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At our practice, we see a lot of sick betta fish. There are many steps that can be taken without a veterinarian to get your betta fish back to better health.
Step 1: Put Your Sick Betta Fish in a Heated, Filtered Tank
Gone are the days of bettas in antiquated bowls, or even worse, vases. Or did I speak too soon? The best home for your betta is a 5-10 gallon tank with a low flow filter and a HEATER. Yes, bettas NEED HEAT. We never see 90% of our betta calls because they are “magically” fixed by making these two changes. Learn more about our Betta Standard of Care here.
Step 2: Toss Your Ancient Betta Food and Feed them Appropriately
Betta food containers are WAY too big for all bettas. We have NEVER seen a betta actually finish a container of food in a timely manner. After 6 months of opening your container of betta food daily, you have lost a significant proportion of the water-soluble vitamin content, mainly Vitamin C. Therefore, no matter how much of the container your fish has eaten, after 6 months, toss it and buy a new one. Here is out favorite food for bettas.
Now, how much should you feed your betta? Once they are all toasty in a heated tank, you will need to feed them twice a day. Since betta pellet size varies widely, feed them enough pellets that would theoretically fit inside one of their eyeballs. Here is more information on how to properly feed your betta.
Additional Considerations for Sick Betta Fish
Common Betta Fish Diseases
Most betta diseases originate from poor husbandry (see step 1 & 2 above). The most common of the betta fish diseases our clinic sees is “fin rot,” which really isn’t what you think it is (see below). The second most common betta fish disease we see is a “fat” or “bloated” betta. This is where things get tricky. “Fat” bettas will fall into one of the following categories: overfeeding (limited treatment – NOT FASTING), tumor (no treatment) or bacterial infection (most commonly Mycobacteria – no treatment). You will require a veterinarian to discern between these causes and discuss potential treatment options. NEVER stick your betta with a needle! If your fish has Mycobacteria, you can infect yourself!
Betta fish are also prone to most freshwater parasites. Since they are kept individually, they usually are not the parasite provider, but can easily fall ill if it enters their system on another fish or infected plant. Learn more about how to properly quarantine your fish and your aquatic plants.
Torn fins, aka “fin rot,” on a betta is 79% caused by poorly chosen décor, 20% stress and 1% by a primary bacterial infection. Many tank décor items deemed “betta safe” are actually not. Want the true test? Run all your decorations along a piece of tissue paper; if it tears the paper, it will tear your fish’s fins. “Over decorated” tanks are a common cause of betta “fin rot” where a betta just can’t help but run into stuff.
When fish are sick, their immune system is in hyperactive mode and their clotting factors increase. This leads to many tiny blood clots getting stuck in the delicate ends of fins, cutting off blood supply and leading to tissue death. Best method to fix this –> see steps 1 & 2.
Do you known what a “crowntail” betta is? No? Then you need to read this. These fish have irregular tails that will never be “full” no matter what you do.
With a life span of only 3-5 years, your betta may be a geriatric without you even knowing. Many fish entering the pet trade are of an unknown age, so if your fish is struggling, it may not be your fault, just a fish at the end of their life span. The only way to determine age in a fish is to examine their ear bones, provided they live in a seasonal system with variations in temperatures. This does not apply to bettas living in synthetic, isolated systems.
Looking for a Betta? Adopt! Don’t Shop!
We have seen many fish-specific rescue organizations pop up in the last few years. If you are interested in getting a betta, please check these out before cruising your pet store shelves. We have seen many of these organizations take extremely better care of their fish.