If you keep Betta fish long enough, eventually you will have to deal with treating an illness. Bettas are not particularly resilient fish and are susceptible to a host of common diseases from bacterial infections to viruses and parasitic infestations. Minor problems like split fins or a lost scales can typically be healed on their own. When your Betta become very sick you may need to administer medicine. Here are our 10 Dos & Don’ts of medicating your Betta fish.
1. DO evaluate your Betta’s symptoms before medicating. Hardly a week goes by that I don’t get an email from a Betta keeper who has
- first, given their fish medicine and
- second, asked me what is wrong with their Betta.
Medicating Bettas is very similar to taking medicine for yourself. You wouldn’t take cough medicine if you had a headache. Fish medicine is developed to treat specific illnesses. Antibiotics like Maracyn or Maracyn-Two work very well against bacterial infections but will do nothing for virus or parasites. You have to know what is wrong with your fish before you medicate him (or at least have made an educated guess first).
2. DO take the necessary steps to solve the cause of the problem in the first place. Treating the symptoms is only half of the solution. It is equally important to determine what caused your Betta to become ill. Most often there are stressors in the environment like poor water quality, exposure to other sick fish, or malnutrition that caused the fish to become sick in the first place. Start by identifying and correcting the cause.
3. DON’T mix medicine. Again, as with humans, Betta medicine can cause drug interactions. Read the manufacturer’s warnings before you treat your fish with multiple medications at one time. If you are not sure you can call the manufacturer or visit their website for more information.
4. DO understand that medicating your Betta is risky. Many fish keepers think that medicine is a miracle that will cure their fish without consequence. This isn’t necessarily true. Bettas are very sensitive animals who can become very ill with just minor fluctuations in their environment. Many fish medications are quite potent and can wreak havoc on a Betta’s internal systems. There is no 100% safe fish medicine. The Betta will need to metabolize the chemicals from the medicine which add additional stress to the liver and kidneys. This is why you are best to avoid “preventative treatments” and use good judgment when deciding to medicate your Betta. Determine if the risk is worth the reward.
5. DON’T switch medications guessing at the right answer. Another common mistake Betta keepers make is trying a random medicine for a few days and then switching medication when they don’t get the result they wanted. We all make mistakes. If you have used the wrong medication on your Betta be sure to clean the aquarium well to remove traces of medicine. Do careful research before starting another treatment. Don’t start and stop various treatments hoping one will work.
6. DO complete the course. When you find a medicine that works be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions for treatment. Many common Betta illness like Ich, Velvet, Cotton Wool Disease and any number of other bacterial infections can go dormant and appear to be healed only to resurface worse than ever. If the directions say to complete the course even if symptoms appear to improve, be sure you do.
7. DO watch for negative reactions. As an exception to Tip #6… You should also watch for any adverse reactions from medicine. If you suspect your fish having a bad reaction to the medicine (rather than the illness itself) use your judgment and stop treatment.
8. DON’T medicate healthy fish. Many of us keep our Bettas in community aquariums with other fish or invertebrates. If one fish becomes ill, move him to a hospital tank where he can be monitored safely and where his medicine won’t stress healthy fish. Keep in mind that some medicine that is safe for fish is deadly to invertebrates. Even if your Betta only shares a tank with a snail or shrimp, be sure to move him to another location so you don’t accidently kill the other inhabitants of your aquarium.
9. DO understand how fish medicine may affect your biological filtration. Antibiotics and bactericides are developed to kill bacteria. Filtered aquariums are teaming with beneficial bacterial colonies that have been slowly growing in your tank. These beneficial bacteria consume toxins like ammonia that are harmful to your fish. Be careful that you don’t accidently use a medicine in your tank that will also kill off all your helpful bacteria. If you have worked hard to cycle your tank you will definitely want to take the simple steps involved with setting up a hospital tank.
10. DO medicate your Betta if he needs it. As pet owners it is our responsibility to provide a safe environment, nutritious diet and medical care for our fish. There are many illnesses that can be cured with inexpensive fish medicine that otherwise would be fatal to your Betta.