Eric is an aquarium enthusiast with over two decades of experience caring for a wide array of tropical fish.
When Betta Fish Die Young
Betta fish are among the most popular freshwater tropical fish out there, and it’s easy to see why. They’re beautiful, with their flowing fins and brilliant colors. They’re mysterious, originating from far-off lands in the East. And, of course, they are very dangerous, having been trained in super-secret fishy fighting styles.
But no aquatic ninja skills can save bettas from the ultimate end that awaits us all. Ashes to ashes; fish flakes to fish flakes. One minute you’re swimming merrily along, the next you’re belly-up and stuck to the filter intake.
There is no escaping the Angelfish of Death. Unfortunately, for many betta fish, it all ends far too soon. If you are the keeper of such a fish it can be pretty disheartening when it dies before its time. You begin to wonder what you did wrong, what you may have done differently, and if you deserve to keep a fish at all.
I’ve been there, with bettas and other species of fish. All you can do is take an analytical view of your fish-keeping habits and try to puzzle out whether or not you made a key error somewhere along the line. In some cases, you’ve done nothing wrong. Just like other pets, and even people, fish can suffer from congenital issues that shorten their lives.
However, any time you unexpectedly lose a fish it is worth your time to take a look at things and see if you might need to change some of your practices. This article can help with that process. Here I’ve outlined some of the typical reasons betta fish die, and what you can do to avoid them.
Why Did My Betta Fish Die?
Here are some common reasons betta fish die:
- Poor water conditions: Clean water is a must for any fish, especially bettas.
- Low water temperatures: Bettas are tropical fish and need water temps between 75 and 80°F.
- Overfeeding: Excess food can kill your fish.
- Harassment by tank mates: Aggression—both from or directed at a betta—can reduce its lifespan.
- Stress: Many issues can contribute to stress for your betta, including some you may have never imagined.
- Issues beyond your control: Illnesses and hereditary issues can also cut a fish's life short.
Below, I describe these issues in detail and outline some ways to avoid each.
1. Poor Water Conditions
Dirty water is one of the quickest ways to doom any fish tank. And it doesn’t even have to be visibly dirty. Chemicals from decomposing fish waste and uneaten food can contaminate your tank, rendering the water toxic.
Betta fish have a reputation for surviving in harsh environments where most fish would perish. This is because they are anabantids. They have evolved the ability to take gulps of air from above the water when the water itself is polluted and low in oxygen.
Sadly, this is also what makes people think it is okay to keep bettas in bowls and tiny tanks. Sure, he’ll survive for a while. But small volumes of water pollute very quickly, and it won’t be long before he is feeling the negative effects of poor water conditions. Fin rot and other diseases may be the result, as well as a marked increase in stress that will shorten his life.
Here are four things you can do to avoid this situation:
- Choose at least a 5-gallon tank for your betta. This not only means a better living space for your fish, but the tank will be easier to maintain.
- Use a filter. Yes, betta fish need filters in their tanks. Some 5-gallon tanks come with filters. Otherwise, there are nano filters out there to choose from. If you go with a 10-gallon you will have many more options.
- Vacuum the gravel and perform regular water changes. If you suck up the debris and perform a partial water change every other week, your betta’s home will stay much cleaner.
- Test your water. It is impossible to know what's going on in your tank without testing but fortunately, this is easy to do at home. I use the API Freshwater Master Test Kit. It tests for ammonia, nitrates, nitrites, pH, and high-range pH and it is very simple to work with.
2. Low Temperatures
Some people seem to think bettas are like goldfish, and they’ll do fine in an unheated bowl or tank. This is incorrect. Goldfish require cooler water, but bettas are tropical fish. As such, they require water temperatures between 75 and 80 degrees.
Cool water again means stress, illness, and premature death for your betta. Even if it’s warm where you live if the temperature drops at night it will cause the tank water to rapidly cool.
So, what can you do?
- Choose at least a 5-gallon tank. (Yup, it's worth mentioning twice.) Tiny volumes of water cool off very quickly, but five-gallon tanks maintain their temperature a little better, and 10-gallon tanks are better still.
- Use a heater. Like filters, there are nano versions available for 5-gallon tanks, but more options for 10-gallon tanks.
- Monitor the water temperature. Don’t rely on the heater settings. A simple aquarium thermometer will tell you how warm your water is at all times.
All fish need to eat a healthy diet. This means a good-quality flake or pellet and occasional treats. But some well-meaning betta owners go overboard, adding way too much food for one fish to consume. Just like with people, when fish overeat it can lead to illness. Uneaten food can also foul the water, making it toxic for your fish. And, what goes into a fish must come out, so if you are stuffing your betta to the gills, there is bound to be more waste in the tank.
So, what to do?
- Feed your fish once per day and only as much as he will eat in a few minutes. Try to make sure as little food is wasted as possible.
- Consider a fasting day. Skip feeding one day per week.
- Clean the gravel and perform water changes. Set a regular schedule to maintain a healthy tank. This doesn't have to be a major chore, and there are easy ways to do water changes.
4. Harassment by Tank Mates
Betta fish can have tank mates in certain situations. However, you need to be very careful about how you go about it. Certain types of fish may provoke aggression in bettas, particularly other anabantids or fish with flowing fins they may mistake for another male betta.
But there is another side to the story, one you don’t often think about until it’s too late. While bettas have a reputation for aggression and fighting, they are actually fairly small, slow-moving fish. They can be attacked and bullied by larger fish, and smaller fish may nip at their fins. This means perpetual (you guessed it) stress which inevitably leads to a premature (say it with me) death.
So how do we avoid this?
- Have a backup plan. Whenever you have your betta in a community tank setting, you need to have another setup ready to go in case of disaster. This could be something as simple as a temporary one-gallon bowl (with the intent to upgrade him to a 5-gallon tank ASAP). The point is to have a way to get betta out of there if things go wrong.
- Never try to keep your betta fish with tank mates in a tank under 10 gallons. There simply isn’t enough room for everyone to get along.
- Be very selective about which tank mates you choose, and how you introduce your betta. Read Tank Mates for Bettas and Betta Fish in a Community Tank for help.
As we have seen, bettas can die from poor water conditions, overfeeding, cool water temperatures, and a dangerous living situation. Aside from the physical damage these issues can cause, when your fish is under constant stress, he is more likely to get sick, and more likely to die.
But there are other potential stressors in your tank, ones you may never have thought of. The current from the filter or bubbler may push betta around. He may see his reflection in the tank glass and think it’s another fish, and constantly be looking to fight with himself. If he has no hiding spot such as a small cave or decoration, he may feel vulnerable. If some knucklehead in your household is constantly tapping on the glass, it may scare him.
There are a few simple things you can do here (aside from tackling the person who keeps tapping on the glass):
- Choose a low-flow filter that doesn’t blow him around the tank. Avoid bubblers in small tanks.
- Make sure he has somewhere to hide and escape from the world if he feels the need. Something as simple as a decoration or rock cave is fine.
- Adjust the light in the room so he doesn’t see himself. A little flaring is no big deal, but if he thinks he has to continuously defend himself, it will wear him out.
6. Issues Beyond Your Control
Betta fish are bred in huge numbers. They live in teeny cups for part of their lives, until you bring them home. If I’m saying a tank smaller than 5 gallons pollutes quickly, you can imagine how bad those little cups must be. It seems the deck is stacked against these poor fish from birth.
You have no way of knowing if your fish is sick when you bring him home. You have no way of knowing if he has some congenital issue that he’s going to die from no matter what you do. You can take a new puppy to the vet to get him checked for such issues, but with a tiny fish, there is simply no way to know.
If you feel like you’ve done everything right and your fish dies anyway, go easy on yourself. Yes, it always helps to take a look at your fish-keeping practices and analyze if you could have done something differently. But, remember, it may not be your fault at all.
Likewise, if you’ve done all the wrong things and your betta lived for years and years, don’t assume doing the right thing doesn’t matter. Like people, some fish can live unhealthy lives and survive into old age. And some can live in healthy, heated, safe, happy water and die young anyway. All we can do is what we can do. The rest is luck.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use tap water to fill my betta's tank?
Probably. It is smart to have your tap water tested so you know exactly what is in there. I advocate using as few chemicals in your fish tank as possible, and you may be able to use water straight from your tap without any alterations. (I do.) This is especially possible if your water comes from a well or other pure source.
If you rely on a municipal water source it is probably a different story. If your water is safe to drink but contains additives like chlorine you'll need to use a water conditioner that has been approved for treating a betta's water.
Tap water typically contains all the minerals your fish needs, if you remove the chlorine, chloramines, and other heavy metals first. Distilled water, on the other hand, is not ideal because it lacks the minerals fish need to be healthy.
Why does the tail or fins of my betta fish look torn, short, or ragged?
A chewed-up, tattered-looking tail and/or fins is mostly likely caused by fin rot or by a tank mate's nibbling. If your betta starts looking a little worse for wear, you should determine and treat the cause as soon as possible.
Fin rot is a sign that your fish has a bacterial disease. You can avoid it by using good tank management practices, not overfeeding, and keeping the water clean. If it's already too late, you'll need to spruce up your aquarium care strategy immediately.
Clean water is the most important thing here. This means:
- Keeping up with water changes.
- Vacuuming the tank and getting rid of excess waste.
- Testing the water to make sure it is safe and remains so.
You may also dose your tank with aquarium salt (not marine salt) to help stave off the infection. I prefer to use aquarium salt on a case-by-case basis rather than having it in the tank all the time.
If the damage is caused by a tank mate, it's time to move your betta into its own tank or a safer situation.
How can I keep my betta fish alive for as long as possible?
By controlling your betta's environment and making sure he has exactly what he needs, you can lengthen and improve his quality of life. Here are some links to articles that will help you set your tank up:
What is the best kind of food to feed my betta?
Betta fish are carnivores, so their diet should be mainly protein. Appropriate foods include:
- pellets or flakes designed especially for bettas
- bloodworms (frozen, freeze-dried, or live)
- brine shrimp (frozen, freeze-dried, or live)
- Daphnia (water fleas)
I suggest feeding flakes or pellets as the staple of your betta's diet and offering other foods only as occasional treats.
How should I feed my betta?
Feed your fish only what it can eat in about two minutes, and only feed it once or twice a day. Any more and you'll have too much waste build-up in your tank and possibly a sick fish—and neither of these conditions is optimal for long life.
If you are concerned that you are accidentally overfeeding your betta it is perfectly okay to add a fasting day to his feeding schedule once per week.
Note: The container the fish's food comes in might recommend that you feed more frequently, but that’s up to you. The key is to give your betta the proper nutrition he needs without overfeeding.
Caring for a fish properly can go a long way toward making sure he lives a long and happy life. As their stewards, we owe it to them to try our best and keep their interests in mind. We have a responsibility when we take a living thing into our home and care for it. If we aren’t going to take it seriously, why have a fish at all?
Aside from practicing smart aquarium management habits, one other thing you can do is be wise where you purchase your fish. Conscientious pet stores only stock as many fish as they know they can sell in a reasonable amount of time. If you see a massive pile of betta cups filled with dazed and half-dead fish, don’t bother looking for the one healthy fish in the pile. Go somewhere else.
If you’ve lost a betta, it can be frustrating and heartbreaking. You may have made some errors, things you can do differently next time. Being a good betta owner doesn’t mean you are always perfect, but it does mean you do your best and learn from your mistakes.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: Can there ever be too many decorations in a betta tank?
Answer: Yes, it is certainly possible to overdo it. When decorating your tank try to strike a balance between choosing items that look good to you, and those that meet the needs of your fish.
Your betta needs room to swim around, and he needs clear access to the water surface. Consider including plants, live or artificial, as bettas sometimes will rest on their leaves. Provide a cave or decoration for shelter in case your betta decides he needs a secure place to hide.
Remember that every decoration takes away some tank space. If you include too many, your betta may feel stressed and crowded, just as if he were in a tank that was too small. A tank that’s overcrowded with decorations will also be harder to clean and allow more places for waste to get trapped.
Question: What if I accidentally changed all my betta fish's water instead of 50%?
Answer: If you’ve made an error and changed all of the water in your tank instead of doing a partial water change it’s not the end of the world. There are a few things you can do to help yourself and your fish.
The problem with complete water changes is you are potentially killing off many of the helpful microbes that live in your tank. You are also stressing your fish, who had become accustomed to the water he’d been living in.
Water parameters will swing widely after a full water change, and that’s not good for your betta. A partial water change ensures your microbe colonies stay intact and that your betta doesn’t suffer unnecessarily stress.
Your tank will eventually come back to normal, and hopefully your betta has not been harmed. The concern is for the water quality while this is happening. In a properly functioning (cycled) tank there is equilibrium between the waste your betta makes and the microbes that handle that waste. By performing a full water change you’ve potentially sent that process into disarray.
As a result, waste chemicals may rise to levels that can harm your fish. The only way to know for sure if this is happening is to test your water and get readings for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. You want your ammonia and nitrite at zero, and your nitrate under 20 or 30 ppm (some fish keepers are fine with nitrates as high as 50).
Test every day, and if you are seeing higher numbers change a small amount of the water (~20%) without bothering the filter or substrate. The idea is to dilute those waste chemicals until your tank cycles back around.
Hopefully your tests will show you’ve not done much damage and things will come back to normal fairly quickly. Then, stick with partial water changes.
Question: Why do betta fish get dropsy?
Answer: Dropsy in betta fish is typically caused by overfeeding, feeding inappropriate foods, and poor tank conditions. Dropsy is not a disease in itself, but a symptom of a bacterial infection and the resulting kidney problems. Because the kidneys are not operating correctly, the fish will retain water, and we see the bloating and pinecone-like scales we associate with dropsy.
While any fish can potentially become infected, stress caused by the aforementioned overfeeding and poor water conditions can make a fish more susceptible. Strong, healthy fish have immune systems that can better deal with infections, where fish weakened by poor diets and bad water will fall ill.
Therefore, the most important things in avoiding dropsy for your betta fish are to avoid overfeeding and to keep the water clean. These two steps, if done properly, can help you avoid many diseases and conditions that lead to a premature death for aquarium fish. This means following a proper feeding schedule – perhaps including a fasting day week – and performing regular tank maintenance such as changing the water and vacuuming the gravel.
If your betta fish does show signs of dropsy, the outlook is not good. However, there are some actions you can take if symptoms are recent and relatively mild, such as performing a water change and administering an antibiotic. If your betta lives with other fish you may wish to quarantine him, as the same issue that led to his illness may make them sick as well.
Finally, if you do lose a fish to dropsy and are convinced you did nothing wrong, remember that, just like people, some fish are naturally weaker and more prone to getting sick. It may have been simple bad luck, and no fault of your own.
Question: Which type of aquarium is better, glass, acrylic or plastic?
Answer: In most cases, I prefer glass aquariums for a few reasons. For one thing, they don’t scratch as easily. Theoretically, this means they ought to keep looking good as the year's pass. They also tend to be less expensive.
Finally, I trust the construction of a well-made glass aquarium a little more than I do an acrylic tank. This is especially true for large tanks, which may need to hold up over the years without looking dull or, worse, leaking.
However, acrylic does have some advantages. Acrylic tanks are lighter, and they are available in some interesting shapes and configurations that are tough to achieve with glass.
When it comes to small tanks around 5 gallons, I think acrylic options are often a good choice. There are many acrylic aquariums on the market that come with everything you need to start up your tank.
If you are new to fish keeping, or if you don’t want to spend a lot of time hunting down accessories, they’re simply more comfortable to work with than a traditional glass tank.
So, for the person who wants an aquarium 10-gallons or larger which they intend to keep running for years, I recommend considering a glass tank.
For someone who wants a small, attractive, easy-to-deal-with 5-gallon tank for a betta fish (for example) I think acrylic is fine.
Question: Are betta fish good tankmates for mollies?
Answer: As with any potential betta tankmate, the answer is a definite maybe. Betta can be great community fish under certain circumstances. The problem is you can never really know how your betta will get along with any other fish until they are put together.
However, mollies certainly would not be among my top choices for tankmates. Mollies are active fish that may provoke aggression in bettas. Varieties such as sailfins and lyretails may be similar enough to your betta in appearance that he mistakes them for another male betta. There is also the chance that a molly would pick on the betta and nip at his fins.
Of course, there is the possibility that they will get along fine, too. Some bettas are more aggressive, where others are more docile. I’ve had mollies that were the terrors of the tank, and others that were peaceful. You just never know.
I would consider other options, but if you do decide to keep your betta with mollies, or any fish as a tankmate, make sure you have a backup plan in case things go wrong. You’ll also want to make sure you have a large enough tank, ideally bigger than ten gallons.
Question: How big should the average betta tank be?
Answer: I always recommend a minimum of 5 gallons, and there are a few good reasons for this. Firstly, bettas require heat and filtration just like any other tropical fish. In tanks smaller than 5 gallons, it is tough to find heaters and filters that do the job. Many very small tanks on the market come with weak filters that make things worse instead of better, and no options for heat.
The second reason is that larger bodies of water pollute slower than smaller. One or two-gallon tanks are very hard to keep clean, especially with the lack of filtration options. Ideally, I’d love to see bettas in 10-gallon tanks, but I know that’s not reasonable for many people. Five gallons is a compromise between having a small setup that fits on a desk or shelf and having a large enough volume of water to keep water conditions healthy for your fish.
Finally, there are a lot of myths surrounding betta fish that simply make no sense, such as they prefer very small spaces or do fine in dirty water. This is how bettas end up in plant vases and tiny cubes. No living thing thrives in less-than-ideal situations, so why people think this is appropriate for bettas is mind-boggling. A five-gallon tank gives your fish room to live in a clean and healthy environment
Question: Would neon tetras be good tankmates for a betta fish?
Answer: As always, you never know until you get them together, and it greatly depends on the betta's personality.
Neon tetras are bright little fish, and there is the remote possibility they could provoke an attack from a betta. However, neons are also quick, schooling fish, so it’s hard to imagine he’d land any punches.
Personally, I have kept a betta in a large tank with a school of about 15 neons with no issue. That doesn’t mean there couldn’t be a problem, though, and if you try it be sure to have a backup plan. As it was then, my main concern would be the betta frantically and constantly trying to chase down the neons, and stressing both the neons and himself.
A secondary concern is the neons nipping at the bettas fins which, while unlikely, they may try. You can see the danger there is to the betta, not the pint-sized neons. This is often the case when you try to keep a betta in a community tank – the victim is often the betta.
If you try this, I advise at least a ten-gallon tank, but bigger is better. Neons should be kept in schools of half a dozen or more, so you need a tank at least this size. Most importantly, have a backup plan. You need another tank or a bowl so you can remove the betta if things go wrong.
Here is an article you may find helpful for more advice on how to keep a betta fish in a community tank:
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on August 18, 2020:
@Percyjacksonbooklover21485 - He should have no issue with the moss ball and its beneficial for him. Helps control waste, gives him a little cover, etc. Good luck with him!
Percyjacksonbooklover21485 on August 18, 2020:
i bought A betta fish yesterday and we have a marimo in the tank, will the betta fish like the marimo?
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on July 21, 2020:
@Suzie - Sorry, I have no idea what might have happened. If you have more specific information I might be able to help, but from your description if could have been any number of things.
SuzieQutie on July 19, 2020:
So, I bought a betta about 1.5 months ago, he was doing great, super hyper, eating well, fins looked great, but the other morning i went to turn on his tank lights, and he didnt come.up to the front of the tank to be fed like he did everyday, so I looked around and sure enough. He was dead at the bottom of the tank...what happened??
I had just did a tank cleaning about 3 days prior, but he seemed fine afterwards, so I was wondering if mabey you might have any ideas as to why he died...
sarai on July 15, 2020:
thanks for the tips
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on June 24, 2020:
@Miles - There is no way for me to guess what happened based on your comment. Do you have an more information?
Miles on June 23, 2020:
Eric my fish was dead with weird goo around it I don’t know what it was even after I researched so please get back to me as soon as possible.
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on April 09, 2020:
@Alexis - Sounds like a tough situation. I can only take a few guesses. I am wondering if the torn fins/poor condition issue and algae bloom are actually unrelated. You said there are plastic plants in the tank. Could he be tearing his fins on them or any other decorations and getting injured?
As for the algae, something is happening in your tank that is making it an prime location for algae growth. That is usually easy to see in the water tests. It is especially odd since you have live plants. Small water changes of 10% (not full changes and not vacuuming) or so every day might clear it up over time
Turning the lights off 12 hours a day is a good idea, but does the tank get a lot of natural light during the day?
Again, I am just taking some guesses. I don't think it would hurt to remove the fake plants and try some small, daily water changes. Good luck!
Alexis on April 08, 2020:
Hi Eric, Thank you for the informative article. Our betta, who we’ve had for a year and a half, isn’t doing great. He’s sluggish, pale, and doesn’t eat, and his tail is ragged and torn, even though he’s the only fish in the tank, aside from a few pest snails. he’s been like this off and on for a year, and we’ve given him medicine, fasted him, changed his diet, only to have him revert to the same state he’s in now. The 5 gallon tank he’s in hasn’t been clear, even after water changes, for over a year. we consulted an aquarium expert after our own attempts at dealing with an algae bloom, and trying a few other techniques at clearing things up, and he advised us to clean the tank less, turn the light off, and add gravel, which helped for a week before the issues came back. Our water levels are normal, except for the oddity of not having any nitrites or nitrates show up on our water tests, and a consistent green tint to the water. We have a combo of live and plastic plants in the tank. We’ve spent the last year or so having issues with his health and our tank. We just can’t seem to figure out what’s going on. It’s a bit of a last ditch effort, but do you have any advice or recommendations or any know how that could help? We adore our fish friend, and would love for him to have a long (for a betta), happy life. thank you
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on April 06, 2020:
@Daniel - A gray or white face is a sign of stress. You'll need to investigate and find out why your betta is feeling stressed out. Could be water conditions, illness, injury, or a many other reasons.
Daniel on April 04, 2020:
My betta’s head is turning into a gray color, and the water is normal. Is this a sign of any illness? I put it in a 3+gallon tank.
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on March 11, 2020:
@Heather - Try not to feel so bad. We all learn lessons the hard way in this hobby. :-( Clean water, low stress, and low current are the best things for helping his fins grow back. Watch for signs of infection and treat accordingly. He may be okay in the smaller tank, but it always helps to have a backup plan, even if it is just an inexpensive 5-gallon tank. He might be better off on his own. Good luck!
Heather on March 10, 2020:
I recently bought a beautiful royal blue male betta and placed him in my 55 gallon tank with my male guppies and male mollies. I noticed the mollies were slightly bullying him when I immediately placed him in the tank. After a few hours, the beta seemed to be fine and swimming all around. I checked him this morning and again, he was fine. This afternoon, his tail is gone. It looks like it was shredded off and some of the scales on the backend are gone too. I immediately removed him from the tank and placed him in my 29 gallon tank that has less fish and all females. The male mollies are aggressive with each other, there is one specific molly that dominates the group, but I’ve never seen them be aggressive to the guppies, cory catfish, or my large pleco. I feel completely awful for my betta. Is there anything I can do? His back end looks completely shredded. I don’t have another tank to place him in that I can keep the temperature right. If I have to order something, I am willing. I just want him treated him and feel I did him a disadvantage putting him in the community tank. Any advice would be wonderful.
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on February 27, 2020:
@Annie - You may not have done anything wrong at all. Maybe the kH, but honestly for one betta in a planted tank, plus you did a water change, I wouldn't think that would be a major issue.
In my opinion, I would consider this one bad luck. It seems like you understand how to care for a betta properly. If you have a string of bad luck, then maybe start worrying that you're getting something wrong. Good luck with your next betta!
Annie347 on February 27, 2020:
My betta fish recently passed when I got it it was ten weeks old. It lived only 1 week the tank was 5 gallons, the temperature was 78 degrees Fahrenheit, I had live plants, a marina s10 filter on the lowest setting, the nitrites were 0, nitrates=20, ph=6.5, kh= 0, gh=30 I used api 5 in 1 test strips I feed it tropical bug bites and the occasional bloodworm I had the light on in the day and off at night. The things I am worried about are that I didn’t let the tank cycle for long enough and that the kh was low. I did one water change of 30% and used prime water conditioner. I have just removed the fish from its tank. If anyone has any advice about what to do differently when I get a new fish I would be grateful. Thank you
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on January 03, 2020:
@Charlie - Good luck with your betta fish! Here is an article that can help you get started:
There are a lot more articles here on PetHelpful you may find useful as well.
Charlie on January 02, 2020:
I`m getting a betta fish tomorrow. This article helped a lot. Any other resources that you recommend?
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on May 29, 2019:
Hi cwkessie - If you haven't already, it is a good idea to invest in a basic freshwater testing kit. This will measure ammonia, nitrate, nitrite and pH, and tell you when your water is becoming polluted. Both of the those diseases you described are typically traced back to poor water conditions, so regular testing might help you prevent them in the future.
I'd probably change half of the water out, clean the gravel and filter then test over a few days and make sure the tank is cycled properly before adding another fish. (You may want to research the nitrogen cycle in aquariums if you are unfamiliar.) Good luck!
cwkessle on May 27, 2019:
We tried to do all the right things, but our first betta only lasted about 3 months. He had some fin rot and then later seemed to develop the symptoms of a swim bladder issue. What do we need to do to prepare the tank for a new occupant--so far we've just removed the dead fish and kept the filter running. Thanks!
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on April 30, 2019:
@charurtz - It is hard to guess what may have happened.Your betta should have access to the water surface. Betta are anabantids, and sometimes breathe air from the water surface, especially if tank conditions aren't great. Does your new tank allow him to get there? If not, this could be the problem.
charurtz on April 29, 2019:
My daughter's beta has lived in a mason jar for months. She wanted to get an aquaponic tank for him for her birthday so we did. He seemed to love the new tank, but within 24 hours he appeared to be dying. Why? It's the same water we have always used, the same temperature as the mason jar was not heated? I bought her another beta thinking it may just have been his time, this one is not looking so hot now either. What are we doing wrong? Is it the aquaponic tank? We put beta water conditioner in this tank just in case but that hasn't helped.
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on March 23, 2019:
@Shirley - What is he doing that makes you think he is dying? I need to know more about what's going on before I can make a guess. In general it is not a good idea to change 100% of the tank water.
Shirley on March 22, 2019:
My Betta looks like he’s dying. In desperation, I changed the full tank but he is not looking good :( how can I save him?
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on March 18, 2019:
@Carmen - If you take care of your betta he can life much longer than six months to a year. Possibly four or five years, or even longer.
carmen on March 16, 2019:
how long do betta fish live. is it 6 months or a year and a couple month
i need to know when my fish will die even if i take good care of it
oh and my betta fish likes to eat a lot of food why is that so
it also is most of its time at the top is that ok
thanks for telling me that you have to feed 6-4 fish food to a betta fish because slowly before i readed this my fish started to get a big belly
Recommended for You
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on March 10, 2019:
@Fitz - What do you mean by "burying itself". Can you describe this behavior? If he wedging himself between marbles or decorations it could be because of the current, lack of hiding spots, or simply because he found a place he feels comfortable.
Fitz on March 09, 2019:
Our betta has been burying itself which means poor water quality but we just changed it and its still burying itself and not eating. We use water conditioner, temp is perfect and the filter is a low output filter. What else could be wrong?
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on March 09, 2019:
@Vikki - Stress is indeed one of the reasons fish will glass surf. Here is an article I think will help:
vikki on March 08, 2019:
my fish is in a 10 gallon aquarium and its keep on hiting himself on the glass of the aquarium and i do not know what to do and it is a new betta fish i am scared that my fish can die of sress am i right or not
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on March 01, 2019:
Thanks Kori, and glad you upgraded your betta!
Kori on February 28, 2019:
THANK YOU for mentioning a 5 gallon tank minimum for a Betta! I wanted to give our fish a good environment and initially bought him a smaller tank (2.5 gallon), but then I educated myself more about Bettas needing more room and upgraded to a 6 gallon tank. He seems happier and I hate the thought of people keeping them in tiny bowls.
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on February 23, 2019:
@Ella - There is just no way for me to guess why your fish died so long ago. I would not suspect it was directly due to the bubbler - there was likely something else going on.
Ella Lake on February 22, 2019:
My beta fish died a year ago but I still don’t know why it died we added a bubble tank thing to the tank and a few days later he died, do you know the answer?
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on February 21, 2019:
@Alec- This is a guess, as I haven't seen your fish, but it sounds like he may have an injury and infection. If you decide to treat with medication makes sure it is safe for the cories as well as the betta.
Alec on February 20, 2019:
I have a red Betta and have had him for about 3 weeks now. I do regular water changes and just had my water checked at the local pet store just to make sure everything was okay. He lives with two albino Cory catfish in a 10 gallon. All seemed well until I noticed His tail fin almost looking like it was splitting. I thought I might be just he tore it a little and it would heal. I looked the next day and it is turning a white color. It’s in the middle of his tail fin. He doesn’t seem affected by it at all and looks normal otherwise. All water and temperature are good according to my local pet store. What could I be doing wrong. Also the tank does have a filter and a heater.
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on February 03, 2019:
@Ian - It seems unlikely the dirty water would have resulted in that quick of a death for your betta, unless there were some kind of contaminants in it aside from usual aquarium gunk. I suspect he may already have been weakened in some way, or there may have been something off with the new water (chlorine, etc).
Ian McIntosh 4th on February 02, 2019:
I partially changed my betas water. As i added the new water a very large amount on old stringy dirty water contaminated with old food and fish waste. Is it possible my beta died within 2 hours from his gills/ lungs being clogged and poisioning him or choking him?
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on January 12, 2019:
@Laurie - Betta fish are bred in huge numbers for commercial purposes. Unfortunately it's impossible to know how healthy the fish is when you bring it home. I don't know enough about betta breeding to offer suggestions on why one variety would be more hardy than another, or why one stock would be more hardy than another. But it does seem like that is the case sometimes. It's also hard know how long the fish have been on the shelf, so possibly the double butterflies were in the store longer and are older fish who have been it those awful cups for a longer time.
You may simply have better success with another veil tail, or you may try purchasing another double butterfly from a different store.
Good luck! I hope it gets better from here.
Laurie Woelfle on January 11, 2019:
Twins got 3 gallon Betta tanks for Christmas, same tank, same filter, same heater, artificial plants and rocks from the same bag. Did all our research, Cycled through for 1 week. Water tested perfect. One boy brought home a male veil tail named Shimmer. the other brought home a male double butterfly named Cap. Cap never ate any food we put out and died within 72 hours. Had the water tested at the fish store, including the new water we set up for the replacement fish - all was perfect. Got the replacement another double butterfly and this one got named Ironman. All was going much better for the first 72 hours and last night noticed that Ironman was looking a little lifeless - this morning he is in worse shape and I am guessing will die as well.
shimmer on the other hand is thriving. He is eating well, swims a lot, even comes to the tank edge when we talk to him, like he’s interacting.
So, why do are we loosing the butterfly Bettas vs the veil tale? I do notice that both butterfly Bettas wanted to attach themselves to the filter or heater all the time - we do have a cave and plants for them to hide in.
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on January 10, 2019:
@Carissa - Unfortunately I don't have enough information to diagnose what could be going wrong. As I'm sure you know from caring for fish, there are dozens if not hundreds of variables to consider.
Is it possible that something has changed with the water source at work? Or that someone is overfeeding them or otherwise messing around with them without your knowledge? I can only guess, unfortunately. I hope you get it figured out, though. Good luck!
Carissa on January 09, 2019:
I'm so confused/frustrated/upset at the moment and am hoping maybe you might have some insight. I have a decent amount of fish tanks, most being betta tanks. At work there are (4) 5g tanks and (1) 10g tank, at home I have (2) 5g tanks that have bettas. I have other tanks as well but those are for my neocaridina shrimp not bettas.
Over the last 2 weeks 3 of my bettas at work have died for seemingly 'no reason' there weren't much warning signs. I'm struggling because I'm having a hard time believing/telling myself that 3 bettas dying in 2 weeks isn't my fault. All have heaters/filters, water changed weekly, good amount of live plants, fed varied diet of freeze dried bloodworms, frozen brine shrimp, high quality pellets with 2 days of fasting. Most of the tanks have shrimp in them and the shrimp are fine. In the 10g there are a couple cories and they are fine.
I don't know if it's likely but if you have any insight as to what I may have done wrong I would appreciate it so I can learn and not make the mistake again :/
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on January 09, 2019:
@Grammar Girl - I don't know, but it is always good to do research before adding chemicals to your tank. You may want to reach out to the manufacturers.
Grammar Girl on January 07, 2019:
Can I use Betta Safe and Betta Revive at the same time?
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on January 06, 2019:
@Rosie - If you have two betta fish in the same tank the first thing you need to do is separate them into different tanks. They can't live together. Male bettas will fight to the death if kept together. Both of your fish are likely under extreme stress and frankly I'm surprised one hasn't killed the other by now.
Even females, or male/female pairs, are better kept apart. Unless I am misunderstanding your situation, this sounds like the root of your problem.
Rosie on January 05, 2019:
Hi Eric ... I have 2 betta fish (NAMEOF THE FIRST BETTA) BERRY is always laying on the rocks on the bottom of the tank its always swimming at the bottom this as started since today in the morning i dont know if the betta is stressed out or hurt or might die which dont want that to ever happen ...also hids where the plants are.is the betta going to have babies or trying to keep them safe plz eric tell whats happening i getting really worried it looks like its hiding something ... i cant really tell if they are a female or a male
The other betta (NAME OF THE SECOND BETTA) Frozen is always on the top always swimming looks like its happy i think he bit the other thats always on the bottom of tank the one on top has kinda white with redish dots what is that is it ich infection
Plz Eric i need to know whats happening w ith my betta's fish im scared if there going to die ... i want to cry so bad i want to know if my betta's are okay why is my betta always on the bottom of the tank...
The other betta looks happy swims alot but not sure abouy the other one
Eric i need yo know whats wrong with my two betta just so u know they are in the same tank
Thanks for your information of betta's its very helpful
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on November 26, 2018:
@Maggie - I know how you feel and I'm sorry your experiences have been so negative. Just remember that many bettas are fighting an uphill battle from the beginning, and you may have done nothing wrong.
Maggie Backneyet on November 25, 2018:
I’ve had three Bettas. I’ve taken good care of them but the first two died within a year the last one just died yesterday after losing all his fins— I did water partial changes once per week or every 5 days, had a small heater, didn’t overfeed him either : 2 or 3 pellets one or twice a day but my Berta started to lose his fins— I used tetracycline and he got a little better but got sick again then I tried fungus medicine for bloating etc.. he wanted to eat and did but with difficulty : could swim straight
the problem is there are no marine veterinarian anywhere!!! It’s all a guessing game for the fish owner
I will not buy a fish again
I’m too heartbroken and I am tired of trying different meds without knowing if I was on the right track - obviously I couldn’t help my little fella and he died
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on October 21, 2018:
@Linda - In my opinion that tank is much too small for the number of fish you have.
Linda Licata on October 19, 2018:
I have a one gallon tank with a female betta and four neon tetras. They get along fine and eat at the same time. The betta is very shy and does not bother the tetras. Also the tetras do not bother the betta. I have a filter but i have to buy a heater. Is this setup ok?
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on October 12, 2018:
@Amay - It's hard to guess just from that description. Maybe some kind of fungus? I would start reading up on betta diseases and see if you can find a picture that matches what is happening to your betta, then treat accordingly. Good luck!
Amay on October 10, 2018:
My female veil tail Betta seems to have a slivery looking film in it. Is that normal?
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on October 09, 2018:
Hi Lori! Thanks for sharing that advice. I get a lot of questions from betta owners with issues seemingly related to feeding, so I'm sure it will help someone. I've been guilty of feeding the brine shrimp too. It's a nice treat, and fun to watch the betta hoover them up, but I eventually came to the conclusion that it did more harm than good and wasn't worth the effort.
Lori B in NC on October 08, 2018:
Hi, Eric. 20+ years ago when I was breeding halfmoon Bettas some "reputable" breeders recommended that I feed my breeders live brine shrimp. Big mistake. The salt water brine shrimp gave my Bettas dropsy. I was heartbroken. An older and wiser breeder gave me a solution to the dropsy problem.
Take a raw green pea, just like people eat. It can be fresh, canned or frozen but make sure it's room temp before you use it. Peal the pea so that you are left with the cotyledons. Careful cut the cotyledons into tiny bite sized pieces for the Betta and try not to smoosh them. With dropsy your Betta is probably floating on top of the water. The next part is tricky because the peas will want to sink. Try to drop a single tiny piece in front of the betta's mouth so it can slurp up the pea before it sinks. It might take a few tries but keep going till the betta eats one. It might seem counter intuitive to feed a fish that has a belly ache but go with me on this one. I didn't believe it either until I tried it.
After that just wait and watch. The first time I did this I was surprised to see a bubble come out of the betta's mouth. I don't know for sure if fish can burp but I think that's what happened. After a few burps the betta started swimming again and it's scales went back to normal. I tried the same thing with the other bettas and they went back to normal too. I didn't lose any of my breeders.
I don't know if this works with all fish or all forms of dropsy, but in cases where the fish has been overfed or fed the wrong food it's worth a try rather than lose a beloved fish.
After the bettas start swimming again I recommend clearing out the excess peas laying on the sub-strait and treating the fish for injuries. The pine cone scales mess up the fishes natural defenses and leave them vulnerable to infections.
I thought I would share this in case it helps someone else that's about to lose their Betta to dropsy.
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on August 25, 2018:
@Anna - As long as your betta fish appears otherwise healthy these behaviors are not cause for concern.
Anna on August 24, 2018:
What happenes if your betta wont stop laying on the bottem of the tank and when they wont stop hiding?
Tammy on August 08, 2018:
I always did a full water change for my first Betta, once a week. He lived for a year and 6 months. I took really good care of him His name was Floyd. When I lost him, I was heart broken. Then I bought one at our local Meijers store, he was blue, named Levi, he died 3 days later
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on July 09, 2018:
Hi AmyB -Sorry for so much grief. I know it is sad to lose a fish, especially for kids. I guess it's possible the gravel could be the issue, but any gravel sold for aquariums ought to be safe. The only way to know is to tear down the tank, clean it thoroughly and use new gravel.
I've always tried to use gravel and rock that seemed as natural as possible, so I'd be wary of anything that looked gold-painted too. If you do try new gravel, and it solves the problem, be sure to report your findings to the pet store so they stop stocking the gold stuff. While anything marketed for aquarium use *should* be safe, you never know what some of these companies are doing.
Good luck! If you can think of any other dissimilarities between your son's tank and your daughters certainly explore those. Feel free to let me know as well, and maybe I can think of something.
AmyB1977 on July 08, 2018:
My daughter has a 2.5 gallon filtered tank, ran the tank for 2 weeks before having the water tested at my local Petsmart (they told me the water is perfect). She is on her 4th betta fish, all of them have died within a day of 2. I have had the water tested everytime I am going to put a new fish in the tank. Could the gravel cause an issue? I purchased a gold color gravel from Petsmart, but it looks almost like its painted gold. I rinsed the gravel like crazy in hot water before I set the tank up. My son has the same tank, same water (bottled purified water), and his betta is thriving. He does have different gravel though. HELP, my daughters heart is broken.
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on July 08, 2018:
@Ronnie - Are you sure he is ill? It seems like there is a good chance he is injured from being stuck behind the filter and is having a severe stress reaction from it. Look for torn fins or scales.
Depending on how long ago this happened he may recover on his own. Keep the water clean. If you see signs of injury you may want to dose the tank with aquarium salt.
Ronnie on July 07, 2018:
My Betta was heathy found him stuck behind the fliter and glass not sure how long he was stuck free him he started swimming like crazy. Now he is sick he stays at the bottom his head turn white his whole body color was blue don't know how to help him losing hope help please.
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on June 24, 2018:
@jing ching - I'm sorry to hear that and I hope your friend doesn't take it too hard.
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on June 07, 2018:
Thanks Wendy, and I'm sorry you lost your Betta.
Wendy on June 06, 2018:
My orange male betta Mr. Fishy just passed overnight from swim bladder. I am a grown women who cried a few times already this morning. I had him two years and I don't know how old he was when I purchased him. I tried hospital tank, aquarium salt, and pea last night which he didn't even attempt to eat. I hope my efforts are not what killed him. Anywho, this article made me laugh, and was informative like someone else said, and I just want to thank you. I also didn't know about how flushing could be harmful, so I will just bury him. Thanks.
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on June 06, 2018:
@kelly - Overfeeding is certainly a common cause of death for betta fish. Please see #3 in this article. Sorry for the loss of your fish.
kelly mccauley on June 05, 2018:
My betta fish just died, i fed it everyday, several times a day, could he have ate himself to death?
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on May 19, 2018:
@ Cindy. Please do not do that.You can certainly share a link if you like, but please do not copy and re-post this article or any you find on PetHelpful. Thank you.
Cindy on May 18, 2018:
can i translate to my language (pt/br) and post in aquarism websites? with credits of course
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on April 26, 2018:
Hi Misela - This white spots could be ich. It's a parasitic infection that spreads between fish. Since your bettas are in the same tank it has likely infected both of them. You have several options for treatment, including over-the-counter medicines. Many aquarium owners treat by raising the temperature in the tank slightly and then dosing the tank with aquarium salt.
Please read up on ich so you are aware of your various options and choose the one you think is best.
Your fish would eventually die because of ich, but if you treat them in the early stages they have a strong chance of survival.
Misela from Phoenix Arizona on April 25, 2018:
Hi i just put in a divider for both bettas that i have but noticed that they just lay on bottom of tank eat a little and they have white spots on them i am worried what could this be ....please tell me what to do
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on April 25, 2018:
@Abear7 - Are you buying the bettas from the same place every time? If you are convinced it isn't the water or the tank, it could be the stock you are getting. Bettas acting lazy isn't unusual, but of course they shouldn't die so quickly. I wonder if it could be the store you're getting them from. Some stores leave too many fish on the shelves in those cups for far too long.
Abear7 on April 24, 2018:
I have a 75 gallon tank, fish for years..I just got bettas. I had one years ago that lived 4+ years. I bought a fluval spec 5 gal. set up, bought a beta, it died in a few weeks. Bought another betta whom looked super healthy, it died in a few weeks. Brought that fluval back, thought filter too strong, bought a fluval edge 6 gallon. Bought another betta and it is laying on a leaf all the time. It pepped up when I put it in a temp. floater, isolated box that sits in my 75 gal community tank...just thought he was about to die..he seemed happy in there, ate...put him back in his tank, back on the leaf, nose at the top of the water...super depressing. Water test fine each time I go to the store. silk plants, heater on 75 degrees. I am not sure what I will go home to today, my guess is a betta laying on the leaf barely moving...ugh
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on April 09, 2018:
@Macy - Sorry to hear about your fish. It's possible he could have died from old age. I agree that we need to be smart about where we choose to purchase our fish.
Macy on April 08, 2018:
My male betta fish, Ricky, he died just now after I had him for 3 years and I didn’t know what went wrong but I feel that he died of an old age but I know that isn’t one of the reasons why. I feel that buying a fish at Walmart can or could be a bad idea because I heard that sometimes they don’t clean out the tanks properly and leave dead fish/etc in there rather than taking them out.
Cheesewoman on March 23, 2018:
My beautiful dragon scale betta (Barry) died last night, I found him this morning lying on the driftwood. I only got him about a week ago and for the first 5 days he was swimming around super happy in his 10g tank, all the lovely plants and hiding spots, premium pellets and brine shrimp (I did watch I didn't overfeed feed him).
He also had some cory's for tank mates which he seemed to get along with fine... last night he just refused to eat after a big water change (the tank still hasn't cycled so I'm keeping a close eye on the params and changing water when needed), and he looked really lethargic, slumping at the bottom of the tank or sticking to the side of the filter...
I'd already done a water change and added Stress Coat + etc. so I didn't know what to do... he always looked a little dozy anyway so I thought he might just be a bit constipated or something, and decided to leave him overnight and see if he improved.. sadly not :(
Thanks for the post though, I'm not sure if it was my fault or not, but I am trying (I got it right in my other 10g as my dwarf gourami are now breeding and I've got eggs everywhere!!!)
Thinking about getting another betta, but I feel a bit emotional at the moment, Barry cannot be replaced...
TeciPulido on March 02, 2018:
This article is funny yet very practical and responsible. :) Thanks Eric :)
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on March 01, 2018:
Sorry to hear that, PamalaK. I hope the pet store has some good advice for you.
PamalaK on March 01, 2018:
I appreciate your article, my daughters betta "Sushi" was on the bottom of the tank this morning. I dont understand. He was zipping around yesterday and the tank was cleaned 3 days ago. 5 gal, heater, filter, fake foliage for cover. We have had him for just over a year. I didnt tell her, I am going to take the water to get tested when the Fish store opens, along with him to see if they can see anything.
pleco on February 24, 2018:
I am currently making a project on why pet stores should bring up the price in bettas.
beta friend on February 14, 2018:
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on February 14, 2018:
@beta friend - Advise your friend to do some research and find out what disease or infection his betta may have. It sounds like you are describing several different things, which require very different treatments.
beta friend on February 13, 2018:
my friends beta has white purple and black spots on its head and its eyes are pitch black what should they do
pet lover on February 07, 2018:
my fish just died and i feel terrible about it but this article helped me cope! so thank you
Stephanie Rymas on January 26, 2018:
Jackielmiki, My betta Drako lodged himself under rock in the tank as well. I was gone for thirty minutes and when I got home he wasn't in his tank and I saw a part of his fin floating. I blamed the cat and went to clean his tank. When I started lifting items from the tank I dislodged him and he swam to the top. He damaged part of his fin but survived. Drako likes to root, so I am now very careful to use small rocks at the bottom and not leave open areas at the bottom of the tank where he can get trapped. Hope this helps for any future betta you may get.
Jackielmiki on January 24, 2018:
my baby betta died when we were about to get a proper tank for her :,// I found her one morning under all the rocks in this vase and I have no idea how she even got there but she got crushed
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on December 18, 2017:
@ Carolyn- That's pretty good. I've had them live for a little over 5 years and I've heard of them living longer, but 5 years is typically about the upper limit, and sadly many don't make it that long. Congratulations on keeping your betta healthy for a long time!
Carolyn on December 17, 2017:
How long does a beta live? I have had mine about 4 and a half years
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on December 13, 2017:
Hi Beans. Sorry about the loss of your fish. I know it feels terrible, and it is easy to think you are responsible, but I'm glad you see that it may not have been your fault at all. All we can do is our best for these little creatures. Many things are out of our hands. Good luck in the future.
Beans on December 12, 2017:
I just lost my betta fish, blue, today and i definitely needed this article. I keep thinking I did something wrong. He stopped eating about a week and a half ago and just got more and more lethargic. He spit his food out so I know he definitely wasn't eating. I tried everything water changes, heater, filter and nothing seemed to work. I only had him for 3 months and up until the end he was living a good life. Thank you for this article because I have to believe I did all I can for him. I think it was out of my control
Talisha on December 11, 2017:
judi on December 01, 2017:
Thank you for the info...Helped alot :)