Sick Betta Fish Suspected?

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Question: My betta fish hasn’t been eating like he used to. He’s hardly moving around in his bowl either. Is he sick, depressed or what?

You got a sick betta fish huh? Or you’re looking for help diagnosing some sort of potential beta fish sickness perhaps?

First off, I’m sorry to hear you’ve got a sick betta on your hands. Hope the little bugger pulls through.

Basically a healthy male betta is active, inquisitive, and may spend time blowing bubble nests hoping to get lucky. Or he will be defending his territory from intruders, real or imagined. Like this gorgeous halfmoon is doing…

Anytime you aren’t seeing these typically healthy behaviors, something could be amiss.

Possible Signs and Symptoms of Sickness

Here’s a quick diseased fish checklist. Not all encompassing by any means but a good place to start none-the-less.

  • Has he lost his appetite?
  • Are his fins all raggedy looking? Are they clamped shut?
  • Do you see white spots all over your guys body?
  • Is he rubbing himself against ornaments, the gravel or plants?
  • Does he look all bloated with his scales sticking up like a pine cone?
  • Is he swimming on his side, sideways or otherwise in an abnormal manner?

On top of that, and with the agreement ahead of time that long distance diagnosis is risky at best, a few questions to consider.

Quick Questions to Ask Yourself

How old is your fish? Two years or older may be pushing it if his living conditions aren’t ideal.

What temperature do you keep the water in his tank? Something tropical is way better than room temp.

How much are you feeding? It’s extremely easy to overfeed these fish. Result? Constipation, swim bladder disorder and a bloated stomach may be in store.

What type of food do you feed your betta fish? Pellets are okay, in fact can be better than fine, but some variety in the form of frozen or live food is preferred.

Are the fins and tail spread out looking normal or are they limp, clamped and all stiff looking? If it’s the later those are symptoms of problems.

Do you test your water for nitrite, nitrate and ammonia levels? If not, the water may look crystal clear but still makes for lousy water for a betta to live in.

Most important, what kind of water changes do you do? Reason for asking – behind most betta fish diseases you’ll find unhealthy water. If you aren’t testing your water or doing regular water changes, and the smaller the tank the more frequent the changes need to be, that could be the real problem. Any disease/The symptoms the fish is exhibiting are a result of poor water quality.

Things to Try

First remember that keeping a betta in a tiny pint sized bowel is far from ideal. It’s cold. Cramped. And the water quality likely sucks.

Assuming you aren’t doing that, try reviving your fish with a bit of salt. Adding a teaspoon of salt per gallon might sound like a curious thing to do for a freshwater fish, but it will calm him down and cut down on any bad mojo going on in the water.

How to Avoid Sick Betta Fish

You can easily avoid having afflicted beta fish and sick beta fish. Simply remember the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

I know we’ve covered this ground before, but you do know most of the common betta fish sicknesses can be traced back to poor water quality or water quality issues, right? Well it’s true.

Take fin rot. Those infected certainly don’t look gorgeous. Nowhere near. Bacteria ever present in the water are the culprit. Which can be pretty much kept at bay with regular water changes. Do the changes and usually there are no sick beta fish. At least not with fin rot.

While Ich victims are the result sometimes from fluctuating water temps. Temps that go up and down up and down stress your bettas. Distressed bettas are more prone to getting parasites like ich. Especially if you keep the water on the cool side.

Got a fish with a swim bladder disorder? Bet you overfed the little blighter. And if constipation is the issue you’re over doing prepared foods like pellets or flakes. Overfeeding is not an act of kind. It’s killer.

Now if you want some more ideas on how to diagnose and care for a sick beta fish, click over to common betta diseases. You’ll find some more helpful information there, I’m sure.

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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6 Responses to “Sick Betta Fish Suspected?”

  1. Jade Makenzie says:

    My beta is around 6 months old. She did extremely well for the first 4-5 months. In the last month, I believe she had ick disease. We also had a peace lily in the water but we removed that. We went from a large vase to a much large bowl that holds approx. 1 gallon of water. We also gave her the antibiotics in her water. She did get better in a week and started doing great. That lasted about 2 weeks. This time it is different. She is hiding in a little pagoda we put in her vase, and she is not eating. She is laying on her side inside the pagoda and won’t eat. If she takes a bite of the pellet, she spits it back out right away. When she does try to swim it is very jerky, and she goes right back into the pagoda like she is hiding. She is not doing well.

    • Lucas says:

      Sorry to hear about your female betta. As you’ve found out those peace lily set ups are more for the human in the equation than the fish. It’s cramped. Cold. And conducive to disease catching, which is apparently what happened in this case. Moving a gallon tank is an improvement. Questions. Do you have a heater in the tank? What temp do you keep it at? How often are you changing water? Not eating is a bad sign, that’s for sure. Sometimes you can cure the fish of a disease, but as the saying goes the cure is worse. Can’t say that’s the case here. But with resistance down, resiliency can be down too and your fish could be suffering from all manner of things. For sure I’d try 25% water changes every other day for a couple of weeks. To tease the fish into eating you might try something from the frozen aisle of your pet store. Not sure what else to suggest. Good luck.

  2. Candice says:

    I have a male betta. He is an active fish, but not right now. I’m not sure what is wrong with him. He floats at the top of the water, kind of on one side. I just changed his water using Distilled water. To me it looks like some kind of brown stuff is on him. So I have a few questions if you don’t mind me asking. What could it be? How do I treat it? What is the best temp for the water? I have had several bettas. The 2 or 3 I had didn’t last long, don’t know why. I had others that I have up to about 3 years. The betta now is acting different then what the other bettas I had before. I can tell when he needs his water changed. How often should the water be changed? I’ve been doing it at least 1 to 1 1/2 wks. Any advice would be good from anybody! Thanks

    • Lucas says:

      Sorry to hear your little guy isn’t himself.

      First thing I would advise is that you stop using distilled water. While it may sound like the purest water going, it has nothing in it but pure H20. And therein lies the problem. The essential minerals your pet needs to thrive come from their water. And if it has none, he has none. You are far better off using tap water you have treated to remove the chlorine and other chemicals added during processing to make it safe to drink.

      The brown stuff is throwing me. Without that point, my first thought was he’s got a swim bladder issue. This is where he will float at the surface or sink because his is messed up. It’s a sorry sight no doubt. The usual cause is constipation from over feeding or feeding the wrong things. This may help some. Just please understand it’s hard to diagnose betta issues from a distance. Especially when the symptoms include something unexpected.

      As for the best water temp it’s around 78-80 degrees F. This means unless you live in the tropics you will need a heater. Submersibles are best.

      How often you change the water depends on how big the tank is, if you have plants and what you water parameters are telling you. To determine that you need a test kit. It will tell you the levels of nitrates, nitrites and ammonia. While I can’t give a hard and fast rule of thumb, with a bigger tank (5 gallons plus) you should be doing at least 25% water changes weekly. If you are over feeding then change more. And I do not recommend 100% water changes ever.

      Hope this helps


  3. Kayla says:

    My fish, Napoleon, is on the older side – he will be 2 years this September. His water is room temp, and I can only change the water when I come home from school (which is once every month or so, he lives in a gallon tank).
    After the latest cleaning during Spring Break, he started acting a bit delusional, which is strange, for a fish. He’ll sit at the bottom of the tank, or in his little hidey-hole, and when he comes up for air, he’ll ATTACK it. I’m talking full breach. The little guy thrusts all or most of his body out of the water in a straight or semi-straight line along the top of the bowl. I don’t know what to do about it. It seems like he’s maybe gasping for air or has developed some form of fish schizophrenia.
    There aren’t any live plants, just the same fake plant and house that he’s always had. He looks the same, no apparent change in scale or color or anything like that. We feed him mostly pellets, but give him an occasional worm as a treat.
    Does anyone know if this is normal? He’s doing it alot and only when he comes up for air, but I’m not sure. We’ve had other fish before (lived about a year), but they were my brother’s so I’m not sure regarding normalcy.

    • Lucas says:

      Never heard of anything like this from bettas. Nothing that you describe suggests anything is physically wrong although I would take you to task for not having his water changed more often. I understand you’re away at school, but a gallon can build up toxins pretty quickly actually depending on how much you are feeding him. As for his going into attack mode, not sure what he sees that requires such an all out effort. Maybe he’s bored? :)

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