Q: SK wrote: I came across your website by the recommendation of a few people. My betta seems to be having a pseudo-unique health problem. He seems constipated but really grossly, but he swims as energetically as always and his appetite hasn’t waned in the slightest. He is however, grotesquely swollen. For the past week, I’ve reduced his regular diet and given him greens like bits of green peas. He is defecating normally. His fins aren’t protruding like with dropsy. I’ve attached a few pictures of him. Keep in mind, he is still swelling. Any help or advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your time.
A: Thanks for writing in and providing those images. Though they are difficult to look at, they do illustrate, quite clearly, the severity of the situation. Dropsy is often characterized by full body swelling with protruding scales but very often it will materialize as an immensely bloated abdomen. I’m not certain why in some fish, the swelling is spread and in others it is centralized but fish hobbyists consider both to be Dropsy. I suspect the difference has to do with regulating osmotic pressure but I will have to do further research to see if there are theories.
The swelling you are seeing is not caused by a solid blockage (food) but rather a fluid build up caused when the internal organs begin to fail. Sadly, the survival rate in tropical fish is quite low and even more so when it gets to this level.
To make your fish more comfortable, I suggest either an epsom salt dip (1/2 tsp / gal for 15 minutes in a separate container) or you can add 1/8 tsp per 5 gal of epsom salt to his tank directly. Epsom salts are traditionally used to regulate the osmotic pressure and to relieve some of the swelling but some folks us aquarium salt instead at a dose of 1/2 tsp per gallon for a 15 min dip or a 1/2 tsp per 5 gal directly into the tank. (Don’t use aquarium salt in your tank if you have live plants).
Just as a side note, salt does not evaporate. If you are adding it directly to the tank for the first time, it will remain after a water change. Don’t redose the entire aquarium with salt again and again so that it accumulates. Instead, treat just the new water. While your fish is sick, it’s important to keep his water clean and free from toxins. Frequent water changes are helpful.
It’s important to understand epsom or aquarium salt isn’t a cure. It’s just intended to help bring some of the swelling down. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Dropsy.
I wish there was more I could offer. I hope he continues to feel good as long as
possible. Please let me know how he progresses.