Betta Fish Losing Color/Fading (& Turning Black/White/Brown)

Is your betta fish losing color? Perhaps they’re turning black or white, or just fading. Whatever’s happening to your betta, you’re going to want to find a solution! In this article, you’re going to find out all the reasons your betta is losing color.

And don’t be too alarmed just yet, in a lot of cases, it’s perfectly normal!

Key Takeaways:

  • Betta fish can lose color due to various factors, including stress, age, illness, injuries, and poor water quality.
  • Stressors like tank size, water conditions, and aggressive tankmates can impact their coloration.
  • Betta aging, typically around 5 years old, can result in fading colors.
  • Turning black or white may be natural or due to specific issues like columnaris, anchor worms, ich, stress, or fin rot.
Causes/Situations of Color Loss or ChangeTreatments and Remedies (Detailed)
StressReducing Stressors: Figure out if aggressive tankmates or a too-bright light is the issue, and fix it.
Adding Hiding Places: Consider adding caves or plants to provide your Betta a “safe space.”
Getting OldLimited Treatment: Aging is natural and irreversible. The focus should be on keeping the Betta comfortable in its older years.
IllnessConsult a Vet: Specific antiparasitic or antibacterial medications tailored to the illness are generally used.
InjuryWater Quality: Make sure the water is free of toxins to facilitate healing.
Veterinary Advice: Consult for suitable antibiotic treatments.
Poor Water QualityRegular Water Changes: 10-20% water change per week is recommended.
Water Tests: Use kits to check for ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates, and treat as necessary.
Use A Filter: Make sure you’re using a filter that turns over 3-4x the tank water per hour.
Environment ChangeGradual Acclimation: Make slow changes to water conditions or when transitioning to a new tank.
Small Tank SizeUpgrade to a Bigger Tank: A small environment can be stressful. Aim for at least a 10-gallon tank.
Marble Betta Color ChangeNatural, No Treatment Needed: This is a natural genetic trait and doesn’t require any intervention.
Turning BlackCheck for Illness or Natural Color Change: Some Bettas naturally change color. If sudden, consult a vet.
Turning White– Check for Columnaris & Treat: Antibacterial medications are the usual go-to.
Anchor Worms: Use tweezers to remove, and apply antiparasitic medication
-Ich: Use aquarium salt and rase the temperature in the tank.
Fin Rot: Add aquarium salt, API Stress Coat, and keep the tank water clean.

Why Is Your Betta Fish Losing Color?

There are a number of reasons your betta could be losing color. Therefore knowing the different causes of color change can often lead to the correct solution!

The most common reason betta fish lose color is due to stress, often the result of poor water quality or bad food. However, it can also be caused by disease, old age, and sometimes even genetics.

So here are all of the reasons in more depth.

Stress

One of the most common reasons your betta may start to lose color is due to stress. Bettas aren’t as hardy as some people think. They need a 5 gallon heated and filtered tank to live happily (Find out the best 5-gallon tanks for bettas).

As well as this, they need to be fed regularly as well as having their water cleaned regularly, and lastly, fed a carnivorous diet. (Check out the best food and live food for bettas!)

If you’re not doing this then your bettas body is going to become stressed and their color is likely to fade.

And of course, remember that aggressive tank mates are also going to stress your betta out. You should avoid tank mates that are overly large, or fin nippers, as your betta won’t be able to deal with them.

Lastly, if your betta is stressed you may begin to notice stress stripes on their body. (Don’t confuse these with breeding stripes which occur when a female betta fish is ready to breed.)

Stress Stripes In Bettas:

They’re Getting Old

As your betta starts to enter his twilight years, it’s also a lot more likely that his color will fade.

Generally, a betta is going to live for a maximum of 5 years, so if your betta is beginning to get closer to the 5-year mark he may begin to lose some color.

And in fact, they don’t even need to be that close to 5. A bettas color can begin to deteriorate as early as 2 years old. So if you’re sure it’s not stressed, then it could be a natural part of their aging.

Illness

As well as getting old or being stressed, the color change can also be brought about by disease. Most of the time this color change will be to white, however, the white could vary depending on the disease.

For example, if your betta is suffering from velvet they may begin to look more gold-like. And if they’re suffering from ich you’ll notice white spots.

They’ve Been Injured

Sometimes, your betta may lose their color after they’ve been injured. For example, if they’ve suffered from fin rot, when their fins grow back, the color may be lighter or darker.

In these circumstances, it’s perfectly natural and nothing to worry about!

(Have you ever wondered how long your betta can live for?)

Poor Water Quality

If the water quality in your bettas tank isn’t good enough, then it can also cause them to lose color and become more pale. Ammonia, nitrite or nitrate spikes in the tank are going to be the most likely culprit, although, bacterial and parasites in the tank will also weaken your betta and cause them to lose color.

And remember the pH and temperature need to be ideal for your betta as well. Try to keep the pH as close to 7 as possible, and the temperature ideally at 78°F but anywhere between 76-80°F. On top of this, ensure the temperature and pH don’t fluctuate as this can be even more harmful to your betta.

Environment Change

And of course, if you’ve got a new better, then this could be the reason that they’ve lost some of their color. Moving your betta from one place to another is going to be extremely stressful for them, and this can often make them more pale.

To make the transition as easy as possible, try to put them in a paper bag when moving them, so they feel like they’re hiding more in the dark. On top of this, make sure that when you’re adding your betta to the new tank give them time to acclimate.

It’s not just about making the water the same temperature, but also slowly adding water from the tank into the container your betta is in so they can get used to the parameters as well.

The Tank Isn’t Big Enough

Studies have proven that the smaller your betta’s tank is, the shorter their lifespan will be. Bettas kept in tanks that are too small only lived for about 2 year. Where bettas that were kept in huge aquariums were able to live up to 7-8 years!!

So if you’re keeping your betta in a small tank, now might be the time to consider upgrading! Most people recommend a 5 gallon tank, however, I think 10 is best for bettas.

betta in a bowl

What About A Marble Betta Color Change?

If you have a marble betta then you may notice that their color is changing too. As long as you’re sure that it’s not being caused by any of the problems above then don’t worry.

Marble bettas rarely stay the same color their whole lives and they often end up changing colors multiple times throughout. And in fact, the same is true for normal bettas as well. However, the color change isn’t as often.

When I bought my betta he was completely black, now his fins have started turning white!

Why Is Your Betta Turning Black?

On the subject of black bettas, should you worry if your betta is turning black?

If they’re only turning black and aren’t showing any other signs or symptoms of illness and stress I wouldn’t worry. As previously mentioned, bettas changing color is perfectly normal, especially if you have a marble betta.

However, if your betta is showing signs of sickness or stress such as lethargy, hiding, and not eating, you should thoroughly check him and make sure he’s not suffering from something.

Why Is Your Betta Fish Turning White?

A betta fish turning white is often much more of a problem than one who’s turning black. If you notice your betta fish is turning white, you should make sure it’s not any of the following

Columnaris

One reason they may be turning white is due to columnaris. Columnaris is a bacterial infection that will cause white spots that sometimes look fluffy to appear on your betta.

As well as white spots you may also notice their fins are fraying, ulcers, and sores on their body.

How To Fix:

To treat columnaris you should do the following:

  • To treat a betta with columnaris, first move them to a quarantine tank with nothing they can hurt themselves on and fill it with conditioned tap water.
  • Lower the temperature to 75°F to make it harder for the bacteria to survive.
  • Use an antibiotic like Furan 2, following instructions or consulting a professional, and add aquarium salt to reduce stress and strengthen their immune system.

If you think your betta is suffering from columnaris then check out this article to learn everything you need to know to fix it!

Anchor Worms

Your betta may also be suffering from anchor worms. Anchor worms are small worms that can vary in color, but are often white.

Other signs that your betta is suffering from anchor worms are lethargic behavior, rubbing and scraping, ulcers, and sores, and breathing difficulties.

How To Fix

There are actually a number of different ways you can cure anchor worms in your betta, so try the following:

Remove Them By Hand

First of all, you can use a pair of tweezers and simply try to remove the anchor worms by hand.

Use Potassium Permanganate

  • Fill two containers with 10 litres of dechlorinated water and add an airstone to one.
  • Add 1 gram of potassium permanganate to the first container.
  • Place your betta in the first container for 5 minutes. If he struggles take him out immediately.
  • After 5 minutes place him in the second container for a few minutes so to rinse the permanganate off.
  • Place him back into his tank.

Try API General Cure

If the above sounds too stressful, consider API General Cure. Follow the instructions on the packet, and you should see improvement in your betta in no time.

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API Powder General Cure 20 pack
  • 20 total packets API General Cure

Aquarium Salt

Aquarium salt is perfect for removing any larvae or anchor worms in the tank itself. Add 1 tablespoon of aquarium salt per 5 gallons of water.

Fortunately, though, anchor worms are extremely rare in aquarium fish. If you want to find out more about anchor worms, then check out this article!

API AQUARIUM SALT Freshwater Aquarium Salt 67-Ounce Box (Packaging May Vary)
  • Contains one (1) API AQUARIUM SALT Freshwater Aquarium Salt 67-Ounce Box

Ich

If your betta is suffering from ich, you’ll notice white spots on them a well. These white spots are caused when the parasite “Ichthyopthirius multifiliis” infects your bettas skin

As well as white spots you’ll also notice that your betta has a lack of appetite, lethargy and their rubbing on things in the tank (in an attempt to remove the parasite).

How To Treat Ich

There are a couple of ways you can treat ich in your betta.

Salt & Heat

  • Place your betta into a quarantine tank.
  • Add aquarium salt, and incrementally increase the tanks temperature.
  • Do this for 10 days, and the ich should be cured.
  • (Remember, you also need to get rid of ich from the main tank as well)

Medication

And of course, you can also add medication to your tank as well. Methylene Blue or Malachite Green were the old go to’s, however, now I’d recommend API Liquid Super Ick Cure or Kordon Rid Ich Plus.

If you think your betta is suffering from ich you can find out more about it here.

Sale
API Liquid Super ICK Cure Freshwater and Saltwater Fish Medication 16-Ounce Bottle
  • Contains one (1) API LIQUID SUPER ICK CURE Freshwater and Saltwater Fish Medication 16-Ounce Bottle

Fin Rot

If you notice the change in color is only appearing on your betta’s fins then they may be suffering from fin rot.

This will be even more apparent if the fins look frayed or damaged. If you think it’s fin rot, you should act immediately to prevent further damage.

When fin rot is left untreated it turns into body rot. At this stage, it’s going to be extremely hard to save your betta’s fins!

How To Treat Fin Rot

How you treat fin rot depends entirely on how severe the fin rot is.

Mild Fin Rot

If your betta is suffering from mild fin rot, then it doesn’t tend to be that hard to treat.

  • Replace 50% of the tanks water with new chlorinated tank water.
  • Clean the tank thoroughly, including gravelling the vacuum.
  • Check the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels, and use an ammonia neutralizer if they’re too high.
  • Add API Stress Coat to help your betta’s slime coat recover.
API STRESS COAT Aquarium Water Conditioner 16-Ounce Bottle
  • Contains one (1) API STRESS COAT Aquarium Water Conditioner 16-Ounce Bottle

Major Fin Rot

In cases of major fin rot, you’ll need to act faster to ensure your betta gets back to full health.

Learn more about fin rot.

  • Move your betta to a quarantine tank, using 25% of the water from your old tank.
  • Dissolve aquarium salt in conditioned water, and then add it to your quarantine tank.
  • Keep an eye on your betta over the week to see if their condition is improving.
  • During this time you can also add API Stress Coat again.
  • Do this for 10 days.

Body Rot

Lastly, if your betta is suffering from body rot, you’ll need to act extremely fast in order to save them.

  • Move your betta to a quarantine tank again.
  • Make sure the water in the tank is oxygenated to handle the antibiotics.
  • Add either API Pimafix (if fin rot is fungal) or API furan 2 (if it’s bacterial)
  • Follow the instructions on the packaging exactly as they are.

Stress

Stress has been brought up already, however, don’t underestimate how much it can affect your betta.

If your betta is quite pale naturally and they become stressed, they can easily begin to look white.

So make sure you’re keeping your betta happy and stress-free. If you think your betta is stressed you can find out how to treat them here.

Why Is Your Betta Turning Brown & What To Do About It

Here are all the different reasons that your betta could be turning brown, and when necessary, what you can do to fix the issues!

Nitrite Poisoning

Another reason that your betta might be starting to go brown is nitrite poisoning. Unfortunately, when the ammonia in your tank spikes, it’s only a matter of time before the nitrites in your tank spike too!

When this happens, the blood in your betta starts to turn brown, which can be seen on your betta’s body. If left too long, the blood is unable to provide your betta with enough oxygen, so they’ll end up suffocating.

As well as turning brown, you may also notice that your betta starts to gasp at the surface of the water, become lethargic, have rapid gill movement and brown gills, and sometimes stay near water outlets in the tank.

How Do You Treat Nitrite Poisoning?

Fortunately, it’s entirely possible to treat nitrite poisoning, and the earlier you catch it, the greater the chances of recovery for your betta.

The first thing you’ll need to do if your betta is suffering from nitrite poisoning is performing a large water change. Generally speaking, removing about 50% of the water will remove a lot of the nitrate from the tank, instantly improving the conditions your betta is living in.

As well as this, you should also consider decreasing the amount you’re feeding your betta, so not as much waste ends up decaying in the tank, and lastly, increasing aeration, which also helps reduce the amount of nitrite in the tank!

Adding aquarium salt can also be a good way of stopping methemoglobin toxicity, as it can stop nitrite from being absorbed in your bettas’ gills. So if you’re going to add aquarium salt, you should add about 1 tablespoon per gallon of water.

Male Siamese Fighting Fish isolated white background, Orange Halfmoon Betta Splendens

Columnaris

If you’ve noticed that your betta has been sick for a while and their gills start to turn brown, then they could be suffering from columnaris. However, this isn’t the most common cause, as you’ll spot other symptoms of columnaris before the gills turn brown such as:

  • White cotton-like growths (the most common symptom of columnaris).
  • Frayed fins
  • Ulcers and sores
  • Rubbing against things
  • And in later stages, the mouth will also begin to deteriorate.
betta care facebook group

Fin Rot

Last on the list of things that can cause your betta to start turning brown is fin rot! However, if it is fin rot, then your betta will only be turning brown on their fins and tail, not the rest of their body.

As well as turning brown some other symptoms of fin rot include:

  • Fins darkening in color.
  • The tips of the fins may also turn grey or white.
  • They’ll start to look tattered, red, irritated, and sore.

As fin rot progresses and becomes more severe, you may also notice:

  • The fins have receded dangerously close to the body.
  • You may notice that chunks of the fin are starting to fall off.
  • The discoloration may start to turn incredibly bad.

And lastly, if left untreated, you may notice that the fins have rotted right down to the body, and in some cases, even their body will begin to rot as well.

How Can You Improve Your Bettas Color?

Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can improve your bettas color. However, remember, if their color is changing naturally, there’s nothing you’re going to be able to do to stop it.

But if it is being caused by external factors, here are a few things you can do.

Improve Water Quality

One of the best solutions to most of your bettas problems is too improve the water quality. And there are a number of ways you can do this.

Make Sure The Tank Is Big Enough

The first thing you’re going to want to do is to make sure that you’ve got your betta in a tank that’s at least 5 gallons.

The reason big tanks are better is that it takes longer for the water parameters to change. The easiest way to think of this is that 1 gallon of water will go colder a lot quicker than 10 gallons of water.

However, that’s not the only reason. Check out all the reasons you should keep your betta in a tank that’s a minimum size of 5 gallons.

Tetra Crescent aquarium Kit 5 Gallons, Curved-Front Tank With LEDs,black
  • Aquarium KIT Curved-front crescent-shaped aquarium kit is perfect for one goldfish or up to three community tropical fish

Make Sure They Have A Heater And Filter

You also want to make sure that they have a filter and heater. Both of which are necessary for betta fish as they’re tropical fish! Contrary to popular belief they can’t survive very long in a bowl of water.

And even if they do, they’re going to be extremely unhealthy and unhappy.

Perform Regular Water Changes

You should change your betta’s water frequently. The amount you’ll need to change depends on how big your tank is. I have a 10-gallon tank and I find changing 30% of the water every 2 weeks is enough.

However, if the tank is smaller you’ll need to do it more frequently. And if it’s bigger, you won’t have to change it as often.

blue betta

Feed Them Color Enhancing Food

As well as making sure the water quality is good you should also make sure you’re feeding them food that will enhance their color. Here are some great choices.

Salmon

Salmon is one of the most common foods used to improve a betta’s color. However, remember, you shouldn’t use salmon too much.

It’s quite rich for bettas and it should only be fed to them a couple of times per week. If you’re going to feed your betta salmon, you can either choose to cut it into tiny pieces for them. Or buy fish food containing it!

Daphnia

Daphnia is another great choice if you want to give your betta some more color. Along with other types of crustaceans, daphnia is a great source of carotenoid pigments, which are the pigments that can affect your bettas color!

Find out more about daphnia for bettas.

Use High-Quality Food

When you’re feeding your betta, you should also make sure you’re feeding them high-quality food. If you’ve paid for cheap fish food, you’re going to be giving your fish cheap nutrition. Sometimes it’s better to pay a little bit more for a premium brand.

I’d recommend high quality betta pellets like Aqueon Pro Foods Betta or Bettamin Flake Medley

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Tetra 16838 BettaMin Flakes, 0.81-Ounce,Blacks & Grays
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How Does Color Enhancing Betta Food Work?

Color enhancing betta food tends to have a higher concentration of ingredients that are going to give your betta that extra nutrients for great coloring. It often contains things like krill, spirulina, marigold powder and various shrimps.

Don’t Overstock Your Tank

And lastly, make sure you’re not overstocking your tank. It can be very easy when you’ve got a big tank to add too many fish. After all, there are so many great ones to choose from.

You should be following the rule of 1 gallon of water per inch of fish. But remember to read about the individual need of each fish before you purchase them.

Betta fish care can be challenging if you have no idea where to start. Click here to read a complete Betta fish care guide!

How To Make Your Bettas Color Pop More In The Tank?

As well as improving the color of your betta, there are also things you can do to make the color of your betta pop even more as well! This way you can see them in their vibrancy even better.

Choose The Right Substrate

First of all, make sure you’re choosing a substrate which will contrast well with their colors. If you have a lighter betta go for a darker substrate and vice versa. Doing this is going to help your betta stand out constantly, and truly be the jewel of your tank.

Add A Tank Background

One of the easiest ways to make your betta look even more colorful is to add a tank background. This way you’ll always see them standing out against it!

Add Plants & Decorations

Some people don’t like the look of tank backgrounds and want to go for a more natural look. When this is the case, I’d recommend adding some plants to your tank. Great background plants include things like anubias and hornwort.

However, not everyone wants to maintain plants so you can also add decorations which will do the same thing.

(If you’re not sure what plants to add, then here are over 30 of the best plants for beginners!)

Make Sure You’re Using Good Lighting

And lastly, make sure you’re using good lighting. Good lighting is going to make your betta really shine, and can help remove their dull appearance and make them look majestic again!

betta care facebook group

FAQ

Here are some frequently asked questions that people have about helping their betta regain their color!

Can Betta Fish Regain Their Color?

It’s absolutely possible for betta’s to regain their color! As long as you’re feeding them high quality food, and you’re keeping the water parameters in the tank good, their color should come back over time.

How Long Does It Take For A Betta To Regain Their Color?

It can be difficult to say just how long it will take your betta to regain their color. If it’s caused by something like transport it will be a couple of days, but in cases where they’ve been stressed for a while it can be weeks.

Why Is Your Betta Going Pale?

If your betta is turning pale, it is most likely due to stress or old age. On top of this, bettas tend to be more pale when it’s dark, but once you turn the light on, their color should return over a few hours.

What Are Other Signs Of An Unhealthy Betta?

As well as losing color, some other signs your betta is unhealthy include:

  • A lack of appetite
  • Inactivity
  • Damaged fins
  • Lethargy
  • Surface breathing

Why Is Your Betta Turning Grey?

If your betta is turning grey check the water quality immediately. It could be due to a build-up of ammonia in the tank. If all parameters appear fine, then it could be a poor quality diet, or simply stress from your betta being in a tank that’s too small.

betta in a tank

Recap

As you can see, there are lots of reasons that can cause your betta to lose color. Here are some of the main points to remember.

  • Your betta may be losing color due to stress, old age, injury, and illness.
  • Bettas can also lose color naturally, especially if they have the marble gene.
  • If your betta is turning black you shouldn’t worry too much, unless they’re showing other signs of illness.
  • Your betta turning white could be caused by columnaris, anchor worms, ich, stress, and fin rot.
  • You can improve your bettas color by making the water quality better, feeding them foods that promote vibrant colors, and not overstocking your tank.

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About the author

Hey! I'm Antonio!

Betta fish keeper for over 6 years now! Since owning a betta I've also housed all kinds of tropical fish, and have seen all manner of problems and how to look after them!

If you need any advice you can always message me or better yet join the Facebook group where a community can answer your questions!

2 thoughts on “Betta Fish Losing Color/Fading (& Turning Black/White/Brown)”

  1. Hi. I recently (6 days ago) purchased a “King” (a.k.a. giant) halfmoon male betta from Petco. I bought him because I couldn’t stand looking at such a great fish in such a tiny little tub. It’s bad enough for regular size bettas to be kept in those contraptions but to see a giant male betta in such a small tub was heartbreaking. So I bought him, placed him temporarily in a 3 gallon quarantine tank (with a filter and heater) for 2 days (changed the water daily) then transferred him to a 10 gallon tank. He was totally white when I bought him and now, after 6 days, I’m beginning to see some red coloring around the sides of his face and near the base of his tail.

    There are lots of places among the soft silk plants for him to hide (and he does, but he also comes to the front of the tank as soon as he sees me, presumably to get fed), the temp is 78.5 degrees, there’s a sponge filter set on gentle flow, and a nice gravel substrate. The water parameters are: PH 7.5, 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 5ppm nitrate (my tap water is 5ppm nitrate, and I’m not going to start messing around with that). I’m feeding him a mix of 10 pellets/day of Bio-Gold and Bug Bites. (5 in the AM and 5 in the PM.) He’s eating heartily and has no indication of fin rot or ich. He’s just white. I’m assuming it’s stress-related, but here is my question: How long does it take, approximately, for a fish that’s lost its coloring due to stress to return to its normal coloring in a less stressful environment? Thanks.

    • Hey, it definitely seems like it could be stress related, hopefully if you keep feeding them high quality food and keep the water quality high, they should come back to their color in not time!

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