When you first get your betta fish, you probably have high hopes for it and think that the little fish is going to live happily ever after with you. What you might not know at this point is that Bettas are prone to certain diseases that can make their life with you much harder than it needs or should be. You will also discover soon enough that keeping a Betta in a tank on its own is not recommended. Whenever pets, be they cats or dogs, gerbils, birds or fish, become sick, they need special care and attention from their owners. The same goes for betta fish – if they fall ill, there are some things that you will need to know about caring for them so as not to put their lives in danger and give them the best chance at recovery wherever possible. Here are a few things about caring for your sick betta fish:
How to spot a sick Betta
Generally speaking, if your Betta shows any signs of lethargy or not eating, that is a sign that something might be wrong. The same goes for any signs of gasping at the surface of the water, which can be a sign of swim bladder disease. Aside from the signs listed above, you might also notice that your Betta has become a bit more aggressive toward the other fish in the tank, or it has stopped swimming around as much and seems to be hiding in the shadows.
Bettas that stop eating are often a sign of internal parasites, which cannot be cured, only controlled, and fin rot and fungus, which can be treated. Bettas who are sick and are experiencing some of these symptoms will need a little extra care from you to ensure that they recover and that you don’t do more harm than good.
What you can do for your sick betta
If your Betta is showing symptoms of infection, or illness of any kind, the first thing you need to do is quarantine it. This usually refers to keeping the sick fish in a separate tank, but if you only have one tank, you can use a smaller bowl instead. Quarantine is important not only to keep others in the tank healthy but to give the sick fish a chance to recover. You will also need to change the water in the sick Betta’s tank every day, and be careful not to let it become too dirty or full of ammonia.
If your Betta’s fins have become frayed or torn, you can clip them, but be careful not to clip them too short as the fin can heal incorrectly. If your Betta has fin rot, you can use a specialized salt treatment to kill the fungus and help the fins to heal. If your Betta is showing signs of internal parasites, you need to remove the parasites manually or treat the Betta for them. You can do this with fish medicine, or specialized drops for Bettas.
Things you cannot do for your sick Betta
You cannot feed your Betta if it is sick because it will most likely regurgitate it. It is best to leave any medication that you give the Betta in the water, as it can be harmful to feed it with the medication still in the fish. You cannot overfeed your Betta, but you cannot feed it less either. If it is sick, it will require less food and you will have to monitor the amount you are feeding it very closely.
You cannot move the Betta to a bigger tank, especially if it is sick. This will only stress the fish further and make it more difficult for it to heal. You cannot clean the Betta’s tank too thoroughly either, as this will remove the natural bacteria that protects the fish from disease.
Bettas and ammonia/nitrite poisoning
Ammonia poisoning can occur in any tank that does not have enough water flow to help remove it; any tank that does not have enough space for biological filtration; or any tank that does not have enough biological filtration for the volume of water in the tank. If any of these things occur in your Betta tank, you need to act quickly and move the Betta to another tank. If you do not move the Betta, it may die and release ammonia into the water, making things worse.
You will need to monitor the water quality in the new tank very closely and move the Betta back as soon as it is safe to do so. Ammonia is harmful to fish, especially Bettas, and can lead to death if left untreated. If you see your Betta gasping at the surface of the water, or acting lethargic with no interest in food, it may have ammonia poisoning. You will also notice a strong, foul smell coming from the tank.
Bettas and flukes/parasites
Betta worms are tiny parasites that live inside your Betta’s intestines. They do not kill the fish, but they can make it very uncomfortable. You can kill the worms with a Betta-specific wormer, or you can treat the Bettas’ environment to kill them. You want to make sure that whatever you choose to do works quickly, as the worms can kill your Betta.
Betta snails are parasites that live on your Betta’s skin. They are not fatal, but they can cause your Betta to itch and may cause it to refuse food. You can treat the Betta’s environment to kill the snails or you can buy a Betta-specific cream to treat the Betta itself.
If you are going to keep a betta fish, you must treat it like a member of the family. It is important to take good care of your betta fish because it keeps them happy and healthy. When your betta fish is happy and healthy, it will show by swimming around the tank, eating, and keeping itself clean. If your betta fish seems to be acting strangely, is staying at the bottom of the tank, is swimming in circles, or has a bloated stomach, it is probably sick. If this happens, you will need to find out what is wrong with it and take care of it so that it can get better and live a long life with you.