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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3 Responses to “Help! My Betta Has Clamped Fins”

  1. Alex Collins says:

    My 10 year old son got a betta fish for Christmas last year. It has been in a 1gallon tank since then and doing fine. In the last day or so the fish has been lethargic and wont eat. I changed the water but it is not heated or filtered. I would like to have a bigger tank but dont have room. What can I do he loves this fish (bob). Any advice?

  2. Joy says:


    So I’m a new betta owner and I think I have made some serious mistakes. I found a male betta that is absolutely gorges, Mostly Purple with a little bit of red. I put him in a 1 gallon tank. I previously had 3 tiger barbs in there but moved them to my 30 gal. I did a 50% water change and when I put him in there for the day he was very happy and exploring his new digs. He is a working desk fish. When I returned to work on Monday I noticed he was floating and working hard to get to the bottom but couldn’t. I of course spent my workday researching. My co-workers who also have bettas on their desks told me to return him. I refused. I figured he had a swim bladder issue and just wouldn’t feed him for a few day’s. On Tuesday I introduced a femal as both of my co-workers have females in with their males. Since he couldn’t get to the bottom she stayed on the bottom and he stayed on the top for the day. He would flair at her and try to swim down but couldn’t. When I came to work Wednesday morning he was working on a bubble nest and she kept bugging him. pretty much she wouldn’t wait for it. So they mated for an hour or so but every time he would place the eggs she would then go and eat them. so I removed her. Today I came to work and he has clamped up. I have tried feeding him both pellets and dryed blood worms. she gobbles them up but he wants nothing to do with them. They are still separated. Also he jumped out of the tank but I lowered the water since then. I just did a water change hoping that would help him since I didn’t scoop the uneaten food but so far not much movement in him. I have talked to the Petco and they said I could return him but I don’t want to. I have never seen one his color. I have since bought 4 more beta’s for my kids to each have one and they are all perfectly fine. this one is my favorite and the one who seems to be way to stressed or sick. I have vowed to leave him alone for a couple of more days.

  3. Liz says:

    My blue Betta has been in a 10 gal aquarium for about a week with Primafix in the water.(Originally he was in a vase with the plant on top) I cycled the aquarium before I added my betta. The water quality and temp are perfect. He has a spot behind his head that was orange and has now turned white. His fins are still a little clamped but he eats fine and swims fine around the tank as if he is happy.
    It will be one week this Friday that I’ve had the medicine in the tank. What else do I need to do to help him get better?

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