Close up of betta gills by EM

Photo of fin rot provided by EM
Q: EM wrote,

Hi Christie-

Thanks so much for the website! It has been so helpful to me already, but my poor Betta Warren seems quite sick, so I’m writing for a little more help. It turns out the pet store we got Warren from is somewhat disreputable. All the Bettas looked a little ragged and Warren looked the most sick, but my husband became very attached to him, so we took him home. We got some stress coat and pellets and were told to change his water once a week. Almost as soon as he was in our house, he stopped eating for about a week so, yesterday, I went to a better pet store and got some water testing strips, a plant, a thermometer, and some live worms to feed him. He loves the worms and has been bit more active, but he has a strange shiny coating around his gills and it seems to have spread a little to his body. I thought it might be velvet, but I’m not sure. I’m attaching a couple pictures of it. I don’t want to medicate anything until I’m sure of what it is, so I was really hoping you could help me diagnose it.

His tail fin is quite short and uneven, so I thought maybe fin rot. He also did have a fuzzy thing attached to one of his fins for a while that came off into the water. That was last week and it hasn’t happened since, so I’m hoping it was just an infection as a result of stress and bad water conditions that has since passed. His coloring seems a little dull.

We tested the water and found that the ammonia levels were too high and that water out of our tap has a little bit of ammonia in it (<0.25ppm), so I’m going to be testing the water conditions every day and replacing it with Britta-filtered and stress-coated water to try to keep that in check. Here are the other water stats:

Nitrate: 0
Nitrite: 0
Hardness: 50-120 ppm
Alkalinity: 120 ppm
pH: 6.8
temp: 70 oF (too cold, I know, but I’m just trying to keep it stable for

A: Hi there and thanks for writing in. I have to first say Kudos to you and your husband for buying the sickest looking fish in the store. I believe you gave this fish a chance at life when it probably wouldn’t have lasted long on the shelf. Adopting these sick fish can make for a difficult challenge as they often have weakened immune systems and may suffer damage from ammonia poisoning that they never fully recover from. Many of these fish don’t live quite as long as those that are kept in good conditions from birth, but now this betta can live out the rest of his life in a home where people care about his health.

I looked at the photos and I didn’t see any signs of velvet, though sometimes it doesn’t show well in photos. You may be seeing something that I can’t. I thought perhaps you were looking at the white shimmery pigmentation on his face and gills. This is a very common coloration in white bettas and it may appear to be spreading because as he gets healthier his true colors will begin to appear. Personally, white bettas are my most favorite and I have had several. I’m going to link to two photos of mine to show you similar shiny pigmentation on my betta’s face and gills.

Photo of white betta with white pigmentation on gills by Nippyfish

Close-up of white betta provided by Nippyfish
I agree that your betta probably did have fin rot as he is missing a substantial portion of his tail fin. He doesn’t appear to have blackened or bloody fin tips and it almost looks like he has some new clear fin tissue growing at the ends. I think his immune system has already begun the healing process. Unless he continues to loose fin tissue, I would hold off on antibiotic treatment. Additionally, if the fuzziness on his fin has fallen away and hasn’t spread, I don’t think it is necessary to treat him.

Now that he’s eating his live worms (I’ve never known a betta to turn them down) and apparently is on the mend, I would begin to slowly warm his water over the next several days. Two Fahrenheit degrees per day until it reaches 78 to 80 degrees is a nice safe and slow increase. Regarding the ammonia in your tap water, I recommend using a combination of Kordon’s AmQuel+ and NovAqua as your regular water conditioner. In addition to removing chlorine, chloramines and heavy metals, it will bind harmful ammonia.

From the photos, he looks really good and I hope that he will continue to do well now that he is living in much better conditions.

Best of luck.


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Reader Interactions


  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi! I just bought a siamese fighting fish from a pet shop 2 days ago. I bought him because the pet shop he is from treat their bettas awefully ( leaving them in jars with a 2 inch diameter and 3 inch height, not cleaning them out, poor feeding) and i thought he could be so beautiful i had to help him.
    He seems really thin, and no more than 6 months old, and all of his fins are split and one of his front swimming fins is gone making it hard for him to get around. he doesnt eat, he tries but always spits it back out. Iv tried crushing the food a little to make it easier to eat, but he still spits it out. Iv been feeding him tiny round pellets that i have no idea what its called, but i think its a regular betta food. He doesnt move much, rests mostly at the top of the bowl (im keeping him in a 7 inch high by 7 inch bowl with no decorations yet)
    Im almost 100% sure he has fin rot, and sadly so do most of the bettas at the shop. He looks almost exactly like the white fish from this post, only i think his fins might be worse. This morning i noticed one was red and bleeding.
    i bought some ‘Aquarium Pharmatceuticals Bettafix’ thats supposed to heal damaged fins and skin, is all natural says its ingedient is Melaleuca 0.2%
    His name is Cujo, and my other beautiful boy Narcissus came from the same pet shop and was so miserable a month ago but now is doing amazing and with so much character and energy.
    So what can i do that might help poor Cujo to survive? Thanks!

  2. Kalynda says:

    I broke down and got a Betta from a petstore and I noticed he was acting irregularly and within a week or so he had developed severe tail rot. Within this last week I have arrested his tail rot and he has regained his appetite- but now I notice that when I feed him or he opens his mouth while flaring that a cloudy white discharge is coming out of his gills. It does not look like any parasites I have researched and is completely new to me. Any ideas?

  3. Anonymous says:

    My betta is more of a peach/orange color. He has the same gill coloration as mentioned. Is this still normal? Im concerned that his scales are dulling cus he’s sick. I also think he’s constipated so I’ve been fasting him

  4. robin says:

    Hi Christine,
    I just bought a beta fish from petco and he lives with me in my dorm room at school in a 1 gallon round tank with a thermometer and heater. I had to go back and buy this stuff later because originally petco set me up with a half gallon tank, food, conditioner, gravel and no heater or thermometer. Then I read up online and found that betta need much more than that! His name is hector and he is very active and eats regularly. Hector has no signs of fin rotting or disease except for his gills are black inside. When he breaths you can see dark black inside. I noticed that your white beta fish appears to have the same exact black stuff inside his or her gills. Does this mean its normal and Hector (plus your betta) are perfectly normal and healthy? I have read online that this could be ammonia or chlorine burns? I hope to hear that this black gill thing is normal and that Hector will be alright.

  5. Alanna says:

    Hi, ive had my betta for about a year, I keep her(I think) in a fair sized glass bowl. I didn’t know they needed a heater, etc. Anyways my fish had a small black spot on her tail when I got her and it has been spreading out slowly ever since. I’ve kept an eye on it but assumed she was just maturing. I recently put a new plant in and a day or 2 later noticed a big bubble on the tail fin where the color changed. I immediately took out the plant and did a full water change yesterday. The bubble was almost gone today but now I’m really worried and think it could be something more serious. I’m not sure exactly what to do next. Please let me know if there’s anything I can or should do. Thanks!

  6. Lidyanis says:

    I’m a little concerned. I have a betta fish that’s been with me for a little over four months now. I have made sure that he is spoiled. He lives in a ten-gallon tank that has a few real plants, a water heater, filter, water conditioner and clearer, etc. I partially change the water every week. I noticed, however, that he has changed from a vivid teal to a royal blue and has tiny black spots all over his fins. I’m not sure if he’s had this before and its just “beauty marks”, or whether this is normal or not, and I can’t find anything on the internet that looks similar to those spots.

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