Q: I had a Betta for 2 weeks then bought him a nice 2.5 gal. tank, & found him dead the next morn. :(  I bought a 2nd Betta & he's doing the same thing as the 1st, hugging the filter, or laying on the bottom.  I've treated the water, bought a heater & thermometer.  Am I killing them?! :(

Question submitted by Patricia,  Kirkland - Washington

A: OK, whatever you do Patricia, don't quit your day job to become a healer (you'll starve) LOL. Sorry, I like to tease :). 

OK boyz and girlz, we have bettas dying. Let us help Patricia by looking at possible serenades titled "Killing me softly" :(... Is Patricia killing her bettas or is she just another victim of circumstance? Sherlock Holmes, to the rescue.

There are a LOT of parameters to look into so let's get started with no further delays:

bullet Are the bettas healthy to begin with? Where did they come from? Pet store I assume. Did you know that a large number of bettas sold at pet stores are actually already sick but may not (yet) show any signs? Or they are so worn out, the stress related to being moved to a new home may be enough to throw them over the edge. RULE #1: If you can, avoid getting bettas from a store. But if you must, then examine them carefully and only select the most active ones, preferably one with a huge bubble nest in its display. See this link for tips on how to differentiate between a healthy betta and a sick one (or not so healthy one).
bullet Did you acclimate them properly? Mishandling bettas when first received can cause enough stress to kill them. This includes forgetting to mix waters and floating bags as described in my MUST READ (or your betta will die) section "acclimating your new betta"
bullet Did you treat your water adequately? Water that still contains harmful chemicals such as chlorine or ammonia will kill bettas in a couple of weeks - or faster if bettas are already weakened. You must read "betta water" and follow my instructions.
bullet Is your 2.5 gal new or has it previously housed another fish that died? If so, it may be contaminated. Drying a tank out will not kill all bacteria. As a matter of fact, the real scary ones will survive air drying as well as freezing (tough little buggers). You must SANITIZE a tank / jar every time you suspect a betta has been sick (especially if one dies in it) before you put a new betta in it. Find out how to sanitize efficiently but safely by reading my 'sanitizing' section.
bullet Likewise if your first betta died in the tank and then you put a new betta in it without sanitizing it properly, you will contaminate the second betta (which may be why the second one is not looking too good right now)
bullet Is your filter too powerful? If you are using an eclipse 2.5 gal tanks, the filters on these are a bit too strong for bettas. You can slow them down by stuffing some filter floss in the outtake hole, but it is tricky. I am still experimenting on how to best do this without clogging filter and/or causing a flood LOL. If your filter includes an air pump (like a corner filter or undergravel filter) you can place a valve to reduce airflow until filter is more gentle and betta friendly. Betta should be able to swim gently without struggling. If it has to produce a lot of effort to swim towards the filter outtake, you are in trouble. If betta is swimming upside down and doing loops LOL, you MOST DEFINITELY have a problem LOL.
bullet Do you stop the filter when you feed? If so you are poisoning your betta. Filter cannot be stopped ever. If you stop filter it will kill the nitrobacteria which will release toxins in the water. Giving your betta a daily dose of toxin will result in weakened fish that will become pale and sick. The best way is to slow down (as opposed to turn off) filter while feeding. 
bullet Are you feeding live foods? Live foods can carry bacteria that will hurt your fish. I suggest you stick to frozen or freeze dried food instead.
bullet Is your little brother conducting weird experiments on your bettas while your back is turned LOL? May sound crazy, but other people in your household may be doing something (oftentimes with the best of intentions) that is hurting your fish. So Sherlock says: Scrutinize everyone and ask around if anyone has fed, touched, messed with or even looked at your bettas LOL. People do the stupidest things sometimes! Like feeding chocolate cake to fish or adding a bit of water STRAIGHT FROM THE TAP cause "the tank water level looked low"  
bullet Unless your house is really cold, you will not need a heater for your betta. If water temp is above 60F you are fine. You can however cook your fish in 2 seconds with a heater in a small tank (less than 5 gal)- I would not trust such a potentially dangerous set-up. Your thermometer should indicate if your temps are within safe range (60F to 86F), if so you do not need to worry about temps.

Well, in a nut shell these are 'most' of the things that could go sour. You need to go down the list and go through the process of elimination. Whatever is left, you need to correct and try again. Meanwhile, I would move the new betta to a simple jar (clean one) and treat him with BETTAMAX asap. Remember to read both my page on water and my page on acclimating to do this 'tank to jar' move properly or you may kill Mr. Betta.

Goodluck to you.

 

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