Saturday, June 02, 2012

The Betta and the Pea — just another fish tale

The other day my home fish (kinda like home boy, only it's not, it's just the fish I have at home) started acting strange. I quickly was brought back to the time, not so long ago, when my previous home fish, Frank got sick and died. I was resigning myself to the fact that maybe fish just aren't my thing, kinda like making toffee, it's just not in me to make it work.

I watched him and it was like someone had given him fish crack or something, he would be very still with his head down in the rocks then suddenly swim frantically all around the bowl and then drift back down to the bottom. I tapped on the bowl which usually brings him wagging his little tail fin over to my finger and seem really happy but this time he didn't even glance over at me. I tried putting some food in and he didn't even seem to take notice of the tasty blood worm hors d'oeuvres floating tantalizingly on top.  Yes, it seemed the end was near for poor Billy Betta fish.

Then I remembered what a friend had told me, she said this same type thing happened with a coworkers Betta and she put in a frozen pea. Yes, I know, I thought it ridiculous too but I had to at least try. So I threw a frozen pea in and I guess I expected him to miraculously swim over, ingest the pea and live happily ever after. No. Didn't happen. I watched and then......nothing. I pushed the pea over near his little fish mouth, still, nothing. All day, every time I went in the kitchen I moved the pea close to where ever Billy had floated and the pea went untouched.

That night I went to bed fully expecting to find Billy to have expired during the night and having to move him, respectfully, of course, from the fish bowl to the toilet bowl. The next morning I went over to the bowl and bracing myself for the worst the most amazing thing had happened....... Billy was waiting patiently for me, wiggling and almost looking like he wanted a good game of fetch or something. I couldn't believe it. MY OLD BILLY WAS BACK!!! It was the miracle of the frozen pea! I looked and it still didn't seem Billy had munched even a little of the pea.
Billy, swimming happily in his little tank, under the watchful eye of Shrek.

So I did do a little research and this is what I found: (full article at velvet dragon)

Swim Bladder Disorder (also called SBD, Swim Bladder Disease, or simply "swim bladder") is an extremely common disorder among bettas and other fish, particularly due to husbandry misconceptions. The swim bladder is an flexible-walled organ filled with gas, which controls the fish's buoyancy. Swim bladder disorder is a symptom rather than a disease in and of itself, but should be taken very seriously, as the conditions leading to it can be deadly if left untreated. 

The betta is unable to swim properly, characterized by floating at the top, sinking to the bottom and/or listing sideways. The betta often looks like it takes it a great deal of work to swim to the bottom (if floating) or reach the surface (if sinking), and will pop back up like a cork or sink like a stone.
A constipated fish may look bloated (slightly or greatly), or seem to have difficulty passing feces (stringy, trailing, or exceptionally large poop). 

When SBD is observed with no other symptoms or known causes, it is best to begin treatment for constipation. Most of the time, SBD will clear up immediately when the fish is no longer constipated.
  • Keep the water super clean and warm (increase the temperature slowly, only a degree every couple hours, until it is around 80 degrees; keep the temperature stable).
  • If possible, leave the tank's bottom bare (no gravel, rocks or marbles), so you can monitor the fish's feces. A hospital tank may be useful.
  • Encourage the betta to flare by placing another betta's tank nearby, or showing the betta a mirror. Bettas often poo when they flare.
  • Fast the fish for three days. No food at all.
  • On the fourth day, feed the betta a blanched (frozen-thawed) pea. For bettas, as obligate carnivores, the pea consists mostly of undigestible fiber, which is wonderful for clearing out the digestive tract. Most bettas find peas extremely palatable!
    Take a frozen pea. Do not use fresh (risk of pesticides or other environmental toxins) or canned (too squishy and way too much salt). Place the pea in some dechlorinated, conditioned water (or simply take some from your betta's tank) in a microwave-safe container. Microwave the pea for a few seconds (mine takes about 10 seconds, but ovens vary), until thawed.
    Skin the pea by slitting the skin and squeezing out the two halves of pea. Discard the skin.
    Take about a quarter of the pea, and chop it into super tiny pieces. Remember, bettas have tiny stomachs, and do not need more than about a quarter. Feed the tiny pieces to your betta. Most of them love it!
  • Usually, the betta will have a bowel movement within a day of the pea treatment. If the betta does not poo or there is no improvement, repeat treatment (fast and pea).
If the betta is pooping normally at the onset of SBD, and/or there is still no improvement after fasting and feeding a pea, the cause may be internal parasites or bacterial infection. Parasites may cause bloating. Either may cause clamped fins, lethargy, paleness and other general symptoms. If you are unsure which, it may be helpful to treat for both. Many anti-parasite medications and antibiotics can be used in conjunction, but check first.
If the cause is an injury, the only treatment is time, and keeping the water super clean and warm. Adding a pinch of pre-dissolved aquarium salt to the tank is also beneficial to help prevent secondary infections and assist the betta's other systems. With luck, the injury will heal and the betta will make a full recovery.

Green pea, either fresh or frozen, is often used by betta keepers to alleviate mild constipation sometimes caused by flake, pellet or freeze dried fish foods. While it does little nutritionally for bettas, it is high in fiber and contains added moisture which often lacks from commercial dry fish food.

Now, I did not do any special preparation like the article mentioned,  I just threw the frozen pea into the bowl and it worked just fine. It never did seem like he ate any of the pea, but whatever the secret is it worked. I am here to testify to the miracle of the frozen pea.


Unknown said...

I can assure you 100% throwing a pea in the bowl did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ! The fact you ignored the correct way to feed it to him yet attribute him getting better as a result is scary.

Blue Dragonfly said...

Have to agree with the other person. The pea works like a laxative, it doesn't just work because it's in the tank or bowl. They have to ingest it. Also, you should never feed a betta something bigger than the size of their eye (the size of their stomach).

Also, that bowl is woefully small for a betta. They need at least 2.5 gallons, 5 preferably, and a heater and filter. That guy is likely swimming in his own pee.

You may have heard bettas can live in puddles and don't like to swim; wild bettas actually live in streams that go on for miles.

Anyone saying a betta can live in a tiny bowl is like saying a dog can live in a closet. They can, but they won't be as healthy or happy.