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Anna, Pet Expert/Biologist
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 11065
Experience:  40 yrs.: herps, pocket pets, rabbits, poultry, dogs, horses. Biology degree. Vet assistant.
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Hi Anna, Question re betta: Male betta, alone in 5-gallon

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Hi Anna,

Question re betta: Male betta, alone in 5-gallon filtered tank, heater, thermometer. Good eating, good swimming, bubble nests, looked like healthy, normal fish since mid-August. Suddenly reclusive, spending most of time in plants or on bottom of tank. No visible disease appearance or behavior (e.g. parasites) but a day or so ago he developed horror-movie-like white bars both sides of his face, and went into the "hiding" behavior. I added aquarium salt to the water and today started General Cure for parasites, although I'm not convinced he has parasites. Water quality has always been good. I do partial water changes x 2 weekly, vacuum gravel, and test for ammonia and nitrate / nitrite. No problem with water quality. Is the fish sick? Does he have parasites? Why is he suddenly reclusive? Thanks for reply. Barley's "Mom"
Hello and welcome. Thank you for requesting me. Some additional information will be helpful.

When you tested the water, what numbers in parts per million (ppm) did you get for ammonia and nitrites?

Does your filter/pump create a current in the tank? Has anything changed, for example new pump, etc.?

Does Barley have his fins clamped down against his body, or do they look normal?

Thank you.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I do weekly water testing on three 5-gallon betta tanks. Ammonia & nitrites consistently test 0 ppm for all three tanks. I do 25 - 30% water change only once weekly, and about 25% water change plus gravel vacuuming once weekly, on all tanks. Filters in all tanks, creating small current, but all 3 fish do fine with current.


Oldest fish, Baggins, I got last November. He's fine. Female (Beans) I got same day as Barley, and Beans also is doing fine. Same feeding schedule, amount, food, etc.


Barley's fins are not exactly clamped, but not fully open either, when he swims. No changes in any of the tanks, no new filters, decorations, no new food, no new light schedules, etc. Just a very sudden change in behavior.

Thank you for getting back to me. Barley is not showing symptoms of any particular illness or parasite, and that makes treatment difficult. What he is showing signs of is stress. Those white bars on his face are actually called stress bars. They can also appear on the body. Stress may be caused by illness, but also by psychological factors. Something may have frightened Barley. With general symptoms such as he is exhibiting, the bets thing to do is provide general remedies. You have already provided the best one, which is aquarium salt. His symptoms don't indicate parasites, but since you have already started the General Cure, I would continue as the directions state.

In addition, I would turn off the filter for a day and see what happens. If a betta is feeling a little under the weather or frightened for some reason, the current from a filter can be too much for them. If you don't see any change in Barley's behavior within 24 hours, go ahead and turn it back on. Also check to see if any TVs, radios, computers, etc. have been left on more than usual. Some bettas are very sensitive to electromagnetic waves - from computers, TV's, microwaves, the pump running their filter, etc. Almost anything electronic can do it. It's so irritating to them that they may either try to hide or swim rapidly about as if they are crazy.

If none of the above measures help, once the General Cure course of treatment is over, you can do a water change and try a gentle antibacterial/antifungal, such as BettaFix:

At that point, you will have tried everything that you can, and I hope Barley will be well. If he isn't, there is very likely an incurable internal problem. fish, like any animal, can develop cancer, kidney failure, heart failure, etc., and there's nothing we can do about those things. If Barley was full-grown when you bought him, it's also possible he was older than what you were told. Some less than ethical breeders will place a beautiful male that has been sued for breeding in with a shipment of young fish. It's a way to make a little money on a fish that will soon be too old for their uses. I hope none of these things are true of Barley, but I just wanted you to be aware of the possibilities.

In summary, continue the General Cure, turn off the filter for 24 hours, and check for any other electronics that may be disturbing Barley. If he isn't well after the General Cure treatment, try BettaFix. If you have more questions, let me know in a REPLY. If you want to, you can give me an update on how/if he responds to turning off the filter tomorrow. I hope Barley will quickly return to normal.


My goal is to provide you with excellent service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back, I am happy to address follow-up questions. Please remember to rate my service only after you have all the information you need. Thank you!

Anna and 2 other Pet Specialists are ready to help you
Hello again,

I just heard from customer Service. I'm so sorry that you lost Barley. You did everything you could. The fading to transparency that you told customer Service about is a common sign of old age. I suspect Barley wasn't a youngster when you bought him. When you buy a new betta, look for one that doesn't have the fully developed fins and long flowing tail just yet. That means the fish is younger. I'm sure you'll be successful with the next one because you are exceptionally conscientious.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks, Anna. I asked Hannah in a subsequent question, and she suggested I ask you, you had mentioned some fish are sensitive to the electromagnetic waves from computer, microwave, TV etc. I hadn't heard that before.


The tank was directly across from my computer, which is on most of the day and much of the evening. Should I be relocating the tank? How would a fish be reacting if TV etc. is an issue? Just wondering, for the welfare of future tank inhabitants.

Bettas ahve been found to be one of the species sensitive to electromagnetic waves. However, the first sign is usually wild - almost crazy - swimming. This is an attempt to escape the stress. As time passes, the fish becomes more and more stressed, and will eventually get sick.I don't know if you're interested in scientific studies, but if you are, here is one of the original ones:

You could move the tank to a more peaceful area, or you could watch the new fish to see if it reacts, and if so, move it then.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks. I didn't find anything when I googled this, so I appreciate the link to the study.


Thanks for your help. I've cleaned the tank and hope to have better luck with my next fish once the tank is ready again.

I wish you better luck with your new fish, too. Over many years of keeping dozens of animals, I've learned that sometimes unfortunate things we can't control do happen. It's always sad regardless.