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Category: Pet
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My betta fish is dying. What can I do to save him?

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Betta fish question - My Betta is dying and I don't know what it's from. His fins and body lost there color. His top fin looks burnt. I checked for ammonia it is negative. His other fins turned a pale gray color and his body turned from a beautiful irridecent pale blue to what looks like a black and blue mark. His entire body looks black but when you shine a flash light on him he looks purple. I don't think I can save him he is too far gone but I was hoping someone would know what he is sticken with.
Thank you

From the symptoms you are describing all signs point to the fish reacting to unfavorable water conditions.


The first and most important thing to do is to change some or all of the water.

If the fish is being housed in a bowl or a tank that holds less than 2 gallons change all of the water. If the fish's tank holds more than 2 gallons change 1/2 of the water.


Right after doing the water change add some aquarium salt at a ratio of 1 tablespoon per every 2 1/2 gallons of water. The salt will serve as a general tonic and greatly help the fish.


After doing the water change and adding the salt make sure that the water temperature is around 80f degrees. If not then slowly adjust it until it reaches 80f degrees. This is very important as bettas do not like cool water.


Also important is to have as little water current as possible. Bettas do not like much water movement in their environment so it would be best to eliminate any air emitting devices in the tank. Bettas to not need an air supply in their water as they have the ability to obtain oxygen from above the water's surface.


Once the above has been done begin to observe the fish. If it does not begin to show signs of improvement begin to treat with a medicine called Betta Fix, click on link below for a view of the product. Betta Fix can be found at most major pet stores.

Just follow the directions on the product label for usage/dosage instructions.


Please remember that the best way to keep your betta healthy is by doing 25%-50% partial water changes once or twice a week. If the fish is in a bowl then change all of the water every 4 days making sure to follow the guidelines mentioned earlier.


Best wishes and please let me know if you have any questions.




TROPICAL FISH AFICIONADO and 2 other Pet Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 7 years ago.

You need more info - he lives in a 20gal long community tank. I did a gravel suction and water change on sunday. He began to show signs of sickness yesterday. He lives with Mollies and platies and has been very happy. The water quality is perfect. Ammonia, nitrate, nitrite all perfect. Water temp is 80 degrees. I added aquarium salt. I added melafix with the water change. Water is filtered. Why does his top fin look like it was set on fire and then blew out. Why is he loosing all his color and turning purple???

He is now in a hospital tank, I used the clean water from the 20g. I will follow your advice and do a 1/2 water change. Why is his entire body turning purple when the water quality is fine??

You mentioned "Ammonia, nitrate, nitrite all perfect". What were the exact test results?


Also, how many gallons of water does the hospital tank hold?

Is there an air emitting device and heater in the hospital tank?



Customer: replied 7 years ago.
The levels were all 0ppm, Negative - no color change. I did it in a test tube. The ammonia color stayed yellow which indicated non present. the other tests as well all indicate negative. He is in a 2 1/2 gal hospital tank with a heater he was at 80 degrees but I just changed half the water and it fell to 78. no air system or filter. I didn't want him to be pushed around the tank - he is very week. He is lying on the bottom and his little gills are still moving. His body is purple

The hospital tank appears to be in order.


If you haven't already done so add the aquarium salt as mentioned prior. Add 1 tablespoon.


The fact that the fish is lying on the bottom is not a good sign so I'm going to recommend a different medicine.


Instead of using Betta Fix use a medicine called Lifeguard. Click on link below for a view of the product. It can be found at most major pet stores. Just follow the directions on the product label for usage instructions.


The burnt looking fin is an indication of a bacterial infection for which the Betta Fix would have helped but the lethargy could be an indication of an internal parasite or internal bacteria. Lifeguard is good for this type of situation as it is a wide specturm medicine designed to treat a variety of ailments.


Try and keep the fish's water in optimal condition by doing 50% partial water changes every 3 days using dechlorinated water that is the same temperature as the water already in the tank. Make sure when doing the water changes to add the corresponding amount of aquarium salt to the water. And try to maintain a steady water temperature around 80f degrees.


Francine please keep in mind that your betta is gravely ill and a recovery will be difficult but not imposssible so try and administer the medicine as soon as possible.


Also note that bettas with age become more prone to illness. The average life span for a betta is 2 years. They are generally put up for sale when they are 1 year old. So if you've had the betta for 8 months or more he would already be considered somewhat advanced in age.


Best wishes on a speedy and full recovery for the fish and please let me know if you have additional questions.





Customer: replied 7 years ago.

Thank you - I am going to get the Lifeguard right now if petland has it or Pet-co which is close to my house. Thank you for your advice. I purchased the betta at the Long Island aquarium society meeting. He was brought there by a breeder. He was very tiny when I got him. I am thinking he was about 6 months old. His fins were not fully developd yet. He must have had a visual problem because he had a hard time catching his pellets and it look a litle longer to feed him. He has a very quirky little personality and I am very sad for what has happened to him. I hate to see him like this and it makes me even more upset that I didn't know the best thing to do for him. I will try the Lifeguard.

Thank you

You're welcome.


From what you're telling me you are located in the NYC metropolitan area, I am too--southwestern Ct.


The L.I. aquarium society has an excellent reputation. I haven't had the chance to attend any of their meetings but would like to one day.


Actually the last time I went to L.I. was last year, a pet store in Suffolk County.


I can sympathize with you feelings for the fish especially having it since it was young.


I'm checking Petco & Petland Discounts web sites to see if Lifeguard is available. If not I'll suggest something else that is in stock.





Customer: replied 7 years ago.

I Live in Suffolk - I just called Petland - they don't have it. My only other choice is Pet-co

There maybe one other place near me but I don't know the name. I will look it up in the phone book.

I forgot to tell you, I overtreated him last night. I put Maracyn plus, maracide and tetracycline all in the hospital tank. I am glad I did the 1/2 water change.

This is heart renching. I am constantly loosing Betas to all these unknown diseases.

One had a tumor growing out from one gill. One was covered in something I couldn't identify and I have lost many to dropsy.


I found it. BTJ jungle carries it. I am leaving now to go get it. What are your recommendations for when a fish gets dropsy?? I will accept your answers when I get back. I don't know how to reach you if I accept and the session gets closed out.

Ok-- I just finshed checking the web sites of Petco, Petland Discounts and Petsmart.

You didn't mention Petsmart but I know there are about 3 locations on LI.

Don't know if they're close to you.


Based on the products available on the websites I'm going to recommend a different combination of medicines.


To deal with any possible bacterial problems continue to use Maracyn Plus as it's an excellent medicine and you'll also avoid having to spend unnecessarily on another anti-bacterial medicine. Make sure to dose properly as you mentioned that an accidental overdose occured. Maracyn Plus's instructions state:

"Use 2 teaspoons per 10 gallons of water". So in your tank's case ( 2.5 gallon tank) a 1/2 teaspoon would be an appropriate dosage.


For the possible parasite problem use a medicine called Quick Cure which should be available at Petland Discounts. Click on link below for a view of the product. I just checked Petland's web page and Quick Cure is on there. I have also purchased it from them at a location near me.


What I suggest you do in order to detoxify the water from the overdose is do another partial water change, 1 gallon. This should bring the residual medicine that exists in the tank to a neglible level.


I normally do not like to do this but as this is a desperate situation I'm going to suggest that you treat with two different medicines at the same time. Add 1/2 teaspoon of Maracyn Plus to the water and 1 drop of Quick Cure to the water.


.............. I just received your most recent post. I assume you mean that BJT jungle has Lifeguard. If so then disregard the above recommendations. You can continue to communicate with me on this same post.


I'll be offline for awhile so we'll touch base later on in the afternoon or early evening.

We can discuss dropsy and also the betta problems you've had.


Good luck!



Customer: replied 7 years ago.

This poor fish is so far gone it would take a miracle. I just disolved less than a 1/4 of a tablet of the lifeguard. What ever he has ravaged it's way through him like a tornado. I don't think he had a chance. It took over him in a day. I had 4 bettas my guess is I now have 3. This guy really breaks my heart. I have never cried over a fish like I have been crying over him. When Max died I was very sad but this little guy has got me like a water faucet. The thing that bothers me the most is I couldn't tell by looking at him what he has and I didn't have enough time to figure it out and save him. I have only been able to save 2 of my many bettas. One had Velvet which I was able to identify and treat and one had nitate or nitrite poisoning which I saved with water changes. Other than that I lost most to dropsy and a few to some unknown disease. The guy at the pet store sold me something called Acriflavine and told me it's a good treatment for dropsy. I have done a lot of reading on the internet about dropsy, all I know is they don't know the cause(May be overfeeding) and they don't know the cure - usually death. I lost about 5 bettas to it.


Oh well - he didn't make it. Thank god he is no longer suffering. I took pictures of his diseased body. Is there a place I can e-mail them to you. Maybe if you see it you will know what it is. Maybe we can put the photos on the internet so if others have the same problem they can recognize it right away and treat.

I'm so so sorry to hear about your betta's passing. I know that you tried your best to save him and really cared for him as you care for all of your fish.


If you'd like to send a picture there should be an "tree" icon located on the toolbar at the top of the response page. There are instructions as to to how to post a picture.



Customer: replied 7 years ago.

From what I saw in the pic the fish had a bad case of a bacterial disease called Fin Rot and if the position that the fish was in was upright then he also had swim bladder disorder (sbd).



Customer: replied 7 years ago.

Wow - does fin rot take over the body that quick or is this something he had for a while and I did not notice. I look at all my fish everyday. I am always checking them for changes. What about his gills, they also look black and how can you tell he has swim bladder disease?? I am going to send you a picture of him when he was a baby - you will see how cute he was. I hope I can look at it without crying

Customer: replied 7 years ago.

If left untreated and in combination with unfavorable water conditions any disease can take over a fish fast. With a betta it might be harder to detect fin changes as they have a fuller plummage.


I couldn't see the gills in the picture but black gills are an indication of ammonia burn which is basically prolonged exposure to ammonia in the water and could also be an indication of gill parasites.


As for sbd as I mentioned I wasn't sure if the pic indicated the fish's postion accurately or the pic was posted at an angle but if the fish was swimming vertically it would have been a classic symptom of sbd.


And yes Moonglow was indeed a fine looking betta especially his color.


Thank you for your accept and kind feedback.





Customer: replied 7 years ago.

I don't want to take up your time. I only paid you $9. If you have any advice for dropsy I will gladly take it. I had sent you a reply with a product I bought from the pet store just a few hours ago. I typed the name of it for you. It's downstairs now. But the guy at the store sold it to me to treat dropsy.


I can't imagine my water conditions were off. I tested everything about 2-3 weeks ago and nothing came back positive and I just checked again last night and it was all good. I have something else going on in the tank and I lost about 4 fish in the past 3 weeks. It actually looks like velvet or something of that nature. The fish are clamped and they look uncomfortable. The one that has it right now is rubbing her body on the gravel, rocks and plants so I decided to treat the whole tank with Maracide and maracyn plus for any secondary infections. If the tank gets wiped out I will clean it with bleach and start over.

As far as the Bettas I love them and will always have them. I have 3 left now. I'm moonglow the Betta was opal. He was my favorite.


Thanks Ric - and like I said any info on dropsy will help - I have lost many to dropsy

Please don't be concerned about taking up time.

What I'd like to happen is that you don't have to go through the same suffering in the future. It's now a question of learning from the past and proceeding to a better aquarium future.


Basically stated almost all fish disease has it's roots in unfavorable water conditions be it the presence of ammonia and nitrites or high nitrates. Usually the only exception to this is when a new fish is placed into the tank who is already carrying a disease.


Francine what I'm going to do if it's ok with you is post (continue) later on. I have some links about Dropsy and I'd like to locate them in/on my cluttered pc. I'll also touch upon all of your other concerns and questions. So please be patient and I will definitely communicate with you within a couple of hours. I also have some ideas concerning future bettas, which if you decide to have another one, which you might find interesting.





Customer: replied 7 years ago.

That's great, I will love to hear all you have to say

Hi again Francine.


Ok I'm going to start off with the most important part of fishkeeping--water quality.

Water test results should always indicate ammonia and nitrite=-0- (no exceptions) and nitrates 20 ppm or lower. The only time ammonia and nitrites should be present is in a new tank set up as in new set up there does not yet exist sufficient good bacteria to consume/breakdown ammonia/nitrites. If you're not already aware of the cycling process, listed below is a link which will explain it.


You mentioned that you have tested the water quite frequently and the results were always favorable. Francine I suspect something went or was wrong with the testing(s). It could have been that the testing eqiupment was faulty or expired and/or the way the test was administered was incorrect. You didn't mention what type of test kit you've been using but the best type to use is the one that uses vials in which a special liquid is added to a vial which contains tank water. Dip stick testing is inferior to the vial method.


What you can do is after testing the water take a water sample to your local pet store and they will usualy test for free. Compare the store's results with your results. If there is a discrepancy then we know either the store's testing is off or your testing is off.

If that's the case then try another pet store for testing and compare all of the results.


Unfavorable water conditions will cause disease and death in fish and no medicine will be able to effect a cure in water that is in bad condition. I cannot stress the importance of water quality enough Francine. If you maintain good water quality you will see not see the amount of chronic cases of disease that you are now witnessing in your tank(s).


Next--quarantining fish. I can see that you really like and enjoy the hobby of fishkeeping and as a result add new fish to the tank(s) on occasion. Whenever adding new fish it's extremely important to quarantine them for at least 2 weeks prior to entry in the main tank. Many fish bought from pet stores are virtually a "Typhoid Mary" who carry a disease(s) just ready to infect a whole tank. By quarantining new fish you will avoid serious consequences. If during the isolation period the new fish shows signs of illness you can either decide to treat it or euthanize it but you'll know to not admit it into the main tank thus avoiding disasterous results.


As for Dropsy, listed below are 3 very good links which will discuss it.

Basically Dropsy is caused by, once again, poor water conditions and can usually be avoided by maintaining good water quality. My preferred treatment plan is to isolate the affected fish, add epsom salt to the water at a ratio of 1 teaspoon per every 5 gallons of water and treat with Maracyn-Two. Even with proper treatment the mortality rate is high once the fish's scales start sticking out like a pinecone. The key to Dropsy is to avoid it.

Acriflavine is also good to use when treating Dropsy but shouldn't be used in conjunction with any other medicine.


You wrote about a possible case of Velvet in the tank accompanied by clamped fins and scratching (aka flashing). The clamped fins and flashing are classic symptoms of a parasitic infection. Try using a medicine called Quick Cure, which is available at Petland Discounts, to treat this but remember my advice about the water quality first.


You mentioned that Moonglow was purchased from a breeder.

Fish purchased from breeders tend to be the purebred/pedigrees of the fish world and as a result they have more outstanding and finer features then their counterparts but as a result of being a purebred they have a tendancy to be more fragile and susceptible to disease as a result of much inbreeding.


Now Francine please do not take this wrong but until you get into the swing of things with bettas and have been able to drastically lower their mortality rate and reduce the problems you have encountered it would be best to deal with regular pet store bettas. Get comfortable with them, learn about their species individual needs and then once you're completely "in the groove" with them should you then move up to breeder bred bettas.


Betta basics are:

1) Constant and stable 80f degree water temperature.

2) Good water quality ( see my earlier comments) which includes frequent partial or whole water changes.

3) Little or no water movement

4) Not overfeeding

5) Varied diet


On a final note. The most fundamental way to maintain good water quality in your main tank(s) is via weekly 25% partial water changes using dechlorinated water that is the same temperature as the water already in the tank and to not overfeed. Also make sure to change the filter media at least every 30 days but don't change the filter media the same day you're changing water.


Hope this information proves helpful and useful.






Customer: replied 7 years ago.

This is all great info. I have been testing with the test tube system filling the viles with water and adding the chemicals as directed. I can't imagine what I could have been doing wrong but I will take a better look at it. I will check out the links you provided and put more time into learning.

Thanks for all the great info and all of your time. I lost another platty the one that was acting funny scratching her body. She just started this behavior yesterday and is dead today. I have a bad feeling my whole tank will be wiped out soon. This is the 5th fish to die in about 3 weeks. I have Maracide and Maracyn plus in the tank now as that is what the pamphlet recommended for paracites. I may have the Quick Cure should I use that instead of the Maracide?? I am treating my whole tank at this point because I have lost 5-6 fish in the past 3 weeks so I guess I am assuming the whole tank is sick. I am going to start to do water testing more frequently. My other Bettas are all ok right now. I have that I keep together with a white divider in a 6 gal tank with filtration and I have another one in a 3 gal tank with a small filter and both tanks have heaters.

Anyway we will keep our fingers crossed and pray I can get out of this horrible situation.

Have a wonderful evening

God Bless


I'm glad you found the information useful.


It's odd that that you received a recommendation to use both Maracyn Plus and Maracide at the same time as this is obviously a parasite problem for which Maracyn Plus would be ineffective. So as not to expose the fish to an overdose of medicine it would be best to treat with Maracide only and not begin with Quick Cure.


Remember to be careful when using medicines as being too heavy handed can toxify the fish. It's best to follow the directions on the product label and only use one medicine at a time.


Best wishes and have a good night.