Ammonia Poisoning? Please Help Me Save My Rescued Betta - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-04-2020, 11:50 PM Thread Starter
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Ammonia Poisoning? Please Help Me Save My Rescued Betta

Hi all, would really appreciate any feedback you can give.

I rescued 2 betta fish last summer literally from the curbside trash. They started in small fish bowls but I sent up 2 identical planted 5 gal tanks, with sponge filter, light and heater. My dad always had aquariums when I was a kid so I had a general background and understanding of cycling etc. and I think I did a decent job setting up and cycling the tanks. 15/20% water changes weekly. They have both been thriving for almost a year in these tanks. But poking around on here there is obviously a ton I didnt know.

Ive always done fairly regular water checks with the cheapo test strips. About 1.5 months ago I noticed one of the tanks getting a jump in ammonia and wasn't sure why. The pandemic shut down our pet store so I ordered an ammonia remover online and did some water changes. The ammonia would stabilize but then come right back.

Long story short, Ive been away from my city for about 4 weeks and just got back last night. A friend of mine was stopping by to feed them. Hes an old roommate, and I am sure he wasnt overfeeding. He sent me a picture while I was gone, and in one of the tanks (the one with the ammonia issue) all of the plants were browning out. I got back last night, and almost all the plants were dead and the betta in that tank, who used to be really active and swim right up to you, is clearly distressed. Spends most of the time laying on his size on the bottom of the tank and has labored breathing. He will shoot up to the surface to breathe then just sink back to the bottom. He does eat when he realizes that I'm trying to feed him. He was much more active than the other one, and now barely moves.

I ordered a better testing kit to be delivered in time for me to get home, as well as seachem prime and stability as I fear I might have somehow killed off my bacteria colony before I left (I did clean both tanks before I left but I am usually careful with the filter). The water is more acidic than it was (6.0), ammonia is up to 4.0 ppm. No nitrites but also very little nitrates (just a shade over zero).

Since I've been home I did a 20% water change last night and then did a dose of seachem prime on the new full volume, then changed another 20% this afternoon and did an initial large dose of stability. I know it's a slow process but there's been no change. If anything he's gotten worse. Just lays on the bottom with blank eyes.

Im new to these forums so Im not sure what other information I can give to be helpful, but I'm looking for general information on the following:

1. Is ammonia poisoning reversible, or is the best I can hope for is saving him in this lethargic state?
2. What else should I be doing right now to help get his water quality back up?
3. There was obviously a ton wrong with his water (high ammonia, acidic, non-existent nitrates) - do we think dying plants (potentially from low-light) caused the issue, or was it something else that in turn killed the plants? Really trying to make sure this does not happen again.
4. Im a bit concerned about my pH - what are some good ways to maintain a more neutral PH? I had a piece of driftwood in that I pulled out this morning, but the other tank has a similar piece with a much more neutral Ph.

Just really lost where to go with this right now, stuck inside with a dying fish and no quick access to any other supplies to help him out. Any help or advice you can give would be much appreciated.
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post #2 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-05-2020, 12:11 AM
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I'd just move him to a small tank/bowel with all new water. Like spring water from the store. Do a partial water change daily. Like say you give him a 1 gallon bowl, take a large cup and dip out a cup full of bowl water and replace with fresh. In the mean time, tear down the 5 gallon and restart it. We had a betta that was rescued from a small tank and the ammonia was off the chart high using my API liquid test. He recovered and did decently well for about another year before dying. Not sure how old he was when we got him and the ammonia certainly could have damaged him shortening his life span...but he did recover from the conditions he was in so yeah...if you get yours to fresh water and keep it ammonia free there's definitely a chance he can recover.


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Last edited by Nubster; 05-05-2020 at 12:27 AM. Reason: typo
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post #3 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-05-2020, 12:19 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Nubster View Post
I'd just move him to a small tank/bowel with all new water. Like spring water from the store. Do a partial water change daily. Like say you give him a 1 gallon bowel, take a large cup and dip out a cup full of bowel water and replace with fresh. In the mean time, tear down the 5 gallon and restart it. We had a betta that was rescued from a small tank and the ammonia was off the chart high using my API liquid test. He recovered and did decently well for about another year before dying. Not sure how old he was when we got him and the ammonia certainly could have damaged him shortening his life span...but he did recover from the conditions he was in so yeah...if you get yours to fresh water and keep it ammonia free there's definitely a chance he can recover.
Thanks for the reply. I did think about this and have a 2 gal fishbowl here, but was hesitant based on the lack of heating. I guess it can't be worse than what he's dealing with now.

To confirm, should I get spring or distilled water?
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post #4 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-05-2020, 12:29 AM
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Once a fish has been exposed to ammonia there is really very little that can be done to counteract damage. Ammonia/nitrites can damage all internal organs, neurological systems, and increase the chance of secondary bacterial infections.

That said, Metheleyne blue @ the rate of 1 tsp per 10 gallons of water is recommended for fish when exposed to ammonia. Metheleyne blue can often be found as one of the active ingredients in proprietary blends of Ich medications (example Seachem Paraguard), so if dont have meth blue, look for this active ingredient on an external parasite medication. Metheleyne blue also helps in cases of swim bladder damage- which appears to be an issue with one of your fish. The effectiveness of methelyene blue depends, however, on how much ammonia the fish was exposed to.

Also, I would recommend treating with salt- Sodium chloride ( non-iodized salt) @ rate of 1 tablespoon per 10 gallons of water to offset effects of Brown Blood disease which occurs from Nitrite toxicity. Salt also relieves stress and improves osmoregulation in fish. Its been found that Bettas respond much more favorably to the therapeutic effects of salt than many other fish. Because your pH is so low, this may have helped keep ammonia at less toxic levels than it would otherwise have been the case. You can see the ammonia, pH, temperature relationship in this graph:

Aquaworld Aquarium - Article - Ammonia Toxicity and the pH Relationship

Regardless of which it is you are seeing in Bettas: ammonia toxicity, nitrite toxicity, or both, use BOTH the metheleyne blue and salt for therapy. Also, most important, do frequent water changes. This is key.


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post #5 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-05-2020, 12:36 AM
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Here's another idea too...strip the sick tank down and use fresh water. Continue using the heater because bettas need warm water. You could either one, really clean and then put the filter media from that tank into the other filter for a week or so allowing it to get seeded and then put that media back into the filter with the sick betta. Now that tank will be essentially cycled. Or, cut the media in the good tank in half and put half the seeded media in each tank and half the media with no bacteria in both tanks. That way they will both have bacteria and be cycled. You'll still want to monitor ammonia daily in each tank since you cut the bio-filtration in half but it should not take long for the bacteria to grow back and catch up to the bio-load.

Option one would be the safest for the well betta since there's no risk to his biofilter. You'll just have to make sure to really watch ammonia in the sick betta's tank.

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Originally Posted by Discusluv View Post
Once a fish has been exposed to ammonia there is really very little that can be done to counteract damage. Ammonia/nitrites can damage all internal organs, neurological systems, and increase the chance of secondary bacterial infections.

That said, Metheleyne blue @ the rate of 1 tsp per 10 gallons of water is recommended for fish when exposed to ammonia. Metheleyne blue can often be found as one of the active ingredients in proprietary blends of Ich medications (example Seachem Paraguard), so if dont have meth blue, look for this active ingredient on an external parasite medication. Metheleyne blue also helps in cases of swim bladder damage- which appears to be an issue with one of your fish. The effectiveness of methelyene blue depends, however, on how much ammonia the fish was exposed to.

Also, I would recommend treating with salt- Sodium chloride ( non-iodized salt) @ rate of 1 tablespoon per 10 gallons of water to offset effects of Brown Blood disease which occurs from Nitrite toxicity. Salt also relieves stress and improves osmoregulation in fish. Its been found that Bettas respond much more favorably to the therapeutic effects of salt than many other fish. Because your pH is so low, this may have helped keep ammonia at less toxic levels than it would otherwise have been the case. You can see the ammonia, pH, temperature relationship in this graph:

Aquaworld Aquarium - Article - Ammonia Toxicity and the pH Relationship

Regardless of which it is you are seeing in Bettas: ammonia toxicity, nitrite toxicity, or both, use BOTH the metheleyne blue and salt for therapy. Also, most important, do frequent water changes. This is key.
Good info. I didn't know about any of that when we had the ammonia poisoned betta. I just gave him fresh water and maintained that water and he did get better. Probably damaged but he did recover and seemed normal after recovering but like i said...potentially had a shortened life span.
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post #6 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-05-2020, 12:48 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Discusluv View Post
Once a fish has been exposed to ammonia there is really very little that can be done to counteract damage. Ammonia/nitrites can damage all internal organs, neurological systems, and increase the chance of secondary bacterial infections.

That said, Metheleyne blue @ the rate of 1 tsp per 10 gallons of water is recommended for fish when exposed to ammonia. Metheleyne blue can often be found as one of the active ingredients in proprietary blends of Ich medications (example Seachem Paraguard), so if dont have meth blue, look for this active ingredient on an external parasite medication. Metheleyne blue also helps in cases of swim bladder damage- which appears to be an issue with one of your fish. The effectiveness of methelyene blue depends, however, on how much ammonia the fish was exposed to.

Also, I would recommend treating with salt- Sodium chloride ( non-iodized salt) @ rate of 1 tablespoon per 10 gallons of water to offset effects of Brown Blood disease which occurs from Nitrite toxicity. Salt also relieves stress and improves osmoregulation in fish. Its been found that Bettas respond much more favorably to the therapeutic effects of salt than many other fish. Because your pH is so low, this may have helped keep ammonia at less toxic levels than it would otherwise have been the case. You can see the ammonia, pH, temperature relationship in this graph:

Aquaworld Aquarium - Article - Ammonia Toxicity and the pH Relationship

Regardless of which it is you are seeing in Bettas: ammonia toxicity, nitrite toxicity, or both, use BOTH the metheleyne blue and salt for therapy. Also, most important, do frequent water changes. This is key.
This is good info, thanks. I do have aquarium salts handy so would be able to drop that in quickly.

Would you recommend using this kind of treatment while trying to re-cycle with prime and stability? Or do you think think I should pull the plug on this tank and try to reestablish it without the fish.
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post #7 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-05-2020, 12:59 AM
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Is your change water source normally 6段sh after letting it set for 24hrs in a bucket?
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post #8 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-05-2020, 01:00 AM
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How toxic is ammonia at a pH of 6? pH might actually be lower than 6 if that's the lowest the test goes.
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post #9 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-05-2020, 01:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Terps20 View Post
This is good info, thanks. I do have aquarium salts handy so would be able to drop that in quickly.

Would you recommend using this kind of treatment while trying to re-cycle with prime and stability? Or do you think think I should pull the plug on this tank and try to reestablish it without the fish.
If you have a quarantine tank that you can put the fish in that will not contribute to further stress than by all means put the fish in there to treat. But, whatever you do needs to be monitored closely so as not to contribute any stress: temperature, water quality, etc...


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post #10 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-05-2020, 02:13 AM Thread Starter
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Is your change water source normally 6段sh after letting it set for 24hrs in a bucket?
I've never let it stand for 24 hours before testing but will do so. Testing out of the tap it's around 7.4, and the healthy tank maintains around 7.0. That's why the 6.0 on the other tank was a huge red flag to me. Both had a small-ish piece of driftwood.
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post #11 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-05-2020, 02:45 AM
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How toxic is ammonia at a pH of 6? pH might actually be lower than 6 if that's the lowest the test goes.



http://www.aztic.org/wp-content/uplo...ure-v-2017.pdf


28C = 82.4F




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Quote:
USING SEACHEM PRIME?

Testing for ammonia with the test kits above might produce false readings after a water change if you add to much de chlorinator. Seachem's Prime conditioner will give false readings for ammonia, on both Nessler's Reagent and salicylate tests. Sodium thiosulfate, Na2S2O3, in Prime reacts with the chloride ion that is part in the test reagents. According to Seachem after 24 hours you will then be able to test again and get accurate readings.

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post #12 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-05-2020, 02:54 AM Thread Starter
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So if I知 reading this correct, the ammonia reading I was getting with my low pH (6.0) and medium temp. (78) might not have been that toxic to my fish - but maybe the amount of time he experienced the exposure led to some reaction anyway, because clearly something is going on.

I知 going to keep doing water changes for now with a salt dose to ease breathing, and look for any sort of improvement. If it痴 still like this 48 hrs from now I知 going to have to quarantine him and try to reestablish the bio system.

Appreciate the feedback thus far, would love to hear anything else I should be keeping in mind.
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post #13 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-05-2020, 03:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Terps20 View Post
So if I知 reading this correct, the ammonia reading I was getting with my low pH (6.0) and medium temp. (78) might not have been that toxic to my fish - but maybe the amount of time he experienced the exposure led to some reaction anyway, because clearly something is going on.

I知 going to keep doing water changes for now with a salt dose to ease breathing, and look for any sort of improvement. If it痴 still like this 48 hrs from now I知 going to have to quarantine him and try to reestablish the bio system.

Appreciate the feedback thus far, would love to hear anything else I should be keeping in mind.
Ammonia, yes. Nitrite toxicity, no. It doesn't have the same temperature, pH, relationship. That you dont register nitrite now doesnt mean it didnt spike. From the symptoms of the fish, it points to this occurring.
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post #14 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-05-2020, 03:44 AM
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Ammonia, yes. Nitrite toxicity, no. It doesn't have the same temperature, pH, relationship. That you dont register nitrite now doesnt mean it didnt spike. From the symptoms of the fish, it points to this occurring.

Yea that was my initial thought too..AFAICT Nitrate is toxic in almost any tank conditions..


Then again the ammonia..no nitrite..no or very low nitrate does point to something bad happening to the one group of bacteria..
They do prefer neutral or higher pH...


"Something' had to change between the 2 tanks..

Assuming same replacement water, same temp, same substrate, same filters,, and over 11/2 years old..


?????


To the O/P...........
ANY possible recent differences?

Was it different wood?
Clean the sponge filter?
What kind of substrate?


Tannins certainly could acidify the tank esp. if low in buffering capacity.
Dying plants aren't helping things either...sort of my only guess as to the cause of it all.




assuming the "effect" is low pH and a weaking of the N cycle, still can't see a cause.

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post #15 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-05-2020, 04:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Terps20 View Post
I've never let it stand for 24 hours before testing but will do so. Testing out of the tap it's around 7.4, and the healthy tank maintains around 7.0. That's why the 6.0 on the other tank was a huge red flag to me. Both had a small-ish piece of driftwood.
There is a ratio of ammonium/ammonia that is PH and temp dependent. Below 6.8 most all of your ammonia exists as ammonium which is way less dangerous to your fish. The minute you poured in the change water of that high a PH you caused a rapid shift from ammonium to way more lethal ammonia, you created a ammonia spike. Your betta who was already struggling probably from high ammonium levels as well as suffering through a nitrite spike was immediately hit with another ammonia spike.

Only way to do that is basically IV drip your change water back into tank.

Here is ratio of ammonium to ammonia at 75ーF. Note at PH6.8 most all is ammonium.



Here note how crossover point shifts as temp is increased. 25ーC is 77ーF.

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