Popeye Disease (Exophthalmia) in Bettas

Q: Anonymous wrote:

Help. My bettas eye was really swollen when I woke up this morning. I think it might pop out. Is there anything I can do to save him?

A: It sounds like you are describing Exophthalmia, commonly known as Popeye. Popeye is a symptom easily identified by the swelling or protrusion of one or both eyes. While it’s easy to recognize it’s cause can be very difficult to distinguish. Popeye is a symptom of an infection and not a disease in itself. Its cause can be bacterial, viral or parasitic and treatments for each are different. Unfortunately, viral infections can’t be treated easily in hobby fish because the resources to treat them just aren’t available. Bacterial infections, however, are fairly common and there are a variety of medications accessible to hobbyists at most local fish stores. It’s not always obvious if your betta has a bacterial infection but you can look for other symptoms like redness under the scales or bloody streaks (septicemia) as a sign of an internal bacterial infection. If you believe your betta’s Popeye was caused by a bacterial infection you can treat him with a wide spectrum antibiotics like Tetracycline. I have had good luck using a combination of Maracyn and Maracyn-Two sold at most local fish stores.

Remember most fish become susceptible to infections after their immune systems become suppressed due to poor water quality issues. Be sure to test your tank water for signs of stressors like ammonia, nitrite or high nitrate. Avoid fluctuations in temperature and pH and try not to fall behind on your regular water changes. If you don’t have the water test kits necessary to keep your fish healthy, you can bring a cup of your tank water to most fish stores including the large chains like PetCo and PetSmart where they will test it free of charge.

To learn more about Popeye and how to treat it and avoid future outbreaks, visit my Popeye page at Nippyfish.net.

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Christie F is a Betta splendens hobbyist that enjoys spending time caring for her fish and helping new betta keepers learn the ropes. More posts by:

1 Comment for this entry

  1. AtheistChickenGod says:

    Yup, that’s why I tried feeding him pellets for a bit. I’m only assuming that’s what made him fat (and rather hoping, as I would really rather not see him dying). For now bloodworms are all I have to feed him. I’m going to look at flakes and other lower-fat foods this weekend. Within a single day these bulges were growing massive and nearly shrinking, with the change to diet.

    As for the frogs, I’ve read many websites and talked to a couple people and they all seem to get along with aquariums of fish, or a single betta. If the two started to fight, usually the betta lost and the frog’s weak grip stopped most damage. Chris is a very mild tempered betta, though. When I had him in the ten gallon at home he would sometimes chase the other fish if they got within a couple inches of him, but were fine otherwise. If it does create a huge problem I have a friend that can take the frog for me.

    I’ll definitly be checking out your website, though. Looks really helpful. ^_^

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