Betta Fish Behavior Before Death: 16 Signs & How To Save Them

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Last Updated on 2023-12-31

When it comes to bettas, interpreting behavior can be difficult, especially when it comes to identifying the common betta fish behaviors before death. Many first-time owners struggle with knowing what to look for and which symptoms really mean your fish might be in distress.

In this article, not only will you learn all the signs to watch out for, you’ll also learn what causes them and how to prevent them! So keep reading to find out everything you need to know!

And if you still have any unanswered questions, make sure you leave a comment in the section below!

What Are Some Common Betta Fish Behaviors Before Death? 

Betta Behavior Before DeathCausesSolutions
Vertical Death Hang1. Overfeeding
2. Poor Water Conditions
3. Poor Diet
1. Feed Them Daphnia
2. Add API Stress Coat
3. Give Them Medication
4. Perform Water Changes
Loss Of Appetite1. Disease
2. Stress
3. Temperature Problems
4. Poor Water Quality
1. Identify & Treat Disease
2. Add API Stress Coat
3. Try Aquarium Salt
4. Perform Water Changes
Changing Color1. Stress
2. Disease (Ich, Velvet, Fin Rot)
3. Old Age
4. Injury
1. Perform Water Changes
2. Add A Heater And Filter
3. Treat Any Disease
Less Responsive1. Disease
2. Old Age
3 Ammonia Poisoning
4. Cold Temperature
1. Treat Any Disease
2. Check Ammonia Levels
3. Perform A Water Change
4. Add API Ammo Lock
Lethargy1. Ammonia Poisoning
2. Tank Is Too Cold
3. Disease & Illness
4. Low Quality Food
1. Perform A Water Change
2. Improve Food Quality
3. Treat And Diseases
4. Use A Heater.
Stress1. Crowded Tank
2. Bullies
3. No Hiding Places
4. Poor Water Quality
5. Changes In Water Conditions
1. Perform A Water Change
2. Adjust The Temperature
3. Remove Aggressive Fish
4. Add Hiding Places
5. Increase The Tank Size
6. Add API Stress Coat
7. Turn The Aquarium Lights Off
Hiding1. Injury
2. Depressed
3. Sick
4. Poor Water Quality
5. Filter Current Too Strong
6. Not Enough Hiding Spaces
1. Add API Stress Coat
2. Remove Any Bullies
3. Adjust The Lights
4. Adjust The Filter Current
5. Add More Entertainment
6. Treat Any Illnesses
Gasping For Air1. Ammonia Poisoning
2. Temperature Shock
3. Sudden Water Parameter Change
4. A Lack Of Oxygen
1. Add Ammonia Neutralizer
2. Change The Water
3. Lower The Temperature
4. Add An Air Bubbler
5. Add More Live Plants
Swimming Funny1. Swim Bladder Disease
2. Neurological Damage
3. Poor Nutrition
4. Dropsy
5. Poor Water Quality
1. Fast Your Betta
2. Feed Them Daphnia
3. Feed Them High Quality Food
4. Perform Water Changes
5. Use Epsom Salt
Dropsy1. Poor Water Quality
2. Illness
3. Old Age
Dropsy is incredibly
hard to treat and it’s normally fatal to
bettas. If you do want to treat it you should
try using Methylene Blue
Eye Swelling1. Injury
2. Bullies
3. Infection
1. Remove Sharp Objects
2. Remove Bullies
3. Improve Water Quality
4. Add Aquarium Salt
Fraying FIns1. Sharp Objects
2. Aggression
3. Tail Biting
4. Fin Rot
5. Cramped Tank
6. Poor Slime Coat
1. Remove Sharp Things
2. Remove Bullies
3. Provide Entertainment
4. Improve Water Quality
5. Use A Bigger Tank
6. Use API Stress Coat
Clamped Fins1. Poor Water Quality
2. Temperature Problems
3. Disease
4. Genetic Defects
5. Change In Water Parameters
1. Test The Water
2. Perform Water Changes
3. Treat Illnesses
4. Add A Heater
5. Add A Filter
Depressed1. Tank Too Small
2. Lack Of Entertainment
1. Get A Bigger Tank
2. Add Plants
3. Add Decorations
4. Add Other Tank Mates
Staying At The Bottom1. Swim Bladder Disease
2. Ammonia Poisoning
3. Temperature Shock
4. Egg Bound
5. Old Age
1. Improve Water Quality.
2. Adjust Temperature
3. Use Ammonia Neutralizer
4. Improve Diet
5. Use Epsom Salt
Bloated Belly1. Constipation
2. Swim Bladder Disease
3. Dropsy
1. Fast Your Betta
2. Feed Your Betta Daphnia
3. Use An Epsom Salt Bath
4. Add Methylene Blue
5. Improve Water Quality
6. Use High Quality Food
Click the links to find out about each individual symptom.

If you’re worried that there’s something wrong with your betta, than it’s vital to know all the signs! Luckily, there are some Betta fish behaviors before death that are so clear and distinct that you may still be able to save your fish!

Some of the most common betta fish behaviors you may notice before death include: decreased appetite, fading color, less responsiveness, lethargy, isolating themselves, and gasping for air. When you notice one or multiple of the following, you should act quickly to save your betta.

That is why it is so important to pay attention to your fish’s behavior, mannerisms, and eating habits. Noticing a shift in these things could be the difference between life or death.

1. Vertical Death Hang

Vertical death hang, as you can guess from the name is when you notice your betta floating vertically in the tank. It can be caused by a lot of things like a small tank, poor water conditions, too much food, and poor diet.

If you notice that your betta has the vertical death hang, then you’ll need to act as quickly as possible. Vertical death hang is extremely fatal, and it’s one of the most common behaviors you can expect to see in your betta before they die.

2. Loss Of Appetite 

A decreased appetite is generally one of the most common betta behaviors before death and it’s a recognizable signs that your fish is experiencing some type of issue, which is why you should always pay attention to the amount of food your fish is eating every time you feed them.

A dying Betta might go to the surface during feeding time; however, they will not eat their food. Not wanting to eat is a red flag for any fish but especially bettas, and it’s a sign that something is definitely wrong. A Betta fish should eat roughly two to four pellets of food per day.

If your Betta fish is not eating or they are not swallowing their food (spitting it back out), that means they have lost their appetite for some reason. And as you may guess, many dying Betta fish will lose their appetite when they are close to death, and this can happen for several reasons. In any case, it is a huge sign that your Betta fish is not feeling good.

If the decreased appetite lasts for multiple days or is paired with any of these other symptoms, it is crucial that you speak to a professional as soon as you can. Even though betta fish can live without food for more than a week, this can still lead to malnourishment and is not ideal for long-term health.

betta care facebook group

3. Changing Color 

The colors of your Betta will tell you way more about them than how attractive they are. In fact, changes in your Betta’s color can tell you everything you need to know about their emotions and even their health.

One of the most lethal fish illnesses fish tank owners face is nitrite poisoning which occurs when fish endure high spikes in nitrite levels. If you notice your bettas gills are turning dark brown, then it could well be nitrite poisoning they’re suffering with.

You should also pay attention to the color of your Betta’s scales as they may be an indicator as well! Remember, it is normal for bettas to eventually fade as they get older, so if you’ve had your betta for a long time, general fading will be an indication that they’re getting near to the end of their life.

On the other hand, the sudden fading of a young or middle-aged Betta can give you a reason to worry. Unless your Betta is set with the marbling gene, the only color fading changes your Betta should experience throughout their lifetime involve age fading.

Sudden, abnormal changes in coloring or the appearance of horizontal stripes running down their body is an indication that they are sick either with stress or something much worse. If you do not get them treatment as soon as possible, then your betta will likely die.

4. Less Responsive 

Healthy bettas are very social, which means they will eagerly respond to your gestures. In fact, a healthy Betta can even be trained! But a sick Betta becomes noticeably reclusive and uninvolved.

If you have had your betta long enough you know they enjoy an interactive relationship with you, which is why it is so easy to notice when your Betta does not greet you at the glass at the beginning of your day.

As your Betta becomes sick, they will start becoming less responsive to you. Typically, your Betta will respond to your hand gestures and movements, but a sick Betta would rather sleep or isolate themselves.

Lack of responsiveness may also show when you’re trying to feed your fish. Sometimes they may not appear hungry, and other times they won’t even swim to the food.

If you are struggling to gain your fish’s attention, it can be stressful, but you should always avoid tapping on the glass to get it. This will cause problems and can deafen your Betta. Try waving your finger in front of the tank or holding a treat at the top of the water.

5. Lethargy 

When you notice a spike of inactivity from your Betta, you should start paying closer attention to their overall health. Lethargy is one of the most common signs that something is wrong with your betta and one of the most common behaviors before death in your betta that you should look out for.

Obviously betta’s are lazy fish, so you should be used to them lounging around, but if you notice that it’s all they do, then it could be a bad omen. If you are concerned whether your fish is lethargic or just sleeping, try offering them some food to see if they wake up. You can also try to turn on the lights and see if that energizes them.

Flaring Betta

6. Stress 

Stress can build up over time and cause death suddenly, Leaving you wondering what went wrong with your betta. Some signs of stress to look for in bettas include: skittish swimming, hiding, a change in color, and general illness (similar to behavior changes before dying).

But as well as looking for the signs of stress in your betta, you should also be aware of stressful events as well

These stressful events for Betta fish include:

  • Poor water quality (parameters, cleanliness, and even chemical accidents)
  • Poor aquarium maintenance
  • Aquarium set up incorrectly (ex: size, plants, incompatible number or type of fish, a lack of heater and filter.)
  • Malnourishment/overfeeding
  • Change of environment
  • Illness/disease
  • Handling/transport
  • Rapid water changes
  • Tapping on glass

Fortunately, aquariums that have been set up improperly can easily be redesigned for your Betta, but you should always maintain proper water quality and introductory methods when transferring fish to new tanks since this can cause stress.

7. Hiding

If your betta isn’t in a tank with other Betta-friendly fish, then this may not apply to you. If you do, however, you may notice that your betta is beginning to hide from other fish. Which they do when they’re stressed and vulnerable.

Believe it or not contrary to what their reputation may have you think, Bettas with compatible fish in their tank will normally interact with them.

That being said, when you start noticing a decrease in interaction between bettas and other fish, it is a sure sign that something is wrong with your Betta.

So if your Betta is isolated and hiding during waking hours and they are unresponsive or isolated when the rest of your fish are acting normally, then it could be a sign there’s a problem with your betta in particular.

8. Gasping At The Surface 

Another clear behavior before death you might see in your betta is gasping for air at the surface of the tank. The reason your Betta gasps at the surface is because they are not receiving enough dissolved oxygen in their tank

Bettas have a labyrinth organ which means can breathe from the surface when they need too. However, it’s not good for them and the most common reasons they may be doing this include:

9. They May Begin Swimming Funny

Another extremely common behavior you may notice in your betta fish before they die is swimming oddly.

Swim bladder disease can cause your betta to struggle to swim, and they may end up swimming sideways, or even upside down.

As well as swim bladder disease, constipation and dropsy can cause your betta to swim strange too.

10. Dropsy

On the subject of dropsy, if you notice your bettas scales have pineconed and they’re beginning to bloat, then the chances are your betta is going to die and there’s not much you can do to save them.

Unfortunately, once dropsy sets in, and the symptoms are on display, there’s very little you can do treat them, and in fact, at this point the best choice may be euthanasia.

11. Eye Swelling

Often times you may notice inflammation in your betta, especially their eyes. If you notice this, then it’s a sign that your betta is suffering from a bacterial or viral infection of some kind.

However, even if it’s not caused by bacterial or viral infections, it may be caused by damage as well. While sometimes this damage could simply be caused by things in their tank (which you need to remove) it could also be caused by bullies in the tank damaging your betta.

So make sure you’re keeping an eye on them to ensure there’s no aggression in the tank.

12. Fins Are Fraying Or Rotting

Another common behavior you may notice before your betta dies is their fins and tails rotting. This is called fin rot, and while in mild cases, it can be treated, in severe cases, it may be a sign that your betta is circling the drain.

13. Clamped Fins

While clamped fins may not necessarily be a behavior you see before your betta dies, it is definitely a sign that something is wrong. When your betta has clamped fins, then it’s most likely due to the fact it’s fighting some sort of illness or disease, which if left untreated could result in death.

14. They Seem Depressed

And lastly if your betta seems depressed, then you may be witnessing another common behavior before death. Oftentimes bettas seem a lot more depressed when they’re old, sick or not getting enough entertainment in their tank.

All of which will cause them a lot of stress and may end up being the reason they die.

Check out the complete comprehensive guide on how to care for your betta fish!

15. Your Betta Stays At The Bottom Of The Tank

Another common sign that your betta is about to die is if they’re at the bottom of the tank. When this happens, they could be suffering with swim bladder disease, ammonia poisoning, dropsy, temperature shock, and even a lack of oxygen in the tank!

By acting quickly however, you can often save your betta from their fate, when you notice this behavior.

(Find out all the reasons that your betta is laying at the bottom of the tank!)

16. A Bloated Belly

Bloating in your betta can be caused by a whole range of things, none of which are good.

A bloated belly is often caused by swim bladder disease, dropsy, constipation, and in rarer cases even tumors, tuberculosis and parasites.

Can You Revive Your Betta Fish?

Fortunately, in some cases bettas can be revived, especially if you treat them early enough. However, in cases of things like dropsy, the chances of your betta making a recovery are extremely slim.

betta fish behavior before death infographic

How Do You Save Your Betta Fish From Dying?

Fortunately, if you want to save your betta, there is still time and plenty of things you can do to save them! So make sure you’re trying the following:

1. Improve The Water Quality

The most important thing you can do is improve the water quality in your bettas tank. Performing regular water changes and adding clean, conditioned water to the tank, will help reduce any stress your betta is feeling and improve their immune system.

2. Administer Medication

If you think that your betta is suffering from a disease or illness, then you should also make sure you give them the medication they need!

If you think that your betta is suffering from an illness, then check out this comprehensive guide to figure out what it is and how to treat them. (Along with pictures of every illness so you can make an accurate diagnosis.)

3. Make Sure You’ve Got The Right Equipment

Now that you’ve know how to fix the issues as quick as possible, it’s time to start focusing on underlying issues. One of the most important things to be sure of is that your betta has the correct filter and heater, as well as that you’re keeping them in the right size tank (Find out why 5 gallon tanks are best for bettas.)

4. Improve Their Diet

You should also make sure that you’re improving your bettas diet as well! Remember, bettas are carnivores so you should be feeding them meat and high quality betta pellets only.

(If you’re not sure what food to feed your betta, then check out this handy article.)

5. Remove Harmful Tank Mates & Dangerous Objects

And lastly, make sure you’re removing harmful tank mates from the tank and placing them in a new one. On top of this, make sure any sharp objects such as decorations and plastic plants have been removed from the tank too, as these can often cause damage to your betta.

How To Prevent A Betta Fish From Dying

The most important thing that you can do is make sure that the care that you are providing for your Betta is keeping them healthy and safe. You want to prevent any issues from occurring rather than reacting to problems when they occur.

Get The Right Size Tank

One of the most common reasons that Bettas become unhealthy and unhappy is because they are living in a tank that is too small for their needs. Bettas may not be very large fish, but they need a good amount of space to move around so that they stay fit and active.

A single Betta should have a tank that is at least 5 gallons in size, but a community tank should be at least 10 gallons, and if you are keeping a sorority of female Bettas, their tank should be at least 15 gallons.

Choose Tank Mates Carefully

We all know that Bettas can be pretty feisty, which is why they are also known as Siamese Fighting Fish. Make sure that you don’t house Betta males with other Bettas or any fish that they may become aggressive towards. Bettas will often fight with fish like tiger barbs, gouramis, or fancy guppies.

Injuries from fighting are a common cause of death among Bettas, so they need to be kept in a calm and safe tank.

Keep Their Water at The Right Temperature

If the water in their tank is the wrong temperature, it can quickly become fatal for your fish, particularly if it is too cold. Bettas need their water to be kept at around 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit. You will need to use a tank heater to keep the temperature consistent.

The Betta Siamese fighting fish, Betta splendens Pla-kad ( biting fish ) Thai. (Halfmoon fancy white red betta ) in motion on fresh water weeds background

Keep Their Water Clean

Contaminated or otherwise dirty water is a fast track to an unhealthy fish. Bettas may be pretty hardy animals, but an unfiltered tank will still be deadly. Use a water filter to add oxygen to the water, keep the tank clean, and remove dangerous bacteria.

Even with a filter, you will still need to keep an eye on the cleanliness of the tank and remove any contaminants, like leftover food.

 Provide a Healthy Diet

Just like any other animal, Bettas need to eat healthily in order to survive. A key thing to remember is that Betta fish are carnivorous, so they cannot survive on plant-based foods. They should be getting a variety of live foods and freeze-dried foods, as well as protein-rich flakes and/or pellets.

Why Did Your Betta Die Suddenly?

Sometimes, it can the case that your betta died so fast, especially if you’re a new keeper. If this sounds like you, then here are the most common reasons that bettas die so fast!

  1. Untreated tap water.
  2. You didn’t acclimatize your betta.
  3. Overfeeding.
  4. No aquarium heater.
  5. No filter.
  6. Changing out too much water.
  7. Aquarium setup doesn’t suit your betta.
  8. Disease or parasites.
  9. Poor water conditions (ammonia poisoning).
  10. Aquarium not cycled.
  11. Overcrowded tank.
  12. The tank isn’t big enough.
  13. Harrassed by other tank mates.
  14. He experienced rough travel.
  15. Jumped out of the water.
  16. Poor decoration choice.
  17. Poor diet.


How Long Does It Take for a Betta Fish to Die? 

Your Betta fish may die instantly depending on what they die from. However, in most cases, it can be a few days to a couple of weeks before your betta dies. Fortunately, if you spot symptoms early, you can save your betta before this happens.

Do Betta Fish Die Easily? 

Betta fish do not die easily unless you treat them improperly, such as keeping them in poor quality water, not feeding them properly, and not keeping them in a tank with a heater and filter.

Remember bettas require clean, chemically balanced water. Any sort of chemical imbalance in the water parameters can result in poisoning of that can lead to instant (and very painful) death.

Why Did my Betta Fish Suddenly Die?  

If your betta died suddenly, then it was most likely due to untreated tap water, ammonia poisoning, temperature shock, poor conditions before entering your tank, and even being harassed by other tank mates!

(Check out all the reasons your betta fish might have died suddenly.)

Can Betta Fish Freeze And Come Back To Life?

Betta fish cannot freeze and come back to life. Betta fish are tropical fish that require warm water temperatures to survive, and extreme temperatures, such as freezing, will be fatal to them.

Why Did My Betta Die After Water Change?

A sudden water change can cause stress and shock to bettas, leading to illness or death. Especially if the temperature, pH levels, change, or you didn’t condition the water beforehand.

Remember, it’s important to acclimate bettas slowly to new water and maintain consistent water parameters.

Do Betta Fish Look Dead When They Sleep?

Betta fish often sleep at the bottom of their tank or on plants, and they may appear motionless or unresponsive during this time. You can tell if your betta is sleeping by observing its gills, which should move slightly to indicate breathing.


As you can see a healthy betta fish should always respond eagerly and actively to food being added to their tank as well as interaction.

And while betta’s may be marketed as the perfect fish for beginners, that does not mean that they do not require the proper care. In fact, without proper aquarium maintenance, your Betta will not stand a chance and will most likely end up dying from poor water quality.

Now you know all the common behaviors you may notice before your betta dies, and most importantly how to save them too!

If you liked this article, make sure to check out the rest of the website. Otherwise, have a great day!

Ultimate Betta Fish Care Guide
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