12 Common Betta Fish Behaviors Before Death


Betta fish are beautiful fish to keep in an aquarium as a pet, with a vibrant appearance that adds to the beauty and appeal of the aquarium. They are, however, vulnerable to a variety of health issues. As a result, it’s our responsibility to look after them so that they can live a long and healthy life. A Betta’s longevity is determined by a variety of factors, including water quality and chemistry, food, disease susception, and tank mates. Bettas in captivity as pets usually have a two- to five-year lifespan.

Betta fish can die suddenly from any ailment, trauma, toxicity, or infection. As they age, they exhibit a variety of indications and symptoms that indicate that they may die shortly. 

In this article, we’ll talk about common betta fish behaviors before death and what to do should you notice them. 

Betta Fish Behaviors Before Death: 12 Signs to Watch For

Sometimes, your betta fish may be exhibiting the following behaviors due to illness, water quality, or lack of oxygen. Other times, it means it’s on the verge of death. Depending on your betta’s age, you may be able to nurse the fish back to health before it dies; however, in older betta fish this usually means they have reached the end of their life and will pass away soon.

1. Appetite loss

When a betta fish reaches the end of its life, it lacks interest in food. When you give a betta fish some of its favorite treats, it’ll show no interest in the meal. This is a concerning sign for the betta fish’s survival. If your betta fish is young and exhibiting appetite loss, you should have it examined by a veterinarian because it could be infected with a fatal disease. If your betta fish is older, however, not eating is an indication of slowed metabolic activities in the body. The body’s energy requirements decrease as the betta fish grows older.

Another reason for a betta’s appetite loss is that its sense of smell begins to decline with age. As a result, when a betta fish is near death, it stops eating and displays no fondness for its favorite foods. You must investigate and determine the cause of its appetite loss. It could be caused by an underlying ailment, stress, or poor water quality.

2. Weakness

A dying betta fish becomes extremely weak due to a loss of appetite for many days. At this point, the body’s metabolic mechanisms malfunction, resulting in a negative energy balance. Betta fish, according to specialists, begin devouring fats, known as triglycerdies, found in the body’s muscle organs to meet their energy needs. When triglycerides are used as a source of energy, it causes significant weakness. This is especially true of betta fish when they get older. Weakness and lethargy in an old betta fish is a common sign that it has reached the end of its life.

Here’s a personal example: my betta fish was four years and seven months old at the time when it stopped devouring food the same way it used to when it was younger. With the passing of the days and weeks, things began to get worse. It was quite feeble by the time it reached four years and eleven months and finally died due to metabolic dysfunction and the shut down of life-sustaining systems in its body. I’m confident it was disease-free, and the water conditions were well monitored; however, at 4 years and 11 months, my betta lived a full, healthy life and its lack of appetite was a sign that it had reached the end of its life. 

3. Problems breathing

Betta fish have difficulty breathing when they are sick, old, or when the water quality is poor. The ability of a betta fish’s labyrinth (the organ which acts as its lung) to obtain a large volume of oxygen reduces as it ages. As a result, it begins to breathe rapidly. This rapid breathing is a symptom that a betta fish is dying if it is old. If it’s young, however, frequent breathing is related to disease or poor water quality. So, you should check the water parameters and seek medical advice from a veterinarian to treat the problem for a younger fish.

4. Lethargy

Lethargy is a common behavior in older betta fish. If your betta fish isn’t responding to environmental stimuli and is constantly resting, it’s a sign that it’s dying. Betta fish are usually energetic and responsive pets, which usually respond to noise or when you approach the tank as environmental stimuli. If your betta fish is exhibiting lethargy, it could be due to stress or poor water quality. As a result, change the water on a frequent basis to maintain water quality and nurse your betta back to health. 

5. Physical appearance and color fading

When Betta fish are healthy, they are more active and their color is brighter. Abnormal changes in the look of betta fish, such as white patches on the body can be caused by aging, stress, and illness. Betta fish have a brighter color, but their skin color decreases as they age. Their skin becomes transparent, and their internal organs may be seen. Genetic mutations can cause white spots and stripes and poor water quality and stress can cause color fading in young fish. If you notice a change in your betta’s appearance or its color fading, you should know that it may be on the verge of death. Examine the fish and water parameters to figure out what’s causing the color change first to determine your next course of action.

6. Depression and stress

Poor water quality contributes to stress and depression. Bad water parameters cause severe stress and despair in older bettas, which can lead to death due to a loss of senses. Stress is caused by an increase in nitrates and ammonia levels, which damages the neural system of betta fish. As a result, they lose their sense of hearing and smell, appearing non-responsive. For betta fish, stress is the root of their health problems because it impairs their immune systems, making them vulnerable to a variety of illnesses. Therefore, be sure to monitor your betta tank’s water quality, and keep ammonia and nitrate levels at zero.

7. Gulping air at the surface

Betta fish have gills that allow them to breathe and absorb oxygen from the water. Betta fish begin gasping for air at the water’s surface for one of two reasons: insufficient oxygen in the water or impaired gills. When their gills don’t absorb enough oxygen, old betta fish gasp for air. Your betta fish struggling for oxygen at an older age is a warning that it’s about to die. If it’s gasping for air at a young age, however, you need to check the water quality and change it to maintain the oxygen level.

8. Changes in behavior

When Betta fish are healthy, they do everything in a regular and graceful manner. When they get older, however, you’ll notice inconsistencies in their behavior. When compared to juvenile betta fish, the swimming pattern of older betta fish is radically different. Due to the damage to its organ systems, dying betta fish experience a great deal of pain. It’s our responsibility as pet parents to recognize aberrant behavioral changes and see a veterinarian to address the underlying problem.

9. Eye swelling

Betta fish are prone to skin infections and inflammation, which can sometimes contribute to eye problems. When a betta fish’s eye swells, it’s due to a serious bacterial or viral infection. because the betta fish has a monocular vision (its eyes are opposite each other). It’ll be tough to tell if the outer layer of its eyes is swollen, but will be seen if you examine it closely. The swelling in the eyes is an indication of a serious bacterial or viral infection that has been going on for a long time. Betta fish have a hard time recovering from such an illness and are on the verge of dying.

10. Hiding and living alone

When a betta fish gets old in the wild, it hides beneath rocks, stones, and plants. They have the same behavior in the aquarium as they have in the wild, preferring to hide under plants and avoiding interacting with tank mates. When you witness this behavior in your betta fish at an older age, it implies it has lived its life and is about to pass away.

11. Dropsy

Dropsy is defined as an accumulation of fluid in the bodily cavities, tissues, and interstitial spaces. Dropsy is a multifactorial symptom in betta fish that might signal bacterial or parasite infections. Hepatic impairment might also cause dropsy. Dropsy in older bettas suggests kidney and immune system failure. As a result, any change in the water’s conditions or hygiene can cause betta fish to die. It’s critical to contact a veterinarian as soon as you observe any signs of dropsy.

12. Fish Tuberculosis

Fish tuberculosis, sometimes known as fish TB, is caused by the mycobacterium. Healthy betta fishes are not susceptible to Fish TB. A betta fish with a suppressed immune system, on the other hand, is vulnerable to fish TB. Mycobacterium is always present in aquariums and infects old or weak betta fish. The bacterium is protected from being killed by its outer coverings. It’s nearly impossible for an old betta fish to recover from fish TB. Fish TB is infectious as well as zoonotic, which means it can be transmitted to other fish and to humans. As a result, you must separate the diseased bettas and wash your hands well after handling them.

Why is my betta fish dying?

The mortality of betta fish can be caused by a number of dangerous circumstances. If not treated promptly, bacteria, fungal, viral, and parasite illnesses can kill betta fish. A healthy betta fish has a strong immune system that can fend off various pathogens. Antigens target cellular functioning and affect organ functions when the immune system is compromised for any reason. Aside from that, your betta fish is dying because it has reached the age where its organs are no longer functioning. Also, ammonia and nitrates are toxic to betta fish and can cause death in old bettas. The following is a list of factors that cause betta fish to die.

  • Bacterial infections
  • Fungal infections
  • Ammonia toxicity
  • Severe trauma or injury
  • Respiratory dysfunction
  • Incompatible fish
  • High nitrates and nitrites levels
  • Water or food poisoning

What factors affect a Betta fish’s lifespan?

If given the right conditions, a betta fish can survive up to five years in captivity. Good quality water, a nutritious diet, and hygienic surroundings are the most important things you can give your betta fish. Changes to these factors, however, make betta fish susceptible to health issues. 

Poor water quality can lead to stress, which can weaken the immune system and water characteristics such as oxygen content, ammonia, nitrates, nitrogen, nitrites, and pollutants must all be checked. The growth of bacteria and fungi is aided by an unsanitary environment, weakening the fish’s immune system. Tnfections take control of the body’s activities when there’s an overabundance of these pathogens.

By maintaining the concentration of T-lymphocytes in a betta fish’s blood, nutrition keeps the immune system stimulated. Minerals, vitamins, and other essential elements should be balanced in the diet. Your betta’s feeding schedule should also be established and regular, as they can die from overfeeding

The following is a list of elements that affect the lifespan of betta fish:

  • Poor water quality
  • Presence of ammonia and nitrates in the water
  • Overcrowding
  • Low oxygen levels
  • Poor diet
  • Too cold or too hot temperature
  • Presence of sharp-edged plants and objects
  • overfeeding
  • Presence of contaminants in the aquarium
  • Bad aquarium mates
  • Rapid or sudden water changes.

How do you know when a betta fish is dying?

You can tell if a betta fish is dying when its body color changes and fades, and it becomes lethargic, unresponsive, agitated, feeble, gasps for air, or stops eating. The symptoms of a dying fish vary depending on the ailment it’s afflicted with. If it’s infected with bacteria or fungus, swollen eyes, white patches on the skin, and dropsy are among the symptoms to look out for.

How do you comfort a dying betta fish?

In the unfortunate situation that you notice the betta fish behaviors before death mentioned above, you should change the water as soon as possible. Disinfect the aquarium completely before adding the betta fish back in. Check the water parameters regularly and remove any food remnants or other impurities. If the health of your betta fish doesn’t improve, you should visit a veterinarian.

Best betta fish care products

As a betta owner, it’s critical to keep the products on hand that keep our fish healthy and happy. Here are some products you should have as a betta fish owner.

1. Betta Water Renewal

Aqueon Aquarium Water Renewal is best to enhance the vitality of bettas. It’s designed specifically for betta fish, and it boosts health, and color, and helps to replenish trace elements. This is something we strongly recommend if you want to keep your aquarium’s water quality high.

2. API Aquarium Salt

API Aquarium Salt helps to keep your aquarium healthy by inhibiting the growth of fungi and germs. It encourages the bettas to breathe and aids in their recovery from illnesses. We highly recommend this when changing the water or setting up a new aquarium for bettas.

3. Aqueon Betta Beads

Aqueon Betta Beads provide beneficial bacteria and enhance the growth of bacteria beneficial for betta fish. It has soft gravel and enzymes, which are essential for keeping bettas healthy and stress-free. This product comes highly recommended for maintaining a healthy aquarium and keeping bettas mentally stimulated.

Notice the signs before it’s too late

Know about the behaviors of bettas before they die to save them from life-threatening illnesses. This information should be reflected as a betta owner to keep your betta healthy and happy. If you have any further questions, please post them in the comments section. If you find this article helpful and informative, please share it to help other betta owners.

2. API Aquarium Salt

API Aquarium Salt helps to keep your aquarium healthy by inhibiting the growth of fungi and germs. It encourages the bettas to breathe and aids in their recovery from illnesses. We highly recommend this when changing the water or setting up a new aquarium for bettas.

3. Aqueon Betta Beads

Aqueon Betta Beads provide beneficial bacteria and enhance the growth of bacteria beneficial for betta fish. It has soft gravel and enzymes, which are essential for keeping bettas healthy and stress-free. This product comes highly recommended for maintaining a healthy aquarium and keeping bettas mentally stimulated.

Notice the signs before it’s too late

Know about the behaviors of bettas before they die to save them from life-threatening illnesses. This information should be reflected as a betta owner to keep your betta healthy and happy. If you have any further questions, please post them in the comments section. If you find this article helpful and informative, please share it to help other betta owners.

Still unsure of why your betta fish is behaving a certain way? We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to betta fish care including tank setup, food, and behaviors to watch for >> The Complete Betta Fish Care Guide

Logan Price

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