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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
My betta imbellis started acting stressed a while ago, she had clamped fins and wouldn't flare fully. She would sometimes flare her gills in the mirror and change color, but she couldn't flare her fins out fully. Then she got ick, which I treated with medicine and turning the heat up. Once it was gone, I noticed her fins were still clamped. I took parameters of the water and found the water was too hard. I had some limestone in there for the nerite, so I took them out and did a water change (my tap water is very soft). Some time later she began to act extremely lethargic, like she was trying to sleep during daytime hours. I found the temperature was still set high for the ick (I think it had actually reached 83F which I had not intended) so I turned the heat back down. Now it's at a nice 78 F, which is where I usually have it. She doesn't seem very lethargic now but her fins are still clamped, so I know something is stressing her out. I'm on gaurd because I've had bettas die from things like tiny white anchor worms hardly visible on a white betta, internal parasites, etc. I have every type of medicine for any issue I may encounter.

The trouble is I'm not sure what is going on with my female betta imbellis, I see no obvious signs of illness or points of stress in the tank. There is one thing I have noticed, however. At random times, she will expel bubbles from her gills. None of my other bettas have done this (that I have seen). I thought this was odd the first few times I saw it, and then I forgot, but I saw it again today and I'm wondering if this is a symptom of something. I looked it up and found gas bubble disease. She doesn't have popeye (thank goodness) but they say gas bubble disease can mean bubbles coming from the gills. But I have no idea what to do at this point.

For clarification, there has not been a recent water change, that was earlier in the week. I do have an airstone that lightly aggitates the water, although it doesn't ripple throughout the surface (I have a lot of frogbit). I have a prefilter sponge over the water filter outtake because even on the low setting the water filter will throw everything around the tank. This is a heavily planted tank and contains driftwood, botanicals, a nerite snail some neocaridina shrimp, and my betta imbellis. She gets a varied diet of TetraBetta plus floating mini pellets, flightless fruit flies, and frozen brine shrimp.

Thank you in advance for the help!

Edit: I'm getting more worried now, as it seems she doesn't want to eat. She'll eat something and then spit it out a few times, and then eventually leave it. She's done this with the flightless fruit flies and the pellets.
 

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Hey there,

From what I've found on google air bubbles coming from a betta's gills is normal if it isn't constant, they can take air from the surface. Other posts of bettas with issues including this symptom of bubbles coming out of the gills seem to mainly mention their betta seemingly struggle to breath with bubbles coming out of its gills every time it takes a breath or similar. So I guess unless this is occuring with your betta I doubt that is the issue.

Could you post your water parameters? That'll always be helpful.

Is there any sign of bloating with your betta? In quite a few of the posts I've read mentioning (https://healthybetta.proboards.com/thread/2234/eat-bubbles-coming-out-gills) bubbles from gills, it was also mentioned their betta had bloating issues which explains it not eating.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Current Symptoms:
-Weak and lethargic
-A few pale patches on head and body (not small enough to be ich)
-Clamped fins
-She briefly held one pectoral fin to her side when swimming today
-Trying to 'sleep' near surface in the corner? But still able to swim alright.

Tank Parameters:
pH: 7.8
KH: 9-10
GH: 9
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 0*
Ammonia: 0
TDS: 112(x10)**
Temperature: 79.7 F on the side she's on, 79.3 F on the far side

*Not sure why nitrate is at 0; it used to be 10ppm and I was told that was good for the plants.

**The TDS is very high, but I assumed that was because of the aquarium salt I added per water change.

Tap Water Parameters:
PH: 7.4
GH: 4-5
KH: 4
Nitrate: 0
Nitrite: 0
Ammonia: 0
TDS: 38

Setup:
-Fluval Spec V w/default light
-Sponge filter
-Water pump
-Prefilter sponge
-Heater
-Airstone
-Heavily planted
-Occupants: Neocaridina shrimp, one nerite snail

Past Treatment:
-40-60% water changes with aquarium salt (1.5 tsp)
-Kanaplex
-Paraguard
Note: Current treatment does not seem to be helping.

Issues:
For the last week or so she has had some light pale spots on her head and body; not small and spotted like ich, but not fuzzy like fungus. She has become more lethargic and tries to stay/sleep in one corner of the tank, near the surface.

When I distracted her earlier, she swam around the tank but I noticed she had her left pectoral fin clamped to her side. She went for a gulp of air, resumed using both, and then clamped it one more time. Since then she has been using both pectoral fins.

When she does swim around, she seems to swim fine--no falling downward or floating upward, no side-swimming. However, I did notice she was taking in air more frequently. She spends 99% of her time now in the upper far corner near the filter, inactive and rarely moving.

History: My betta imbellis was dealing with a little bit of fin rot so I treated her with Paraguard and some aquarium salt (1.5 tsp) with the water changes. Then she got ick; I turned up the heat and treated her for two weeks until it was entirely gone.

A few weeks ago I noticed the water had gone too hard, so I took out the limestone I'd put in there for calcium, and did a few water changes since then. It looks like KH only went down 1 or 2, and GH is the same. I do have a cuttlebone cut in halves in the filter compartment that I could remove. This is a betta imbellis and they're used to softer waters.

Likely Solution:
I've tested the tank's parameters; the water is way too hard. I had a similar situation in the past and DaveKS said it was likely osmotic rupture damage affecting that fish. The pH, GH, and KH are too high, I need to get GH down to 6-8 and PH to around 7-7.2. The water change percentages have likely been too drastic and stressful for the fish.

I've been putting it off for so long because I don't understand anything about it, but I also need to look into RO water. DaveKS mentioned jugs of RO drinking water. Then to change out half a gallon twice a week, and as usual, go slow on refilling the tank.
 

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Ph is totally fine, my betta is in tank with ph 7.8 and going strong. But yes kh and gh are too high and by bringing them down you will probs bring down the ph as well.
Do try removing the cuttlebone you dont need it if your tap water is already at kh of 4. Also TDS of 112 is not high at all. I aim for 120 or 140 in my tanks.

Are you using an active substrate? If so a 0-1 kh is ideal so that you are not combatting its buffering ability.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
No, not a TDS of 112--I wish that was the case. The TDS meter reads 112(x10), basically 1120. Possibly because of the earlier aquarium salt (I didn't use any this time) or another problem I don't know about. I'm hoping the RO water changes will help lower that. It's an insanely high number, so I ordered another TDS meter so I can confirm. If it really is high, that's likely another factor harming my fish.

I removed the cuttlebone and did a water change with RO water tonight. I'm using ADA aquasoil with a little bit of inert sand (for aesthetic effect).

Update 01/14: The new TDS meter came in. TDS read 659. The directions say it comes pre-calibrated. I tested with the old one and it reads 759, but it's also something I've had around for years and I don't know if that one is pre-calibrated, so I'll use the new one from now on. I'm glad TDS went down drastically but 659 is still way too high. In 2 days I'm going to do another 1/2 gallon RO water (remineralized with a small bit of GH) change, so hopefully that will bring the GH, KH, and TDS down even more.

My fish still won't eat. I tried to bribe her with frozen brine shrimp but she just ignored it, even when I offered to feed her directly with the tweezers. I removed the water lettuce lining the edges because she's gulping for air often and panics when the water lettuce is in the way, so I thinned it all out. Before she stayed in one corner--she's exploring the tank more now but I'm guessing it's just because I changed her territory about and she needs to 'catalog' it.

I really don't know if she's going to survive this. It feels like it'll take forever to bring the parameters down.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
I did another RO water change yesterday. Today KH is at 7 and TDS is still high at 622. The betta looks like she had a runin against something near her tail, and skinned a small area. She still won't eat, even when I tried to hand-feed her frozen brine shrimp with tweezers. She's looking thin, still gulps air frequently, and tries to stay at the side near the surface. Sometimes she swims around but she's quick to go up for air again. I still don't know if she can get better from this point on or if the damage is done.

What KH am I aiming for? I heard 3-4 is best. I know anything under 3 will make the parameters unstable. I'm a little disappointed that the last water change only took the TDS down by 37, I was hoping it would be halved.

It's been 2 weeks that my betta won't eat. I'm pretty sure she's going to die soon. I just wish I could get her to eat.
 

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No, not a TDS of 112--I wish that was the case. The TDS meter reads 112(x10), basically 1120.
Oh wow yea I missed that!
If you're using ADA Aquasoil you'll want a kh of ~1 since aquasoil will be actively trying to reduce ph, a kh above 1 will fight that. Unless your tank is quite old 1-1.5 years old and theres chance your substrate is depleted. Although since your tank kh was quite high before and presumably for a while, there is a chance that the substrate is already depleted. I dont know how long it would take :/
How old is your tank?

You're right in that if you didnt have an active substrate like ADA Aquasoil, a kh of 3-4 would be better as it would keep ph stable.

If you have any cattapa leaves or similar to release tannins chuck em in the tank to help relieve any stress and provide some antibacterial for the wound on the tail. You can put the leaves in a cup/jar, pour boiling water in, wait until it cools down and pour the now brown water into the tank.

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
The ADA aquasoil in this tank is 2 years old, so it sounds depleted. Oh man, do I have to remove all of it? How do I even do that without making a huge mess for days?

I'm on the ball with the tannins, I add botanicals and tannins occasionally. It's given it the blackwater effect for the last few days. Hopefully it helps, even if just a little.
 

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Yea it likely is depleted then. Doesnt mean you have to get rid of it though, its now just an inert substrate like any other regular substrate. Just means you'll need to add root tabs into the soil for your plants. Its also possible that the soil is leaking a bit of all that kh that was in the tank which might explain why it isnt going down as fast as you'd like. But if you keep up with the water changes it should go down eventually. I guess changing the substrate will speed it up alot and get rid of all that stored kh especially considering how high yours tds was but the process of doing that might stress your betta even more :/ Maybe if you have a spare tank you can move him there?

Good to hear you're already on the tannins. How many gallons is the tank? and im assuming youre just changing out half a gallon twice a week still?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
It's just a 5 gallon, Fluval Spec V. I'm planning on trimming down my 2 5 gallons and just doing a 20 gallon, but it'll be a while before it can get all set up and cycled. I can't put her in the other 5 gallon because that one is a hard water tank for the endlers.
 

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Ah I see, well with such a small tank I doubt it'll take much longer for the tds and kh to drop. Hopefully your betta hangs on till then and maybe even start to get better as the water gets softer. Gradual changes probably better anyways.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I got KH down to 7 but the TDS is at 560. If I had to guess, it's probably shrimp/fish poop not properly vacuumed off the substrate, so I need to work on vacuuming it better without subtracting too much water in one go.

Somehow after 18 days the betta is still alive, despite that she won't eat anything I offer her. This doesn't seem scientifically possible, so either she is eating shrimp babies and microorganisms and refuses to eat anything else, or she is a miracle zombie fish. Either way I am deeply concerned. She looks thin, she still takes frequent gulps of air, and I'm guessing there might be some internal stuff shutting down.
 
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