How To Cure A Sick Betta Fish

Just like every other creature, your bettas could encounter some health challenges at one time or another and as their owner, it is on you to diagnose the different diseases so that you can give your betta fish essential care. This chapter discusses some of the most common diseases you will encounter and offers the most common solutions.

IckIchthyophthirius multifiliis, which is simply referred to as Ick or Ich, is a common contagious disease which normally infects fish that are kept in tanks. This disease can be introduced to your bettas by any new plants you introduce to the tank, new fish and sometimes from the frozen or live foods that you feed them, but do not use the same food as bearded dragon food because it will probably harm your fish.

One of the best ways to avoid this sickness is to make sure that the water in your aquarium is treated with Aquarisol (a product that has been a betta life-saver for me).You can easily identify a betta that has Ick because it will be covered in small white dots.

This is the reason Ick is sometimes referred to as the White Spot Disease. You may also notice other signs such as itchiness as the fish tries to scratch itself on any hard surface in the tank. If the disease is left to progress further, the later stages will be characterized by lethargy with the fish finally developing some reddish streaks before it finally dies.

When you decide to treat your fish for Ick, you want to treat the whole tank instead of concentrating on the single fish since the parasite spreads quite easily.

The secret of dealing with Ick is to work fast so that the infection is dealt with before it spreads further. You will also need to increase the tank’s temperature to 85 degrees and also add the correct amount of Aquarisol every single day. If you have a small tank you may have to change the water before adding the Aquarisol.Be ready to change your Betta’s water once the disease is treated as this temperature and the chemicals present are not optimal for longevity. You are only doing this as a sort of “intensive therapy” to kill the parasite quickly and allow your betta to live on.

Ammonia Poisoning

Another extremely serious threat to your betta fish is ammonia poisoning which thrives when you have a new tank, or when you have one without a filter causing the tank to get stressed. Ammonia stress is normally caused by two things.

The first cause is a buildup or nitrite and ammonia which always lead to organ failure and makes your betta very susceptible to other diseases.

The second cause of ammonia stress is when ammonia replaces oxygen which greatly reduces the amount of oxygen in the water which greatly increases the risk of suffocation.

This is why regular water changes for your aquarium are extremely important.

Some of the visible signs of ammonia poisoning, sometimes called ammonia stress, can be noticed if you are keen on the behavior of your fish. They include loss of appetite, lethargy, inflamed gills, hovering at the bottom of the tank, inflammation in the gills or red streaks, inflamed anus or eyes, and gasping at the surface.

Ammonia stress can be very serious in small tanks and in situations where the fish are over populated leading to a quick succession of symptoms. The best way to deal with it is to do a regular water change, especially when the water is cycling so as to prevent an ammonia build up and new tank syndrome. If the water tank keeps on developing ammonia poisoning, you may be having a problem of overpopulation or perhaps a problem with the maintenance of your filter.

Damaged Fins

When dealing with damaged find you will have to differentiate between fin rot and fin loss both of which look alike but they are very different diseases that require different treatment.

You should be able to distinguish between them by careful observation. Fin rot comes as a result of a bacterial infection that causes the fins to look tattered. Fin loss, on the other hand, normally occurs as a result of damage or cuts as a result of sharp edges in tank decorations or by fins being nipped by other fish.

Fin Loss

This is perhaps the easier of the two fin damage problems to avoid and also to deal with. The best way to avoid it is by always making sure that you closely check any piece of decoration before introducing it to the tank. You need to remember that the Betta’s fins are quite fragile and anything such as driftwood, a sharp rock or piece of plastic can easily tear it off.

You can easily do a simple test in order to avoid placing sharp objects inside your aquarium. Get a piece of nylon or a lady’s pantyhose and run it through the piece of decor you intend to place inside the tank, if anyone of them is ripped or snagged, then you cannot place it inside the tank. If you really love the decoration and you feel like you must place it inside, you should file off any rough edges. Since plastic plants are among the worst culprits, you will be better off with live plants or those made from silk.

The other precaution that you need to take is to avoid mixing your bettas with fish that are fond of nipping fins. It is very easy for bettas to be harmed by any variety of fish that are aggressive or those which can swim faster than them. If you realize that fin nipping is taking place, you must immediately isolate the fin nipper or the betta because you want to avoid any infection that can occur on the nipped fin. Begin treatment as soon as possible to avoid further damage.

Betta fins don’t take too much time to heal and in most cases mild bites can heal without any need for treatment. As a rule of the thumb, always keep your tank water clean so that in the event that there is a minor injury there will not be any imminent danger of an infection occurring.

Fin Rot

The main cause of fin rot, which is a bacterial infection, is basically poor hygienic conditions in the water of your tank. If you are going to keep your bettas safe, you must be wary of this very common disease. This disease almost always occurs when your tank remains un-cycled over the course of time leading to an increase in the amount of ammonia and nitrite in the tank. The other known cause is high nitrate levels which come as a result of temperature and pH fluctuations.

The fluctuations as well as the influx of toxins will lead to a weakened immune system and your bettas will become prone to bacterial infections.

The most common symptoms of fin rot include bloody fin tips, loss of fin tissue, and blackened edges at the fin tips. If you suspect that your lovely bettas are suffering from fin rot, you must immediately check that your water purity is not the cause before you start looking for a solution. Some of the most important parameters you will have to check will include nitrate, nitrite, ammonia and pH levels as well as the water temperature.

Many toxins such as nitrite and ammonia tend to thrive in water that is alkaline with a pH of 7.0 and above and that makes bettas more susceptible to stress. If your bettas develop fin rot, you will have to do water changes more frequently and you may also have to add some nitrite or ammonia neutralizers. However, if the problem is not too severe, a water change and some careful observation will be good enough. During the healing process, you need to make sure that the environment in the tank is free from more toxins. Just remember that growing a new fin is a fragile condition and there is likelihood that they will have a few relapses. If you notice the fin growing back while curled slightly, don’t worry as this is common in the healing process.


Velvet is a serious and common parasitic infestation that can easily occur on your bettas and it is almost certain to occur when your fish is stressed, therefore making it an opportunistic parasite. Some of the cause of this form of stress includes bad water quality, fluctuations in temperature, overcrowding or any other stressors that can affect your betta.

This parasite survives by attaching itself primarily on the fin or gill tissue of a stressed Betta and consumes nutrients directly from the fish where it actually kills the cells of the tissue. When velvet is not treated promptly it will automatically lead to a quick death. From outward appearance a velvet infestation will resemble yellow dust, rust or gold that has been sprinkled finely on the body of the fish. This is normally not very easy to see, but you can identify the problem easily by using a flash light.

Apart from this outward appearance of infestation being seen, you will also notice some behavior such as the fish struggling to rub itself on pieces of rock, decorations or gravel. This is normally the first sign that the betta is struggling with some external parasite, but as time progresses, the parasites will move onto the fish. Symptoms will finally intensify to include sluggishness, lethargy, labored breathing, loss of appetite and clamped fins.

A short time later, these parasites will briefly detach themselves from their hosts and enter their dividing stage and they multiply quite quickly. At this time it is quite easy to eliminate them and even though they may not be seen in the tank, medication must continue in order to eliminate them completely. This is because as soon as they begin multiplying they will need to find another host within 24 hours or they rein fest their old host making matters worse for the betta.

The best treatment occurs when diagnosis is done early. Since this is an extremely infectious disease, the sick Betta must be isolated from the rest so as to reduce the risk of infecting others. There are antibiotics that can be used for the treatment which you can easily buy. It is also important that you slowly raise the temperature of the water but not too much to an extent that you actually shock the betta.

Since prevention is always better than the cure, some very simple precautions taken well in advance will protect your aquarium from being infested with the protozoa that is responsible for this problem. One of the most important things you must do is to make sure that your quarantine any new tank mate for some 3 or 4 weeks before you add them to the aquarium just to be sure. You must also ensure that you always take your water parameters on a regular basis and water changes are frequent. Last but not least, always make sure that stressors that include pH fluctuations and temperature changes are completely avoided while remembering to provide a balanced diet with a wide variety of frozen foods and live foods. This will help keep your betta’s immune system up to par.


This may sound embarrassing but it is true that constipation is very common among bettas and it is one of the main causes of loss of color. One of the main causes of constipation is a diet that is filled with too many rich foods, especially stuff like blood worms, without a sufficient amount if fiber.

Constipation can become especially serious in the older bettas so you need to be on the lookout. Diagnosing a constipated betta is not a difficult task, especially if you have learned what you need to look for.

One of the most distinguishable signs of a constipated Betta is lack of bowel movement or if there is any, it cannot be comparable to the amount of food that has been consumed. But how do you catch your betta ‘in the act”? Since this is quite difficult, it is important for you to know different other signs and symptoms to make it easy.

One of the telltale signs you cannot fail to notice is a swollen tummy (you may want to check the area between the ventral fin and the anal fin), a clear loss of appetite, and as the problem progresses further there will be an obvious loss of color. In most cases, constipation will be accompanied by a compatriot known as the swim bladder disease.

This is a blockage in the intestines as a result of constipation and will generally interfere with the smooth operation of the swim bladder. You can therefore see why it is important to take steps so that your betta does not get constipated in the first place.

While constipation is easy to diagnose, it is normally one of the betta diseases that is quite hard to treat and if it is not dealt with quickly, it will easily lead to the death of your betta. If you suspect that a betta is constipated you must first isolate him from the rest; this does not imply that constipation can be contagious, but it will assist you to monitor how much food this specific fish is eating and the amount of fecal matter that is being eliminated.

The first thing to do is to stop feeding the constipated betta. As we have discussed before, bettas will be fine for a few days without food, so don’t get worried. You want to make sure that you are not adding any more food while waste is not being eliminated. One of the effective remedies that I have seen is giving what is known as “the pea trick.”

Cook a frozen pea until it becomes mushy and try to feed it to your fish. The other remedy is to try and make sure that you give the Betta an Epsom salt bath. This does not mean that you add salt into the tank because any amount of salt will lead to the accumulation of water into his body and we don’t want him to get bloated, rather to excrete, and Epsom salt will do a perfect job of this.

Just prepare a small bowl for him to swim around in for “therapy sessions” to help ease the constipation. Doing this during a water change is a bad idea, as the therapy itself is stressful for the fish, and combining stressful events is not the best way to make your little friend feel better.

If you are going to keep bettas, you will most likely have to deal with constipation at one time or another. You must therefore make a deliberate effort to feed them with a balanced diet. Make sure that you keep off too many rich and fatty foods especially bloodworms. Make sure that the diet has sufficient roughage by especially including peas like we already discussed.