Why do Betta Fish Die So Easily?

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Many beginner fish owners who wish to try keeping an aquarium decide to start with a Bettas fish. These particular fish are simply amazing- so beautiful, with their odd fins and magnificent colors, but they are also known to be quite hardy pets.

On top of that, they are really interactive and like following their owners around the tank. Sounds like an ideal relationship, right? Nevertheless, many new owners struggle to keep them healthy and alive. But why do Betta fish die so easily?

Sometimes, this happens for reasons which are outside our power. Most of the times, however, betta fish die because of water conditions, which are in our control.

Reasons Why Betta Fish Die

It is important for all owners to know the most common reasons which lead to Bettas dying, in order to being able of avoiding such extremely sad outcomes.

1. Poor Water Quality

To begin, this is certainly the most frequent cause which leads to serious health complications. And, ultimately, to death.

Poor water quality does not necessarily have to mean that it needs to become super-muddy to be dangerous. On the contrary, tank water may often look clear to human eye, while hiding so many toxicities in it. Decomposing food and fish waste bring tiny and invisible chemicals spreading all over the tank and causing contamination.

Another popular misleading situation happens when owners buy their first Betta in a pet store and return home with a nicely decorated fishbowl. Bowls are a great way to transport your pet but turning them into a Betta home is surely not the best idea.

This will only require super-frequent water changes, as there is no circulation and the amounts of water which can fit into a bowl are extremely low, brining to faster contaminations.

To ensure that your fish pet has a healthy and clean water environment at all times, please make sure to clean the aquarium on a regular basis. Once per week is more than fine when it comes to tank sizes of 10-gallons or more. Also, filters help a lot with keeping tank water healthy.

2. Non-Cycled Tank

Placing your new Betta into a non-cycled tank can often lead to the “new tank syndrome” which ultimately means that fish cannot adapt to the huge change and die. And no owner wants to kill their own fish after they put so much trouble into arranging a nice aquarium for them.

To avoid such an extremely unpleasant situation and stress, a simple fishless cycle activity before bringing your Betta home makes miracles. After setting the aquarium and filling it up with water, it is enough to add some neutralizer and wait.

A cycle will make sure that there are enough beneficial bacteria in the aquarium before the Bettas arrive. This will, ultimately, ensure that food and fish waste are properly neutralized from the very beginning.

3. Raising Ammonia Level

Raising ammonia levels inevitably bring to ammonia poisoning if not spotted on time, which is completely uncurable and will bring to death (sooner or later).

Most of the times, raising ammonia levels happen within the first week or two and are intricately connected to non-cycled tanks. However, raising ammonia levels can occur at a later point in their life, too. For instance, unregular cleaning activities or a lack of filter can also lead to ammonia being too high for Bettas to survive.

A simple yet super-effective way to be on top of your ammonia level is to invest into a freshwater testing kit. This is not that expensive but will help you know the exact levels of ammonia across your Betta home. Keep in mind that ammonia needs to be at zero ideally, same as nitrite levels.

4. Overfeeding

Bettas can often follow their owners around tanks, trying to interact with them. And sometimes, unfortunately, many beginner owners may interpret such activity as a cry for more food. However, not sticking to the right meal plan but offering some additional food to your fish can often bring to their death.

Overfeeding can harm fish for two reasons, actually. The first one is also the most obvious: Bettas really can eat too much and get sick because of that. Same as for humans, overfeeding brings to constipation and obesity, but also to several other major health complications.

On the other side, if your pet fish does not swallow all the extra food you are offering, this will sink to the bottom soon and bring to ammonia levels rising.

Overfeeding is a wide-spread problem, but it can be avoided so simply. Please always make sure to feed your Betta with the right amounts of food, but also following a balanced nutritive plan.

5. Water Temperature

Unsuitable water temperatures can frequently lead to the premature death of Bettas. Being tropical fish, they simply need to live into waters that can recreate such conditions. This is essential, just as providing them water in the first place.

This brings us once again to kindly ask all owners not to keep their Bettas into bowls long-term. Instead, try placing them into a 5- or, even better, a 10-gallon aquarium. And of course, use a heater.

Such tank sizes are quite small and do not require extremely expensive or complicated-to-install heaters, but a simple one will do more than fine. And while at it, make sure to add a thermometer to your shopping basket, too. The temperature range for Bettas goes from 75- to 80-degrees Fahrenheit.

6. Diseases or Parasites

There exists such a wide range of different diseases which a Betta can get, as well as parasites infections. Some are absolutely out of our hands, but others are frequently caused by poor tank maintenance.

Whichever of these may affect your fish pet, it is crucial to spot the symptoms as early as possible. This can often bring to owners actually saving the lives of their colorful pets.

Some of the most common and general symptoms which indicate that something is wrong are:

  • Less active swimming than usual or, on other occasions, erratic swimming;
  • Visible body changes such as color modification, damaged fins, spots, swelling, enlarged eyes;
  • Spending time either at the bottom of the tank or at the very top, trying to get some air;
  • Clear disinterest for food;
  • Less interactivity with their owners.

Whenever you notice some of these symptoms, please make sure to check what they may mean. And, ultimately, consult your veterinarian who can suggest amazing medication for your pet.

Wrapping Up: How to Keep Your Betta Fish Happy?

If you are still thinking if getting a beautiful new Betta for your home, we hope this writing did not scare you, but offered some handy advice instead.

Bettas are hardy pets, but they are still tropical tiny creatures, which are gentle and need care from their owners. Following some simple rules can save you (and your pet) a lot of trouble.

First of all, create a nice home for your fish pet. Use a proper tank of a minimum of 5-gallons, decorate it with appropriate substrates and aquatic plants. Add some hiding places such as rock tunnels to provide privacy.

Implement a filter that will keep water cleaner and a heater which will ensure the right temperature levels. Regularly check water conditions- from temperature and pH to ammonia and nitrite levels, and act accordingly once they change. Make sure to spend some time interacting with your pet and try to never overfeed it.

Providing a happy life to your Betta is not a hard mission, it just takes some time and effort from your side. But it will give so much happiness in return.

avatar I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.

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