While columnaris is certainly an unsightly and worrying condition to find in your Betta Fish, it is entirely treatable and fairly common. That said, prevention is always better than the cure, and understanding the ways to prevent the disease is as important as knowing how to treat it. In general, Bettas are hardy, resilient fish that can live happy and healthy lives as long as they are provided with a clean tank, a balanced diet, and optimal water parameters.
In this article, we look at what exactly columnaris disease is, what causes it, how to treat cotton wool disease in your Bettas, and how to prevent it. Let’s get started!
Table of contents
What Is Cotton Wool Disease?
Columnaris goes by several different names, including cotton wool disease, cotton mouth disease, and saddleback disease, and it is a fairly common condition among freshwater aquarium fish. Despite its cotton-wool, “fungal-like” appearance, columnaris is not caused by a fungus, but rather by a bacterium called Flavobacterium columnare. It can affect all species of fish in a freshwater tank, not just Bettas, so you’ll want to get rid of it as soon as it appears.
What Causes Cotton Wool Disease?
Flavobacterium columnare, the bacteria responsible for cotton wool disease, is so common that it actually lives in most freshwater tanks, unbeknownst to the owner. If your fish live in a healthy environment, with a healthy diet and strong system, they can live with the bacteria their entire lives without it affecting them. That being said, small changes can cause infection in your fish, including:
Signs and Symptoms of Cotton Wool Disease
Columnaris is fairly easy to identify, although it can present itself in various ways on your fish. Other than the obvious cotton wool-like growth that shows up on your Betta’s gills — at which stage, the disease is already fairly advanced — there are several other identifiers of this disease, including:
3 Steps for Treating Columnaris in Bettas
Now that you know the symptoms to look out for and the potential causes of cotton wool disease, let’s look at how to treat it effectively.
Step 1: Quarantine
The first step in the treatment of your Bettas is to move them to a separate quarantine aquarium. Bacteria thrive in warmer temperatures, so you’ll want the water temperature of your quarantine tank to be slightly lower than normal. The typical tank temperature for Bettas is around 78 degrees Fahrenheit, so anything around 75 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal because it will make it harder for the bacteria to reproduce.
Step 2: Medication
Next, you’ll need to add a suitable aquarium antibiotic to your Betta’s quarantine tank. There are several suitable medications to choose from, but API’s Furan 2 is a great choice. Simply follow the instructions on the bottle, or speak to a professional if you are unsure. Besides using an antibiotic, you can add aquarium salts, which will help reduce stress and boost your Betta’s immune system.
Step 3: Water change
While your Betta is being treated in the quarantine tank, you’ll want to perform a full water change on their main tank. A 25% water change every day or two is a good way to rid the water of any remaining bacteria before you return your Betta and will give you a chance to thoroughly clean the tank and better the chances of your Betta’s recovery.
If you have caught the disease early enough and given your Betta treatment, they should recover quickly and easily. If they are not showing any signs of getting better, you may need to use a stronger antibiotic and perform the process again.
How to Prevent Columnaris in Your Aquarium
As the adage goes, prevention is better than the cure, and you’ll save yourself a great deal of time, money, and stress by doing your best to avoid your Betta getting the disease in the first place. While there are never any guarantees, here are simple methods that will go a long way in preventing your Betta from getting sick:
Cotton wool disease is a fairly common issue in freshwater tanks, so if you notice it in your Betta, there is no reason to panic — although you’ll need to treat it as soon as possible. Treatment is fairly easy, and if you catch the disease early enough, your Betta will most likely be fine. Still, prevention of the disease is easier than the cure. Making sure your aquarium is clean, changing the water regularly, avoiding overcrowding, and feeding your Bettas a nutritious diet will go a long way in keeping their immune systems healthy enough to fight off the bacteria.
Featured Image Credit: yin800321, Pixabay