I received a wonderful letter from a reader describing how he successfully beat Dropsy in his Betta fish. As many of you know, Dropsy is symptom of another underlying illness which manifests as severe abdominal swelling or general body swelling leading to protruding (pineconing) scales. It is believed that these symptoms are the result of internal organ failure and the subsequent fluid buildup in the body. Dropsy is common in many species of aquarium fish and is usually fatal in Betta splendens. Thanks to Angelo for sharing his story with our Nippyfish readers.

Good day! I’ve been an avid reader of your blog and website and pretty much took to heart everything you noted on Betta care.
I just wanted to share an experience with Dropsy and how my fish unbelievably made a recovery from it. I hope others who have their pets affected by this can benefit as well.

I never used to have any problems with my Betta, Manny. He stays in a 2.5 Gallon Tank with a HOB filter, with no substrate or decorations since anything added to the tank other than the filter never seemed to agree with him… whether they be rocks, live plants or anything plastic. He was a happy fighting fish, swimming actively and playing with the current from the filter for days on end. One morning I saw him floating on his side one morning when I came to give him his food. His scales were raised, there was a certain redness under his gills, and his tummy had a slight swell to it… at that point I figured it had to be Dropsy plus some other infection that I couldn’t tell. My first three Bettas all died of Dropsy, and I felt bad knowing I might lose him to this one too. Nonetheless, I took him from his tank and put him in his 16 oz. hospital bowl where I know the measurements of his meds would be more exact. I took out the aquarium salt (1 teaspoon in 1.5 gallon containers) from his usual water mix, and put in Epsom salt in its place. I also got some Betta Revive and put in a drop to go with the mix. I made the transfer and prayed for the best. He was still floating on his side for the first few days, but he was eating so I figured there was still a chance.

I did this routine everyday for two weeks, (despite the fact that the note on Betta revive said it should be discontinued after a week) changing his water every one or two days as I could, applying the same mix. From floating on his side, he started swimming upright and then just lay down on one side at the bottom of the bowl the next few days. I felt sorry for him since he looked like he was in a lot of pain. He would only respond to food, and he wouldn’t really move for the rest of the time. I did see some physical improvements; his scales eventually returned to normal, the redness under his gills disappeared, and his belly returned to its normal size. He still seemed pretty weak, since he still wasn’t moving about.

This morning I checked, and he looked completely normal. Granted, he wasn’t as active as his old self was, but he looked better than he ever had since he got hit by Dropsy. He was eating (dashed off with a pellet of Hikari Bio-Gold in his mouth), and responded quite well when I waved my hand in front of his hospital tank. I have yet to move him in his old tank, but it does seem like he’s made a remarkable recovery.

To everyone that has Bettas suffering from Dropsy… it’s important to catch this very early on. I think I may have been lucky that I got to see this early in Manny, with his scales partially raised and his tummy swelling just slightly. I doubt I could’ve made much of a difference if I caught it in its later stages. There were points that he looked worse before he got better, but as long as he’s breathing, eating, and moving… he has a chance. Don’t give up on his water changes and inspect his condition every day.

For reference, the recovery package included:

– 1 16oz Mini Bowl or Tank
– 1 teaspoon of Epsom salt for 1.5 gallons of water
– 1 drop of Betta Revive per 16 oz.
– Water treated with the usual anti-chlorine and aged for a day or two near the tank so the temperature would be consistent.

I live in the tropics, so the temperature often ranged from 27-32 C degrees. I did 100% water changes every one to two days as my schedule allowed, since I got so swamped with work deadlines that time.

I didn’t change his diet with this, feeding him smaller amounts of BettaMin Tropical Medley flakes and (1 pellet, soaked) Hikari Bio-Gold alternately. Fast him every 6th or 7th day to give his digestive tract a rest.

Prayers definitely helped too. 🙂

In any case, I’m moving Manny back to his old tank today. I’ll have to taper off his dosage of Epsom salt so as not to make it sudden. Then I’ll likely reduce the aquarium salt or remove it altogether.

I hope others would be able to use this information. Thanks again for such an informative blog, and I hope this info adds a bit more to help Betta keepers everywhere!

Best regards,

There is a great lesson to be learned from this story. Animals are amazingly resilient and have inalienable will to survive. I admire Angelo’s dedication to the treatment of his pet. I too have seen some amazing recoveries and believe deeply that we have a responsibility to care for our fish when they are sick and to take whatever steps are necessary to provide a safe and stable environment for them.

Thanks again for the email Angelo.

A photo of Manny provided by Angelo

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Reader Interactions


  1. Anna says:

    I thought this condition was most prevalent in arowana. Great information! Thank you!

  2. Anonymous says:

    My Betta “champ” came down with dropsy nearly 2 weeks ago, I have been treating him with Maracyn plus..he did not eat for a week, today he came up and ate a little his color has returned no more swelling, but he has an open are where some scales are missing and the discoloration on fins are mostly disappearing, I think he is going to be fine.

  3. NO_Xtreme says:

    my beta is in advanced stages of dropsy i think. He has just gotten to the point where it looks like his sides are bursting open. Is it still worth treating him?

    • Nathan says:

      Always try your best. If it is too late you might as well treat it to make him/her more comfortable before they pass on.

  4. Anonymous says:

    My betta has a white fuzzy growth on his dorsal fin. He lived in a 2 gallon bowl. I bought Betta Revive and after I changed the water yesterday and put in a 1/2 teaspoon of aquarium salts( I do this when I change the water) I added 16 drops of revive to the water. He is pretty energized today. I was told to put 16 drops in for at least three days. What I am wondering is if I need to take any water out today before I add the drops. The water is so blue. If I put more in I won’t be able to see the little guy. What do you think?

  5. Betta Lover Sarah says:


  6. dorsal heart says:

    Swelling his body shows that the water of tank was dirty that effect his body completely that changed into dropsy.I think its your good luck

  7. Desiree says:

    I have a Betta Fish that looks like Manny but has a shorter tail at the end and is a bit darker in the coloring of the red. All of a sudden I noticed she was fatter than she was before and her scales were a bit out. I was so scared she was going to die and I cried. But then I looked online and I saw that it was Dropsy. Then I looked at the cause of Dropsy and I found this. I am SOOO glad that I was able to save my fish Martini. She is getting smaller and her swelling is going down now. Her scales haven’t gone in all the way yet but they have a bit. I am soo glad I found this form! Thank you so much guys!

  8. Myia says:

    I have two beta fish that both have Dropsy the first one I think I have caught in time thanks to this treatment…. Now my second fish I’m not so sure. I his belly is huge I feel so bad for him it looks painful. He still is energized and eating so I hope he can pull through. I’m so happy I found this because everything I have read so far says there’s nothing I can do and I have no luck saving him. So thanks for giving me some hope for my little guy hope he can pull thru like other one

  9. Mary says:

    My betta, Moonbeam, became sick with Dropsy. I realized it was from the sand and seashells I had put in his 2 gallon tank. I was ready to flush him, but after reading Angelo’s letter I became hopeful. I got a small container, much like the kind you purchase them in at the store. Then I put fresh bottled water, one small bit of aquarium salt, and 6 drops of BettaFix. Then I put Moonbeam in the container and placed him in my bathroom where it is warm and quiet. After one week of this, changing the water everyday and putting in the same amount of salt (barely a pinch) and BettaFix (6 drops), Moonbeam’s swelling had gone down considerably but he was still a little “pineconey” looking. I scrubbed out his tank with dishwashing soap and got rid of all the sand and seashells. He now has gravel and plastic plants. I am still using the tiny amount of aquarium salt and BettaFix and will continue until the bottle is gone. However, I do believe Moonbeam is going to be fine. He looks normal, his color is back (a deep burgandy), he’s eating and swimming around his tank…I’m so happy!!! Thank you for all your helpful information.

  10. Selecia says:

    Thanks for the info! With this treatment, did you use 1 teaspoon of epsom salt divided by 12 as treatment for the 16oz bowl since there is twelve 16 ounces in 1.5 gallons? So that would be .083 of a teaspoon of epsom salt? Thanks!

  11. Claire says:

    Thanks for this. My betta, Charlie, I think has dropsy. He still has an appetite bless him. I am going to follow your instruction but had a quick question. Did you do 100% water changes every day? And if so, where did you put him while you did the water change? Charlie, looks like he is in pain so I don’t want to mess with him too much taking him out of the tank and back in when I do the 100% water change. I fed him with a pea today because I thought he might have constipation since he does not appear to have raised scales. And I have filters gallore in there. Watching him now. He is swimming a bit. Also, I don’t think I can get Betta Revive here. Any alternative you can recommend? Also, what is the difference of Aquarium salt vs Epsom? Is there a benefit to changing?

  12. tasha says:

    My betas belly is so big, its starting to look clear, looks like i can see light through it. I am worried because he looks like hes gonna pop. I feed him every other day about 5 flakes. I am tying the pea thing tomorrow. He stays at the bottom of the tank until he sees me, then he acts like hes never ate before. I am afraid to move him out of his tank. His belly is bigger than the ones i have seen online and his fins do not look pineconed. HELP!

  13. Mrs MP Kennedy says:

    OMGosh thank you for this article! My daughter’s betta, Pluto, we just discovered last night is suffering from Dropsy. She is so upset. Everything I read about it was saying there is no cure and that eventually he was going to die. My daughter is only 7 and I did not want to explain this to her quite yet! I am going to try your care plan today. So keep your fingers crossed!

  14. Megan says:

    I’m freaked out of my mind. I saw the swelling 2 days ago and thought it was just constipation. After reading stuff off of this website i figured out it was dropsy. I have my little Pedro in a tank and have him on the Maracyn plus stuff, but i dont know if i got to him in time. He’s really pale and puffed out. Someone please tell me he’s going to be ok or at least tell me the truth that he’s not going to make it. I’m preparing for the worst but hoping and praying for the best.

  15. Kellly says:

    My Betta “Smokey” quit eating about 4 weeks ago. 2 weeks ago, while i was out of town, my son calls and says “Smokey doesn’t look good.” I cut my trip short and came home the next day. I cried for hours and felt so hopeless. Flushing him was not an option. I cleaned his tank (1.5 gallon) immediately when I got home and realized that he could not swim to the top to get air. I dropped the water to 2 inches and started searching online on what to do. I then took him out of his tank and I put him in the small carrier tank (5″x4″x4″) he came home in 1yr and 8 months ago, wrapped a heating pad around it to keep him warm. I went to the pet store 2 days later and got him Bettafix. I have been medicating him for 10 days. Just found this and I moved him into the cup you buy bettas in, with the epson salt, tank water aged for 24 hours and a drop of betta fix. I feel like he is looking better, but I am going to try this and see how it goes. As an incentive to hopefully get him better, he has a beautiful 5 gallon tank set up and ready to go. Come on Smokey……You can do it!

  16. Lexa says:

    I have a betta fish named Philip who currently has Dropsy. He’s stayed alive with Dropsy for 2 months now and I think he may recover! I’ve raised his water temp. and I’ve been putting him in an episome salt bath for a few hours every few days. His belly hasn’t swollen at all (I think that’s because i began to treat it early on).

  17. Art says:

    My betta just died this morning, its sad that I was late in finding this post. I might have saved him. Rest in peace to my little blue guy.

  18. Kristen says:

    Thank you so so so so so much. We got a betta fish when my son was almost 3 and he said his name was Foosis. So Foosis he has been and Quinn has enjoyed feeding him with my help and loves this fish. Of all days on his 4th birthday during his party the tank got knocked to the floor and shattered. I was panicked and a guest grabbed a mug from the cabinet. I had no room temp clean water so I filled the mug from the tap and dropped the hand scooped fish into the mug. I quickly added dechlorinator and hoped for the best. The party was on a Sat. He seemed okay on Sunday, but Monday morning I noticed the swelling. By the end of the work day he was fully pine-coned, but I had found this site and decided to hunt down Betta Revive. I prepped a 1/2 jug with water and dechlorinator and sat both him and the water in the garage where it stayed 80-90 degrees F. I used an 8oz jar as his hospital tank. Everyday I offered him food at 5pm and then at 6pm I poured the contents into a glass (fish and all) and rinsed the jar then put in 2 drops Betta Revive, 1 drop Betta Ultimate and 8-10 grains of Epsom Salt then added the water. then I washed my hands and using my fingers as a strainer I drained the water from the previous day then plopped Foosis into the freshly prepared water. I did not want to use the net because it seems to stress him and I was afraid that the scales would catch on the mesh since they were sticking up. I stuck with this for about a week seeing no change. Then on the following Sunday his swelling had almost completely gone. His scales are falling back into place slowly and his appetite has returned. I am so happy. I love bettas and have never had one recover from dropsy. Thank you so much.

  19. Help says:

    Hi my baby betta is way more than 3weeks old, diffinitly female no color and pale, very small, it looks like she has dropsy! A large bloated area right under her fins. You can see her in sides because she is kinda clear. I am freaking out cause I am only a beginner to betas! Please help!
    She has no bulging eyes and she is active although I have seen her dig her way under rocks and lay at the bottom of the tank

  20. Cindy says:

    My betta Comet had dropsy for about a week! I was so worried! So mother tried to help. I can’t thank u enough! I found out this cure will work too.(If found out late.)
    9-10 drops of Bettafix per 500ml.
    1 tablespoon for every 5 US gallon

  21. Kenlee says:

    Hi everyone! My fish might have dropsy and I want to change his bowl but I don’t want to hurt him! If I catch him with a net while he is bloated, will it hurt him? Thank you!

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