Betta Fish Diseases

Fish are very delicate creatures to take care of, and it is important that their owners are attentive to their needs and able to quickly address health issues and other complications. Believe it or not, it is even possible that fish might get depression, which you can witness as malaise and lack of activity. Of course it is often impossible to know what’s going on inside your little fishes, but by being attentive and prepared there are some great precautions you can take to try and help them no matter the problem.

First of all, make sure you keep your water clean and well balanced for your fish to try and prevent betta fish diseases before they occur. At the same time keep a close eye out for betta fish diseases – if one occurs you need to act fast as the condition will likely spread through your fish’s tiny body quickly. At the same time it is also important to put your fish in quarantine to prevent the infection spreading to others. Finally, as you need to act so quickly, make sure you have medicines for the various betta fish diseases before you notice anything wrong with them. This way you can combat the condition immediately as soon as you notice it.

Some good medicines to have around include: BettaZing, for a general preventative; tetracycline, for bacterial infection; ampicillin, for eye-pop (bellow) and some other infections; maracin, for mild infections; and jungle fungus eliminator, for fungus infections. To know what to administer your then need to be able to quickly and accurately diagnose the individual betta fish diseases. Following is a list of some of the more common problems:

Fungal Infection

This causes your betta’s body to develop faint white patches and also results in a lack of activity. By adding a tea spoon of salt to your aquarium you can prevent this occurring, and can treat with ‘fungus eliminator’ and then ‘bettazing’. This is contagious so be sure to remove your fish, and change its water every three days to remove the infection from the tank.

Tail Rot

This is an unpleasant condition in which the fins will appear to shorten and fray, possibly also changing colour. Your fish will likely also lose its appetite. This is caused by dirty water so be sure to change it regularly. Once you notice the condition, change the water completely and use ampicillin – this should take about 4 weeks after which the fins should begin to grow back.

Body Rot

If you do not catch the tail rot early enough this can progress to body rot which is more serious. Here the fins will start rotting away and then the body, and might even result in bones becoming visible. It is hard to cure the condition at this point, but your fish can live happily for several months still with the right treatment. Use tetracycline and change the water completely. Additionally use ampicillin on a higher does and bettazing and change the water regularly. Do not be worried about overmedication at this point.


Ick is caused by a parasite and can be prevented by adding salt to the water. Here your fish will develop small white dots like ‘sprinkles’ (smaller and more abundant than a fungal infection) and may stop eating. They might also be seen scratching against rocks and other inanimate objects to try and scratch their skin. Treat the whole tank incase the parasite has already spread by raising the temperature of the water to 85 degrees F, and by adding a drop of auarisol every day. You should be able to deal with the problem fairly quickly, and fortunately it is not a serious condition.


Velvet is the number one killer of better fries and is hard to spot. To identify it you need to use a flashlight on your fish which will expose specks of what look like ‘gold dust’. Use the torch if your fish are acting quietly and scratching but yet have no visible condition. Again treat the whole tank with bettazing with 12 drops per gallon. Meanwhile try to starve the tank of light by keeping it somewhere dark.


This is a very easy condition to spot, and results in your fish’s eyes bulging out of their head. Keep the water clean to prevent this condition. While it looks unsettling it is not terribly serious, though it may be a precursor to something worse such as tuberculosis. In some cases your fish may lose an eye. Firstly then, change the water, and then add ampicillin to the new water (one capsule per 10 gallons of water). Be careful not to overmedicate here though. Treat for a week after the problem subsides.


Dropsy is the number one killer of adult betta and is a serious condition if your fish gets it. This is sometimes caused by kidney failure, but relatively little is known about it. Normally it is identifiable by raised scales and a bloated stomach. There is no known cure, and your only course of action is to ensure your fish is removed immediately from the water.


This is possibly one of the most deadly betta fish diseases, though few people are aware of how to diagnose it. This condition can mimic other betta fish diseases and this makes it hard to identify. Generally though it is caused when bacteria attacks the internal organs; particularly the kidneys and liver, leading to organ failure and death. In extremely rare cases this can be passed to humans. To identify tuberculosis in your fish look for signs of deterioration with no obvious physical symptoms – i.e. malaise, lack of appetite etc. The precise symptoms will vary depending on the organs that are suffering. Unfortunately there is again no cure, simply be sure to quarantine your fish and to clean out your tank and items to protect your other fish.

Other Parasites and Infections

Many other betta fish diseases are caused by parasites both internal and external and internal. Here you should just use your common sense and the guide to the above medications to treat your betta. Remove them from the tank and change the water, then treat with anti-bacterial or anti-fungal medication. By treating your fish wisely and spotting problems early you should be able to turn a poorly betta fish into a better fish… Good luck!

1 Comment

  1. Is there a brand of ampicillin you recommend?

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Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki is a full time writer who spends most of his time in the coffee shops of London. Adam has a BSc in psychology and is an amateur bodybuilder with a couple of competition wins to his name. His other interests are self improvement, general health, transhumanism and brain training. As well as writing for websites and magazines, he also runs his own sites and has published several books and apps on these topics.

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