How to Tell If Your Betta Fish is Dying

How to Tell If Your Betta Fish is Dying- 6 Common Signs

Betta fish have quite a short lifespan. They live for 3-5 years on average (both males and females), so knowing when your Betta might die is important. The good news is that you can easily notice some warning signs before they die.

You can tell that your Betta fish is dying by observing its behavior and general appearance. Dying Bettas typically exhibit lethargy, color loss, decreased appetite, frequent breathing, and many more.

These signs are often subsidiary to improper water parameters and infections. Here is how to tell if your betta fish is dying by observing six common signs.

How to Tell If Your Betta Fish is Dying

child sitting on aquarium

1. Lethargy

Lethargy is one of the most common signs of a dying Betta fish.

Bettas are typically energetic and active fish and enjoy exploring their environment during the day. However, their activity level reduces when they are sick, and they start acting lazier than usual.

You will find that your Betta is spending more time on the bottom of the tank hanging around the plants.

Aging Betta also faces the same problem. They tend to be lazier than before if there is an issue with tank temperature, ammonia, nitrate, or illness.

2. Fading Colors

Sudden loss of color is another issue that calls for concern. If there is a significant color change, the chances are that your Betta fish is extremely sick.

Betta fish are prone to various health issues, including bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections and diseases. If a Betta fish is affected by any of these, they start to lose its color.

Meanwhile, if it’s a slight dulling, your Betta could be old, and if the scales are turning into a different color, it might just be the marble gene.

Marble genes can change the color of a Betta at any point in its life. And depending on the circumstance, the gene makes the color lighter or darker. Older Bettas tend to grey slowly by fading to a slightly lighter color.

Read: How much vinegar to clean fish tank after betta dies?

white gold fish
Betta fish

3. Loss of Appetite

A reduced appetite is a common sign of old age. As Bettas get older, its metabolism reduces, so it simply doesn’t require as much food as before. Lower than usual temperature can also cause the same effect on a healthy Betta.

An extremely sick Betta will also have a decreased or nonexistent appetite. The change is gradual over weeks or months for aged Betta, but the reduced appetite will be much faster for sick Betta, usually just a week.

4. Rapid Breathing

Frequent breathing is another warning sign of a sick or old Betta. A sick or old fish will breathe faster than usual.

When it comes to old fish, the change is gradual, and you might not notice it until you compare it with a younger one. However, for a sick fish, you will be able to notice the symptoms within one or two days or just a few hours in extreme cases.

Sick or old Betta breathes rapidly and heavily due to the low oxygen concentration. However, heavy breathing could also occur due to stressful conditions such as chemical contamination, underlying health issue, or high ammonia levels.

Again, if you notice your Betta is taking atmospheric air more than usual, know that there’s an issue with your tank water quality.

Read: Curing popeye in betta fish

5. Laying Down

Fish should swim at the bottom, in the middle, or at the water surface. They should not linger on the surface or at the bottom of the tank.

Although there could be various reasons why a Betta lies down at the bottom, some call for concern while others are not.

Typically, Bettas rest by lying down at the bottom of the tank. However, if you notice them resting more often than usual, this should concern you.

A Betta also lies down at the bottom of the tank when they are at its final stage of life. Sometimes it occurs if there is no filter in the tank since ammonia and chemicals may build up when you don’t have a filter.

Your Betta fish lying flat at the bottom of the tank is a bad sign. If it is caused by old age or disease, your fish will likely not live much longer.

6. Raised Scales

If the scales on your Betta are raised, your fish is probably suffering from dropsy. Dropsy is not a sign of aging but could be a symptom of kidney failure, internal infections, or an unhealthy diet.

Of course, healing any major organ failure in a fish is difficult and often impossible. Dropsy is one of those illnesses that nearly always end in death.

The sure sign of dropsy in a Betta fish is extreme swelling, often accompanied by pine-coning scales. When the kidney fails, fluid accumulates in the fish’s body and causes it to swell.

The leading causes of kidney failure in fish include fungus, injury, age, parasites, and bacteria.

The only treatable type of kidney failure in fish is a bacterial infection and is often treated with unscented Epson salts or Kanaplex.

Read: Moving betta to bigger tank

Frequently Asked Question on How to Tell If Your Betta Fish is Dying

Do Betta Fish Die Easily?

Bettas don’t die easily, but they require certain foods and specific water parameters to remain healthy and live a long, comfortable life. They are hardy fish, and if given the proper care, bettas can live up to 3-7 years.

How Can I Tell If My Pet Betta Fish is Happy?

A happy Betta fish will swim around its environment daily. Sometimes they will move about lazily, and other times they will rapidly flit from side to side.

If your Betta fish looks to have no difficulty swimming and isn’t struggling or lying on the side, your pet fish is healthy and happy.

Do Betta Fish Play Dead?

Betta fish are among a couple of fish that could actually sleep out of water. They tend to sleep in positions that make them look to be dead. Sometimes they act dead to scare their owner or when looking for attention.

Although it’s scary, you don’t need to be afraid when you see your Betta floating upside down. It’s probably just sleeping.

Being aware of the common signs and behaviors of a dying Betta fish is important for an aquarist. If you can’t catch a behavior or disease in time, it will be difficult to save your affected Betta.

Take proper care of your Betta and if you notice any of the signs listed above in your pet fish, act immediately. Try to help the dying Betta fish as soon as possible.

Read: How to train a betta fish to follow your finger


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