Also referred to as “water mold” is a secondary infection caused by fungus. This fungus is in every tank and typically feeds off of fish waste and uneaten food. This explains why you will not have to fear for this infection unless there is a prior problem to your betta’s health.
In very rare cases low temperatures and poor tank maintenance has caused saprolegnia to be a primary infection.
So how does an infection occur?
When a betta fish is injured or has any type of physical damage, the spores will feed on the dead tissue. It rapidly grows in the form of a white cottony clump. It then distributes a deteriorating enzyme onto the areas surrounding it. The infection then spreads to absorb nutrients secreted from the flesh of the fish. These nutrients include protein and carbohydrates.
Is it fatal?
Saprolegnia will eventually deprive your fish of red blood cells causing it to suffocate. This makes it crucial to start treatment right away.
Note to breeders: Eggs can be infected as well. The spores will start with the sterile eggs but then eventually move on to healthy eggs.
Saprolegnia vs Columnaris
It is important to correctly diagnose your beta fish. Often times it can be difficult for some to decipher the difference between a bacterial infection and a fungal infection.
Columnaris(pictured left) is bacterial and will look a ragged and fuzzy film.
Saprolegnia(pictured right) on the other hand will protrude from the surface giving a more localized and defined cotton ball look. As time goes on the “cotton ball” spreads and turns brownish-green as it also absorbs algae.
Treating a fungal infection:
Treating saprolegnia can be a bit tricky. This is because it not only tolerates salt and heat but because it is always living in your tank. First you must treat the original infection if it was caused by parasites. If the cause is not known or is secondary to a bacterial infection we can begin treatment on the mold itself.
PimaFix by API can be found at almost all pet stores and even a few corporate stores such as Wal-mart. PimaFix is all natural using extracts from the Indian Bay Tree. It is used to treat both fungal and bacterial infections. It is enhanced when used with MelaFix(or BettaFix it’s diluted version) to battle out external and internal infections.
If you are having trouble healing your betta because the infection is too far along for the pimafix to do the trick there is a stronger option. API also makes a product called Fungus Cure which is meant as a cure-all for fungal and secondary bacterial infections. The only issue you might come across with this product is dosing. It comes in a powder form in separate packets. This is an issue because one packet treats 10 gallons so you’ll need to find a good method of measurement that works for you.
Prevention of this secondary infection is actually quite simple. Keep up with regular tank maintenance. Be sure you are performing regular water changes. If you have a full aquarium setup be sure that you are replacing your filters as needed. Also watch how much you are feeding your fish. The fungus spores feed on tank waste. Excess food will fall to the bottom of your tank causing increased waste.
Be sure you are taking care of sick and injured fish as soon as they show symptoms. Don’t give the mold plenty of time to latch on to dead cells. One last tip is to keep a homemade first aid kit around so you can catch disease promptly. For an example of my first aid kit, click here: Betta First Aid Kit