I set up my very first planted tank (low tech) on March 6. Itís a Tetra 10 gal with a 50 watt heater and an Aqueon QuietFlo 10 hang-on-back filter. I chucked the carbon inserts in favor of filter sponge and bio rings which utilized biomedia from my established tank and I added a pre-filter sponge. The aforementioned established tank (5 gal) held one betta fish, acrylic substrate, silk plants, fake everything. There wasnít anything ďlivingĒ, like a plant, in it. It also had a heater (25 watt) and a small hang-on-back filter running carbon filtering. Betta fish was in there for 5 months, healthy as can be, beautiful fins, weekly water changes/vacuuming. All was perfect until I decided to give him what I thought was a better home.
When I started the 10 gal, even though I used biomedia from the established tank, I followed the protocol for a fishless cycle using food, the ammonia and nitrites spiked and fell after 2 weeks I even purchased 6 danios in the middle of week three to put in the tank to help further establish it before putting my precious betta in the new tank. On March 22, I put the betta fish in. After one night, the very next morning, his fins looked torn, tattered and ragged. I mean, literally he went from perfect to a mess. I assumed that the danios were nipping him, so after another week I returned the danios to the LFS and betta is now in the planted tank alone like he was in his former tank.
The fins have not improved from March. I assumed this had turned into bacterial fin rot, so I put him through two rounds of Kanaplex and Jungle Fungus (on the chance it was fungal) in April. I have since amassed every kind of medication and treatment for the fish and the tank water, but before I transfer the fish to a hospital tank and strip the 10 gal tank down and salvage my plants and start all over, I thought I would pause and get other opinions on this. Of course, I have made mistakes as I am learning. But I feel like I fall out of the realm of simple water quality shaming as most videos and posts on the subject of fin rot resort to. I did weekly water changes on the 5 gal tank. When this problem appeared in the 10 gal I increased the water changes to every three days. Iíve always thoroughly rinsed/cleaned the filter in tank water on a monthly basis. Iíve tinkered with pH, went back to leaving it alone. Put temperature up, then back down, then up again. All the while, my water parameters have been perfect, Iíve tested Phosphates because of algae which was never really that bad. Installed phosphate filter pads to help with that. Iíve purchased more plants and moss to pad some hard surfaces, Iíve removed stuff that appeared sharp. Iíve tested KH and GH. (All parameters listed below.) Iím sure some of the stuff Iíve done in my attempts to get a handle on this have only contributed to the problem so thatís why I am stopping and asking others. I donít want to do anymore that doesnít help him.
One thing when I do restart this 10 gal from scratch, I feel the substrate (Carib Sea Eco Complete) is too abrasive for a betta fish. Heís always been sort of a ďloungingĒ fish. He loves his floating log, his betta hammock, the substrate, leaves. As long as I have had him, he likes to rest everywhere. Therefore when I restart this tank, I am only going to use rhizome plants attached to hardscape placed over soft sand. Nothing rooted and nothing I canít vacuum. And nothing volcanic and SHARP. I have since installed porch screen material covered with java moss in places covering the sharp substrate in an attempt to carpet things in there and make it soft for him. But now I canít easily vacuum the gravel so that canít be good for getting rid of this pathogen. So I have my suspicions on what is contributing to this, but Iím going to stop and ponder this with your help.
Any advice on next steps is appreciated, including on what to treat him with in his Hospital. Iíd like to try salt for starters, but I keep reading that it doesnít work on advanced cases. I would say heís got a moderate case, but it has gone on for a long time. Iíd also love thoughts on how to restart this troublesome 10 gallon so that it doesnít injure or sicken my fish. And if anything jumps out at you regarding my water parameters, Iíd love to know that.
Thank you! Iíll try to answer any questions as they come up.
Temp: 80 (he was always 78 in the 5 gal)
pH (natural from the tap): 7.2 to 7.6
Phosphates: 0.25 (with phosphate removing filter sponge)
Anubias Nana Petite
Seachem Prime (conditioner)
Seachem Stability (bacteria refresh)
Seachem Flourish Advance (weekly)
Seachem Acid Buffer (Iíve stopped this, though it really does work well)
Round pebbles to anchor plants
Floating betta log
Airstone was used when administering medications.
I feel I should also list what I have on hand, but havenít tried. I apologize for this already lengthy post, but at least this list shows how serious I am at becoming a better water/plant farmer as well as a fish keeper. (I really want my fish to get better.)
Tetra Lifeguard (water treatment)
Aquatronics Res-Q (Iíd heard good things about it)
BettaFix (yeah, I know. Donít bother)
Bettamax (Basically the same as Jungle Fungus Clear)
Focus and Garlic Guard (in case we need to go oral)
Maracyn 2 (arriving from Amazon on Tuesday!)
Male halfmoon betta
Food (one of the below choices twice daily):
Omega One Veggie Mini Pellets
Fluval Bug Bites Ė Betta formula
Tetra BettaMin 3-in-1 Select-A-Food
Hikari Frozen Blood Worms (as a treat)