How to Care for Old Betta Fish: A Complete Guide

Betta fish are popular aquarium pets known for their vibrant colors and unique personalities. 

Bettas (Siamese fighting fish) become seniors quite quickly, unfortunately. Their life span is up to 5 years in captivity, and even shorter in the wild. 

While these fish are generally hardy and easy to care for, they do have specific needs that must be met to ensure their health and longevity. 

In this guide, we will provide you with comprehensive information on how to care for your aging betta fish. We will cover topics such as water quality, nutrition, tank setup, common health issues, and more.

let’s dive in 🙂

How to tell how old betta fish is: signs of an old betta fish

Betta fish can be considered old when they start showing signs of:

  • a decrease in activity level,
  • loss of appetite,
  • slower movement,
  • and color fading.

These symptoms, if there are no underline medical issues, occur gradually over 3-8 months. 

Betta fish’s age when purchased can also affect their lifespan. Bettas purchased from pet shops are typically around one year old already, so their lifespan may be shorter than a younger betta. 

Providing a clean and appropriate environment, a balanced diet, and regular veterinary check-ups can help prolong a betta fish’s lifespan.

What does an old betta fish look like

Faded Colors 

Betta fish are known for their vibrant and diverse colors, but as they age, their colors may begin to fade and look less vibrant. This is a natural part of the aging process and is caused by the gradual loss of pigments in their scales. While there is no cure for this, a balanced diet and clean, well-maintained water can slow down the process.

White Spots

White spots may appear and disappear more frequently on different parts of an old betta’s head. This is usually harmless, but it’s best to check the water parameters to ensure that this is not a sign of a more serious problem.

Ragged Fins

As bettas age, their fins and tail may become ragged and frayed, and the ends might begin to curl in.

Reduced Activity

They may spend more time resting on the bottom of the tank, swim less actively, and show less enthusiasm for food. This reduction in activity is a normal part of aging and does not necessarily indicate any health problems.

Stops Making Bubble Nests

Bubble nests are a sign of good health and breeding readiness in male Betta fish. However, as they age, they may stop making bubble nests altogether. This is a natural part of aging and does not necessarily indicate any health problems.

Changes in Size and Shape

Shrinkage: An old betta may shrink in size, especially as it loses muscle mass.

Indentation 

A betta’s head and body should taper gradually from head to tail, with no indentation or difference between them. As bettas age, they may develop an indentation where their head and body meet.

Common health issues in old betta fish

Swollen Stomach

A swollen stomach in Betta fish can be a sign of constipation, fungal or bacterial infections, or a more serious condition. If left untreated, this can be fatal. 

To treat constipation, you can try feeding your Betta fish a boiled, deshelled pea. However, if you suspect a bacterial or fungal infection, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian.

Hemorrhagic

Hemorrhagic in betta fish is a serious respiratory disease that affects the kidneys and can lead to death if not treated. 

The disease is characterized by a: 

  • swollen belly or abdomen due to the accumulation of internal fluid,outward-sticking
  • white scales, and sunken eyes. 

Monitor their breathing as rapid breathing is a sign that they may be suffering from a respiratory illness, such as Hemorrhagic.

Treatments:

To treat Hemorrhagic in betta fish, it is recommended to perform frequent water changes and keep the water clean and well-aerated. 

Medications such as antibiotics and anti-fungal treatments can also be effective in treating Hemorrhagic 

Isolate the fish and begin treatment as soon as possible. Adjusting the temperature to a higher range: 81-82 degrees Fahrenheit can help to reduce the chance of illness in older betta fish.

As with any illness, it is important to monitor the betta fish closely and consult a veterinarian or aquatic specialist if necessary.

Columnaris

Columnaris is a fatal bacterial illness that can cause cottony growth on the mouth, scales, and fins, ulcers, lesions, and gill discoloration. 

It is highly contagious and can be deadly if left untreated this disease can be treated with antibiotics, but quick identification and treatment are crucial.

Betta fish are prone to bacterial infections, which can be caused by stress, poor water quality, and injuries. 

Symptoms of bacterial infections include: 

  • lethargy, 
  • loss of appetite, 
  • white spots on the body
  • Redness, 
  • inflammation, 
  • lesions on the body of the fish
  • Difficulty breathing [3]

Treatments:

Isolate the sick fish in a separate quarantine tank.

Check water conditions, since poor water quality can contribute to the spread of Columnaris 

Select one or more treatments for the disease. Several products are commercially available, and most hobbyists and veterinarians suggest antibiotics like Nitrofurazone and Kanamycin.

For mild infections, you can use aquarium salt to soak the fish for 15-20 minutes a day for 4-5 days

Furan-2 and kanamycin are antibiotics that can be used to treat Columnaris.

Medicated food containing oxytetracycline is also an effective treatment for internal infections.

It’s important to monitor your old betta fish closely for any signs of illness and to take immediate action if you suspect Columnaris or any other disease.

Velvet

Velvet is a parasitic disease that causes rusty skin and scaly head, including the gills and belly, and black spots or marks all over the skin. 

The fish may also experience a loss of color. To prevent this disease, you should ensure that your Betta fish’s living conditions are stress-free and of high quality.

Fungal Infections

Fungal infections can also occur in betta fish due to poor water quality and stress.

Symptoms of fungal infections include: 

  • white or gray patches on the body, 
  • frayed fins, 
  • lethargy

Treatment: Treatment for fungal infections often includes antifungal medication, but it’s important to consult with a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Fin and Tail Rot

In old bettas, fin and tail rot may be one of the few symptoms of their age, including fading colors, lethargy, and cessation of bubble nest building.

The most common reason for fin rot is stress due to poor water conditions.

Symptoms:

  • Uneven, ragged, and stringy fin tips that are pale, 
  • yellowing, or dark brown in appearance. 
  • Mucus may cover the infected area.
  • The fin rot may have spread past the fins and onto the body of the betta. The body may start to become discolored and show signs of redness or bleeding. 

Treatments:

For mild cases, water changes and a tropical tank temperature are enough.

In more severe cases, antibiotics may be necessary to treat the infection.

If the infection has spread past the fins and onto the body of the betta, aquarium salt may be used to help prevent secondary infections.

Dropsy

Dropsy is usually fatal in advanced stages, (extreme bloating), and prevention is key –  aquarium maintenance and water quality, good nutrition, and prompt treatment of any illnesses.

The most common symptom of dropsy is bloating or swelling in the fish’s body, which can appear either generally throughout the body or localized around certain organs such as the eyes or gills.

Other associated signs include: 

  • loss of appetite, 
  • lethargy, 
  • discoloration, 
  • clamped fins, 
  • protruding scales, 
  • pale gills, 
  • pale,
  •  stringy feces, 
  • ulcers along the lateral line, 
  • curved spine, 
  • reddening of the fins or skin

Treatment:

Is usually done in a hospital or quarantine tank with pristine water. 

It may involve antibiotics, especially for bacterial infections, and Epsom salt baths, which can help reduce swelling. 

Fasting the fish for a few days and then feeding them small, easily digestible meals may also be beneficial. 

Pop Eye

Pop Eye, also known as exophthalmia occurs when there is a buildup of fluid or gas behind the eye, which causes the eye to protrude or become swollen.

Symptoms of Pop Eye in betta fish include: 

  • white ring around the eye, 
  • swollen or bulging eyes, 
  • cloudy or opaque appearance of the affected eye.
  • lethargy, 
  • loss of appetite, 
  • avoiding other fish

Treatment 

If the cause of the Pop Eye is an infection, antibiotics may be prescribed by a veterinarian 

If the Pop Eye is caused by poor water quality, changing the water regularly and adding Epsom salt to the tank may help. 

In more severe cases, surgery may be required to remove the fluid or gas buildup behind the eye 

Anchor Worms

Symptoms of Anchor Worms in Betta Fish:

  • Betta fish may rub or scratch their bodies against solid objects in the aquarium
  • You may see Anchor Worms on your betta fish. They can be white, green or reddish in color and look like a piece of string. Sometimes they’ll be split in two at the end 
  • ulcers, 
  • sores, 
  • inflammation, 
  • redness 
  • lethargy 
  • difficulty breathing 

Treatments for Anchor Worms in Betta Fish:

You should isolate the fish and inspect it carefully for visible worms.

Use tweezers to remove visible worms from the fish’s body, be careful not to leave any part of the worm behind.

Treat the infected betta fish with medication containing Praziquantel or Dimilin to kill any remaining Anchor Worms.

Clean and disinfect the aquarium and all equipment to prevent further infestation..

Hole in the Head

Hole in the Head disease, also known as hexamitiasis is a disease that causes the development of deep, pitting lesions, usually on the head of the fish. 

These lesions may be pale in color and can provide a pathway for other parasitic, bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. 

Other symptoms of Hole in the Head disease include 

  • weight loss, 
  • lethargy, 
  • lack of appetite

Treatment

To treat Hole in the Head disease, it is important to first address any underlying causes of stress and improve the fish’s living conditions. 

Antibiotics and anti-parasitic medications may be prescribed by a veterinarian.

Swim Bladder Disorder

Swim Bladder Disorder (SBD) is not a disease itself, but rather a symptom of an underlying issue. 

Overfeeding is a common cause of SBD in bettas but can also be a secondary symptom of other diseases.

The most common symptom of SBD in bettas is the inability to maintain proper buoyancy, which can cause the fish to swim on its side or float higher or lower than usual in the tank.

A bloated belly is also often present in affected bettas.

Treatment:

To treat SBD in bettas adjust the fish’s diet to prevent overfeeding and constipation, improve water quality and tank conditions, and treat any underlying illnesses or infections. 

Fast the fish for a few days, provide a high-fiber diet and add Epsom salt to the water.

Consult with a veterinarian or experienced fish keeper for proper diagnosis and treatment of SBD in bettas.

Old betta fish behavior

Reduced Activity

 An aging betta may become less active and swim more slowly or spend more time resting. This is normal and should not be a cause for concern.

Missed Food 

Older bettas can lose their vision and may have difficulty finding and eating food. You can help by providing them with frozen or live food that is easier to locate.

Old betta fish nutrition

Provide a balanced diet: Providing the best nutritional value focuses on a betta’s need of protein, fat, fiber, phosphorus, carbohydrates, calcium, and vitamins (A, D3, E, K, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, C, H, M). Make sure your betta food is natural and contains protein as the first ingredient. Do not purchase or feed flakes made for goldfish or other tropical fish.

Offer live food: Many bettas love eating live food such as bloodworms, daphnia or shrimp. They can and will eat cherry shrimp and will attack even smaller Amano shrimp. If you are raising baby bettas, you might consider preparing infusoria for them, because this helps them grow faster and healthier.

Specialized foods: Betta fish pellets are a popular form of betta fish food that you’ll find in all aquarium supplies stores. It is recommended to feed small amounts of food throughout the day instead of a large meal once a day. Also, some commercial foods can be formulated for specific needs like color enhancement, for example. However, it is important to not rely solely on commercial food as a source of nutrition.

Each betta fish is different, and their nutritional needs may vary. If in doubt, consult with a veterinarian or an experienced aquarist for further advice.

Tank cleaning

Cleaning an old betta fish tank is an essential part of betta fish care. Here are some steps to follow to clean an old betta fish tank

  1. Check ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels in your tank water to be sure your fish are living in a healthy environment. 

These fish should have at least 2.5 gallons of water, but 5 gallons is ideal.

  1. Prepare your supplies: You will need fresh water (allowed to sit out in open air for 24-48 hours), a bottle brush, a bowl to hold the accessories, a bowl to hold your betta (covered with a breathable material), a fish net or strainer (optional), and room-temperature water.
  1. Empty the tank: Remove any decor that is in the tank and set it aside on top of the gravel in a sieve. Drain the remaining water out of the tank through a sieve into the sink to prevent any gravel from falling down the drain.
  1. Clean the decorations and gravel: Clean the decorations and gravel by rinsing them under warm water. You can use a bottle brush to scrub them to remove any dirt or debris. Do not use soap or detergent as they can seriously harm or even kill your betta fish. Even small amounts of soap or detergent can affect your betta fish and interfere with gill functions, leaving your fish to drown.
  1. Clean and scrub the tank: Scrub the tank with warm water and a clean sponge or cloth. Do not use soap or detergent as they can be harmful to your betta fish. Rinse the tank with clean water and drain it with a bucket.
  1. Refill the tank with water: Fill the tank with old and new water. You can use a siphon hose to slowly fill the tank with water. Let the tank sit for a few minutes to let the water temperature equalize. Then, put the decorations and gravel back in the tank.
  1. Put your betta fish back in the tank: Once the tank is clean and filled with water, put your betta fish back in the tank. Be sure to acclimate your betta fish back into the tank by letting it adjust to the new water temperature slowly.

Tank adjustment for old betta fish

Lower the Water Level

This will make it easier for the fish to swim and breathe, and reduce the risk of injury from the hook. The water level should be low enough so the fish doesn’t exert himself to breathe but still high enough for adequate filtration.

Bettas are labyrinth fish and breathe oxygen from the surface.

Keep the lid on your aquarium and leave space between the water and the top of the betta’s tank so they can jump. 

Provide Hiding Places

Bettas love places to hide so they can feel safe, especially when sleeping. Hiding places mimic their natural habitat, which helps reduce stress and promote overall well-being. Consider adding ornaments and plants to the tank to create hiding places for your fish.

Change the Water Frequently

Maintaining clean water is crucial for the health and well-being of your betta fish, especially if they have a hook. Cycle the tank water before adding your fish and use a quality water conditioner. About 25 percent of the water in the tank should be renewed weekly, but never do a 100 percent water change as this can stress the fish.

In addition, you can use freshwater salt more often and add medication if necessary. Be sure to follow instructions carefully and consult with a veterinarian if your fish’s condition does not improve.

Tank temperature

Older betta fish may be more sensitive to changes in water temperature and may require a more stable environment. 

Thus, it is recommended to maintain the water temperature within the ideal range of 74°F to 82°F, with 78°F being the optimal temperature.

Use a heater to maintain a stable temperature range, especially if the room temperature is cooler than the ideal range for betta fish. 

Don’t place the tank near a window that gets a lot of sun or a heat/air-conditioning vent, as this could alter the water temperature.

Monitor the temperature regularly using a thermometer to ensure that it remains within the ideal range.

Bonus 

What to do when an old betta fish is lying vertically 

Reasons for old betta fish vertical lying:

One possible reason is an underlying ailment like swim bladder disease, constipation, or infections.

If an old betta fish is always in a vertical position and looks a little curved, it could be a swim bladder problem or constipation 

In some cases, bettas may also swim vertically due to personality traits

How to encourage your old betta fish to move more

  1. Lower the water level in the tank so that your betta doesn’t have to exert himself to breathe but still has adequate filtration.
  1. Make sure the water temperature and pH levels in the tank are suitable for your betta fish.
  1. Provide plenty of hiding places and decorations in the tank to create a stimulating environment for your betta fish.
  1. Offer your betta fish a variety of foods, including live or frozen foods, to stimulate its appetite and encourage movement.
  1. Engage in interactive play with your betta fish, place a mirror near the tank to encourage movement.

Remember, while it is natural for older betta fish to be less active, sudden changes in behavior could indicate an underlying health issue. If your betta fish is showing signs of illness or distress, consult with a veterinarian or aquatic specialist.

Why is betta fish developing white spots on its fins as it ages

One possibility is that the white spots are simply a benign sign of aging. As bettas get older, they may develop a white dot on their face that comes and goes, and this may also start to appear on other parts of their body, including their fins. 

In this case, the white spots are likely not a cause for concern, although it’s always a good idea to check the water parameters to ensure that there are no underlying health issues.

Another possibility is that the white spots on the fins are a sign of a fungal infection. All ornamental fish, including bettas, are susceptible to fungal infections, which can cause changes in color as well as other symptoms like frayed fins or a lack of appetite. 

If you suspect that your betta may have a fungal infection, it’s important to take steps to treat it, such as adding medication to the water and ensuring that the water quality is optimal.

It’s also possible that the white spots on the fins could be a sign of a parasitic disease like ich, which causes white dots or spots on various parts of the fish’s body. 

In this case, it’s important to treat the fish with medication and take steps to prevent the spread of the disease to other fish in the tank.

If you notice that your old betta fish has white spots on its fins, it’s important to monitor its behavior and other symptoms to determine whether it could be a sign of an underlying health issue like a fungal infection or a parasitic disease. 

If you’re unsure what could be causing the white spots, it’s always a good idea to consult with a veterinarian or experienced fish keeper for guidance.