Betta Fish Behaviors Before Death – 5 Most Common Signs

    is my betta fish dead or sleeping

    Our pets are incredibly important to us. So when something goes wrong, you need to understand what the worst-case scenario is and what the signs might be. If you love taking care of Bettas, you must know the most common Betta fish behaviors before death.

    You need to know the signs of your Betta dying. When they begin to lose appetite, don’t move around much, and exhibit signs of physical distress, you will want to do everything you can to save them – or at least give them a comfortable end.

    This article will discuss the most common behaviors of Betta fish before their death so that dedicated beginner hobbyists know what to look for.

    Common Betta Fish Behaviors Before Death

    how to tell if your betta fish is unhappy

    Our beloved Betta fishes can’t talk or vocalize their distress, and the most we can do is simply observe how they behave.

    Thus, it becomes even more critical for good aquarists to know the common signs of distress or death in their Betta. After all, knowing these things might help save a pet or at least prepare you for what’s coming next. Here is a list of 5 common signs that your Betta may be showing before dying

    1) They Stop Eating

    One of the most obvious symptoms to look out for is lack of appetite.

    Although they only eat once or twice a day, Betta fish should have a good appetite and rarely refuse frozen or live treats. However, if you’re not the one that feeds them regularly, it might be a bit difficult to notice this sign.

    Thus, you need to carefully keep an eye out for your Betta fish’s feeding habits.

    Once you notice that they deviate from their normal feeding patterns, you should start to be worried, even if they’re still healthy. This is especially true if Bettas start to refuse to eat live treats or live food.

    To test, try feeding them small amounts of their favorite yummy treats. If they still eat, then there’s a good chance that they still have their fighting spirit.

    2) They Become Inactive And Lethargic

    Bettas are extremely active swimmers.

    New Bettas are always excited to get to know their home, and they’re going to love spending time exploring every nook and cranny of your tank.

    This means that not being an active swimmer is a deviation from their typical behavior, and it could be because of something serious.

    Carefully observe where your Betta likes spending their time; if they used to be active but now spend most of their time in one spot of the tank, it’s a sign that something is not well.

    3) Their Fins Look Clamped

    One of the things that we love about our Betta fish is the incredible display of their fin shape and colors.

    Throughout the day, Bettas flare their fins often. Whether it’s just to threaten their own reflection or to warn that annoying nerite snail to stay away, it seems like they can’t stop finding ways to display their gorgeous fins.

    If your Betta stops doing this, however, it could be a bad sign.

    This is especially true if your Betta’s fins start looking clamped. Clamped fins are never a good sign, and there are many reasons why it could happen. Maybe it’s stress, or maybe it’s a nasty infection that makes it painful to display their fins. Whatever it is, make sure you deal with it properly so that it doesn’t get worse.

    4) They Produce Stringy White Poop

    The typical excrement that Bettas emit looks like short clumps of black or dark/brown substance.

    Any deviation from this type of color is often a sure sign of distress. Parasitic infections can cause this type and color of poop, the kind that can soon lead to death if not treated properly.

    When this happens, you should go to a trusted veterinarian specializing in fish health.

    Although, even that is no guarantee. Your vet might be able to diagnose the problem, but Bettas are very small and delicate animals, and treatment options and surgeries are difficult, if not downright impossible.

    5) Their Gills Are Working Overtime

    Labored breathing and gasping for air are sure signs of distress.

    Oftentimes, this behavior can simply be because of the reduced quality of your tank water. If the water in your tank isn’t at its best, the oxygen will be limited and instead replaced by toxic elements that the fish then absorb, similar to carbon monoxide poisoning in humans.

    Look at their gills and try to determine if it’s working harder than it usually does.

    Are its gills more flared up than usual, even if the rest of its body isn’t? Does your Betta frequently go to the surface to take quick breaths? If so, your water parameter might be the main issue.

    However, labored breathing can also be a sign of natural death. Like in humans, Bettas’ bodies also degrade as they grow older, and old fishes can start slowly losing the ability to breathe.

    Normal Behaviors And Signs Of Healthy Betta Fish

    healthy and colorful betta

    To better understand this type of behavior, it’s also important for us to understand common Betta behaviors when they’re healthy. This is so that we’ll have the proper baseline on which to base our observations.

    They Swim Actively

    They’re not the fastest swimmers by any means, but they’re very curious swimmers with plenty of personalities.

    One of the surest signs of their health is their activity levels – they’re always swimming around, and they’re very keen to explore their surroundings. If your Betta stops doing that, it means there’s something wrong.

    Of course, you also need to account for individual differences.

    Bettas are well-known for having different personalities for every fish, which is one of the biggest reasons why we love them so much. Some Bettas might not be as active as others and prefer to drift around the tank slowly.

    The main remedy for this is observation and familiarity. You need to be familiar with your Betta’s swimming habits and find out whether it has an active personality or a shy one.

    Regardless of how they usually are, reduced activity is typically a sign of something.

    They Eat Well

    Once again, they’re not as hungry as species like livebearers or goldfishes, but they do eat their fair share. Bettas are predators and hunters, and they especially can’t resist live food that swims around.

    Thus, loss of appetite is another definitive sign that something’s going on with your beloved pet.

    However, we once again should account for individual food preferences. As mentioned, Bettas are impressive in that they develop their personalities, and some part of that might develop feeding preferences – especially if you always feed them live treats.

    If you feed them a live diet all the time, then they might balk at the dry flakes that you attempt to feed them one day, maybe even to the point that they will become a little bit lethargic.

    They might be so used to eating delicious treats that they can’t tolerate anything else.

    A less extreme possibility might just be that they prefer one fish food brand. This can happen, especially if you’ve stuck with one brand for years and then suddenly switch it up. They might not like the new food and thus refuse to eat.

    Their Fins Look Healthy

    Whatever type of Betta you might have, a healthy fish is going to have healthy fins. Their tails should be able to spread out, don’t have any blemishes, and has a vivid color.

    Of course, there are other types of Bettas that might not have long fins, but in general, you’ll know the signs of healthy fins when you see them.

    On the other hand, unhealthy fins are also pretty clear signs that something is wrong. If a Betta’s fins are clamped, if they can’t spread it out properly, and if it has blemishes or growth, you’ll need to pay extra attention to ensure that the problem doesn’t result in immediate death.

    There are several reasons why this might happen. Injury is a simple possible reason, and so are diseases or parasites.

    Regardless of the cause, pay extra attention when you notice this sign.

    They Have Vivid Colors

    One of the things we like the most in Bettas is their vibrant colors, and this is also a sign of their surest health.

    The colors of their fins and scales indicate their health and general state of mind. The happier and healthier they are, the brighter their colors tend to be, and the more vivid or healthy their scales are.

    Although, Betta colors are not that good indicators of distress. Bettas tend to be brightest during mating season, especially if they’ve been fed conditioning food.

    However, Bettas that aren’t extra-bright but don’t exhibit all other behaviors can be reasonably assumed to be healthy. When your Bettas lose color and exhibit several other indicators, that’s when you should start to pay extra attention to your pet.

    Why Did My Betta Fish Die? Common Reasons

    is my betta fish dead or sleeping 

    Now that you have a good idea of the positive and negative behaviors that you need to watch for in your Betta fishes, you’ll now need to understand the most common reasons why they end up dying in the first place.

    If we genuinely love our pets, then we’re going to study up on the things that might hurt them, so that we can do our best to avoid them.

    Bad Water Parameters

    This is perhaps the most common reason why Betta fish die, and it’s true for most fish in general. When their water isn’t the best quality, their health tends to take a turn for the worst.

    If you think about it, it’s very similar to human beings. The equivalent of bad water in an aquarium would be extremely polluted air. For us, breathing in polluted air over extended periods of time can make us sick.

    However, unlike us humans, fish can’t do anything about the condition of their aquarium, so they’re incredibly dependent on our care for their health. In other words, it’s up to you to keep their tank clean at all times, regardless if it’s an acrylic tank or a glass tank.

    Bettas are not the most sensitive fish – they’re great as beginner fishes because they’re so sturdy. However, once the parameters of the water exceed their tolerance levels, they can also begin to be affected.

    Unhealthy Diet

    As mentioned, Bettas eat a wide variety of food. They are true omnivores, and they can eat a wide variety of food in the wild, including underwater vegetation, small live water creatures, and even other fish.

    In an aquarium, however, most Bettas will most likely be fed with one type of fish food for a long time. Similar to humans eating the same preserved food over and over again for days, this type of diet is not healthy for our pets.

    When they don’t have a healthy diet, your fish will be more prone to illnesses and diseases, making them more likely to die.

    If you want to make your Betta healthier, take some extra care to give them some variety every once in a while. This could be food like daphnia, bloodworm, or brine shrimp.

    Lack Of Oxygen In The Water

    Bettas are a type of labyrinth fishes – a species of fish that can breathe air directly from the surface. They have a special organ inside them to store and process that air.

    However, they’re still going to use their gills for most of their breathing — thus, oxygen inside your tank is still important for Bettas.

    Your tank is going to have a limited amount of dissolved oxygen in the water. In the wild, large bodies and moving water will always be full of oxygen, giving plenty for fish to breathe. Aquariums are too small to facilitate this level of aeration, and the issue can even be compounded by overcrowding, lack of an air stone, or just bad parameters.

    Lack of oxygen in the water stresses the Betta out, making it more prone to diseases and injuries.

    Parasites And Diseases

    There are a host of parasites and diseases that can infect and kill your Betta fish.

    Parasites such as gill worms, anchor worms, and ich are all real threats. They can be introduced to your tank if you don’t routinely follow best practices in avoiding parasites, such as quarantining new animals, plants, and even items.

    Similarly, diseases can also find their way to your tank from another fish or if your tank becomes extremely dirty.

    Birth Defects

    Lastly, congenital problems can also cause your Betta to have compromised physical health.

    Sadly, because Bettas are so popular, this fish has attracted a lot of breeders that are just in it for the money and don’t care about their fish. If you’re buying your Betta fish from outside of a reputable pet shop, make sure you know how they were bred.

    If their breeding conditions weren’t good, their offspring may suffer from inbreeding, stress, parasites, diseases, and more.

    Thus, make sure that you only patronize trusted and humane breeders when you can.

    How To Save A Dying Betta Fish

    It’s great to understand what the signs and causes are of a dying Betta fish, but you’re going to need to do something about it. This section will discuss some of the steps you can take to save your beloved pet.

    Try To Determine The Cause

    Yes, the cause of your Betta’s distress might have been a long time coming: congenital issues and toxins in the water are all invisible to the naked eye.

    However, the cause could also be obvious and immediately solvable, such as the lack of a proper filter or dirty water. If you don’t check thoroughly, you might miss something that you could have done immediately to save them or improve their conditions.

    Is your fish acting more distressed by the second? Does it have new injuries? Does it seem to be turning white? Is there anything in the tank that might have harmed it? Are the water parameters alright? For the last one specifically, you can use something like the API Freshwater Master Test Kit to check the parameters.

    If you can see the direct cause of the problem, you can take immediate steps to solve it.

    Aerate The Water

    One of the most common problems that a Betta will likely have is a lack of oxygen in the water. This can be true for beginner aquarists that don’t quite know what role oxygen plays in keeping their fish healthy and don’t know how to aerate the water.

    If this is the case, adding an aerator pump like the HITOP Single Outlet Aquarium Air Pump or the hygger Quiet Mini Air Pump will immediately increase the oxygen in your tank’s water and immediately improve your beta’s conditions.

    Check The Temperature

    Bettas come from tropical countries without extensive swings in temperature. By nature, they don’t adapt well to extreme conditions, such as frigid winters.

    If your Betta seems to be getting sicker during these seasons, it might be the temperature that is causing the problem. You can add a heater like the Tetra HT Submersible Aquarium Heater to keep the temperature stable at all times.

    Transfer Them To A Quarantine Tank

    If bullying or overcrowding is the problem, one of the best things to do would be to transfer your Betta to another tank.

    However, if your Betta is sick, you should put them in a temporary tank without any live companions or plants. A quarantine tank will enable you to administer the medication they need without harming any other living thing in their permanent tank.

    Talk To A Vet

    Finally, if nothing seems to be working, your final recourse would be to consult a professional.

    Vets that specialize in small pets or fish can give you a professional opinion on what might have caused your fish to be that way. They will also be able to tell you the best steps that you can take to improve their condition or simply ease their pain.

    How To Comfort A Dying Betta Fish

    how to comfort a dying betta fish

    If you think you’ve done everything there is to do, and it’s still clear that your beta is heading for the inevitable, how do you send them off comfortably? Fortunately, there are several things you can do to comfort your Betta fish as it passes through the final stage of life.

    • Remove stressors. You want to send off your fish without any additional stress. Thus, keep the environment quiet, keep them warm, and provide some hiding places in case they’ll want to hide away.
    • Talk to your fish. Granted, this one isn’t for the dying Betta fish, but your own. Even though they might not be able to hear you, it often eases the heart to vocalize our feelings, so feel free to tell your pet how much they meant to you. Who knows, they might understand a little bit, somehow.
    • Give your fish time. Lastly, one of the best things to do is simply to wait. Leave your fish and try not to stress it out more, and periodically check in to see their condition.

    How To Euthanize A Betta Fish

    Another thing that you might want to consider is to euthanize a Betta fish. This is a somber prospect to contemplate, but it might be necessary if your fish is suffering and there’s nothing you can do to heal them.

    Euthanasia should only be considered with the help of a trusted professional. Regardless, here are some ways to send your pets off without the pain.

    • Clove oil. One of the most popular ways to end a smaller fish’s suffering is to use clove oil to make them sleep until they die.
    • Quick and painless, decapitation will shorten your Betta’s suffering, and they won’t feel anything. However, it can be quite traumatic to any pet owner, so be warned.
    • Vet assistance. There are other methods that a certified veterinarian can perform with the proper use of instruments, such as using chemicals or tools.


    What are the signs that a Betta fish is dying?

    Drastic changes in its behavior and physical form are sure signs of severe distress in Bettas. These include lethargy, lack of appetite, clamped fins, loss of color, and more. You can also talk to a professional.

    What are the causes of death in Betta fish?

    Stress is one of the most dangerous killers of fish. Stress from overcrowding, bullying, bad water parameters, and more can negatively impact your fish’s delicate systems. Other than that, it could also be an unhealthy lifestyle, disease, injury, or birth-related issues.

    How can I prevent my Betta fish from dying?

    The main thing to do is to keep your fish healthy. Provide pristine conditions in your aquarium, feed your fish with a healthy diet, and keep them engaged.

    What should I do if my Betta fish is dying?

    The very first thing to do is observe if there are any immediate threats that you can solve to save them. You can also transfer your fish to another tank, change the temperature, aerate the water, and ask a vet for advice. Alternatively, you can provide them with a peaceful sendoff.


    Death might be a natural process, but we don’t like being faced with it, especially if it happens with our pets. Thus, you need to understand why and how Bettas can reach this point and also the concrete steps you can take to take care of them.

    If nothing works, then remember to send them off as peacefully as you can. It’s the least they deserve.

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