Betta fish problems please help!!!

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Discuss all topics related to freshwater and planted tanks.

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Betta fish problems please help!!!

by sarahfish

Recently my brother and I both set up new 5-gal tanks. (I had no fish in mine up until today) and they ran fine for about 1 1/2 weeks. Then his began developing a white-oily film on the top and his fish quit eating and swimming around. We did 1/2 water changes weekly but it kept coming back. This evening we did a 100% water change but the film is already coming back! And his fish isn't doing so well. It's eating again, but still not swimming. We use water conditioner and have a heater set at 78 Degrees F (He has a betta). Tonight, I got a new betta and now my water is beginning to develop the same film and my fish is not swimming. What are we doing wrong?? Please help!

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Joined: Mon Mar 12, 2007 11:49 pm

by sarajute693

Most of the time the white film on the top of the water is protein. Protein isn't anything that is going to hurt your fish. It's common on small tanks. Do you have a freshwater test kit? Do you know the levels of your water (Ph, Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate)? Did you float the betta first? All tanks go through a cycle that takes 4-8 weeks. The cycle doesn't start until fish have been added to the tank. Ammonia from the fish waste starts the cycle. It's called the nitrogen cycle. Setting up the tank for the first time is always the hardest. Sometimes the fish won't make it through the cycle. I never change all the water at once, because you lose any good bacteria that has been started. The filter pads shouldn't be changed until the tank has cycled properly. The problem could be as simple as a ph shock, but I would need to know your levels. Many pet stores have free water testing. Have you added any meds to the tank? For the first time set-up of a tank I add aquarium salt, to help the fish through the cycle. I need more info......

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by natalie265

I agree that you need to test the water. Normally, a 50% water change weekly is good, but as you are cycling your tank, you might need to do water changes more frequently. What kind of filtration do these tanks have? Personally, i would not add salt. I don't think that bettas really benefit from that.

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by DanDman18

Are you even filtering the water? Many people with bettas don't have filters and just do water changes, which would be your problem, there is nothing to break down the waste. But in a five gallon tank one betta shouldn't produce that high of ammonia so quickly.

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by Okiimiru

There are two very different philosophies to maintaining a betta tank.

One is the completely synthetic way, where to clean the tank you take the fish out, bleach everything and rinse the bleach out and put the fish back in. The tank would be made sterile, with the goal being that no bacteria whatsoever live in the tank in any significant population. Bettas can technically survive living in an uncycled tank because, as anabantoids, the ammonia burn doesn't kill them. It is, however, an unethical method because you are knowingly causing a painful ammonia burn to your fish's gills. It's also a lot of work.

The other technique is to set up a fully cycled tank. The ammonia that is produced when the fish's metabolism processes the proteins in its food is immediately converted to nitrite and then nitrate by beneficial bacteria that cohabit with the betta, usually in a filter. This sort of tank would never be bleached to clean it because the bacteria are your friends. Water changes would be done with dechlorinated water to avoid stressing the bacteria and any live plants in the tank.

What you've got is some sort of combination between the two techniques. The tank isn't sterile enough to prevent the fish from being exposed to some pretty nasty pathogens, but it's also not bacteria-friendly enough to comfortably house the beneficial nitrosomonas and nitrospira bacteria that would keep the water's nitrogenous waste in the form of nitrate and reducing the ecological niche where not-so-friendly bacteria would otherwise live.

To fix the problem, you have to pick one of the two tank setups. Either go with the first method, and take the fish out of the tank and do 100% water changes as frequently as the water becomes icky. Or go with the second method and maybe replace the substrate with kitty litter or soil capped with gravel, add a live plant, and only do water changes with dechlorinated water, so as to avoid killing off the beneficial bacteria. Choose one of these two methods. Either way, you have to keep the water's concentration of ammonia at 0 ppm (buy a test kit for ammonia if you don't already have one).

Here's some more info on the nitrogen cycle: ... rticle.htm ... Design.pdf

Also, unless you have something in the tank that would make its pH different from that of the tap water (for example crushed coral or some peat moss), I doubt there is a large difference between the tap water and tank water pH. Drip acclimating a fish is never a bad idea, though.

Betta fish problems please help!!!

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