Betta Fish Behavior Before Death

Fish, unlike mammals, can’t showcase signs of serious discomfort right before their death. It is extremely difficult to pinpoint their unique behavior right before their death. This is one of the reasons why detecting signs of health issues in betta fish is difficult. By the time you realize something is wrong, it is too late to cope.

Most beginner aquarists have a hard time understanding when they are in distress. However, there are some prevalent characteristics that a betta showcases just before its death. From lethargy to fading color, you need to be mindful of several things.

While it is not always possible to save your betta fish from dying, several preventive measures keep them healthy. Knowing about the reasons for death and the preventive measures can come in handy in the long run.

This article delves into the common betta fish behavior before death. We will also discuss the ways you can prevent them for good.

Why Would my Betta Fish Die?

Why Would my Betta Fish Die

Death is inevitable. Sometimes it is due to the aging process, and sometimes it is unprecedented. Typically, with a betta fish, there are several reasons to blame. Some aquarists report witnessing changing behavior and even appearance in betta fish when they are close to death.

However, if you can catch these symptoms early, treating the fish can save their lives. Typically, all of it depends on knowing the causes. Understanding what is causing the issue can help prevent it and give your betta a healthy and comfortable life.

Some of the common reasons behind the early death of a betta fish include:

  • Poor water parameters
  • Stress from other fish in the tank
  • Poor eating habits
  • Infected and dirty water leading to infections
  • Preconceived disease from the previous living conditions
  • Not mimicking the right habitat
  • Stress due to known and unknown factors

Keep in mind that the reason could be one or a combination of all. If you find a sudden change in their behavior, the chances are that you need to act quickly. The more you stretch it, the harder it becomes to handle the issues.

Betta Fish Behavior Before Death: How to Tell if Your Betta is Dying?

Betta Fish Behavior Before Death

Now that you have a relevant understanding of the causes let us talk about the symptoms. Spotting the symptoms can be difficult. Especially for beginner fish owners, understanding when your betta fish needs help is quite challenging.

However, right before their death, a betta fish will showcase certain traits that are indicative. You just need to be vigilant. From their behavior to their mannerisms, be mindful of everything.

Following are some of the common signs of a nearing death in a betta:

Sudden Loss of Appetite

Bettas or the Siamese fighting fish are voracious eaters. They come up to the surface and will gobble down anything you feed them. However, a sudden loss in appetite is a red flag. If they don’t eat as much as they did before, it is a sign of inconvenience.

If you find the betta comes up to the surface and isn’t feeding, you need to know something is wrong. Typically, eating five to six pellets a day is a staple diet of a betta. Anything less than that is a sign that something is wrong with your fish.

Also, some bettas will come to the surface and eat the food. However, they will spit it out in the next moment. If your betta is doing the same, it is a sign of loss of appetite. Sudden loss in appetite is a sign that your betta is nearing their death.

Typically, a betta fish can go without food for up to 1-2 weeks. However, that will lead to risks of malnourishment. So, if you notice something amiss, consult a vet to get their health checked.

Dimming Color and Appearance

Bettas are bright in color with a flared fin. Right before their death, the fish starts losing its color and sheen. A sudden shift to their emotions and health results in the fading color, one that stays like that for days.

If you find the fish losing their color suddenly, check the water parameters. A sudden increase in nitrite levels can lead to this issue in the fish. Also, bright red color in the belly region is a sign of infection. You need to consult a vet for that or euthanize your fish, so they aren’t in pain.

However, don’t be alarmed if your betta is old. Aging also results in color fading. It is a sign that they have lived a long and healthy life, and it’s time to accept death. The situation is only alarming if the same is happening to a young betta.

The appearance of horizontal stripes along the length of the betta’s body is a sign that they are under stress. It could be due to poor living conditions or due to other fish in the tank. You need to isolate them immediately to help them relax.

Reduced Responsiveness

Bettas aren’t very active swimmers, but they like to zoom around the tank from time to time. A sick and unhealthy betta likes to isolate itself in the corner of the tank.

Since bettas are quite responsive, you can even train them to follow your movements and directions. If your trained betta isn’t responding to your directions, it is a sign that they are nearing death. You will often find them hiding away or sleeping the majority of the day.

The lack of responsiveness is also prominent during feeding time too. If you are constantly tapping on the glass but to no avail, it is a sign that your betta isn’t in its best of health. Typically, in such cases, check the water parameters and the toxicity of the water too.

Lethargic Behavior

Another common sign that your betta is nearing their death is showing signs of lethargy. It is common for your betta to hide, sleep and relax throughout the day. However, it is a red flag when the duration becomes prolonged, and they are missing out on feeding time.

Typically, a betta will respond to your movements and noises. If that stops suddenly, it is a sign that something is fatally wrong. You should look out for them throughout the day. If you find them suspended up on the surface of the water for extended periods, it can be a sign.

Lethargy is one of the most common signs that your betta is either old or about to die. If you find the betta sleeping even when you are offering them food, it means they aren’t relaxing. Turning on the light should make them respond too. However, if they don’t react, you know something is wrong.

Sudden Spike in Stress

One of the most common signs of a nearing death in a betta is showing signs of stress. The uncomfortable feeling with the pain and other health issues will keep them distressed.

The stress can stem from multiple reasons. It could be due to the water quality, other fish species that aren’t compatible or even feeding cycles. Also, tapping the glass very loudly puts them under stress. The vibrations from the knocks harm their reactivity and can distress them too.

If you notice a sudden change in their behavior, it is a sign of stress. Identify it as early as possible to get the betta help they need. Typically, the first thing you need to check and rectify is the water quality. Also, pair them with the right tank mates like Neon tetra.

Sudden Isolation and Reclusiveness

Besides the reduced activity and responsiveness, signs of isolation is also a red flag. A betta about to die will try to hide in the caves and plants in the tank. This gives them a sense of comfort and safety.

Bettas are aggressive and territorial. However, they do interact with other fish species now and then. If you find a sudden decline in that interaction, it is a sign that they need help. A sudden drop in social interaction is a sign that something is wrong with the betta.

Just keep an eye on them during the waking hours of the day. It is an alarming sign if they tend to stay hidden most of the day instead of swimming around. Sometimes, the symptoms are temporary and will fade away eventually. In other cases, you need to look out.

Gasping for Air in the Surface

Bettas are generally surface feeders. So, you won’t find them lurking around in the bottom. However, if you find the betta floating on the surface gasping for some air, this is a sign of near death. The primary reason behind this issue is a cyanotic disbalance. Your betta isn’t getting enough of the dissolved oxygen in the water.

This is one of the most lethal symptoms, something that you need to tend to immediately. The last thing you want is for your betta to die an untimely death due to lacking oxygen.

The best way to fix this is by installing a better filtration system. An aquarium bubbler also works effortlessly. If you have more fish than the rightful capacity of the tank, your betta will gasp for more air. So, always ensure that you balance out the oxygen requirements in the tank.

Glued Fins

Although quite uncommon, it is a symptom you need to be on the lookout for. Since bettas have a flared fin and design, a sudden glued fin appearance is a sign of distress.

A sudden imbalance in the water temperature results in this issue. If the water is too hot or too cold, the fins glue together to provide them shield. Not changing the parameters for a prolonged period will result in an untimely death.

Flashing Against the Decoration

Another common sign of nearing the death of a betta is with constant flashing. If you find the fish hitting and banging against the plants, caves, and rocks, you need to be worried.

Sometimes, this kind of behavior is playful. But, for the most part, it is a sign of distress. They are either feeling uncomfortable, or the betta is in too much pain to showcase. One of the most common reasons behind this is a parasitic infestation.

If the situation prolongs, you need to isolate the fish immediately from the tank, so it doesn’t affect the other fish. Treat the water to eliminate remnant parasitic infiltration too.

Change to Swimming Behavior

A sick and unhealthy betta fish will showcase modified swimming behavior. Some bettas like to swim in the middle or surface layer of the tank, while a few others like to hide away.

If you find an abrupt change to their swimming behavior from their normal ones, it is a sign of unrest. The chances are that they could be unwell too.

Fish TB

Unless you are an advanced aquarist with profound knowledge, detecting fish TB is not easy. A fish doesn’t cough as a symptom when they are suffering. If you find your betta showcasing a curved spine, it is a sign of TB. Also, sudden spots on the skin are a common symptom.

Some bettas can live like this for days, if not months. So, if you notice something amiss with the fish, you need to isolate them immediately. Find the fish that has come in contact and isolate them too.


Like parasitic infections, bacterial infections are also quite common and frequent with betta fish. Dropsy is one such common type of infection that can put them at risk of death. Besides lethargy and discomfort, the fish can also spread the disease to the other ones in the tank. Ideally, you need to isolate or euthanize them immediately.

If the fish is diagnosed with dropsy, it is a sign that the betta fish’s health isn’t optimal. If you don’t treat it immediately, premature death is right on the cards. The age and immune system of the betta fish are common factors that deduce the efficacy of the disease.

Keep in mind that dropsy is treatable but is deadly too. If you don’t catch it early, it can result in progressive organ failure, leading to the eventual death of the fish.

Skin Issues

Skin issues in betta fish aren’t prevalent but can happen. From white spots to bristle scales and a swollen abdomen, these are signs of bacterial infection. You must check the water for rising in a bacterial infestation. If not changed immediately, the infection can rapidly spread and infect other fish too.

Another skin issue commonly seen in a dying betta is loss of pigmentation. Sometimes, it is due to old age, but it happens when under stress most of the time. The discoloration starts in small sections in the body and then spreads out.

Swelling in the Eye

This is extremely hard to detect, especially in a fish as small as a betta. However, if your betta is showing signs of restlessness and isolation, check their eyes. Generally, one or both swollen eye is due to some form of infection. It could be bacterial, parasitic or even viral.

Also, with swelling, a sudden loss in appetite is due to some form of nutrient deficiency in the fish. This can often lead to death.

What to Do When a Betta is Dying?

If you notice one or multiple of the above signs in your betta, you should know it is serious. Bettas tend to conceal their true condition until it reaches a very bad state. So, if your betta is showing signs of isolation, lethargy, etc., it is probably too late to get them to their best health.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything. Typically, as a betta owner, your best bet would be to isolate and quarantine the fish. If the water parameters or anything in the tank is putting them under stress, quarantining them. It can relieve some of the stress and help them recuperate.

If it is an infection, you can treat them with medications in the quarantine tank. It is a matter of hit or go with a betta. You can’t expect to stabilize their symptoms in the tank they are in. So, separating them for a few weeks is your best bet in that case.

Things to do to Increase Betta’s Lifespan

Betta fish is hardy and will adapt well to the right water parameters. However, situations aren’t always as easy as they seem. Things can go wrong, and your betta could die prematurely too.

However, bad fate is preventive. Things can be controlled with the right precautions and the correct implementation of strategies, and your betta doesn’t have to die prematurely.

There is a lot to consider, from checking the water parameters to keeping the tank clean. Just ensure you follow them religiously. These things will euthanize your fish.

Start with the Tank Size

Tank size for betta fish

We can’t stress this enough, but the betta will be distressed if they aren’t comfortable in the tank. So, keeping them in the ideal tank is important. Bettas need a minimum of 10-gallon tank capacity to thrive. This is ideally for one male or one female betta to live in.

You might find them cramped in a small tank in a shop, but they are preconditioned to do so. Typically, the shop owners keep the males and females separate. This reduces risks of aggression and eventual casualties too.

Also, bettas generally live in shallow water in their natural habitat. However, since they grow up in an enclosed tank in captivity, they need enough water to swim. Leaving them in a tank with shallow water won’t suffice.

Focus on the Water Parameters

More than anything, the water flow, temperature, and pH are worth looking into. If any of these water parameters are off the chart, it will affect your betta. Bettas are hardy, but even they need a clean environment to live a comfortable life.

Also, the ideal water temperature for a betta tank is between 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. So, take a tank thermometer and measure the same every day.

As for a filter, it keeps the levels of nitrate and ammonia in check. Since bettas tend to create a lot of waste, the right kind of filter can help reduce that risk exponentially. However, make sure that you change the water frequently as suggested.

Add Plants in the Tank

Add Plants in the Tank

Bettas don’t enjoy an empty tank. Even if they live alone in the tank, adding caves, hiding plants, etc., are necessary. Live plants are your best bet. They add shade and hiding spots for the betta to relax in.

Also, your betta won’t munch down on the plants, as many say. Bettas are carnivores and seldom eat plants. So, adding live plants won’t be an issue.

The availability of live plants enhances dissolved oxygen levels in the tank, helping the fish breathe better. When adding plants, add good-quality ones like Java fern, Chinese evergreen, etc.

Separate the Male Bettas

Male bettas are a nuisance when kept in a community tank. They are aggressive, and they are extremely territorial too. So, if you want to house a betta that lives a long and healthy life.

Never include two males in a tank because they will end up harming each other trying to co-exist. Female bettas, on the other hand, are a lot more tamed. They are easy to handle, and they like to keep to themselves most of the time.

Follow a Proper Diet

Food plays a crucial role in determining the lifespan of a betta. You risk early death if you are feeding the betta fish random foods, especially restrictive human foods.

Including a balanced proportion of proteins and fat in the diet for a betta is important. Feed them the commercial foods formulated for their needs. They are easily accessible and improve their quality of life exponentially.

Wrapping Up

As an owner, you must stay mindful of your betta’s health. If something seems amiss, it is likely due to issues with their food, health, or surroundings. Keep a check on the symptoms and get professional help if needed.

Most of the time, catching the disease in its primitive stages can help the recovery. The earlier you catch it, the higher chances you have of saving them. If you notice anything amiss, consult a vet and follow the suggested instructions.

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