Is My Betta Fish Dying? (Most Common Signs Before They Die)

Wondering if your betta fish is dying? This guide is for you!

As a caring betta pet parent, you must understand the various health issues affecting bettas.

This empowers you to look after your betta in the best way possible. Of course, it is in the interest of every betta keeper that their pet enjoys a long, happy, and healthy life.

So, how would you know that your betta is unwell and dying? Bettas are affected by a number of factors that could compromise the quality of their health. These include disease, bad food, water issues, and trauma.

You need to keep a sharp eye out for these things to see your betta live to a ripe old age of up to 5 years.

In this article, we guide you on the signs to look out for to know your betta could be dying.


How Do Betta Fish Die?

Like different bettas have different personalities, they don’t exhibit signs of dying in the same way.

However, there have been general patterns of behavior that have been observed among dying bettas over time.

Most bettas become less active and lose their appetite. In addition, they will exceedingly display signs of distress and anxiety to indicate that all is not well.

Some bettas swim in circles around the tank; if no action is taken, they usually die within a few days or weeks.

Generally, you can tell your betta is dying when it starts to behave worryingly. But then, it drastically shifts from its normal behavior, and even your coaxing does not seem to work.

You should take immediate measures to ensure that your betta is safe. But first, go through the list of possible causes of worrying behavior and take prompt intervention measures.

Allow a vet to have a look at your betta fish in case you notice a problem in any of the following areas.

  • Are the water quality and chemistry good (temperature, pH, cleanliness, etc.)?
  • Is your betta correctly fed?
  • Any signs of distress caused by a tank mate?
  • Any signs of disease, infection, or trauma?
  • Is your betta swimming normally?
  • Does it exhibit signs of breathing distress?

Common Signs That Your Betta Fish is Dying

#1 – Less Swimming

A healthy betta swims most of the day. This is an active species of fish that loves to keep moving. So something is wrong if you notice that your betta is swimming less often.

This is the kind of change you should not ignore.

#2 – Loss of Appetite

Has your betta fish shown a lack of interest in its favorite treat? This is a worrying sign; bettas enjoy eating.

Loss of appetite could be a sign that your betta is seriously sick. Do not waste time consulting your vet for further guidance.

However, you should realize that your betta’s energy requirements and energy levels decrease with age.

Actually, as the betta fish nears the end of its life, around 5 years, its appetite gets low, and it displays no interest in its favorite food.

This is attributed to the fact that its sense of smell is almost gone by this time.

#3 – Weakness

This is attributed to loss of appetite. When your betta does not eat for a number of days, it will not have the power and energy to carry out its usual activities.

A famished betta turns to its internal organs to source the required energy. In turn, this severely compromises its energy reserves.

You may think your betta has grown lazy. However, if the animal is weak and does not eat, know there’s more to this display of behavior than meets the eye.

#4 – Isolation

Your betta fish will likely go into hiding and favor living alone if it’s dying. So instead, it seeks solace under stones and rocks and behind plants.

It’s like your betta is communicating that it has given up on life and wants no interaction with other tank mates.

If this happens with a betta that’s close to 5 years, don’t worry too much about it. Make this fish as comfortable as possible because its life is ebbing away.

However, if a young betta fish starts isolating, know something is seriously wrong.

#5 – Anxiety and Stress

How do you know your betta fish is stressed? It behaves irrationally. It keeps in hiding when it should be up and about playing.

It becomes aggressive when you know it as a docile betta. Sometimes, your fish becomes non-responsive to stimuli such as colors, smell, and hearing.

Stress marks the onset of a serious health problem; you need to handle it as soon as it manifests. The leading causes of stress are poor water quality, attack by tank mates, and poor nutrition.

Stress could also be caused by a genetic disorder – your vet should be able to advise you on this.

#6 – Fish Tuberculosis

Fish tuberculosis, or fish TB, often affects fish with pre-existing health conditions. This means your betta fish is unlikely to get this condition if it does not have prior issues with its health.

This disease is caused by the mycobacterium that’s always present in aquariums. If your betta fish is weak, old, or sickly, it may not recover from a fish TB attack.

However, if you have been taking care of your betta and it is healthy, quick action can save it.

#7 – Unresponsiveness

Betta is a very active fish species. Although they don’t swim as fast as some other fish, bettas are always up and about in their tank.

They quickly respond to external stimuli such as sound, colors, and smells. However, if your betta fish becomes unresponsive to these things, this tells you something is amiss.

Unresponsiveness to external stimuli is caused by a number of factors. Key among these are poor water quality and stress.

#8 – Fighting for Breath

Being a fish, betta has gills that allow it to absorb oxygen from the water. As such, a betta fish will hardly come to the surface for air.

However, something is seriously wrong if you notice your betta fish gulping for air at the surface.

It could be that your fish has an infection that has rendered the gills unable to absorb oxygen in the water.

Or, it could be that the water is contaminated and has insufficient oxygen levels. In most cases, a quick change of water and improving water quality should solve this problem.

But, some betta fish gasp for air, indicating they are about to die. When this happens, you should see your vet for the correct diagnosis of the problem.

#9 – Erratic Behavior

This is one of the most obvious signs that things are not well with your betta fish. A healthy betta has a predictable behavior pattern.

It feeds, sleeps, swims, and does everything else when it should. However, if you notice a radical change in your betta’s predictability, it could be a death signal.

Your betta fish may show aberrant behavior because of damaged internal organs. If intervention measures are not taken promptly, your betta’s entire system will shut down.

#10 – Fish Edema

Fish edema is commonly referred to as dropsy. This condition is characterized by ballooning the fish’s body, with the scales sticking out like porcupines.

Seeing this condition means a massive accumulation of fluids in your betta fish’s internal organs.

Dropsy is caused by hepatic impairment, kidney problems, and a compromised immune system.

#11 – Swelling of the Eyes

You may be unable to tell the swelling of your betta’s eyes unless you examine them closely. If the outer layer of its eye protrudes more than expected, your betta has an eye infection.

Eye swelling in betta fish is caused by severe bacterial or viral infections. Therefore, you may not notice the swelling unless the condition has been going on for some time.

As such, the swelling of your betta’s eye indicates your pet fish could be dying.

#12 – Color Fading and Poor Physical Appearance

Betta keepers love these fish as pets because of their bright colors. A betta fish adds color and vivacity to any setting its aquarium is situated.

If you realize a change in your betta’s color, something is wrong, and your betta is dying. This is because a healthy, well-cared-for betta is supposed to maintain its vibrant color to a ripe old age.

Notably, not all color changes in your betta indicate your pet is dying. Here’s a quick look at other factors that can cause color loss in betta fish.


Stress can cause fish to lose their color. Factors contributing to elevated stress levels in bettas include an unhealthy diet, poor water quality, insufficient oxygen, and overfeeding.

Marble Betta

This genetic factor causes a color change in bettas at any time during their life. While some bettas’ color gets brighter, others grow dull or grayish.

Old Age

As your betta fish gets to 5 years, it experiences plenty of changes associated with getting old. For example, it loses appetite, gets weaker, becomes less active, and loses color.


It’s common for bettas to lose color when they’re battling infections. Loss of color in your betta could indicate it needs your help dealing with an illness.

Why is My Betta Fish Dying?

Before the age of 5, the mortality of betta fish can be attributed to a number of unfortunate situations.

The good news is that your betta fish can be saved if these situations are handled well. The best way to prevent your betta’s early death is to understand what’s likely to cause it.

This will put you in an excellent position to prevent or forestall dangerous circumstances.

Ordinarily, a healthy betta fish has a robust immune system. As such, it is easy to help this fish battle viruses, fungi, and bacteria-causing diseases.

Since these are the leading cause of death and disease in bettas, do everything you can to boost your pet’s immune system.

Also, your betta’s health and well-being may be compromised by ammonia toxicity, severe trauma, hostile tank mates, and food poisoning.

Fortunately, these factors are very much within your power to monitor and control. However, they need you to be vigilant as a loving pet parent to your betta.

Some bettas die because of water poisoning and high nitrates and nitrites levels. Again, you can monitor these things to protect your betta and keep it safe in the tank.

Aside from the above factors, your betta may die because it has aged. All animals reach a point where their organs can no longer function.

This marks the end of that animal’s life – a natural cycle of life that you must expect to happen to your betta.

How to Comfort a Dying Betta Fish

Don’t give up on your betta fish when you notice the dying signs described here. This article inspires you to take action and rescue your pet as soon as possible.

So, first, change the water in the aquarium. In most cases, you’ll realize water quality and chemistry has something to do with the signs of your pet dying.

Thoroughly disinfect the tank and ensure that water temperature, pH, and other parameters are correct before putting your betta fish back in.

Once the fish is back in, closely monitor its progress. Ensure that you constantly check that the water parameters do not change.

It is highly recommended that you call the vet at this time. This specialist will guide you on the arrangements you have put into place.

They will also look into the possibility of other causes of your fish dying.

However, you’ll realize that what we have described above can only be achieved if you arrest the problem in good time.

If the problem has advanced too far, you cannot save your pet from the life-threatening signs.

At times you may nurse your betta fish back to life. But, at other times, you must accept the inevitable: your pet has sadly come to the end of its life.

Why Do Some Bettas Die Suddenly?

Bettas are much beloved because of their playful nature and vibrant colors. Also, they are easy to look after.

Their water parameters are not as restrictive as that of some other fish. For this reason, bettas can fit well in many aquariums worldwide.

With the right conditions, bettas live a healthy life until old age. However, if the conditions deteriorate, this fish suffers.

Some betta fish will give you ample signs of their poor health to take remedial measures.

Some bettas die suddenly, hardly giving you the time to put your finger on what could be wrong. But, unfortunately, it’s not very clear why some bettas die suddenly while others do not.

Some specialists opine that hereditary factors play a significant role in this. This is true considering that better with weak immunities fair worse under certain diseases, such as fish TB.

Another school of thought is that some bettas die suddenly because of a long history of neglect and poor management.

In other words, if you don’t take good care of your betta pet, they become susceptible to health challenges and the risk of death.


Bettas live to an age of between 2 and 5 years. How long your betta lives depends on two main factors: genetics and environmental conditions.

You can choose your betta from a genetically sound background to root out life-threatening issues as the fish grows.

More importantly, aspire to provide good living conditions for your pet to prevent premature death.

The good news is that rarely is the death of betta fish sudden. Your pet will always send signals to tell you when things are not okay.

We hope this article has inspired you to take appropriate action when you realize your betta could be dying.

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