10 Tips for Medicating Betta Fish

10 Tips for Medicating Betta Fish

If you keep Betta fish long enough, eventually you will have to deal with treating an illness. Bettas are not particularly resilient fish and are susceptible to a host of common diseases from bacterial infections to viruses and parasitic infestations. Minor problems like split fins or a lost scales can typically be healed on their own. When your Betta become very sick you may need to administer medicine. Here are our 10 Dos & Don’ts of medicating your Betta fish.

1. DO evaluate your Betta’s symptoms before medicating. Hardly a week goes by that I don’t get an email from a Betta keeper who has

  • first, given their fish medicine and
  • second, asked me what is wrong with their Betta.

Medicating Bettas is very similar to taking medicine for yourself. You wouldn’t take cough medicine if you had a headache. Fish medicine is developed to treat specific illnesses. Antibiotics like Maracyn or Maracyn-Two work very well against bacterial infections but will do nothing for virus or parasites. You have to know what is wrong with your fish before you medicate him (or at least have made an educated guess first).

2. DO take the necessary steps to solve the cause of the problem in the first place. Treating the symptoms is only half of the solution. It is equally important to determine what caused your Betta to become ill. Most often there are stressors in the environment like poor water quality, exposure to other sick fish, or malnutrition that caused the fish to become sick in the first place. Start by identifying and correcting the cause.

3. DON’T mix medicine. Again, as with humans, Betta medicine can cause drug interactions. Read the manufacturer’s warnings before you treat your fish with multiple medications at one time. If you are not sure you can call the manufacturer or visit their website for more information.

4. DO understand that medicating your Betta is risky. Many fish keepers think that medicine is a miracle that will cure their fish without consequence. This isn’t necessarily true. Bettas are very sensitive animals who can become very ill with just minor fluctuations in their environment. Many fish medications are quite potent and can wreak havoc on a Betta’s internal systems. There is no 100% safe fish medicine. The Betta will need to metabolize the chemicals from the medicine which add additional stress to the liver and kidneys. This is why you are best to avoid “preventative treatments” and use good judgment when deciding to medicate your Betta. Determine if the risk is worth the reward.

5. DON’T switch medications guessing at the right answer. Another common mistake Betta keepers make is trying a random medicine for a few days and then switching medication when they don’t get the result they wanted. We all make mistakes. If you have used the wrong medication on your Betta be sure to clean the aquarium well to remove traces of medicine. Do careful research before starting another treatment. Don’t start and stop various treatments hoping one will work.

6. DO complete the course. When you find a medicine that works be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions for treatment. Many common Betta illness like Ich, Velvet, Cotton Wool Disease and any number of other bacterial infections can go dormant and appear to be healed only to resurface worse than ever. If the directions say to complete the course even if symptoms appear to improve, be sure you do.

7. DO watch for negative reactions. As an exception to Tip #6… You should also watch for any adverse reactions from medicine. If you suspect your fish having a bad reaction to the medicine (rather than the illness itself) use your judgment and stop treatment.

8. DON’T medicate healthy fish. Many of us keep our Bettas in community aquariums with other fish or invertebrates. If one fish becomes ill, move him to a hospital tank where he can be monitored safely and where his medicine won’t stress healthy fish. Keep in mind that some medicine that is safe for fish is deadly to invertebrates. Even if your Betta only shares a tank with a snail or shrimp, be sure to move him to another location so you don’t accidently kill the other inhabitants of your aquarium.

9. DO understand how fish medicine may affect your biological filtration. Antibiotics and bactericides are developed to kill bacteria. Filtered aquariums are teaming with beneficial bacterial colonies that have been slowly growing in your tank. These beneficial bacteria consume toxins like ammonia that are harmful to your fish. Be careful that you don’t accidently use a medicine in your tank that will also kill off all your helpful bacteria. If you have worked hard to cycle your tank you will definitely want to take the simple steps involved with setting up a hospital tank.

10. DO medicate your Betta if he needs it. As pet owners it is our responsibility to provide a safe environment, nutritious diet and medical care for our fish. There are many illnesses that can be cured with inexpensive fish medicine that otherwise would be fatal to your Betta.

Betta Fish

Betta Fish | Photo by Xhan104

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:

19 Comments for this entry

  1. Mike Burda says:

    Especially with parasites like ick, one of the best treatments to resolve the problem is repeated water changes. Water changes _ small and frequent – improve water quality while also physically removing the number of parasites from the tank.

    Most fish medication is poison. The trick is that it is more poisonous to the parasite than to the fish. But with weakened fish, the treatment can harm the fish.

    Mike

  2. Mildred G. says:

    An Ick attack is often caused by the water temperature dropping by more than 2 degrees.
    If you raise your water temperature by 2 degrees a day until you reach 80 degrees, it should kill the ick without medication.
    Betta Fish (and most tropical fish) do very well at 80 degrees; however, you must bring the temperature up SLOWLY!!!!!
    .
    A sudden drop of temperature of more than 2 degrees will cause an Ick attack, and it will stay in the gravel or substrate of your tank and strike again whenever the temperature drops more than 2 degrees.

    I have found that consistent water temperature, even when doing a partial water change is most beneficial. Always CHECK and BRING WATER TEMPERATURE TO MATCH THE TANK BEFORE ADDING THE WATER TO THE TANK, whether adding a small amount or doing a complete water change.

    Patience is a virtue :) necessary for keeping a healthy aquarium!

    • Christie F. says:

      Great advice Mildred! Thank you for sharing your experience. :)

    • Cassandra says:

      I was trying to transport my betta fish home two days ago, and his tank spilled over and he was on the carpet. I quickly pulled over and picked him up, and put him in my half full water bottle. Once I got home I remade his tank and put him in. He seemed fine but later in the day I noticed what looked like his intestines hanging out. The next morning he had a white dot on one of his hanging “arms”. He is usually a very active fish, but became very sluggish. He used to fly all over the tank when I took the top off, now he doesn’t even acknowledge it. He simply is always hiding under his bridge or tree which is very unusual for him. I put epsome salt in his tank. And later when I went to the pet store they told me to put in this betta care meds liquid. Other then his behavior, this morning he had some red on a little portion of his front tail. His tail does seem to be breaking. I have put that in two days ina row, he seems even more depressed then before. Is there any hope? What should I do? Please respond to my email if possible thanks so much!

  3. Mildred G. says:

    Hello Christie!

    I really appreciate your commitment to helping all of the fish :) and their people who have questions about the well-being of their wet-pet and how to provide a healthy habitat for them.

    Fresh water aquariums are wonderful hobby that I have really enjoyed over the past 25 years.
    The Betta is one of the most beautiful of the fresh water fish, I really love them and always have at least one!
    I also have Discus and Veil Tail Angel fish (FYI, you should not keep the Discus and Angel Fish in the same aquarium, the Angel Fish are prone to the hole-in-the-head disease, and can infect the Discus).

    There seems to be a lot of FUSS and WORRY over the colonization of beneficial aerobic bacteria and enzymes.

    I would like to point out to all of the fishs’ people that :) SOLUTION: There are several very good products out there to add to the aquarium to facilitate the immediate procurement of as much biological filtration as necessary!

    FOR EXAMPLE
    Aquarium Pharmaceuticals offers a biological filtration booster: STRESS-ZYME+ (a 4 ounce bottle for about $4.12).
    All you need to do is :) SHAKE the bottle, :) POUR into the measuring cap (10 ml [1 teaspoon] for every 10 gallons of water) and pour it into the :) AQUARIUM. (WOW FOR FISH NOW!)
    Repeat on the 7th and 14th day to start an aquarium. After that add 5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) per 10 gallons of water every week after that to maintain.
    ANOTHER GREAT PRODUCT
    BIO-ZYME. It comes in a small yellow pill-box looking container, and it is equally beneficial for about the same price.
    Sincerely hope this helps,
    Mildred G.
    PS
    The fish’s belly is the size of his eye, so please do not over-feed.
    It can kill the fish with bloat and/or foul the water.

  4. Kat says:

    Hey
    Sorry, I know this is an older thread but I’d appreciate some help :)
    I have a female veiltail betta and last week I noticed that she was getting a irredescent/white-ish covering over her eyes. After some research, I decided it was a bacterial infection and I decided to go to petco to get some medication. I talked to a helpful lady there, who agreed on the bacterial infection aspect, and wound up leaving with “Betta Revive” which says it prevents and controls potozoan, bacterial and fungal diseases. I moved my betta into a 16 oz container and gave her a drop a day for three days. During this time I gave her tank a good cleaning and filled it back up with clean water. After the 3rd day, I put her back in the tank and put only 6 drops of the medicine (half of what the dosage is). Everything seemed okay and like she was doing better but now her eyes have gotten worse! her right eye makes her look like shes possesed. There is a ring of that white translucent stuff around her pupil and sort of over it. Her left eye seems to be not as bad, because there is no ring around it like her right one-but there is still a film.
    I put a full dose (12 drops) into the water but then after more research decided that probably wasn’t a great idea. instead I did about a 40% water change, added a little bit of aquarium salt and raised the temp. in my room (I have no water heater). Can you help me as to what I should do?
    I saw this on another thread and thought it might help..

    1. How long have you had your betta? A few months
    2. What is the water volume or tank size? 1.5 Gal.
    3. Is this a betta bowl or an aquarium with a filter? Aquarium with a filter
    4. Have you tested for Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate? What were the results? tested for Ammonia, results were in the “Safe” zone
    5. Have you tested for pH, kh and gh? What were the results? No :(
    6. What is the water temperature? 76
    7. How often do you change your tank water? How much water do you replace at a time? I don’t change it too often, every few weeks. I’d say about 25%
    8. Are there other fish in the tank with your betta? Which species and how many? When were they added? No other fish.
    9. How often do you feed your betta? What types of food are you using? How much are you feeding each time? I feed her BettaMin tropical medely flakes once a day (about a pinch) and sometimes I give her dried blood worms. (I’ve tried pellets but she doesnt really eat them)
    10. What water additives and medications are you using? Remember to include water conditioners or salt if you’re using them. I use Tetra’s Water Safe when I put new water in and I just the other day put a little less than half a tsp of aquarium salt in and I used the Betta Revive medication but have stopped.

    Sorry this is long!
    Thanks!

  5. Beth says:

    This was all great advise but ultimatly it was too late for my beta. My question now is how do i rid Ich from my empty tank? My fish has died and i won’t be putting any new fish in for a while until i know my tank is safe. i have never encountered this problem before so i have no idea what will work on my tank or if the parasite is contageious to humans. i am very paranoid since i have a young toddler.

    Any help would be great! Thank You.

  6. suraj says:

    i would like to ask yotu that my beta is blowing bubbles ,i heard that beta do so becoz they want to breed but theres no female so why is he blowing bubles

    And how can i grow my betas’ fin long and have high volume

  7. Great tips and really helpful, and you are right we should figure out the problem first and then start the treatment.
    Keep up the good work, Thanks :)

  8. for Blue :( (My fish) says:

    My Betta has his tail caught together and the tail is turning white ……. what should i do ???

    :(

  9. Lee says:

    My betta doesn’t seem to have any physical affliction (i.e. ick, bacteria, etc) except for perhaps his fins being a little thin and not spread in all his glory. However, he’s been lethargic for a couple of weeks now and hides at the bottom of the tank in his rocks. It was recommended that I change the water at least once a week (he’s in a 1/2 gal. tank), we use Amquel Plus water conditioner per the mfg. instructions, and were told to feed every 3 days to avoid bloating and cut the meal size from 5 pellets (Hikari Betta Bio-Gold pellets) down to 3 pellets. He gets no other type of food. We were also advised to use Revive, so I got some. The instructions on the Revive state:

    “Use 1 drop per 16 ozs of water daily for at least 3 days….discontinue use after a cure has been achieved…Treatment should be discontinued after 7 days”.

    So we put in 4 drops for his 64oz (1/2 gal) tank when we changed the water, and left him in it for 3 days, changed the water, and used the revive again for another 3 days. He looked no better, but no worse either. I changed the water again, no medicine this time, and he went a week. But still no change. Droopy fins and lethargic. I am trying the Revive again now. My question is with the wording on the Revive instructions. Do they mean that we should add the 4 drops of Revive to the existing water each day? or change the water each day but continuing to medicate each water change with 4 drops? I would think that continually adding the medicine to the same water would over-medicate him immensely. What are your thoughts? Also, I read online that Indian Almond Leaf is very good for Bettas. I’m willing to get it and try it if it’s a valuable treatment. Also, do you recommend daily water changes for this size tank that has no filtration?

  10. Annie says:

    Hey Lee, I bet your problem with your betta’s lethargic attitude is the small tank and the lack of a heater. A lot of betta owners keep their fish in half gallon tanks in room temperature water, but this is actually less than ideal for the betta. Heat makes bettas very happy and much more active.

    You would more than definately need 50% water changes every day in a half gallon tank to keep ammonia and such at bay, however, this could cause too many spikes in your water and stress out or even kill your fish. I’d reccommend getting at the least a 2.5 gallon tank (though I’ve successfully kept them in 1 gallon tanks) for your little betta, along with a heater. Focus more on the heater. A filter isn’t necessary, but helps keep the water clearer longer. With this setup, weekly water changes are best, but you can get away with every other week.

    The heat and extra space will let your betta flourish and become the lively little firework show you want to see :)

  11. Cathy Lewthwaite says:

    i got my betta fish last week saturday. He was the cutest little guy. But sadly he passed away today. I dont fully understand what happened. We got him a nice tank, good heating, regular water changes and all that. But he ended up with cotton disease. Im struggling to find out what caused it or how it happened. And how to stop it from happening again. Before i buy a new betta.

    Please help..

  12. Annetta Hoggard says:

    My young son has a lovely half-moon placket. He got him as a fry, and now he’s about 1.5 inches long (2 years old). He lives in a gallon bowl with a couple of live plants and smooth black rocks on the bottom and has appeared quite happy in this environment. Water gets fully changed about once a week. We feed him 2-3 bits of fish food a day and an occasional bloodworm. About a month ago he became “bent” and sluggish. I gave him the “pea treatment” and after a day of sleep he was very active and his old self. However, during this time I noticed that iridescence had started covering his eyes (he has a blue/green iridescent body and red fins). He still follows my finger when I move it along the bowl…but it seems as if he has trouble seeing his food…although he does eventually find it. He also still sometimes appears “bent” and to have slight trouble swimming when he is. Any thoughts?

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