Help! My Betta Has Clamped Fins

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It’s a cry for help you see asked often. “My betta’s fins are clamped shut. What’s wrong with it?”

This is most typically asked by a somewhat desperate betta owner because the betta who used to shimmy and shake excitedly when they draw near to his tank now just sits in a corner lethargic and all forlorn looking. Refusing to eat even sometimes. Or struggles to move about like this poor guy with classically clamped fins:

Pitiful, isn’t it?

Now it’s VERY IMPORTANT to keep in mind that clamped fins are not in and of themselves a health issue even though that is a mistaken conclusion some misinformed betta parents come to. Rather they are an indicator. A symptom. A sign delivered via easily read betta body language that something is wrong.

So you don’t want to be running to Petsmart in search of a cure for clamped fins. There isn’t any. Which if you’re lucky the person you talk to there would tell you anyways.

All of which is to say doing nothing until you properly diagnose the underlying problem is preferable to dumping in random doses of meds into the water. This often only works to make a bad situation that much worse. Another lesson in betta fish care that is not easily learned except from firsthand experience.

But that’s not what you were hoping to hear, now is it? You want to know what to do to return your fish to its normal flourishing, playful, carefree self. Sans stress, the clamped fins, plus the soulful look of being down in the dumps.

Diagnosing the Reason for the Clamped Fins

Okay well as has been mentioned elsewhere when considering problems that beset bettas they usually begin and end with water quality. If your betta fish has been struck down by some disease, which is the underlying cause of those clamped fins, it’s likely due to poor water quality. Or poor water quality may be the cause. And improving that may well return to your fish to the pink.

First can we agree that it’s hard to maintain proper water conditions in a tiny bowl? Well dah! So the first item to check is the size of the tank you’re keeping your sick fish in. If it’s five gallons or bigger you’re doing that part okay at least. If it’s a teeny tiny bowl – epic fail on your part.

Then how often do you do water changes? These are required even if you have a filtration of system of some type in place to avoid toxin build up.

Finally is the water heated or at room temp? Room temp is okay if you keep the house tropical. Otherwise not so much.

The reason for the 20 questions of sorts is bettas are much more likely to get sick in tiny, unfiltered, unheated set ups that benefit from few if any water changes.

How to Begin to Fix Water Quality Issues

Assuming tank size and water temp aren’t the issue do you have a reliable aquarium water test kit you can use? You want to find ammonia and nitrites levels at zero and nitrate under 20ppm.

If you find any issues with the water, I’d look to do a 25% water change right away. And another 25% in two days. That means about 40% of the water in the tank will be fresh. And while you’re at it try adding half a teaspoon or less of good quality aquarium salt for good measure.

Give that fix some time to work its magic maybe doing 10% changes every other day for a week after that. While vowing to take care to maintain more pristine water quality going forward.

Beyond that, if it’s not a water quality issue you want to grab your handy LED flashlight which can shine a bright light on the subject -your sickly betta fish. Now you’re looking for any other tell-tale signs of disease.

  • Are the eyes clear?
  • See any white spots or gold flecks on your fish’s body?
  • Are there any white or grayish cottony patches on his body anywhere?
  • Does he seem to be having trouble swimming right?
  • Are his scales pine-coned out?

If you see any of these symptoms that would suggest various betta fish diseases are behind the clamped fins. And that more research is needed to identify the best way to approach treatment.

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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