Q: H wrote,

Hi there – Firstly, I wanted to say that I’ve been reading your (beautiful) site for a while now, before I bought my first betta, and it helped tremendously – many thanks!

Secondly – I’m hoping you can give me some advice or suggestions. My betta came home on Saturday of last week, with four WCMMs (White Cloud Mountain Minnows), from a really good LFS (all of the fish there are beautiful – well cared for, alert, interested in their surroundings and playful – and the store owner and I spent some time discussing the ailing plakat in the shop’s hospital tank). The betta had been in with a tank full of neon tetras, and had been absolutely unperturbed – they left him alone, and vice versa – so I’d no compunctions in letting them all move into their new home (63 litre Juwel Rekord tank) together. It’s well planted, has an inch or so of gravel substrate and two big chunks of bogwood. For the first three or four days, all was great – they were all as bright and alert as they had been in the shop, and were all eating well. Around Wednesday afternoon, the betta started to display less interest in food. Overnight he became increasingly listless and remains so now.

The tank is fully cycled, and the ammonia and nitrites have both been 0 consistently (I’ve been monitoring it carefully). The nitrates have been high so I’ve done several largish water changes, but the result remains high (40-50). Until Tuesday this didn’t seem to be affecting any of them, so I stuck to water changes, but yesterday I tried adding several doses of Tetra EasyBalance which professes to have nitrate minimizing granules in it. It doesn’t actually seem to be minimizing anything, but I figured it was worth a shot.

I use Seachem Prime as a dechlorinator, but try to avoid too many additives, so it’s just been the Prime and the EasyBalance.

I’ve made sure that the water has been up to temperature by boiling a kettle and adding it to my bucket of tap water, before adding the Prime and adding it to the tank, to ensure no nasties from the hot water pipes infiltrate the tank.

I did a really big water change today, which cleaned out a load of plant debris from a few of the aquatics which haven’t quite made it, and pruned a few others, but the nitrates remain around 25-50 (I’m using the API test strips).

The betta remains listless, hanging out in the foliage near the surface of the water. He’s not eaten since Wednesday, when I tempted him (for the first time) wih a mouthful of Tetra Fresh Delica whole bloodworms “in a nutritious, vitamin-rich jelly”. This was a one off – ordinarily he gets Hikkari pellets or what I assume are freeze-dried bloodworms, courtesy of the LFS, both of which he was eating happily until Wednesday.

His change in demeanor coincides with this meal, but I can’t see any obvious signs of infection (but then, I’m more used to checking for infection in creatures with fur). He almost looks a little “tucked up” (a term I ordinarily associate with horses) – could he be constipated, d’you think? Attached is a pic I’ve just managed to snap as he came out of his foliage for a brief spell.

Photo of actual Betta by reader

This is pretty much straight out of the camera – I boosted the exposure slightly to get rid of the shadow on his belly, but his colours haven’t really changed since I got him. I can’t see any spots, light or dark, or discoloration, and I can’t see any sort of damage to his fins, or any bloating, either. He’s really just thoroughly disinterested in everything. The minnows, of course, remain bright and bouncy!


I read your email and looked closely at the photo of your betta that you sent me. From the photo, I can not see anything obviously wrong. On the contrary, his color, size and shape are good and his fins are spread normally. He looks healthy. That said, obviously listlessness and loss of appetite are not normal and you are right to be concerned.

High nitrates over time certainly could be the problem. Test strips are not particularly accurate, but if the actual nitrates are hovering around the 50 ppm mark, like they say, I believe they can be a factor. Unfortunately products claiming to reduce nitrates don’t really work, as you noted yourself. Water changes are truly the best (and most cost effective) means for reducing nitrates. Continue with your frequent water changes until you get them under 20 ppm. Even once they are there, a change in your betta’s behavior may not be immediate.

I am also curious about your water temperature. You mentioned that you heat the water during water changes to match the new water with the tank water, which is great. What is the water temperature typically at and how much does it fluctuate throughout the day/night? Do you have an aquarium heater running? Water that is consistently too cool will certainly lead to sluggishness and even appetite loss as the fish’s metabolism slows down. If possible, run an aquarium heater at around 78F (25.5C).

You may also benefit from testing your water’s pH level. Fluctuating pH or pH that is extremely high or low (alkaline or basic) may lead to similar behavior. If it is normal and consistent it is one more thing you can rule out.

Fish food born illnesses are possible. They tend to be more common when the foods are wild caught or when not properly stored. For example, when frozen foods are left to thaw and then refrozen or are unrefrigerated for longer than they should be. If kept properly, most manufactured products especially brand names like Tetra, are pretty safe.

Hopefully I was able to give you a few things to consider. I know it has been some time since you wrote so if you get a chance, let me know how the little guy is doing. Hopefully he is feeling better.

Red Rum ( Half Moon Betta ), originally uploaded by q8phantom.

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Reader Interactions


  1. H says:

    Hi! Sorry, I thought I hit submit on my big-ass comment last night 🙁 I’m the original questioner, and unfortunately the betta died a few weeks ago. He developed a swelling behind his left gill, which got bigger and bigger, and finally something of a tear opened up in it. There was something which looked like a piece of white cotton dangling from it, attached quite firmly because he never knocked it off, and the scales were pineconing quite badly over the swelling. I treated the water with pimafix and melafix for fungal and bacterial infections, and gave him salt baths twice a day. None of it worked, and he died a few weeks ago.
    Just to answer the other suggestions, though – the water temperature is a steady 26C. I have a heater with a built in thermostat, and a second digital thermometer in the opposite corner for back up. I lowered the temperature slightly when I suspected a fungal infection (because of the white cottony stuff) but didn’t want to lower it much because I also was fairly sure he had dropsy (because of the pine-coning). I strongly suspect the live food he was given, and it’s been binned – never to return.
    The pH is a steady 7.0, btw – not subject to any fluctuations at all. I did get the nitrates down after a couple of days of massive changes – they have joined the nitrites and ammonia which are constantly at 0.
    After a good spell for the tank, I went and got the minnows two new playmates – a new betta and a starlight bristlenose plec. All of them are bright and alert and eating well – long may it remain so! Thanks for your help and suggestions, and I hope nobody else gets this particular combination – it was a long and frustrating battle, and ultimately not one I think I could’ve won.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Sorry to hear of the loss of your guy. He was beautiful. Hope your new betta is happy and brings you much joy

  3. Anonymous says:

    Uhm, i have a question .
    i got my betta fish abot a week ago .
    He ate fine the first day , then all of a sudden he wont eat . the guy at the pet store told me to only feed him pellets , but he tries to eat them, then just spits it out ,.
    is it because he doesnt like them ?
    what should i do ?
    im only 13 years old .

    • Bettalover27 says:

      Its Because He Waits Until Is A Little Softer. Mine Did That For A While Too. P.S. He Also Just Rips Off A Little Bit Each Time. So He’s Doing Just Fine

  4. Anonymous says:

    betta beta fish care and feedingI recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

  5. Anonymous says:

    ok i jus got a betta i fed him fish …. dnt kno what i was thinking then i bought for 3 dys he never pooped wont eat the pillets i gave him i changed the water added the conditioner idk what to do hes hardly moving around and his fins are closed up HELPPPPLEASSEEE

  6. Anonymous says:

    domino’s sucks!

  7. Anonymous says:

    i got my betta 6 months ago and put him in my room wich got way too cold over fall so he started to lose most of his color and wasnt eating much but got really puffy for a week his scales pineconed a little but then i put him in a warmer room and he got better still isnt the most colorful fish but he is back to being red with shimmery green-blue highlights with a black head and upper back (back used to be red) his name is nes (non existant shark)

  8. Anonymous says:

    hi i have a crowntail betta. well actually me and my son. we have him in a five gallon tank with spongebob deco. his tank got real slimey and he couldent eat the food because the slime was so thick on top. i moved him to my community tank for a week while i cleaned out his tank and removed the substrate now i have him back in his home but i decided not to put the substrate back in because it makes it easier to clean since its such a small tank now all the poo floats to the bottem and when i do water changes all the poo sucks right out. my question is do they have to have substrate in such a small aquarium?

  9. Cyndy says:

    My betta male a couple weeks ago went down the sink. I couldn’t get my hand in the get him out so I had to have my son do it. He was in there for about five minutes. When we finally got him out he looked fine but had a couple rips in his fins. I got him so fin repair medicine. I have in a gallon tank. i only gave him about a couple of drops a day. The second day i changed half his water and replace somemore drops. This went on for about seven days. I didn’t add any salt to the water. I haven’t given him salt in his water since. I changed his rocks and his plant. Now this week i’ve notice he is not eating and he has a switch and in his back side swims a little strange. Ever since his accendent he is a lot more skidish then before. his color doesn’t look bad and his fins look nice. he doesn’t flare up at any of my other betta and my female he just goes to the other side of his bowl. I change his water half way every couple of days and a full tank clean once a week. Everyone else is happy but my poor little Ice. Do you have any idea what could be the problem.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I got my betta around a week or so ago, and he was perfectly fine, he would eat and was very active at times. I changed his water yesterday morning, tried to make it the same temperature as it was at first, and when I place him back in his bowl (abt 2L), he was very still, wouldn’t eat and was at the bottom most of the day. I waited a day, as I thought he could’ve been a bit stressed or traumatised from moving him out and back into the bowl etc., however he was still the same the next morning. He lay on the stones on the ground, hid underneath leaves and sometimes had his tail up when his stomach was rested. Sometimes he would turn his body so that his face faced his tail, I’m not sure if his tail is bothering him. I realised that it could have been due to the water, as I smelled it in the morning and it smelled very much chlorinated. I changed the water again, made sure it didn’t smell chlorinated as I don’t have something to test the level. I left the new water in his jar for a couple of hours, and left him in another smaller bowl for a while to let him calm down. I just placed him back in his normal bowl, and he went straight to the bottom. It smells chlorinated again! He’s moving a little more, however i’m worried he’s getting very hurt with the chlorine. I’m waiting for some anti-chlorine (tap water conditioner), and I’ll boil some water and leave it overnight to get rid of the chlorine.
    Could his symptoms be related to anything other than effects of the chlorine, or stress?

  11. Juanita says:

    hello, got betta bob months ago, about 2 week ago stopped eating everything. Treated with beta-zing and fungus killer 6 days doing 100% water changes every 3 days, then added antibiotics. Now am on day 6 of those con’ting with every 3 day 100% water changes (making sure all is constant of coarse). Betta BOB is blowing up (abd) and brownish “snot balls” are slowly coming out from between his ventral fins. At first I thought was my imagination, now am sure. The stuff drops off then comes back…oozing goo that fungus killer nor antibiotics are affecting. All this time not one bite of ANYTHING. Is it time to euthanize? How long can they go on w/o food? He hangs out by the heater up top alot, doesn’t flare anymore either. Poor BETTA BOB. JL

  12. Anonymous says:

    hi i just brought a Betta and i have only had it for a few days and is really ill already well i think it is. its tail looks like its been chewed, it has lost its colour and has a kind of white oval on its belly on both sides which defo wasn’t there before, keeps on just floating around the tank on its side, isn’t eating and is very sluggish and i tried looking it up but all of the symptoms are in a lot of diseases pleaseeeeeee help me 🙂

  13. Anonymous says:

    If your betta doesn’t eat….try feeding with a fresh batch of food. Discard the old batch that it refuses to eat. Do not store betta food in another container other than that which it comes in. Make sure you don’t buy those bigger pellets because there are some food that a betta won’t eat even when it’s betta food. Do not feed your betta mosquito/ lavae or it will become diseased. If it’s still lethargic and not eating, then it’s probably ill.

  14. Ashley R. says:

    Hi, thanks for taking the time to read this. My betta has been acting sluggish lately, lying on the bottom of his tank for hours at a time. He is also not eating, and his breathing appears labored. I checked the tank for ammonia, too high of pH levels, nitrate, and nitrite, along with tank temperature, which is at 78 degrees farenheit, and the readings are all normal. I don’t know what else could be causing his condition. Is it the food I’m giving him? I heard somewhere that you should avoid feeding flakes to bettas, and up till now I’ve been giving him flakes. He even barely objects to tank cleaning anymore. Could it be that you’re not supposed to use air stones with bettas? I am at a loss. I’ve medicated him without success. Please help, any new information would be helpful!!

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