No one wants to think about the loss of their pet. It’s absolutely the most difficult part of bringing a betta into your home. All of your care has paid off, and you’ve enjoyed watching your fish live well into old age. But now you’re wondering what some of the signs are when a betta is starting to decline.
We’ve pulled together 12 common signs when an aging betta is reaching the end of his life. Keep in mind that these signs should be gradual over months, and an old betta won’t necessarily exhibit all of these symptoms.
Table of contents
- 12 Common Signs A Betta Is Dying Of Old Age
- Taking Care of Your Aging Betta
12 Common Signs A Betta Is Dying Of Old Age
1. Behavioral Changes
Bettas are known for their curiosity and interest in their humans, and especially their wiggle dance! When they grow older, the betta will stop a lot of these activities. Flaring will lessen, and they’ll become much less aggressive, particularly since they are also past their breeding years.
2. White Dot
This mysterious white dot will appear on your betta’s head and then gradually disappear, only to reappear again sometime later on another part of his head. No one really knows what it is. Perhaps it’s the betta’s version of an age spot. This is not to be confused with ich, which is a sprinkling of white spots.
3. Deteriorating Fins
An older betta will start to lose his beautiful fins and tail. They will become ragged and frayed, and the ends might begin to curl in.
4. Faded Colors
Your old betta might still be colorful, but those colors will be much more faded as compared to when he was young. In some cases, the color might even start to turn more of a brownish color.
This is one of the more common signs of an old betta. Young bettas are typically quite energetic and active and enjoy exploring their environment. You might find that the aging betta will spend more time on the bottom of the tank hanging around in the plants. They will also seem to sleep more than they used to.
6. No Bubble Nests
This sign doesn’t work if your betta doesn’t usually make bubble nests, but if your male does make bubble nests occasionally, this behavior will stop. An older betta will lose interest in breeding and just won’t build a bubble nest in the hopes of mating with a female anymore.
7. Decreased Appetite/Weight Loss
A loss in appetite is pretty normal for an older betta. Their metabolism slows down, so they don’t need as much food to maintain the kind of energy they required when young. This may or may not contribute to a skinnier betta. Some bettas might lose weight even if their appetite stays the same.
8. Losing Eyesight
You might notice that your betta’s eyesight has started to go. Many aging bettas will miss their food when going after it, and they will have difficulty seeing activity outside of their tanks. You might even notice a white film covering their eyes, which is cataracts, common in aging humans as well.
9. Losing Scales
You might notice the scales on the betta becoming more prominent, and he might start to lose them as well. This is fairly normal for an aging betta.
10. Hunched Back
This is another physical sign of an older betta. A kind of hump will appear gradually on their backs. It might just be a slight hump or a rather noticeable one.
11. Rapid Breathing
This is something that might be harder to detect as it will happen gradually. And unless you have a younger betta around in order to compare the breathing patterns, it might go unnoticed. An older betta might start breathing a little faster than normal.
12. Slower Reactions
Again, because of the lower metabolism (and it doesn’t help if they also have failing eyesight), older bettas will also start to swim slower. They might also take longer to react to situations or to reach their food.
Taking Care of Your Aging Betta
If your betta is indeed aging, there are some changes you can make that will help to make your betta more comfortable in his senior years.
1. Turn Up the Temperature
With slower movements as well as a slower metabolism, it will help your betta if you turn the heat up just a little. Set your heater for a temperature of around 81° F to 82° F. This will keep them warmer, especially at times when they are napping, and consequently, will make them less susceptible to illness.
2. Change the Food
This is only necessary if your betta has lost his eyesight and is having trouble finding his food. You can try wiggling the food near them to help attract their attention. However, if this doesn’t work, you can provide them with “wet” food, such as thawed brine shrimp and bloodworms. They will be able to find this food by scent.
3. Add Extra Plants
We’ve established that old bettas tend to take long naps and that they’ll spend more time on the bottom amongst the plants. So, be sure there are enough plants for your betta. It would also be very beneficial for your betta if you place a number of taller plants in your aquarium so your betta can take shelter closer to the surface. This can also allow your fish to grab a quick breath much easier.
4. Lower Water Level
You’ll want to keep the water high enough to continue to provide the appropriate amount of filtration but low enough that your betta won’t exhaust himself when catching a breath. As a rule of thumb, if your betta is resting about half of the time, you can keep the water level at about 8 inches but if your fish is napping most of the time, keep it at about 5 inches.
5. Consider Using Aquarium Salt
Be very careful with this one. Aquarium salt can work very well for fish that are sick as well as help prevent infections and illnesses. You can add 1 teaspoon for every 5 gallons of water if your betta is old. If your betta has an infection, you can add 1 tablespoon for every 5 gallons. You should dissolve the salt in another container of water, which can then be gently added to your tank.
6. More Frequent Water Changes
Because your older betta has a more compromised immune system, it’s a good idea to keep the nitrates, nitrites, and ammonia down to the lowest levels. You should keep the levels at about 5 ppm and no more than 10 ppm.
7. Talk to Your Vet About Medication
If your Betta does contract an infection or disease and you’re nervous about using aquarium salt, you can look at using medication. Check with your vet or do a ton of research before taking this step, as it should be considered a last resort.
Remember, if any of the above signs happen over the course of a few days or weeks, it could be that your betta is ill. All of the symptoms we’ve listed should typically occur over a year or several months. Just keep your betta’s water warm and clean, ensure he’s eating enough and that he isn’t struggling to get to the surface.
If your betta is old, you should commend yourself on taking such good care of your fish and that he is passing away from natural causes. Regardless of how you lose a pet, it’s heartbreaking, so make your betta as comfortable as possible in his last days and enjoy the time you have left.
Featured Image Credit; ivabalk, Pixabay