Q:
Hi: I recently lost three of my 15 male bettas.  They each have gallon vases that I change twice a week.  About two days before they died their long fins seemed to separate into "dreadlocks or spikes" for lack of a better term.  Please tell me what is causing this?????
Thanks very much,

Question submitted by Faith, Anchorage - AK

A: OK, well first let's set something straight: I never gave permission to your parents to name you after me. So they must change your name asap. (LOL). I am the only Faith around here (hehehehehe).

Hey, I was just pulling your leg. Welcome Faith, it is nice to hear from someone with such a oh so extremely very tres cool name (hehe). 

It would be easy for me to tell you that the fins that are tearing (and I quote: "their long fins seemed to separate into "dreadlocks or spikes") indicate fin rot. Fungal infections can cause fin rot, but most usually when looking at fin rot you are looking at a bacterial infection. This is the short and easy answer, but not the most informative one for the rest of our readers. 

So everyone needs to read what follows:

Fin rot did NOT kill your bettas. Although they did get fin rot, it only appeared a few days before they died. Fin rot alone is usually slow to progress and usually will not kill the fish. Unless you are unable to stop it from progressing. In which case it will eat away at the entire fin length and then proceed into body tissues, creating open sores (yuck).

In your case, the symptoms of fin rot were only a few days old and were just THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG.

So for all of you out there, you must learn that diseases often piggyback ride on each other. A first disease weakens the fish and then all the others claim Mr. Betta as well. Although all would love to take credit for the fish's demise, usually only one or a few are the real cause. Dropsy is a very good example of this. Dropsy in itself is not really a disease, it is a condition resulting from internal organ damaged caused by a number of other pathogens. Most go undetected until they ravage the fish's kidneys, causing water retention and resulting in the tissues filling up with fluid. This fluid in turn causes scales to raise like pine cones and the belly of the fish to swell up. So as you see, the swollen belly did not kill the fish. It is the kidney failure that did. That is why dropsy is incurable.

This goes to show that oftentimes when we see outer symptoms of a dying fish, we are not actually looking at the cause of death itself. The real culprit may remain hidden deep into your fish's body and remain unidentified. Meanwhile, the tip of the iceberg (dropsy, fin rot, body sores, thinness, etc...) are only but symptoms of additional opportunistic diseases taking advantage of the situation, while the main one is killing away.

Hence treating your bettas for fin rot when you saw it would have NOT saved your fish (cause it is not what was killing them). You mention losing 3 of 15 males 'recently' so you lost them in a row. Unless these bettas were old (and dying of natural causes), I suspect you are dealing with a pathogen that may claim the life of more of your fish, cause I see a pattern here. Test your water for nitrite, ammonia, metals, anything you can. If all looks good, then look at your food source. If feeding live food, more than likely they are the culprit. Discontinue and find safe food to feed your fish (freeze dried food, or possibly frozen). Sanitize all your jars and start fresh.

If you recently acquired a new fish, it may be the culprit. Ironically, fish that carry and bring diseases into fishroom are not always the first to die from it!! Which confuses people further. That fish might still be thriving and meanwhile, it might be passing the infection to your other fish, via your hands, fish nets, or anything else that comes into contact with it, then with the other fish. Always quarantine any new fish and keep things separate when you handle your fish (wash your hands, use different nets etc..). To read my very very useful article on how to prevent bacterial outbreaks (epidemics) from wiping your fishroom, click here.

I hope all above helps all of you.

About me

I am a member of the IBC, founder and President of LABS  (Los Angeles Betta Society) and have been helping the betta community through this website since 1998. 
I have over 
180  spawns and  4000 shipments under my belt and have been featured on national and international television.       
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