Betta fish are living things, hence, there is no doubt if they get sick or not. As a result, you must plan ahead for the health care of your betta fish. But, do not worry, betta are hardy fish and won’t get to fall sick often, especially when the tank condition is optimum.
Just like any other animal, fish can get sick. Betta fish are no exception, they can suffer from bacterial, fungal, and parasitic diseases. The important thing is to identify the disease early enough and offer proper treatment to avoid further potential damages. Thus, your colorful and active pet will become lively and happy again.
To better care for your betta fish, there are common diseases you should keep an out for. Learning the early symptoms and treatments of these diseases will help you go a long way to keeping your betta safe.
Common Betta Fish Diseases, Prevention, Symptoms, and Treatment
Fin rot is one of the most common illnesses that bettas encounter. Out of the seventy species, only the hybridized domesticated betta has such long fins. While these fins are absolutely gorgeous, they do cause some issues.
Just like the common dog breeds that have issues (think about a pug’s deformed, but adorable, snout and their breathing problems), domesticated bettas have issues primarily related to their fins.
Since bettas did not evolve with long fins, their circulatory systems are not always able to adapt to the extra-long fins. While bad parameters cause most cases of fin rot, which in turn leads to bacterial infections, it is possible to have perfect water and reoccurring fin rot.
The circulation to the edges of the fins tends to be poor, which can lead to the edges dying off. This alone can be fin rot, but bacteria can infect surrounding flesh, and the dying and dead flesh can be infected by fungus.
Fin rot is most often identified as a raggedy appearance to the edges of the fins, like when you tear the soggy paper. The edges also often have a white, black, or gray ring.
If you have any ammonia or nitrite, or nitrates are over 40ppm, the cause is bad water quality. Doing daily water changes for a week or two should get rid of the fin rot.
Daily water changes can also help boost the immune system of your fish, so even with perfect parameters, water changes are not a bad idea. If frequent water changes do not help your fish, you should try an antibacterial, such as erythromycin or kanaplex. You can also do a hydrogen peroxide swab as a last resort.
This is a lethal bacterial infection that is unfortunately appearing more and more. It often looks like a fungus, and since fungus is typically slow-moving infections that can only latch on to dead flesh, they are not much of a concern.
On the other hand, columnaris can kill fish in as little as 12 hours, though it is often 24-48. Because it spreads so quickly, some fish may not show any symptoms at all, which can make diagnosis difficult.
The only good part about the fact that it moves so quickly is that even those with short quarantine periods (such as only three weeks) can catch this illness before it makes it to the main tank.
The best way to treat columnaris is with a mix of Kanaplex and Furan 2. It will not help to treat only those that appear afflicted, as most will not show symptoms. Treat the entire tank, and understand that these medications may crash your cycle, so it is essential to keep up with water changes after the treatment period.
Ich is a parasite that has a relatively long life cycle, close to a month, so treatment often lasts for at least that long. Many make the mistake of stopping treatment once they see the main symptoms disappear, but the eggs and larvae are often still hanging around.
The only good thing about this parasite is that it is easily identifiable. If you fish looks like it rolled in salt and has white specks all over it, you’ve got Ich. There isn’t anything else that presents as small, white spots.
While Ich can be treated by adding salt and raising the temperature, buying medication is often the better option. Raising the heat can impact the immune system of some fish, and certain fish, primarily catfish, do not tolerate salt.
On the other hand, snails, shrimp, and other invertebrates will not be able to handle the medication. That being said, it is easier for you to remove a snail for a few weeks and treat with medication rather than carefully measuring the gravity of your water and raising the temperature.
Velvet is another parasite, but it unfortunately looks very beautiful. It appears as a golden sheen on a fish, which can often be mistaken for some special patterning. On the flip side, you may also mistake some metallic patterning for velvet.
If you happen to have a metallic betta, any sheen is likely just coloring. However, if you have matte colored betta that reflects gold when you shine a flashlight on it, it is almost always velvet.
While this parasite is a nasty one, it is important to make a correct identification before treatment, as you should never medicate for no reason. Some medications, like kanaplex, can cause long term damage. Of course, most of the things that kanaplex treat cause immediate death, so it is definitely worth any potential trade off.
Since velvet is a parasite, you will notice more symptoms than simply a golden sheen. You will see your fish flashing, or darting into decorations. As the infection progresses, your betta will begin to lose energy, lose color, lose its appetite, have a change in its breathing (either faster or slower), clamped fins, and in severe cases, peeling skin and scales.
Velvet medications, just like Ich medication, will also kill snails, shrimp and other invertebrates. Both of these anti-parasitic medications contain copper. While it is awesome at getting rid of parasites, it will also get rid of your invertebrates.
Dropsy is a symptom of kidney failure caused by a buildup of fluids within the body. While the vast majority of cases are lethal, there is still treatment.
A fish’s kidney filters the blood and the flow of fluid in and out of the body. If it fails or is damaged, fluid will begin to fill up in the body. The most common symptom is “pine coning”, as the scales will stick out away from the body, making the fish look like a pinecone from the top.
This does not appear in normal bloat, as normal bloat is typically constipation. Only dropsy will cause the flesh in the scales to swell, which forces them outwards.
The best treatment is to add 1 tablespoon of unscented Epsom salt (which you can find at most grocery, convenience, and drug stores) for every 5 gallons of tank water, and to begin to treat with kanaplex.
The Epsom salt needs to be dissolved in a separate container and added very slowly. Even though it will not impact the salinity, it will raise the gH and TDS very quickly, which can cause osmotic shock.
However, most of the time with drospy, euthanization will be the kindest option. Check out our article on humane euthanization for a more comprehensive look at the methods.
Pop-eye is a common bacterial infection of the eye that causes the eye to swell significantly. This forces it out from the head and can look quite grotesque.
I have not personally seen a case of pop-eye that was not caused by bad water parameters. Check your ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. If you have any amount of ammonia or nitrite, or your nitrates are over 40ppm, that is the problem. You need to do extra water changes, often for over a week, and you may also need an antibacterial medication.
Severe bacterial infections almost never cause pop-eye, so most medications will work. It is possible that your fish will lose its eye, but this is not a serious issue for a fish in an aquarium. The likelihood of your fish dying from this is slim.
The occurrence of tumors in bettas is rapidly increasing. Tumors appear as lumps somewhere in the body and can either be the same color as the surrounding skin or a different color. Most tumors in bettas are benign, and cancer is very rare.
It is highly unlikely that you will be able to find a treatment for your fish. That being said, most can live their entire natural lives with a tumor without experiencing any complications.
The only treatment would be surgery, but you would be hard pressed to find a veterinarian who will do the surgery. Betta fish are such small animals that the risk of death would be extremely high, and surgery is almost impossible.
Betta fish can become sick from many different illnesses. The ones listed above are simply the most common ones you may see in bettas, and hundreds more can occur. You should always keep some medications on hand and keep an eye on your fish if they begin acting weird.