How do you know if a betta fish is dying?

In this article we will discuss signs to know a betta fish is dying.We will also discuss the signs of a healthy betta fish.This article will give you an idea about their behavior,when they are about to die. 


In this blog

  • How do you know if a betta fish is dying?
  • What are the main reasons for bettas death?
  • Betta fish lifespan
  • Signs of a healthy betta fish
  • Summary 
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Reference 

How do you know if a betta fish is dying?

You know if a betta fish is dying if:

Betta fish will become lethargic or sluggish

This is the primary sign to know if the bettas are sick and about to pass away.The bettas will sink in the bottom of the tank and will remain there only.

A healthy betta fish will be very active in the aquarium.They will look all curious ,healthy and happy.To maintain a fish in an aquarium, it’s very important to maintain pristine water conditions and vital parameters regularly.

Bettas are very sensitive to poor water conditions,especially if the levels of ammonia,nitrite,nitrates, chlorine and heavy metals increases abnormally then it makes them inactive.It’s very important to do frequent water changes weekly,install a proper and efficient filtration system to eliminate organic pollutants and stress free environment to keep them active.

Another reason for their lethargy is temperature.temperature plays a vital role in fish metabolism.An ideal temperature will keep your bettas healthy and active.

Sudden fluctuations  in water temperatures can make them inactive and lethargic.The sudden dips in water temperatures could be detrimental to their health too.

Bettas don’t swim actively

A healthy betta fish is known to swim actively in their tanks.But when they are sick and about to die they either stop swimming or swim abnormally.

If you see your bettas swimming erratically or making circling patterns or whirling, it means they are nervous or suffering from some disorders like hypoxia.Due to hypoxia they don’t get proper oxygen and they start swimming oddly.

Due to higher water temperatures, gill infections and anemia too they are often seen swimming abnormally or they don’t swim at all.

It is very important to maintain proper water temperatures and keep the tanks oxygenated to avoid such situations.

Betta will stop eating or will lose their appetite

A dying bettas will either lose their appetites or will stop eating completely.Water temperature plays an important role in bettas metabolism.Bettas function well when the water temperatures are ideal.If the temperatures are too high,too low or keep on fluctuation ,it will definitely interfere with their metabolism.

The main reason why bettas stop eating is lower water temperatures than the ideal temperature.

Lower water temperatures could be detrimental to them.So,it is very very important to replicate the exact water temperatures like their original habitat in their aquariums.

Discolouration or body color starts fading

Bettas will start losing their color when they are not well and about to die.You will see some white and brown spots on their body as a sign of discoloration.

There could be different reasons too for losing their colors like is important to know that bettas lose their colors as they age.

Bettas are known to live for about 5 years,but if they start losing their colors when they are just 2 or 3 years old that means they are sick and won’t survive longer.

The other reason why bettas lose their colors is when they dont get color flake foods in their diet for maintaining their finnage colourations. Coloured flakes are vital to their diets.

Other factors like stressful environments,less oxygen supply,bacterial and fungal infections will make them lose their colors.

Sink to the bottom of the tank

Healthy bettas are known to swim all over the tanks.But if you see them sinking at the bottom or gasping air on the surface of the tanks then it indicates your bettas are not well.

And when you specifically see them sinking in the bottom or on the surface for more than four days then it is concerning.The reason could be high levels of ammonia,nitrite,nitrate or inefficient filtration systems in the aquarium.

Abnormal respiration or labored breathing

Healthy bettas breathe normally and perform regular and normal respirations.In aquarium conditions they get dissolved oxygen with the help of air pumps or bubblers, live aquatic plants and filters.

If they are breathing heavily or rapidly then it could also indicate they are not well and the reasons could be poor water conditions or low levels of oxygen in the tank.

It could be concerning if you don’t change water frequently or don’t keep the levels of ammonia and other organic pollutants in check. It’s very important to maintain the pristine water conditions and install an effective filtration system in the tank to avoid such situations.

If your bettas are older then it could be normal to breathe abnormally or rapidly.It is very common when they age but if they start showing these symptoms when they are just one or 2 years in age then it’s a matter of concern.

Curled fins or clamped fins

Another important sign to notice is bettas clamped or curled fins.The bettas could be seen folding their fins against their bodies and don’t display it fully.

It could be due to poor water conditions, stress prone tank environments,non-compatible tank mates like fin nippers or very aggressive ones.

They even curl their fins when they don’t get sufficient swimming space to swim in an aquarium.

Due to overcrowded tanks they become susceptible to many infections and this could be one of the major signs,if they are facing any of the above mentioned reasons in their tanks.

Bettas isolate themselves

Healthy bettas are very active and known to interact with other tank mates in their aquariums.And when they don’t interact with other tank mates and hide themselves or isolate themselves to corners then it is not normal.

If they hide for some time or hide for resting it’s a normal behavior but if you see them hiding for too long and not coming out,not having their meals,looks frightened and have no interactions with other tank mates, then it is another sign to know if they are about to  die out of stress. 

Dropsy infection in betta

A condition in bettas when there is an abdominal swelling in the bettas, which is often mistaken as tumors in bettas.The swelling is due to accumulation of body fluids in their body cavity.

Dropsy condition is also correlated with bacterial infections, parasitic infections and dysfunctional livers.In most of the cases there is no treatment for dropsy. 

Most of the fish vets suggest a broad spectrum antibiotics treatments for dropsy.In most of the cases bettas end up dying in the aquarium due to dropsy.

It is very important to shift the sick bettas with dropsy infection in a hospital tank to avoid the infections spreading to other tank mates in the aquariums. 

Untreated dropsy is always fatal.So always consult your vet regarding the same and take actions before it gets too late.

What are the main reasons for bettas death?

The main reasons why betta fish don’t survive longer in aquarium conditions:

  • Bettas are very sensitive to poor water conditions.They thrive well in pristine water conditions.
  • If the levels of organic pollutants like ammonia,nitrite,nitrates are not kept in check then their spikes can kill your bettas by infecting their gills.This wont let them breathe normally and they die out of oxygen insufficiency in the tanks.
  • Water temperatures are not to be ignored at any costs.If the water temperatures are not stable or increase and decrease abnormally then it could be detrimental to bettas by interfering with their metabolism.
  • If the filtration systems are not efficient in bettas tanks then it will increase the levels of ammonia,nitrite and nitrates in the tank.This could be fatal to bettas.
  • Insufficient oxygen supply could also kill your bettas.Air bubblers and aquatic plants are very important for their sound health.
  • Overfeeding is one of the major reasons for fish death in an aquarium.If your fish is eating non-stop then it could cause gastric troubles and can also increase the biomass in the tanks.
  • Underfeeding is fine and even you can fast your bettas for a day also but overfeeding is injurious to their health.
  • If the water is not replaced weekly then dirty will worsen their health too.
  • Leaving leftovers in the tank for too long can increase the ammonia spikes in the tank,which has the ability to pollute the whole tank and kill your fish too.
  • It is recommended to remove uneaten food everyday with the help of a gravel siphon to avoid such conditions.

Betta fish lifespan

Betta fish are known to live between 2-5 years in aquarium settings. Longer lifespan depends on these factors:

  • Fish genetics
  • Tank maintenance practice
  • Pristine water conditions
  • Feeding habits
  • Stress free tank environment
  • Good swimming and hiding space
  • Spacious tanks
  • Compatible tank mates

Signs of a healthy betta fish

A happy and healthy betta fish will will show these characteristics:

  • Colouration-They display their vibrant colors and their body color remains intact.
  • Feeding behavior-Healthy bettas eat properly without skipping their meals,unless they are full.
  • Gills and fins-Their gills look normal and fins don’t decay
  • Respiration-Normal respiration without any difficulty.
  • Swimming movement-They swim actively,smoothly /effortlessly.
  • They dont hide away in the corner.
  • They get along well with their tank mates and interact with them. 


  • If your bettas are gasping at the bottom or on the surface of the tanks, they are about to die.
  • Pale coloured bettas do indicate they are about to die.
  • Limp tail fin’s another sign for a dying betta fish.
  • Their eyes will stop responding.
  • They will start fanning their gills,which is also a critical condition and indicates they are about to die.

Frequently asked questions

How to save your betta fish from dying?

If your betta fish is suffering from tail or fin rots then it should be saved by cleaning their tanks once every three days and using tetracycline and ampicillin to cure the tail or fin rots.

The rot will heal on its own with time.But if it is ignored for a longer time then your bettas won’t survive longer.

What are the main reasons for bettas poor health conditions?

Improper feeding and unhygienic aquarium conditions are the major reasons for bettas poor health conditions.