Betta Ich: Causes, Prevention & Treatment

Betta Ich

Betta Ich is probably the most common disease betta keepers come across. The disease is pretty much curable and less fatal.

Betta Ich is caused by an external parasite. They cause severe infections on a Betta fish’s body, which is also known as ‘white spot disease’. There are several factors that can lead to this disease. But fortunately enough there are some proven treatments and medications for Ich in Bettas.

Give this article a read, if you want to know more about Betta Ich and its’ causes, medications, treatments, and prevention.

What Is Ich? 

It is an external protozoan parasite that is most common in a closed aquarium, but also present in many large water bodies. The scientific name of Ich is Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. The name Ich is derived from its’ scientific name.

Ich is found abundantly in water bodies just like other parasites, bacteria, and viruses. The parasites generally keep hold onto many substances of your aquarium and easily finds its’ way into your fish’s body. Then they latch onto the body, face, and gill of your fish.

After staying there for about 4-5 days, they cause moderate to severe infections on the outer surface of the Betta’s body. Then they leave their host and dive into the floor of the aquarium, where they release their eggs (cysts).

The reproduction rate of Ich is rapid. If it isn’t demolished at the right time, it’ll keep on reproducing its’ larva. The fish kept in the aquarium are more prone to this disease because the strength of this parasite depends on their density in the water.

Betta Life Cycle Of Ich

The Life Cycle Of Ich

In order to prevent this disease, it’s really important to know about the different stages of the Ich parasite’s life. There are a total of four stages in the Ich parasite’s life cycle.

  • The first stage: The Trophozoite stage is the first stage of this parasitic life. As we know, parasites are unable to perform any cellular activity or reproduction on their own, they get attached to a host’s body. After latching onto the host’s outer surface, they start to take their food for the tissue cells from it. The skin creates some protections around the parasite and we get to see the white spots.
  • The second stage: This stage is known as the Trophont stage. In this stage, the parasite leaves its hosts’ body after creating wounds. Then they swim around in the tank until they find a safe place to hide.
  • The third stage: In this stage, the reproduction of the parasite takes place. A parasite can leave almost a thousand larva at one go. From which, Tromites are formed.
  • The final stage: The newly formed Tromites start looking for hosts. After attachment, this cycle starts from the very beginning. If they fail to get attached to a host, they eventually die.

Betta Ich symptoms 

The most prominent symptom of Betta Ich is white spots in the body and fins. The spots look more like white clouds of dust. It can be seen in specific areas of the body, as the infection doesn’t really spread that much.

Additional symptoms might include: 

  1. Your Betta will most likely lose appetite and become lethargic. Though they are not clear indicators of Ich, they’re the most common symptoms that prove something is wrong with your Betta. Your fish will not eat anything for several days and become so inactive. You may try       switching between different types of foods, but a sick fish will not show its’ interest to be fed.
  2. As Ich is more like fungal infections, they cause itchiness on the Betta’s body. To get rid of the itchiness, your Betta fish will start rubbing itself against the tank. And these will create wounds on its’ body. So if you notice your betta rubbing off its’ body against the tank, it can be a clear     indicator of any parasitic infection.
  3. Bettas are introverted fish, but they also love to socialize with specific types of fish. But a sick Betta will act more isolated. He will continuously try to avoid other fishes and look for safer places to hide. It’s because his weakened immune system is making everything a threat to him.
  4. Another clear sign of Ich is when Bettas start to clamp their fins. It can be caused by severe stress.
  5. You may notice distressed breathing in your Betta, as Ich can attack the gills and cause severe acute respiratory syndromes. It can prove to be lethal if not treated properly. 
Traits  Healthy BettaSick Betta  
Fins and gills    Normal and healthy  Wounded  
  Behavior  Very active keeps swimming around  Becomes lethargic  
Appetite  Eats greedilyLoses appetite  
  Breathing  Normal and spontaneousRapid and distressed  
Color    Shiny and bright  Pale and presence of white spots  
Mating  Blows bubbles to show interestLittle or no interest in mating    

 Misunderstanding Ich

It’s really important to diagnose Ich properly or else certain medications may show adverse effects. Often people misunderstand Betta with:

  1. Dropsy.
  2. Fin Rots (Rotting of fins and tail).
  3. Velvet disease (the spots on the body will be gold and yellow, not white).
  4. Anchor worms.
  5. Gill flakes.

What Are The Causes Of Ich?

We have previously shown that Ich is caused by parasitic attacks. But this parasite is present in almost all aquariums. And fish are naturally immune to this parasite. So, it’s less about the parasite and more about your fish’s immune system.

There can be a handful of reasons behind a weak immune system. But Stress happens to be the prime reason for poor immunity. Stress can be caused by several reasons, like:

  • Change in the tank’s environment is a common reason for stress. After buying a Betta fish you shouldn’t put it directly into your tank. The difference in the parameters of the water will make things uncomfortable for your Betta.
  • A sudden change in the water temperature, pH, and quality can prove to sop stressful for Betta fish.
  • As I mentioned earlier, Bettas fish are a bit introverted. So other tank mates may have a negative effect on him. It’s important to understand what types of fish co-exist with Bettas. If you notice any abnormal behavior or wounded, ragged fins, you should probably put your Betta in a separate tank.
  • Sometimes bright aquarium lights and other reflecting objects can frighten your Betta. This will make it so stressful, so anything freaking out your fish should be removed.  
  • Even If you keep your tank clean, the parasites can come easily through frozen foods. So make sure you’re buying live foods from a quality seller. Because parasites are abundantly found in frozen foods.

Is Betta Ich curable?

We’ve talked about how common Ich is, but the good news is, it’s curable. Most of the Bettas diagnosed with primary level Ich were cured within a few days. But it’s really important to start medications at an early stage.

Is Betta Ich fatal?

Well, in most cases, NO. With proper treatment and medications, you can easily treat Betta Ich. But if it is left untreated for weeks, the wounds around the gills will lead to severe acute respiratory syndromes. This can prove to be fatal for Bettas. So don’t neglect your fish, even you’ve noticed a few white dots.

Treating Betta Ich: 8 Methods

Treating Betta Ich is a long but simple procedure. You have to keep a lot of things in mind while treating Betta Ich. Follow these methods below to cure your Betta of Ich:

1. Quarantine your fish: 

This method is best for treating both your fish and the container. Transfer your Betta from the primary tank and put it into another tank. It’s important because other fishes in your aquarium can also be affected by Ich.

 By quarantining your fish, you can easily treat it separately and also treat the tank’s water. You may have to treat your Betta in this hospital tank for about a week or so.

2. Heat Treatment: 

Betta fish are tropical fish and they love to live in a warmer environment. So, the best possible method of treating betta Ich is Heat treatment. In the second stage of the Ich parasitic life cycle, it cannot reproduce nor do metabolic activities normally at 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

The warmer it gets, the tougher it becomes for parasites to find a host. But the colder it gets, the more it reproduces. So heat treatment alone can treat your Betta fish and tank completely and eradicate all the parasites. Steps of increasing the temperature are given below:

  1. Use an aquarium heater in the primary tank or the quarantine tank.
  2. Increase the temperature by 1 or 2 degrees Fahrenheit per hour.
  3. Notice any abnormal behavior in your Betta fish.
  4. Once the temperature has reached to 86 degrees Fahrenheit, Try to maintain it for almost 10 days
  5. Before heating the tank, make sure it is resistant to heat and notice further fluctuations.

3. Oxygenate the water: 

After increasing the temperature, the oxygen level in the tank water will decrease. Also, the metabolic functions of your Betta will be increased. For these reasons, you will have to take the necessary steps for aeration.

Keep an eye on your Betta whether it is gasping for air or any symptoms of distressed breathing. You can use your filtered aquarium setup or air stone (mostly known as bubble-stone) for aeration. 

4. Using Aquarium Salt: 

Ich parasites are highly sensitive to salt, which makes Salt treatment so effective. You can use Epsom salt or table salt in this case. Take one spoon of salt and mix it with one gallon of water.

You should never add salt to your aquarium water directly; it can have an adverse effect on your fish. Instead, take some of your tank water and dissolve the salt within. Repeat this for 3 doses after 12 hours each. 

5. Do change your water partially: 

During salt treatment, you should change 25% of your tank water daily. This will eliminate the extra salts from the water. This is also important to wash out floating cysts of the Ich parasite. 

This partial change of water will keep your tank water clean and make a less stressful environment for your Betta. It will also oxygenate the water. Before adding water, you should Dechlorinate and condition the water. You can use NovAqua+ by Kordon in this case.

6. Use macron filters: 

It’s an affordable yet reliable method of eradicating Ich parasites. The freely swimming Tromites are 30 microns in size, so they can easily be captured by macron filters.

Use temporary micron filters instead of reusable ones. If you prefer using reusable filters, boil them and clean them thoroughly before every use.

7. Remove live plants and other substances: 

After leaving the host’s body, the Tomonts start looking for a safe shelter. They prefer gravel, sand, and stones to release cysts. Temporarily remove all these and wash them properly. 

Some aquariums also have live plants; the parasites prefer live plants and can easily reproduce with the help of the oxygen they get from the plant. Make sure you remove every single extra substance out of the tank and don’t put them back until the end of the medications.

8. Aquarium salt baths: 

This is a harmless way of treating your fish with salt. Instead of adding salt to your hospital tank or primary tank, you can use a small tank and mix an extra amount of salt into it.

 Aquarium salt baths have a high concentration of salts which helps to disrupt the electrolyte balance of the fish and also disrupts the fluid balance. 

To make an Aquarium salt bath take 22 grams of salt per liter. Dissolve the salt completely in conditioned water. Make sure the temperature is the same as your primary tank because you don’t want to shock your Betta.

Take the Betta out of the tank with some tank water; put it in the salt bath gently. Leave the fish for about 30 minutes. Let it soak the salts. Repeat this procedure 3 times after 48 hours interval.  

Medications

There are a lot of proven medicines to treat Betta Ich. But they can be harmful to Bettas if you keep using them for a long time. Some Bettas show immediate negative responses.

There are three types of medicines available anti-parasitic, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial. This time you will have to choose anti-parasitic medicines. You can use any of the medicine mentioned below:

Adding medicine to your tank

You must be very careful while adding the medicine to the tank water. Follow these instructions:

  1. Read all the instructions on the bottle;
  2. Quarantine your fish, never add medicine if your fish has other tank mates;
  3. Take a syringe or dropper to add medicine;
  4. Remove the carbon filter from your tank if it has any;
  5. Know thoroughly about the side effects of the medicine you are using;
  6. Observe your Bettas closely after each medication;
  7. Do change 25% of your tank water every day;
  8. Don’t stop medication even after your Betta has been cured, because these medicines do not kill parasites that are already attached to the Betta. Instead, they kill parasites that are roaming around freely;

Home remedies

A lot of people treat Betta Ich with ingredients they found in the Kitchen. You can chop garlic and put them into the tank water. Garlic has natural healing and antioxidant powers. You can use normal salt instead of Epsom salt.

Preventing Ich 

It’s really important to know how to prevent Betta Ich because it keeps coming back. But preventing Ich is a very tough job. Here are a few tips on the prevention of Betta Ich:

  • After buying a new fish, never add it to the main tank immediately. Instead, make a quarantine tank and put your new fish there. Observe it vigilantly to see if it’s developing any sign of Ich.
  • You should never buy lethargic and unhealthy fish. Buy your Betta from a trusted pet shop. Never buy a fish that is staying in a tank where other fish were diseased or found dead.
  • Immediately remove any fish developing the signs of Ich. Don’t let other tank mates come in contact with it.
  • The most important thing is to keep your betta stress-free. Keep the water parameters at home for Bettas and try every possible way to keep your fish happy.
  • Make sure that you are changing your tank water frequently. Perform 25% to 40% water change regularly.
  • Keep the pH, temperature, and water quality at an optimum range.
  • NEVER buy a fish online. The reason I’m saying this is because, when you are buying fish online, you won’t be able to observe their health and other conditions. Also, fish bought online have to travel a lot, which is not something fish is good at.
  • A balanced diet is very essential in order to keep your fish healthy. It also boosts the immunity system of your Betta.
  • Buy a water testing kit for your aquarium. It’ll help you to maintain a suitable environment for your fish.
  • Add a moderate amount of salt to the tank water. Salts have the natural ability to prevent the growth of parasites. Don’t add too much salts, add about a half spoon of aquarium salt in a gallon of water.

Can Ich Come Back?

If you don’t take the necessary measures to stop the growth and reproduction of Ich parasites, they’ll harm your fish again. Keep an eye on the water quality, the quality of foods, and your Betta’s immunity.

Is Betta Ich Contagious?

Well, it can spread from one fish to another but isn’t transmitted through physical touches. After leaving the host’s body they reproduce in large amounts and attack another host. So, if any of your fish in the tank has Ich, detach it from other fish quickly.

Can Betta Ich Cause Harm To Humans?

There’s no proven data on whether Betta Ich is harmful to humans or not. But like other fish diseases, it might not harm the owners. But a moderate amount of Ich parasite can cause itchiness and rashes. Wash your hand properly after coming in contact with the fish. The best way is to wear gloves.

Conclusion

Ich is always a concern for Betta keepers. So, before buying a Betta fish you should educate yourself with all the necessary knowledge. Don’t freak out if you spot Ich on your Betta and never be too lazy to leave it untreated. I hope this article provided you with all the information you were looking for.

Muntaseer Rahman

I have been keeping shrimps as a pet for many years now. I’ve fallen in love with these cute pets from the moment I saw them. That’s why I am writing articles to share my shrimp keeping knowledge with you.

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