Is my Betta Fish Healthy or Dying?

betta fish

One of the most serious problems betta owners face is an uncertainty about whether their betta is healthy or experiencing symptoms of disease.

Does this sound familiar?

If you think your favorite houseplant isn’t growing correctly or it isn’t as healthy as you’d like, you start giving it more water – and then maybe just a little more water – and pretty soon you’ve killed your plant by overwatering it…

Well, the same scenario can happen with your betta fish.

Although you can’t really “overwater” your betta, it can be difficult to determine if your fish is healthy or sick – and sometimes, in an effort to give your betta the best care, you end up “overdoing” it (overfeeding, overmedicating, etc.).

On the flip side, you don’t want to neglect a betta fish that is, in fact, sick and needs treatment.

Most bettas don’t live as long as they could because owners don’t know how to tell if their betta is healthy or dying.

 How can I tell if my betta fish is healthy? 

Here are some signs your fish is healthy and happy:

  •  Your betta’s color is bright and vibrant.
  • Your betta’s fins have no tears or holes.
  • Your fish’s scales are smooth.
  • Your “show-offy” betta is making quick movements.

These are all signs of a healthy betta – one that doesn’t need more food or medication and that is enjoying a healthy aquarium environment.

How can I tell if my betta fish is sick? 

Even the best betta parents can’t always prevent a betta fish from getting sick and as a result, they may need to adjust their betta fish care techniques. Your betta may need modifications to his environment or possibly even medication if he’s doing any of the following things:

  • Shaking
  • Hiding at the bottom or in corners of the tank
  • Spending a lot of time at the top of the tank, gasping for air
  • Rubbing up against items in the aquarium
  • Swimming in a strange way
  • Fins look “clamped”
  • Fins are rotting

Why is my betta fish sick?

 OK, so you’ve determined your betta isn’t healthy – now to figure out why. There are many reasons your fish could be sick, and many can be addressed by simple changes in your betta care regimen.  Maybe the water is too warm or too cold. Maybe chlorine or other chemicals in the tank are toxic to your betta. Or maybe some new addition to the aquarium – rocks, decorations, and other fish – introduced a disease. Next, we will discuss some common environmental issues and diseases that could be making your betta sick.


Some of the most common diseases that affect betta fish are cotton wool disease, velvet disease or ich, all of which you can easily treat (after diagnosis, of course) with water changes and possibly over-the-counter medication only as a last resort.

  • Cotton wool disease is a common and contagious disease marked by white, fluffy patches around the gills and fins.
  • Velvet disease is a parasite that attaches itself to your fish’s skin, hence why your betta may be rubbing against items in the tank like a bear against a tree. Look for a gold- or copper-colored film on your betta’s body.
  • Ich is a parasite that appears as small, white dots on your fish’s body. Ich may be the reason he’s rubbing up against items in the aquarium as well.

For these conditions, isolate your betta fish immediately and consult your veterinarian or a specialist at the fish store if you are unsure how to administer treatment. Most betta diseases can be easily treated with improved water quality. In fact, poor water quality and/or malnutrition is normally the reason why fish contract disease in the first place. Prevention is the best cure!

Environmental causes

Betta fish are sensitive to their environments, so make sure a poor environment isn’t making them sick.

  • Chlorine: Most public utilities in the US add chlorine to the water supply, so tap water in your aquarium could be harming your fish. The best remedy is to use a commercial dechlorinator that includes sodium thiosulfate and ammonia removers. 
  • Temperature: Your betta fish likes things toasty, and he can’t exactly throw on a jacket. The water temperature in bettas’ natural habitat ranges from 76 degrees to 82 degrees, and you should strive to keep the temperature in your aquarium within that range.
  • pH levels: Betta fish need a lower pH level than that of most tap water, which can have a pH of 10 or higher. Although some betta fish can handle a pH level of up to 7.8, most need levels below that. A test kit from the pet store or your fish dealer can tell you the pH levels in your tank, while products are available to balance the water’s pH.

If you notice your fish showing signs of disease, assess the situation and improve the water quality and quarantine if needed. Use medications only if you are sure of the disease and you have exhausted all other resources and follow directions carefully.

Happy betta keeping!


About The Author

Adam Short is the proud owner of Betta Fish Center, a fun, educational resource for betta owners looking for information on how to keep their fish happy and healthy.

Connect with Adam on his website forum as he chats with betta owners, or on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or Pinterest!

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Adam Short is the proud owner of Betta Fish Center, an educational resource for betta owners looking for information on how to keep their fish happy and healthy. The site includes free articles, videos, user-submitted gallery images and a betta forum where members can interact and ask questions.
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