It can be hard to diagnose what your betta fish has, or even know if your betta fish is sick if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
Betta fish are extremely active and friendly pets who should get excited whenever you walk into the room. They should be responsive and should follow your finger whenever you place it on their tank.
So let’s give you the upper hand when it comes to the sorts of illnesses your betta fish can get before they get them.
This list contains the most common illnesses, their symptoms and some of the recommended methods of diagnosing your betta fish and methods to help make them get better.
FIRST SIGNS OF AN UNHEALTHY BETTA FISH
It’s always a good idea to examine your betta fish whenever you feed them to see if there are any changes in their behaviour or physical appearance.
If you have a cellphone on you, it may be a good idea to snap a photo every day or so as a record of any changes. This will also help you document how long the changes have been happening. It will also come in handy if you have to treat your betta fish for anything.
Before you diagnose what your Betta may have, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:
1. Has my betta fish’s colour faded? How severe is it? Have they lost their colour altogether, or are they just more translucent?
2. Are my betta fish’s fins clamped together or do they flow? Are there any holes or rips?
3. Are they lethargic? Are they swimming a lot? Are they hiding? Are they staying at the bottom of their tank most of the day?
4. Have they stopped eating? Are they uninterested when you put the food in their tank?
5. Do they have spots on their body? (Commonly white and around the head or mouth)
6. Are they unable to breathe? Are they coming to the top of the tank too often for air?
7. Are they scratching themselves against gravel, plants or the side of the tank? Do they look like they are trying to itch themselves?
8. Are their eyes bulging out? Do his eyes look glossy or white?
9. Are their scales raised? Does it look like their gills can’t close or that they are swollen?
If you’ve answered yes to one or more of these, you have yourself a problem, but don’t you worry Betta fish are fairly easy to cure and your little fish friend will be swimming around happily soon!
Some of these symptoms show up in different illnesses, so I’m going to try to be as descriptive and specific as possible so it’s easier for you to diagnose.
NOTE: If you are medicating your Betta DO NOT OVER MEDICATE. This can be very serious and can harm your Betta. More medication does NOT mean a faster healing process.
NOTE: Always remove your carbon filter before medicating, otherwise it will absorb the medication you are trying to give your Betta and will not help cure your Betta.
Tail shortens, falls apart or dissolves. Fins may also clump or change colour.
Dirty Water due to an improper filter or not frequent enough water changes. This condition is not fatal and commonly your Betta will not act any different with Fin Rot.
Your betta fish will continue to eat and be active, however, it is important to make sure you cure it.
Fins or tails may not grow back as long and may not have the same colour as they used to. This is unfortunate, especially if you have a Betta with a long beautiful tail.
If caught early enough you have a high chance of easy full recovery, although late remedy will still lead to their tails/fins growing back.
This can take about 4 weeks in total, and stopping care early can cause the Betta to relapse instead of getting better, so prepare yourself for a longer “battle.”
ADVANCED FIN & BODY ROT
Fins & Tail have started to fully disintegrate causing the body to begin rotting. Bones sticking out.
This comes from unmanaged fin rot. This can leave your fish fully tailless and may even cause them to quickly decline to nothingness. This is much harder to cure than the previous ailment and if not treated your Betta will die quickly and will suffer a lot.
If treated properly, you may add a few more months to your Betta’s life.
100% Water change in a new fish tank. Double the dose of Ampicillin and tetracycline is a must. This is one of the only times where overmedicating MAY help. I would also give your filter a little boost by stirring the water while the Betta is out of the tank to make sure that it is fully mixed.
You may also want to use a Fungus Cure. However, this will be a very long healing process, so don’t expect results right away.
White dots on head, body or eyes. May have less energy and may have stopped eating. Is scratching on gravel, plants or even the tank.
This very contagious disease can be caused by frozen live food. (This is not to say that live or frozen food is bad for your Betta, it’s just like chicken, you can sometimes get salmonella.)
1 teaspoon of aquarium salt for every 2.5 gallons (can be used regularly to condition) and API LIQUID SUPER ICK CURE (which I have used and can highly recommend.) Ick can also be killed with heat (85°F or 29.4°C). This can easily be achieved with a heater in your tank.
However, I would never use a heater in a tank smaller than 2 gallons as it could burn your fish/fry it alive. If your tank is smaller than 2 gallons, I would also recommend upgrading your tank as Bettas need more space than 1/1.5 gallons. This cure should take only a few days.
Hard to see with the naked eye, but with the help of a flashlight, you will be able to see a fine gold or rust coloured mist. The betta fish will also have clamped fins or may try scratching themselves on objects found in the tank.
The betta fish may also lose colour or it’s appetite.
This is a parasite that is the #1 killer of betta fish. Be very careful and examine your betta fish regularly.
Some suggest regulating your tank with aquarium salt as it will help make sure that the velvet won’t stay on your Bettas fish.
Other than the aquarium salt you will want to use Bettafix. You may want to isolate your fish from the others (if they are in the same tank) as velvet is highly contagious and Bettafix is quite strong and may affect your other fish.
Make sure to sanitize your fishnets as it can spread the velvet to other fish or cause your little one to get sick again. The last thing you’re going to want to do is re-infect your fish or infect other ones.
Your betta fish’s eyes will bulge and may even look white. This illness actually takes over your betta fish’s eyes fairly quickly and will cause your betta fish to lose sight or even lose their eyes. I know… scary!
I will give you the reassurance that we have gone through this and our betta fish made a 100% recovery!
Dirty water! Unfortunately, we weren’t on top of our game with the water changes during our move so this little guy went through a pretty traumatic battle.
Popeye can actually be the symptom of an internal disease such as tuberculosis and cannot be cured if it is the symptom of another disease.
Immediately do a full water change. Make sure to regularly change some of the water (about 25%-50% every day to 3 days dependant on the size of the tank) and you can use ampicillin or medications such as erythromycin, minocycline, trimethoprim, or sulfadimidine.
Something that really helped us was using Epsom Salt (also known as Magnesium Sulfate). This will help remove the liquid from behind the Betta’s eyes and make sure that their eye falls back into the socket.
BACTERIAL SEPTICEMIA / RED STREAKS
Bloody red streaks that span across the body. This may also cause lethargy, loss of appetite, bloat, and the inability to breathe.
Caused by bacterias called Pseudomonas or Streptococcus
A vet prescribed medication must be administered, but first, quarantine your Betta and do a good water change.
A bloated belly, bulging eyes, stringlike feces, swollen body, as well as raised scales. (This will be obvious as your Betta will look similar to a pinecone.)
Unfortunately, this extremely fatal disease comes from feeding live foods such as black worms.
There isn’t much information known about this, but a fluid builds up under your Betta’s scales and causes kidney failure. As soon as this happens you are out of luck and your Betta will, unfortunately, cross the rainbow bridge.
At the moment there is no known treatment for this disease.
A white film on the eyes
Dirty, unconditioned water that causes a bacterial sickness.
SWIM BLADDER DISORDER/BLOAT
Betta fish will not be able to swim and will float on their side. Double tail betta fish will commonly float straight to the top because their bodies are shorter.
Some betta fish will also sink to the bottom of the tank if they are too tired to swim.
This comes from overfeeding or from stress.
This will solve itself, however, you can also feed a bit of a cooked pea to help with constipation and in general will help with the bloating. However, if you do not have any peas or are too scared to give your Betta any more food, you may choose to starve your Betta.
Your Betta can survive weeks without eating, so don’t worry about it being starved to death. You can read more about how often and how much to feed Bettas here.
Bleeding inside of mouth and eyes
This is caused by a bacteria called Yersinia Ruckeri.
Water changes and the use of Ampicillin.
Your betta fish will dart and scratch themselves on objects all over the tank. They may dart around the tank and oftentimes you can visually see the parasite on the fish.
It can commonly happen when first adopted from a pet store.
Do a full water change or 70%+ to make sure to get rid of all the parasite eggs. You may also use Bettafix to help aid the process.
Inability to poop, swollen stomach, disinterest in food and lethargy
Overfeeding your betta or overfeeding dry foods that swell in their stomach.
Fasting your betta fish for about 3 days, or giving a small amount of Daphnia or a little bit of a cooked pea. After your betta fish is cured remember to adjust the amount of feeding so the symptoms do not repeat.
This disease can be caused by feeding live brown worms.
Your betta fish will experience major weight loss, however other diseases also have the same symptom so it is best to take your fish to a vet or expert when they experience this symptom. Your betta fish will continue to act normal an eat normally but will continue to lose weight.
Do a full water change or at least 70%+ . This will help get rid of some parasites and their eggs.
There aren’t really any over the counter medications that will help, but the vet is able to prescribe some.
Ulcers, wounds and round parasites attached to the fins/skin
This is caused by a crustacean parasite that lays eggs and feeds on Betta Fish
This must be done with tweezers and may require you to take your fish to the vet. Wounds may be left behind and can be treated by swabbing Mercurochrome with a cotton swab.
Clamped fins, lethargic, loss of appetite, loss of colour, inability to swim, red patches, open sores, internal organ failure, and holes within the skin.
An unfiltered unclean tank is commonly the cause of this disease. It is caused by unspoiled food or excrement.
When left unclean it causes a breeding ground for the bacteria that live inside of tap water and can be very contagious.
Frequent and thorough water changes. This means 70%+. Change your filter, or your filtration system and make sure to wash through your gravel and clean every inch of that tank!
Fish can show signs of weight loss, deterioration of the fins and scales, raised scales, fin and body rot, red patches in the belly, gray lesions. However, this is not always true. Sometimes tuberculosis is a silent killer and your fish will be fine one day, but not the next.
This is caused by bacteria attacking the inner organs (specifically the liver and kidneys) and will cause almost immediate death. This is actually spreadable to humans, however, the bacteria must enter your body through a fairly deep cut.
Make sure if you are worried about this to clean your fish tank with gloves. To calm you a little bit, just because your fish had tuberculosis doesn’t mean you’re going to get it. You will, however, get a fairly nasty infection on that cut.
Bacterias can be found in live food, or from eating other dead fish that had tuberculosis.
There is no cure for this and you will not be able to reuse the fish tank due to the fact that cleaning products can’t kill this disease.
COLUMNARIS / MOUTH FUNGUS
Cotton-like growth on and around the Betta’s mouth as well as white spots along the mouth and fin. However, sometimes it does not show any symptoms and can be diagnosed too late.
This is caused by Saprolegnia bacteria and usually affects betta fish that already have a preexisting condition or have a poor diet, an unclean tank, illness or other stress.
Your fish’s gills may not be able to close the full way, they may look red or inflamed inside and the Betta will gasp for air.
Nitrate poisoning, a birth defect, netting too roughly, or bacterial infections
Although there are a lot of diseases and illnesses that can afflict your betta fish, a good portion of them can be remedied.
As mentioned, it’s a great idea to keep a close eye on your betta fish to see if there are any changes to their physicality or behaviour. If anything changes with either, begin documenting the changes to ensure that you know how long they have been happening and whether or not your betta fish is recovering.
In general, it’s always important to make sure that your fish tank is set up properly, make sure that your betta is in a tank that is big enough and that you are feeding your betta fish the proper amount.
I’m wishing you all the best in your betta fish recovery.