Betta Fin Rot Vs Fin Loss (How To Tell The Difference)

Last Updated on 2023-05-25

The beautiful flowing fins of the betta fish are one of the trademarks that make the fish such an amazing pet to own. Not only their color but the way they flow through the water as the betta fish swims is completely unique among fish, making them a popular pet for many fish lovers. 

That’s why when something appears to be wrong with the fins of your betta, it can be alarming. Getting to the root of the problem quickly is very important for the health of your betta. So is it fin rot or fin loss? 

Fin rot is a bacterial infection that eats away at your betta’s fins, while fin loss refers to physical damage inflicted on the fin. 

Each has its own countermeasures and treatments, so it’s very important to quickly identify which is the problem and try to solve it as soon as possible. Read on to find out everything you need to know about betta fin rot vs. fin loss. 

What is Betta Fin Rot?

Fin rot is a condition caused by a bacterial or fungal infection that causes the fins of your betta fish to become ragged and tattered. Blackened, bloody fins and fins falling off or rotting away are pretty sure fire signs that your betta could be experiencing fin rot. 

The bacterial and fungal infection is caused by poor water conditions and a build up of waste in the tank. Believe it or not, betta fish are not as tough as people think and these water conditions increase the chance of fin rot occurring. 

Fortunately, fin rot is pretty easy to see if you check up on your fish regularly. The fins will appear ragged, and the tips or other parts of the fin could appear blackened or bloody. If your betta fish is dark in color, look closely because it can be hard to see blackened fin tips

What Causes Betta Fin Rot?

There are a number of things that cause fin rot in your betta, but the main contributing factor is that your betta is living in fluctuating or improper water conditions.

As mentioned above, betta fish are very sensitive to the parameters of their tank and need to be in water that satisfies a pretty specific set of parameters. The pH should be as close to 7.0 as possible, and the temperature should be as close to 78°F.

If these parameters aren’t met, then not only will your betta suffer from fin rot, but they can also suffer from a whole host of other diseases as well.

Stress

Even if the bacteria or fungus which cause fin rot are in your tank, if your betta is healthy it’s unlikely to infect them. However, when stress occurs in your betta it will weaken their immune system and increase the chances of illness striking.

It might not seem like it, but betta fish can get very stressed out from being in an environment that doesn’t suit them, which can certainly affect them physically. This is why keeping your betta fish well-fed and in the proper environment is very important. 

Improper Water Temperature

One of the most common reasons for stress in betta fish is that their tank is filled with water of the wrong temperature. Bettas are tropical, freshwater fish.

This means that they prefer to be in fresh, warm water. The best temperature range to emulate the waters that they live in naturally is between 75 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that your tank is going to need a reliable heater. 

Improper pH

Another possible issue with the conditions of your betta’s tank is an improper water pH level. A pH level is a number that tells you how acidic or basic the water in your betta’s tank is. Betta fish like water that is fairly neutral, meaning they do best at around a pH of 7.

However, a range of 6.5 – 7.5 should be just fine and a comfortable environment for your betta to live in. 

Improper Ammonia and Nitrite Levels

If your aquarium’s water has too much ammonia or nitrite, this could also be a problem that leads to fin rot. In fact, the ideal level of ammonia and nitrite in your fish tank is zero. Nitrates (different from nitrites) should be at around 20 ppm.

Betta fish, Siamese fighting fish with green plants

How to Cure Betta Fin Rot

If you think that your betta is suffering from fin rot, then the first thing you should do is perform a partial water change to try and lower the ammonia and nitrite levels. If these levels are continuously an issue, then you should consider adding more biological media to it.

Make sure to measure the with ammonia and nitrite with a testing kit (I’d recommend the API Master Test Kit) often to ensure your betta’s environment is healthy. 

Now that you know what causes fin rot in bettas, the next step is figuring out how to fix it. Getting your betta fish’s fins back to normal will not only be more comfortable and healthy for the fish and allow it to swim freely, but also get it back to looking as vibrant, colorful, and healthy as it can!

Here’s the best article if you need proper guidance on taking care of your Betta fish.

Clean The Tank

Cleaning your tank is among the easiest ways to change the water parameters that are causing the stress that leads to your betta’s fin rot. 

First, you can leave your fish inside the tank when it’s cleaned. Start by scraping as much algae and other debris that has probably built up on the bottom and sides of your tank as possible.

Once you’ve done that clean up any dead plant matter or foliage and other larger debris with your hands and take it out of the tank as well. Once you’ve done as much as possible, you should also vacuum the gravel to remove any excess debris from the gravel too.

Lastly clean the filter as well. Arguably, this is the most important part, as this is what will keep your tank a healthy environment for your bettas to live in. Take it out and swish it around some old aquarium water from your tank after you’ve vacuumed it. Make sure you’re using old tank water, as it wont contain any chemicals that can be harmful to your fish.

Partial Water Change

If you don’t feel the need to clean out your entire tank, a partial water change might do the trick. Ammonia and bacteria are more likely to rise in old water, which could be the cause of the fin rot, so changing it out can be very helpful. 

Get a large container and fill it with fresh, clean water. Use a water conditioner (available at pet stores) to prepare it and remove harmful chemicals. Then, warm up the water to the proper 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit for your betta. 

Next, slowly replace the water in your aquarium with the new freshwater. Remove 10-25% of the water in the aquarium and then replace it with the new water. The goal isn’t to completely replace all the water, but just replace some of it with fresher, cleaner water. Doing this frequently can significantly decrease your betta’s risk of fin rot. 

Improve The Other Water Parameters

Changing the water parameters is another major way to stop fin rot in its tracks. Make sure that your water temperature is 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit, your pH is between 6.5 and 7.5.

If any of these are off, you’ll need to change them to fit the proper parameters as soon as possible. If the temperature is off, simply turn your water heater up or down a bit accordingly. If the pH is off, there are plenty of products you can get to make your water more acidic or basic at pet stores, such as API pH Up & API pH Down.

Oftentimes, just making sure your water is within the healthy parameters for your betta can stop fin rot and allow your them to begin healing. 

Treat With Medication

If the fin rot is severe enough, it might have to get treated with medication. Fortunately, there are a few medicines to chose from such as API Melafix for bacteria and API Pimafix for fungal infections. Make sure you consult with a vet before giving drugs to your fish, as you want to be certain that it’s the correct decision. 

This is really only a solution for fin rot that has progressed to a pretty severe stage. Still, it is an option that’s on the table and should certainly be considered!

Treat With Aquarium Salt

In less severe cases of fin rot, there is an alternative solution. Aquarium salt can also be an effective treatment for fish with fin rot. One tablespoon per three gallons of water in your tank should be enough. 

Be warned, however should only be used when there are no scaleless fish, shrimp, snails or plants in your tank. All of which are sensitive to aquarium salt, which can even be fatal for them.

This means you need to consider your betta’s tank mates before using aquarium salt as a solution to fin rot. Make sure the salt will not harm any of them before using it as a potential cure. 

betta fin rot vs fin loss

What is Fin Loss In Bettas??

Betta fin loss is not the result of infection but the result of any sort of physical damage inflicted upon their fins. Since they are so long, flowy, and delicate, betta fish fins can often be caught on edges and snag, rip, tear, and experience other kinds of damage as well. 

The only way to identify fin loss is to look at your fish regularly and make sure the fins look healthy and untorn. Fin loss can also lead to fin rot, as wounded fins cause stress and are more susceptible to infection.

What Causes Betta Fin Loss?

Fin loss refers to any kind of damage inflicted upon fish fins. However, there are some things to look out for that cause fin loss in betta fins more often than others. Read on to find out what the most common reasons that fin loss occurs are. 

Fin Nipping

One of the main reasons your bettas fins may become ripped or torn is that they are being nipped by other fish’s fins. Bettas are aggressive fish and have been known to fight and can sustain damage in those fights.

Not only this, but improper tank mates can also cause your betta’s fins to get nipped at by other fish even when they’re not the ones provoking the fight themselves. 

Plastic Plants

Plastic plants are one of the major causes of fin loss. This is because they are often sharp and can catch the long, flowing ends of of your betta fish’s fins and tear through them easily. 

Sharp Edges

Sharp edges such as the corners of decorative pieces, driftwood, and other corners and edges can tear at the delicate fins of your betta fish as well. If there are a lot of these in your tank, you may have found your culprit.

Rough Substrate

Substrate that is too rough can damage the fins of your betta fish too. Make sure that you have a soft substrate with rounded edges, such as fine, soft gravel or pebbles. Betta fish do sometimes like to hang out near the bottom of the tank, so swimming above rough substrate will damage their fins.

Other Damage

The above are the most common reasons fins are damaged, but like any other injury, any number of things can cause fin loss. Keep on the lookout for things in your tank that might be dangerous for your fish, such as equipment or decorations that are misplaced or broken.

How To Cure Your Betta’s Fin Loss

Here are a few ways that you can hopefully heal up your betta’s torn-up fins!

1. Prevention

The best way to cure fin loss, unfortunately, is to avoid it in the first place. To do this, make sure that there is nothing sharp or jagged in your tank for your betta to get caught on. This includes plastic plants (use real plants or silk plants instead), hard substrate, driftwood, decorations, and other sharp objects. 

2. Time

Time is the best cure for all wounds, betta fish included. As long as you have an environment that is safe enough not to re-tear the fins of your betta, time will be the best cure for fin loss.

3. Slime Coat Booster

Fish have something called a “slime coat,” which is a sort of protective barrier of slime over their bodies. Using a slime coat booster can make the slime coats of your betta stronger, allowing them to heal while being more well-protected.

(If you’re not sure what one to use, then I’d recommend API Stress Coat.)

4. Anti-stress Additive

Although not a cure for the fin-loss itself, an anti-stress additive can be a great solution for helping avoid infection that can come from your betta swimming around with an open wound. 

5. Fix Water Conditions

Fixing the conditions of your water can be helpful in avoiding infection and lowering the stress levels of your betta this in turn will strengthen their immune system and reduce the chance of them suffering from multiple diseases.

6. Get Better Tank Mates

If your betta’s fin loss is the result of fin nipping, you might need to consider getting better tank mates. It’s best to avoid angelfish, tetras, and other fish that are considered territorial or aggressive, as these are qualities that betta fish have as well. This means that these two types of fish will not get along, so it’s best to avoid having them in a tank together. 

Betta Fin Rot Vs Fin Loss

As you can see while betta fin loss and fin rot make look similar, there are some differences to lookout for.

Fin rot in bettas, will normally start with darkened edges which gradually eat away and eay away at the fins and tail. Fin loss on the other hand can be appear quicker, and it will look more like damage rather than an infection.

How To Treat Split Betta Fins?

Split fins can be caused by a variety of factors such as rough handling, fin-nipping tank mates, and poor water quality. If left untreated, split fins can become infected and lead to serious health problems. Fortunately, there are ways to treat split betta fins. Let’s go over some of them.

1. Isolate Your Betta

The first step in treating split fins is to isolate your betta. Move the betta to a separate tank to prevent further damage to the fins. A smaller container is ideal because it reduces the amount of swimming required, which can be stressful for the fish. Ensure that the tank is clean and free from any sharp objects or decorations that could further damage the fins.

When you’re adding your betta to the new tank, make sure you’re using water from the old tank, and add some of the biological media from the old tank as well, so the ammonia levels in the tank don’t end up spiking.

2. Improve The Water Quality

Poor water quality is a common cause of split fins too. So ensure that the water in the betta’s tank or container is clean and free from toxins, like ammonia and nitrites. Perform regular water changes and use a filter to keep the water clean. And when you’re changing the water remember to add a water conditioner to remove chlorine and other harmful chemicals.

3. Try API Stress Coat

API Stress coat contains so many great things that will help reduce your bettas stress and improve their immune system. These ingredients have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help to heal split fins. Follow the instructions on the medication carefully, and do not overdose the fish.

4. Provide a Balanced Diet

A healthy diet is important for the overall health of all fish including bettas. So make sure you’re feeding your betta high quality fish pellets, and that you’re supplementing their diet with live foods such as daphnia, and mosquito larvae.

Avoid overfeeding them, as this can lead to constipation and other health problems. Offer small amounts of food two to three times per day.

5. Use Betta-Safe Decorations

When decorating your betta’s tank or container, choose items that are betta-safe. Avoid sharp or rough decorations that could damage the fins. Consider adding plants or other items that your betta can hide in or explore. This will help to reduce stress and provide a stimulating environment for your fish.

6. Monitor the Betta Fish

Pay attention to your bettas general health, and keep an especially close eye on your betta fish during any treatment process. Look for signs of improvement in their fins as well as their overall health. If the split fins do not heal after a few days, consult a veterinarian or an experienced betta fish owner for further advice.

Betta Fin Rot Vs Fin Loss (How To Tell The Difference)

FAQ

Here are some frequently asked questions that people have about fin loss vs fin rot in their betta!

What Does Fin Rot Look Like on a Betta Fish?

Fin rot usually shows up as blackened or bloody marks on your betta’s fins, starting on the tip and moving up as the infection spreads. In severe cases, it can even move to the body where it will begin rot.

Is Fin Loss Normal for Bettas?

It isn’t normal for fin loss to occur, so it should be alarming. However, because of their fins’ long, flowy, delicate nature, it is not entirely uncommon for their fins to become damaged in multiple ways. 

Do Betta Fins Grow Back After Fin Rot?

Yes! Luckily, if the condition that caused it is handled, and, if severe enough, the infection is medicated, betta fish fins will eventually grow back after fin rot. 

Recap

Betta fin rot and fin loss are both issues that need to be handled as soon as possible if you notice them in your fish. Fin rot is an infection that can be treated by making sure your fish is in the right environment and also with medication. 

Fin loss is a physical injury that can be treated with a slime coat booster and by making sure the tank is a safe place for your betta to swim. 

Making sure your betta’s beautiful, flowing fins are healthy is one of the most important parts of being a good betta owner!

Ultimate Betta Fish Care Guide
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