URGENT: Betta with sudden Dropsy

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Aquarium Advice Newbie
Feb 1, 2024
10 Gallon cycled, heated, HOB filtered tank with several species of live plants.

PH: 8, always steady, Ammonia: 0 ppm, Nitrites: 0 ppm, Nitrates: 1~ ppm, extremely close to 0 ppm so hard to tell.

About a week ago my female betta, Cheesecake, looked to be gaining some weight, but it was hard to tell since she's always been a stockier fish. Just to be on the safe side I fasted her for one day, fed her a frozen pea (which I forgot to boil first to blanche, unfortunately), and then fasted her for three more days. She was looking to be her regular size again, and her energy increased, so I started feeding her. Except this time, I soaked every pellet I gave her, using her tank water, which was not something I had ever done for her prior to her bloating scare. I had read this was a method to decrease the likelihood of bloat again. I fed her this new way for three days, and she did not gain any extra weight. Today would be the fourth day, but I have not fed her yet. Yesterday she looked to be like her usual self*. Every day when I come home from school I check on her, but when I did today I couldn't find her, which was unusual since she's always active and exploring during the day. I found her sleeping under her heater, and when she swam out to greet me, I saw she was extremely bloated, body misaligned, and the start of pine-coning scales on her belly and sides. After a quick but aggressive cry, I did an immediate water test to find the above mentioned parameters, nothing seems out of the ordinary there. I got her from PetSmart, and have had her for a little over 2 years in my care. She was decently sized (not obese) since I first saw her, and that never changed. She has been one of- if not the most- largest betta I've ever had. My guess is she's around 2.5 years (probably a little over) in age. My understanding is a betta's lifespan can be anywhere from 2-5 years under proper care. The only thing that stands out to me is that *over the past 6 months her colors have faded, and she's not as energetic as she once was. I confirmed she was not sick when I first started to notice the changes, and she continued to be healthy despite these changes. However, I'm still concerned that I missed something-- anything in those months that would have led to this. I was under the impression that, despite it being on the early end, she was getting old, and maybe in another year or so she'd be on her way out. She has shown absolutely ZERO indications of an actual problem prior to this sudden (and borderline severe) case of Dropsy. Is there anything I can do? Anything that I should have done? Have I made a grave error somewhere? Questions are welcomed and very encouraged, I will answer any and all. I am extremely attached to this fish, maybe more than I would like to admit. I am devastated at this-- from all my understandings-- sudden death sentence.
Unfortunately, what you diagnosed as bloat was actually the early signs of dropsy. There is no such thing as " sudden" dropsy. Dropsy is caused by the fish's organs failing and not being able to shed fluids from inside the body. The accumulation of fluids is a gradual thing which is why it can't be " sudden". So when you were fasting the fish and the fish was getting thinner, it was mostly the flesh that was thinning but not the fluids.

The bad news is that once the fish starts to "pinecone", the chances of a successful treatment is so slim that most do not even try as the meds can be expensive and it becomes hard to justify spending that much money on a fish that can be replaced for less. ( It's a cruel world out there. :whistle: )

At this point, you need to decide how you want to proceed. ( medicate or euthanize.)

As for long term Betta care, it requires clean water, a varied diet consisting of quality dry, frozen and live foods, and reduced stress. Many just feed " Betta Pellets" but they should not be the complete diet ( no matter how they are advertised. :whistle: ) When you do this, you still can only expect a couple of years of having the fish. The reason is because you do not know how old the fish are when you get them. I know one of the chain stores sells " baby Bettas" but truth be told, they could also just be runts. Those fish could be 6-8 + months old instead of a couple of months old. So unless you know when the fish was hatched, anything past 2 years is just a bonus, not a guarantee. That's not to say that the chain store fish are not good fish, just that they are an unknown fish as far as age. ( I've gotten many good Bettas from chain stores that became my breeders and produced nice fish. You can see some of them in my albums on this site. )

So I hope this helps. (y)
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