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I have been keeping and breeding betta fish for over 20 years. At one point I had 14 tanks with betta fish in them. During that time I have had my fair share of sick fish. Ich is one of the most common diseases affecting our fish.
White spots on a betta are symptoms of a disease called Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, which is often referred to simply as Ich. Ich is highly contagious and can spread throughout an aquarium if left untreated. Without proper treatment, Ich can kill a Betta.
Why Does My Betta Have White Spots?
Bettas are usually fairly hardy fish providing they are kept in clean aquariums and feed a good quality, varied diet. Betta, especially Betta splendens, are usually kept as solo specimens which reduces their chances of catching any diseases.
Occasionally, however, betta can become unwell, and sadly, Ich, or Ichthyophthirius multifiliis to give it its scientific name is prevalent in our hobby. Ich can easily spread from tank to tank.
What is Ich?
The white spots you see on a betta are cysts caused by the Ich parasite burrowing into the skin of the Betta. The parasite needs to get under the Bettas scales so it can attach itself to the skin and suck the Bettas blood. The Betta immune system’s reaction is to create cysts.
The parasite will spend several days under the Bettas scales gorging on the Bettas blood before it drops off and sinks to the bottom of the aquarium. The parasite will then spend a few days in the substrate at the bottom of the aquarium, where it will divide into hundreds of more parasites known as ‘Tomites’.
What are the symptoms of Ich in a Betta?
There are two main symptoms of Ich to look out for in your Betta. These are;
White Spots on Bettas Body: The most common sign a Betta has Ich is the white spots that develop on its body. Initially, the spots develop on the fins and tail and as the disease progresses, the spots also begin to cover the Bettas body too. In the early stages of Ich it is easy to miss the first few spots.
However, the early you notice Ich, the easier it is to treat. Betta Rubbing Body on Rocks and Decorations: Research that has been carried out into Ich suggests the cysts may be itchy for the fish. The itchiness has been likened to how we feel when we are bitten by a mosquito. The Betta may be trying it rub off the cysts when it rubs its body against rocks or decoration in the aquarium.
How to treat a Betta with Ich?
There are two main ways we can fight Ich once we notice it is present in our aquariums. The first is with chemical treatments like Ich-X by Hikari (I usually just order this bottle from Amazon) and the second is without chemicals, although the chemical-free method requires a lot more work from the fish keeper.
Over the years I have had great success using Ich-X which is made by Hikari. In fact, Ich-X is the only treatment that I have found to be really effective. I don’t only use it to treat an Ich outbreak, I also use it as a preventative in my quarantine tanks.
Ich-X is simple you use. You simply add 5ml of the liquid for every 10 gallons (38 liters) of water in the aquarium.
One word of caution when using chemicals to treat Ich, and that is the parasite is only vulnerable to treatment when it is free-floating in the aquarium. Any parasite living on a fish will not be killed, so I strongly recommend repeating the treatment at least twice to ensure all the Ich parasites are killed.
Treating Ich without using chemicals
There are a growing number of fish keepers who are wanting to keep their fish without using chemicals. Luckily, Ich is a disease we can treat without chemicals, although it does require some effort to completely eradicate the Ich parasites.
Treating Ich without using chemicals requires a 2-pronged attack. Firstly, raise the water temperature in the aquarium. The Ich parasite’s life cycle is massively influenced by water temperature. The warmer the water temperature the quicker the parasite completes its life-cycle. conversely, the cooler the water the longer the cycle takes.
The second wave of attack is regular gravel vacuuming the aquarium (I got this one for just $15 on Amazon)
If we know at least part of the parasite’s lifecycle consists of it living it or on the substrate, we must therefore be able to remove it by vacuuming the substrate.
To be successful you will need to vacuum the substrate EVERY day for about 10 days. each day, careful move across every inch of the substrate, making sure not to miss any sections. By meticulously vacuuming the substrate every day, hopefully, you will remove the parasite whilst in the ‘transform to tomite’ stage.
How to prevent Bettas getting Ich?
As with all fish diseases, prevention is definitely better than cure. I have a four-step approach to preventing Ich from entering my fish room:
My final thoughts on Betta with white spots
Ich is a disease that can be easily transferred from fish to fish, both in our home aquariums and in fish stores. There is a high probability that when we purchase new fish they are already carrying the Ich parasite.
To prevent Ich from entering our aquariums we must quarantine ALL new fish, no matter what the source.
If you do notice white spots on your better, the sooner you begin treatment the more likely your Betta is to make a full recovery.