Betta fish can be a particular tricky species for an aquatic veterinarian to assess. Their tiny size limits diagnostics and usually limited water volume limits our ability to test water quality parameters. So, how do we work on such tiny fish?
Most of the exams for our betta patients are mainly visual. They are very difficult to manipulate and taking a gill sample wound require doll-scale scissors. They are resistant to sedation since their specialized labyrinth organ allows them to take oxygen in from the air.
A majority of our betta appointments are husbandry assessments. We see so many terrible betta cases we dedicated a section of our website to how you can fix them without a veterinarian! It comes down to two simple practices:
- Get your betta a tank and filter
- Get your betta a heater
With enough water, we can perform our usual water quality assessments. Again, in a bowl with no filter, your fish will not thrive. Water quality and water changes for fish in bowls can be traumatic. By changing their water chemistry very rapidly, you can cause severe distress and even death.
In rare cases, we will need to get hands-on diagnostics. Our most challenging cases are bettas who are bloated from being overfed. Overfeeding betta fish in low temperature water, or severe overfeeding in a heated tank, causes them to get stopped up with a giant poo ball. (No, they are not “constipated.”) It is very sad when this happens, since there is very little we can do, but fish enemas are on the list! With the tiniest catheter they make, our vet is able to try and break down the fecal material to give the fish a fighting chance. Please do not try this at home; you could perforate the fish’s intestine and give them a slow, painful death.
You can prevent the “poo ball of death” by keeping your betta in a heated tank, with a filter, and feeding a few pellets once or twice a day.
We have also performed ultrasounds on betta fish. Our mobile ultrasound unit is for more than looking at giant koi! We can assess different masses and lumps on fish and try to determine their origin.
Every pet fish deserves a long, happy life. For all fish, this should include a yearly health assessment. For bettas, consider their environment as much as your own. Fish bowls are not appropriate for any fish, let alone bettas. By giving them a heated, filtered tank, you will give them a greater quality of life.