Betta Fish Behavior Before Death (When To Expect The Worst)

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

Some common betta fish behavior 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.

Prevention is the best way to keep your fishy friend from passing, like maintaining a clean tank and feeding your fish regularly. No matter what happens to your Betta bestie, it is important to always remember, although our pets may not be in our lives forever, we have the gift of being their whole life.

What Are Some Common Betta Fish Behaviors Before Death? 

Sometimes it can be difficult to recognize changing behaviors in your fish, especially for beginner fish owners. Luckily, there are some Betta fish behaviors before death that are clear that is so distinct that you may be able to save your scaled friend just in time.

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

Decreased Appetite 

A decreased appetite is generally one of the 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 participating in the feeding process is a red flag for fish owners that something is critically wrong. A Betta fish should eat roughly five food pellets per day of Betta-approved fish food.

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. 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 consult with a veterinarian as soon as you notice. Betta fish can live without food for more than a week, but this can lead to malnourishment and is not ideal for long-term health.

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 fish has a red belly, this is an indication that your fish needs emergency veterinarian intervention, and most likely, euthanization will be the only option from here.

Pay attention to the color of your Betta’s scales because it may be a very important Betta fish behavior before death. Remember, it is normal for Bettas to eventually fade as they get older. If you have had your Betta for a long time, general fading will be your indicator that it is getting nearer to the end of your friend’s 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, your Betta will likely die.

Less Responsive 

A healthy Betta is 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.

Bettas typically enjoy an interactive relationship with their human companions, 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 fish becomes sick, they start becoming less responsive to their owners. Typically, your Betta will respond to your hand gestures and movements, but a sick Betta would rather sleep or isolate itself.

Lack of responsiveness may also show itself if your fish is not responsive during feeding time. This can either be in a lack of appetite or not appearing during feeding time whatsoever.

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 your fish’s attention. This will cause problems and can “deafen” your Betta fish’s abilities to detect vibration and “hear”. Try waving your finger in front of the cage or holding a treat at the top of the water.


Believe it or not, fish need sleep (Crazy, right?), although in aquatic terms, it is a resting state called “suspended animation,” and it has the same general concept as mammals sleeping. So, see your fish levitate in the middle of their tank or disappear into their hideaway every now and then for a nice rest.

But, when you notice a spike in inactivity from your Betta, you should start paying closer attention to their overall health. Lethargy can be one of the many crucial Betta fish behaviors before death that you should look out for.

It becomes recognizable when your Betta spends excessive amounts of time in their suspended state during hours that they would normally be awake. If you are concerned whether your fish is lethargic or just sleeping, try offering your beloved Betta some food to see if they wake up. You may also try to turn on the lights and see if that energizes them.

Flaring Betta


Stress can build up over time and cause death suddenly, or your Betta fish can die immediately. Unfortunately, there are really no signs to show your fish is stressing which is why it is your obligation to keep your fish living their best life!

Stressful events for Betta fish include:

  • Poor water quality (chemistry or cleanliness)
  • Poor aquarium maintenance
  • Aquarium set up incorrectly (ex: size, plants, incompatible number or type of fish)
  • Malnourishment/overfeeding
  • Change of environment
  • Illness/disease
  • Handling/transport
  • Rapid water changes
  • Tapping on glass
  • No mate or giving up on mating at an old age

You may think tapping on the glass at the fish store is not that big of a deal. After all, little kids do it all the time but tapping on glass sends a soundwave through the water, which can harm their ability to react and detect vibrations.

Some stressful events may fade naturally, like incompatible fish in the same tank, which you can separate with different tanks or by introducing new, native plants or illnesses which can be cured with the help of a certified veterinarian.

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.


If you do not have your Betta in a tank with other Betta-friendly fish, then this may not apply to you. If you do, isolation becomes noticeable when your Betta fish is no longer interacting with other fish.

Unlike their harsh reputation, a Betta that has compatible fish in its tank will interact with the other fish normally. In other words, your Betta will not be combative with the other fish in their tank!

That being said, when you start noticing a decrease in interactions with their other fish, it is a sure sign that something is wrong with your Betta. After all, Betta’s thrive in social situations, so it is entirely abnormal to exclude themselves from the party!

If your Betta is isolated during waking hours and they are unresponsive or isolated when the rest of your fish are moving in a body, this should be taken very seriously.

Gasping At Surface 

Imagine your fish is eating at the surface of the water only you have not fed your Betta any food. That is exactly what your Betta fish looks like when they are gasping at the surface. The reason your Betta fish gasps at the surface is because they are not receiving enough dissolved oxygen in their tank

Wondering why your Betta fish is shedding/molting? Find out the reasons here! .

When fish swim to the surface of the water, that means they are looking for surface agitation. So, if your fish is gasping at the surface, this is a sign that they are not receiving enough oxygen.

Gasping at the surface is a lethal Betta fish behavior before death and should be treated immediately. You can do this by turning on your tank’s filtration system (which most likely does the job of agitating the surface already).

Other tank surface agitation options:

  • Aquarium bubbler
  • Power head
  • Wavemaker
  • Spray bar
  • Lily pipe/poppy pipe

Remember, the more fish you add to your tank, the more oxygen is required. That means what may have once been enough for your Betta may not be enough anymore if you are continuing to add new fish to their tank. Consider making appropriate adjustments every time you add new fish.

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

Your Betta fish may die instantly depending on what they die from. A Betta fish that has been properly cared for will last roughly 4 years in captivity although illnesses and other outside influences can result in shortening and prolonging the lifespan of your Betta.

Do Betta Fish Die Easily? 

Betta fish do not die easily unless you treat them improperly, like throwing them into the water carelessly or placing them in poor quality water.

Fish require clean, chemically balanced water. Any sort of chemical imbalance in their water can result in poisoning of your fish that can lead to instant (or very painful, if prolonged) death.

Why Did my Betta Fish Suddenly Die?  

There are multiple reasons your Betta fish could have suddenly died. One of the reasons your Betta fish may have suddenly died is because you placed them in their tank too early, or you put them in a new environment that was not suited for their needs. Betta fish may also die from ongoing stress that appears like it is a sudden death, although it has been building up.

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


A happy Betta fish should always respond eagerly and actively to its human companion. Bettas are the type of fish who greet you when you turn on the lights, and they love to follow your finger around their tank. When your Betta stops behaving this way, that is a key sign that your aquatic pal is starting to lose their mojo. Perhaps it is time to see a veterinarian?

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

If you are trying to find a social fish that you can spend quality time with, the Betta fish is the perfect companion. They enjoy interacting with their owners and spending time together, which can make the process of identifying key Betta fish behaviors before death easy. Recognizing changes in your Betta fish’s physical appearance, behavioral shifts, diet changes, and social changes are key ways in identifying that your Betta is dying.

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