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Old 02-29-2008, 10:40 PM   #1
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Question Treating Ich in a Betta Bowl

Hello All. Long time reader, first time post-er.

My girlfriend and I recently acquired a betta (~3wks ago) and have been keeping him in a classic fish bowl (1, 1.5gal?). Deciding this was probably a little small, and that he would look much nicer in a bigger tank, we're setting up a 10gal for him. Two days ago we noticed the little guy has white spots on his forehead, characteristic of Ich. The number of them has increased over the past day. We're preparing to treat him with "QuICK Cure" (formalin + malachite green), however I want to be sure of one thing first:

Should we treat him for Ich in the fish bowl he's in? Or should we move him into the 10-gal tank and begin treatment there?

I can see arguments both ways: Leaving him in the bowl won't give him the stress of a move or new water conditions. However, treating him in the tank might be safer, as it may be harder to regulate the concentration of medicine in the small bowl.

So I defer to the wisdom of the Internet... treat then move? Or move then treat?

Water conditions in the bowl (as determined by AP Freshwater master test kit):
pH: 7.2
Ammonia: between 0.25 - 0.5 ppm
Temp: 25 C

(We haven't begun cycling the 10 gal yet, so its water conditions are 7.2pH and all other nitrogen compounts 0ppm).

Thanks in advance!

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Old 02-29-2008, 11:14 PM   #2
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Welcome to AA!

I would move the betta to the 10 gallon tank now. (My bettas are in 10 gallon tanks.) The tank will go through the nitrogen cycle, and you will still have to keep an eye on the parameters; however, with one betta, I don't think you'll get ammonia levels in the toxic range as long as you keep a watchful eye.

The best way to treat ich is not with medicines but with heat. This is best accomplished in the tank with a good heater. Keep the water temperature at 87 or 88 degrees, and let it remain there for two weeks after you see the last spot to make sure it's all gone. The parasite has three life stages: in the spot on the fish, free-swimming in the water, and in the reproductive stage in the gravel (yes, they all have scientific stage names but I can't think of them now ) I don't blame you for wanting to add meds - I know it's hard to see your fish suffering, but the meds only work on the stage that is free-swimming in the water. The heat method is the best since it will kill them at all the stages. Begin to raise the temperature slowly as not to stress the fish - 1 degree every 4-6 hours. Between the temps of 82 and 86 or so, you'll see more spots because the ich reproduce very fast at this temperature range. Try not to let the temps linger too long in this range. At 87-88 degrees, they will die off.

When the ich sticks to the fish or it's in the gravel, it encapsulates itself so that meds are ineffective. When they pop out of their "capsule" that they attach to the fish, and swim through the water, they are vulnerable to meds at that point. When they get to the gravel they encapsulate themselves again. So even though heat is effective at all stages, you still need that two-week window to make sure all the free-floating ones are gone and the cysts in the gravel are done hatching.

I would do a PWC every day while you are treating for ich. The PWC will remove the ich that is in the free-floating stage - the ones swimming though the water that you can't see. The water change won't remove them all but hopefully by continuing your PWCs you can get some out of there before they have a chance to return to the gravel and reproduce again. You should begin to see a reduction of the spots on the fish after a few days but remember to keep your temps up for two weeks after you see that last spot.
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Old 02-29-2008, 11:39 PM   #3
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Hi, An t-iasg --

Thanks for the advice; very clear and helpful! A few follow-up questions:

I can move him to the 10gal now, but I won't be able to get him a heater until tomorrow afternoon. (Have to make a trip to our LFS, which is on the other side of town). So the temperature will be ~23 C overnight (about 73 F?) (We have added a 60W lamp above the bowl, hoping to get the temp up a little and boost his immune response; it's about 25 C 77 F in there now, and he has been very fond of the lamp since we put it up, hanging out there quite a bit. I know it's a trade-off in raising the water temp like that: helps the immune system, but also may speed up the Ich lifecycle somewhat... we were hoping for the best).

Will it be okay to put off the onset of treatment another 18 hours? He has already had this condition for 2 days (although my girlfriend insists longer -- she sees spots I think aren't there!). Is there anything I can do for him now?

Below is a photo of Bettaman, just to confirm our diagnosis and solicit any other thoughts you might have:

With my eyes, I can only see the spots on his forehead, but the camera (and my gf) can see the other spots on his back, too, apparently...
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Old 03-01-2008, 01:31 AM   #4
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Oh, poor little guy. I'm afraid that if you put the Quick Cure in the bowl, just for one night, it will stress him. Bettas have a labyrinth organ that they use to breathe air (have you seen the betta come to the surface of the water and take a little "breath"?) Those medicine components are pretty toxic, and some medicines do irritate the labyrinth organ. And if you ever put that Quick Cure in a tank, it would stain the silicone. This is a tough call - I would not use the light. I would try to keep the bowl in the low 70s to keep the ich reproduction down until you can get a heater. I bet he does like the heat of the light - bettas like their water temps to be at 80 degrees. It will take longer to get up to 87 or 88 degrees if he's used to a temp in the low 70s. It won't hurt to do a water change in the morning before you go to get the heater. Just make sure to match the new water temp. to the old water (you can use the hot water faucet). I have 75 watt heaters in my 10 gallon tanks. Usually a 50 watt heater is recommended for a 10 gallon, but my 75 watt heaters keep the tanks at an even 80 or 80.2 degrees, and if I need to increase the heat for ich, I know the heater will be strong enough to raise the heat and keep it there. I like the Visitherm Stealth brand of heater. They are plastic, so they can't shatter if they are exposed to air (like during a water change) while they are plugged in.
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Old 03-01-2008, 02:15 AM   #5
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Yes, that was my big worry that medicine in such a tiny space would be too much. Even balancing the dosage just right, something about it still made me uncomfortable (hence the orig. question!)

We're leaving him in the bowl tonight (after doing a PWC, since it's been about 48 hours since the last one) with the light off. The tank and bowl are in the same room, and this way the temps will be the same tomorrow when I get home. We'll move him to the tank after that, and the start ramping up the temp to 88F. What's a good rate for raising the temperature? 0.5 degrees / hr? Less?

I'll run all this past the LFS guys tomorrow morning (they really know their stuff) and I'll post any additional recommendations they have, just for posterity.

Thanks again!
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Old 03-01-2008, 12:02 PM   #6
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Start at a one-degree increase every 6 hours. It may be hard to read that little heater dial precisely to one degree but do your best. I never really rely on the heater's dial to measure my actual water temperature. I use a regular digital kitchen thermometer (tank only!) to accurately measure the water temperature. When you are in the "reproductive temperature zone" of 82-86 degrees, if the betta doesn't seem stressed, you could try one degree every 4-5 hours to get out of that range quickly.

If you have done any reading on ich, you'll see that by raising the water temperatures, you are decreasing the oxygen in the water. Warmer water holds less oxygen. It is recommended to increase the surface turbulence of the water to facilitate the oxygen exchange into the water. However, with bettas, it's a little different story. They don't appreciate water turbulence and it would stress them out at this vulnerable time. They have the labyrinth organ to get additional oxygen from the air, so with the higher temperatures a betta should be fine.
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Old 03-05-2008, 11:24 PM   #7
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Just a quick post to let you know of a happy resolution:

We got the heater that day, like I'd intended, and set up the 10gal right away. We gave the betta several hours to get accustomed to his new home, meanwhile we slowly brought the temperature up to 87deg F. On the advice of the LFS guys, who strongly suggested medical treatment in addition to temperature, we treated with Quick Cure for 3 days. All signs of disease were gone after day 2, with one extra day just for safety's sake. Our betta is a tough guy -- he didn't seem to mind the blue water at all. (He was, however, very interested in checking out the blue drops while we were treating the tank each time. It was all we could do to keep him away from them while they mixed in, so he wouldn't get a gill-ful of the stuff!)

Anyway, no sign of Ich now after 5 days. We're going to keep the temperature high for the next several days, and keep a close watch on the little guy. Bettaman is thrilled with his bigger new home (so much for the subprime crisis!) and would probably thank you for your help, if only he understood the internets.
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Old 03-06-2008, 01:31 AM   #8
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Thanks for the update! I was wondering about how things were going!
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