What are the signs that a betta fish is dying?

In this article, we will answer the question “What are the signs that a betta fish is dying?”. We will also discuss the most typical signals and some potential solutions.

What are the signs that a betta fish is dying?

By studying its behaviour and general appearance, you can tell if your betta is dying. Laboured breathing, weight loss, lethargy, increased scales, glazed eyes, and discolouration are common indicators of dying bettas. These are frequently caused by a combination of poor water quality and infections. 

Betta fish show indicators of aging, including colour loss and lethargy, among other things. Other symptoms are also conceivable, and a betta might die for reasons other than old age. We’ll list and discuss some of the warning signals of these diseases, as well as the warning signs of old age, because some disorders are nearly invariably, if not always, deadly. 

Death is the final phase of any existence, and it might occur unexpectedly in some instances. If, on the other hand, your betta is simply dying of old age, you will be able to spot warning symptoms months in advance. Betta fish can live for two to seven years (bettas from breeders survive far longer than store-bought bettas, which are affected by ammonia and nitrite in small cups), so knowing when your pet will die is helpful. After 5 or more years with your small companion, sudden death might be traumatic.

Signals a betta fish is dying


The first clue that something is amiss with your betta is lethargy. It is typical to observe whether there is an issue with water parameters, such as ammonia, nitrate, temperature, diseases, or age. If your betta is being drowsier than usual, this does not indicate a single problem, thus you won’t be able to diagnose your betta without other symptoms. 

A sluggish betta appears exhausted and depressed the majority of the time. If a betta fish is facing this issue, it may swim less and also eat less. This disorder is also frequently accompanied by a loss of colour. 

You should also keep an eye out for depression in betta fish, as it is a common affliction. There are no drugs available to treat this problem, however additional stimulus can help it improve. When compared to plain lethargy, fish sadness is extremely rare. 

Fading colours

If your betta is abruptly losing colour, it’s a sign that something is wrong, not just a case of laziness. There’s a considerable probability your betta is unwell if the colour shift is significant. Your betta might be elderly if the scales are dulling, or it could be the marble gene if the scales are changing colour.

Bettas with the marble gene can change colour at any time during their lives. It makes them lighter or darker depending on the situation. Older bettas “grey” by fading to a slightly lighter colour, and the change is frequently so subtle that you won’t notice until you go back and look at old photos. 

A large shift in colour could indicate serious sickness and is a warning omen. Of course, if a colour change is the only symptom, it’s possible that you won’t be able to figure out what’s wrong right away. Test your water; if any of your metrics are out of whack, you must intervene quickly with water changes. 

Hunched back 

Bettas get a minor or major hunch in their back as they get older. This is natural for both male and female bettas as they get older. If your betta develops a slender stomach and begins to lose weight, both fish TB and internal parasites should be considered as probable reasons. 


Dropsy is a symptom of renal failure rather than an aging characteristic. As you may guess, solving any major organ failure issue in a fish is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible. This is one of those diseases that virtually invariably results in death.

Only one of the five main causes of dropsy is genuinely curable, and it is extremely difficult to treat. Because less than 90% of fish stricken by this ailment survive, most people prefer to put their fish out of any more agony rather than try to treat it. 

Dropsy is a condition in which a fish develops severe swelling and pine cone scales. Fluid builds up in the fish’s body when the kidneys fail, causing it to expand. A fungus, infection, accident, age, or parasite can all cause kidney failure. 

The only type of kidney failure in fish that can be treated with Kanaplex and unscented Epsom salts is a bacterial infection. You should start with a substantial water change, perhaps up to 50%. Then, for every 5 litres of water, add 1 tbsp Epsom salt and start dosing Kanaplex. 

Too much resting

If you find them sleeping more than normal, it might indicate lethargy. However, if your betta is lying horizontally on the substrate, it is indicative of a further condition. 

A sick betta is lying flat on the substrate, which is a very negative indicator. If your betta’s death is due to sickness or old age, he or she will most likely not survive much longer. If the problem is poor water quality, your betta has a chance of surviving if you undertake three significant water changes in 24 hours and keep ammonia and nitrite at 0 and nitrates at 10 for the next few weeks. 

Breathing frequently 

Rapid breathing is comparable to lethargy in that it is a generic symptom of something being wrong. This symptom isn’t always fatal, but it’s typically an indication that your fish is unwell or elderly.

Fish that are sick, in dirty water, or that are old will all breathe faster than usual. For older fish, the shift will be gradual, and you may not notice it until you compare it to a younger fish. 

The symptom will appear in sick fish and fish in polluted water within one or two days, or in extreme situations, within a few hours. Before thinking your fish are unwell, always check your water conditions and temperature.

Furthermore, if you observe your fish consuming more ambient air than usual, this is frequently a sign of a water quality problem. Most of the time, ammonia or nitrite will suffocate or scorch your fish, requiring it to use its labyrinth organ more frequently than usual.

It’s also possible that the aquarium has very little dissolved oxygen. Adding live plants, a bubbler, or a waterfall filter can help to enhance oxygen levels. Betta fish will survive in less oxygenated water in most situations, but if they have any other tank mates, even snails, the tank mates may suffer and maybe die.

Appetite reduction 

A loss of appetite is a common symptom of aging. Because a betta’s metabolism slows as it gets older, it doesn’t require as much food as it formerly did. If you have temperatures issues, a healthy betta fish can even feel the same way.

Bettas that are severely ill will have a reduced or non-existent appetite. In elder bettas, the metamorphosis takes weeks or months, but it happens much faster in ill bettas, generally within a few days. 

Slow responses 

Bettas with slower metabolisms or eye problems are more likely to have slowed reactions. It’s probable that your betta is merely getting older if it swims slowly or takes longer to react to food and other things in the tank. Unless they are unable to move, most sick fish have a good reaction time. Older bettas will still be able to flee potential predators, but it will take them long to notice the threat and flee. 

Poisoning with Nitrite 

In cycling tanks or tanks experiencing a mini-cycle, nitrite poisoning is a severe problem. Fish are often killed by spikes in nitrite levels, and there are warning signals that the fish is doomed. If the fish develops a red belly due to exposure to extremely high nitrite levels, there is nothing further you can do for it but euthanize it. 

Methylene blue can be used to treat milder cases of nitrite poisoning. If your fish gets nitrite poisoning, it will have long-term effects and limit the life span of the fish. 

What is the best way to save a dying betta fish

The possibilities of bringing a dead fish back to life are little to none. The strategies listed below have been shown to yield positive results: 

– Isolating your betta who is dying 

– Making use of first-aid kits and aquarium salt 

– Performing proper water changes 

– Maintaining ideal water parameters 

– Cleaning your betta fish 

– Increasing oxygen levels 

– Changing the water level


In this article, we answered the question “What are the signs that a betta fish is dying?”. We also discussed the most typical signals and some potential solutions.

If you have any thoughts or doubts, feel free to drop us a comment below!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): What are the signs that a betta fish is dying?

Do betta fish die easily?

Betta fish do not die rapidly, but they do require special water and food in order to be healthy and live a long and happy life. They are tough fish that may live for three to five years if properly cared for.

Do Betta fish pretend to be dead? 

The normal behaviour of a Betta fish is to act dead. Betta fish can act as though they are dead for a variety of reasons. They may act dead to attract attention or to scare their owner, and they may also devour food. 

How do I know if a betta fish is in pain? 

The fins and gills of a healthy betta fish are continually flaring and fluttering about. When it becomes ill, it becomes less active and may even have its fins restricted. You may have noticed that when they are in excruciating agony, they hardly move and are frequently found at the aquarium’s bottom.

Do betta fish feel pain?

Fish have the physical structure to understand pain signals, create the same natural chemical pain relievers as mammals, and actively avoid unpleasant stimuli. They also go through feelings that we humans may relate to.

My fish is alive, but why isn’t it moving?

If fish are suffering from acute stress, you may be assured that the water has been poisoned in some way. Cleaning products may have gotten into the tank, or something may have leaked chemicals into the water.

How much food should I offer my betta?

Feeding your betta fish two to four pellets once or twice a day is advised. When pellets are submerged in water, they expand and become extremely filling for your betta. Instead of pellets, freeze-dried or fresh food can be utilized one or two times each week.


How Can You Tell if Your Betta Fish is Dying? http://bettafishaquarium.com/how-can-you-tell-if-your-betta-fish-is-dying/

Is My Betta Fish Dying? (Typical Signs & Solutions). https://petfishonline.com/is-my-betta-fish-dying/

Do Betta Fish Die Easily? Know How To Tell If Your Betta Is Sick or Dying. https://japanesefightingfish.org/do-betta-fish-die-easily/

Rahman, M. 8 Most Common Betta Fish Signs Before They Die. https://acuariopets.com/common-betta-fish-signs-before-death/