Betta Fish Illness

Kelly Roper
Betta gulping air

Do you know how to spot when your betta feels ill? Learning to watch for signs that your pet is sick will help you get him the treatment he needs that much sooner.

Signs of a Sick Betta

Most bettas will display one or more of the following signs when they feel ill. Use them to take stock of your pet's health.

  • Lethargy - Bettas can be very active fish, but they do stop and take time to rest and even sleep. Due to this fact, it may not be immediately apparent to you that your betta is less active than usual until some time has passed. You may notice that your fish lists aimlessly at the top of the tank with his mouth at the water's surface. On the other hand, he may settle into a secluded spot at the bottom of his tank and show no interest in anything going on around him. Bettas are curious and territorial creatures, so if your pet stops investigating his surroundings for any significant amount of time, he may be ill.
  • Loss of appetite - Bettas have very healthy appetites, so one of the first indicators of an illness is usually when a fish shows no interest in his food. This is why it's so important to watch your fish when you feed him and make sure he eats. If he refuses his food for more than one meal, you'll want to examine him a little closer to see if you notice any other signs of potential illness.
  • Looks skinny - Some fish begin to look like they are wasting away even if they haven't gone off their food. This could be a sign that your pet's current diet is lacking in important nutrients. Most hobbyists recommend offering bettas a varied diet that includes betta pellets, fresh or frozen brine shrimp and freeze-dried bloodworms.
  • Difficulty swimming - Some diseases interfere with a betta's ability to swim normally. If your fish struggles to swim up or down, or he keeps turning on his side or upside down, it could be a sign that his swim bladder is either infected or injured.
  • Spots or film - Parasitic and fungal diseases typically leave some sort of evidence on the fish. If you notice any odd material that looks like cotton clinging to your betta, he likely has one of these infections
  • Fin clamping or deterioration - Bettas tend to clamp their fins when they don't feel well. Beyond that, fins that begin to look frayed or as if they are being eaten away may be sign of a fin rot infection.
  • Looks bloated - If your betta's body suddenly looks puffed up, it could be a sign of constipation, but it could also be sign of a condition called dropsy which can be life threatening. With dropsy, the entire fish swells up, and the scales stand out a bit from the body.

What to Do When You Suspect Your Betta Is Ill

Once you've noted any specific signs of illness your betta shows, it's time to try to determine which disease or condition is making him sick. You can compare his symptoms to a variety of the most common betta diseases, but if you're still not sure what's wrong, give your local aquarium shop or vet clinic a call and describe what you see. Someone on the staff may be able to hazard an educated guess about what your fish has and recommend a specific treatment that can help.

Remember, the time you spend observing your betta means you know him better than anyone. If your gut tells you something isn't quite right, it's probably true. Trust your instincts, try to note as many symptoms as you can, and get your fish the treatment he needs as quickly as you can.

Betta Fish Illness