Betta Fish Dropsy Disease – How to Treat Bloated Betta Fish?

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Betta fish are often chosen by potential fish keepers who are looking for a beautiful and sturdy fish.

Unfortunately, even bettas can develop diseases that can threaten their health. Dropsy is one of them, and if it is not treated quickly, it can be fatal.

Dropsy is a disease that can seriously threaten the life of a betta fish. It is seen as a swelling on the fish’s belly usually, where water accumulates.

It causes the belly to “drop down”, which explains the name dropsy. Dropsy is often a consequence of another, more serious, a disease that compromises the fish’s immune system, such as bacterial infections.

In this article, we will discuss everything about betta fish dropsy: how we can establish that a betta has dropsy, the symptoms, possible treatments and prognosis for the betta fish with dropsy.

What is Fish Dropsy?

Dropsy is, in essence, a symptom or a consequence of another underlying disease or infection that caused dropsy itself.

It is quite uncommon for dropsy to happen to healthy fish with proper care; instead, it occurs to fish that suffer from poor diet, or those who suffer from an underlying disease that compromises the autoimmune system of the fish.

If the health issue is treated quickly, then there is a chance of survival. However, if left untreated, the disease can be fatal in some cases.

Often, the treatment will require to cure the underlying disease that causes bloating. The sooner the owner responds to any visible changes that might indicate the disease, the better the chances of survival are.

Even if it is treated quickly, the prognosis of the disease is not good. The survival rates for the fish with dropsy are low.

Sometimes, even if the treatment for dropsy is successful, the underlying diseases might cause death and the immune system might already be compromised.

Signs and Symptoms of Dropsy Diseases

Early discovery of symptoms is absolutely key for treating dropsy in your bettas. But that can be hard, as some of the early symptoms might indicate a large number of other diseases, and the swelling can sometimes be mistaken for pregnancy.

But observing the early symptoms is crucial for enabling higher chances of survival.

The most common symptoms and signs of dropsy to look for in your betta fish:

  • Among early symptoms is the unwillingness to eat, but that can be a sign of a whole host of other diseases. Do observe the eating patterns of your bettas.
  • Avoidance to other fish and hiding in one particular spot for longer periods
  • The most obvious sign of dropsy is the so-called “pinecone scales”. That is a term for scales sticking out in a pine cone-like shape – it is a symptom of the late stage of dropsy where the chances of survival are low.
  • The big, swollen belly is also a big sign of dropsy, but is often confused with pregnancy
  • Other symptoms to watch for include bulging eyes
  • Pale gills
  • Swollen and red anus
  • Pale feces which are shaped like strings
  • Ulcers
  • Curved spine
  • Lethargy
  • Avoidance
  • Refusal to eat

The symptoms can get progressively worse once the disease gets worse. Bettas might get anemia, which causes discoloration and lethargic behavior; problems with internal organs might occur, but that is not displayed to us directly, but through signs and symptoms.

Dropsy itself is a symptom of a larger issue, such as kidney disorders and failure.

Treating Dropsy in Betta Fish

Treatment of dropsy can be long-term, but it might not be successful, which you need to know. If the disease has spread enough, then there might not be a chance of survival.

Still, there is a course of action that can help you to heal your betta from dropsy.

To give your betta the best chance of survival, here are the steps that you should follow to try and recover dropsy.

  1. The most important thing to know is that dropsy can spread to other fish in your tank, so the best thing to do is to place the diseased betta in a quarantine tank to prevent the disease from spreading. Ideally, the tank should be at least 5 gallons in size, and it should contain no other fish in the tank. Also, try to add some places where your betta can hide, which they will do a lot during dropsy.
  2. Add some aquarium salt to your quarantine tank. A general measurement as to how much salt is about a tablespoon of salt to a gallon of water. The salt can help your betta recover from dropsy.
  3. Introduce the betta into the tank slowly; you can do that by placing it into a special bag with some water from the regular tank, and then put it into the new tank. The level of the water in the quarantine tank should be slightly lower to allow bettas to get oxygen easier.
  4. Feed the betta high-quality fish food with a lot of proteins and other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Diet is very important during this time, as it can help boost the immune system which can help your fish make a fight.
  5. Add antibiotics to the tank as your vet prescribes; or, the best antibiotic for dropsy is amoxicillin, which is a very strong antibiotic, so be wary of not putting too much of it. Stick to the instructions closely.
  6. You should know that when a diseased betta is in the tank, it needs as little stress as possible, and that includes a high quality of water. The salt and the antibiotics might pollute the water, so more regular water changes are warranted. Preferably, they should be done daily, and try to change at least 25% of the water in the tank daily, or even more.
  7. Lastly, perform water checks on a daily basis to ensure that the water properties are right. This can be crucial for a good quality of water.

How to Prevent Dropsy Diseases in Betta Fish?

The best cure for dropsy is prevention, of course. Usually, the factors that cause the most stress to your betta can bring on the development of a disease, including dropsy. So it is crucial to keep stress levels at a minimum, and that includes a whole host of checks and things that you need to do to lower stress.

The most important thing is the water parameters and water quality. You can do that with regular water checks. Next, keep the tank clean and make sure that the filtration is on a good level.

Clean the gravel often and vacuum it, as some bacteria might accumulate there. Feed your bettas high-quality pellets and don’t overfeed them, which can deteriorate their health and the water quality. Avoid overcrowding and make sure that you keep your food varied.

Can Methylene Blue Cure Betta Fish Dropsy?

Methylene blue is another possible way of treating dropsy, even though it might require an additional tank. Bettas should not be in methylene blue for longer than 10 seconds, so it is not a good idea to add it to your quarantine tank.

It can also ruin your filter and make it work at lower levels, which can massively deteriorate the water quality.

The best way to do this therapy is to add the water from your main tank to your methylene blue tank. The next step is to add methylene blue to the tank, but only in the recommended amounts provided by the provider.

Usually, that is 5 teaspoons for every 3 gallons of water. Make sure to check the container for instructions. Lastly, dip your betta in the tank with methylene blue, but no longer for 10 seconds. Hopefully, the treatment will work.

Is Dropsy Contagious?

Yes, dropsy can spread to other fish in the tank, which is why you should place a fish with dropsy into a quarantine tank to prevent spreading. Also, some vets will recommend euthanasia of your fish for this specific reason, to prevent the disease from spreading on.

Can Overfeeding Cause Dropsy in Betta Fish?

It can, but indirectly; overfeeding can deteriorate the health of your fish, which can lead to health problems and increase the stress levels in your fish. This can, in turn, lead to dropsy as well.

Dropsy vs Pregnant Betta Fish – How to tell?

Many people mistake dropsy for pregnancy, which can lead to disappointment and the inability to treat the fish from dropsy. The main telling factor is the pinecone scales that can stick out.

Also, take note of the behavior of your fish – if you see any of the above-mentioned clues, then it can be dropsy. These include an unwillingness to eat, lethargy, and overall changes in behavior.


Betta fish dropsy can be a nasty disease, that can cause you a lot of agony, and to the fish as well. Treatment is possible, and if you stay committed to the therapy, then you will, hopefully, see changes for the better in your betta fish.

Author Image Fabian
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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