Q:
What happens when a betta dies naturally? Is it very quick- Mr. Betta is building a bubble nest, eating and flaring and then, poof, lights out? Or do they gradually wither away? I had a betta die very suddenly on me and he was happy and healthy. I fed him his evening snack and within ten minutes, he was dead. :(

Question submitted by Maryliz, Roseville -  California

A: OK Maryliz, one bit of advice: Don't quit your day job and go into the catering business! LOL. I guess your snack was a bit heavy to digest he? ;). (remind me to flake on you if you ever invite me to dinner LOL).

But seriously now, bettas usually (just like people) will become sick and weaken and die gradually. It may be fast (3 days) or slow (3 months) but it usually can be noticed and I personally have become really good at taking one look at a fish and knowing if its time has come or not. 

Having said that, there has been reports of fish acting normal one day and found dead the next, 'out of the blue'. Breeders speculate whether bettas can have heart attacks. Since they have hearts, a heart failure cannot be ruled out. But I personally believe that a heart failure is a very slim possibility and only accounts for maybe a few of the 'unexplained sudden betta deaths'. Now I also have seen bettas that were quite sickand continued to eat until their last day. So do not always expect a dying betta to be one that does not eat. 

Now I doubt the food you gave your betta had anything to do with its death. What I am not sure is whether you are experienced enough to really tell if your betta was truly 100% healthy. Many novices cannot tell the settle differences between a 100% healthy betta and one that is starting to show signs of wear and tear (until it is much too late that is). Once the fish is truly noticeably sick (rotten fins, no eating, pale color, lying at the bottom or the top of tank) people take notice. But there are many other signs that can be observed by the experienced eye well before that. It could be as settle as a very slight change in behavior, or fin texture or slight clamping of the fins. So perhaps your bettas was in deed under the weather. Or maybe he did have a heart attack (Murphy Laws says that if it only happens once in a million, then it will happen to YOU!). My opinion? Internal organ failure due to internal bacterial infection (will go undetected).

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I am a member of the IBC, founder and President of LABS  (Los Angeles Betta Society) and have been helping the betta community through this website since 1998. 
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