How To Treat Dropsy In Betta Fish (Complete Guide)

Interested to know how to treat dropsy in betta fish?

If you catch dropsy early enough, administer the right treatment and take care of your fish, then there’s a good possibility it will survive. And this article will show you the exact steps you need to take.

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What Is Dropsy?

If you’ve heard of dropsy before, then you may have been told that it’s a disease. This simply isn’t true. In fact, dropsy is actually the symptoms of underlying poor health, most often caused by gram-negative bacteria.

It’s incredibly rare for dropsy to happen in a healthy fish, instead, it’s most likely to happen to fish with weakened immune systems. If you want to know exactly what dropsy is, it’s similar to edema in humans. It’s when soft tissue fills up with fluid that the body can’t remove. This is what causes bloating.

Betta Dropsy Symptoms

One of the problems with dropsy is the fact that the early symptoms can be caused by a whole range of problems. But if you don’t catch dropsy early enough the risk of fatality increases dramatically. Here are are a list of common betta dropsy symptoms you may find.

Early Symptoms

Earlier symptoms of dropsy in bettas are:

  • You may notice that your betta has stopped eating. However, there can be a whole myriad of reasons for this, so take caution before treating your betta for dropsy straight away.
  • You may also notice if your betta avoids other fish.
  • A betta with dropsy often finds one spot in the tank and hides there.

If you notice all of these symptoms in your betta it’s often only 2-3 days before their belly starts distending. At which point it is a lot harder to treat dropsy effectively.

But remember these symptoms can also be caused by stress. So you should take some time to consider whether it’s a good idea to treat your betta for dropsy.

Because if your betta is suffering from stress, unneeded treatment for dropsy will make matters worse, and could drastically affect their immune system.

The 3 Most Noticeable Symptoms Of Dropsy

dropsy in fish
Pinecone scales & bloating

As well as the early symptoms there are a lot of other symptoms that you need to watch out for. These are 3 of the most common and noticeable symptoms of dropsy. However, it’s important not to mistake a swollen or distended belly as dropsy when it could be constipation.

  • The BIGGEST indicator that your fish is suffering from dropsy is “pinecone scales”. If all of their scales are sticking out (similar to a pinecone) then it’s extremely probable that dropsy is the cause. The only problem is, when dropsy is diagnosed this late, the chance of your betta surviving are very slim.
  • Another BIG indicator that your betta has dropsy is a distended, swollen and bloated stomach.
  • Sometimes a fish with dropsy will have a curved spine that looks extremely unnatural. This is caused by the swelling of the organs which causes pressure, bending your fishes spine. However, swelling of the spine should be sideways, not vertical which is a symptom of tuberculosis.

Other Symptoms May Include:

  • Gills that have lost their color and become pale.
  • Fins clamped in (often because the pain and swelling make them hard to move).
  • Swimming at the top of the tank, and a reluctance to sink to the bottom.
  • Bulging eyes and a red/bulging anus which is caused by fluid retention in the skin.

Your betta may not have all of these symptoms at once, or may never get some of them. But as time goes on you should notice more and more of these symptoms in your fish, ESPECIALLY the main 3.

If you notice the main 3 together, you should start treating your fish for dropsy ASAP.

Dropsy Or Constipation?

Before moving on to dropsy treatment it’s important not to confuse dropsy with constipation. If you treat your betta for dropsy when they’re suffering from constipation then you could severely stress them out. The best way to discern dropsy from constipation is to notice whether your fish is passing stools or not. If they’re not, then it’s most likely constipation.

Also, you may be able to know if it’s constipation depending on how much your fish has been fed. You should only be feeding your betta a portion of high-quality food the size of their eyeball twice a day. If you’re doing anything more than this then it may just be constipation.

(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.)

Can Fish Recover From Dropsy?

Before you learn how to treat dropsy in betta fish, it’s important to know whether your fish is going to survive dropsy. And it really depends.

If you catch dropsy early enough then there is a good possibility your fish can survive. However, once you start seeing the 3 main symptoms then, unfortunately, survival rates are quite slim. Because at this point irreversible damage has been done to your bettas internal organs.

Some experts recommend euthanizing your fish immediately when it has the main 3 signs of dropsy. Not just for the fish, but because of the risk of it spreading to other fish. If you think your betta has a fighting chance though, at the very least you should move them to a quarantine tank.

betta swimming

How To Treat Dropsy In Betta Fish

If you’ve caught dropsy early enough in your fish, or you think your bettas will to survive is strong then keep reading and you’ll find out how to treat dropsy in betta fish!

  1. The first thing you’re going to need to do before anything else is set up a quarantine tank (a 5-gallon tank is ideal). Fill your quarantine tank with conditioned water and make sure that it has nothing else living in it. You should also add places for your betta to hide to help reduce stress. Make sure that you add a heater to keep the tank warm enough, and a bubbler or airstone to keep the water oxygenated.
  2. When you’ve completed the first step you should add some aquarium salt to your quarantine tank. For best use, the instructions will come with the aquarium salts.
  3. Once you’ve set up your quarantine tank, acclimatize your betta by placing him in a bag with some of the water from your main tank. Once you’ve done this float the bag in the quarantine tank for 20 minutes, before releasing your betta into it.
  4. Now that your betta is in the quarantine tank, you should perform a 25% water change in your main tank to lessen the risk of other fish catching dropsy.
  5. If there aren’t any fish in your tank you should clean your filter (in the tank) and then perform a 75% water change. Scrub everything in the tank with hot water, and if there are any live plants clean them with warm water (check out this complete guide on how to clean your betta tank).
  6. Now back to your betta. Once your betta is in the tank you should start using a strong antibiotic like amoxicillin to treat them. When using amoxicillin, make sure you stick to the manufacturer’s instructions which will come with the antibiotics.
  7. And lastly, remember that when you’re adding antibiotics and aquarium salts to your quarantine tank, you need to change the water daily. Otherwise, you risk overdosing your fish as well as starving them of oxygen.


Normally treatment like this will last for 10 days. You’ll need to monitor your fish closely to see if they’re getting better or worse. And most importantly stick to the manufacturer’s instructions precisely. Even if you think your betta is well again you should still continue treatment. If you stop the treatment early the bacteria could come back stronger and more resistant to antibiotics.

Methylene Blue Dip/Bath For Bettas

Another treatment you may consider is a methylene blue bath. Methylene blue can cure dropsy as it’s great at fighting bacterial infections, as well as a whole host of other natural illnesses. If you wanted to treat your betta with a methylene blue dip then below you’ll find the most common method. However, remember, that it’s important to ALWAYS follow the instructions that come with the bottle.

  1. You should find a container that you can house your betta in. You want to choose something that is non-metallic.
  2. Once you’ve done this, you should add aquarium water from the original tank so you don’t shock your betta, causing even more stress.
  3. Afterward, add the recommended amount of methylene blue to the water. As a rule of thumb, you should add 5 teaspoons of methylene blue for every 3 gallons of water. However, this can change depending on the concentration of the methylene blue you are using.
  4. Once you’ve done this, you can dip your fish in the bath. You should never leave it longer than 10 seconds when using a methylene blue bath.


Remember that you should avoid adding methylene blue to your main tank. If you add it, there’s a chance that you’re going to ruin your filter and make it unusable. As well as this, it’s not very good for the plant life in your tank and it can leave a stain on things.

blue betta

What Causes Dropsy In Betta Fish

Aeromonas bacteria is the most common cause of dropsy. It is found in most fish including healthy ones but it’s only when a bettas immune system becomes weakened or compromised that it can result in dropsy. The most likely cause of this happening is stress. Some common things to watch out for to prevent dropsy occurring are:

  • Poor water quality – This is the number one thing to watch out for if you’re worried about your betta getting dropsy. And most of the time it can be avoided with a filtered tank that is getting frequent water changes. (Here are the ideal water conditions for a betta.)
  • Poor nutrition – One of the second biggest causes of stress is poor nutrition. If your betta isn’t getting the right food then it’s going to suffer, get stressed and have a weakened immune system.
  • Dropsy is also common in fish that have been recently added to a tank or transported. Normally sedatives are used to help keep transported fish calm, but in a new environment with new water parameters, a lot of stress can be caused to the fish.
  • If your betta is suffering from another illness or infection then they are also more susceptible to dropsy.

Also, in most cases, occasional stress that is short term will not cause dropsy to occur. It happens in fish that have been in a stressful environment for a long period of time. Long enough for their immune system to become weak. That’s why it’s so important to take care of your betta!

Even if your tank is a stress-free environment, dropsy can still occur in older fish. Just like with humans the older they get, the weaker their immune system will become.

How To Prevent Dropsy In Bettas

Because dropsy is one of the more difficult illnesses to cure, it’s always better to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Luckily, dropsy prevention is fairly straightforward and easy. And if you’re taking care of your fish tank the chances of dropsy occurring in healthy fish is quite low. Remember, the aim of the game is to keep your betta as stress-free as possible. Here are some ways you can do that.

  • You should keep your tank clean. This includes regular water changes, as well as scrubbing the filter and using a gravel vacuum to remove feces and old food from the bottom of the tank.
  • Make sure you aren’t overcrowding your tank with fish. The more fish there are the higher the bioload will be. The bioload is the amount of waste caused by fish. A high bioload can increase the risk of bacteria and fungus in the tank. As well as increasing your bettas stress level.
  • If you have a betta you should only be feeding them twice a day. A bettas stomach is the same size as their eyeball, so overfeeding them is incredibly easy. Not only can overfeeding result in leftover food rotting in the tank, but it can also cause your betta to swell and bloat.
  • And lastly, make sure your betta is getting a varied diet. Bettas are omnivorous fish, so as well as feeding them fish flakes or pellets you should also be giving them meat. Bloodworms, daphnia and mosquito larvae are all great choices.

In Conclusion

I hope you’ve learned everything you need to know on how to treat dropsy in bettas, as well as tips for preventing dropsy and what causes it in the first place.

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

Other common fish diseases:

  • How To Treat Fin Rot – Fin rot is a disease that affects a lot of bettas. If left for too long it can turn into body rot which is often fatal.
  • How To Treat Ich – If your betta has ich the good news is it’s a lot more treatable than dropsy. However, if left unchecked it can become fatal.
  • Treating Velvet – Velvet leaves your betta covered in a gold like dust. The dust is actually mucus produced by your fish to try and remove the disease. If velvet gets into your bettas lungs it can become deadly fast.
  • Cloudy Eye – If your betta has cloudy eye it can lose it’s vision and have it’s immune system weakened. Find out how to treat it!
  • Treating Popeye In Bettas – Popeye looks horrible and has horrible side effects if not treated early. Don’t leave it too long to find out what they are.

If you liked this article, make sure you check out the rest of the website! And if you have any more questions you can ask them in the Q&A Section!


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2 thoughts on “How To Treat Dropsy In Betta Fish (Complete Guide)”

  1. My Betta is hybrid, it’s elephant eared and at the same time comb tail . He is very aggressive and active, recently past 2 days I’ve noticed slightly swelling in the belly near Gill flap . He’s still active and aggressive but I’m worried. He is still attacking on bloodworms and eating then like before. No change in behavior or color yet. Tell me what to do

    • Hi Ranjan,

      If you’re feeding your betta bloodworms all the time it could be the reason for the swelling. Bloodworms should only be used as a treat and not given to your betta every day. (Check out this article for more information about bloodworms.)

      If your betta still seems active then it might not be dropsy, it could be a sign that he’s too full, or that he’s constipated or is starting to get swim bladder disease.

      Also, how often are you feeding your betta and how much?

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