How Do You Treat a Betta Fish?


Betta fish can be a particular tricky species for an aquatic veterinarian to assess. Their tiny size limits diagnostics and usually limited water volume limits our ability to test water quality parameters. So, how do we work on such tiny fish?

Most of the exams for our betta patients are mainly visual. They are very difficult to manipulate and taking a gill sample wound require doll-scale scissors. They are resistant to sedation since their specialized labyrinth organ allows them to take oxygen in from the air.

A majority of our betta appointments are husbandry assessments. We see so many terrible betta cases we dedicated a section of our website to how you can fix them without a veterinarian! It comes down to two simple practices:

  • Get your betta a tank and filter
  • Get your betta a heater

You can read our Betta page, get help from our front desk, or pay the vet to tell you in person.

With enough water, we can perform our usual water quality assessments. Again, in a bowl with no filter, your fish will not thrive. Water quality and water changes for fish in bowls can be traumatic. By changing their water chemistry very rapidly, you can cause severe distress and even death.

In rare cases, we will need to get hands-on diagnostics. Our most challenging cases are bettas who are bloated from being overfed. Overfeeding betta fish in low temperature water, or severe overfeeding in a heated tank, causes them to get stopped up with a giant poo ball. (No, they are not “constipated.”) It is very sad when this happens, since there is very little we can do, but fish enemas are on the list! With the tiniest catheter they make, our vet is able to try and break down the fecal material to give the fish a fighting chance. Please do not try this at home; you could perforate the fish’s intestine and give them a slow, painful death.

You can prevent the “poo ball of death” by keeping your betta in a heated tank, with a filter, and feeding a few pellets once or twice a day.

We have also performed ultrasounds on betta fish. Our mobile ultrasound unit is for more than looking at giant koi! We can assess different masses and lumps on fish and try to determine their origin.

Ultrasound on a fancy goldfish

Every pet fish deserves a long, happy life. For all fish, this should include a yearly health assessment. For bettas, consider their environment as much as your own. Fish bowls are not appropriate for any fish, let alone bettas. By giving them a heated, filtered tank, you will give them a greater quality of life.

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6 thoughts on “How Do You Treat a Betta Fish?”

  1. Ruth Mohammed

    Hello my goldfish is a fantail calico.she had been lying on her side for a few months.she was abused by 2 aggressive Male fish.they were all raised up together..I didn’t realize they were attacking her until her fin were in their mouth.she got first they were both chasing her..she started to poop long stringy white poop..I have separated her tons of time.she is presently in her own tank.she stayed upside down .now in her own tank.she is on her side.she has a healthy appetite.and loves music,she waves her fin,and make circular movement..but otherwise she sleeps..
    Her diet is of green peas,vitamin,spirluna and blood worm..I have called around to get help for her,she had various treatment.i have changed filter to aqua 50. She has 2 filters in her tank.Her thermometer is set 80 degrees, she is in a 29 gallon tank.i changed water frequently..I have just finished a epsom treatment for a few days..and general cure treatment.she gets 2-3 grain of soft peas .she is swollen in her stomach nearer to her fins.Her rectal area is red..And she doesn’t poop a lot.any suggestions.i am looking forward to hearing what you will say.She is a beautiful little girl..and she doesn’t want to get up..

  2. General question: what are your thoughts on Bettafix? There seems to be a lot of contradiction on fish blogs…also, how does one properly do a fish in cycle during emergency situations? You don’t have to answer that here, but I’d be interested to see this in another blog post!

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