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I've finally figured out my betta must have a swim bladder issue. Luckily, he's floating at the top of his tank, so I don't have to worry about him struggling to get air. However, I'm struggling to figure out how to cure him. I've heard that this issue doesn't mean they are in pain, but I feel really bad for him (he just sadly floats on the edge of the tank).

Here's what I've tried so far:

I don't think it's a bacterial infection or disease. I read if they still show interest in food, that can rule that issue out. He's still ravenous for food and will eat whatever I give him. Plus, he's still colorful and I don't see any external signs of damage.

I've been cutting back on his food (2-3 pellets a day), and have intermittently fasted him, too, in case it's bloating or constipation. He doesn't seem to produce regular bowel moments, that I can tell, but it's been like that his whole life. I have a black sand bottom and rarely see his waste, but I've had him for nearly a year now with no issues. Fasting hasn't seemed to help, he's just mad when he doesn't get fed. I've tried feeding him different brands of pellets and blood worms, but he doesn't want to eat anything but what I've always fed him.

What else can I try to help my betta? I've read about feeding him a pea, aquarium salt, other medications... but these always make me nervous because I hear both good and bad things (like easy to overdose/injure the fish).

Tank parameters: 5ish gal, filtered, heated, 3 live plants, treated water with stresscoat +, 50-75% water changes every-other week (amount of water changed depends on algae levels and waste). Ammonia, pH, etc levels are checked regularly. Ammonia used to be high for a while a few months ago, but it's been better for about a month or so now.

  • "Ammonia used to be high for a while [...] but it's been better for about a month" - When you say better, what reading specifically? If there is any ammonia in the water, your fish will be suffering. What are your nitrite and nitrate levels? – Henders Mar 19 '19 at 16:00
  • Nitrite and nitrate levels have always been 0 (I have strip tests right now). Ammonia at the highest was barely .25 (per my liquid reading test). It’s back to 0, but it was hard to get it down for some reason for a few months. I can’t remember how closely the ammonia and his current issues align. – Gwendolyn Mar 19 '19 at 16:07
  • How long have you had this betta ? – Manuki Mar 19 '19 at 17:54
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    @Manuki I've had him for nearly a year now, but I'm not sure how long he'd been in pet store for. Given a few other things I've observed in him, I'm leaning towards old age. I like your answer, though, because it provides some perspective I hadn't thought of before! – Gwendolyn Mar 22 '19 at 22:09
  • yeah after the first year many bettas are not so "young" any more – Manuki Mar 24 '19 at 14:33
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I don't have special knowledge about swim bladder issues beside what you and I can google. There are a few different possible causes.

First of all it's great that your betta is still eating, colorful and in good shape.

If the issue is caused by overfeeding or constipation, fasting (1-3 days) would clear it. A common laxative is a frozen pea that you boil a little bit and remove the skin. Dry foods should be soaked in water before feeding, because they can expand in the fishes stomach.

One tablespoon of aquarium salt in your tank of 5 gallons (only one time) wouldn't hurt, it might help him get through it. Similarly you could try to raise the temperature by a few degrees for a few days. (not more than 81 Farenheit) These two measures together often help a fish go through a disease or an infection, which could indeed be the cause of the problem, and they are a lot more safe and simple than most medication. These 2 are used to treat many many aquarium problems.

Aq. salt is very safe, just don't oversalt. Salt goes out with water-changes only, when you replace it with not-salted water. As an example I'm currently treating neons that have Ich with a bit more than 1 teaspoon of salt per gallon of water. I keep the same level of salting through water changes since more than a week now. I've seen recommendations up to 3 teaspoons per gallon. Just to give you an idea of what kind of quantities are possible. 1 spoon (tea or table) per 5 gallons is a common recommendation for many different things.. Different fishkeepers like different numbers.

And finally water quality is always important in all aquarium matters. I would recommend you to do smaller water changes but more often: once in two weeks seems very long, a lot of waste can accumulate in 2 weeks and a lot of oxygen can go out. And 75% is too much change, which can shock or stress fishes. Better 25%-35% every week. Lack of oxygen would also make the fish stay near the top of the water. You mentionned testing your ammonia & co. so I assume you know about the nitrogen cycle.

Additionally, bettas prefer very slow-moving water, they cannot keep up with big current all day long. Exhaustion (and being carried by the current) could lead to problems in the betta's swimming, including being stuck at the top or at the bottom. The water still needs circulation and filtration.

Old age is also often the source of such problems.

An injury (maybe from using a net) or birth defect are also mentionned online as possible causes for swim bladder issues. I read that a betta can still live a happy life, living with a swim-bladder disorder, they just need love and care.

source: https://www.itsafishthing.com/betta-fish-swim-bladder-disease/#how-can-you-care-for-a-betta-with-chronic-sbd

I hope I gave you some clues and I wish the best to your fish.

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  • This just happened to me yesterday: a neon tetra was floating, and frantically swimming down to compensate it, it was quite scary and pathetic... This morning he is ok, so I think it was just over-eating. Or maybe he ate a bubble of air, fishes do stupid things like this. I skipped the feeding today. – Manuki Apr 10 '19 at 16:21

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