Seeing your betta fish act weird, stop eating, or begin acting lethargic at the bottom of their tank can be extremely unsettling.
The truth is that sometimes betta illnesses can sneak up on you out of nowhere. Because this is true, it’s going to be extremely important that you keep a close eye on your betta fish and get to know what their sleeping habits are and how active they usually are.
It is also important that you make sure you’ve set up your betta fish’s tank properly, that you feed them the proper amount of food and that their tank is large enough.
I recommend familiarizing yourself with the most common Betta illnesses as certain symptoms make it very clear that your betta fish is sick. But as a crash course, the following post is about the ways you can tell if your Betta is doing well or if they may be passing over the rainbow bridge soon.
As mentioned, it’s going to be extremely important that you keep a close eye on your betta fish and any changes.
How does your Betta look? Have there been any colour changes? Is their colour getting duller? Have they lost their colour altogether?
Changing in colouring is usually one of the first signs of a sick betta fish. It is also one of the easiest ways to let you know that something is going on either internally or externally with your betta fish.
Fin related illnesses can be tricky to diagnose as your Betta’s fins can tear or rip because of rough handling while netting. Fins can also be torn or ripped if your Betta scrapes against tank objects, decorations, gravel or even the tank itself.
That being said, torn fins are not always a sign of illness. If you are concerned with your betta’s fins make sure to monitor your whole Betta to see if anything else is changing. Commonly fin related illness includes other symptoms.
I will say, the biggest red flag you’ll be looking for when it comes to fins is whether or not they are clamped down to your betta’s body. This commonly results in a Betta who is unable to swim properly or betta with a tail or fins that aren’t fanned out completely.
A struggling betta fish is an unhealthy betta fish, though a dosage of Bettafix should be all it takes to fix fin related problems.
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 should immediately go to any food you place in the tank and may even jump for their food if they are excited. If your Betta isn’t eating as much as usual or isn’t as interested in food make sure you keep a close eye on them.
Loss of appetite can also be a symptom of constipation. Constipation can easily be avoided by feeding your betta fish the correct amount of food daily and fasting them once a week.
A BETTA THAT HAS WHITE SPOTS
One of the most common illnesses Bettas get is Ich.
Ich is a parasite that will ultimately kill your Betta if not treated properly. It can be spread between fish or even through water that has been contaminated by the parasite.
Ich will appear as little white spots around the head, body and mouth of betta fish. Ich commonly starts off in one area of the fish and continues appearing elsewhere as the parasites grow.
The good news for you is that your betta can survive this with proper care and a bit of medication. Medication does not need to be prescribed and can be found online as well as in your local pet store and fish store.
I would keep some Ich treatment on you at all times.
STRUGGLING TO BREATHE
Each species will breathe in different ways. Bettas specifically are “top of the tank” breathers, meaning that they commonly will surface to breathe.
That being said, this doesn’t mean that you won’t want to add a filter or an aerator/bubbler to your tank. Bubblers, Air Stones and Waterfalls are great ways of ensuring that your tank has enough oxygen in it for your fish to survive.
Bettas who are lethargic or lazy may not swim to the top of their tank to get air, but instead, they will filter the water and get oxygen that way.
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. The same can be said about a Betta who is laying at the bottom of the tank breathing quickly or heavily.
SCRATCHING OR RUBBING AGAINST DISPLAY ITEMS
Unlike humans or cats, Bettas don’t get itchy unless there is something wrong. A healthy Betta should swim around avoiding every object in sight, but a sick Betta may scratch the side of their tank, gravel or toys in the tank.
It may be hard to catch since most Bettas scratch themselves subtly, however, if they’ve been sick for a while they may aggressively scratch themselves leading to ripped fins or damaged scales.
One of the most serious symptoms we’ve personally dealt with our Betta’s eyes popping out. This was caused by the infamous Popeye. Popeye isn’t your lovable, Spinach eating sailor, but is a serious condition that could ultimately lead to your fish either going blind or losing an eye or two.
If your Betta is showing signs of Popeye, don’t overly stress. Popeye is 100% curable and we’ve actually successfully cured Blub of it within 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!