Last Updated: May 26, 2022 by Dave Gibbins
When a young, healthy betta fish dies unexpectedly, it can be a shock. It will get even experienced keepers wondering, do betta fish die easily, or have made a horrible mistake!
Luckily, learning more about betta care and the most common reasons bettas die can help you keep an eye out for signs that your betta isn’t in perfect health. It can also help you extend the lifespan of your betta for as long as possible.
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Do Betta Fish Die Easily?
Betta fish don’t die easily, but they require certain water parameters and particular foods to stay healthy and live a full, comfortable life. They are hardy fish and should live for between three and five years when given the proper care.
Common Reasons for Betta Fish Deaths
Water Condition Issues
One of the most common causes of betta fish death is poor water conditions.
Some myths are believed which state that bettas can be kept in very small, cramped containers and that they don’t require much maintenance. While bettas are relatively easy to care for, lack of clean water and space will often cause death.
If you’ve come home to find a dead betta fish unexpectedly, it may be because the water conditions weren’t optimal. For example, bettas require warm water between 76 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Sudden water temperature changes can lead to a betta fish dying.
In addition to keeping the tank at the optimum betta fish water temp, it should stay clean to avoid diseases and infections.
For tip-top water parameters, weekly maintenance should include small water changes of 10-20% of the aquariums water. This, along with tank cleaning, such as scrubbing away algae and vacuuming the tank’s bottom to get rid of any waste.
Why did my betta fish die after I changed the water?
Did you change a huge percentage or ALL of the aquarium’s water?
It may feel like you are giving your fish extra clean water; however, a large water change can knock the water parameters off in the tank and shock your fish.
Doing this can eliminate the beneficial bacteria from the water, which can lead to a toxic ammonia spike. A large water change can also cause changes in pH or temperature, leading to a dying betta fish.
Water changes are important, but remember only to perform small water changes, changing out only about a quarter or less of the water in the aquarium at a time. These water changes can occur weekly but may need to be performed more frequently in smaller aquariums. A filter is also a must to cut down on waste while maintaining a high beneficial bacteria level.
Another issue that leads to betta fish death is overfeeding. Bettas love to eat, and offering them a variety of foods, such as betta pellets and freeze-dried bloodworms, can be fun for both you and your fish. However, it’s essential to know when enough food has been given or if bettas are not eating.
Bettas should only be fed twice a day and should only be offered small portions of food. Generally, 5-6 pellets per feed are enough; however, pellets do come in different sizes. Know that a betta’s stomach is only about the size of its eyeball, and feeds about that amount of food.
Overfeeding can lead to gastrointestinal problems, but it can also cause a buildup of waste in the aquarium.
If you’ve noticed that your betta has become lethargic or lost its appetite, you may think that your betta is dying. These signs may point to a decline in health. In addition, these are nearly always symptoms of stress, which can lead to many health issues and, maybe, a sudden death.
Betta fish can become stressed for various reasons. If they don’t have enough space or the water conditions are incorrect, they can be stressed. If they are in a community tank and the other tankmates such as goldfish are scaring or bullying them, the fish can become stressed. A lack of hiding places can also cause stress.
Bettas can also become stressed if the water flow in the tank is too high. Betta fish prefer calm water, so turn down filters or aerators to create a more peaceful, comfortable environment for your fish.
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Checking your water parameters, ensuring the fish has enough space and hiding places, and removing aggressive tankmates can reduce a betta fish’s stress, leading to a longer life.
Do betta fish die easily? Generally, the answer to this question is no. However, these fish can be fragile, and because they tend to have long, flowing fins, they can be injured quite easily. Injuries can lead to infections and illnesses, which can lead to death.
Ensure no sharp or rough objects in your aquarium that your betta can brush against or catch its fins on. Also, make sure that your betta fish isn’t sharing space with an aggressive tankmate. Housing a betta alone is often the best choice, as this prevents injuries incurred during territorial fights.
How to Tell If Your Betta is Dying
How do you know when a betta fish is going to die? This can sometimes be a difficult question to answer, as some fish may die unexpectedly. However, if the fish is feeling stressed or seems to be suffering from an illness, there are a few key things you can keep an eye out for.
Betta fish that are stressed often spend more time hiding or resting than normal, they may be also laying on their side at the bottom of the tank and sick fish may lose their appetite.
Other signs that offer a clue to knowing when a betta fish is about to die include discoloration along the fish’s body, such as white or brown spots. Strange swimming movements or a shortening / eating away of the fins can also point to severe illnesses.
Do betta fish float or sink when they die
Most betta fish will sink when they die, so if you see your betta resting at the bottom of the tank, this may be a cause for concern.
Bettas that are floating unnaturally at the surface of the water may not be dead, but instead suffering from swim bladder disorder.
You can treat most illnesses and injuries so don’t give up if your betta fish isn’t doing well.
For example, swim bladder disorder can often be fixed by withholding food for two to three days and then offering foods such as thawed pieces of peas until the fish recovers. Infections and other scale and fin diseases can often be treated with medications.
Betta fish can live for several years, so it can be heartbreaking when your pet dies unexpectedly. However, taking caution when feeding especially during vacation, and ensuring that the water is clean but the aquarium maintains a strong beneficial bacteria colony can help to keep your betta fish healthy for a long time.
Knowing the signs of illness or stress can also help you make your betta more comfortable if something goes wrong.
Do you have a question about betta health and the causes of betta death? Leave us a comment below.
- The most common causes of betta death are stress, injuries, overfeeding, and water condition issues
- Monitor your betta for signs of distress such as discolored fins or scales, lethargy, or lack of appetite
- Keep the water in the aquarium clean and the sides and bottoms free of debris
- Only change about one-quarter of the aquarium’s water at a time
- Only offer small amounts of food
- Remove any sharp objects from the aquarium
- Keep betta fish alone or with peaceful tankmates
- Maintain a steady water temperature between 76 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit
- Treat illnesses immediately