Q: AH wrote,
I have a question about my betta fish and, because your site is so informative, I thought you would be a great resource. I’ve had my little betta, Sam, for about 3 weeks. He lives in a 2 gallon tank filled with tap water and conditioned with TopFin Betta Water Conditioner. I have a thermometer and his water temp is usually between 76 and 78 degrees. I have a small filter that I run once a week. When it’s running, the current is so strong that he struggles to stay in one place, but his tank is clean. Every day I feed him 3 freeze dried bloodworms and he’s happy about that. He seems healthy, he swims a lot and he greets me. The past couple of days though, his swimming seems different. He seems a little jittery. Almost like he’s twitching. I haven’t made any big changes to his environment or water and I can’t seem to figure out why he is swimming like that. Is this normal? I did a little research and he doesn’t appear to have an illness. He has very colorful scales, long and colorful fins, no fungus, dark eyes and I don’t see any white spots. Maybe you can help me. I just want to make sure he is comfortable and happy.
A: If your betta fish begins twitching irregularly it may signify an external parasitic infection like Ich or Velvet or may be an indication of water quality problems like the presence of ammonia or chlorine irritation. Whenever your betta’s behavior changes from what is routine, it is a good idea to give him a thorough look over and test your water parameters. Ich has the appearance of small white salt like granules stuck to your betta’s head, body and fins. They are easy to spot and if untreated can become serious. Velvet is a similar parasite but harder to see with the naked eye. It often appears as a rust colored dusting on the betta’s head and body. It can also look brownish, gold or red in color. It is often easier to see with a flash light as the parasites will sometimes have a little sheen to them. Again, it appears more like a sprinkling of fine powder.
You should also test your water for dangerous toxins like ammonia, nitrite and nitrate with a freshwater aquarium test kit. If you don’t have one, call your local fish store to see if they will test it for you for free if you bring in a sample. Most will do free water testing for their patrons. Rapid changes in pH may also lead to behavioral changes like twitching. It is always good to have a pH test kit handy as even small variations in pH over a short time can be problematic. While I do not recommend pH adjusters like pH Up or pH Down, it is good to know if your pH is fluctuating. Often, simply allowing your new change-water to sit overnight in a container will be enough to stabilize the pH before your water change and will do it without harmful pH chemical agents.