Fish Ich (or sometimes written Ick). Ich is not a bacterial or fungal infection, it is actually a small, white parasite.
The Fish Ich parasite naturally exists in your betta’s tank and when their stress coat or immunity is weakened, they may be susceptible to the illness.
A betta with Ich will have tiny, raised white dots all over their body. It will look like they have a white case of chickenpox or have been sprinkled with salt. Other symptoms may be loss of appetite, clamped fins, rapidly darting around the tank, scratching or rubbing against tank decorations, or might be less active. Beyond the white dots, your betta may or may not show any additional signs of having an illness.
Warning: Fish Ich is extremely contagious! An entire tank should be treated for the illness. Always use separate nets for different tanks and wash your hands before and after handling fish or tank materials.
Proper water changes are always a good preventative measure. Keeping your tank at the appropriate temperature, 76-82 degrees F, will also help to fend off Ich. Large fluctuations in temperature are very stressful for bettas and may lead to developing Ich or other illnesses. Another way some folks claim to prevent your betta from getting Ich is to add aquarium salt to your tank on a regular basis. The preventative dosage for aquarium salt is 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon per gallon of water.
It is important to start treatment immediately. Once your betta has the illness, it may be hard to get rid of Fish Ich.
The Ich parasite has a long life cycle of consisting three stages:
1. Trophozite stage – The time that you can physically see the white spots on the fish. The parasite is actually burrowed beneath the skin and medication is not effective at this point.
2. Trophont stage – The parasite falls off of the fish at the bottom of the tank and rapidly multiplies. Medication still is not effective.
3. Tomite Stage – The free-swimming stage when the parasite is looking for a new host. It is only in this stage that medication will successfully kill off the parasite. This stage usually lasts about 3 days.
Two important factors for the treatment of Fish Ich: 1. Raising the tank temperature gradually up to as high as 85 degrees is beneficial to try to speed up the life cycle of the parasite into the third stage. 2. Frequent water changes are especially useful during the treatment of this illness to rid yourself of the Fish Ich.
For this parasitic illness, medications containing copper or Malachite Green are often successful.
Common medications that are often used are Coppersafe, Aquarisol, Maracide, or Jungle Ick Guard (each used separately).
View Healthy Betta’s Aquarium & Fish Medication Dosing Made Easy for simple 1-gallon fish tank medicine doses.
Even if your betta does not appear to have white spots anymore, the ick may not be completely halted. It is recommended to treat for up to 14 days.
The use of aquarium salt
Adding aquarium salt (or a bit extra if you already use it as a preventative) to a betta’s tank when they have Fish Ich may also speed up the healing process. The usual dosage for preventative measures is 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon per gallon of water; and up to 1 teaspoon per gallon for ill fish. Some people recommend using aquarium salt as the only treatment method for ick rather than medication – the dosage for this is 1 tablespoon per gallon of water. Salt baths are also beneficial to kill off the ick parasite. Instructions for a salt bath can be found here at The Betta Obsession.
Added aeration may be beneficial for your betta while treating with medication to provide them with more oxygen.