When Fish Attack: Treating Betta Wounds


Angry Titan, originally uploaded by ´ú┐Calin.

Q: M wrote,

I put a betta in with my angelfish and he got trashed. I was gonna put him down because he looked terrible, but then i used the “will to live” rule… and I figured I should at least try to bring him back, so i moved him (temporarily) to a smaller tank with some bamboo to hide in. I’m going to clean out an old tank tonight and get that set up for him.

My question, is if his fins do get infected, how will I be able to tell, and how should I treat that, or how should I make sure they don’t get infected?

A: Ouch, I’m sorry to hear about your Betta. If you went just by the names you wouldn’t think an angel-fish could inflict so much damage on fighting-fish but Bettas are, in fact, pretty sensitive to nippy species due to their delicate fin structure. Fortunately, they are tough little guys and with good care may be able to recover. In cases of physical damage and open wounds you want to start treatment with good clean water. Increase your water changes by a fair amount. I’d recommend every other day or so until you see the wounds closing and the fins well on their way to being regrown. A water conditioner that enhances slime coat may help with healing too like Stress Coat or NovAqua (used in conjunction with AmQuel). There is a product called BettaFix that claims to fix all sorts of ailments and while I don’t believe it to be the cure-all the company claims, the one thing it is quite good at is keeping wounds clean and speeding up the healing process. The active ingredient is 0.2% Melaleuca (Tea Tree oil) and it’s a natural antiseptic. Melafix is another popular treatment and is essentially the exact same thing in a stronger concentration (1.0%). In rare cases anabantoids (like Bettas) will have a negative reaction to the Melaleuca so it’s recommended to dilute Melafix by at least half.

Clean water and one of the above mentioned antiseptics is really all you can do while your Betta’s own immune system works to heal him. Continue to monitor him daily for infection keeping a close eye out for signs including:

blackened or bloody fin tips
pieces of fin falling off
ragged and torn fin tips
unnatural redness in the body or red streaks.
fuzzy patches or fibrous strings on the body, mouth or fins
open sores that grow or spread or turn color (yellow, gray, red, black)
secondary infections like Popeye, Velvet or Ich

If you notice signs of infection you may need to consider treating with an antibiotic if clean water doesn’t do the trick. Most of the symptoms above are signs of a bacterial disease. Velvet and Ich are parasites and tend to infect stressed fish with a weakened immune system. If you see signs of these infections then an antiparasitic medication will be necessary. In the mean time though, just keep the water clean, warm and stable.

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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:

4 Comments for this entry

  1. Christie says:

    From the original poster:

    “Thank you for the information, I talked to a friend of mine at the local pet store the other day, and he gave me (roughly) the same information. It was more of a “I don’t know why, but you’re supposed to use this, and it DOES work, but… I dunno why.” Anyway, he’s already healing up nicely. Still not back to normal, but looking a lot better. :)

  2. Anonymous says:

    what a beautiful betta i'm sorry to here about him. I would give him a nice comfy home and keep him on a strict diet with a treat once and a while i hope he is feeling better. By the way is he an all black betta

  3. BUBBLES says:

    My Betta fish Bubbles got knocked down out of his little fish bowl by my cat spazz i came home from work and found him wiggling under the bed, so i got him and put him back in his bowl.Not knowing how long he was on the floor he still lives.He won’t eat and he swims now only to the left.What can i do to help him?

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