My betta fish is pale, not eating, lethargic and is swimming, upright, in a corner of his 5 gallon aquarium.

Expert's Assistant chatimg
Customer: My betta fish is pale, not eating, lethargic and is swimming, upright, in a corner of his 5 gallon aquarium. He seems to have labored breathing and gasps for air...blowing bubbles but not for a nest. We changed his water yesterday and put Aqua Salt in it. He is still having major problems. What should I do to help him?
Answered by Jav917 in 3 mins 8 years ago
Pet Specialist

27,324 satisfied customers

Specialities include: Dog Veterinary, Cat Veterinary, Bird Veterinary, Reptile Veterinary, Exotic Animal Veterinary


My name is ***** ***** I am a Vet tech for 30+ years and a fish keeper for 40+ years.

Did you do a full water change?

Did you use botthed water or tap water?

Did you use any conditioner in the water?

Have you checked the Ammonia, Nitrites, Nitrates and PH? What type of test kit did you use?

Do you have filtration?

Did you clean the gravel?



Thanks, Joan. This little guy means the world to me as I rescued him and 2 other Betta fish from Walmart this past winter. They were in filthy, discusting water bowls and I couldn't stand it!


We did a full water change with filtered water and still used 2 drops of the conditioner. We checked the water with an aquarium PH testing kit. All looked good except the PH was a 6. No filtration system and the gravel is clean - just cleaned it two days ago. I have the other 2 in seperate tanks just like this one and they are doing great.

I too have rescued many Bettas from Walmart to include two in one jar. The problem may be an Ammonia spike which happens when you did a 100% water change and you clean the gravel you removed the biolgical fiter.

This means the tank is cycling and you are going through a new tank syndrome: What this means is the tank will be having Ammonia spikes which can cause the problems you are seeing. When caring for a tank we only do partial water changes. In a case like this we need to restart the biological filter by addung Nitrifying Bacteria which is Fritzyme #7 to help get the tank restarted. What I would like to do is get the tank restarted properly.

1) do a 75% water change using Bottle Spring water(not distilled) adding 1 teaspoon full of aquarium salt per gallon of what that is being replaced. The Kosher salt is too strong and can cause burns.

2) into the tank we want to add Nitrifying Bacteria which is Fritzyme #7

3) we want to add some Stress Coat which will help the fish accclimate.

4) each day you will need to check the Ammonia, Nitrites, Nitrates and PH. We want the Ammonia at 0, Nitrites at 0, Nitrates 20ppm or less and PH at 7.0. I suggest anAPI Mater test kit for accuracy.

5) if the water parameters are high do only a 25% to 35% water change if needed, again adding Nitrifying Bacteria, Stress Coat and aquariun salt enough to replace just what is removed.

6) .The high levels of Ammonia, Nitrites, Nitrates and PH, can make the fish ill, and cause horrible burns. Right now less is better. The cycling can take 30 days and in smaller tanks it sometimes can take longer to stabilize.

Please let me know if you need clarification on this information and I will be happy to help. Just hit reply. Joan


Do I purchase Fritzyme #7, nitrifing bacteria and stress coat at PetSmart? Do I continue to feed him _ I feed the frozed Bryne shrimp and bloodowrms? Why are the other 2 fish o.k.?


This can happen to any tank. It usually happens right after gravel and all water is changed. The API master test kit, Fritzyme #7 or another Nitrifying Bacteria and Stress Coat should all be available at the Petsmart. Walmart even carries Stress Coat and may be cheaper. I would withhold feeding him, if he is lethargic. If you read the link about new tank syndrome it explains what is happening. I have seen this happen in one tank and not another because enough bacteria was left after the change. I also have seen this happen with tanks over a week or two after the change. Joan


The API master test kit is what we used. We also use it for our 8 koi that we have in a outdoor pond.


I will go right now, to Complete Petmart - this is closer than Petsmart - to purchase these items. I will also read the information you sent me.


Thanks for your help. I appreciate your concern for Comet!




I have worked with betta owners with the same problems fir over a month, until we got it under control. You are lucky that the tank is a five gallon. Smaller tanks are harder to cycle. I have even had owners put small in tank power filters in to get things under control. The new rank syndrome has always been a big issue with fish keeping. Never do a full change and only vacuum the gravel, and never clean it out of the tank. Joan

Read less
27,324 satisfied customers
Pet Specialist
+ years of experience

27324 satisfied customers



Licensed veterinarians

31,131 satisfied customers

Pearl avatar
Pearl Wilson, Veterinarian's Assistant
116 Veterinarians are online right now.
Related Veterinary Questions
He gasping for air at the bottom of his tank and he can't
Dr Ryan
Associate vet
6,521 Satisfied Customers
My son's betta fish is acting very sickly. Staying at bottom
Healthcare/behavior specialist
26,900 Satisfied Customers
Hi, my betta fish is acting a bit strange. He stopped eating,
Vet Technician
22,330 Satisfied Customers
Can someone please help me I have a little male beta fish
Pet Specialist
2,438 Satisfied Customers
We have a betta fish. About 3 wks ago he appeared to have fi
Pet Specialist
2,438 Satisfied Customers
How it works
logoAsk for help, 24/7
Ask for help, 24/7
Members enjoy round-the-clock access to 12,000+ verified Experts, including doctors, lawyers, tech support, mechanics, vets, home repair pros, more.
logoExpert will respond in minutes
Expert will respond in minutes
After you reach out, we match you with an Expert who specializes in your situation. Talk, text, chat, whichever you prefer.
logoSave time & money
Save time & money
No scheduling hassles, missing time from work, or expensive consults.
A JustAnswer membership can save you significant time and money each month.
Sarahesq and 87 other Veterinarian specialists are ready to help you.
Disclaimer: Information in questions, answers, and other posts on this site ("Posts") comes from individual users, not JustAnswer; JustAnswer is not responsible for Posts. Posts are for general information, are not intended to substitute for informed professional advice (medical, legal, veterinary, financial, etc.), or to establish a professional-client relationship. The site and services are provided "as is" with no warranty or representations by JustAnswer regarding the qualifications of Experts. To see what credentials have been verified by a third-party service, please click on the "Verified" symbol in some Experts' profiles. JustAnswer is not intended or designed for EMERGENCY questions which should be directed immediately by telephone or in-person to qualified professionals.
Why you’ll love JustAnswer
JustAnswer is the best way to get expertise on-demand from doctors, lawyers, vets, mechanics and more. Since 2003, we’ve helped more than 9 million people in 196 countries and have an A+ rating with BBB and a 9.6/10 rating with TrustPilot.
Highly rated, verified Experts
We pride ourselves in our 8-step verification process including license and credential checks. Vetted by us and rated by customers, like you.
Ask-a-doc Web sites: If you've got a quick question, you can try to get an answer from sites that say they have various specialists on hand to give quick answers... seen a spike since October in legal questions from readers about layoffs, unemployment and severance.
Traffic on JustAnswer rose 14 percent...and had nearly 400,000 page views in 30 days...inquiries related to stress, high blood pressure, drinking and heart pain jumped 33 percent.
I will tell you that...the things you have to go through to be an Expert are quite rigorous.
Web sites like ...leave nothing to chance.
Tory Johnson, GMA Workplace Contributor, discusses work-from-home jobs, such as JustAnswer in which verified Experts answer people’s questions.
JustAnswer, Professional Services  General, San Francisco, CA
Google reviews
TrustPilot Reviews