from Aquarium Co-op will help if you want to try live plants. I would highly recommend this method. 

Do you have a real Marimo ball in your tank? Is that what I see? If it's a real one I'd remove it from the tank and put into clean treated water this could be a good help for your cycle as well. 

Your brother might be a good source of information too with this so don't discount his opinion! Honestly if he can ship you a plant or filter quickly that could work!

Edited by xXInkedPhoenixX
Typos are lame
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