Betta Gill Flukes (Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention)

Last Updated on 2023-05-08

Betta gill flukes can happen at any time in your aquarium. That’s why it’s so important to know the causes and symptoms as well as how to treat and prevent them.

If your betta is suffering from gill flukes then this guide is going to tell you everything you need to know to give your betta a speedy recovery.

What Are Gill Flukes

Gill flukes are a type of parasite that breed and grow in your bettas gills. They are similar to skin flukes, however, you’ll most often find skin flukes on the sides of your betta instead of the gills.

But in any case, it’s possible that gill flukes will latch onto skin and vice versa. The good news is treatment and prevention for both are the same.

Also, gill flukes are incredibly small growing up to 0.3mm at their biggest, so don’t expect to see them.

What Causes Gill Flukes In Your Tank?

There are a number of different ways gill flukes can infect your betta. The most common reason that your betta will get gill flukes is when the conditions in your tank are poor.

Poor water conditions are going to cause stress to your betta, weakening their immune system and making them more susceptible to parasites, bacteria, and fungus.

As well as poor water conditions, they can also be introduced to your tank when you introduce new plants and fish. Both of which can carry the flukes themselves, and their eggs.

That’s why it’s so important that you quarantine any new fish or plant before adding them to your main tank. Here’s an article you can read if you don’t know how to set up a quarantine tank.

What Are The Symptoms Of Gill Flukes?

Because gill flukes are so small you’re not going to spot them as easily as you would other infections, like anchor worms, ich or velvet. Because of this, you need to know the symptoms of gill flukes in order to treat them effectively. Here are the most common symptoms.

Gasping For Air At The Waters Surface

The longer your betta has gill flukes the more damage their going to do. When his gills start to fail, you’ll notice your betta swimming to the surface and gasping for air.

However, make sure you notice this sign with other symptoms as it can also be caused by ammonia poisoning.

Damage To The Gills

In more severe cases you may also notice that the gills have become damaged and look like they’re being eaten away. At this stage, you’ll need to act very quickly to make sure your betta makes a full recovery.

Gills Covered In Mucus

Gill flukes often cause your bettas gills to become covered in mucus. This is his bodies way of trying to fight the infection and flush out anything bad from his system.

If you notice his gills are covered in mucus you should make sure that he’s not suffering from columnaris which can also cause this to occur. The main difference is that only the gills will be affected with gill flukes, whereas if your betta is suffering from columnaris other parts of his body may produce mucus as well.


One of the biggest signs that your betta has a skin or gill infection is when he’s scraping against things. You may notice him constantly rubbing up against decorations or the substrate in your tank.

When you see this, you’re actually watching your betta trying to scrape off the parasite from his gills. But it’s not just gill flukes that cause this to occur. Any bodily infection such as ich, velvet, and columnaris may cause this to happen.

Ulcers And Wounds

A combination of damage from the gill flukes and your betta scraping is going to cause ulcers and wounds to show on your betta’s body. They should be located close to his gills, however, they could be anywhere on his body if he’s scraped against something for too long.

What’s The Best Way To Diagnose Gill Flukes

Because the symptoms of gill flukes aren’t unique to gill flukes alone you may be finding it hard to diagnose them. The best thing you can do is check to see whether everything is localized to the gills. If they are then it’s a pretty good chance that your betta is suffering from gill flukes.

This is one of the reasons it’s important to always have a betta first aid kit ready. Having one ready is going to enable you to provide the right treatment.

(Gill flukes aren’t the only parasites that can affect your betta! Check out this complete disease and illness guide for bettas to help you figure out what could be wrong with your betta!)

Orange Betta

How To Treat Betta Gill Flukes

There are a couple of different ways that you can treat betta gill flukes. And if you act quickly, both ways are going to be effective. But before you start treating your betta, you should move him to a quarantine tank.

Adding medicine to your main tank can have disastrous effects. For example, future diseases could become more resistant to medication. As well as that, medication can often wipe out your bacteria colony which will result in having to cycle your tank again/ And on top of that there may also be spikes in ammonia.

And of course, other living things in your tanks may not respond so well to the medicine. Plants and invertebrates are normally the first to be hit hard by medication in your tank.

Using Anti-Fluke Medication

The easiest way to treat gill flukes is by using anti fluke medication. A great choice is API General Cure. Don’t be put off by its name. While it is a general cure, it’s specifically designed to fight parasitic infections. If you want to use general cure then here’s what you should do.

  1. Add a packet of general cure to your tank for every 10 gallons of water.
  2. Wait 48 hours before adding another packet of general cure for every 10 gallons of water.
  3. If you quarantined your betta after 48 hours move him back to his original tank.
  4. If you administered the medication to your main tank then perform a 25% water change.
  5. Add new activated carbon to your filter to absorb any chemicals that might still be in the water.

However, you should be aware that if you plan on using API General Cure it does come with a warning that says it may cause cancer. So make sure you avoid getting any of it on yourself and try to keep your aquarium somewhere you don’t spend a lot of time just to be safe.

If you don’t fancy using general cure then there is another method you could try.

Salt Bath

An aquarium salt bath can be an effective way of treating gill flukes in more mild cases. However, in more severe circumstances you will need to use medication. Make sure you’re using the right aquarium salt, you can get the right kind off Amazon.

To perform a salt bath do the following:

  • Dechlorinate water in a tub and warm the temperature so it matches your tank.
  • Fill the tub with 30-35g of aquarium salt for every liter of water.
  • Add your betta to the salt bath for 4-5 minutes. If you notice your betta seems distressed, lays at the bottom of the tank or seems unconscious, immediately add him back to the main tank.
  • After 4-5 minutes, take your betta out of the tank and place him back in your main tank.
  • Do this once a day for 3 days.

Check out this article to learn everything you need to know about aquarium salt.

How Can You Prevent Gill Flukes?

Luckily, gill flukes aren’t particularly common and there are things you can do to reduce the chance of your betta getting them. Most of the prevention tips are common sense for veteran betta keepers, however, if you’re new to caring for bettas then you should definitely give them a read.

Quarantine New Additions

If you plan on adding anything new to your tank, then ideally you should quarantine them beforehand. The ideal time to quarantine new fish and plants is 2-4 weeks. At this point, you’ll be able to notice if there’s something wrong with them.

And if they are harboring any diseases or parasites, then they’ll die in the tank before they have a chance to make it into your main tank.

Perform Frequent Water Changes

There are two reasons performing frequent water changes is going to prevent gill flukes.

First of all, if there are gill flukes in your tank then by removing some water, you’re going to lower the number of gill flukes floating about, making it less likely your betta will be affected by them.

Secondly, frequent water changes are going to keep the conditions in your tank healthy. Healthy tank conditions reduce the amount of stress placed on your betta, which in turn will keep his immune system strong.

Feed Your Betta High-Quality Food

High-quality food is one of the best ways you can make sure your betta has a strong immune system. You want to make sure your betta is getting a mix of live food as well as high nutritious betta pellets.

Are Gill Flukes Fatal?

Because of the nature of gill flukes, if they’re left untreated your betta will often die. The open wounds and sores can become a hot spot for bacteria to infect. Once there’s a secondary infection your betta will become sicker until the point he passes away.

On top of this if gill flukes are allowed to penetrate deep enough and do enough damage to your betta then they’re going to make it hard for him to breathe. This could get so bad, that he’ll slowly asphyxiate in his tank. However, it’s more likely he’ll succumb to something else first.

Now You’re Armed To Treat Betta Gill Flukes

Now that you have all the knowledge necessary to treat betta gill flukes you can restore your betta back to full health!

Some of the main points to take away from this article are:

  • Gill Flukes are a parasite that infect your bettas gills, and they’re extremely similar to skin flukes.
  • Gill flukes can be caused by poor water conditions and a weakened immune system.
  • They can also be introduced into your tank whenever you add new fish or plants.
  • The symptoms of gill flukes include gills covered in mucus, damaged gills that look like they’ve been eaten away, and gasping for air at the surface. (This shouldn’t be confused with ammonia poisoning.)
  • You may also notice your betta scraping against things as he tries to remove the parasites from his body.
  • The best way to diagnose gill flukes is to check if most of the symptoms are close to the gills.
  • The best way to treat gill flukes is with medication, however, aquarium salt can often be an effective alternative.
  • To lower the odds of your betta contracting gill flukes make sure you perform frequent water changes, feed him high-quality foods, and quarantine any new additions to your tank.
  • If left untreated gill flukes can become fatal.

That’s everything you need to know!

Wondering where you can find a complete guide on Betta fish care? Check out this article!

If you liked this article, make sure you check out the rest of the website!

Ultimate Betta Fish Care Guide
About the author

Hey! I'm Nicolas from Iguane Media !

Blogger and Owner of the betta care fish guide
Thanks for reading this blog

I'm an Animal Lover