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Is it time to stop keeping fish?


SarahO
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Real talk: how do you know when it’s time to get out of fish keeping ? 

I got my first betta in 2020. I thought I had done all the research (5 gallon tank, heater, gentle filter, silk plants), but he passed because I didn’t know about the nitrogen cycle. My next betta developed a bad case of fin rot that he never really healed from. I don’t think I was cleaning the tank properly. 

At this point, I upgraded from a 5 gallon to a 10 gallon, and started keeping live plants. 

I still don’t know what happened with the betta I got next. I drip acclimated him and tested the water before he went in, but he died within 12 hours. My next fish seemed to be very happy and healthy, until he developed a tumor on his side. Eventually he couldn’t swim or eat, and he passed. My most recent betta died from internal parasites. I tried to treat her with prazipro as soon as I noticed the signs, but it was too late. 

Currently, my pea puffer is really struggling. I still don’t know what’s wrong, but he is really lethargic and stopped eating. He is so skinny. 

I really love fish keeping. But I feel like I’m not very good at it, as none of my fish have lived longer than 9 months. I’ve learned something new with each fish, but it’s heartbreaking and I don’t want them to suffer because of my mistakes, ya know?

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Edited by SarahO
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@SarahO, I am SO sorry for your losses. Let me tell you something- you started with what, IMO are some of the HARDEST fish to keep alive DESPITE all the hype in the aquarium hobby- most especially Bettas. Peas are hard for many other reasons, just ask @Odd Duck. I can get Otocinclus to breed, I can cure a vertically swimming fish and have them go back horizontal- none of my other fish have issues- but I could not for the life of me keep a Betta alive. They are delicate, and bred to have bigger and bigger fins (I even tried smaller, and fish from a breeder and STILL failed). If you think I'm wrong do a search on the forum for sick or dying Betta and you'll see....even the best of fish keepers struggle. I stopped keeping them. 

What I think you need is a win. If you want to give up that's ok but I don't think you do. Take your tank and do something really fun. You like the interactivity of a Betta? Try a group of male guppies or male endlers. They won't reproduce and you get color, action and personality. You want a group? Ember tetras are pretty easy and very small, so are CPD (Celestial Pearl Danios) but they do hide a little more- they are fun. There are all sorts of schooling fish like Tetras and Rasboras that are fun and satisfying to keep and also very forgiving. 

Just know, it really isn't you. Sure you made mistakes (like the cycle) but you've learned and adjusted and it's still not working? Sometimes it's just time to change tactic. 

Just my 2 cents for what it's worth. 

Edited by xXInkedPhoenixX
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As long as you have a passion, a love, for fishkeeping, as long as you get joy from fishkeeping, you should keep fish. Unfortunately, even if you didn't buy those bettas, they probably wouldve died anyway. Either in the cup at the store or in a flower vase or whatever the next costumer wouldve put them in. Not buying a fish isnt sparing it. If you did the best that you could to keep that fish happy and healthy, you shouldve feel guilty. That fact that you feel guilty shows that you are the kind of person who should be keeping fish. You care about these animals and you want to give them a good life. We've all killed fish. Cory once said that the people who know the most about fish are the ones who have killed the most fish. There are some things that cant be taught through videos, articles, and forum posts alone. Experience is key. Someday you'll be a great fishkeeper, you'll be keeping fish alive and happy for years and bring dozens or hundreds of baby fish into the world. You're impact will be net positive as long as you stick with it long enough.

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IMO betta's arent well cared for before they get to their final home, so anything could be wrong with them , and its unlikely that it is your fault. puffers are one of the more difficult to keep period. i might suggest if you are considering getting out of the hobby, but still enjoy fish, to try an easier to keep species. one thing to know, is you are not alone, we have all had fish die on us, and sometimes its our fault. it is part of the learning process.

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Where have you been getting your bettas from?  I would recommend aquahuna as opposed to something like Petsmart or Petco.

I know you mentioned silk plants. Have you thought about doing an easy planted tank (I do see plants in the photos)? It would give the betta the same sort of atmosphere, give you a more stable tank, but would also give you something to focus on besides just the fish.  Something to do well at besides just the fish. 

You'll get there and as every chef knows "good food takes time". Just give it time and have patience apart from your frustrations. I am sorry for your difficulties and hope that things get easier for you.

Step 1 I think is you need to test your water parameters and know what the fish themselves need. Then we can offer advice on how to fix any issues 🙂

 

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If you enjoy the fish don't give up start a thread and see if we can get this puffer doing any better.  

Bettas are tricky maybe give up on them for awhile at least.

Sorry you have had such a bad run sounds like a tough learning curve you've been on. But as everyone has said it is probably not you just the unfortunate state of some Bettas on the market.

Don't waste everything you have learnt just try another type of fish

 

 

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I’m so sorry for your loss. I agree with @xXInkedPhoenixX you started with 2 fish that even the best keepers struggle with and the disease section is roughly 80% betta issues. I am not an expert by any means but I have been keeping fish for decades. I have dealt with 3 Betta. 8 mos 13 months and a friend gave me one of her babies she raised 2 year life. Betta have shorter lifespans to start with and you never know how old one is when you purchase them. The more flowy more colorful are often older. 
 I also agree with others that the source of the fish is often the cause. Small breeders and hobbyists will have better cared for and stronger fish to offer vs big box stores for example. 

Celestial Pearl Danios are crazy fun, hardy and have a 3-5 year lifespan. From the right source they are great. Guppies from the wrong source can be just as heartbreaking but I see very few folks struggle with endlers and they are a good choice. 
 

Here is a source example. I breed bristlenose pleco. They can live  5-10 sometimes 15 years. The babies at 3 mos old are 2 +inches.  I was in a big box for supplies last week and there was one no bigger than my fingernail. It broke my heart because it was still at an age it needed special care and extra feeding to not stunt the growth and even survive. Unsuspecting hobbyists buy them read and research and do their best by care standards for them but fail because these are barely past fry age. The time in the store without proper feeding and care weakens them greatly at such a young age. My niece bought one of those prior to my breeding them a few years back. Poor little guys growth was stunted greatly and he did not live past 2. 
 

It is time to stop keeping fish when you stop loving the healthy good times you have with them or stop caring about them. You do not sound like you are there. As stated above those who know the most about fish keeping have obtained that knowledge by losing fish. 

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It might be where you are getting the fish from cause I bought some fish and plants from one store and all the plants died and more than half the fish. Then I went to another store and all the fish and plants looked extremely healthy and I’ve had no deaths with the fish and all the plants are doing amazing.

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Sarah, don't give up. As others have already said, your care and concern makes you a much better candidate than the sorts of folks you see examples of in the Sh****y Aquariums subreddit. Which I don't recommend ever looking at unless you find no value in the lives of aquatic animals.

See my avatar? This was my first fish when I came back to the hobby after being away a couple of different times for YEARS. He was in a lovely 5gal with live plants, mosses, heater, diligent care, carefully quarantined roommates. He blew bubble nests frequently. He engaged my husband who had never had fish before as the tank was next to his evening chair.

All was great for several months - happy plants, snails, mosses shrimp and nano fish in 3 other tanks. He had kuhli loach roommates we could actually SEE. He got less aggressive and we thought it was because of the loaches keeping him in check.

It was Christmas Eve and we were enjoying a holiday movie when I saw one of the dogs playing with something on the carpet. It was one of the loaches, still wet but not moving. I tried putting him back but it was too late. I did a count and found 2 more were missing, likely for the same reason. This tank has a full glass lid, no idea how they managed it unless we left the lid cracked a bit after feeding? Never found them, presumably eaten by a dog or cat. Water parameters were fine, no hidden bodies we could see so we went to bed and I planned a water change the next morning.

Christmas morning I find the betta on the bottom of the tank. I scooped him out and looked at him on the paper towel...and cried. My sweet spouse even offered to say words if I wanted. I was angry with myself. I had gotten these from reputable sources and done all the right things...right? I never did figure out what happened with the betta other than the possibility that it was stressed by too many loaches doing zoomies all over *his* tank. I learned that for me anyway, bettas get added LAST to any community setup.

I was terrified there was something wrong with this tank and I was missing it. But the nerite snail and the two remaining kuhlis were absolutely fine...still are. But for awhile it was just them and a lonely male endler while I regained the confidence to try again.

Today that tank is thriving, with a micro colony of endlers (highly recommend, hardier than guppies and just a beautiful) that just had babies last week - and are still alive! 7 shrimp culls from another tank are making more shrimp that are almost old enough to start having their own babies. The remaining kuhlis snuggle up together all the time and seem happy to be a pair - I've even seen some breeding behavior! I have three other tiny tanks doing great and even a jar with no filter, heater that is growing plants, snails and shrimp that are also breeding. The other betta I got at the same time is doing well too. More tanks are in the works.

This a novella but I hope you can get something from it - sometimes things just go wrong, even with lots of info at hand.  And it really stinks when it does. I came down to make coffee this morning in a good mood because I am finally hardscaping a 55 today - to see one of my nerites looking not alive at the bottom of her tank. They live about a year and these were full size when I got them last August, so it's not surprising. But sad just the same as it was a couple of weeks away from a new tank adventure.

Even so, I am excited about the fish soon to come and experiencing things in this hobby I haven't yet - and you can do that for many years to come if you want to. This is a wonderful community of supportive and caring folks that will help however we can. Please do start a thread about your pea and see if we can get you some help - they are more difficult than I am ready to attempt just yet but there are others here that have even bred them! I am thinking parasites are really likely.

I hope to see you back here soon and enjoying some success!

 

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I sympathize with you so much. I recently made the decision to stop keeping bettas, I've had my last couple not make it. And I love bettas so much, it was a really hard decision to make. I also stopped keeping pea puffers after trying once because they were too hard for me. Pea puffers need dewormed and do best in a group of 6 or more, so there could be multiple factors to your dude's decline. If you wanted to keep him, I would recommend upgrading to a 15gal or 20gal long tank, adding 5 more puffers and deworming all of the puffers. But it still wouldn't be easy. They have an intense social hierarchy and sometimes bullying can occur, and they're picky about foods and in my experience will only eat frozen food or live snails. Mine only ever ate snails or frozen bloodworms. I ended up rehoming mine, which could always be an option for you if you wanted to. I agree with @xXInkedPhoenixX that you need a win. You could try another betta that you buy online from a reputable source. My latest and final betta for a while is a giant male I bought online and keep in a community tank, and he's doing great and much better than many I've had in the past. I think guppies would be so fun, but I would recommend platies even more. They're so hardy, energetic and personable. You could get a trio for your 10 gallon! Even if you need a break, I hope you can find a fish now or in the future that helps you enjoy the hobby to its fullest 💛

 

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On 4/15/2022 at 2:15 AM, Flumpweesel said:

If you enjoy the fish don't give up start a thread and see if we can get this puffer doing any better.  

Bettas are tricky maybe give up on them for awhile at least.

Sorry you have had such a bad run sounds like a tough learning curve you've been on. But as everyone has said it is probably not you just the unfortunate state of some Bettas on the market.

Don't waste everything you have learnt just try another type of fish

 

 

@Flumpweesel I would love help with my puffer. He is so emaciated, because he hasn’t eaten in days. He has zero interest in any kind of food. I began treating him for parasites earlier this week, but I still can’t get him to eat anything. 
water parameters: Ammonia 0ppm, Nitrites 0ppm, Nitrates 5.0ppm  

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I’ve kept fish since 1975 and had my first reef tank in 1983 when that side of the industry was really just getting started.  After some serious job burnout, I stopped keeping fish for about 10 years and just jumped back in 2 years ago after rescuing a pair of Jack Dempsey cichlids with a couple common plecos.

I bred a pair of Betta splendens back in the day and successfully raised fry and sold them to my lfs.  It showed me just how challenging Bettas can be and I realized my life wouldn’t accommodate ongoing breeding at that point.  That said, I’ve lost 2 Bettas fairly recently that I still haven’t figured out why they succumbed.  I think a lot of breeding stock is so inbred that some of the vigor has been bred out of them.  Bettas can definitely be tricky and the fancier the fins, the more issues they have.  The more colors they have, the more likely they are to have cancers.  There are some serious health problems happening with a lot of Betta lines.  You can’t blame yourself for every loss.  Sometimes it just happens.

As for pea puffers, they are by far the most challenging species I’ve kept.  Cute little buggers but devils incarnate to each other.  I rescued a solo male, which started me on my pea puffer odyssey.  The more I read, the more I was intrigued. I was determined that I would start breeding them to at least supply my tiny little corner of the world with captive bred instead of wild caught fish.  I even managed to get some fry from eggs that were left behind by fish that were in grow-out/quarantine.  But that tank crashed and I lost all the fry.  Pea puffers often come with intestinal parasites, which can usually be treated.  But, sometimes if they aren’t eating well, or the parasites have affected them too deeply, they pass away from liver or kidney damage despite our best efforts.

You are doing the right thing by deworming, but I would also recommend trying levamisole for deworming.  @colu has recipes for putting it in food, but it’s incredibly tough to near impossible to get pea puffers to eat prepared foods.  I’ve mostly been using levamisole in the water weekly for at least 4 treatments.  I also do at least 2 treatments 2 weeks apart with the praziquantel (PraziPro).  Timing is everything with intestinal parasite treatment, you have to hit the worms at their vulnerable stage.  Siphoning out debris and detritus before and after parasite treatments is vital since the drugs often just paralyze the worms so they are expelled from the fish.  They usually aren’t killed so you still need to get them out of the tank.  Levamisole is also light sensitive, so treatment must be done after lights out.

Look for Expel-P from Fritz for a levamisole product in the USA made for fish.  Stay up with your water changes - during treatment you are covered since you’ll be siphoning out debris, just refill with clean, dechlor water and your water change is done.  If you have access to live foods, that’s your best bet for getting stubborn pea puffers to eat.  Whiteworms, blackworms,  bloodworms (good luck finding live, it would be a long shot), Grindal worms, scuds/amphipods, snails (bladder snails are a favorite for mine, then ponds, then ramshorns), Daphnia and/or Moina, mosquito larvae, brine shrimp, even fairy shrimp (very hard to find).  You can try whatever frozen versions of any of the above list (usually only brine shrimp, bloodworms, and Daphnia), and try them.  I have seen fruit flies suggested, but mine are utterly disdainful of touching those yucky flies.  🙄

Don’t beat yourself up for losing fish.  We’ve all been there, done that, if you’ve kept fish very long at all.  We often don’t know how well they were kept or how they were captured (sometimes with toxic chemicals).  They can go into liver or kidney failure from being starved during capture, shipment, more shipment, etc, before they ever get to the pet store, and that’s a slow, gradual death, usually with no outward, visible changes.  😔 

In some ways fish keeping is easier than ever before (better lights are a game changer for keeping live plants), but in some ways it’s harder than ever before.  So many species are so inbred that it’s weakened species that used to be considered extremely hardy (guppies and Bettas are both extremely good examples).  You have to persevere and find the species that fits your style or find a breeder that has healthier fish to get you started on the right foot.

 

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Others have said this but it I'll reinforce it. Especially in Betta's they are not the "beginner" fish they are marketed as or possibly once were. They are difficult and as someone who has kept a ton of bettas and been absolutely heartbroken every-time one passes early (or even late in life, I do love Bettas). There is lots that can be said about the way they are kept prior to reaching their home, or the genetics of how they are interbred. As for Pea Puffers they are a more advanced fish to keep. 

One of Cory's videos helped me out early on in my fish keeping journey where he and Dean we're discussing that no matter what fish will die on you, and most of the time you don't know why. With all the experience they have they still have fish die on them but they have the experience to help give the fish good lives and help them have a chance to recover if they get sick. That experience comes with time, and with loses. If you are feeling the need to take a step back and take a breath then do that but I encourage you to not give up. It sounds like you care about the fish and the hobby in general and you are the kind of people we need in this hobby. People who care. 

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On 4/15/2022 at 7:36 AM, SarahO said:

@Flumpweesel I would love help with my puffer. He is so emaciated, because he hasn’t eaten in days. He has zero interest in any kind of food. I began treating him for parasites earlier this week, but I still can’t get him to eat anything. 
water parameters: Ammonia 0ppm, Nitrites 0ppm, Nitrates 5.0ppm  

It sounds like everything you're doing is right. My question is going to be what is the KH, GH, PH, Temperature.

Is the other conditions good for the bettas or the Pea Puffer.

Are you feeding bloodworms or something else?

Do you happen to have some salt on hand?  This might also be a great thing to add to bolster the fish while it's suffering. It also helps with constipation.

Again, I think what you're doing is what you need to be doing and the Nitrogen cycle looks to be doing well. Could be flow, oxygen, temperature, or hardness related. 

If you haven't here is a great video to talk through everything going on...

 

Edited by nabokovfan87
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On 4/15/2022 at 11:04 AM, nabokovfan87 said:

It sounds like everything you're doing is right. My question is going to be what is the KH, GH, PH, Temperature.

Is the other conditions good for the bettas or the Pea Puffer.

Are you feeding bloodworms or something else?

Do you happen to have some salt on hand?  This might also be a great thing to add to bolster the fish while it's suffering. It also helps with constipation.

Again, I think what you're doing is what you need to be doing and the Nitrogen cycle looks to be doing well. Could be flow, oxygen, temperature, or hardness related. 

If you haven't here is a great video to talk through everything going on...

 

Water temp is 79°, I don’t know what the Kh and Gh are. 
 

He free feeds on snails, and I also feed him bloodworms. I have aquarium salt on hand. 

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The GH& KH test kit is SO easy to use from api. definitely worth grabbing. some of the more delicate stuff really doesnt do well in different settings. I personally couldnt keep a betta in a small tank plants no plants ect. I put him in my 125g discus tank and that dude just cruises around. My dk and gh are 11 & 140ppm very hard with a ph of about 6.8 (artificial from Co2 i imagine it is more in the 7.8 range as my water is tough. this is after a water softener.)

I find that knowing these parameters is almost more important then the "husbandry" since without the right parameters all the water changes in the world wont fix it.  Then just tailor your fish keeping habits to what will actually work for your water instead of what the interwebs says is easy 😃 If you have tried this long you have the fire! keep the flames stoked!

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On 4/15/2022 at 12:05 PM, SarahO said:

Water temp is 79°, I don’t know what the Kh and Gh are. 

KH and GH are referring to how many minerals are in the water being used. Some fish require specific needs. There are test strips the co-op sells that I would recommend (usually you can get the tetra test strips) available locally as well but will be slightly more expensive.  These two parameters tie into PH and

If you don't see any improvement in a few days (48 hours or so) you might benefit from adding salt.  Sometimes the pea puffers just get moody. It's part of their personality unfortunately.

Being honest. I don't know if you should add salt now because of the meds being in the system already. Especially if you're scheduled to change water soon.

If you have a local shop as well, even a big box store, they should be able to test your water for you.

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You're getting great advice. Steep learning curve with the fish you've chosen but there is a path ahead that can lead to success. 

In terms of the recommendation to get a win, if this pea puffer succumbs to illness this is not your fault. This is the fault of the store who sold them to you not preparing you. If it is a big box store I end up teaching their associates how to sex fish and info beyond the species card listed on their tanks so expecting them to do more is a stretch. You occasionally run into a really knowledgeable person but it's rare - at one of the BBS in a town close by there is a shrimp breeder and he works there to get free stuff for his business so I trust him but ignore the rest. Even some local fish stores spread misinformation to get the sale and move inventory - I heard a woman at our LFS tell someone they could keep Mbuna with CA cichlids and I corrected her, she was a little miffed but I saved that gentleman some heart break. 

So the way forward. 1)Follow the recommendations above from @Atitagainon treating the puffer. Keep asking questions. @Coluhas a great set of info on the disease page to use then if your question is not answered there ask. If this does end as we all want with a healthy puffer we can guide you to some fish that are fairly bulletproof and will help ease you to the good side of the hobby. 2)You need an API test kit or test strips from the COOP. Test your tap water and your aquarium water to start. Post that data up and we can analyze it and determine which directions you can go with your 10 g tank. 3)Hopefully you kept the 5 gallon as that will be a great quarantine tank. Use the COOP medication trio on any fish from an online or local fish shop or big box. You can do one med at a time or all three whatever you feel comfortable with. See @IreneYouTube on setting up a QT tank. 4)Have fun! This is a hobby, it should bring you some joy as you learn and grow as an aquarist. If it isn't you should take a break if the puffer passes. Reassess. If you decide to give it another shot make a plan - id 2-4 species you want to keep, what you want to do scapewise, and start a journal so that we can help you along the way as you set it up. This will provide you with some encouragement and a sense of fellowship with all of us - you are not alone. We have all had loses, gains, wins and everything in-between. 

All the best, I hope you can get the joy back, from what I can see you have done your best but the odds were stacked against you. 

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On 4/15/2022 at 12:36 PM, nabokovfan87 said:

KH and GH are referring to how many minerals are in the water being used. Some fish require specific needs. There are test strips the co-op sells that I would recommend (usually you can get the tetra test strips) available locally as well but will be slightly more expensive.  These two parameters tie into PH and

If you don't see any improvement in a few days (48 hours or so) you might benefit from adding salt.  Sometimes the pea puffers just get moody. It's part of their personality unfortunately.

Being honest. I don't know if you should add salt now because of the meds being in the system already. Especially if you're scheduled to change water soon.

If you have a local shop as well, even a big box store, they should be able to test your water for you.

Is there anything I can do to get my puffer to eat? I’ve tried snails (live and dead), bloodworms, and even some shrimp pellets and I can’t get him to eat anything. I can’t exaggerate how skinny he is. 

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On 4/15/2022 at 9:05 PM, SarahO said:

Is there anything I can do to get my puffer to eat? I’ve tried snails (live and dead), bloodworms, and even some shrimp pellets and I can’t get him to eat anything. I can’t exaggerate how skinny he is. 

What is the current status as far as this course of meds?

Take a bloodworm in a pair of tweezers and try to entice the little guy. see if he will eat it. chopsticks work as well but metal is safer to use.

Edited by nabokovfan87
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On 4/15/2022 at 9:07 PM, nabokovfan87 said:

What is the current status as far as this course of meds?

Take a bloodworm in a pair of tweezers and try to entice the little guy. see if he will eat it. chopsticks work as well but metal is safer to use.

All I’ve used so far is Pazipro, and I started that 3 days ago. 

I’ve used my aquarium tweezers to hold food right in front of him, but he still won’t bite. 

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On 4/15/2022 at 9:13 PM, SarahO said:

I’ve used my aquarium tweezers to hold food right in front of him, but he still won’t bite

He might not, eventually he should. I understand your concern. some fish just won't eat when there's water or med issues. Something to keep in mind for future, is that puffers are scaleless and for any scaleless fish you usually dose slightly less meds.

I am reading through the directions and it's saying it could take up to 4 doses for parasites that have a 28 day lifecycle.  I would go ahead and dose salt not, your next water change is in 4 days it looks like.

whatever is on the box or package for salt, dose half that amount specified.

The only other thing of note in the directions was that it specifies not to use sulfur based water conditioners (reduces effectiveness of the meds). 

With the salt added. he may perk up in 12-24 hours and might eat for you. 

Edited by nabokovfan87
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On 4/15/2022 at 9:46 PM, nabokovfan87 said:

He might not, eventually he should. I understand your concern. some fish just won't eat when there's water or med issues. Something to keep in mind for future, is that puffers are scaleless and for any scaleless fish you usually dose slightly less meds.

I am reading through the directions and it's saying it could take up to 4 doses for parasites that have a 28 day lifecycle.  I would go ahead and dose salt not, your next water change is in 4 days it looks like.

whatever is on the box or package for salt, dose half that amount specified.

The only other thing of note in the directions was that it specifies not to use sulfur based water conditioners (reduces effectiveness of the meds). 

With the salt added. he may perk up in 12-24 hours and might eat for you. 

Just making sure I’m understanding you correctly, I should add the aquarium salt now? It can be mixed with the prazipro that is already in the tank?

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On 4/15/2022 at 9:55 PM, SarahO said:

Just making sure I’m understanding you correctly, I should add the aquarium salt now? It can be mixed with the prazipro that is already in the tank?

Yes you can add salt with the meds.

https://www.aquariumcoop.com/blogs/aquarium/aquarium-salt-for-sick-fish

 

Recommended dose is 1 Tbsp per 3 gallons of water. 

It helps with constipation, recovery, and respiration specifically. I add it whenever I am dosing meds.

salt.png.a1b034eb1d6f5a2d4dd2a345a067f84b.png

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