Known for their stunning colors and pretty fins, betta fish are trending everywhere in the world.
And, yes, Bettas can change color for a wide range of reasons. A sudden color is an indication of stress, illness, or a combination of various factors.
Why Do Betta Fish Change Color?
The most common reason for betta fish, also known as the Siamese fighting fish, to change color is stress.
Most hobbyists store betta fish in small containers that are super crowded. Fish in these small containers live a stressful life – and their pale color reflects that.
The most important thing is to provide them with a large enough enclosure. You’ll also have to provide them with food, clean their water, and monitor their health.
Let’s deep dive into the most probable reasons why your betta is changing color.
They’re Getting Too Old
You can’t fight biology, but you can prevent age from taking its toll. In general, bettas live for a period of 5 years.
So, if your betta turns 5 years old, it is already past its expiration date. At this point, it will begin to lose color due to its ailing health.
It is not unheard of for bettas to lose their color at 2 years old. So if you’ve ruled out stress from the equation, you might be dealing with age.
But a steady diet of proteins and a good environment will slow down aging.
They’re Growing Up
Don’t be surprised if juvenile bettas change colors as they grow up. This is completely normal in the typical life cycle of the Siamese fighting fish.
Juvenile betta fish change color as they become more sexually mature. Their colors will become darkened to reflect their transition into adulthood.
However, most pet stores keep adult bettas. You’ll have to go out of your way to buy a juvenile betta.
Illness is a Big Issue
Other than changing color because of stress and old-age, bettas also change color when they fall ill.
When they get sick, bettas usually turn white. The degree of whiteness indicates the severity of the illness.
In the case of velvet, the betta will become slightly more golden. And if it’s got a case of the old ich, you’ll notice white spots.
Below are the most common types of illnesses that bettas frequently deal with:
The best way to prevent fungus of bacterial attacks is to keep the water clean. But, if your betta does develop an infection, you’ll have to begin treatment.
Start by quarantining your betta to keep the infection from spreading to other fish. Next, administer antibiotic medications like erythromycin and sulfadimidine for best results (after consultation from your vet, of course).
Ich is highly contagious and should be treated early. Treat it with medications like malachite green or salt bath.
Popeye can affect one or both the eyes and cause swelling. It can be caused due to a tumor or viral infection. You can treat this disease using an antibiotic (such as tetracycline).
Another parasitic disease you should be concerned about is velvet. It is indicated by a rusty color all over the betta’s body. You can treat this disease using medications and a salt bath.
Dropsy is usually a symptom of other diseases and causes their body to swell.
Their body swells because of kidney failure and is often fatal. In most cases, you can’t treat it.
Finally, mouth fungus is easy to treat if you catch it early. The bacterial infection that causes mouth fungus can be defeated using amoxicillin.
Your Betta Has Been Injured
Bettas are usually mild-natured but they do get into fights. They may even get attacked by other fish in the fish tank.
It is not uncommon for bettas to get injured by sharp and jagged tank ornaments. Injury can cause them to lose their color as well.
If they suffer from fin rot, for instance, their color becomes slightly lighter or darker. In these conditions, the color change is perfectly normal and even healthy!
If your betta fish gets injured, start to treat it with good clean water. Make sure to frequently change the water.
It is recommended that you change it every alternate day. This will speed up the recovery process and close the wounds.
Once the fin is properly grown, you can return to your normal water-changing routine.
You can use water conditioners (such as Stress Coat) to speed up the healing process.
Make sure to keep a close eye on your betta fish for injuries such as:
- Bloody fin tips that may appear black
- Fins slowly falling apart
- Torn and ragged fin tips
- Red streaks on the body
- Fuzzy patches on the mouth, fins, and body
- Secondary infections like velvet, popeye, and ich
Start a treatment regime right away once you spot any of the above symptoms.
What You Should Know About Stress Stripes in Betta
You’ve probably noticed your betta fish displaying ‘stress’ stripes. It’s a common indication that their mental health is falling apart.
Stress stripes extend from the fish’s tips to its gills and are usually red in color.
Female bettas are more likely to show stress stripes than male bettas.
If your betta fish displays stress stripes, they’re probably suffering from extreme stress. Now is a good time, as any, to intervene.
Try changing their environment, tank mates, and diet to see if conditions improve.
Temperature Plays a Big Role in Betta Stress
Incompatible water conditions can also cause your betta to become stressed.
Make sure your betta is kept in enclosures between 75 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit. Outside of these ranges, your Siamese fighting fish will be too stressed.
A good rule of thumb is to install an aquarium thermometer to stay informed.
If the temperature is too low, you probably have to change the tank heater. Similarly, if the water gets too hot, your thermostat may have failed. Monitor the situation and course-correct accordingly.
Siamese fighting fish typically prefer neutral pH between 6.8 to 7.2. The water hardness levels should be around 3 to 4.5 dKH.
You will need to conduct routine maintenance to ensure the water parameters are favorable. Buy water testing kits to stay informed.
Bettas are very sensitive to deadly toxins in the water. Make sure your water is properly cycled to keep toxins in check.
Ammonia and nitrite levels must be zero. Nitrate levels should always be under 20 ppm. It is good practice to partially change 30% of the water every week.
You might also want to rinse the filter media. Simply swish the media in the old tank water and put it back.
Most hobbyists agree that the filter media should be replaced every three to four weeks.
The Shock of a New Enclosure
The conditions in pet stores are not perfectly optimized for betta fish. In pet stores, they’re kept in tiny display tanks with no decoration to keep them company.
Bettas are naturally curious creatures and get bored by themselves. Moreover, they often have to deal with bad water conditions.
So, if they’re miserable all the time, their color will reflect that fact.
It is also worth pointing out that changing homes can spike their stress levels. The shock of a new environment can take a toll on a betta fish.
It can take some time to adjust. This is doubly true for bettas that were purchased online from longer distances.
Shipment over long distances can be a near-death experience for these poor creatures. Imagine being shipped out in a small bag and suddenly moved to a new home!
It’s obvious that your betta fish will get stressed out.
Give your betta fish time to settle in its new home. A nervous betta will look around for peaceful tank mates to keep company.
It will scout the enclosure for a new home. Once the betta realizes that it’s not in danger, it will become happy again.
Your new fish friend will become active, curious, full of life – and colorful. The happier your betta fish, the deeper and vibrant colors you would get.
Diet Plays an Important Role in Betta Colors
To give your bettas those deep and vibrant colors, improve their diet!
Start with a diet that is known to naturally enhance their colors. Bettas are omnivorous species with a knack for all things meat.
A high-protein diet will make them happy and bright. Try to mimic what they eat in the wild. The following foods will bring out the best colors in your betta:
- Brine shrimp
A Genetic Marvel – Marble Betta Fish
Marble bettas have known for their ability to change colors throughout their life. This is because they have a genetic trait known as the ‘jumping gene.’
Jumping genes can migrate from one chromosome to another. This happens temporarily and gives them a new color for the time being.
For obvious reasons, this makes marbled bettas more popular than the average betta. It’s like waking up to see a completely new fish in your tank.
Don’t worry though, marbled bettas are generally very hardy and have a good physiological profile.
Wrapping Up: Yes, Your Betta Fish Will Change Colors!
To conclude, yes, betta fish do change colors. The most common reason for changing or losing color is stress and illness.
You can manage this by improving the water quality and promptly taking action in case of illness. Provide them with a diet rich in proteins to bring out the best colors.
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