Velvet Disease [Piscinoödinium] in Bettas


Photo of Titan provided by CBN

Q: CBN wrote,

Hi again. This time im really concerned and sad. I think my betta is sick and I need URGENT advice. I think he might be infected with what I have read is called: velvet. He seems to have tiny “dust” spots, kinda brownish or yellowish in some of his body. I’ve also noticed that his fins are not opened like the first time I brought him home, and seems a bit darker now, I thought he was getting darker cause he is growing, but now, I think he’s just sick and I’m afraid he dies. He still eats well, but today, I’ve noticed he is more inactive than before, swims with his fins closed or clamped and stays in the bottom, comes out of rocks really fast for air and slips back into his “cave” (under some rocks). I’m attaching some pictures to see if you agree with me ( I hope you can see what Im talking about) and for your urgent advice, please let me know as soon as you can so i can treat him. Also, he still flares at his reflection, is this good? Thx in advance for your advice.

A: I looked at your photos and I agree with your diagnosis. It sure does look like Velvet Disease. The poor little guy is probably not very comfortable right now. The good news is Velvet, when treated quickly, is usually overcome with fish medications. The fact that he’s still eating and flaring at himself is a good sign that he isn’t feeling too bad but the number of parasites viewable in the photo says to me the infestation is quite severe. I recommend treating him ASAP. Here’s the information on how to treat Velvet disease clipped from my website.

Velvet Disease
Velvet or Piscinoödinium or Oödinium pilularis is a parasitic infestation that is very common among both salt and freshwater fish. This parasite is opportunistic and is present in most commercial aquariums. When a fish is stressed due to temperature fluctuations, poor water quality or other stressors they become susceptible to the parasites.

Velvet is classified as a dinoflagellate. It is both a protozoan like the Ich parasites but contains Chlorophyll so it is also considered a type of algae. It survives by finding a stressed host and attaching itself mostly to the gill or fin tissue where it kills the cells and consumes the nutrients directly from the fish. If left untreated it often leads to death. Physically, Velvet looks like a gold, rust or yellow dust, finely sprinkled over the fish. In fact, it can be so difficult to see that often a flashlight is needed to reveal it. This shiny powder appearance has lead to many other names besides Velvet including Rust and Gold Dust Disease.

Besides seeing the parasites directly on your fish you may notice other symptoms including the telltale rubbing against rocks, gravel or other décor. This is common with external parasites and is an attempt by your fish to dislodge the pests from its body. As the disease develops, symptoms may worsen and include lethargy, loss of appetite, labored breathing and clamped fins.

Over a short time, the protozoa detach from their host and enter their free-swimming stage where they divide and multiply many times. This is when they are most vulnerable to medications but may not be obviously present in the tank. It is very important when medicating that you finish the entire course of treatment regardless of weather or not you still see the parasites present. Follow the directions on the medication package closely. Once the parasites multiply they must find a new host (or the same old one) within 24 hours to survive. Because of this life cycle it may appear that your fish has gotten better but really once the Piscinoödinium completes reproduction the worst is yet to come. Now many more protozoa are present in the water and waiting to attack your fish.

If diagnosed early, Velvet is fairly easy to treat. First, you should remove your betta and place him into a hospital tank away from any other fish. Oödinium is highly contagious and keeping the infected fish in a community tank can put others at risk. Make note, the medications for Velvet may be toxic to other species like some fish, snails, invertebrates and aquarium plants as well. Also, any filter media should be removed so as not to eliminate the medication from the water. Next, slowly raise the water temperature to 80˚F – 82˚F [26.6˚C – 27.7˚C]. Because you don’t want to further stress you fish, be sure to only increase the temperature by no more then 2˚F or 1˚C in a 24 hour period. A more rapid temperature fluctuation could cause additional harm. It’s recommended you use a commercial Velvet medication like Mardel’s CopperSafe® or Jungle’s Velvet Guard®. Reducing the amount of light getting into the tanks by keeping the hood lamp off and covering the tank may help to combat the parasites as well.

To prevent the Piscinoödinium parasites from infesting your tank there are some simple precautions all aquarists can tank. First, always quarantine new fish for 3 – 4 weeks before adding them to a community tank. Be sure to always test your water parameters regularly and keep tank water clean by performing frequent and regular water changes. Avoid stressors like temperature and pH fluctuations and provide a nutritionally balanced diet by offering a variety of live and frozen foods.


Photo of Titan provided by CBN

Written by

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:

13 Comments for this entry

  1. vanessa says:

    very helpful thanks for all the info

  2. doll.6 says:

    Hello, I have had my little fishboy betta (his name is Pakora) for 6 months…I am new to the whole fish scene and now that he is ill, I feel terrible for not researching more before this happened. I did a water change 3 days ago and its gotten really cold where my landlord hasnt turned on the heat in our student house and its freezing, now he hasnt eaten since then (3 days) and I have been reading non stop about disease in bettas. Today I took pictures of him and he was covered in a gold dust…so I am sure he has velvet. He is lethargic, swimming in a gittery way at times, darting when I approach and staying at the bottom corner of the tank. Tomorrow I am determined to buy velvetguard or coppersafe (whichever I can find) but my problem is THIS: He is not in a heated tank, I just found out recently he should have been in one, but when I purchased him last May, my room was scorching hot and it was perfect without a heater, now I dont know how I can adjust him to a heated bowl with the meds. I dont know which steps to take and people at the petstore dont know what the *&$# they are talking about and I have learned more from this site than talking to any one of them. I am a first time fish owner and I know more then them, thats terrible. I’d appreciate if someone could help me asap as I am worried out of my head. He is in a 1.17 gallon tank and I am out to buy him a bigger one tomorrow with a heater and meds, just dont know the steps i should take to adjust him.

  3. doll.6 says:

    Here is a pic of Pakora when I first got him and a pic of him that I just took today.

    http://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y213/Suave6/pakora2.jpg

    http://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y213/Suave6/DSC04310.jpg

    • Lorin Keogh Sinclair says:

      hi, i don’t have any answers for you im sorry. But i think its so cute how you love your fish. I do too.. I was on here researching velvet disease because i think one of my betta’s has it and i came across your entry. I hope everything is well with pakora! Did you get help? I am going to the pet store tomorrow to see what i can do. Really it’s not right what the pet stores are doing selling these fighting fish as low maintenance pets..my first betta i think was soo cold he yried to bury himself in a shell i had in there and couldn’t get back out. It made me so sad..it’s crazy how such a little fish can make you feel quite upset..anyway now i have five and i really hope one of them will be ok..he is defiantly sick…you can tell.

  4. Kim says:

    Hi,
    I’m a new Betta fish owner. My co-worker was nice enough to buy us each a fish. Well, my lil guy was beautiful and when we put him next to the lil girl fish showed great interest.
    So we bought a little tank with a divider so that they could mate. We did just like the net said we kept them apart for awhile. I was changing the water more frequently because it said to. She had her little white spot showing however he was not making the bubble nest?
    My lil boy started to get fin/tail rot so I bought some BettaFix remedy which I noticed immediately, his tail stopped shedding and he is starting to look beautiful again. So we tried to put them together again and removed the little barrier.
    At first he showed interest and she ran and hid then he started to lose interest, she became the aggressor and was nipping at him. So I separated them again. Then I noticed like the white spot on his side and it seemed to be oozing this white or light brownish stuff on his left side just below and little to the back of his left side fin. I thought it might be the stuff his uses to fertilize the eggs but I’m not sure?
    He seems find, he eats well, swims around seems interested in things. He does have a long thing of what I think is poop coming out it’s like a string coming from underneath him. Is he just stopped up his poop coming out his side?
    I know I might sound stupid but I’m in the dark about this stuff, I love animals and I love my little fish, he always greets me and is a nice little stress breaker for me. Can someone please offer me some guidance!!!!!! It would be greatly appreciated I would hate to lose him.
    Semper Fi!
    Kimberly

  5. Anonymous says:

    hi, i bought a goldfish yesterday and put him in. he was very healthy and energetic and then today he is very ‘sluggish’ and doesnt want to move. we put velvet controll in today and will put it in every 48 hours for 10 days. i just wanna know if it will cure it, i mean i only brought him yesterday and its just started but i am very worried for my poor little ‘Herby’.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I think my little bettaboi might have velvet. At first I thought it was ick but now i am thinking it is velvet…

    Im searching for any kind of meds to help him out…

  7. MeandShade says:

    Hey I've got a problem with my betta that I can't quite pinpoint. He's had this growing patch of silver-white around his gills more towards his head. It's spread a little to his cheek area, and down his belly. When I shine a light on it, there are only a few spots that give off a goldish tone but for the most part it's just that straight up white. I haven't been able to narrow down what it could be from different websites because nothing really describes it. It's not really puffy, it's like it's right on his scales.
    Also, he's developed these two weird bumps on either side of his head that have been very slowly protruding. Just today I noticed that on one side there's something protruding from the top of the bump that looks kind of like pus on top of a zit, but like a little line of it coming right out of the top.
    I'm pretty close to calling up the local pet stores to see if anyone can give me any hint as to what this is..I normally treat him with BettaRevive (that blue stuff you put drops of into the water) but I've run out, and I found that it never really fully fended off the white patch. One more thing: I don't know if it was from rough treatment during water changes or the white that's near his gills, but when he flares not all of his gills flare out right away, one side sort of..sticks, unless he flares aggressively.
    He's just as active and hungry as ever, and he's never really been one for making bubble nests, so I don't know what to make of this. Does anyone have ANY ideas, either with single problems or on a whole?

    • sam says:

      Did you find out what this was? Sounds like what my betta has. White patch around around head not puffy but right on scales, also bump on his right side toward back with whitish fuzz. Fins clamped and beginning to curl.

  8. MeandShade says:

    To add! He's always had an affinity for rubbing around stuff and going through things, so I haven't noticed if he's been particular about rubbing, and although he spends some time on the bottom of my tank it's because one of my decorations is a hollowed out log that has a passage, and again, he likes to go through things. For the most part he hangs out near the surface, near the light, on a betta hammock I bought for him.

  9. screenmachine says:

    @MeandShade: That’s the exact same thing I had going on with my female betta. Did you ever find out what it is? I’m still looking.

  10. MylesMom says:

    A search for whitening of gills and “cheeks” brought me here. My poor sweet Myles has only been with me two days and just today I’ve noticed he’s rubbing up against things a little bit and his right “cheek” seems to be turning white in color. I did do a full water change yesterday as his water seemed cloudy but I made sure to keep the temp consistent. He just recently found out he loves to lay on his leaf hammock and nap, but when he’s up and around, he seems “hyper” and darts around then suddenly stops. I know that a lot of questions go unanswered here due to sheer volume, but I jumped on this thread because it seemed to go in the direction of what’s going on with Myles. White patches and itching. I will go to the store to pick up some meds for my baby. Thanks for reading and commiserating, guys!

  11. Mrs Cole says:

    Try tis web site i got alot of info here hope this helps all your lil bettas :-) . http://www.bettatalk.com/betta_care.htm

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