What I'm doing for my Betta with dropsy
I've been doing a ton of research on dropsy in bettas, because my male betta, Marco, has been swollen for months. His scales have only begun to rise in the last week or so, and it's subtle (they don't stick out as much as some of the pics of goldfish you may see). He was inititally in an unheated and unfiltered vase, about a gallon, and I think the water conditions caused him to start swelling in the belly, probably due to a bacterial infection. About a month ago, I bought a 5-gallon hexagon tank with a water heater and have set the temp to 80-82 degrees. He loved it an was flaring his gills and making bubble nests for a few days, until the novelty wore off.
Anyways, I've been through several treatment phases with him. First a combo of Maracyn and Maracyn 2 for five days. Nothing. I then tried Kanamycyn for 5 days. Still nothing. I've been diligently doing the water changes and everything a good fish mommy is supposed to. His swelling has been very gradual and chronic, nothing sudden. He also has had a normal appetite and is pretty lively, despite looking like a little balloon. So I don't want to euthanize him just yet.
I started feeding him some antibacterial fish pellets, soaked in tank water for 15 minutes first, and he hated them. I think they're too big. So I crushed up the dry pellets and now he'll eat the smaller portions. I'm doing this as one last antibacterial effort, and have accepted that he has kidney failure and will probably not recover. He may also be like this for months, who knows.
However, I have been concerned about how SWOLLEN he gets, and it worries me because I know he can't be comfortable, even though his behavior is still normal. I've read a couple of posts about people who have drained the fluid with a syringe, and I decided to try it since really, there's nothing to lose at this point.
I bought a pack of BD Ultra-Fine II Insulin syringes at my local grocery store pharmacy. The needle is very small (5/16" or 8mm length and 31 gauge). I tried taking him out of his tank to see if he would sit still, and he was like a little marble rolling around on the towel I had soaked with his tank water. So, for accuracy's sake and not wanting to hurt him, I put him in the anesthetic clove oil solution (NOT the euthanizing strength--just 10 drops or so in about 2 cups of water). I waited for about 5 minutes until I could see he was asleep (gills still moving, but otherwise motionless).
I took him out, and he did move around a little once out of the solution, but not as much as before. I laid him on a towel soaked in tank water (that I put on a little plastic plate I don't use for eating). I then very carefully inserted the needle in one side of his swollen belly (really anywhere would work, as long as you're not near the organs along the back--any point where there's obviously liquid making the stomach distend would work, since it's all fluid and there's nothing to run into), and drew out a full syringe of yellowish-clear liquid. He didn't move or give any indication that he was in pain, so I put him on his other side and did the same. I pulled out a total of 3 small syringes full of liquid, and immediately put him back into his tank, which I treated with Marycyn Plus in order to avoid an infection at the puncture sites. The needle is so small that you can't even see where I stuck him.
He seemed stunned for a few minutes and just hung out near the water heater. But then he came around and is swimming around again, and even ate a little. He is a very tough little guy! He's still swollen, but not nearly as bad as before. I didn't want to go too far the first time, you know? I know I will probably need to do this again, and keep repeating, since he's no longer getting rid of fluids on his own. I'll do it as often as necessary as long as he seems happy and is eating. I just wanted to give him a fighting chance to be comfortable and not explode! This first time was the hardest, so now I'm comfortable with having to do it again.
Good luck to you if your fishy has dropsy--it's the pits, but for me, I feel better knowing I can do something to make his last weeks or months better.