How Can You Tell If Your Betta Fish Is Dying: Symptoms And Prevention

Betta fish are a popular pet due to their vibrant colors and easy-to-care-for nature. However, as with any living creature, bettas can become ill and die.

If you’re a betta fish owner, you want to make sure that you can tell when your fish is in trouble. For example, if you are concerned that your betta may be dying, it is important to know the symptoms so that you can take action and protect your fish.

In this blog post, we will explore how can you tell if your betta fish is dying and what you can do to save it!

Do Betta Fish Die Easily?

Do Betta Fish Die Easily

Betta fish have a reputation for being easy to care for, and they are hardy fish. However, they are still living creatures that can get sick and die.

There are a number of things that can cause betta fish to become ill and die, such as poor water quality, lack of food, or disease.

Betta fish are also susceptible to stress, which can be caused by insufficient oxygen, sudden temperature changes, or even being moved to a new tank. Stress can weaken a betta’s immune system and make them more susceptible to illness.

How Can You Tell If Your Betta Fish Is Dying? [Common Signs]

Several symptoms can indicate that your betta fish is dying. For example, your fish may stop eating or eat in limited quantities. It may also feel lethargic, hide more, and cease swimming as much as usual. In addition, your betta’s fins may get ragged and torn, and the colors may fade.

If you notice any of these symptoms, it is crucial to take action immediately as your fish may not have much time left.

Your Betta Fish Is Dying - Common Signs

#1: Lethargy

Lethargy in betta fish is the most obvious sign that something is wrong. If your fish is normally lively and swimming around, then you will notice a big change if it becomes lethargic and stops moving.

Your betta can turn lethargic for various reasons, including disease, temperature, improper water parameters, old age, or even stress. So, if you notice that your fish is lethargic, it does not point to a single reason. Therefore, it’s not possible to diagnose without more symptoms.

Bettas may remain motionless because they want to relax. They may also cease swimming due to stress or as a strategy of avoiding hostile fish, which is why it isn’t necessarily a life-threatening condition.

Because of lethargy, betta fish may show a slow reaction and seem uninterested in food or surroundings. And if it is happening for a prolonged period, and additionally if their fins are clamped, and movement of gills increased, you may conclude that your betta is dying.

#2: Fading Color & Black Shade

Betta fish are known for their vibrant colors, so it’s easy to notice when their color starts to fade. Likewise, you should be concerned when your betta abruptly loses its color.

If your betta’s color has changed significantly, they are likely unwell. If it’s slightly dull in color, your betta might be aging. On the other side, if your betta’s scales are changing color, it might be due to the marble gene.

The marble gene induces color changes in betta at any point in their life, and it’s fascinating to watch. Betta’s fins and body progressively lose their color and then take on a whole random different look.

Color changes due to aging are a gradual process. This subtle color shift is only noticeable when you look back at an old video or image of your fish.

However, a major color change may indicate a severe sickness and is a warning sign for something likely to be fatal if it is not treated. 

Sometimes your betta may start to develop black spots on their body.

If a color change is the only symptom, finding out the actual reason is difficult at first. However, you can check the water parameters whether all are ok, perform a water change after that, and observe further.

#3: Dropsy

Dropsy is a condition where your fish’s body swells with fluid because it’s the disease that causes kidney failure in betta fish. As a result, the scales will protrude outward, and the fish’s eyes may bulge.

This is a severe condition and is often fatal. Therefore, if you see any signs of Dropsy, you should immediately seek medical attention for your fish. 

However, in most cases, betta fish will die if the disease is advanced, and many aquarists prefer to euthanize the affected fish.

Dropsy can occur for several reasons, including but not limited to poor water quality, improper nutrition, temperature shock, stress, etc. 

Treatment of Dropsy starts with rectifying underlying causes, and infected fish may be saved if they are isolated and treated promptly after being discovered.

#4: Laying Down At The Bottom Of The Tank

The unexpected appearance of your betta fish at the bottom of the tank might indicate that it is dying. However, your betta may sleep at the bottom as well. There is a subtle difference between a sick betta and a sleeping betta.

Betta fish can sleep uniquely and peculiarly. I have a separate article on how betta fish sleep and their striking sleeping pattern. If you like, you can have a quick look at that.

If your betta is laying on the aquarium’s substrate but maintaining an upright position, it is likely merely resting. On the other hand, if you find that they are relaxing more often than usual and resting on their side on the substrate, this might be a sign of a sick betta.

In addition to the illness that causes betta fish to rest on their backs, there are additional causes. So first, read all the different reasons, and then dig down to find out the actual cause and make a remedy.

#5: Labored Breathing

Labored breathing is another vital symptom of betta fish dying. Their operculum, or gill coverings, open and close rapidly as they gasp for air. This is a sure sign that your betta is in distress and is not getting enough oxygen.

If it’s happening because of the low oxygen level in your tank, it’s straightforward to solve. Install a bubbler, and increase oxygen level; however, be careful about the current intensity because bettas prefer a slow stream. A strong current may stress them.

The real problem is if your tank has sufficient oxygen, but still, your betta is struggling to breathe. In that case, it is a sign of a more significant problem such as infection, parasites, or tumors.

If the betta is struggling for air and its gills are not only inflamed but also moving quickly, even though the ambient circumstances are entirely normal, the critter is approaching dangerously close to the end of its life.

#6: Decreased Appetite & Weight Loss

Decreased appetite is common in older bettas. As bettas grow older, their metabolism drops down, and as a result, they feel less hunger. Decreased metabolism can also be seen because of cold water in the betta tank.

You have nothing to do if it’s because of age, but if it’s happening for low water temperature, gradually raise the temperature to the ideal value (78 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit) for a betta.

It’s alarming when a lack of appetite occurs quite suddenly (i.e., over a week), and it signifies your betta is severely sick. Your betta will lose its weight, shrink, and eventually might lead to death if it is unnoticed.

Weight loss can also occur from parasite infection. In that case, betta fish will shrink in size despite you feeding the right amount.

#7: Curved Spine & Lesion

These are two more vital symptoms of betta fish dying that I want to discuss. If you notice your betta’s spine is curved or has a lesion, it is a sure sign that your betta is sick and dying.

A lesion is an open wound on the betta’s body. It can be caused by many things such as fighting, poor water quality, or bacterial infection. 

A curved spine is usually caused by TB (Tuberculosis) in fish. If the fish has lesions and the spine slopes sharply downward or to one side, it’s likely TB.

TB is a highly infectious disease, and it can pass from fish to fish; even humans can also get affected. When working with a TB-infected tank, always wear gloves. This illness has no cure, so your fish will die; however, it is rare in betta fish.

#8: Hunched Back

Bettas getting older usually have a minor or substantial hunch on their backs. This natural process occurs with age in male and female bettas alike.

If, on the other hand, your betta also begins to lose weight and develops a slender stomach, you should consider fish tuberculosis as well as internal parasites as potential causes of these symptoms.

#9: Clamped Fins

The final symptom of a betta fish dying that I want to discuss is when its fins clamp. This is usually a sign of stress, but it can also indicate that your betta is sick.

It is a situation where their fins are constantly curled against the body. The fish cannot fully stretch its body because the fin folds in on itself.

If you notice that your betta’s fins are clamped, the first thing you should check is the water quality. If the water quality is not up to par, it can cause your betta a lot of stress, leading to fin clamps.

Check the water’s temperature as well. If the water is too cold, it can cause your betta to clamp their fins.

If you have checked the water quality and temperature and everything seems fine, the fin clamps may be due to sickness. Common betta diseases that can cause fin clamps are Columnaris, velvet, and ich.

How Do Betta Fish Play Dead?

How Do Betta Fish Play Dead

Betta fish have a unique behavior pattern of pretending to be dead. Some of them engage in this behavior due to their goofy routines. In contrast, others do it solely to attract attention.

Sometimes they play dead only for a while; however, it is also possible to do that for thirty minutes.

How Can You Save A Dying Betta Fish?

If you think that your betta fish is dying, there are a few things that you can do to try to save it.

  • First, you should check the water quality in your tank. Ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates should all be at 0 ppm. If the water quality is poor, you should do a water change immediately.
  • You should also check the temperature of the water. Bettas prefer water that is between 76 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. If the water is too cold or too hot, it can stress your fish and make it more susceptible to illness.
  • Finally, you should check for signs of disease. If your fish has any lesions, or white spots, or is flashing, it may be suffering from an illness.

If you think that your fish has a disease, you should consult a veterinarian who can prescribe medication.

How To Prevent Betta Fish Death

The best way to protect your betta fish from dying is to prevent them from becoming ill in the first place.

  • You can do this by maintaining a clean and well-filtered tank, keeping the water temperature stable, and feeding your fish a healthy diet. Introducing some live plants in the betta tank will help keep the parameters in a suitable range for betta fish.
  • You should also avoid overfeeding your fish and ensure they have enough space to swim. A 5-gallon tank is a bare minimum for a betta fish; however, bigger is better. In addition, avoid keeping male bettas together to prevent fighting.

Wrapping Up

Pet betta fish may be stunning and one-of-a-kind animals. However, it is essential to be aware of the signs that your fish is dying so that you can take action and save them.

I hope this article helped you understand how can you tell if your betta fish is dying. Remember, the best way to prevent your betta from dying is by keeping a close eye on them and acting quickly if you notice any of the above symptoms.

Do you have a story about your betta fish dying? Please share in the comments below! I’m sure other betta owners would love to hear about it.

If you found this article helpful, please share it with your friends! Who knows, you may just save a betta’s life!

Sujit Modak

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