Can betta fish drown?

This guide will help you understand if bettas can drown, and help you understand the reasons and solutions for it.


In this blog

  • Can betta fish drown?
  • What is so special about bettas’ labyrinth organ?
  • Do bettas have great swimming strength?
  • Do bettas drown due to trapping?
  • Do bettas drown due to ammonia and nitrate poisoning?
  • How to stop bettas from drowning?
  • Can bettas drown due to the small water surface area?
  • Summary 
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Reference

Can betta fish drown?

Most people believe that fish are incapable of drowning. After all, they live and breathe underwater, so they must be adapted to this environment. But if the aquarium conditions are not suitable your fish can drown and die.

All fish need oxygen to survive, and if something prevents them from getting enough of it, they will drown and die. The labyrinth organ in betta fish helps them stay afloat in water.

To be honest, bettas don’t drown, unlike other fish, due to their special labyrinth organ. They may not thrive if the aquarium condition is poor or unsuitable for them.

What is so special about bettas’ labyrinth organ?

Betta fish are less likely to drown when poisoned than other fish. This is due to the fact that they have developed a specialized organ. 

Labyrinth organs are modified lungs in that they are able to extract oxygen from the air and distribute it to the rest of the body. They allow fish to take in atmospheric oxygen by swimming to the surface and taking a gulp.

The betta’s natural habitat is very warm and stagnant water, which means there is very little dissolved oxygen.

Betta fish don’t have to rely entirely on their gills. Therefore, even if the gills are severely damaged by ammonia or nitrite poisoning, they can breathe and are much more likely to survive than other fish.

If the damage is severe enough to kill the gill tissue, the fish will die. If a betta can’t use their labyrinth organ or can’t get to the top of their tank, they will drown if they can’t get air.

Do bettas have great swimming strength?

Bettas’ long and massive fins can make them susceptible to drowning if they get caught in water. Not all types of bettas have long fins such as plakats and wilds, but most of the ones sold in local pet stores have excessive fins.

The long fins on a fish can make it more likely that the fish will develop fin rot, and it can also make the fish swim poorly. The betta did not evolve with long fins; those fins were selectively bred.Betta fish’s small bodies cannot handle long, large fins, so they often have swimming issues.

Do bettas drown due to trapping?

Betta fish can sometimes become trapped by aquarium decorations, which can then cause them to lose their limbs. 

Sometimes they get stuck inside of decorations and can’t get out, while other times they get trapped under the decoration or between the decoration and something else.

Betta fish can survive for a few hours trapped in aquarium decors, but their chances of survival decrease rapidly after that time. They can die faster if they get trapped inside of a decoration, because there is little water flow in those areas.

Do bettas drown due to ammonia and nitrate poisoning?

Yes, these types of poisoning are very common and can lead to the fish drowning. The toxicity of ammonia to fish can cause severe burns. 

The burns can often cause serious damage to the gills, which can make the fish unable to breathe properly.The fish can become suffocated and drown if the damage is severe.

Fish need to circulate oxygen through their blood in order to survive, and if they cannot do this, they will drown.

Ammonia and nitrite are commonly found in uncycled tanks, and it typically takes around one month for a tank to cycle properly. 

Unfortunately, nitrogen cycling is uncommon among betta breeders, and most people either get a betta and add it to the tank right away.It is very important to cycle the tank before adding bettas in it.

Can bettas drown due to the small water surface area?

If your tank is small or doesn’t have enough surface area, oxygen levels can drop dramatically and cause your fish to drown.

Keeping fish in small containers can be dangerous because they can easily get trapped or drowned. Some fish,like the betta, can survive by breathing air that is in the atmosphere.

How to stop bettas from drowning?

Dirty water is one of the easiest ways to ruin an aquarium. A harmful chemical called fish waste and food leftovers can contaminate your tank, making the water poisonous.

Many betta keepers believe that betta fish can survive in difficult environments, where most other fish would die. This is because they are anabantoids. They have evolved the ability to breathe air from surface water when the water itself is polluted and low in oxygen.

If you clean the tank regularly and suck up any debris or uneaten food, your betta will stay healthier.The best way to remove uneaten food from your betta tank gravel is to use an aquarium gravel vacuum. These tools create a siphon effect to trap food and other debris that has accumulated in your tank gravel.

In general, you will need to change your betta’s water about once a week. Although betta fish can tolerate lower oxygen levels in water than other fish, there are other reasons why you might want to change the water in your aquarium to prevent bettas from drowning.

Testing your fish tank is a great way to get an idea of what’s going on, and it’s easy to do at home. To test the water quality in your betta fish tank, use a freshwater test kit. This kit will measure the levels of ammonia, nitrates, nitrites, and pH. Additionally, it may also detect other impurities.

Maintaining correct water parameters in bettas tank:

  • Temperature: 75°-81°F (23.8°-27.2°C)
  • Ammonia and Nitrite: 0 ppm.
  • Nitrate: <20 ppm.
  • GH: 3-4 dGH (50-66.7 ppm)
  • KH: 3-5 dKH (53.6- 89.4 ppm)
  • pH: 6.5-7.5.

Add live plants to the betta tank for a healthy environment: Live plants will not only make your betta aquarium look great, but they can also help maintain the quality of the water in the tank.

  • Anubias
  • Marimo moss ball
  • Cryptocoryne
  • Water sprite
  • Betta bulb
  • Sword plant


The labyrinth organ is a special organ found in betta fish that helps them survive in difficult environments. This organ allows bettas to breathe atmospheric air and extract oxygen from it.

Even labyrinthine fish, such as bettas, may appear to be drowning, but these fish actually suffocate and do not drown. However, if your tank has a good circulation with plenty of oxygen, your fish is less likely to die from suffocation.

If your fish produce too much waste, it can ruin your tank. The longer the plant and animal waste stays in the water, the further away the decomposition process goes.To avoid betta fish drowning, keep your tank clean and make sure there are plenty of oxygen sources available.

Keep the aquarium clean and use a gravel vacuum to remove waste from the tank. It’s a good idea to keep your aquarium clean by performing regular water changes.

You can help your betta live a longer and healthier life by controlling his environment and providing him with the essential items he needs.

Frequently asked questions

How long can a betta fish survive without oxygen?

The most promising answer to this question is two days. However, most experienced aquarists will say that it is much longer than two days. The length of time your fish will survive without oxygen will depend on a variety of factors.

What is ammonia poisoning in a fish tank?

Ammonia poisoning can occur when the levels of ph in a fish tank rise, upsetting the nitrogen cycle.Ammonia is the main nitrogenous waste product of fish and is very harmful to them if allowed to accumulate in the water.A good biological filter will break down ammonia as it is produced, keeping your fish safe.

What is nitrate poisoning in a fish tank?

Nitrate poisoning occurs when fish are kept in a tank with high nitrate levels without taking regular care of the tank. It is important to clean up the tank to prevent nitrate generation.

How to keep bettas tank well maintained to avoid drowning?

  • Making sure you perform regular water changes is a crucial part of keeping your tank healthy. 
  • Vacuum the tank and get rid of excess debris.
  • Testing the water to make sure it is safe for your betta fish.

What is a bettas labyrinth organ?

This organ helps betta fish to take in oxygen directly from the air, bypassing the need for gills. The labyrinth organ helps the oxygen that is inhaled to be absorbed into the bloodstream.

Are bettas good swimmers?

Bettas are not good swimmers, due to their long and massive fins.