Raising betta fish as household pets is anything but a pushover! They live quite short (only around three years on average, according to betta age chart studies) and demand lots of upkeep, too. How to tell if a betta fish is dying of old age or diseases has never ceased to be the talk of the town.

Our article will unknot this puzzle for you. Let’s dive in!

How to Tell If A Betta Fish Is Dying of Old Age? 8 Clear Signals

matured betta fish

What are some telltale signals? – Source: Wikipedia.

1. Obvious Changes in Behaviors

Bettas have always been a symbol of animal curiosity and interest in humans. Their cute wiggling dance is also one of their famous traits! The older they are, the less frequently they engage in such behaviors. No more flaring and no more aggressive moves; they will only float passively in your tank water.

2. Increased Sleeping Tendency

This prevalent indicator is closely related to the behavioral changes discussed above.

As mentioned, bettas are well-recognized for their hyper-activeness and unrelenting curiosity. Thus, once your beloved fish starts to spend more time at the tank’s bottom, slumbering all day or mingling with the plants, that might imply trouble!

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3. Dots in White Hues

A giant white dot will pop on its head, slowly fading before resurfacing in another spot (still on the head) a few days later.

No scientists have yet confirmed its actual nature. Still, from our guesses, it seems to be a betta’s equivalent of old-age marks. Take care not to mistake these dots with ich, which entails several scattering white specks instead of only one.

4. Deteriorating Fins and Drab Colors

Their gorgeous fins and tail will start to lose their stunning outlook. The tail ends curl further and further, growing ragged and torn over time.

How about colors? Their shades might still exude a vibrant hue – but compared to when these fish were younger, they are far less colorful. Worse, the fish bodies gradually turn into a dull, brownish dash under more severe circumstances.

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5. No More Bubble Nest

bubble nest

They no longer build bubble nests – Source: Wikipedia.

This signal might not be a reliable indicator if your betta has never created bubble nesting before, even during its peak era.

But if it has – and seems to cease doing so these days – we are afraid things do not turn out so good for your pet. Upon older age, bettas tend to lose all their interest in reproduction, thus no longer making bubble nests for breed purposes.

6. Weight Loss and Reduced Appetite

Appetite reduction is quite typical in elderly bettas – and for scientific reasons. As their metabolism turns more sluggish, their food requirements for energy retention are no longer the same as in their younger days.

That, however, is not necessarily the sole cause of slimmer bodies. Some fish might still lose weight even though their appetites stay unchanged.

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7. Loss of Vision and Scale Shedding

Vision struggles become more palpable, especially when they keep missing their food or have immense difficulties detecting movement outside the tanks.

On some severe occasions, you might observe a white layer of film drafting over their eyes – a frequent attribute in elder bettas – accompanied by visible scales that your fish start shedding a while later.

8. Crooked Backs

Similar to us humans, crooked backs are among the popular implications of old age in betta fish. Sometimes, a kind of hunch might take root on their backs, which could either be a small or extremely massive bump.

Since these bulges develop over time, you may find it hard to recognize them immediately – even more so if there are no other young bettas in your tank for an in-depth comparison.

Aside from crouching backs, respiratory issues might also ensue, leading to quicker breaths than usual.

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What To Do If Betta Fish Is Dying? How To Take Care Of It

betta fish making buble nest

Steps to take care of them – Source: Wikipedia.

1. Raise The Tank Temperature

Due to its slow movements and sluggish metabolism, your betta might benefit from a little increase in temperature, which helps facilitate the necessary heat for its functions.

We suggest you set your heater at between 81 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit – sufficient to keep the fish warm during slumbers and render it less vulnerable to diseases.

2. Change Its Foods

This step is critical after your fish’s vision loss, which often leads to food-locating troubles.

First, you may try to jiggle the food within their vicinity to grab their attention. However, if such tactics fail to work, “wet” food such as frozen prawns and blood worms would be terrific. Your fish may locate these snacks via smell.

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3. Insert More Plants Into The Tank

driftwood in fish tank

Insert more plants – Source: Flickr.

On another note, most old bettas prefer to relish hour-long naps amid the aquarium’s plants.

Thus, ensure your precious betta enjoys sufficient plant environments. A few tall herbs here and there also provide ample room for your fish to seek refuge and take a quick breath.

4. Reduce The Water Level

The water level should be a delicate balance between high and low – high for filtering and low for breathing support.

Assess your betta’s resting schedule to decide upon the optimal number. If it sleeps all day, a 5-inch level is great. But for fishes that lie around only 50% of their awake time, keep the liquid level at 8 inches.

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5. Use Aquarium Salt and Change Water Frequently

On the other hand, aquarium salt speeds up recovery while keeping deadly diseases and infections at bay. Add one teaspoon every five gallons of water, and do not forget to dissolve the salt in a separate tub of water beforehand.

It would be ideal if you could keep water ammonia and nitrates at the lowest degree – since elder bettas suffer from a more impaired immune system compared to their healthier companions. Experts recommend level maintenance between around five ppm and ten ppm.

6. Discuss Medical Treatment With A Vet

Using aquarium salt might be a bit risky for bettas with clear signals of diseases. It is time to turn to medical applications.

They are the less desirable approach (which explains their lowest rank on our list). Hence, remember to consult an experienced veterinarian – or at least do some extensive research by yourself – before attempting such plans.


This article has detailed all indicators on how to tell if a betta fish is dying of old age. We also lend useful tips for upkeep, ensuring you can extend their lifespans while it is still not too late!

In the unfortunate case of no possible solution, another inquiry arises: do betta fish suffer when they die? Yes; like humans, they also have neurons for pain reception. You may turn to euthanasia processes to soften those burns, gifting them a more peaceful death.

Alex is a pet freelance writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience. He attended Colorado State University, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, which was where he first got some experience in animal nutrition. After graduating from University, Alex began sharing his knowledge as a freelance writer specializing in pets.

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