Q: I can't identify my betta's problem even after reading your web page. He has three gray spots on his head for a month. More are coming. He also has a gold tone on his fins and red spot on his gill plate tips. I used BettaFix for a week and nothing happened. I've
used Mardel Maracide twice now but can't see any change. Help!

above question submitted by Iris, Princeton - NJ

Well, hmm, looks like I'd better change the header of this column and say: And now, our popular monthly column etc... LOL. 

I have been flooded with emails from all of you asking if everything is OK, because the column was not updated last week (which is not like me). So let me start by reassuring you: I am A-OK. It goes something like that: I was about to bat, confident, smiling, everything was going well, the weather was perfect and the crowd was cheering. Pitching next was Life. I was expecting a nice easy ball but it threw me a fast curved one which came flying at my face at the speed of light and next thing I knew I was flat on my fannies and everything was turning kinda black. I think I heard bells and little birds chirping, too LOL. So in short, one black eye later, I had to deal with the aftermatch of my curved ball and it took me about a week or so to get things back on track. The good news is, everything is OK now. Black eye (almost) healed and I am all caught up with my emails, betta orders, webcam and now, you've guessed it, column hehe. Pssssht, that was quite a feat!

Oh and some of you are asking about fluffy the baby pigeon. Well, about 37559469850000 mealworms later and no less than 365435645675469575475943656565 tsuitsui, Fluffy (which I called "Baby") is now a full grown handsome chocolate colored pigeon. :) Not sure if he is a he or a she yet, but he is for sure a pigeon. Well, you know he is a pigeon, I know he is a pigeon, but baby does not know he is a pigeon and thinks he is a person. So he follows me around like a shadow, flying up to the kitchen sink to watch me do the dishes, flying up to the fishroom's table to watch me do water changes (fascinating) and basically hanging out with me anytime he can. Baby and I cuddle hehe and he is very affectionate, playing with my hands and sticking his little beak between my fingers ("heh mamma, any food for me?"). I can pet him on his head, neck, cheeks, chest, back, under his wings and even his tail :). Baby likes it. He sure is a doll. Berlin, the rottie, has been drooling by his cage for days now, and has been secretly getting online to surf the net for good pigeon recipes :/... Worry not, I am watching her like a hawk. Meanwhile Baby is now able to perch and to fly pretty well. I let him out of his cage several times a day and let him wander in the garden, but he seems to only be interested in following me around or flying straight back into his cage (a converted large dog crate). Well, looks like he is here to stay, adding one new member to our little family. And yes, yes, yes, photos of Baby will be published soon :).

OK now let's tackle bettas and betta columns :)) !! Iris, from Princeton New Jersey is having a problem with spots appearing on her betta. She has been treating it (kinda randomly if I may add ;) ) with no results. OK, so looks like this is a job for Splendenswoman!!! Yes, she is back and will actually materialize


OK, here I am Iris, to help you in your fight to free Mr. Betta from his strange spot disease :). That is if disease there is to begin with ;). For here lays the challenge my betta friends: Not all spots are enemies. As a matter of fact, many spots are part of the natural aging process of a betta, or part of its coloration. Basically there are two kinds of spots:


  • friendly spots: Many of you do not know that bettas will oftentimes get spots as they mature or age and that it is part of the natural formation of natural, harmless friendly pigments. Mainly two scenarios come to mind: A)- The betta is or carries marble genes (which many pet store bettas do). Marble genes cause bettas to change color by making pigment appear or disappear. So a light colored betta could start having say blue spots, black spots or even red spots anywhere on its body or fins, including head, cheeks, lips etc... The spots are, as I said, merely harmless pigments that are now manifesting themselves. Let me give you an example: You notice all of a sudden you got a new freckle on your cheek. Treating it with antifungal skin medication will not help. Furthermore a freckle on your cheek is not a disease nor dangerous in any way. As a matter of fact some people think that freckles are absolutely adorable on you (but that's beyond the point LOL). So don't dish on the freckle and don't dish on the betta pigment spot or blotch that has now worked its way on your favorite fish's body. B)- The betta is not a marble nor a marble geno but it is getting old. Red washes, dark pigment and other impurities oftentimes appear as a betta ages and that too is harmless and normal.

  • bad spots: Sometimes spots appear on a betta and they have nothing to do with pigment. These spots can be the tip of the disease iceberg, may it be a bacterial disease or a fungal disease, or even the occasional parasite. For example, small white spots all over your fish are a clear sign of an ich outbreak (parasite). Red spots, sometimes bloody in appearance are usually a clear sign of bacterial infection eating away at the skin and fish's tissues (yuk). These types of spots must not be ignored and are a clear warning that your betta is under attack! Proper medication (and not random "let's see what works and what I can find in my drawers") should be immediately given.

So now I know what you guys are thinking: "OK, so I kinda understand the concept but how in the heck am I going to be able to tell which spot is which?" In other words you are having an anxiety attack thinking you'll never be able to tell good normal spots from bad disease spots apart. And I don't blame you LOL.

In truth it is oftentimes difficult, if not impossible for the novice to determine what spots he/she is dealing with. I just had someone submit a consultation for a betta that has been treated for fin rot for a while now, when in fact it does not have fin rot, but simply got a harmless red wash on its anal fin, which mimicked the red infected tips typical of fin rot. Well, that client could have treated her betta to death, it was not going to heal CAUSE IT WAS NOT SICK TO BEGIN WITH :P. One glance at the photo she emailed me was all I needed to tell. But the novice may stare and stare at the problem area and not know what to look for. Of course you guys can always seek my help, this is the good thing about our betta consultations. But if you can't or won't do it, then use the following pointers to try to figure it out on your own:

  • usually spots of blue or green color are always harmless and almost always just pigmentation.

  • gray spots if small are usually harmless

  • red spots if large and smooth (as in not raised or not hollow) may be red washes, especially if located at the base of fins or tail or even at the tip.

  • red spots that are bulgy (like a pimple) or hollow( like a sore) or bleedy are usually bad and indicate possible bacterial infection which will necessitate some heavy duty antibiotics (maracide, maroxy bettamax will NOT do anything). 

  • large gray blotches that are slightly raised can be the sign of very serious disease. 

  • If your fish has spots but is acting 100% normal (swims normal, eats normal, blow bubble nests and flares), and if the spots are described above as the "harmless ones" then it is likely you are in deed not in trouble and do not need to worry or treat the fish. 

  • If your fish is acting sick (not eating, laying at bottom or at top, clamped fins, bulgy eyesor swollen belly) then your fish is in trouble and will need to be treated. More than likely tetracycline, Kanacyn or Ampicillex would be the only medication that could give results when treating "bad spots" lumps, ulcers, etc... 

In closing, let me say again that it is oftentimes impossible for the novice to tell if a spot is normal or not and that is why it is best to seek an expert opinion. Always take clear close up photos of your sick fish if you do seek outside help, for your description may not be helpful enough.

Well my task is done and I think it is time for me to return to the Splendens bowl (as opposed to the bat cave LOL) :), and this concludes this new adventure : Splendenswoman verses the allien spots!!! ;).




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