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Betta Fish, Tumors, and My Experience With A Koi/Marbled Betta


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Hi everyone!

This is a long story, but I think it'll be helpful for anyone with betta fish.

I haven't been around these parts in awhile, but I thought I'd update with a mildly bleak view of betta fish. I have heard that bettas can be challenging to keep healthy and often ends up being the luck-of-the-genetic-draw if you find a betta with longevity. We decided to try anyway; my son really liked a specific marbled betta, and I agreed he was beautiful. It doesn't hurt to give him a good home with clean water, weekly changes, a good 79 to 80 degree tank, and let him live his lovely betta life. He arrived at our home as an adult fish in early January. My seven year old called him Moonler, probably because his blues and yellows reminded him of nighttime.

Moonler has always had an interesting personality. A little bit spazzy with the way he swum around and lunged for his food, but not at all aggressive. He never flared at his reflection, never flared at snails, never flared at his kuhli loach tank mates who are intent to accidentally harrass him when he's chilling out on the bottom. I just figured he was quirky and we ended up with a super calm fish.

Then I started to suspect maybe he couldn't see well, because he wasn't the best eater. He wanted to eat, yes -- but he had a hard time accurately scooping betta pellets into his mouth. I would end up turning off all filters and water flow, distracting the kuhli loaches with a bottom tablet or repashy, and feeding him one pellet at a time until his feeding was finished. The process would take about 10 to 15 minutes to feed him at a time. I just went with it and accommodated.

Then the tumors started to grow. I knew beyond a doubt it was tumors, because I'd heard that koi and marbled bettas are particularly predisposed to tumors. First they showed up on his face -- left side cheek, not quite on the gill plate. It didn't seem to affect him much at first and I knew there wasn't anything we could do with a firm, lumpy mass on his face, so I just told myself we'd care for him as long as he was with us. It's not contagious. The kuhlis are fine, the tank is healthy. Nitrates never exceed 10 in a given week, and it's a planted tank. Now the face tumor has grown, and there's a unilateral suspicious lump around his belly area. His swimming is jerky and uncoordinated and he's having more trouble than ever getting his food. He tires quickly; on some days he's more vigorous about slurping up the food, and on others he'll give up after one or two attempts. I have an inkling that the tumors are interfering with his ability to coordinate his movements, and that's why his eyes are often scraped and he can't quite lunge in the right direction to get his pellets.

Right now, Moonler is still with us, but it's a waiting game. He's still showing interest in food, and behaviors are uneven, so I am letting him live his little fishy life. I'd just like everyone to be aware that breeding practices for the betta splendens has really highlighted genetic problems and weakened their bloodlines in favor of beauty.

If I were to get another betta, I would pick one up at the LFS and forego the pricier breeders. Research the common problems associated with genetic traits before you buy; they're still great, beautiful fish, and I honestly feel much more relaxed about caring for my little guy because I know his situation is beyond my control.

I hope this helps any other betta parents; it's not always your fault if your betta is declining sooner than you expected. In the morning I'll see if I can get some pictures of him. He tends to like resting a lot in the plants or along the bottom, so it's difficult to do it.

Cheers, and I hope summer has been treating my fishkeeper friends well!

*EDIT TO ADD A SUMMARY*: Give your betta pristine water of 5+ gallons (less is ok if you're experienced with breeding and frequent water changes), make sure (s)he's eating, stick in a heater (+thermostat if you'd like), keep that filter flow low and you'll be giving your betta as good a life as they can enjoy, regardless of genes ❤️ 

Edited by laritheloud
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On 8/8/2022 at 8:56 AM, Axredx said:

Poor little fishy, I have a Pink Dumbo and have forver been trying to treat popeye on his left eye, but nothin works. Mine seems very healthy otherwise.

If popeye is only on one side it might be an old injury. I have a diamond tetra who has had popeye/a blinded eye on one side, likely from hurting herself long ago. I've had her for a year and a half and she's been trucking along with only one useable eye this whole time. If he's not acting poorly and the fish is unresponsive to treatment he'll probably be fine with just one eye. Good luck! ❤️ 

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  • 1 year later...

Poor Moonler! 

I have had a red, white and blue, female Koi Betta (marble) for 2 years now (named her Blue).  She is almost blind (hard to tell exactly).  I think those scales are growing over her eyes as I've kept a close watch on her since I got her. There are some blue spots that didn't used to be there on her eyes.

Thankfully, she has no tumors but her blindness is so sad.  My schooling fish are fast as lightening and it takes real effort on my part to make sure Blue gets her share of food.  Sometimes, I back off, then sneak back later to give Blue a pellet while nobody's looking.

I join you in sorrow that breeders are doing this.  Bettas were beautiful before all this crazy breeding started. There is rarely a need for man to improve what nature has already accomplished, in my humble opinion.  I'll never adopt another Koi Betta.

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I'm so sorry that happened to moonler 😞 but at the very least he's in a great environment as his final resting place while in your care. I'm sure if anyone else picked him up at your pet store they would've given up on him a long time ago just because he struggled to eat. Thank you for sharing this!

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