Do Betta Fish Shed Their Scales?

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It is not uncommon for first-time betta owners becoming worried once they realize their beloved pets are losing their scales. Do betta fish shed their scales as part of a natural process?

No, betta fish do not shed their scales. Although there are some aquatic animal species that tend to molt, this is not the case with Siamese fighting fish. Therefore, if you notice that your pet is losing scales along its body, there must be a perfectly explainable reason for that happening.

Reasons Betta Shedding Its Scales

In the following you can read about the most common reasons why betta fish might lose their scales:

– Physical Damage

The most frequent reasons for betta fish losing their scales are certainly related to physical damage.

Betta fish are not called Siamese fighting fish for no reason. They are very agile and make the amazing little sparing fighters. If they are kept in community tanks, they can often show signs of aggression and get into physical conflict with other fish.

This can be especially true among male specimens, as they are happiest when kept in separate tanks. However, it is not uncommon among females either. Indeed, they often tend to be quite aggressive when kept in groups, until a functional hierarchy gets established.

Whenever your pets get into a fight with other fish, they are risking losing some of their scales.

Adding to that, betta fish can hurt themselves much more often than you can imagine. They can literally brush themselves along different surfaces along with the tank- from plants to rocks. This happens even more frequently during breeding seasons.

To prevent such scale loss, please make sure to always isolate aggressive fish from community aquariums. Additionally, choose smooth surfaces for any decorative items that you decide to place in your betta tank. Such simple actions can certainly avoid your pets from losing their scales.

– Infections

Various infections can make your fish lose scales, both bacterial and fungal. Depending on the type, your pet may shed scales in patches or in a more regular pattern. Or it can brush them off in a desperate attempt of removing external parasites.

Please make sure to immediately verify water parameters. Your fish requires warm and extremely clean water to stay healthy. There may also be other behavioral changes such as lethargy or even appetite loss.

Mild infections can usually be treated by simply cleaning the tank water out. In some cases, however, you may need to add some stress coat or even antibiotics. If you are not certain of the type and the severity of the infection, it is recommended to consult your local vet for further guidance.

– Scale Shedding Disease (Infectious Protrusion)

Even if this is actually classified as a bacterial infection as bacteria is the cause of this happening, we can treat it separately to closely describe the symptoms and treatments.

If your betta fish is affected by the scale shedding disease, you will need to react fast as you may otherwise be risking your pet losing its life soon. At first, scales may be protruding, terribly similar to what happens when fish are suffering from dropsy.

This is already a clear warning sign and you should instantly contact your vet. However, if this persists, your fish may soon start losing its scales. If that happens, you should be able of noticing small fluid bubbles along their skin.

These can compromise the breathing ability of betta fish (especially the younger ones) and force them to gasp for air at the tank surface.

The scale shedding disease is curable, but only if noticed during its earliest stage. Therefore, it is vitally important to constantly monitor your fish behavior as well as water parameters.

You can use antibiotics to treat your affected fish, but please do consult your vet before choosing the most appropriate one. Also, you will need to carefully disinfect the entire aquarium, including decorations and gravel, as the bacteria may still be around.

Do Bettas Grow Back Their Scales?

In general, betta fish are able of growing their scales back over time. However, if scale loss happens due to severe illness or infection, there may be no guarantee for all scales to return.

Also, there is no general rule which can be applied to the timeline in which an individual fish needs to grow its scales back. Some will take a couple of weeks only, while others will require several months.

The best way to ensure that your fish grows its scales back is to ensure its tank water is impeccably clean and that there are no aggressive mates around.

Stressed betta fish take much longer to return to a normal state, so please always make sure that environmental conditions around your pet are ideal.

Can Bettas Lose Their Scales During Breeding?

Betta fish can lose their scales during breeding. In fact, this happens more often than most owners think. Bettas are really active fish and tend to brush themselves along different tank surfaces while breeding.

This is their natural way of flirting. Therefore, if decorations are rough or if plants are spikey, they can often lose some of their scales as a consequence. When this happens, it is usually in healthy amounts and there is nothing to worry about.

Simply ensure clean and warm water to your pets and they will grow their scales back in a couple of weeks.

Wrapping Up

Betta fish are not naturally supposed to molt or shed their scales. Therefore, if anything similar happens and you notice your tropical pet losing some of its scales, this may often be a sign of illness or distress.

First of all, check your water parameters and make sure they are ideal. When this is ruled out, look for signs of aggression or for sharp and rough objects across the aquarium. If there are none, your fish may be affected by a bacterial or fungal infection.

In such cases, you will need to intervene and treat both your betta fish and your tank. Early detection is crucial and may save your pet’s life.

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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