14 Signs Of A Healthy And Unhealthy Betta Fish

Last Updated on 2023-11-07

Betta fish are colorful and active. Their behavior and appearance can indicate if they’re healthy or not. Recognizing the signs of an unhealthy fish can help you treat them quickly and prevent the spread of illness.

In this article, we’ll discuss healthy betta fish versus unhealthy betta fish. We’ll go over the signs to look for and how to keep your betta fish healthy. So, keep reading!

Key Takeaways:

  • Betta fish health is determined by various signs: activity level, color vibrancy, fin movement, appetite, and natural aging signs.
  • Signs of a healthy betta fish include high activity, vibrant color covering the body and fins, graceful fin movement, good appetite, and slight fading with age.
  • Unhealthy bettas exhibit signs like inactivity, dull or discolored appearance, torn or reduced fin movement, lack of appetite, lethargy, and other indications such as scratching, surface breathing, and a murky tank.
  • To maintain betta fish health, ensure clean tank conditions, use filters for water quality, observe and treat sickness promptly, monitor food intake, and provide stimulation and interaction.
  • Maintaining healthy bettas involves maintaining tank cleanliness, employing filters for water circulation, being proactive in treatment, observing food intake, and providing entertainment to prevent stress.

What Are The Signs Of A Healthy Betta Vs An Unhealthy Betta?

If you want to know whether your betta is healthy or unhealthy, fortunately, there are a few signs you can look for to confirm the state of their health!

A healthy betta will be active, colorful, with great fin movement, and appetite However, an unhealthy betta will be inactive, lethargic, dull in color, with torn fins. You will also notice they scratch against things, breathe from the surface, and have a lack of appetite.

Health AspectHealthy BettaUnhealthy BettaObservations & Tips
Activity LevelHighly active, follows your finger, loves tricksInactive, avoids interactionActivity is a strong indicator of overall health
ColorVibrant, covering from base to tip of finsDiscolored, stress stripes, turning paleConsistent, vibrant color is a good sign
Fin MovementFull, flowing fins in swaying motionTorn fins, reduced movementTorn fins can be a symptom of fin rot
AppetiteEats 2-4 pellets quickly, once or twice per dayLack of appetite, leaves food behindA strong appetite is usually a good sign
Natural AgingSlight fading but maintains most colorRapid, unnatural color changesSlight fading can occur naturally as bettas age
LethargyNoneStays in cave, ignores light cuesLethargy is a common sign of poor health
ScratchingNoneScratches against tank or decorationsCould be a sign of an aquatic illness; consider deep cleaning
Surface BreathingNoneGasps for air at the surfaceIndicates poor water quality; consider improving aeration or filtration
Tank ConditionClear waterMurky waterA murky tank is harmful even if fish seem okay

Is My Betta Healthy?

It is typically easy to tell whether your betta fish is healthy by judging their activity level and overall appearance. A healthy Betta fish will be active and responsive to your movements. They often greet their owners upon returning from work, school, or other places.

Healthy betta fish are very colorful, with fully-developed fins that show no signs of tearing. Their bellies, gills, and scales are evenly colored and show no signs of fraying or unnatural discoloration.

Signs of A Healthy Betta

There are many signs of a healthy betta, which you can determine by observing them.

Most positive indicators of a healthy betta can be seen by their behavior. The appearance of a betta, including color, gills, fins, and scales, are also major indicators of a betta’s health. 

A healthy betta fish is active and visibly full of life. Everything from their fins to their gills is lively and vibrant.


The betta is one of the most active fish when their human companions are around. They will follow your finger around their tank, learn tricks, and spend a lot of their time outside their hideouts when the light is on. This eager fish loves feeding time and even jumps out of the water for its food.


Healthy betta fish are vibrantly colored, with many beautiful shades like blue, purple, red, and more. The color should be vibrant and cover most of their body, including their fins, from base to tip. 

Fin Movement 

A healthy betta has great fin movement while swimming. They will fully expand their fins and let them flow in the water as they move in a swaying motion. The fin movement is elegant and one of the reasons males attract females.

Good Appetite

A strong appetite is a sign of a healthy betta. Your betta fish should eat between two to four pellets at least once per day. Betta fish typically eat their food quickly before leaving. That is a good sign and means they are satisfied.

Natural Aging

Many betta fish go through natural fading in their old age, which causes slight discoloration. A betta that is losing its vibrance from natural fading will not lose its color. However, it may lose the initial vibrancy it once had.

healthy betta,unhealthy betta

Signs Of Unhealthy Betta

Looking for the signs of an unhealthy betta can assist you in determining whether you should intervene in your betta’s daily routine. Some of the most common signs of an unhealthy betta are a lack of appetite or inactivity.

Betta fish may also become discolored, lethargic, and standoffish when they develop health issues. 

The appearance and attitude of the betta is the most common sign of deteriorating or poor health. A betta fish in bad health will typically show physical signs, making it easy to confirm that your fish is not in a good place healthwise. 


Bettas are highly active fish who love to interact with their owners. If your betta is suddenly inactive or irresponsive to you, that is a clear sign that they are experiencing an issue. Sick bettas typically become inactive with their owners because they do not feel good enough to exert the additional energy to play. 


When a betta fish does not feel good, they might become lethargic. Your betta fish may stay in their cave and ignore you when you turn the lights on, which is one of the most common ways to signal your betta out of their hiding place. A lethargic betta may swim slowly in an unenthusiastic manner.

Lack of Appetite

A lack of appetite is one of the biggest indicators that your betta fish is unhealthy. If they are not participatory during feeding, there is an excess of food leftover after feeding, or they are actively refusing to eat. These are clear signs that they lack appetite.

Changing Color 

The unnatural changing of colors is a very clear sign something is desperately wrong with your betta fish. Some color changes are normal for the betta fish, especially in old age. However, unnatural discoloration such as stress stripes, spots, reddening of the belly, and yellowing are different examples of an unhealthy betta.

Stress Stripes

Stress stripes are a major indicator that your fish’s health could be deteriorating. The most common sign of stress is when your betta’s color begins to disappear, and stripes appear on your betta’s body. Many things can cause your betta fish to feel stressed. In addition to stress stripes, stressed fish may also dart quickly around the tank.

Torn Fins 

Torn fins mean your fish is likely infected with a disease called fin rot. Fin rot occurs when you keep your fish in a tank with poor water quality. Bacteria living in the tank eat at the tips of your betta’s tail, which is highly painful, and you cannot reverse it.


Scratching is a symptom of several aquatic illnesses. Your betta may scratch its scales along the side of the tank or your tank decorations. If you notice this, you should remove your fish and the decorations. Perform a deep clean and provide the proper treatment for your fish’s illness.

Surface Breathing

Unhealthy bettas who do not have enough aeration (or filtration) in their tank will go to the surface to get air. If your betta is gasping at the surface for air, it is a sign there is a lack of breathable air in the water.

Murky Tank

Your betta might seem fine, but a murky tank is a clear sign that their health is in major jeopardy. The symptoms may not be visible, but your betta fish is suffering the effects of a dirty tank by swimming in their bacteria.

Signs Of An Unhealthy Betta

How To Keep Your Betta Healthy

The most important part of keeping your betta healthy is being proactive in their health and safety. Maintaining proper tank conditions and taking preventative measures are key to keeping your betta fish healthy. 

If you want to keep your fish healthy, you must become actively involved in cleaning your tank, observing their daily food intake, and raising them as a member of your family.

Treating fish sick in a timely matter is important because it can be the difference in saving their life. Observing your betta each day for signs of good health is critical for treating sickness.

If you need proper guidance on taking care of your Betta fish, click here to read a comprehensive article on betta fish care! 

Water Quality

The first thing you should look for when your betta is sick is poor water quality. If you notice that the water quality in the tank is poor, then this is the clearest indicator that you should change it and make any necessary improvements.

When you test the water quality, make sure you’re looking at ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates as well as the pH and temperature!

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Use Filters

Using a filter circulates stagnant water. These filters keep your water clean and free of harmful bacteria that will form and cause damage to your fish. You should clean the filter frequently because of the amount of food residue and other items they collect.

Tetra Whisper IQ Power Filter 20 Gallons, 130 GPH, with Stay Clean Technology
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Be Proactive With Treatment

Be proactive with treatment, so you do not face devastating results. If you believe your fish is sick, find the appropriate treatment and begin immediately. It is also important that you treat your other fish and clean your tank. That way, the disease does not spread to other fish species in your tank (if applicable).

Observe Food Intake 

Unlike healthy betta fish, an unhealthy betta fish does not have a large appetite. They will eat slowly and may spit their food out. Observe food at the end of the day in addition to after eating.

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Entertain Your Fish

Betta fish require a lot of entertainment. A lack of entertainment can lead to boredom, which will eventually lead to stress. To entertain your betta, you can teach them water tricks, interact with them from outside of the tank by leading them with your finger, and give them interactive toys inside their tank.

Zoo Med Betta Exercise Mirror
  • Reduces boredom from captivity.


Here are some frequently asked questions that people have about healthy vs unhealthy bettas.

What Do Healthy Betta Fins Look Like?

A healthy betta swims with great fin movement. They will fully expand their fins, allowing them to float in the water as they sway. They should be complete and whole, with no damage on them.

How To Keep Betta Fins Healthy?

Make sure to keep the water in your fish tank super clean! Regular water changes will help keep it fresh and healthy. Testing the water often can help you catch any problems before bacteria start causing fin rot.

How Much Water Do Bettas Need To Be Healthy?

Your betta fish needs a tank with at least 5 gallons of water, ideally around 10. This will give your little buddy enough room to swim and stretch their fins!

What Do Healthy Betta Fish Eyes Look Like?

Your betta fish’s eyes should look bright and clear and not have any wounds, swelling, or bleeding. The eyes should fit nicely in their sockets and move around normally. That’s how you know your little buddy is healthy!

betta care facebook group


Healthy betta fish are colorful, lively, and entertaining. Since the betta is so interactive, the difference in the behavior of a healthy betta fish versus an unhealthy betta is typically very noticeable.

Prevention is key when it comes to keeping your fish healthy. That means you must clean your tank, use filters, maintain proper water conditions, and pay attention to the health of your fish.

Learn the differences between a healthy vs. unhealthy betta fish so you can tell when you have a reason to intervene. If you believe there might be an outbreak in your tank, immediately mitigate the problem before it can spread to other fish.

Ultimate Betta Fish Care Guide
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Hey! I'm Nicolas from Iguane Media !

Blogger and Owner of the betta care fish guide
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