Betta Fish Diseases: How to Identify and Treat Common Illnesses

Betta fish are one of the most popular aquarium fish. They are often kept in large tanks and can be quite colorful. However, they are also susceptible to a number of diseases.

Common betta fish diseases

A blue betta fish against a black background

It is very frightening when your betta fish stops moving, stops eating, hides, and behaves abnormally. The most common betta fish diseases are fungal infections, bacterial infections, and parasitic infections. These can be caused by a variety of factors, including poor water quality, stress, and poor nutrition.

Fungal infections are caused by a fungus that attacks the skin or fins of the fish. Bacterial infections are caused by bacteria that infect the skin, gills, or internal organs of the fish. Parasitic infections are caused by parasites that attach themselves to the body of the fish.

Here are 16 of the most common betta fish diseases, including how you can avoid or treat them.

1. Fin and tail loss

Betta fish are popular for their beautiful colors and flowy fins. However, like other fish, bettas can succumb to fin and tail loss. This problem can be caused by a number of factors, including poor water quality, fungal infections, and parasites. If you notice your betta losing its fins or tail, take him to a vet for treatment as soon as possible. Treatment may include antibiotics, anti-parasitic medications, or fungicides.

Treating fin and tail loss

There are a few things you can do to treat fin and tail loss in your betta fish. One is to make sure that the water quality in your tank is good. You should also make sure that your betta fish is eating properly. If your betta fish isn’t getting enough food, it may lose its fins or tail. You can also try adding supplements to the tank, such as omega-3 fatty acids, which can help promote healthy skin and fins. If your betta fish’s fins or tail continue to deteriorate, you may need to take it to a vet for further treatment.

2. Fin and tail rot

Betta fish with tattered fins.

Altough we just discussed fin loss, another fin disease you must be aware of is fin loss. Both fin rot and fin loss are quite different. Fin and tail rot can be caused by a number of things, including poor water quality, infection, and parasites. The fins and tail may become discolored, brittle, and ragged. If left untreated, the fins and tail may eventually fall off. There are several things you can do to help prevent or treat betta fish fin and tail rot. First, make sure you are providing your betta with clean water and a healthy diet. Second, if you notice any signs of fin or tail rot, treat your betta with antibiotics or antiparasitic medication as prescribed by your veterinarian.

Treating fin and tail rot

The most common antibiotics used to treat fin and tail rot are erythromycin and tetracycline. Treatment usually lasts for two weeks and will be administered by your veterinarian.

3. Swim bladder disease

Swim bladder disease is a common ailment in betta fish. It is caused by a number of factors, including bacterial infections, parasites, and swim bladder disorder. Symptoms of swim bladder disease include difficulty swimming, floating at the surface of the water, and loss of appetite. The condition can be treated with antibiotics or other medications, but in some cases, the fish may need to be euthanized.

Treating swim bladder disease

One thing you can do is to give your fish an Epsom salt bath. You can also add some peas to your fish’s diet. Peas help to treat swim bladder disease because they contain fiber, which helps to move food through the digestive system.

Another thing you can do is to give your fish some antibiotics. Antibiotics will help to clear up any infection that may be causing the swim bladder disease.

4. Mouth fungus

There is a type of fungus that can form in a betta fish’s mouth. This fungus is known as thrush and it can cause difficulty breathing and eating. If your betta has a white film on its lips, it may have mouth fungus. Left untreated, the fungus can spread to other parts of the fish’s body and lead to death.

Treating mouth fungus

Fortunately, there are several ways to treat mouth fungus in bettas.

One option is to add aquarium salt to the water. The aquarium salt will help kill the fungus and make your betta more comfortable. Another option is to use an over-the-counter anti-fungal medication. Be sure to follow the dosage instructions carefully, and don’t stop treatment until the fungus is gone.

5. Dropsy

Dropsy is a serious and often deadly disease that can affect any fish, but is most commonly seen in bettas. Dropsy is a serious and often deadly disease that can affect bettas of any age. The disease causes the fish’s body to swell with fluid, and it can eventually lead to death. Make sure your betta’s water is clean and free of pollutants, and keep an eye on your fish for any signs of illness.

Treating dropsy

If your betta fish has Dropsy, the first step is to treat the infection. You can buy an over-the-counter antibiotic from a pet store to treat the infection. Follow the directions on the package to make sure you’re giving your betta fish the right dose.

Keep your betta fish in a warm, clean environment while it’s recovering. Clean the tank frequently, and add a heater if needed to keep the water temperature at 78 degrees or higher.

Your betta fish may also need extra food while it’s recovering from Dropsy. Feed it small meals several times a day until it’s back to normal.

This will help to make the environment more hospitable for the fish and will also help to promote healing.

You can also give them an Epsom salt bath to help reduce inflammation.

If your betta fish is having trouble eating, you can try feeding him or her crushed up food or using a feeding syringe. If you notice any other symptoms, such as redness or swelling, be sure to consult with a veterinarian.

6. Popeye

Popeye is a common sight in betta fish tanks. It is caused by a nutritional deficiency, most often lack of vitamin A. Popeye causes the betta’s eye to protrude from the socket. The eye may also be cloudy and have a red hue. There is no cure for betta fish Popeye, but it is not usually fatal. Treatment consists of adding vitamins to the tank and ensuring the betta has a varied diet.

Treating popeye

To treat popeye, the antibiotic of choice is erythromycin. Follow the directions on the packaging.

If you are using an oral antibiotic such as erythromycin, it is important to keep the water temperature at 80 degrees. Betta fish are very sensitive to changes in temperature and can quickly become ill if their environment is not stable.

7. Ich

Ich is a protozoan parasite that can infect betta fish. The most common sign of ich is the appearance of white spots on the fish’s body. Other signs include scratching against objects in the tank, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Ich can be treated with medication, but it is important to get treatment for ich as soon as possible, as the disease can be fatal to betta fish.

Treating ich

If your betta has only a few white spots, you can treat it with over-the-counter ich medication. These medications come in tablet or powder form, and are added to the tank water. Treatment usually lasts for 7-10 days.

If your betta has a more severe infection, you will need to use prescription ich medication. This medication is available from your veterinarian, and is usually given as an injection or oral treatment. Treatment usually lasts for 2-4 weeks.

8. Velvet

Betta fish velvet, also called ‘betta disease’ is a parasitic infection most commonly seen in betta fish. The parasite that causes the infection is called Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, and can be identified by its characteristic white spots on the fish’s body. Velvet is highly contagious and can quickly wipe out an entire aquarium of fish if left untreated.

The good news is that velvet is relatively easy to treat, and most cases can be cleared up with a simple course of medication. The key is to catch it early, before the infection has a chance to take hold. If you notice any signs of velvet in your betta fish, take action immediately and treat them with a veterinarian-recommended medication.

Treating velvet

The best way to treat velvet is with a medication called Formalin. You can buy this medication at most pet stores. Follow the directions on the medication.

If you don’t have Formalin, you can also use Methylene Blue.

9. Anchor worms

Anchor worms are a parasitic nematode that can infect betta fish. The worms attach themselves to the fish’s body, where they feed on the host’s blood and tissue.

Anchor worms can cause significant damage to the fish and may lead to death. Symptoms of anchor worm infection include skin lesions, lethargy, and weight loss.

Treatment for anchor worm infection includes using a deworming medication or manual removal of the worms. Prevention of anchor worm infection includes using a deworming medication regularly and providing a clean, healthy environment for your fish.

Treating anchor worms

If you suspect your betta has anchor worms, you can treat them with either medication or salt.

The first step is to isolate the infected fish in a separate tank until it has been treated. The water in the infected tank should be treated with a deworming medication, such as praziquantel or metronidazole.

You can also treat the infected fish by soaking it in a salt bath. Add 1 teaspoon of salt per gallon of water and soak the fish for 15-20 minutes.

10. Constipation

There are a few things that can cause betta fish to become constipated. One of the most common causes is eating too much food. If your betta is fed too many pellets or flakes, it may not be able to digest all of the food and will become constipated.

Another common cause of constipation is lack of exercise. Bettas who do not get enough exercise can become sluggish and their bowels will slow down. Poor water quality can also lead to constipation in bettas.

Treating constipation

There are a few things you can do to help treat constipation in your betta fish:

  1. Feed your betta fish small, frequent meals. This will help keep their digestive system moving.
  2. Try giving your betta fish some live or frozen brine shrimp. This will help stimulate their digestive system.
  3. Try feeding your fish boiled peas or spinach (in very small amounts)

11. Fungal infections

Many betta fish owners are unaware of the risk fungal infections pose to their fish. While fungal infections are not common in bettas, they can be deadly if left untreated—early detection is key to successful treatment.

Symptoms of a fungal infection in a betta include lesions on the body, fin rot, white patches on the skin or scales, and cloudy eyes. If you notice any of these signs in your betta, take him to a qualified aquarist for diagnosis and treatment.

Treatment for a fungal infection in a betta usually involves antibiotics and/or antifungals. The type of medication and dosage will be based on the severity of the infection. In most cases, the prognosis is good if the infection is caught early and treated properly.

Treating fungal infections

If your betta fish has a fungal infection, there are a few things you can do to help treat it.

One is to increase the water temperature in the tank to around 85 degrees Fahrenheit. This will help kill the fungus. You can also add some aquarium salt to the tank, which will help inhibit fungal growth.

Additionally, you can give your betta fish some medicated food or drops that will help fight the infection. If the infection doesn’t improve after a few days, you may need to take your fish to a vet for additional treatment.

12. Hole in the head disease (HITH)

This is a condition that causes lesions on the head and/or fins of the fish. The lesions can be open sores or white patches on the skin. The cause of Hole in the Head disease is not known, but it is believed to be caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors.

The symptoms of Hole in the Head disease include lesions on the head or fins, loss of appetite, weight loss, and abnormal swimming behavior. If your betta fish displays any of these symptoms, you should take him to a veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.

Treating hole in the head disease

The most important step in treating HITH is to correct any water quality issues that may be contributing to the infection. Make sure the water is clean and pH-balanced, and that there is enough oxygenation.

If the infection is severe, it may be necessary to use medication. There are several types of medication available for treating HITH, including antibiotics, antiparasitic drugs, and antifungal agents. Your veterinarian can help you choose the right medication for your fish.

13. Ammonia burn

Ammonia burn is a very real and deadly problem that commonly affects these fish. The ammonia levels in the water can become so high that it burns the fish’s skin and eyes. This can lead to blindness, ulcers, and even death. There are several things you can do to help prevent your betta from getting an ammonia burn, including keeping the tank clean, using a filter, and adding a water conditioner.

Treatment for ammonia burn

The first step is to reduce the level of ammonia in the tank. You can do this by doing a water change, removing any uneaten food or waste, and adding an aquarium detoxifier. If the burn is severe, you may need to remove the fish from the tank and put it in a hospital tank until it heals.

You can also treat ammonia burns with medications. There are several over-the-counter medications available that can help reduce inflammation and promote healing. If the burn is severe, you may need to see a veterinarian for prescription medication.

14. Tuberculosis (TB)

Betta fish are susceptible to Tuberculosis, a bacterial infection that can cause lesions on their skin and lead to death. The disease is most commonly spread through contact with water or soil that is contaminated with the bacteria, but can also be spread through contact with other infected fish. Symptoms of tuberculosis in betta fish include skin lesions, weight loss, lethargy, and loss of appetite.

Treating TB

The disease can be treated with antibiotics if caught early, but often leads to death if not treated. If your betta fish appears to have a respiratory infection, take him or her to a veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.

Prevention of tuberculosis in betta fish includes keeping your tank clean and sanitary, quarantining new fish before adding them to your tank, and using only sterile water when filling your tank.

The most common antibiotics used to treat TB in fish are erythromycin and tetracycline. Treatment typically lasts for four to six weeks. Keep your betta fish in clean water during treatment, and monitor his or her progress closely.

15. Mouth rot

Mouth rot is a bacterial infection that affects the mouth of betta fish. The bacteria can cause lesions and inflammation in the mouth, which can lead to pain and difficulty eating. Mouth rot is a relatively common infection among betta fish, and can often be treated with antibiotics.

Treating mouth rot

Mouth rot is treated with antibiotics, either in the water or by mouth feeding. If caught early, mouth rot can often be cured with antibiotics added to the water. If the infection is more advanced, antibiotics may need to be given by mouth feeding. This involves using a syringe to squirt a small amount of antibiotic into the fish’s mouth.

In addition to antibiotics, it is important to keep the tank clean and well aerated. Fish with mouth rot should not be housed with other fish, as they may spread the infection.

16. Cloudy eye

A cloudy eye in a betta fish is not a good sign. It can be caused by a number of things, including an infection, parasites, or even tumors. If you notice your betta has a cloudy eye, you must start treatment immediately.

Treating cloudy eye

Cloudy eye is a common ailment in betta fish. Left untreated, it can lead to blindness and even death. Fortunately, cloudy eye can be treated with a variety of methods, including over-the-counter medications and home remedies.

The first step in treating cloudy eye is identifying and eliminating the cause of the infection. This may include changing the water temperature or adding aquarium salt to the water. If the infection is caused by a bacterial infection, over-the-counter medications such as erythromycin or neomycin can be used to treat the infection.

If your betta fish has cloudy eye, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible. Left untreated, cloudy eye can lead to blindness and even death. Speak to a your vet to ensure you’re choosing the right treatment.

17. Stress stripes

In the wild, betta fish display horizontal stripes as a natural defense against predators. These stress stripes disappear when the fish are in captivity.

Some people believe that the absence of stress stripes in captive bettas is an indication of a lack of stress in the fish’s environment. However, if the environment changes or something stresses out your betta fish, they will develop stress stripes.

Treating stress stripes

An unideal living environment can cause stressed bettas to exhibit stripes on their bodies. Check your tank size, tank environment, and water parameters. Adjust anything that may be less than ideal. You should also recount any recent changes to your betta fish’s environment that they might not like.

Maintaining a healthy betta fish

The best way to keep your betta fish healthy is to make sure their tank environment is set up correctly, and that you have the correct water parameters in place and you’re feeding them a balanced and healthy diet. You don’t want to risk an improper tank set up and ask yourself later on, “why did my betta fish die?“.

Having a sick betta fish is a terrible feeling, but once you’re informed, you’ll know how to care for them properly when they do fall ill.

Richard Parker

Richard is an avid aquarist and has been keeping betta fish and other freshwater fish since he was a young boy. Through Aquatic Buddy, he hopes to help others learn how to care for their betta fish so they thrive in their home environments.

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