Constipation In Betta Fish (Complete Guide)

Constipation in betta fish is a very common ailment. And you’ve come to the right place to find out everything you need to know about it! But before you learn how to treat it, it’s also important to know what causes it and how to prevent it. Also, it’s always better to learn how to prevent it rather than simply treating it!

If you’re sure it’s definitely constipation your betta is suffering from (and not something worse like dropsy) then keep on reading to find out everything you need to know!

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Key Takeaways:

  • Constipation in betta fish is a common ailment that can have negative effects on their health.
  • The main causes of constipation in bettas include a poor diet, overfeeding, lack of exercise, and not enough fiber in their food.
  • Symptoms of constipation in betta fish include stringy feces, not eating or spitting out food, lethargy, bloated belly, and trouble swimming.
  • To treat constipation, you can fast your betta for 2-3 days, feed them a boiled pea or daphnia, and consider using Epsom salt in a quarantine tank.
  • Preventing constipation involves fasting your betta occasionally, not overfeeding, providing a varied diet, and ensuring they have enough fiber in their food.

What Is Constipation?

Constipation is when passing stool becomes difficult. Normally it is due to hardened feces which can be caused by a number of reasons. If you think your betta is suffering from constipation then there are a lot of different symptoms, and causes.

What Causes Constipation In Bettas?

One of the best things you can do before treating your betta is figuring out what’s causing him to be constipated. Otherwise, you’ll only be repeating treatment over and over again. Here are some of the most common causes of constipation.

Poor Diet

When an animal doesn’t have enough fiber in their diet they’re going to become constipated. One of the reasons it’s easy for bettas to become constipated is because they’re carnivorous.

Even though they’re opportunistic eaters and will eat anything that will fit in their mouths, they mostly survive on meat. So one of the first things you need to make sure is that you’re feeding them the right food

Only Feeding Your Betta Flake/Freeze Dried Food

If your betta’s diet consists solely of fish flakes or freeze-dried food, then the chances are he’s not getting enough fiber in his diet. In fact, most fish that live off this diet are prone to constipation.

Because flakes and freeze-dried food are so dry, the moment they come into contact with moisture they begin to expand. And because bettas are so gutty they’ll eat them before they’ve fully expanded. So if you plan on feeding your betta these flakes or freeze-dried food make sure you’re soaking them beforehand.

Alternatively, you can use pellets. Pellets are recommended as part of a balanced diet, and if you buy high-quality ones they will decrease the chance of your betta becoming constipated.

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Fluval Bug Bites Tropical Fish Food, Small Granules for Small to Medium Sized Fish, 1.6 oz., A6577
  • Tropical fish food that contains up to 40%, nutrient-rich Black Soldier Fly Larvae, the first ingredient

Not Enough Live Food

You should also make sure that your betta is getting enough whole animals in their diet. While pellets contain a lot of the essential nutrients, they are lacking certain essentials. They don’t contain a lot of fiber, for example. Eating other animals is important for carnivorous fish because they indirectly consume some fiber from the contents of their prey’s stomach.

As well as this, their skeletons are full of chitin, which is fiber rich. The combination of stomach contents and the chitin-rich skeletons mean that your betta will get plenty of fiber. Daphnia and mosquito larvae are particularly good sources of this.

Too Much Blood-worm

Contrary to popular belief, blood-worms shouldn’t be a staple part of your betta’s diet, but instead a treat. While they do have a lot of nutrition in them, a constant diet of them is going to do more harm than good. And when there are much better alternatives such as daphnia that give your betta a lot more nutrition, you should use blood-worms sparingly.

Overfeeding

Overfeeding can be another cause of constipation in betta fish, and it’s one that’s extremely common. Bettas are gutty fish and will keep eating even when they’re completely full up. That’s why it’s important to only feed your betta a couple of times a day and only for a couple of minutes. Otherwise, you can bet your betta will become constipated.

Swim Bladder Disease

Believe it or not, swim bladder disease isn’t a disease. In fact, it’s a symptom of a whole range of ailments. And while it’s possible that constipation is causing swim bladder disease in your betta, it’s also possible the other way round. That the symptoms of swim bladder disease are causing constipation.

An infection or injury could be causing your bettas organs to swell, and if this is happening it could be causing constipation. So if you notice other symptoms of swim bladder disease, then you should try to assess what’s causing what.

(Check out this article to learn everything you need to know about swim bladder disease!)

Not Enough Exercise

And lastly, is your betta getting enough exercise?

If you’re not sure then just think about the size of his tank. While people believe that bettas can survive in a tank as small as 1 gallon, that’s not the truth. And in my opinion, even 2.5 gallons is too small. You should keep your betta in a tank that’s a MINIMUM of 5 gallons. However, there’s no limit. Bigger is better. If you want to know more then you should check out this article on the ideal tank size for bettas.

And if you want to know what the best 5-gallon tanks are for bettas then you should check out these reviews on the Fluval Spec 5 Gallon and the Marineland Portrait Aquarium.

So if you are housing your betta in a small tank and he can’t swim around a lot, then it could be causing constipation as well.

What Are The Symptoms Of Constipation In Betta Fish?

There are a few symptoms that can let you know that your betta is constipated. If you notice any of the symptoms below then you should begin treating your betta for constipation. Here are the main symptoms of constipation in bettas.

Symptoms of Constipation in Betta FishDescription
Stringy FecesIn constipated betta fish, feces may appear stringy and not sink.
Not Eating/Spitting Out FoodBetta fish may ignore food or spit it out, indicating reduced appetite.
Lethargic/Not SwimmingConstipated bettas may become lethargic and swim less than usual.
Bloated BellyA common sign of constipation is a swollen or bloated abdomen.
Trouble SwimmingSevere constipation can hinder a betta’s ability to swim properly.

Stringy Feces

While this can be hard to spot unless you’re watching your betta 24/7, you should look for stringy feces. In a healthy betta feces will sink to the substrate every time. However, when your betta is constipated, his feces will be stringy and hang from him. If you notice this then you should begin treating for constipation as soon as you can.

Not Eating/Spitting Out Food

This symptom isn’t a clear sign that your betta is constipated. But it could be a good indicator. If you find that your betta is ignoring his food (extremely abnormal behavior for bettas) or if he’s spitting it out, then you should look for other signs as well. If you notice this symptom along with some of the other symptoms of constipation then you can make a more educated decision.

However, a lack of appetite is a very common symptom of a whole range of illnesses and disease. So you shouldn’t trust this symptom alone.

Lethargic/Not Swimming

When your stomach is completely full the last thing you want to do is move. You should check to see how energetic or lethargic your betta is looking. If he doesn’t seem to be swimming around as much as usual then constipation could be the cause.

However, once again this is a very common symptom in a lot of illnesses so you shouldn’t just go off this one alone.

Bloated Belly

Another common sign of constipation in betta fish is a bloated belly. If your betta is having trouble emptying their bowels, then the feces isn’t going to go anywhere. The longer the time that goes by the bigger your bettas belly is going to get.

If you notice that your betta’s belly is bloated or bulging then you should start treating him for constipation. However, just make sure it isn’t dropsy. The easiest way to know if it isn’t dropsy is to make sure your betta’s scales aren’t pineconing. This is when they stick out. If your betta does exhibit these symptoms then you need to act immediately.

(If you’re not sure the bloated belly is being caused by bloating, check out this article on all the reasons your betta may suffer bloat.)

Trouble Swimming

In more extreme cases, constipation could end up making it difficult for your betta to swim. If this is the case then you should start treating your betta as soon as possible because he’s going to be incredibly uncomfortable.

At this point, he’s going to be suffering from swim bladder disease. So as well as checking for the symptoms of constipation you should also learn more about swim bladder disease to make sure your betta isn’t suffering from an ailment that is more serious.

(If you don’t notice these symptoms in your betta, then they may be suffering from something else! Check out this article on all the diseases and illnesses your betta can end up suffering from.)

Betta Fish Constipation Treatment

Now that you’re confident that your betta is suffering from constipation the next step is to start treatment. There are multiple ways you can treat constipation in bettas, but most of them revolve around feeding your betta foods high in fiber. Just like in people the high fiber diet will start to get everything moving again.

One great method for doing this is by using Epsom Salt which is a muscle relaxant.

How To Treat Betta Constipation With Epsom Salt

In more severe cases of constipation or if peas aren’t working you should try using Epsom salt to treat your betta. Epsom salt is a mild muscle relaxant, and if it’s only constipation your betta is suffering from it should do the trick. Here’s how to use Epsom salt effectively:

  1. Remove some water from your tank and place it into a clean container.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon per 5 gallons of Epsom salt to the container.
  3. Once you’ve added the Epsom salt, stir it well until it’s completely dissolved.
  4. Add the water back into the tank.
  5. If your betta is in a community tank then you should move him to a quarantine tank. Here’s everything you need to know about quarantine tanks if you’re not sure where to get started.
  6. You should keep your betta in this tank for about a week or until you notice his constipation is dissipating.

Other Ways To Treat Constipation

There are two other things you should try when treating your betta for constipation.

  • Before anything else, you should fast your betta for 2/3 days. While you may think this is cruel don’t worry too much. In the wild, it’s not uncommon for your betta to go without food for a couple of days.
  • And secondly, if nothing else is working then you should try giving your betta some daphnia to eat. Remember earlier when we spoke about chitin-rich skeletons that are fibrous. Well, daphnia are full of them!
betta fish image

How To Prevent Constipation In Bettas

Treating constipation is good, but preventing it is even better. Here are some of the best ways to prevent constipation in your betta.

Fasting Your Betta

One great way to stop your betta from getting constipated is too fast him. It won’t have to be as severe as 2/3 days in a row. But even once every week or two should do the job. When you fast your betta you give his intestines time to empty fully. This is going to stop any build up of feces which in turn will stop constipation from occurring.

Don’t Overfeed Your Betta

Your bettas stomach is about the same size as his eyeball. So it’s very easy to overfeed him. If you’re not sure how much food you should feed your betta then a rule of thumb is to feed him for two minutes twice a day. Even if he’s full up he will keep on eating, so it’s important you impose a time limit.

Give Him A Varied Diet

You shouldn’t just be feeding your betta high-quality betta pellets. Instead, you should be varying his diet a lot. For example, every so often you could give him a blanched pea or bloodworms as a treat.

And of course, make sure you’re feeding him a lot of healthy live food, such as daphnia and mosquito larvae. They’re going to give your betta the roughage he needs to keep his intestines moving in the right direction.

Consider Buying A Bigger Tank

Constipation isn’t always to do with food. How big is your betta tank? If it’s under 5 gallons then you should consider upgrading to something bigger. Not only is a bigger tank going to decrease the chance of your betta becoming constipated, but it’s going to have a whole range of great benefits! In fact, here are all the reasons a bigger tank is better!

If you make sure you follow all the advice above then you’re going to drastically reduce the chance of your betta becoming constipated. However, sometimes it may still happen, and if so make sure you stick to the right treatments and your betta will be happy and active again in no time!

Can Betta Fish Die From Constipation?

If you don’t think constipation is a big deal then you should think again. While most of the time constipation isn’t going to be an issue, if it’s left untreated then there can be grave side effects.

Your betta is more prone to suffer from swim bladder disease which will stress him out more. The more stressed he becomes the weaker his immune system will be and the more likely he will be infected with a serious infection or disease.

So if you notice your betta looks constipated, you should act immediately to reduce the chance of something worse happening!

If you want to master the tricks of Betta fish care, you need a complete guide. Click here to read one!

FAQ

Does My Betta Fish Have Dropsy or Constipation?

Some of the symptoms of dropsy include bloating, scales that look like pinecones, and your fish becoming really sluggish. On the other hand, if you think your betta fish might be constipated, it could have a swollen belly, and no appetite, but its scales remain smooth.

Will Bettafix Help Dropsy?

Bettafix isn’t going to be much help for treating dropsy. Dropsy is a really serious condition that needs aggressive treatment like antibiotics. Bettafix is more of a minor treatment and isn’t a cure-all for serious illnesses like dropsy. Your best bet is to talk to a vet or someone with experience taking care of fish to figure out the best course of action for your betta fish.

Recap

There’s a lot of information to absorb in this article so it’s best just to recap all the important information. Here’s what you should remember:

  • The BIGGEST cause of constipation in your betta is poor diet, followed by lack of exercise. If your betta isn’t being fed a varied diet, if the food is low quality, and especially if he’s being fed too much then it’s likely he will suffer from constipation at some point.
  • You may have heard that your betta can live off bloodworms or eat them all the time. This isn’t the case and they should be used as a treat every so often.
  • The two most clear signs of constipation in your betta are bloating and stringy feces. If you notice your betta’s stomach is bulging and if feces is hanging off your betta instead of sinking to the bottom of the tank then the chances are he’s constipated.
  • As well as those two symptoms he may also act lethargic, avoid food and spit it out, have trouble swimming and in more severe cases suffer from swim bladder disease.
  • There are a number of different ways you can treat your betta but before any, you should fast him for 2-3 days. Failing that try feeding him a boiled pea or some daphnia. If neither of those work then you should move him to a quarantine tank and add 1 teaspoon of Epsom salt per 5 gallons of water.
  • To prevent constipation in your betta make sure you’re not feeding him too much. Stick to feeding him for 2 minutes twice a day.
  • Also, you should fast him for a day every couple of weeks, as well as giving him daphnia and peas as a treat and add more fiber to his diet!
  • And lastly, if your betta is suffering from constipation for too long don’t leave it! Over time it will weaken his immune system, making him more susceptible to other diseases!

Sources:

Tropical Fish A-Z
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!

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