Easily Avoid the More Common Betta Fish Diseases With Better Betta Fish Care

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Want your betta fish to enjoy a long and healthy life? Then make sure to steer clear of betta fish diseases. Reason being they can be killers.

Of course no matter how strikingly colored your betta splendens, or Siamese fighting fish are, they aren’t immune to getting sick. So for some avoiding disease is easier said than done.

Typically the problems they are prone to are going to be caused by a fungus, bacteria, or some nasty parasite. Poor water quality is a common thread. So it might be good to be able to better diagnose what problems your fish has so you can be treat them properly. Since the odds are sooner or later they’re going to come down with some affliction.

To that end here are nine of the more common betta health issues you should be on the watch for at all times. Plus you may want to catch the video included here about how to treat your diseased fish to get additional info you may find helpful. Because you never know when you might find yourself playing the betta doctor with your fish’s life on the line.

Signs Your Fish Might Be Sick

In general you can conclude your fish is under the weather if it exhibits any of the following symptoms:

  • Has no interest in food or spits out its food
  • Acts lethargic
  • Fins are clamped shut rather than free flowing
  • Coloration lacks its usual luster
  • Visible cottony patches, spots, or open sores on its body
  • Scales raised like you’d see on a pinecone
  • Rubbing its body against gravel, plants or ornaments

Those are signs you fish might be sick alright.

The Betta Doctor: Causes, Symptoms and
Treatment of Common Betta Diseases

Acknowledging that treating sick fish is an inexact science that sometimes results in the death of the patient, let’s venture forth and explore some of the more common betta ailments and what cures to try.

Ich (or Ick)
Cause: Parasitic infection. Contagious. This fairly common condition can be triggered by poor water quality and/or cold water temperatures which can stress the fish.

Diagnosis: White spots appear on the body, fins, and/or gills. (Hence it’s also called White Spot Disease) Your fish look like they were sprinkled with salt. Other more common symptoms to note: The fish may breathe faster. It may lose its appetite. (Bettas are hungry little dudes in their normal, healthy state) Or it rubs its body against any object such as the gravel and any plants in the tank.

Treatment: The trick here is to subject these cold temp parasites to higher temperatures. Adjust your heater raising the temp to 85-88 degrees while making significant water changes. This may well cure the problem for a smaller ich outbreak. Failing that you need to bring out some commercial medication. In that case you would want to add something like Nox Ich, Rid Ich, Aquarisol, Super Ick Cure, Aquarium Products Quick-Cure (or the medication of choice) at whatever rate on the label recommends (keeping in mind not to over treat) until the fish is clear of these annoying white dots.

Fin Rot
Cause: Bacterial infection. Fin rot is not all that contagious. Filthy water alert! This condition is usually caused by poor water quality. Most often it’s brought on by too much ammonia in the water. Stress can also weaken the fish’s immune system making it susceptible to fin rot. This is one of the more common diseases in betta fish. Given those long flowing fins it should come as no surprise these guys are prone to this.

Diagnosis: If the fins look to be frayed, raggedy, or tattered that’s a bad sign. The bacteria are eating your fish alive. Conversely a whitish color on the tips of the fins tells you regrowth is occurring. Here’s a photo or two of fin rot. Some extreme cases.

Treatment: Pristine water makes fin rot much less likely. Partial water changes combined with bumping the temp 2-4 degrees would be the first thing to try to cure it. Failing that, you can use API’s Melafix. This is a more natural remedy made from tea tree oil. Others prefer Mardel’s Maracyn–Two. With either medication, remember to remove the carbon from the tank to allow the meds to work. And don’t overmedicate. But do continue treatment for four or five days after the fins appear to be better.

Gill Parasites
Cause: Parasitic infection. Contagious. The culprits here are either external parasites or gill flukes.

Diagnosis: Does you fish breathe abnormally? Is it exhibiting odd swimming patterns? Is it scratching its body objects in the tank? Are its gills partially opening at all times? It is floating with clamped fins? Or do the gills appear to be red and pumping fast? If you answered yes to any of these, then this is likely one sick fish suffering with gill parasites.

Treatment: After diagnosing the situation, a product called Jungle Parasite Clear (just remember to remove any carbon in your filters that might absorb the medication before it has a chance to work) could just work along with aggressive daily water changes. Some find adding a teaspoon of aquarium salt per gallon and keeping it that way for 10 days or so can help. Also soak betta food pellets in crushed garlic juice before feeding.

Popeye
Cause: Bacterial infection. Sometimes contagious. This is primarily caused by poor water quality. Maintain good water quality and you won’t have to concern yourself with this condition.

Diagnosis: At first you’d notice the eyes are protruding. (either or both of them) But as days pass the look can get too creepy and nasty looking. Truly a bad case of bulging eyes.

Treatment: No spinach necessary. (Sorry couldn’t help myself.) First, since this is related to water quality do a full change the water. Then add Penicillin or Ampicillin to the water. These are antibiotic drugs formulated in capsules you can easily find in drug stores. 1 capsule per 10 gal of water. Don’t toss in the capsule itself, silly. You only need add the powder inside it. So open it and sprinkle into the water. Follow these steps every after three days until the eyes have fully recovered. Another alternative is Epsom or aquarium salt. Add that at a rate of a teaspoonful for every five gallons of water.

Dropsy
Cause: Bacterial infection. Note that the bacteria causing dropsy is severely contagious. This is another very serious condition that can often be fatal for your fish. Dropsy can be caused by feeding on live foods such as problematic black worms and brine shrimp or by poor water conditions. It’s not really a disease per se, but a symptom of a specific bacterial infection. The bacteria usually settles into the body tissues of the fish affecting its kidneys until they fail to normally function and the fish dies.

Diagnosis: Dropsy is characterized by raised scales and bloated or swollen belly. If you notice the scales sticking out like a pine cone then dropsy is the likely cause.

Treatment: Isolate the fish from the community and place it in another tank. Then treat with antibiotic to control bacterial growth. Prepare a medicated bath twice a day to relieve the bloated belly. Simply mix electrolyte balancing salts, Epsom salt, aquarium salt, and methylene blue at the right proportion and add them into the water.

Treatment Tips for Betta Fish Diseases

A common sense rule-of-thumb routine when it comes to treating any of the diseases these guys succumb to is to …

  • change the water
  • add aquarium salt
  • raise the water temps
  • wait and see what happens

You take those first three steps FIRST for three reasons.

1) You want to eliminate or reduce any bad organism populations and
2) You want to create a less hospitable environment for bad organism populations.
3) Commercial treatments can be hard on your fish. Sometimes if the disease doesn’t get them the treatment will. Which isn’t the desired outcome. So medicating a fish should be a last resort.

Besides salt has a therapeutic effect on fish and will give your veiltail its best chance to recover.

Mushing on…

Constipation
Cause: Overfeeding. (Seems like this is a common practice among betta owners don’t you think?)

Diagnosis: You’ll know if you’ve got one constipated betta if it loses its appetite or when its belly is bloated. If the condition worsens, the fish’s color may fade as well.

Treatment: Fasting. Yes, you don’t want to feed your pet for 2-4 days. Don’t worry it won’t die of starvation. In a pinch, bettas can survive for three or more without eating anything. (Though this should not be a reason for you not to feed your patient at all once it becomes healthy again.) Once done fasting, feed the fish bits of green peas to detoxify its system. Tip: Bettas may not find peas to be very enticing so be creative in preparing the meal. If your particular fish really despises the peas, then your next best alternative is an Epsom salt bath for about 15 minutes.

Swim Bladder Disease
Cause: Overfeeding. Not contagious.

Diagnosis: The fish may float uncontrollably sideways or to the top. It may also find swimming too difficult and would rather slide its belly to move around or would simply stay at the bottom.

Treatment: Feed your betta appropriately by feeding it less. Once a day is good. Once a week with no food is also recommended. How much to feed? No more than can consumed in one feeding.

Mouth Fungus
Cause: Fungal infection. Contagious. This is often caused by failing to add aquarium salt to the water in the tank.

Diagnosis: The fungus appears as white cotton-like patches on the head or body. It usually loses its appetite and it may become lethargic.

Treatment: Do a full water change then add a Jungle fungus eliminator around 30-40 grains per one half gallon. Change the water after 3 days and add the medication again. Repeat the process until the betta is fully treated.

Ammonia Poisoning
Another common problem seen with bettas is ammonia poisoning. This too is an environmental issue caused by their own waste products accumulating in the tank. In other words, dirty filthy water.

Problem is ammonia is colorless and odorless. Plus you can’t tell if the water is okay just because it looks clean. Again the best way to avoid this is by attending to water quality. Doing regular water changes gets rid of the harmful ammonia.

While on the topic, you should have noticed time and again water quality is often a common factor in most of the diseases mentioned above. So please take care to change your betta’s water regularly. And while you’re at it, try not to overfeed your fish either. Better still make sure it gets a nutritionally balanced diet. It will be better able to fend off potential health problems that way.

So proper attention to water quality and feeding mean you can color your finny friend happy and disease free. Leaving you with one vigorous Siamese fighting fish actively swimming, flaring, and being all he can be.

About Lucas
Putting a name with a face I'm Lucas Smatana. Like you I'm passionate about betta fish and hope to share my enthusiasm. The idea here is to make sure you get helpful info and useful ideas on betta fish care that really work. To insure your betta keeping experience is a good one both for you and your fish. So that you and your pet enjoy a long, happy and healthy relationship.

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36 Responses to “Easily Avoid the More Common Betta Fish Diseases With Better Betta Fish Care”

  1. concerned says:

    i need help my betta is like white all over and i want to know how and were to get what i need to make my romeo better

  2. admin says:

    Sorry to hear about Romeo. White all over is strange. Is this a color fade or like something fuzzy growing on him? Betta colors can fade as they age. Or it could be fungus. You can try Maracyn-2 to treat fungus. A bit of aquarium salt might help too.

  3. Phelan says:

    My betta has yellow fins that look unhealthy and are raggedy and frayed. What do I do?

    • admin says:

      From the sounds of things sounds like fin rot. Although obvious can’t be sure. For fins that look raggedy you might try Melafix or Maracyn 2.

  4. Mike says:

    I also need help! My betta has a loss off color (almost white) on the bottom of his head. He also has all closed fins, either sits on the bottom of the tank not moving, or swims along the top. im not quite sure what ailment he has. its very hard to tell but it looks like he might also be breathing fast. Not quite sure what he has. :( poor Freud.

    • admin says:

      This is a toughie. Clamped fins and inactivity are not a good sign. Best I can do is go back to water basics since bad water is usually the culprit. Big enough tank – not bowel. Does it have a filter? Making partial water changes of at least 10% weekly? Do you test the water? Sometimes you fix the water you fix the fish.

  5. Mike says:

    I actually just bought a much bigger tank (2.5 gal) and with a divider wall, both of my bettas are in the same tank. Im hoping the water was the only problem also. I do not have a filter but I will pick one up today. Is there a specific water test that I should be getting?

  6. admin says:

    Hands down the API Freshwater Master Test Kit is the best one. At around $20 online it’s a must have tool to insure good water quality conducive to healthy bettas.

  7. Rachel says:

    for the past week, My beta has large hump on his left side. Looks like he has swallowed a piece of gravel & it has settled on one side of his body. He is still swimming fine and his fins are still full and flow-ey. Last night I noticed he seemed to be “poofing out” farther down near his tail on both sides. Any idea what this could be?

    • Lucas says:

      Sorry to hear about the problems your betta is having. Would kinda doubt it has swallowed a piece of gravel however. If I had to guess and it would only be that I suspect the clue is in your use of the words “poofing out”. If it looks like a pine cone that would likely be dropsy. Otherwise, I’m afraid I have no idea.

  8. Stephanie says:

    After reading your posts, Im pretty sure by Betta Blake has Dropsy. Where can I buy the electrolyte balancing salts, Epsom salt, aquarium salt, and methylene blue? Can I get these things at a Petco?

    • Lucas says:

      I would think a decent Petco would have them. Your betta is in for the fight of his life. As you undoubtedly know this is a hard one to cure. Good luck.

  9. Becky says:

    I have a Crown betta, he developed a large white spot that began to bleed slightly, I treated the water for several weeks and the spot started resolving, then the white spot got a bump on it. I am cleaning water in 1 1/2 gallon fish shaped tank. He stays on the water leaf most of the time, not real hungry. Seems to have trouble with his tail movement.
    Help please.

    • Lucas says:

      My heart goes out to you. Insuring good water quality is a good move. It’s hard to tell from here, but from what you describe it could a tumor or cyst. If so there is precious little you can do about it. Some might suggest it’s constipation, but that’s more of a general swelling. Tumors on fish are not unusual. To confirm you might search on “betta tumor” online for images you can compare to what your fish has. Unfortunately there is little that can be done for them if that’s the case. Best of luck.

  10. Lydia says:

    When I first bought my betta (Umi) he was a light blue-green color. Now he’s turning reddish where his body connects with his tail. Is this normal? Do I need to change something? I miss the old Umi! Thanks.

    • Lucas says:

      Are you sure Umi isn’t a chameleon? But seriously, sometimes as bettas age their colors do fade, change or appear to be less vibrant than they once were. Although this change you describe is a bit unusual, if the reddish area is truly just a color change and not a sore of some kind, which I’d think you’d know, Umi may be simply aging. Much like our hair will fluctuate over time, and for some will turn grey, sounds like Umi is simply changing. As long as it’s not a dramatic dulling of the color to a pallid grey, from here I’d say you have nothing to worry about.

  11. Help says:

    My betta has developed white rings around his eyes, and hasn’t eaten in 4 days now. I have kept him by himself in a 2.5 gallon aquarium with a filterand at a tempature of 78 degrees. I concerned that he might be sick. If you can give any advice I would be very greatful.

    • Lucas says:

      Not sure exactly. Could be popeye. That would be more likely if they are also beginning to bulge out. You might read more here about pop eye. Bettas get sick usually because of poor water conditions. If you aren’t doing regular water changes, something I preach here, then I’d start. However, I’m not big on suggesting meds when I don’t know for sure what’s wrong. Since sometimes the cure is worse than the problem. Although not eating surely isn’t a good sign.

  12. Heather89 says:

    I’ve had my female betta, Dudette, for about a year (I had a male but he died suddenly like a month after I got him) and she’s acting odd..

    She stays around the bottom of the bowl (1.5 gal tank) and hasn’t eaten for a few days. She’s not necessarily bloated and she isn’t pine-conning. She acts like she is struggling to reach the surface to breathe so I put her in a smaller container for now. The room she is in is at the south end of our house and it stays very warm in that room (my bedroom).

    There are no discolorations or fin issues either.

    She also has a very pale umm… poops at the moment. Pretty sure she is constipated but I just wanted to double check.

    Thank You!

    • Lucas says:

      Sorry to hear about Dudette. From what you’ve described, very well I might add, we can rule out dropsy most likely. You might check out this post about various betta diseases under “Constipation” to see how to treat for that problem. Good luck and hope your roommate returns to good health soonest.

      • Heather89 says:

        Well I’ve been changing her water and I got her some different types of food: Freeze dried shrimp and blood worms. She was only getting the little red pellets before. I also put in a couple of live plant seeds so she could have some green stuff to nibble on. The plants don’t look like they’ve been touched.

        She still hasn’t eaten. At all. She still stays at the bottom of her tank unless she gets a breath. I got some beta first aid stuff and I put a drop in her new 2 gallon tank (1 tsp per 5 gal).

        She’s not as iridescent as she’s supposed to be either. Her scales and fins look fine other than the dulling color. Her eyes look good too.

        Just concerned with the fact that she hasn’t eaten in almost a month.

        Thanks!

  13. Stacey Rittenhouse says:

    Hi. My betta Sushi (don’t ask) just started swimming sideways and when he stops swimming he starts to turn on his side. I took him out of his tank and put him in a small bowl. Now I see his eyes are, well, creepy. I’m going to get some aquarium salt, will this help with both? and what do you think is wrong with him?

    • Stacey Rittenhouse says:

      Also, Sushi and I play hide-and-seek. He hides in the plants and I act like i can’t see him…..hours of fun, i swear. Well now he likes to try and wedge himself between the plant base and the rocks. I’m worried he might get stuck or ripe a fin. So should i try and break this or just let in go?

      • Stacey Rittenhouse says:

        Weirdest thing, Sushi is fine. He’s back to his old self. I’m not sure what happened or why he was acting the way he was but he’s fine now.

    • Lucas says:

      Sounds like swim bladder disorder to me. Most often this is caused by overfeeding. Once the digestive tract clears the problem clears – which would account for the sudden return to health. In any case glad ole Sushi is back to his old self. :)

  14. Olivia says:

    my roommate just gave me her betta that she didn’t want. he’s a few months old and he has ick. we aren’t allowed to have the temp gauges and filters and all that so how do i treat him? do i just use the warm water and water changes? i don’t want to use meds and end up killing him.

    • Lucas says:

      Sorry to hear your fish is sick. Problem is without a temperature gauge you have no way of knowing if his water temperature is a stable 76-80 degrees? You don’t mention a heater. Without a heater you have no way of keeping his temps a stable 76 to 80 degrees. Ich thrives in lower water temps. A betta’s resistance is down is lower water temps. But I can’t say if that is the problem of not. Check out one of the pages on this site like this one about betta diseases and their treatments. It suggests raising the water temp to 85 degrees which should slow the organisms responsible for ich down, it suggests water changes and it suggest meds. But to be honest if you can’t use a thermometer odds are not good. Best of luck.

  15. Cheril says:

    Hello, I have a blue betta that is around a year old..he used to greet me in the morning to eat but for the last 2 weeks he mainly sits under the filter at the back of the tank. He will swim out occasionally but then he’s upside down or side ways. He hasn’t eaten in 2 weeks. I took some water and pics to petsmart and they said the water was perfect and it looked like fin rot, so I bough Betta Fix and have been putting 9 drops a day in. It s a 2 gallon tank with a filter but no heater. I bought a heater but you can not set the temp on it it says it will keep the water at 76, I wasn’t sure if that was right for him so I have no put it in yet. There is basically no change in him at all. I keep expecting to find him dead every morning but he’s still around. He just looks bad..His fins are not white anymore but a dingy looking yellow. I’m at a loss as what to do next..he acts like he’s miserable.. I stopped putting food in 2 days ago cause it just floated..if you can offer some advice I would really appreciate it…
    Thank you, Cheril

    • Lucas says:

      Sorry to hear about your betta. Early on in your comment I had concluded Swim Bladder Disorder. That makes these guys swim weird. The most common cause of fin rot is bad water. Perfect water and fin rot usually don’t go together. Do you have a test kit like from API? Because I would have suggested getting religious about water changes. That usually does the trick by clearing out the ammonia. Betta fix tea tree oil that some use to help regrow fins. That seems to be working. Fin rot doesn’t heal overnight. Not eating is more worrisome. Two weeks is getting to be a long time. If you don’t have a heater heating the water is likely cold. There are a lot of things that could be going on at once here. So it’s really hard to be more specific. Sorry.

      • Cheril says:

        Thank you..I do change the water which I did 2 weeks ago when he started acting weird..I have put a heater in. Now he will come up front and when he stops he floats on his side and just lays there. There is a red stripe that has showed up on the side..I understand he is probably dieing and that’s what I hate because it s taking so long..I expect to come in every morning and find him dead..but no he’s still here. When he does move his fins move really fast like a flutter..then he just jumps all over the tank and winds back up behind the filter upside down. I stopped putting any food in there thinking it might b sb…I’m at a loss now, so I assume its just a waiting game at this point. I stopped the betta fix too didnt think it was doing anything…if you think of something I can try by all means hit me with it, otherwise I appreciate your help…

  16. Cheril says:

    Well I went back to petsmart as he was laying on his side..they sold me melafix and a different heater…and a test kit my water was 120 GH, 80 KH, 7.0 pH, NO2 0, and NO3 40..anyway he is a different fish….swims up to me, is eating now and all is well..we think he was just cold…and depressed.. Thanks for listening to me and trying to help….

  17. amira says:

    Please help my poor betta!
    My betta is on top of the water for afew days(floating)if he swims he swims on its side.Yes I over fed my betta a week ago.I put him on festing for 3 day and gave him one palet next day.Feeding made my betta the worse.A man at fish store gave me bettafix.I have been using it of 5 days but no help.My poor betta is still floating.PLEASE HELP US!

    • Lucas says:

      Sorry to hear about your betta. What did the guy at the fish store think was wrong? From what you describe sounds to me like your fish is constipated and/or suffering from swim bladder disorder. It’s a common result from overfeeding. This usually clears up on its own over time. Fasting is the best approach. A bit of blanched pea should help too. And don’t worry bettas can go for many days without eating. Not so sure I would have used bettafix to solve this problem either. In my opinion this is an prime example of throwing meds at a problem they aren’t designed to help. Best of luck.

  18. Perla says:

    Lucas thank you so much for the information you have provided us with. Thanks to you, I was able to determined that the betta my mom owns has Dropsy. I will follow your advice and hopefully he will get better soon otherwise I know he has had a wonderful life in his 30 gallon tank.

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