Fish poop all the time. Since it is always around, at least in small amounts, we learn to ignore it over time. But what does betta fish poop look like? Do bettas ever get constipated or bloated? And is there more to it than meets the eye?
A betta fish’s poop is variable. Sometimes it looks stringy and at other times thick. The color changes as well, depending on its diet and health. Examining betta fish poop is an important part of keeping fish. Fish waste tells you a lot about what’s going on inside your pet, including how to diagnose and avoid constipation issues.
Believe it or not, you actually want to spend time looking at your fish’s poop. In fact, I recommend doing so on a daily basis! So, what can we learn from our betta’s poop?
Do Betta Fish Poop?
Bettas poop just as much as other fish do. Since pet aquarium fish get regular meals a few times per day, they tend to poop regularly. Unlike wild fish, which often have to skip meals since food is scarce.
All organisms that take in food or nutrients have to release waste. While it might not always look like poop, organisms can’t use every bit of their food. Even plants and single celled animals create waste.
Carnivorous animals like betta fish poop less than herbivorous animals. Vegetable matter is full of fiber, which is indigestible. Unlike protein that can be broken down better by the digestive system. This gives herbivores bigger poops.
When a betta poops, its waste falls down to the bottom of the tank. Here, fish poop can become a nutrient for any aquarium plants you have. If you have no plants, this poop may fuel the growth of algae and bacteria as it decomposes further into ammonia.
What Does Betta Fish Poop Look Like?
The size and density of a betta’s poop is one of the first things you will notice. The mass of it already tells you something about the fish!
A normal betta poop is a little thicker than that of tetras, guppies, and other aquarium fish. But it should still be mostly long, brown, and with a toothpaste-like consistency to it.
The length and consistency will vary a little, depending on the diet and size of your fish. The more you get to know your fish, the better you’ll understand what a healthy betta poo looks like.
Poop When Overfed
We want our tropical fish to eat well. But since fish, especially betta fish, tend to be greedy feeders, it is easy to give them too much food.
When a betta fish is overfed, the poop will tend to come out quite thick. If the fish is overfed but still digesting properly, it will bunch up around the anus without falling.
A bloated stomach is also a strong sign. Especially if it stays bloated even after the betta poops for the first time. The poop may look like a big, round plop. When it should be longer and cylindrical.
Undigested food in the poop is another sign of overfeeding (but also intestinal disorders). This is even more obvious if you feed a lot of live or frozen foods.
Undigested parts of prey may mean that the fish has eaten so many that it’s not fully breaking them down. This does depends on the prey, however.
Its normal to find a few undigested blood worm exoskeletons since their skin is tougher. Freeze dried foods are also harder to digest.
Poor When Underfed
The natural instincts of fish are to always look for food, even if they are full. You never know when the next meal will come by in the wild. But sometimes aquarists are too cautious and end up underfeeding.
The poop of an underfed betta will look similar to normal betta fish poop. The fish’s system is fully digesting any food it does get. A better clue is to look at the body of your pet.
An underfed betta’s stomach will look sunken in vs having a nicely swollen stomach. A good meal should cause it to swell a little. But a betta should never be fed so little that they have a sunken stomach. These fish are active and thick bodied.
How Often Does A Betta Fish Poop?
How often a betta fish will poop depends on the betta’s metabolism. And the metabolism of a fish, in turn, is regulated by the species and the environment.
Fish are ectothermic animals, also known as “cold blooded.” They get their body heat from the environment, unlike mammals and other endothermic animals. The warmer the water temperature, the faster your fish will digest and grow. And the more often it will poop!
As you can see, a heater is an important addition to a betta fish aquarium. Without one, digestive health and growth are negatively affected. As well as disease resistance.
A well fed betta fish may poop regularly during the day. At least a single poop per day is normal, with several still being very healthy. Regular bowel movements are a sign that your fish is processing its food naturally.
What Color Should Betta Fish Poop Be?
Healthy betta poop will be a dark brown color. There is room for variation here, depending on what you feed your betta fish. Many brands of fish food use colorful dyes that will change the hue of betta fish poop.
Frozen and live foods like blood worms and tubifex worms may cause betta fish poop to turn bright red. At first this can even look like blood, but don’t be alarmed. Brine shrimp can impart an orange color to the waste. Its the other colors you should be more concerned with.
Abnormal Betta Fish Poop Colors & What They Mean
Sometimes, betta fish will have different colored poop than what is normally expected. Here are two abnormal poop colors and what they mean:
White & Stingy Betta Fish Poop
White poop is a sign that you need to take a closer look at your fish. Especially if the poop looks pale and stringy. Stringy poop is a universal sign of internal distress in aquarium fish. Your betta may be fighting off an external infection like ich or velvet.
But we also see white and stringy poop regularly when a fish is suffering from a parasitic infection. Worms and other intestinal parasites will eat either the food the betta fish does. Or absorb blood and other bodily fluids, weakening the fish.
A betta fish with internal parasites will often look like an underfed betta, with a sunken in stomach. It will show other signs of stress as well, including stress stripes, clamped fins, and lethargic swimming behavior.
How To Get Rid Of Any Parasites In Betta Fish Poop
There aren’t any anti-parasite food blends like there are for people. Instead, we need to treat the water column directly with anti-parasite medicine. If your betta lives in a community tank, it is best to move it to a quarantine tank.
Fish medications can stress sensitive animals in your aquarium like invertebrates. Plus, you can use less medicine since a quarantine tank does not need to be large!
Once you treat the water in the entire tank, watch the betta’s poo for signs of improvement. The poop will stay white a stringy for a few days or even a week. But as long as the betta is eating well and swimming at least a little, there is hope.
You can expect a full recovery once the betta’s poop starts to turn more solid and darker in color. The stringiness should fade, replaced by thick and healthy fish poop.
Green Betta Fish Poop
Green betta fish poop is another sign of internal distress. Green often points to digestive health issues, especially if its also stringy poop. But this is not as serious as when you see white poop.
If a betta fish poop is green, give it a few days before adding medication. You may not have a sick fish – or the illness is not truly serious.
So long as its behavior and appetite are otherwise normal, it is likely just a passing issue. A sudden change in diet can also cause green poop at first. Only to shift back to a normal brown after a short period.
Also sure to double-check your aquarium’s water parameters and water temperature. And watch for any signs of stress in your betta fish.
Betta Fish Poop Hanging
If you see the betta fish pooping it should not hang out of the fish much longer than an hour. Usually less than that. Betta poop doesn’t usually hang for very long and falls quickly once released from the digestive tract.
You should keep an eye on any hanging poop but it’s not a major cause for concern. The color and consistency are much more important indicators of fish health.
How To Help & Treat A Constipated Betta Fish That Is Not Pooping
Constipation in betta fish does happen but it’s not as common as you’d think when reading online reports. Bettas are carnivores so their food (animal protein) is easily digested.
They have a short digestive tract that does not give food much of a chance to get blocked inside of them.
What most aquarists think is constipation is really swim bladder disease. I cover diagnosing and treating swim bladder disease in this article!
The major difference between the two disorders is that constipated bettas stop pooping. They also don’t have as much trouble floating or swimming, unlike with swim bladder disease.
Swim bladder disease is often the result of a bacterial disorder. Therefore, it is treatable with medications. Whereas constipation is usually caused by a physical blockage. So the treatment methods are very different.
If you are sure you have a truly constipated betta, then there are two things you need to do:
Raise The Water Temperature
The first is to raise the water temperature to 80-85°F. To learn how to raise the water temperature properly, see my article here.
As ectotherms, warmer conditions will speed up their metabolism. Which speeds up digestion and hopefully gets that blocked poop moving again. Once your betta has a large bowel movement, don’t rush to feed it again right away.
Give its system a day to adjust. There may still be more poop inside of it, especially if its belly is still swollen. Rushing to feed it can cause a new constipation inside of your pet fish.
Feed Your Constipated Bettas Some Animal-Based Roughage
Second, you can feed your betta some animal-based roughage, to help push the intestinal blockage out. Because bettas are carnivores, remember?
Live or thawed water fleas (daphnia) are the best option. These small crustaceans have an indigestible exoskeleton.
When eaten, they gently help push stuck waste out of the intestinal tract! Since water fleas are not super common, you may need to go to a specialty aquarium store for some.
If you can’t find live or frozen water fleas, freeze dried foods are readily available and more convenient as well. Feed only a small amount of these foods; 50% of a betta fish’s usual meal just once per day.
Freeze dried mysis shrimp and krill are too large for a betta and too hard to chew properly. So stick to blood worms and daphnia when possible.
How To Prevent Betta Fish Constipation / Not Pooping
I typically see constipated betta fish only if they are being fed an improper diet. Cheap aquarium fish foods often have loads of plant-based material. Especially carbohydrates, which can form 20-30% of the feed.
Herbivores, like silver dollars and mollies, have little trouble with vegetation. But carnivores like bettas don’t have the right enzymes or digestive tract to get the most from plant-based foods.
If you also keep your betta in a cold aquarium, all of this plant roughage moves much too slowly through their digestive system. The fiber can start to rot, causing bloating and constipation. This can even be fatal if not caught early enough.
Take a moment to read the ingredients label on your fish food. Are the first three ingredients plant-based? It’s common to see wheat/potato/corn/soy starch in fish food. Its a cheap filler that balances out the more expensive additives like fish and krill meal.
Omnivores like guppies and barbs do fine with this sort of food. But bettas need high-quality animal protein as the foundation of their diet. Blends like Ultra Fresh provide everything a carnivorous betta needs for healthy poops!
Look for squid, shrimp, fish, and other ingredients. As well as a little spirulina, seaweed, or garlic. Bettas get a little bit of plant matter from the prey they eat, which enhances their nutritional value.
How To Clean Betta Fish Poop
Once betta poop starts to build up in a fish tank, your aquarium will start to look unsightly. A smaller betta fish tank will build up poop faster than a larger one will. So regular cleaning is critical.
The best way to clean betta fish poop is to use a siphon hose (gravel vacuum). You should clean the gravel even in a small betta fish tank.
Don’t just change the water but leave bettas poop buried in the substate. Fish poop is a source of ammonia and other nitrogenous waste products. Even if you change the water and remove some of it, leftover fish poop will cause ammonia levels to rise again.
Dig down deep into the substrate using your gravel vacuum. Leftover food and other debris also need to be removed. Be gentle when disturbing the substrate if you have live plants, however.
Plant roots are delicate. Breaking them is a good way to kill any established plants that you have. Plus, plants absorb ammonia and other pollutants as fertilizer. So you don’t need to be quite so diligent when removing betta fish poop in a planted aquarium.
When refilling your betta fish aquarium, make sure that your tap water is treated with dechlorinator.
Chlorine is used to kill pathogens in drinking water. But is toxic to all aquatic life, including pet fish. I recommend brands like API Aqua, which also removes chloramine and heavy metals.
Last, make sure that fresh tap water’s temperature is within 3-5°F of the aquarium’s temperature. A sudden change in water temperature can cause severe stress to your betta fish
That fish poop at the bottom of the tank is a wealth of information about the health of your pet betta. So don’t ignore it; dig into it, instead!
The color, consistency, and size all tell you whether a betta fish is dealing with internal parasites. What kind of diet it’s been eating. If it’s suffering from constipation, needs to eat less, and so on. All fish keepers should be familiar with their betta fish’s poop!
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