Betta Diseases – Acid Fast
By Elizabeth Christopher
Betta diseases are generally not a hazard to humans. One rare case is the acid-fast disease, or mycobacteria, which causes tuberculosis and leprosy in fish. These bacteria can also produce these diseases in humans, although treatment for humans is much more effective. They have a waxy wall around them which makes them almost impervious to treatment. Another line of defense against chemicals is the fact that they have very slow growth, which means that it takes an extended amount of time for treatment to have any effect.
Mycobacterial infections are more common among bettas of old age, whose immune system has weakened. Fish known to be old compared to their relatives, fish who are past their prime and fish raised in high temperatures are some of the most common prey for acid-fast disease. It can be diagnosed by red, bloody lesions anywhere on the body. They do not expand, nor do they disappear. They are impervious to antibiotics, and are the most resilient of all betta diseases. Once contracted, the afflicted betta should be discarded or placed in a quarantine tank until death. There are no cost-effective treatments.
To make a definitive statement that it is indeed acid-fast disease and not a similar looking symptom, a skin smear must be taken. The smear is then treated with an acid-fast staining technique laboratories use to identify this particular mycobacterial family, thus the name. The presence of red stained rods in the smear is the indication that indeed acid-fast bacteria have infected the host fish.
Since this can be contracted by humans, proper care and handling of your betta should always be employed. Washing your hands vigorously before and after any aquarium maintenance with an anti-bacterial soap is usually enough to ensure protection against contamination, but gloves can be worn to take your safety to another level.
As is true in almost all betta diseases, poor tank maintenance can help promote mycobacterial growth. Proper water temperature, salt-to-water ratio and many other factors decide how happy and healthy your betta will be, and how long she will live. In some cases betas have been known to live up to two times longer than their relatives who went to lesser quality tanks.
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