Betta fish, also known as Siamese Fighting Fish, are the most popular pet fish around. Males, with their spectacular long fins and vibrant coloration, are found in just about any pet store. Because they are easy to take care of and delightful to watch, bettas are favorites of many aquarists and animal lovers.
But sometimes, things go wrong. Fish, like all other pets, can get sick, but treating a sick fish isn't like treating a sick cat or dog. You can't just put your betta in a carrier and take him to the vet! That's why it's important to be able to recognize the most common betta fish illnesses and know how to treat them so your little friend can go back to his old self. This article will help you diagnose and treat Ich (also spelled Ick), one of the most common betta sicknesses. Read on for more!
Is Something Wrong With My Fish?
Betta fish are hardy little creatures. Wild bettas live in very shallow rice paddies in Southeast Asia, sometimes in waters only a few inches deep, so their genetics give them the strength to withstand a lot of unpleasant conditions. However, the bettas you buy from pet stores have been bred more for beauty than for brawn, so they are susceptible to diseases, infections, and parasites.
Noticing that something is "off" with your betta seems like bad news, but the good news is that you've taken the first step and identified that something is wrong. Because healthy fish are so active, it's pretty easy to tell when your betta just isn't as healthy as he used to be. The symptom chart below can help you determine if your fish is unwell. Keep in mind that your fish may not exhibit every symptom. Trust your instincts. You know your betta better than anyone, and if you think it's acting strange, you are probably right.
What is "Ich" and Does My Betta Have It?
Ich (also spelled Ick) is one of the most common aquarium parasites. Ich are tiny white pests that latch onto your betta's face and body, causing itchiness as well as general malaise. They remain on the fish for four days. After four days, they detach from the fish and float down into the tank to multiply. This lasts for a day before the Ich finish reproducing. The new Ich then swim around the tank for two days before attaching to your fish again and restarting the cycle.
Signs that your betta has Ich:
- White specks on his head and body. The specks are often compared in appearance to granules of salt. You may see only a few, or you may see lots of them, depending on the severity of the parasite attack.
- Itchiness: You may notice your betta rubbing his body on plants or gravel in his tank, trying to scratch himself.
- Loss of appetite, lethargy, and other common signs of illness listed in the table above.
Some fish may act completely normal, with the only sign of Ich being the white specks. If you're worried about Ich, take a good look at your fish every day and try to keep a record of any changes in behavior or appearance.
My Betta Has Ich! Will He Die? How Do I Treat It?
The survival rate from Ich is very high. Most infected fish who are treated in a timely fashion will be rid of the parasites and back to normal in no time. Most Ich-related fish deaths occur when the Ich goes untreated for a very long time, or when it is found along with other parasites or illnesses. If you've managed to tell that your fish has Ich, it is probably at a mild enough stage that killing the parasite and curing your fish will be very simple.
Step 1: Create an Ich-Free Environment
The first thing you want to do once you spot Ich is get the fish out of the water he is currently in. Ideally, this means setting up a "hospital tank" with clean water that has been treated with a water conditioner to ensure the best water for your fish while he heals. If you don't have another tank, then perform a complete water change, clean your tank thoroughly, and add water conditioner before returning your fish to the tank. Ich can spend up to three days swimming in the tank water, so putting your betta in new water will get him away from any free swimming parasites. The water in this new tank should be slowly raised up to a maximum of 82 degrees Fahrenheit (27.7 degrees Celsius). Bettas are tropical fish, so they prefer warm water, but Ich thrive in colder waters so by raising the temperature you give the pesky parasites a lower chance of survival.
Step 2: Choose Your Medicine
The next thing you should do is select a medicine to put in the tank that will kill the remaining Ich. There are three basic types of medications for betta fish: antiparasitics, antifungals, and antibacterials. Ich is a parasite, so if you're browsing the pet store shelves, look for a medicine that's advertised as an antiparasitic. There are a lot of medications that claim to kill Ich, but what you're looking for is one with either malachite green or methylene blue as a main ingredient. Check the label for one of these two ingredients before you buy the medicine.