Piscine Geriatrics

May 31 2012 Published by under [Etc]

New position

For a few days the iFish has been acting weird. He lies about on the gravel or plastic plants. When I put food in the aquarium, he vigorously paddles up to the surface but "misses" the tasty morsel. He cannot seem to steer himself.

This betta has been my office mate for almost 2.5 years now. My web readings suggest these fish live about 2 years, but the kind folks at local fish shops share stories of some with 4-5 year lifespans.

Could he have a stroke? Piscine dementia? What problems plague our elderly finny friends?

After watching him a couple of days, I decided to explore the world of fish medicine. He intermittently looks just fine, but I do not want the iFish to suffer needlessly. It might be kinder to send him to "that big aquarium in the sky" via the OKC sewer system.

I found a great site dedicated to bettas, and it includes descriptions of their common diseases. Most problems result from fungal or parasitic infestations. I fuled those out because the little dude's scales and fins look just fine.

Then I found swim bladder disorder:

Bettas with a swim bladder disorder will have difficulty swimming, because their swim bladder (located alongside the spine between the belly and the tail) is either too short (causing them to not be able to swim horizontally) or it is swollen (causing them to float on one side). Double Tail bettas, because they have a shorter body, are especially prone to the “floaters” problem. In the case of a short swim bladder, the bettas will not be able to maneuver and swimming becomes so difficult, they prefer to just lay at the bottom, sliding on their bellies, which is why they are called “belly sliders”. And they do look like a pathetic bunch, at that point. 🙂

What causes this problem? Overeating. Hmmmm.... So all my recent travel when I left an extended release feeder and gave him supplemental meals with his real food when I came back may have produced this issue? With goldfish or guppies, overfeeding just mucks up the water; they don't seem to gorge themselves like this little guy! Now I feel really guilty as well as sad about his condition. So what's the prognosis?

Bettas may recover on their own, but since overfeeding induces swimbladder disorders in most cases, the first thing to do is feed a lot less. Brine shrimp and too much of it is the biggest culprit, so if your bettas are bellysliding, stop the brine shrimp for a while and thereafter learn to have a more balanced diet, alternating brine shrimp with microworms or worms (depending on how old your bettas are). Do not kill a betta with a swimbladder disorder. It may recover on its own at any time, and is not suffering. Further more, the ailment is NOT contagious. To help the fish if it cannot eat, lower the water level.

Armed with new knowledge, I read his fish food ingredients. Fish meal leads the list, followed by shrimp meal, and then some grains and other nutrients. The sustained release feeders provide mostly freeze-dried worms. I will be patient and not add any food for a bit; he has a piece of his usual diet still floating in the tank that he can't...quite...grab... Next week he will get a worm-based food. I will let you know how he does.

I'm just glad to know he looks pathetic but he really is OK. I'm going to miss the little fellow when he does swim down that long dark tunnel into the light.


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