Help - Betta fish

GoingNowhere

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#1
Hi all! I got myself a betta fish about 2.5 months ago and I think that I've accidentally put him into some sort of shock. He is in a 10 gallon heated aquarium and was doing marvelously until I did a water change not quite a week ago. I think I changed out too much water and now he's acting lethargic (still eating, but otherwise spending most of his time laying at the bottom of the aquarium). I kept about 3 gallons of old water, but replaced the rest (with water conditioner) Is there anything I can do? The old aquarium water has been dumped, so I can't get it back.

I did put extra stress coat and stress-zyme in the water once he started acting weird. He's been quite active since I got him, so his lethargy is concerning.

Is there a chance that he will recuperate in this water once he becomes adapted to it and the bacteria has a chance to repopulate?
 

Stingr69

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#2
Test the water for PH and waste concentration very soon. Get the kit with 4 test tubes if you do not already have one. I have not kept betas before but have been a keeper of goldfish in the past. The advice is the same - Not a sick fish, you have sick water. Hope this helps.
 

GoingNowhere

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#3
I just got two tests (the big one was more than my budget will allow for right now). The pH is at 7.6+ (too high... and the test doesn't measure higher than that, so all I know is that it is at at least 7.6) and ammonia is at .25 ppm (slightly too high). I wonder if I accidentally jolted the pH in the aquarium when I cleaned it. I might try a piece of driftwood... I've heard that can naturally help to pull the pH down. The items in the aquarium are all plastic (with rock substrate) and bought at fish stores, so I don't think that any of my decorations are messing with the pH.
 

Maxy24

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A water change shouldn't do any harm unless the new water was drastically different from the old water...big temperature difference, big pH difference, etc. Or you've gone a very long time since your last water change. From what I've been told having a pH that is too high or low isn't a big deal unless you are trying to breed a difficult to breed fish. If not, all that matters is that it's always the same. Sometimes trying to make it perfect does more harm than good, consistency is better.


Does your water conditioner remove both chlorine and chloramines? What about heavy metals?


Having ammonia in the water is a problem, how often have you been changing the water? Are you using a liquid test kit or strips? Does it test nitrite or nitrate? Does the tank have a filter? If there is no filter then it's possible you accidentally caused the tank to start re-cycling by eliminating too much of the nitrogen fixing bacteria in the water/in the gravel (if you use a gravel vacuum). In that case you'll need to get a filter, or at least filter media for bacteria to grow on and then do frequent water change until the tank has cycled (bacteria has grown). Testing for nitrites and nitrates will tell us if this is what has happened.
 

GoingNowhere

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A water change shouldn't do any harm unless the new water was drastically different from the old water...big temperature difference, big pH difference, etc. Or you've gone a very long time since your last water change. From what I've been told having a pH that is too high or low isn't a big deal unless you are trying to breed a difficult to breed fish. If not, all that matters is that it's always the same. Sometimes trying to make it perfect does more harm than good, consistency is better.
There shouldn't have been a temp difference because I took the fish out and put him in a vase. I added new water to the tank and turned the heater off. left the fish in the vase overnight and put him back in the tank in the morning. Then I turned the heater on with the fish already in the tank so he could warm up gradually.


Does your water conditioner remove both chlorine and chloramines? What about heavy metals?
Yes, yes, and yes.


Having ammonia in the water is a problem, how often have you been changing the water? Are you using a liquid test kit or strips? Does it test nitrite or nitrate? Does the tank have a filter? If there is no filter then it's possible you accidentally caused the tank to start re-cycling by eliminating too much of the nitrogen fixing bacteria in the water/in the gravel (if you use a gravel vacuum). In that case you'll need to get a filter, or at least filter media for bacteria to grow on and then do frequent water change until the tank has cycled (bacteria has grown). Testing for nitrites and nitrates will tell us if this is what has happened.
Liquid test kit (just bought it). It doesn't test nitrates. They had a big one that did multiple things, but I'm on a grad school budget and so I only got the ammonia and pH (those things are pricy)! Yes and no on the filter. Yes, I have one, but I didn't put it in until this water change, so I'm pretty sure I destroyed my population of good bacteria. I've only been turning it on for a little bit per day because the water flow is a bit strong for my little fish.

I don't think I cleaned my tank the right way. I put the fish in a vase, took out a few gallons of water off the top and kept it in buckets and then dumped the rest of the tank down the drain. Washed out all of the gravel and decorations and then put the old water that I'd saved back in. I then added tap water to refill the remaining empty tank space and added some stress coat to decontaminate the tap water. I waited overnight and then re-added the fish to the tank. It was probably more of an overhaul than I should have done. :(

I've only had the fish 2.5 months, but I've done a big clean like this twice now (about once per month). In the in-between times, I've been taking out out a gallon or so once every week or two and replacing it with pre-dechlorinated water. The fish seemed to handle the first big tank cleaning okay, but the second one less so.
 
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There shouldn't have been a temp difference because I took the fish out and put him in a vase. I added new water to the tank and turned the heater off. left the fish in the vase overnight and put him back in the tank in the morning. Then I turned the heater on with the fish already in the tank so he could warm up gradually.
So you took him out of a filtered tank and put him in vase which rapidly fell to room temperature while building any ammonia faster then put him back in the tank and let it heat up.

Yeah, that could be your problem.

Lets say you keep him at 80f and change half the water, but its 70f. Well, you only end up with a 75f tank. A vase is going to cool to room temp nearly as fast as far as a fish is concerned. 70? 65? That is much too cold for a betta.

The ammonia also need to be controlled. .25 is too high. Any amount is too high. Do lots of small (1-2 gallon) water changes.

Which filter was too much for a betta in a 10g? I've often kept them in that size tanks with the common 100 gallon per hour filters. Many can be turned down, or put an aquarium sponge on the intake to clog it up a bit.
 

GoingNowhere

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#8
Thanks for the reply. Please remember that I'm new to fish care, but I do like the little guy and certainly intend to give him the best care I can as I learn. How do you suggest I clean the tank when I have to remove the fish? Or do I never remove the fish? Intuitively I figured this was the best solution because all temp changes are gradual. The fish is normally at 78-80 and my room temp is probably 72-74. The filter might not be too strong, I just noticed that he constantly moves his fins when it's on. It's a waterfall type filter (top fin maybe?). I also have a bubbler (non filter) but I usually leave that off because it makes even more "wake". I don't have much fish experience so please be patient, but I do think that I'm giving this fish significantly more thought than most give to their bettas. I've been doing small water changes every other day since the other poster suggested it. Ammonia still at .25 yesterday. Ph still high too. I wonder if I accidentally restarted the my tank bacteria cycle? Have any of you tried almond leaves or driftwood in a betta tank to gradually lower ph?
 

RD

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#9
I never removed my fish from the tank while cleaning. I scrubbed the algae while the fish were in the tank still and never did complete water changes.

Some bettas like a tiny bit of salt in their water. If everything else seems to be in order (tbh I'd be more worried about the ammonia in your tank than the ph right now) you could try adding a bit of aquarium salt.
 

Maxy24

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#10
I meant to reply to this sooner! Test your tap water for ammonia just in case that's where it's coming from. The pH will not change, it will always be too high, and that's okay. It's just the pH of your tap water. It's better for it to be constantly high than to be changed around.

When you do water changes you normally remove 25-50% of the water each week so the fish stays in the tank and you just suck water and poop/food debris out with a siphon. Then fill a bucket with tap water that is as close to the tank water temp as possible and add water conditioner to it, then pour into tank with fish. You do not have to clean any ornaments/plants unless they are looking gross (algae) and you want to make them look better. Don't completely clean gravel, just suck out poop and food with a siphon. In a tank with no filter the good bacteria live mainly in the gravel.

I always try to buy adjustable flow filters, but if the filter was designed for a 10 gallon it should be fine. If you have the tank water level come right up to the filter outflow it shouldn't be too turbulent. You can also put the filter on the far left or right of the tank back wall with the outflow pointed at the front glass so the other end of the tank is less likely to have a strong flow going on. Alternatively you can do what psyfalcon suggested and put a sponge on the intake.

So he could be unwell from the night spent in an unheated vase and the stress of being moved around. Some fish are more sensitive than others.

It is also very possible you killed off your good bacteria and the tank is now cycling. The only way to know for sure is to test for nitrites and nitrates. Here a little info on that if you're not aware. When a fish poops or food rots in the tank is produces ammonia which is toxic. In a "new" tank-one without bacteria- the ammonia simply builds up and will begin to kill the fish. The only thing that can prevent that is very frequent water changes to remove ammonia. During this time your tests would show ammonia but no nitrites or nitrates. Over time bacteria grows in response to the presence of the ammonia. The bacteria converts ammonia into nitrite which is also toxic (I believe it's even more toxic than ammonia). So very frequent water changes are still needed at this point to keep the fish alive. Your tests would show ammonia and nitrite. Over time in response to nitrite a second type of bacteria grow that converts nitrite to nitrate which is safe. Given a little time ammonia and nitrite will go down to zero and nitrate will be present. Water changes are still needed to keep the waste levels in check so the bacteria is not overwhelmed and unable to deal with the amount, but they won't need to be as frequent.

So when this bacteria is wiped out ammonia starts to build up and eventually nitrites will too. It's a dangerous time for the fish. However with one fish in a ten gallon tank he should be able to survive with frequent water changes so long as not too much damage has already been done. One of the filter's main functions is housing all of this helpful bacteria where it detoxifies the water as it flows through. The filter media should not be thrown out (and should not be rinsed in tap water or allowed to dry out) unless absolutely necessary. Unfortunately many of the smaller hanging filters do not have permanent media so eventually it does break down and fall apart and must be replaced.


So whatever is making him sick, I hope he pulls through for you. Keep up the frequent water changes!
 

GoingNowhere

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#11
Thanks for the responses all! Actually, after testing the pH and ammonia of both the tank and the treated tap water, I am significantly more concerned about the pH. See the images below:

pH out of treated water container (tap water + stress coat):


pH in tank today:


ammonia in treated tap water:



ammonia in tank:



Weird, right? Does stress zyme raise the pH? Its the only thing that I can think as to why the pH in my tank pH is SO drastically different than that in my tap (which is what I'm adding to the tank). This could be causing the pH to shift all over the place and shocking his system.

The ammonia looks somewhere between 0 and .25 today after a not quite 2 gallon water change.
 
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#12
The tap water probably has some disolved CO2.

CO2 will decrease the pH. CO2 + H2O --> H2CO3 That is carbonic acid (and also why fossil fuels are damaging reefs...).

I bet if you tested the water after leaving it out all night, the pH would rise.

The pH in the tank is not a problem. You might want to avoid big water changes or aerate the water beforehand though.
 

GoingNowhere

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The tap water probably has some disolved CO2.

CO2 will decrease the pH. CO2 + H2O --> H2CO3 That is carbonic acid (and also why fossil fuels are damaging reefs...).

I bet if you tested the water after leaving it out all night, the pH would rise.
Interestingly the water that I tested had been treated with stress coat and sitting for several days in a gallon sized jug. It didn't come straight from the tap. That said, it was sitting in a capped jug and hadn't been aerated.
 

GoingNowhere

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Update: My fish seems to be doing better! I've been testing the water like a fiend and I am pretty convinced it was a pH issue, not a temp or ammonia issue. I did a 40-50% water change with neutral to slightly acidic water and now he's acting more normally. The pH in the tank is now much closer to neutral (7.0-7.2 vs. 7.6+) and he even made his first tiny bubblenest since he's been acting strangely. :) Now to see if this lasts!
 

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