3 Signs You Should Euthanize A Betta Fish

Last Updated on 2023-10-26

The best and most humane way to euthanize a betta fish is by administering an anesthetic overdose, which must be done by a veterinarian to ensure the fish does not suffer. Knowing how and when to euthanize something you care for can be a difficult thing to do, but there are many ways to do so in a safe and humane way.

In this article, we cover some of the best ways you can euthanize a betta fish, as well as some methods to avoid it. Read on to find out more about how to euthanize a betta fish safely and humanely, along with some interesting and important things to know. 

Key Takeaways:

  • To minimize suffering, the most humane way to euthanize a betta fish is by administering an anesthetic overdose, preferably by a veterinarian.
  • Euthanasia should be considered when a betta fish develops conditions like Dropsy, Chronic Swim Bladder Disease, or experiences a diminished quality of life.
  • Methods for euthanizing a fish quickly include using clove oil, a mixture of clove oil and vodka, the ‘stun and stab’ method, removing the head, and hitting the fish.
  • Alternatives for humane euthanasia without clove oil include a Tricaine Methanesulfonate overdose, an overdose of Benzocaine Hydrochloride, a barbiturate injection, using baking soda, or submersion in iced, cold water.

When Should You Euthanize a Betta Fish?

Here are the biggest situations on when you should consider euthanizing your Betta.

DropsyDiscoloration, lethargy, severe internal damage.Consider as a last resort when visible suffering occurs.
Chronic Swim Bladder DiseaseFish not recovering, struggling with health.When treatment is ineffective and the fish’s quality of life is poor.
Diminished Quality of LifeInability to eat, regular pain, no quality of life.When quality of life is severely compromised.

If Your Fish Develops Dropsy

Betta fish suffering from dropsy might experience symptoms like discoloration and lethargy and eventually leading to internal damage. By the time it becomes visibly noticeable to the owner that the fish is suffering from dropsy, the damage may be too severe to treat, and euthanasia might be the best option to avoid prolonging the fish’s suffering.

If Your Fish Is Suffering From Chronic Swim Bladder Disease

Swim bladder disease is unfortunately common in betta fish. For many fish, it’s a temporary, treatable condition that the fish fully recovers from with no effects. However, other fish do not recover and can be left struggling with their health. For these fish, euthanasia might be the best and most humane thing you can do to prevent your fish from suffering any longer.

If Your Fish Is Experiencing A Diminished Quality of Life

No matter what the cause, whether it is from age or an illness, if a betta fish is suffering in terms of quality of life, it might be time to consider euthanasia to prevent the fish from suffering unnecessarily. A fish that can no longer eat or is in regular pain has no real quality of life, and it might be cruel to keep that fish alive any longer.

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How Do You Euthanize a Fish Quickly?

If you decide to euthanize your Betta fish, here are some quick ways to do it at home.

1. Using Clove Oil

One of the most well-known and highly recommended methods of euthanizing a fish, clove oil is a natural anesthetic. A fish exposed to high levels of clove oil will lose consciousness and eventually die as they stop breathing. It takes around thirty minutes for the oil to work, but the resulting death is as humane as it can be.

2. Using a Mixture of Clove Oil and Vodka

As well as using clove oil on its own, it can also be combined with vodka to euthanize a fish. Although it isn’t recommended that you euthanize your fish using alcohol, using clove oil as an anesthetic beforehand makes the method much more humane. This method is not always recommended, but it is a quick method if done correctly. 

3. The ‘Stun and Stab’ Method

One of the fastest methods of euthanasia is the ‘stun and stab’ method. This involves catching the fish and causing some sort of concussion, usually by stunning the fish with something heavy. The fish is then pithed, typically in the spinal cord, to ensure it passes quickly and with little pain.

4. Removing the Head

Similar to the ‘stun and stab’ method, removing the head of the fish is another very quick way to euthanize a fish. Once the head is removed, the most important step is to destroy the brain, as this is the best way to ensure the fish is completely dead. If this is done properly, this method can be a very humane method of euthanasia.

5. Hitting the Fish

Although this is not the most humane method of euthanasia, one of the quickest methods of euthanizing a fish is to deliver a hard hit to the fish. This is a difficult method to get right, as the wrong hit can result in a very painful death. However, there is no denying that if it is done right, this is a very quick method of euthanizing a fish.

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How Do You Humanely Kill a Betta Fish Without Clove Oil?

1. A Tricaine Methanesulfonate Overdose

Tricaine methanesulfonate (TMS) is the only FDA-approved substance for euthanizing fish. It is typically used as an anesthetic for many aquarium fish, and fish can be euthanized simply by doubling the amount of TMS usually given for anesthesia. It can be purchased online from pet stores, and you can also get it from your veterinarian.

2. An Overdose of Benzocaine Hydrochloride

Veterinarians often use another anesthetic, benzocaine hydrochloride, to humanely euthanize a betta. This anesthetic cannot be purchased online and must be accessed through the veterinarian. An overdose of this anesthetic can be fatal to fish, meaning it is a quick, safe, and humane method of euthanasia.

3. A Barbiturate Injection

An injection of barbiturates into the fish’s bloodstream is a safe and humane method of euthanizing a betta, but it is important that you are using a barbiturate that does not cause pain. Barbiturates send the fish into a deep sleep before it eventually passes. If done correctly, it should be a calm and painless way to euthanize your betta.

4. Using Baking Soda

One of the less well-known methods of euthanasia, baking soda, releases carbon dioxide, which acts as an anesthetic for fish. An overdose of baking soda added to the fish’s environment is a humane way to use anesthesia to euthanize a fish. It can also be a very quick method, as the fish can fall into unconsciousness.

5. Submersion in Iced, Cold Water

Iced, cold water has been shown to result in death very quickly; in fact, it works about twenty times as quickly as clove oil. Some people feel that it isn’t one of the most humane methods of euthanasia, yet a quick death is the best thing for a sick fish to prevent prolonged suffering and ensure they are comfortable and calm throughout.

Check out this video by Alyssa Nicole on how you can humanely euthanize a Betta fish at home.

How Not to Euthanize a Betta Fish

1. Submersion in Boiling Water

No fish, including bettas, should ever be euthanized using boiling water. Putting a fish into extremely hot water can be incredibly painful and causes a prolonged death. There is also a chance that the betta could survive and have to live with the effects of the attempt, which would be unfair and increase the suffering of the fish.

2. Suffocation From Water Removal

Removing a fish from the water and allowing it to suffocate might seem like the logical way to end its life, but it is definitely not the best way to euthanize your betta. It can be very slow and painful for a fish to die this way, as its organs are forced into failure before the fish finally dies. Ultimately, suffocation is an inhumane way to euthanize any fish.

3. Flushing Down the Toilet

This may be a common method, but it is actually a cruel and dangerous way to euthanize a fish of any kind. It can be very difficult for a fish to be killed this way as they are exposed to dangerous chemicals and extreme temperatures, as well as the pain that can be inflicted as a result of the movement of the water. 

4. Throwing the Fish

Throwing a fish should also never be considered a reliable method of euthanasia. Some people consider throwing their fish from a height or against something hard like a wall as a way to euthanize their fish, but there is a great chance it could go wrong, and your fish could end up in severe pain. Your fish could also survive and be left to suffer painfully.

5. Using Alcohol

Submersion in alcohol is often suggested as a method of euthanasia for betta fish, but it is actually an inhumane method and should not be attempted. Alcohol acts as a poison for fish, causing them to suffer slowly and unnecessarily. Alcohol should never be used alone to euthanize a fish but can be used more humanely alongside clove oil.

What Is the Most Humane Way to Euthanize a Betta Fish?

Considered by many to be the most humane way to euthanize a betta fish is through administering an overdose of a specifically suggested anesthetic. This is the current preferred method of euthanasia for many professionals, as it is widely considered to be the safest and most humane method, allowing your fish to pass comfortably. 

An overdose of this anesthetic can only be carried out by a veterinarian, as the anesthetics needed cannot be accessed by the public. Sometimes, an anesthetic is not enough when administered alone, so a second method must also be administered to make sure the fish does not suffer when the anesthetic does not work.


Can You Euthanize a Betta With Melafix?

Melafix is not typically recommended for euthanizing bettas, as it may not be strong enough to provide the desired effect on its own. Usually used to treat dirty or infected tanks, Melafix is dangerous to bettas when used in high quantities. Instead of euthanizing the fish, it may instead cause it to be harmed and suffer unnecessarily.

How Should You Dispose of a Euthanized Betta?

A euthanized betta should never be flushed down the toilet. Instead, you can either bury your fish or put it in the trash. If you choose to bury your fish, ensure it is buried deep enough that it cannot be found and dug up by scavengers like cats or foxes. Similarly, ensure if you opt for the trash, make sure it is covered well enough to protect your fish’s body.

How Long Do Bettas Live?

Bettas typically live anywhere between two and four years. As an owner, you might begin to see a decline in activity, changes to markings or coloring, and a lack of appetite as your betta ages. Healthy older bettas can still enjoy a good quality of life but may require closer attention as they reach the end of their life. 

Do Betta Fish Die or Get Ill Easily?

Betta fish are usually quite hardy fish and shouldn’t get ill easily. However, they require quite strict conditions in order to remain healthy and strong, including specific water temperatures and very particular foods. With steady, good living conditions, betta fish can remain healthy and live for up to four years.

Do Betta Fish Feel Pain?

It has long been known that fish experience pain, including bettas. Betta fish have the necessary anatomy to experience and recognize pain, as well as respond to it. For this reason, it’s vital that any euthanasia attempt must acknowledge that the fish is capable of feeling pain.


The most important thing to consider when deciding to euthanize a betta fish is how to do it in the most humane way possible. The main goal should be to reduce stress and make it painless and comfortable for the fish. For many, this means administering an overdose of a veterinarian-approved anesthetic, allowing your betta fish to pass peacefully and comfortably.

Here, we have looked at some of the methods you have to choose from to euthanize your betta fish safely and humanely, as well as some of the methods you should try to avoid. Whichever method you opt for, ensure it is the best option for both you and your betta to make sure suffering is kept to an absolute minimum.


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