9 Causes Of Betta Stress Stripes (& What To Do)

Last Updated on 2023-10-09

Fish enthusiasts love bettas for their unique personalities and the plethora of colors they come in. However, betta fish require special care to keep them happy and healthy. Bettas will show signs of being in an unhappy environment, including but not limited to stress stripes. 

Stress is not healthy for betta fish, as it isn’t healthy for humans. They release the same chemical we do when we are stressed; cortisol. Their system also releases adrenaline when they are stressed out. 

These two chemicals can wreak havoc on the body when they are not dealt with. Thankfully, there are some well-known reasons why your Betta might be stressed out, and your fish helping to communicate that to you through showing stripes will help you identify that they are stressed so you can start troubleshooting what the cause might be. 

What Are Betta Fish Stress Stripes?

Betta fish will show signs of stress on their bodies by developing what is called stress stripes. These discolorations are one of a betta fish’s ways of showing you that something is bothering them or that their environment needs to be fixed. 

You might possibly notice this happen when you bring a betta fish home for the first time, and they need to adapt to their new settings. You want to ensure you make your tank the perfect environment for a betta before you bring them home.

If they are developing stress stripes simply because they are somewhere new, those stripes should go away within a week or two. Be sure to keep your eye on your Betta’s behavior, as well as the water conditions. 

What Do Betta Stress Stripes Look Like?

Betta stress stripes are discolorations that can either be light or dark depending on the color of your betta fish. They will typically run horizontally on your betta fish’s body. They might not cover their entire body. It really depends on the specific betta fish you have. 

Betta fish stripes are more common with female betta fish. Male bettas will show their discomfort in other ways, including turning lighter in color. 

It’s important to keep your eye on your Betta and work on a solution that will help them get rid of their stress stripes. Betta fish that are stressed for too long can start to lose their appetite and become inactive, which can make them sick. 

Breeding Or Fear Stripes?

It is possible that your betta fish has stripes that have nothing to do with stress. Stress stripes will manifest in a horizontal direction. Breeding stripes, however, are vertical. Fear stripes are a little bit more intense and will usually develop when a betta fish is under extreme stress. 

Breeding stripes will only show on female bettas. A female betta will start developing these breeding stripes when she is ready to start mating. If you are interested in having your betta fish breed, this would be the ideal time to introduce a male betta into her tank. She shouldn’t be around a male before this point. 

What Causes Stress Stripes?

Stress stripes can develop on your betta fish for a number of reasons. It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly which one is bothering your Betta. You may need to watch them for a couple of days to figure it out. 

However, knowing what to look for is the first step to helping reduce your Betta’s stress. 

They Are Trying To Adapt To Change

Betta fish don’t like change very much. If you’ve recently brought them home, changed their tank, or moved their decorations around, they may need some time to adjust. 

Their Water Isn’t Clean

If their water is not clean or not at the ideal temperature, your Betta might show signs of stress. You should be monitoring their water carefully and ensuring the filter is working properly. 

They Don’t Have Enough Room

Bettas need enough room to be able to roam around, but they also like places they can hide. Finding this balance can be tough but is necessary. 

They Are With Other Fish 

Bettas don’t really like other fish, and they can attack other fish if they feel threatened. They will typically show stress signals when around other fish. 

They Aren’t Feeling Well 

If your betta fish isn’t feeling well, they will start stressing out, and stripes can appear. Test their water to ensure there isn’t anything in there making them sick. 

The PH Of The Water Is Off

Bettas like the PH levels of their water to be neutral. The neutral level for PH is 7.0. If the PH is too low or too high, it needs to be adjusted. 

The Filter Is Off

Having a filter is ideal for a betta fish tank, as it can help keep the water clean for them. However, if the filter is too strong, it can cause a current which your betta fish cannot keep up with. Be sure the filter does not change how the water moves, but be sure it’s strong enough to keep the water clean. 

The Temperature Of The Water Is Off

Many things can affect the temperature of the water in your Betta’s tank, including where the tank is located. Checking the water temperature frequently to make sure it’s suitable for your Betta is very necessary, as the temperature being off will stress them out tremendously. 

They Don’t Like Their Food

Betta fish are particular about what food they like, as they are carnivores. If you are not feeding them the right food, they’ll get stressed and very sick. 

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How To Get Rid Of Betta Stress Stripes

As previously mentioned, betta stress stripes can simply be caused by change. If you aren’t noticing that your betta fish’s stress stripes diminish quickly, there could be other changes you need to make for your betta fish to feel more at peace. 

Check And Monitor The Water Conditions

Betta fish are particular about how they like their water. You should not constantly be changing their water but rather adapting it and changing it as necessary in smaller doses. The water needs to be clean as well, or your Betta will feel uncomfortable. 

Alter The PH Levels If Necessary

If the PH levels are not neutral, they will need to change. One of the easiest ways to avoid inadequate PH levels in the water is by changing out 25% of the water every other week. This will help remove some of the acidity while also not being too harsh of a change for your Betta. 

Be sure to test the water regularly with a proper testing kit, and avoid putting in unnecessary items in your betta tank, such as coral sand, that can alter the PH levels. This will require some research on your part before decorating your Betta’s tank. 

Adjust The Water Temperature If Necessary

If your Betta’s water temperature is not ideal, they will get stressed very easily. You want to have something to check the temperature and check it often. The ideal temperature range for their water to suit their needs is between 76 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Their natural environment is tropical and warm, and fluctuations in temperature are not common in their natural environment. 

In order to keep the temperature at bay, you want to have a good quality heater that will not overheat or break down easily. You also want to make sure that when you change their water, you do it in small doses. You also want to be sure to aerate the water, so your Betta gets enough oxygen. 

Finally, you want to make sure your betta fish’s tank is in an area where they aren’t getting too much sun. This will affect the water temperature dramatically.

Be Sure Your Tank Is The Right Size

A betta fish needs a tank with plenty of room to move around in. If there are too many toys and plants in the way, you may want to consider removing some of them. There should be at least some, however, as betta fish like having places they can hide away. 

They also don’t need a lot of bright light, so you may have to consider dimming the light in the tank if you have one. Your Betta should have a tank no smaller than five gallons. 

If a betta fish doesn’t feel like they have enough space, it can stress them out greatly, and they can even become depressed. Their depression can weaken their immune system, which is extremely dangerous as betta fish are prone to sickness as it is. 

Be Sure That Items In Your Tank Are Working Properly 

If something in your tank stops working properly, it can cause the water conditions to change, which will stress out your betta fish. For example, if your heater or filter stops working properly, the water will change. Have those fixed as soon as you can to get your Betta’s environment back to normal. 

Make Sure They Have Adequate Space

Above and beyond being sure their tank is the right size, you want to make sure any decorations or plants that are in your tank are scattered around enough. They should be able to hide, but they should also be able to navigate around these items easily. 

Take Other Fish Out

If you have more than one betta fish in a tank or other types of fish in the tank, this could be stressing your Betta fish out. They typically don’t like other fish, so unless you know what you are doing when it comes to getting fish to cohabitate, you should have your betta fish living by itself. 

You don’t have to be concerned that your Betta will get lonely. They like to be by themselves. Seeing a bunch of colorful fish swimming around them can cause them to get very stressed out, and they can even get aggressive. 

Feed Them The Right Food

Betta fish need protein in their food. You should be feeding them pellets that are made with a good source of protein. It’s also recommended to treat them to other food sources, such as bloodworms or insects, to ensure they get the protein they need. 

Try Indian Almond Leaves In Their Tank 

Indian Almond Leaves are great for bettas as they are packed with nutrients that can help get rid of many of their common ailments. Since betta fish can get sick easily, having a couple of these in their tank for them to nibble on can help curb any illness that may be developing that is causing their stress stripes. 

Indian Almond Leaves can also help regulate the PH levels of your Betta’s water, which is extremely important. 

Looking for a comprehensive guide about how to take care of your Betta fish? Click here!


Is there a possibility that your betta fish will have stripes, but they are not stressed or want to breed? With betta fish coming in so many color variations, you may be wondering this. 

Can Bettas Have Stripes?

There is no known variety of betta fish that naturally have stripes. Betta fish can be found in many colors and patterns, some slightly resembling unfinished stripes; that is to say, they are stripes that don’t run up and down vertically or horizontally. 

Bettas have been bred with other types of betta fish over the years to produce all of the different variations that are available. One of the many things that draw people into purchasing bettas as pets is that they are brilliant in color and have some beautiful markings. 

Therefore, it’s possible that one day, striped bettas may exist. But for now, you will probably only notice occasional stripes with your female bettas, and they are either indicators that they are stressed out or ready to start breeding. 


Betta fish are a joy to have in your home, but they do require special care, so they don’t get stressed out and sick. Thankfully, they are pretty good at telling us when they aren’t feeling right. An active pet parent will notice these signs and do what they need to in order to make their Betta’s environment more suitable for their health and happiness.

Ultimate Betta Fish Care Guide
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