betta fish popeye treatment

Betta Fish Popeye: Treatment, Causes, Symptoms

Betta fish is a freshwater fish having its roots in multiple South Asian Countries, namely Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Bettas are an intrinsic part of the culture and economies of some South Asian countries and are also famous for being the National Aquatic Animal of Thailand. 

Domesticated almost 1000 years ago in Thailand, the Siamese fighting fish, which is popularly known as the betta, is one of the most loved Aquarium pets in the world owing to its bright features and low maintenance.

The extreme popularity of bettas results from its possession of a unique organ called the labyrinth that makes it resistant to the effects of lower oxygen levels and poor water quality.

Although low maintenance, betta fish have a delicate structure and are prone to many diseases. Bettas can come under the influence of Popeye disease and many more related viral and parasitic ailments if not cared for properly.

What Does Popeye Disease Look Like?

The significant symptom related to Popeye is a striking change in the eye appearance. The change is not so evident in the beginning stages and can often go unnoticed. Many fish also have naturally bulging eyes, so you should not mistake this for them possessing Popeye disease. A betta, on the other hand, when at the advanced stages, has a striking bulge in the eyes. Indicators of betta Popeye include:

  • Continuously hold its fins close to its body, indicating severe clamped fins.
  • Extraordinary bulging of one eye or both the eyes.
  • Inflation in the body giving the fish a swollen appearance. 
  • Submissive attitude and isolation from tankmates. 
  • Keeping a lower tank altitude and showing no initiative to consume food or socialize. 
  • The fish’s eyeball might appear cloudy with white coloured rings in the interior. 
  • Rupture of the eyeball resulting in bloodshot red eyes.
  • The eye socket looks more stretched than usual.
  • Orientational shifts in one eye or both the eyeballs, suggesting extreme protrusion. 

Protrusion or bulging results from leakage of fluid behind the eyeball giving it a swollen appearance. If the leakage is not contained naturally by the immune system or artificially by using antibiotics or salts, it could further lead to a permanent rupture of the cornea, resulting in permanent blindness in the affected eye.

There are two main types of Popeye disease, which we’ll talk about in further detail below.

Unilateral Popeye

This type of ailment targets only one of the eyes.


Unilateral Popeye is usually the result of an accident. Although uncommon, it could be the result of infection at times. Both male and female bettas are highly aggressive creatures and are susceptible to a great show of dominance towards their tankmates when in perfect health.Β 

The fish can sometimes damage one of its eyes during a show of aggression with one of its tankmates. Other reasons could include scratching the eyeball on the surface of any tank decoration like plastic plants or edges of filters. In more extreme cases, damage can be caused due to self-induced physical trauma.


In minor injury cases, the eyeball can realign along with its original position on its own within a few days. The best course to protect the life and eyesight of your betta fish, however, is by starting treatment before things go south. 

First, remove some of the water from your aquarium tank and transfer it into a clean container. Then:

  • Add Epsom salt to the container.
  • Shift your ailed betta into the tank.
  • Let it rest for ten to fifteen minutes.

A basic rule for the quantity of salt to be added should be no more than 1 tablespoon / gallon. I prefer to let my affected fish rest for around 20 minutes before transferring it back to its original home.

Repeat this process at least 3 times a week until the bulging is gone and the eyeballs are realigned to their original orientation. 

Note: the Epsom salt bath treatment will only work if the Popeye is caused by physical harmβ€”not by parasites or infection, so it’s important to be sure that this is the reason for Popeye before beginning treatment.


Isolation from the troublemakers

All species of nature are pre-designed to protect themselves from danger, some more than others β€”and this can cause injury to tankmates or to themselves.

Replacing Fake Decoration

We understand the need to decorate the aquarium to give it an authentic look, and we also understand that natural plants are much more expensive than their plastic counterparts. The sharp edges on this decor, however, can hit the bettas in the eyes, which causes Popeye disease. 

The best way to prevent injury is to use natural silky plants and biodegradable decorations that can also act as a hiding spot for the bettas. 

Usage Of Containers as a Transfer Medium 

We advocate using containers to catch and transfer long-tail fish like bettas because they have paper-like fins that are very prone to tearing if nets are used. Moreover, it’s relatively easy to capture them due to their nature of approaching the surface very often

Installing an Adjustable Flow Filter

I certainly try to avoid a situation where I have to treat Popeye caused by an irregular flow of water in the tank. Bettas are not naturally equipped to bear high flows. It’s imperative to put in an adjustable flow filter for protection. A decor piece should also be placed in front of the filter so that the Betta does not get sucked into the flow. 

Bilateral Popeye

This ailment targets both of the eyes.


Bilateral Popeye affects both the eyes and results from infections, infestations, and stress factors. Most of the reasons arise from under the tank itself and are not foreign in nature such as bacterial and fungal infections, parasitic infestations etc. Accidents or physical trauma usually have no contribution to its existence. 


As soon as you discover that its immune defenses have been breached and one of your bettas has contracted Popeye it becomes imperative to move the infected fish into a quarantine tank. Popeye is not transmissible, but its condition can worsen if not transferred immediately and kept in the same environment that caused the Popeye in the first place. 

Itβ€˜s also important to shift the bettas into a container with high water quality. Moving further, we recommend entirely changing the tank’s water and keeping track of your betta’s condition for at least a week. If the condition turns out to be a parasitic Infestation, we suggest you consult a vet. 

Utilizing a prescribed amount of aquarium salts in the tank is widely practiced because of its many significant benefits. We suggest you check the sensitivity of all types of fish in the tank before using the salt, however..


Weekly Water Changes

To keep the toxic nature of water in check by balancing the nitrate concentration, it’s necessary to replace at least β…• of water every week. This step is vital for smaller tanks

Maintaining Water Quality 

Our years of experience in the field have helped us set the prescribed limits for different factors of water quality maintenance. I suggest you maintain a PH level between 6.8 – 7.5 and a water hardness level of around 4DKH. The bad quality of water and maintenance does not only lead to Popeye disease but can also be the reason for the accumulation of fungi that can result in diseases like cotton fin fungus disease.


Don’t overcrowd your aquarium, as this could lead to increased waste collection that turns into ammonia, which then leads to a build-up in infections and disease. Make sure you have the prescribed number of bettas according to the tank’s gallon size to keep them happy and thriving.

Cleaning Filter And Decorative Items

Poor filter maintenance can decrease its life and efficiency considerably. The mouth of the filter, which is prone to be covered by debris like leftover food items, can lead to impaired quality water if not cleaned. Decorative items aren’t cleaned properly, they can compromise the integrity of the aquarium and lead to the spread of diseases. Don’t overfeed your betta in an attempt to increase its immunity, or it can lead to swim bladder disease.

All in all, it’s always easier to prevent than treat Popeye. By adopting these basic hygiene practices, we can lessen the sufferings of our dear pets, and I think that’s a worthy cause.

Dangers and Transmissibility of Popeye Disease

As previously mentioned, Popeye can be caused by various factors, including poor water quality, bacteria, parasites, and physical harm. 

Physical harm usually causes unilateral Popeye, under which quarantine is unnecessary if the container’s water is pure. Bilateral Popeye results from poor water quality; therefore, it becomes crucial to quarantine the affected fish in this case. 

Overall, Popeye is not transmissible but if it’s caused by dirty water, will likely affect the rest of the fish in the tank.

Popeye can lead to rotting of eyes and sight loss, but the fish can survive. A fish already suffering from Popeye can catch other ailments due to its weak immune system, however, eventually leading to its death. We advise all owners to practice proper preventive measures to safeguard the health of their pets.

How Do You Treat Popeye in Betta Fish? 

To treat Popeye, the first step would be to isolate the Fish in a clean water container, add Epsom salts (1 tablespoon / gallon ), and allow the fish to take salt baths for ten to fifteen minutes for a few days. In case of infections, you may need to use an anti-bacterial treatment like Melafix or Maracyn

Can Bettafix Cure Popeye? 

Bettafix is an antibacterial remedy used on fish to heal wounds, cuts, ulcers, etc. Bettafix is not the right way to go when treating Popeye, however, if your fish is suffering from wounds or cuts, here is where you can buy Bettafix.

Prevent Popeye Before It Begins

Aquariums are beautiful fish hotspots that can help ramp up the aesthetics in a home. But remember, fish are not just pieces of decorationβ€”they should be cared for with the same love and respect as any household pet. Therefore, it’s important to take preventive measures to reduce any chance of your bettas suffering from ailments like Popeye. If you’re a betta beginner, be sure to check out the only betta fish care guide you’ll need.

I hope that the readers both enjoyed and gained knowledge from the content. Please share your views in the comment section and send them to your friends if you liked what you read

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