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13 Common Betta Fish Diseases (with Photos): Prevention and Treatment

Updated on May 9, 2017
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Januaris is a supplier of pet food and care products, and he’s a true animal lover. He loves to write about dogs, bettas, bees and pigeons.

Betta fish suffers from a number of health conditions, but the good news to the keepers of this type of fish is that these health problems can be prevented and also treated. If the infections occur in the aquarium, they can be easily identified and treated effectively.

This article covers all the common diseases and illnesses of Betta fish, their prevention, diagnosis and treatment. So if you keep the Siamese fighting fish at home, read on to learn how you can keep your aquatic pet healthy.

Betta fish diseases and illnesses are categorized into fungal, parasitic and bacterial. Most fungal infections result from previous health conditions. Parasitic ailments are the most contagious and can be introduced into the aquarium by new fish. The most common causes of bacterial sicknesses include poor quality water and inappropriate fish handling methods.

betta/siamese fighting fish
betta/siamese fighting fish | Source

In brief, what are the common diseases of Betta fish? Well, they include:

1. Fin & Tail Rot

2. Columnaris

3. Hemorrhagic

4. Dropsy

5. Pop Eye

6. Eyecloud

7. Mouth Fungus

8. Furunculosis

9. Fish Fungus

10. Velvet

11. Ich

12. Anchor Worms

13. Hole in the Head

1. Fin & Tail Rot

As the name suggests, this disease affects the fins and tail of Betta. It can be caused by bacteria or fungi. The fins and tail appear to melt away as a result of rotting.

It can be prevented by keeping the aquarium or living conditions of the fish clean.

Fin and Tail Rot can be treated by antibiotics, such as Tetracycline.

If it is effectively treated, the fatality is medium.

fin & tail rot
fin & tail rot | Source

2. Columnaris

This is a bacterial disease that causes the fins to rag and fray. It also causes skin ulcers or lesions, white spots on the mouth, cottony growth on the mouth, scales & fins, and gills discoloration. The fish can have breathing difficulties as a result of the gill infection.

The sickness can be prevented by treating open wounds and fungal infections. It can also be prevented by avoiding factors, such as limited oxygen, water hardness and overcrowding in the aquarium.

Columnaris can be treated by Oxytetracycline and antibiotics containing Sulfa 4 TMP, TMP Sulfa and triple sulfa.

If the infected fish is not treated, it can die in less than 72 hours.

columnaris
columnaris | Source

3. Hemorrhagic

Commonly known as Redmouth, Hemorrhagic causes serious bleeding inside the mouth and eyes of the fish.

The disease can be prevented by disinfecting the aquarium to kill Yersinia Ruckeri, which is the bacteria causing the illness.

The treatment of Hemorrhagic is possible with antibiotics such as ampicillin.

The infection is treatable, which means that the fatality is low.

hemorrhagic
hemorrhagic | Source

4. Dropsy

This is a deadly ailment that affects the kidneys. The infected fish can have swollen abdomen as a result of accumulation of internal fluid.

Some more symptoms include; outward-sticking scales and sunken eyes.

The bacterial infection can be prevented by keeping the aquarium clean. It can also be prevented by feeding fish with vitamins-rich foods.

There is no known cure for Dropsy but medications, such as Betta Revive, can help with the condition.

Most fish that suffer from Dropsy do not survive.

drospy
drospy | Source

5. Pop Eye

This disorder causes swelling on one or both eyes. The swelling can be a tumor or viral infection.

Pop Eye is usually a symptom of a disease and can be avoided by preventing infections in the aquarium.

Antibiotics such as Tetracycline can cure the ailment.

Most fish that suffer from Pop Eye survives at the end.

pop eye
pop eye | Source

6. Eyecloud

Commonly known as Cloudy cornea, this disease causes white films on the eyes.

It can be prevented by improving the quality of water. A water conditioner is needed to make the water safer for the aquatic animal.

Eyecloud can be treated by antibiotics such as Metafix and Fungus Clear.

The bacterial sickness is not fatal but can impair vision.

eye cloud
eye cloud | Source

7. Mouth Fungus

This is actually a bacterial disease, and it causes white lines and clumps around the lips and mouth of the fish.

It can be avoided by keeping the water clean.

Amoxicillin as an antibiotic can cure Mouth Fungus.

The infected fish cannot survive if the illness is not treated early enough.

mouth fungus
mouth fungus | Source

8. Furunculosis

The symptoms of Furunculosis include skin ulcers and open red sores.

Improving water quality can effectively prevent the disease.

Fungus Clear as an antibiotic can treat this bacterial ailment.

Furunculosis can kill fish that doesn’t receive treatment in time.

furunculosis
furunculosis | Source

9. Fish Fungus

This is a fungal disease that originates from previous infections. The affected Betta usually has cotton-like growths on the skin.

It can be prevented by avoiding primary infections and injuries.

Antibiotics such as Methylene Blue and Fungus Clear can cure Fish Fungus.

The sickness can become fatal if it is not treated early enough.

fish fungus
fish fungus | Source

10. Velvet

Betta infected with Velvet appears to have a rusty skin.

The parasitic disease can be prevented by improving the quality of water and ensuring the living conditions are stress-free. Water conditioners are some of the best substances to improve the living conditions.

It is highly contagious but it can be treated fully by Bettafix Remedy. Manufactured by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals, this medication consists of curing components such as sodium chloride, copper sulfate, acriflavin, formalin, sulfa 4 TMP, methylene blue and malachite green.

With all these healing components, this remedy can also be used to treat all the other diseases, illnesses, sickness and disorders listed on this article. I have been keeping Bettas for almost 15 years, and I have seen this medication heal my aquatic pets. I recommend that you use it to prevent, control and treat many ill-health conditions.

If Velvet is not treated early enough, the infected fish dies in a matter of days.

velvet
velvet | Source

11. Ich

Also known as White Spot, Ich is a parasitic disease that causes white spots on the skin of Betta fish.

It can be prevented by changing the water regularly.

The sickness can be treated by Fish-zole, Malachite Green or salt baths.

It is very easy to deal with the illness if treatment starts early.

ich
ich | Source

12. Anchor Worms

This is a parasitic disease that attacks the tail or fins. The affected parts appear red & swollen and have protruding worms.

It can be prevented by treating any newly infected fish.

Some antibiotics such as Methylene Blue and Parasite Clear can cure the disease.

The ailment can become fatal if it is not treated early enough.

anchor worms
anchor worms | Source

13. Hole in the Head

Betta infected with Hole in the Head have an abrasion on the head that looks like a pinhole.

The parasitic infection can be prevented by cleaning water off carbon.

Parasite Clear is an antibiotic that can cure the disease.

The infected fish usually dies after a few days if it is not treated early enough.

hole in the head
hole in the head | Source

Summary.

Disease
Type
Prevention
Treatment
Fin & Tail Rot
Bacterial/Fungal
Clean living conditions
Tetracycline
Columnaris
Bacterial
Treat open woulds
Oxytetracycline
Hemorrhagic disease
Bacterial
Disinfecting aquarium
Ampicillin
Dropsy
Bacterial
Keep aquarium clean
Betta Revive
Pop Eye
Bacterial
Control other diseases
Tetracycline
Eyecloud
Bacterial
Improve water quality
Metafix/Fungus Clear
Mouth Fungus
Bacterial
Improve water conditions
Amoxicillin
Furunculosis
Bacterial
Keep water clean
Fungus Clear
Fish Fungus
Fungal
Avoid primary infections
Methylene Blue/Fungus Clear
Velvet
Parasitic
Clean living conditions
Fish-zole
Ich
Parasitic
Change water regularly
Fish-zole/Malachite Green
Anchor Worms
Parasitic
Treat new fish
Methylene Blue/Parasite Clear
Hole in the Head
Parasitic
Avoid carbon in water
Parasite Clear

In Conclusion...

Now you have it. With this information, you can keep Betta without any worries. Some fish can develop behavioral conditions, such as stress, lethargy and poor appetite, but you shouldn’t be worried about these short-lived conditions, especially if your fish is new in the aquarium.

Have you ever dealt with any of the above Betta fish infections and diseases?

See results

© 2015 Januaris Saint Fores

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      fishfriend 3 months ago

      Your post is really great! - very helpful, clear and easy to understand. Good job :)

    • Jan Saints profile image
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      Januaris Saint Fores 3 months ago from the Midwest

      Thank you fishfriend!

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      Sandra 3 months ago

      I have a dragonscale betta whose been healthy since I got him. He's solo in a 4 gallon tank with pump and heater. I'm meticulous about his water conditions. In December I noticed small lump by the side of his right gill. It's gotten bigger and I tried Lifeguard to see if it might be sufficient to reverse what I was seeing. There was no sign of reversal and this lump continues to grow. It's not affecting him at the moment as he's eating and swimming normally. I've taken a pictures of this growth but in the picture it appears much darker than when viewing him live. When he's swimming away from me, I see white under the discolored scales. I hope this is something I can take care of because he's a great pet! I can't attach photos here or I would provide them. Thanks. I have a dragonscale betta whose been healthy. 4 gallon tank with pump and heater. He's alone. I'm meticulous about his water conditions. In December I noticed small lump by the side of his right gill. It's gotten bigger and I tried Lifeguard to see if it might be sufficient to reverse what I was seeing. There was no sign of reversal and this lump continues to grow. It's not affecting him at the moment as he's eating and swimming normally. I've taken a pictures of this growth but in the picture it appears much darker than when viewing him live. When he's swimming away from me, I see white under the discolored scales. I hope this is something I can take care of because he's a great pet! I can't attach photos here or I would provide them. Thanks.

    • Jan Saints profile image
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      Januaris Saint Fores 3 months ago from the Midwest

      Hello Sandra,

      It looks like the lump is a viral infection which could be a symptom of another disease. You have talked about seeing white under the discolored scales- this could be the main disease, i.e. fish fungus, ich or even anchor worm, and I think the discoloration is just due to the sickness. You need to examine your fish carefully to identify the exact disease. See description in this article to help you identify the disease. I have also suggested some medications in the article. Have you tried Bettafix Remedy? Try this as it cures almost all fish diseases. It is also a great water conditioner! See the link for the medication i.e. at 10. Velvet, and buy it if you use Amazon.

      In addition, I have suggested a number of practices that can create good aquarium conditions and keep your fish healthy. Do more than changing water and warming it! See the table in the article to learn more about these practices.

      Lumps in fish could also be tumors, and if they occur in the gills they are usually as a result of thyroid dysfunction. Some foods like cruciferous vegetables & brazil nuts pellets and flakes and processed bloodworms can help improve thyroid function. So try them also. But most importantly, always keep good aquarium conditions, treat infections early and feed your betta accordingly.

      Hope your pet gets better!

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      Anna 3 months ago

      My betta bit his tail like 4 weeks ago and got fin rot on his back tail... I put him in a heated bowl and did daily 100 percent water changes and he got better and regrowth and then I put him back in his three gallon with fresh water and a week later he got it back. I put in jungle fungus clear and it does great and always makes it go away but the fin rot always comes back. So I decided to do a 100 percent water change and boil the gravel a week and a half ago. After a which now his back fin has regrown some but now he has a small but on his bottom tail?! The meds removed it mostly but I want to know what keeps causing the rot?! When it comes it comes fast and it's like tan/brown and crispy when I look with a flashlight. His poop also turns black when the fin rot comes back and his poop is normally brown. I read reasheaeched a ton and I think it may be because as the ammonia starts to build up he gets it back?! But I don't know ?! I am trying to cycle his 3gal and i don't know if I can but I am going to the store this weekend to get some Indian almond leaves and ammonia nautralizing drops and to get his water tested. Any ideas why he keeps getting it because this is getting annoying!

    • Jan Saints profile image
      Author

      Januaris Saint Fores 3 months ago from the Midwest

      Hello Anna, It looks he was bitten by other fish, and it appears like they keep biting him. Do you keep other fish in the tank? If yes, ensure that they are not overcrowding just to reduce stress.

      Fin rot is caused by bacteria (and in some cases- fungus). From your explanation, it looks like it is a bacterium that is surviving in the tank. You need to change water every 5 days- for a 3gal tank. Let the tank dry in the sun and soak its accessories in hot water. If you have plants, get them outside to vaporize any water on them. When adding fresh water, include some aquarium salt or conditioner.

      Keep pH between 7-8 and ammonia, nitrites and nitrates below 40 ppm. Check also to ensure that the water is at the right temperature - 26-27 degress C, and is well supplied with air.

      On the side of medication, you can try BettaFix remedy (see it in the article)- it can fight a number of conditions, including ulcers, wounds, fin & tail rot and mouth fungus. There are just many medications for fin rot- follow the BettaFix link in the article to see them on amazon. Look also for jungle fingus eliminator, meracyn, waterlife, melafix, myxazin, etc.

      You can also prevent the disease by tea tree oil or tonic salt, but the most important thing here is to clean the tank and its accessories and let them dry in the sun, then change the water (every 5 days).

      Hope the best for your pet!

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      Anna 3 months ago

      Thanks for the reply! My betta does not have any tank mates because it's a three gallon but i read that 100% water changes are bad?! So how can I get the ammonia to go down and the fin rot to go away ... right now I am doing 40% water changes every 3-4 days with a siphon and I am treating the fin rot with jungle fungus eliminator and salt... it works but the rot keeps coming back? And do you know anything about the black poop?

    • Jan Saints profile image
      Author

      Januaris Saint Fores 3 months ago from the Midwest

      Hello Anna,

      Doing 100% water change will help kill the bacteria which seem to be surviving in the water. On the side of ammonia, you can reduce it by the following ways (consider ways that apply to your situation):

      - Doing regular water changes.

      - Scooping out unncessary organic matter like uneated food, rotting plants and dead fish.

      - Vacuuming/cleaning the gravel.

      - Unclogging the filter.

      - Cutting down on feeding.

      - Avoiding overstocking.

      - Introducing healthy bacteria.

      - Lowering pH.

      - Increasing aeration.

      - Using ammonia neutralizing/removing pellets/drops.

      Concerning the black poop, it could be caused by the type of food or medication you are giving him. This situation can also happen if the fish has bleeding ulcers in the digestive tract. You can monitor the stool closely to see if there is blood on it, and also see if he has symptoms of hemorrhage. But I guess it is the food or medication you are giving him.

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      Pattie 3 months ago

      I have been researching for hours and cannot figure out what is ailing my fish. He has a "lump" between his gills (on his chin if you will it's whitish). This literally appeared overnight. He is lethargic and just hanging out at the bottom of the tank. He still has interest in food but he seems to have a hard time getting it. His color is still good but I'm noticing fin clamping today and he was not doing that before. Also his beard looks like it's "hanging out". This started about 3 days ago and I started treatment; Kanaplax and Furan 2. Any ideas what this could be??

    • Jan Saints profile image
      Author

      Januaris Saint Fores 3 months ago from the Midwest

      Hello Pattie,

      Lumps in fish are usually a symptom of another disease, and in rare cases tumors. From your explanation, you have talked about the gills/chin being whitish. This could be discoloration which is a common symptom of the columnaris disease! This sickness has other symptoms such as ragged and frayed fins- which you have also talked about. Inspect your fish carefully to see if it has skin ulcers and breathing problems as these are also symptoms of the disease.

      Because this is highly likely to be columnaris, I would advise you to try medications that contain Sulfa 4 TMP, TMP Sulfa, triple sulfa & Oxytetracycline- like the BettaFix Remedy- you can get it though the Amazon link in the article. To prevent this illness, ensure that you avoid things such as limited oxygen, water hardness and overcrowding in your tank.

      If it happens to be a tumor (of which I don't suspect), you can prevent it from happening to other fish by feeding them with foods such as cruciferous vegetables & brazil nuts pellets and flakes and processed bloodworms. These foods fight thyroid dysfunction which is the common cause of gill lumps.

      Wishing your pet quick recovery!

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      2 months ago

      This is really helpful. A couple of years back, when I had my betta, Bluey, the blue betta, he developed ich. He had it for a while, and I had no idea how to treat him. Eventually I found some medicine that helped, but by then my lovely betta was gone. Thank you for making this guide. I hope it'll help other betta owners know how to care for their fish, as I did not. If I ever get bettas again, I'll memorize this list. I finally know how I could have saved him...

    • Jan Saints profile image
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      Januaris Saint Fores 2 months ago from the Midwest

      Sorry for your loss, and you are welcomed to review anytime that your new pet develops health issues!

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      Rythegreat 7 weeks ago

      Thanks. Now I'm going to be much more cautious of my Beta, Harrison. And thank you for the treatment suggestions, now I know what stuff to get

    • Jan Saints profile image
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      Januaris Saint Fores 7 weeks ago from the Midwest

      Thanks Rythegreat! You can actually prevent and control most the illnesses by conditioning your water. Many aquarium conditioners have been manufactured, but it is only a few that are the best! (*** Follow The Bettafix Link Above (In The Velvex) To Find These Best Conditioners***).

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      Christina 7 weeks ago

      Love this article.

      I'm concerned about my new little fella, Vermeer though. I just bought him a few days ago and a new tank with a pineapple with a hole going through it to hide. When watching him today I noticed a white spot on his body under his ventral fins. However he doesn't act like a sick fish, in fact he'd be a piggy. He also isn't lethargic or hanging at the bottom of the tank, his quite active. Should I wait a bit or should I assume he has Ich or fin for and try treatment now?

      Thanks

    • Jan Saints profile image
      Author

      Januaris Saint Fores 7 weeks ago from the Midwest

      Thanks Christina for loving my article! When it comes to your Vermeer, you don't have to wait when you see any signs or symptoms of an infection. Do you condition your water? Most illnesses happen as a result of poor water quality. Grab a good water conditioner to improve the water quality. Follow the Bettafix link above to find the best conditioners. As for the white spot, it could be an inch developing or any other fish disease. But you don't have to wait to see how it turns out. Get a medication that fights many fish infections, like the Bettafix Remedy mentioned above. :)

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      Christina 7 weeks ago

      Thanks for thequickcc reply Januaris. Yes did condition Vermer's water with Top Fin then put himmm n his tank. I did buy the remedy medicine that covers all bacterial, fungus and parasite and started his treatment this morning. I'm not sure what brought on this infection, could have been stress during transportation since I didn't bring him home right away. He also came from Walmart and I doubt they do much for betta care.

      Vermeer seems to be ticked off today. His been full on flaring with gills open and all, for hours now, this is the first time his done this. This started up about 2 hours before I started treatment and hasn't stopped. I had moved things around his aquarium and he started up. I moved everything back and his still flaring. There's no mirrors and it's a low lite area, he has a pattern on his tank's background of squares. He also has started up trying to attack something in a small opening of his decoration pineapple.

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      Mariah 2 weeks ago

      Hi. My Betta-fish fins deteriorated. Came back some. His body is bent and thin, and he has trouble swimming. He looks crippled but still has an appetite. Not sure what to do on a consistent basis. Has been a few weeks now. Need help. Can't figure out.

    • Jan Saints profile image
      Author

      Januaris Saint Fores 2 weeks ago from the Midwest

      Deterioration of fins or tail is usually due to the Fin & Rot disease or Columnaris disease, and the thin body and crippling is due to the sickness. These diseases are caused by bacteria that thrive in dirty water, so you need to change water regularly depending on your tank size. Before adding fresh water, you can let the tank dry in the sun and soak its components in hot water. If you have plants, get them outside to dry any water on them. When adding fresh water, you can include some aquarium salt, conditioner or tea tree oil.

      Keep pH between 7-8 and ammonia, nitrites and nitrates below 40 ppm. Check also to ensure that the water is at the right temperature - 26-27 degress C, and is well supplied with air.

      Then you need to treat your buddy! You can try BettaFix remedy (see it in the article) - it can fight a number of health conditions, including ulcers, wounds, fin & tail rot and mouth fungus. There are just many medications for fin rot- follow the BettaFix link in the article to see them on amazon. Look also for jungle fungus eliminator, meracyn, waterlife, melafix, myxazin, etc.

      Wish you all the best for your betta!

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      Amanda 4 days ago

      Does anybody know if triple sulfa or tetracycline is better for Betta that has finally melt And fill disease can't seem to find an answer

    • Jan Saints profile image
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      Januaris Saint Fores 4 days ago from the Midwest

      I guess you are talking about fin and tail rot! As far as I know, triple sulfa and tetracycline medications that work are manufactured by the reputable pharmaceutical companies, So buy the ones that are manufactured by leading companies (like Aquarium Pharmaceuticals) as this is the only way you can get genuine medication that can fight this bacterial infection.

      You also need to post your question on betta forums as these are the places where you can get more opinions from other keepers of this pet! Thank you.

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      Hanna 4 days ago

      I have a betta fish and it had been pooping fine a month or two ago and then it started to have tiny black spots in its brown swirlies. A couple of weeks ago my betta kept eating and stopped pooping and he began to bloat. I resolved that by giving him a pea and fasting him. Now he is pooping fine but his poop is now a light grey/brown/ almost (not quite) whiteish and the black spots are still in his poop and sometimes he has pretty big black spots in his poop that you could easily see one or two without a flashlight!(before you could only see the black spots with a flashlight). My betta is still active. He lives in a heated and filtered three gallon and the tests are all good; ammo = 0, etc. He has lost a tad bit of color but is still pretty active during the day! I was wondering if I should order general cure by api for internal parasites??? and if you happen to know what is wrong with him. His only symptoms are his white-ish poop and recent bloating (but I fixed that and now he is better and pooping every day!). He is pretty active and mostly the same color (mostly). How can I help my betta?!

    • Jan Saints profile image
      Author

      Januaris Saint Fores 3 days ago from the Midwest

      It looks like you have partly resolved the problem with your fish, so you just need to monitor his progress. The bloat could be a feeding malpractice - giving him excess food. The black spots could be due to internal breeding i.e., caused by hard-food abrasion in the digestion system, or it could be some black food fragments you're giving him. The whitish poop shouldn't be a big issue - it could be caused by the food color.

      If you usually don't change water regularly, you need to start doing so! Some bacteria that cause digestion issues thrive in dirt water. Internal parasites are also favored by dirt water, so you need to keep changing water. Find out the changing frequency for a 3 gallon tank with filters. Concerning buying medication, you need to keep monitoring the poop for things such as parasite eggs, fragments, etc before ordering the general cure. :)

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