Betta Fish Ich



What is Ich?

 

Ich or Ichthyophthirius (pronounced “ick”) is a free swimming protozoan parasite that infects the skin of fish. The infection can also take place within the gills which is much harder to detect making it more dangerous and threatening to your tank.

Parasites embedded in the skin create small white cysts. This can cause a lot of irritation leading fish to rub against objects. As cysts fall off of the fish they act as incubators and soon release more protozoa into the aquarium water. Though ich organisms may be in your water, it luckily does not always mean your fish will become infected. Read about prevention at the bottom of this page to fully understand why bettas and other fish may or may not become infected with ich.

Ich is a disease that is very curable but if left untreated will more than likely be lethal.

 

How to spot Ich…

betta fish with ich

Your number one indicator of this disease will be small white specks that look like grains of salt on the body of your betta. You may see just a few growths or so many that fins begin to clamp together. Ich is mainly a skin infection which will cause irritation to the body. Infected fish will rub up against items in the tank as if they are trying to itch themselves. Along with these signs, a lethargic demeanor and a loss of appetite sinks in as the illness progresses. It is best to treat this disease as soon as it is spotted.

 

What are your options for treatment?

 

The good news is that there is a healthy and low cost way to easily free your betta as well as other fish from this unfortunate disease. In fact, most breeders prefer this method over using chemicals and medication.

The simplest and most natural way to treat this disease is to raise the water temperature to 90 degrees Fahrenheit(32 degrees Celsius). Ich thrives in cooler water. Next you should add basic aquarium salt. The salt will aid your betta’s immunities to promote self-healing. The growths will soon drop off over the next few days. Finally you will need to perform a complete water change to remove free swimming parasites as well as the old cysts that contain many new organisms.

Medications can be used to remove infection if you prefer. However, I urge you to be very cautious when dosing. If you are treating an aquarium you should be able to safely follow guidelines as instructed on the packaging. When treating a bowl it is easy to accidentally overdose your betta fish.

 

How can you protect your fish from Ich in the future?

 

The best general disease preventative is to keep your fish habitat clean with safe water levels. In my experience, I have never encountered a case of Ich in any of my personal aquariums or betta bowls. I have only dealt with it working in the fish department at a big name pet store. In fact, that job is what originally caused me to become such a fish hobbyist.

So why are fish more prone to Ich in a retail setting?

It is simply due to constant, careless shipping conditions. The new fish that come in are stressed out and more prone to illness.

Once they are introduced to the new tanks that they can begin to heal. The good news is that retailers care about the fish more than the people they received them from. I know first hand that pet store aquariums check their water pH, ammonia, alkaline, and nitrate levels twice per day. They also use aquarium salt for all freshwater tropical fish as well as stress coat which contains aloe vera. These two things aid in maintaining a healthy slime coat to fend off potential infectious threats lurking in the water. Which brings me to my next point.

The ich protozoan can live freely in the tank and not affect a healthy fish. This is why I urge you to take your aquarium maintenance seriously and keep your tank a safe place. When you bring a new fish home you should try adding some aquarium salt and stress coat much like the pet store I worked for does. Lastly, as an absolute must, accurately temperature-acclimate your betta or new tank mate to make sure stress levels stay as low as they can be. This consists of floating the new fish bag or cup within the tank water for about ten minutes to prevent temperature shock to the betta or any other fish being added. I know it’s “just a fish”, but this is still a new situation they are experiencing and any extra care will help you prevent any of your fish from catching ich.


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  • Merl734

    Thank you very much for the advice about temp acclimation. I never knew. Therefore, I plan to let the new water sit until it gets room temp and add some water from the previous bowl for my office bettas.
    Also very important: if bettas are kept in 1/2 galn bowls is to change their water every 5-7 days without fail. For smaller bowls, daily or every other day. Indee, bowls less than 1/2 gallon are death traps for bettas and should not be legal to sell.
    Also essential is to scoop out all food that is uneaten, because fungi and bacterial thrive and grow and infect fish from decaying food. Bowls must therefore be kept pristine to preserve precious bettas, and avoid the expense of meds that can get quite costly to many people who are on a budget. I also buy 2 1/2 gallon bowls for each betta so I will not have to put them in vases or leave them in a cup that really stresses them out.
    Question: Most meds with not work unless the water is 7.5 ph or less. How can I keep the alkalinity down? I change water every 2 days for fish on meds in hospital bowls to avoid high ammonia levels. Should I also add alkaline control treatments to the hospital bowl? The water is our area is hard: high cal/mag levels.

    • Angelasoup

      When it comes to alkalinity and the pH it sounds as though you are changing the water too often. This may sound surprising but you also need to focus on the natural biology of the habitat. Fish build up their own natural bacteria to regulate and reduce ammonia. So while it is good to focus on cleaning your tank or bowl you must also focus on the ecological system. Changing water too often also causes stress to your fish by compromising their natural mucus lining on their scales.