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A How to Guide to Chronic Swim Bladder Disorder

By: hakkobetta
I got the cute idea to document one of my most recent water changes for my Chronic SBD male Camo, and turn it into a little how to for people trying to care for an SBD betta on a low budget!  Image

For those of you who don't know, SBD is the common acronym for "Swim Bladder Disorder". SBD is most commonly seen when a fish is suffering from constipation, and may show itself in a variety of ways. The fish normally seems to either not be able to swim down, or has a tendency to flop to the side or swim in an 'S' shape. Alarmingly enough, some like to lie at the top of the water on their sides, resting. It looks like they're dead, but they're not!! They're just playing possum, so to speak! Chronic SBD occurs for many different reasons, but no one can be exactly sure why. Camo developed it about a month after I purchased him. He has proper bowel movements, so I know he's not constipated. He gets a good diet of hikari betta pellets, frozen bloodworms on occasion, and a pea when he's really good! ;D

Now on to the Betta Project!

First, catch the betta!  ;D SBD bettas are very floppy and don't swim as fast, so they are relatively easy to catch, just net them and plop them in a long container, such as the rectangular kritter keeper pictured here, with about two inches of water in it. It helps them swim and breathe better. In this picture you can semi see the "S" shape that Camo tends to swim in. He's also very stressed (he hates water changes, it freaks him out)

Second, prepare your SBD safe tank! Wally-world and many other petstores sell long, shallow kritter keepers that hold around a gallon to a gallon and a half at easy to afford prices of six dollars or less. Gravel (1.99 for the cheapo little bag, most of this gravel came from already established tanks) is necessary because it helps keep the water level low enough for easy swimming and air access.

Third, get your betta doctoring equipment ready! Below you will see a variety of  things, including silk plants, breeding grass, fake grasses, and other soft plastic plants. A heavily "planted" tank is necessary so that the betta can support himself on the leaves of the plants to stay in an upright position. Aquarium salt (1.99) and a nice slimey de-chlor ($4.00 for big bottle) are great faves of mine. I normally add about 1 tsp of salt to this tank, and I keep it on the bottom shelf of a dark coffee table, it keeps him calm and comfortable. This tank isn't quite suitable for a real heater, but I'm looking at designing something for this specific fish that will be longer and large enough for a heater.  I still haven't found those mini, one gallon tank heaters that I've read about on other posts!  ::)

Now start decorating your tank! I like the breeding grass in the middle, it's about four dollars from wally-world, and I use the taller plastic grasses to form a sort of "road-way" for him to travel on when he swims around the tank, from plant to plant. I put the large silk plants in the corners so they'll tip over and form nice little soft hideys for him to enjoy himself in. The plastic aqua colored anacharis is a plant that this betta gets depressed without, so something they really like keeps them uber happy!
When you fill your tank with water, don't fill it all the way! The large slits for air tend to slosh a lot of water when the tank is moved, so it's best to have it in place, or not fill it all the way when you get ready move it. The plants sticking out of the water will also encourage him to bubble nest!
And the finished product! I'm currently devising a way to cycle this tank, so I won't have to continually stress him with water changes. You can see the faded colors in his before pictures. I'm planning on using a small disposable sponge filter system ($5 tops) and a pinched air line to keep the bubbling very very limited, so there will be little or no current at all in the tank.
I hope this helps anybody who's wondering what to do with an SBD betta, they really don't suffer, they lead happy betta lives, just like every other betta, they're just a little movement un-coordinated! ;D

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