Internal Parasites and Swim Bladder Disorder in Betta Fish


Laverne’s color has also developed quite a bit., originally uploaded by Krista76.

CM wrote

I have a one year old red VT betta, Baron. He was such an active guy, great personality, flared nearly all night long (would only flare at night with the room lights off and his tank light on), and ate like a champ.

About six weeks ago, he began to have some grayish patches on his sides, like a saddle. I thought he had fungus and I treated him with Maracyn II first, along with Maracyn. No better. I then tried Fungus Clear and he seemed to clear up. Throughout all that, he never lost his spunk or his appetite.

Then I noticed that he was not pooping much. I have two bettas and religiously siphon out waste every morning with a turkey baster. He didn’t seem any worse for the wear and when he did poop, the poops were huge. I cut back on his food. (He eats Spectrum Thera A Color enhancing with Garlic, Betta Bites, an occasional blood worm) The routine was two pieces in the morning and two to three pieces at night, varying what I would feed.

About three weeks ago, when the lights went out, he did not flare. He seemed less active every day. He now definitely has Swim Bladder. It breaks my heart to see him like this!? He is nearly always on his side, at the top, looking very depressed. I can arouse him and he will swim a little bit, but I can definitely tell it’s a buoyancy issue. His swim bladder does look a little puffy to me, maybe more so on the right side. He seems very gassy and burps out big bubbles, usually after one of these “swim abouts”, which last about a minute. He is still eating, but not without me hand feeding him basically. I tried fasting, peas, everything! He is now pooping everyday but the poop looks a little mucousy. I drove an hour away to get him live brine shrimp but it’s hard for him to get them because they go right to the bottom and he cannot swim more than half way down his tank.

He lives in an Explorer II tank, with filtration and a heater. Temp is always 80-84ish. He has one live plant and a cave that he used to love sitting in with his little head poking out of the holes. I check his water parameters like a hawk and about two weeks after this started, found the ammonia level suddenly high and did a complete water change. I have done two complete water changes since the ammonia issue, and several partials. I always use spring water for changes and aquarium salt with the complete water changes. I have lowered the water level for him so that he is now in about one gallon of water. His red color in the tails is still quite vibrant, but his body may look a little duller. His chin is a little pale.

He is more and more on his side, we have started to call him the flounder. Is there any hope that he will recover. He responds when we come to the tank and talk to him. He still eats and poops, but again not with the voracity he once had. I don’t have a problem hand feeding him. Is there anything else I can try? I just want my little flarin’ Baron back!

What are your thoughts on a product called Betta Revive, or epsom salt baths? Would a light massage along the swim bladder area help to move any gas that would be trapped in there? I am desperate to help my poor baby! I would think if the issue was bacterial or other, he would have been long gone by now. He’s such a little fighter, I can’t give up on him.

I have owned bettas for about eight years; my longest liver was six years old. (RIP Fish Pish). But Baron has certainly been the biggest entertainer I have ever had.Your thoughts and help are most appreciated.

A It sounds like it could be a swim bladder infection, possibly due to an internal parasitic or bacterial infection. There are a few things I should mention first before I get into my theory. A betta’s swim bladder is a gas filled sack located near the fish’s tail. It is normal for it to protrude to some degree. Swim bladders are usually visible in betta fish. I definitely DO NOT recommend attempting to massage gas from the swim bladder. Its reason for existing is to contain gases that help the fish swim upright. Attempting to alter the function of the swim bladder could cause irreversible harm.

You mentioned that your betta’s waste has changed and appears to be more mucus-like. This could signal an infection due to parasites or bacteria. Keep in mind that bettas have a good immune system able to fight off many diseases. So having an infection wouldn’t necessarily kill him. He may just be trying to fight it off. Again, this makes me wonder if he has parasites rather than bacteria. (I really can’t be sure). My other theory is that you may be over-salting your water when you do water changes, which could affect your betta’s ability to control his buoyancy through osmosis.

Salt is not necessary to add to your aquarium water. Some people add it when there is ammonia or nitrite present to help the fish breathe easier but typically it isn’t necessary. It is important to note that salt does not evaporate. The only way to remove it is to remove the water itself. It is a common mistake for fish keepers to add a full dose of salt to their aquarium at each partial water change. For example; say on day 1 you dose your 10 gallon aquarium with 1 tablespoon of salt; on day 7 you do a 50% water change. You should only then dose with ½ tablespoon of salt. If you do the full dose again you will have 1.5 tablespoons of salt which is too much. Repeating this mistake over time could lead to buoyancy and other health problems in your betta fish. This isn’t to say that you are dosing incorrectly. I’m just putting it out there as a possibility.

I’ve never used Betta Revive but from what I can see the active ingredients are salt, Methylene Blue and Malachite Green. All these ingredients are effective against fungus and external parasites. It is less effective on internal bacterial infections and internal parasites. I’m not sure that this will help. Epsom salt baths are effective to reduce swelling in fish with dropsy due to kidney failure. Unless your betta is severely swollen, I don’t think it will help at this time.

There is no way to say for sure what is causing the swim bladder problems in your betta. You may have luck trying Jungle’s Parasite Clear, which I know does treat internal parasites. It’s also possible that the problem is bacterial or due to physical injury to the swim bladder, in which case hand feeding Baron may be the only option. It may take a little time to figure out what is causing the problem with your betta.

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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:

8 Comments for this entry

  1. Anonymous says:

    Would like to add to this post.

    Re: Grayish patches "like a saddle"… Big sign of bacteria called – Flexibacter Columnaris which starts with that tale tell sign.

    Please google that name for more information – it is deadly and there are fast acting strains. (can't cut and paste) (drop in temp esp sudden)

    "the bacterial are most likely to infect fish athat have been stressed by such conditions as poor water quality, inadequate diet, or handling and shipping. Columnaris can enter the fish through teh gills, mouth, or via small wounds on the skin.

    (high water temps accelerate teh progression but lower the water temp will not affect the outcome.)

    See as well National Fish Pharmecuital site for PHd advice – I did much research on this as I rescue bettas but for some reason can not link sites. Sorry

  2. Betta freak says:

    Awh my fish is like this to and if you can't hand feed him, To put him asleep.How do you do that? You put him in a cup then put him in the freezer he will get cold and go to sleep then that's when you Burry,flush,other

    • Angie says:

      Thats not a good way, the fish will be in pain and alot of stress, there are better ways look up, for example clove oil, or a quick blow to the head, but i would only reccomend this if its really necessary as most bettas can recover by themselves.At the moment my bettas sick, he has the symptoms of swim bladder, floating on his side at the top of the bowl, not eating, he as even refused peas, so i know he is sick, i was given Melafix no diffrence, but i did notice a white string like thing dangling from underneath him so now i am wondering wether he as internal parasites, if any one can help shed a light on this that would be great, but i have decided to get somthing for internal parasites as soon as poss.

      • Kristen says:

        Almost like mines a betta pal of mine says take a tweezer try to pull on worm if you feel tension stop and try again ( be careful you don’t hold on his fin )But mines I’m too chicken so I leave it alone next day *POOF* gone

        Mine is also a bit pale but he still a little bloated but some how he can still go down and he stays down unless I put my hand in .

        Poor little itty bitty clown!! I wuv you Blazie( Blaze)!!!!

    • Kristen says:

      Don’t do that his betta is already sick that`s making it worser for him! Oh and Speaking of that my baby Blaze has internal parasite evidence is is poop white stringy poop! Oh brother what can I do ?

  3. beccake says:

    it could be the parasite Ick– Betta Revive (or anything else with Malachite Green

  4. Amber says:

    My betta Tai is still bloated, after the pea treatments and epsom salt baths… Now it sort of looks like his scales are poking out but they aren’t…. I think this may be due to bacteria or parasites since he’s not getting any better, he’s losing buoyancy, and he eats and swims in his hospital container, so somebody please, please email me amberknndy@aol.com

  5. heidi says:

    i love my bettas. RIP Pinky, and Freddy, and the 2 that i have now, Little fin and Rainbow.. i am learning a lot about bettas the hard way, i learned things that the big chain stores that are allowed to sell them dont tell you when you buy them because they dont know. like water changes, temp, and diets. i just want to say thank you, you have confirmed what i learned the hard way, and taught me new things.

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