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Exhausting our fin rot treatment options... are we missing something?


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Hi all... 

Our beloved betta, Mr. Richards, has been struggling with fin rot for the better part of a year.

Our current water parameters are as follows, as taken from the API Master Test Kithttps://imgur.com/a/0ouDJuk:

Nitrates: <10 ppm

Nitrites: <10 ppm

Ammonia: not detected 

pH: 7.2

Water hardness: around 42 initially, though we use almond leaves and peat moss to soften it.

KH: 60-80, but we don't have a great way to measure this 

Mr. Richards lives in a ten gallon planted tank with one nerite snail named Wendell Gee. So it's a nice, calm environment with lots of places for him to hide and explore. Throughout his entire time living with us, he has always been a happy guy! He is very active and has a great appetite for his frozen bloodworms and mysis shrimp. That has never changed.

When it first started, we determined the cause to be high nitrate levels. We brought those down and kept the tank as tidy as we could in the hopes that that would help him.

We change his water once or twice a week at the moment, and we are always very careful about rinsing our hands thoroughly before we ever put them in his water. 

When that didn't work, we thought maybe something was wrong with our pH. It was testing at about 7.4, but I read conflicting reports about whether that was actually our biggest problem. We treat his water with India Almond Leaves (we're big tannin fans) to soften it and bring that pH down, and we also have some peat moss in the filter. It's been months, and the pH has only come down to about 7.2.  

I also removed all of his toys and made sure to sand them down before adding them back into the tank in case he was snagging it on anything. 

We've tried treating him with Maracyn, Maracyn two, Paracleanse, and ich x, just in case. He's always handled these treatments well, and still eats and swims regularly. Whenever we medicate him, we notice some slight improvements and new growth, but it's always one step forward and two steps back as about a week later, his tail looks worse than before. Our next plan of action is to move him into a hospital tank and treat him with aquarium salt. 

I keep wondering, though... is there something we're missing? He keeps getting worse and it makes us so sad to see. We've even been thinking about setting up a new tank for him to live in and then scrapping that ten gallon and starting over. We have a 20 gallon tank that has never had any issues, so we wonder if something is just not adding up in his current home. What else can we do to help him? Is there something else he may be suffering from? 


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Any level of Nitrites greater than zero would be a bit worrisome. Aside from that, I don't think any of the other parameters would indicate any problem. Perhaps all those meds, especially the Maracyn 2 interfered with the biofilter??

I have never had a betta, but have had some fin rot issues. In my case, they were always caused by overfeeding. Good clean water and some aquarium salt did the trick to heal and spark new growth, but it's important to try and pinpoint the problem so It doesn't reoccur.

When you mention you change the water once or twice a week, are you talking about a 100% water change each time? That could be very stressful, if so.

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If you can rule out water quality issues (nitrite should always be 0), it could be caused by him nipping his own tail, creating a never ending cycle of him aggravating the issue. Tail nipping is pretty common in bettas who have those big, heavy tails, but no one is 100% sure on how to fix it. You can try increasing his exercise and relieving boredom by giving him some flaring time with a mirror (10 minutes a day). You can also try putting him in a smaller tank, so he doesn't feel as frustrated dragging that tail around as much to get where he wants to go. If tail biting is indeed the problem, if you can find a way to get him to stop, then his tail can start healing. 

Just an idea as to what the problem could be.

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Sorry, I checked our nitrite levels again just to be sure they were reading well. It definitely looks like zero. We don't do 100% water changes, only 20%. each time. 

I really doubt he's nipping his fin, or at the very least it doesn't look like that at all--we have a lot of things in his tank for him to interact with and we actually do have a betta mirror that we let him interact with on occasion. He never seems to have any issues getting around--we keep our filter on a slower setting so the tank still gets oxygen but it doesn't create a lot of disturbance within the tank, and there are a lot of plants in there that he can use to support himself as he gets around. But hey, I definitely won't rule out fin nipping. 

Also, how do you know if you're overfeeding? He gets a small breakfast of a few bloodworms, and then a small dinner of a few mysis shrimp. Would it dirty up the tank that quickly? I was under the impression the plants would help with that (as well has him being the only thing in the entire tank that gets any food). 

Like I said, I'm not sure what the problem is. It's such a frustrating thing, we can't figure it out! Thank you both for the input. 

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I had a betta with a really stubborn case of fin rot as well, and unfortunately he passed away (for unrelated reasons) before I figured out how to cure it. I think sometimes it’s just a tough case. I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong.

You may have already seen this video, but just in case here’s Irene’s fin rot treatment plan. It uses some meds you’ve already tried, but maybe a different protocol:

If you want to try something totally different, one fishtuber actually took his betta out of the water and swabbed concentrated H2O2 on its fins:

I tried the H2O2 method, but once I got my betta out of the water I was afraid I’d hurt him trying to spread out his fins. I ended up putting him back in the water without treatment. But I thought I’d mention it in case you’re up for a very hands-on approach!

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In the past when I've had betta fish with a persistent fin rot problem that didn't go away with clean water, good food, and medication, the causes of stress were:

  • Current was too fast
  • Halfmoon betta was biting his own fins and tail (lifelong problem)
  • Betta was constantly flaring at his reflection (on one of the aquarium walls) every day from 2-4 pm when the sun was at a certain height and I wasn't at home to see it
  • Betta was chasing his fast tank mates all the time
  • Heater temperature was accidentally set too low

You may have to do some detective work and see what random thing may be causing him stress. Hope you can figure it out soon!

Edited by Irene
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