Hey Pet Parents & Pet Lovers,
Even though I wrote a long article of the most common Betta illnesses, one of the most common questions I still get is “Is my Betta Fish Dying?” So, I thought I’d write a post specifically on that and ways you can tell if your Betta is doing well or if they may be passing over the rainbow bridge soon.
How does your Betta look? Have there been any colour changes? Are they getting duller? Have they lost their colour altogether? This is usually one of the first signs of a sick Betta and one of the easiest ways to let you know that something is going on either internally or externally.
Fins can be tricky to diagnose as your Betta can have tears or rips in their fins because of rough handling while netting or from scraping against objects/decorations. Even though these might not be signs of illness, I would make sure to monitor the fins and see if anything else is changing. Signs of illness or Bettas who might not live long include fins that are clamped down to the body, a Betta who is unable to swim properly or tails/fins that aren’t fanned out completely. If it looks like your Betta is struggling, something is definitely up.
A Betta that Won’t Move or is Lethargic
Now, this is a bit harder to tell for Bettas who live in smaller tanks since they don’t really have much room to be active, but smaller tanks are no good for Bettas anyways. You’re going to want a tank that is at least 2 gallons for a Betta and I’ve actually compiled a pretty awesome list of tanks I love and hate here. Lethargy results in Bettas with low energy levels, slow movement and can cause your Betta to either stay at the bottom of the tank or hide in one of their toys. Lethargy doesn’t always mean your Betta is sick though. It can be a result of water temperatures that are too high or too low. If you’re not sure about how warm the water should be, I definitely recommend reading over my Betta 101 guide here.
Loss of Appetite
Bettas, like most animals, will lose their appetite when they are sick. A healthy Betta will immediately go to any food you place in the tank and may even jump for their food out of excitement. If your Betta isn’t eating as much or isn’t as interested in food make sure to be watching over them.
Spots and other Fin Discolouration
One of the most common illnesses Bettas get is Ich which appears as little white spots around the head, body and mouth of the Betta. It’s a parasite that will ultimately kill your Betta if not treated properly. Good news for you is that your Betta can survive this with proper care and a bit of medication. I would keep some Ich treatment on you at all times and lucky for you, a lot of medications work for multiple illnesses in fish and can be purchased right off the shelf!
Struggling to Breathe
Each species will breathe in different ways. Bettas specifically are “top of the tank” breathers. Now, this doesn’t mean that you won’t want to add a filter or a bubbler, but if you notice your Betta at the top of the tank frequently or for an extended amount of time, this is a sure sign that your Betta is sick and having difficulty breathing.
Scratching or Rubbing against Display Items
Bettas don’t get itchy unless something is wrong. They’re not like cats and they’re not like us. A healthy Betta should be swimming around avoiding every object in sight, but a sick Betta may scratch the side of their tank, gravel or toys in the tank. They may do this subtly or if they’ve been sick for a while they may aggressively scratch themselves leading to ripped fins or damaged scales.
One of the symptoms we dealt with is eyes that are popping out. This is caused by the infamous Popeye. This isn’t your lovable, Spinach eating sailor, this is a serious condition that could ultimately lead to your fish either going blind or losing an eye or two. Again, don’t stress out too much since Popeye is 100% curable and we’ve actually successfully cured Blub of it in a few weeks.
Take a close look at your Betta’s scales and gills. If they are unable to close or are raised your Betta may be experiencing some swelling. Unfortunately, this could also be a sign of DROPSY which is an incurable disease that will ultimately take your fish’s life. This is what we assume happened to our beloved Flub.
This is usually a sign of constipation, which can be a death sentence for Bettas. Make sure you’re not overfeeding your Betta and you should be able to avoid this at all times. Constipation can be cured by a bit of cooked pea and is also one of the most common problems for Bettas.
Shimmering Gold or Rust Fins
This may not be the easiest thing to notice so you may want to take a flashlight to your Betta. Check their scales to see if they shimmer. If they do, your Betta may have Velvet which is caused by a parasite. It’s also fairly easily curable with Aquarium Salt and Water Conditioner.
So is there an easy way to tell your Betta is dying? Not really. It all comes down to how long they have been struggling with being sick. Before you get a Betta to make sure you have a vet close by who you can ask questions to. You can also ask your local fish store if they can help give you advice. I would make sure you go to a fish-specific store as general pet stores don’t usually have the information you need (as they are more geared towards cats & dogs). Keep this article bookmarked or the article that lists all the Betta illnesses to make sure you can always check to see if any of the symptoms match.
I’m wishing you all the best and if you have any questions I’m always happy to answer them!