How To Treat Dropsy In Betta Fish

Betta fish are beautiful aquatic pets, but they require a great deal of maintenance. They can live in harmony without many difficulties when treated properly. Unfortunately, sometimes undesired problems may occur unexpectedly. One of the most common afflictions in betta fish is a health condition known as dropsy. This can leave the owner in fear for the health of their betta fish.

Betta fish affected with dropsy can be cured. Dropsy is a common infection that can come about from dirty aquariums or extreme stress. The good news is that dropsy can be cured! Providing proper treatment for dropsy starts with a clean and stress-free aquarium. And with simple products found at your local pet store, dropsy doesn’t stand a chance. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of the disease and how to treat it step-by-step.


What is Dropsy? Definition and symptoms

Dropsy is a bacterial infection in betta fish. The bacteria, also known as Aeromonas, exists in many aquariums or tanks. This bacterium may cause fish to contract dropsy. It is a common infection in fish and can be easily treated if caught in its early stages.

The bacterium enters through the betta fish’s scales. As the infection spreads, it affects the kidneys and liver. When this happens, the betta fish begins to retain an excess of fluids in its body.

Due to the excess fluids in your betta fish’s body, you may notice behavioral changes. Your betta fish may not be active or eat much food if any at all. You might notice their refusal to eat by the excess food in their tank.

Other symptoms may include, large swollen bellies, a droop in the abdomen of the fish. Lesions may be visible, as well as abnormality in its scale. Your betta fish may develop bulging eyes and pale gills. Ulcers on the body may develop as well.

Many times, your betta fish’s gills will change color or turn a shade of white. As the droop becomes more prominent, its spine may curve unnaturally. This is due to the excess fluid pressing against its organs and skeletal frame.

If dropsy is not treated promptly, the excess fluids will continue to rearrange your betta fish’s internal organs. The result will be anemia and death.

It is essential to care for your betta fish upon noticing these symptoms before they become worse and lethal.

What Causes Dropsy In Betta Fish?

The infection is caused by a bacterium that exists in all aquariums, called Aeromonas. This bacterium exists in many aquariums and fish tanks. Some betta fish are more susceptible to contracting dropsy than others.

Unclean tanks and water are one of the primary causes of dropsy in betta fish. It is essential to keep a clean tank for your betta fish, as well as provide routine maintenance.

Another major factor that causes dropsy in betta fish is stress. Betta fish commonly experience stress due to poor water quality and/or drops in water temperature.

Another stressor that can cause dropsy is transportation stress. Since fish are unable to communicate their stress, they manifest their discomfort in several different ways.

Betta fish that are experiencing high levels of stress will often display some behavioral changes. They may become more lethargic and tend to dwell at the bottom of the tank. This is a sign that your betta fish may be stressed or ill.

Another commonly overlooked stress factor is the presence of other diseases and parasites living in the tank. They can affect your betta’s stress levels and cause them to become extremely ill, if not taken care of properly.

All of these factors may accumulate and lead to dropsy and/or other diseases and infections. Therefore, it is very important to ensure your betta lives in a stress-free environment and is comfortable in their dwelling.

Just like people, fish live healthier lives when stress levels are reduced. As a betta owner, it is your responsibility to care and tend to these matters.

How to Treat Dropsy in Betta Fish? A Step-By-Step guide

Dropsy must be noticed and treated promptly, as to avoid death. It is important to catch the infection in its early stages because it strengthens the likelihood of survival and recovery. Treating dropsy in your betta fish may not necessarily be an easy task; however, it is possible. 

  • Quarantine the affected fish: It is essential to quarantine the affected fish to another aquarium or tank, so as not to spread the infection to other fish that may be sharing the aquarium with them. First, set up your quarantine aquarium or tank. Then place your affected betta fish in a plastic bag with some of the water from its original tank. Let your betta fish in the bag float in the quarantine tank for approximately 20 minutes. This will allow your betta fish to acclimate to the new tank and reduce stress.
  • Add salt to the tank: Once the affected fish has been moved to another tank, the first step is to add 1 teaspoon of aquarium salt per gallon of water in the tank. Aquarium salt may be purchased at your local pet store or online. The salt in the freshwater will facilitate osmotic balance in your betta fish. As the water salinity becomes closer to your betta fish’s blood salinity, the excess water causing dropsy is slowly depleted. However, adding more salt than the recommended ratio will exacerbate your betta fish’s poor health. It is also important to keep the temporary aquarium or tank extremely clean. This helps promote health and recovery for your fish. This process reduces stress and is medicinal. It eliminates parasites known as ectoparasites, as well as ridding excess water accumulated in the fish. This can take up to ten days, and the fish must be monitored closely for any behavioral and physical changes.
  • Feed the fish high-quality food and keep the tank clean: You must change 25% of the water, twice a week and ensure the tank remains extremely clean. Make sure to feed your betta fresh, high-quality food. In many cases, if the betta fish is still strong enough to eat, fresh, high-quality foods may be enough to cure the infection and rid it of the symptoms after a few weeks.
  • Use antibiotics if required: However, if there have been no noticeable improvements within a few days, the next step is to provide your betta fish with antibiotics, such as amoxicillin and other medicines made specifically for fish. This can be administered via food or by placing it in the water.
  • Move recovered fish back to a clean tank: Once your betta fish has made a full recovery, it can now be placed back into its permanent aquarium. First, make sure the original tank has been thoroughly cleaned and has the proper water pH and chemicals. It is also important to clean the filter before placing your betta fish back into its original tank. To acclimate your betta fish back into its original tank, place the fish into a bag with the original tank’s water and set it in the tank for twenty minutes so that it can adjust and avoid unnecessary stress.

How to Prevent dropsy from occurring?

Since dropsy is caused by stress, unclean water, and changes in water temperature, it is important to keep proper maintenance of your betta fish’s tank. A healthy environment is a key to a healthy betta fish.

There are several things that an owner must do to maintain an environment that will prevent dropsy and other infections from affecting your betta fish. Cleaning the aquarium at least once a month will ensure that your betta fish remain healthy and free of infection and disease.

Even if the water appears to be clear and clean, the toxic chemicals and bacteria may still be present inside the tank. Therefore, it is important to frequently replace and condition the water. Removing visible debris and algae can help prevent a massive buildup when it comes time to thoroughly clean the tank.

Checking that the temperature and pH levels are suitable for your betta fish is one of the major factors in keeping the environment healthy for your betta. The ideal temperature for betta fish is 78-80 degrees Fahrenheit, and the ideal pH is 6.5-7.5.

One of the most overlooked aspects of caring for a betta fish is overfeeding. Overfeeding can lead to many health problems. They have the stomach capacity about the size of a human eyeball. Feeding them twice a day is fine, as well as varying their diet. Use fish flakes and bloodworms, mosquito larvae, and daphnia to supplement their nutritional requirements.

Use a small fishnet to remove excess food, debris, waste, and other materials that are not supposed to be in your fish’s aquarium. Another thing to consider for maintaining a clean environment in the tank is investing in nature’s tank cleaners. Shrimp, snails, and even some catfish such as corydoras and otocinclus are useful in keeping the tank clean.

Betta fish are truly a wonderful specimen of aquatic life. It is a treasure to own them and a duty to keep them safe and free of infection and disease. Dropsy can happen at any time and for a variety of reasons, however, with proper treatment and preemptive measures, it can be cured and/or avoided.

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