How to Treat Dropsy in Betta Fish? – A Complete Guide

Unlike popular belief, dropsy isn’t a disease. Rather, it’s a very common bacterial infection that can build up on betta fish.

Dropsy is quite easy to diagnose if you know the symptoms and carefully observe your fish.

However, if you don’t treat dropsy quickly, it can prove to be fatal.

How to Treat Dropsy in Betta Fish?

If you diagnose dropsy in its initial stages, administer the appropriate treatment and properly look after your fish, there’s a high chance that it will survive.

Here is a list of the exact steps you need to take to treat dropsy in betta fish.

Step #1 – Setup Quarantine Tank for Betta

The first step you need to take is to set up a 5-gallon quarantine tank. Use conditioned water to fill up the tank and ensure that it’s free of all living things.

Make sure you add spots where your betta can hide to lower its stress.

You also need to attach a heater with a built-in thermostat and keep it around 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

Also, add an airstone with an air pump or bubbler to the tank. This will oxygenate the tank’s water and speed the recovery process.

Step #2 – Add Aquarium Salt

After you’ve finished step number one, add a bit of aquarium salt inside the quarantine tank.

Make sure you follow the instructions that are written on the aquarium salts’ packaging. It is usually advised to add half to one teaspoon of aquarium salt to a gallon of water.

Step #3 – Add Betta to the Quarantine Tank

Fill up a bag with water from the quarantine tank and place your betta in it.

This will help to adapt to the new environment. Next, float the bag in the quarantine tank for around 15 minutes before you release your betta in it.

Step #4 – Change Water in the Main Tank

Change approximately 25 percent of the water in the main tank.

The purpose of this step is to reduce the chances of other fish getting dropsy.

Step #5 – Feed Your Betta Well

Start feeding nutrient-rich foods to your betta fish. If the infection is in its initial stages, a nutritious diet can help to counteract the bacteria.

In case your fish doesn’t show any signs of improvement, move on to the next step.

Step #6 – Add Medication for Dropsy (if needed)

The best medication to treat dropsy is an antibiotic that gets rid of all gram-negative bacteria. One such antibiotic is amoxicillin.

When administering amoxicillin, you need to carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

If used correctly, most medications can treat dropsy within seven days. A majority of fish experts advise up to ten days of treatment to eliminate the bacteria.

Step #7 – Change Water Frequently

When you add aquarium salts and antibiotics to the quarantine tank, make sure you change the water every day.

If you don’t do this, your fish can get overdosed. Moreover, it might even get starved of oxygen.

Word of Caution – Closely monitor your betta fish for around 14 days and see if it’s improving. It’s strongly advised that you keep them in the quarantine tank during this period.

More importantly, make sure you precisely follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Even if you notice improvements in your fish, you should still carry on with the treatment.

Remember that if you cease the treatment midway, the bacteria could return. If the bacteria comes back, it will be more resistant to antibiotics.

Methylene Blue Bath/Dip to Treat Dropsy in Betta Fish

The second treatment you can use to treat dropsy in betta fish is a methylene blue bath/dip.

Methylene blue can treat dropsy because it’s extremely effective against bacterial infections and other natural ailments.

Here are the steps you need to follow to treat dropsy with a methylene blue bath. Remember that it’s essential to always follow the instructions on the bottle.

  • Step #1 – Get a container in which you can place your betta in. Ideally, you should opt for a non-metallic container.
  • Step #2 – Fill the container with water from the main tank. This will help to prevent stress in your betta fish.
  • Step #3 – Next, add the appropriate quantity of methylene blue to the water. Generally, you should add 5 teaspoons of methylene blue to every 3 gallons of water. Note that this ratio might change according to the concentration of the methylene blue you’re using.
  • Step #4 – After the methylene blue bath is ready, put your betta in it. Don’t let your fish stay in the methylene blue bath for more than 10 seconds.

Word of Caution – Don’t add methylene blue to your main tank. If you do so, there’s a high chance that your filter will get ruined and become unusable. Moreover, methylene blue is not suitable for the plants in your tank. Lastly, it can even stain other things inside your tank.

Symptoms of Dropsy in Betta Fish

Dropsy can change your betta’s appearance. For instance, your betta’s scales will start protruding unnaturally, in a pinecone patter kind of way.

The fish will also become noticeably bigger and bloated.

You may even observe that your betta’s eyes are popping out. Its gills might start losing their color and become pale.

Due to bloating changing the shape of the body, you might also notice spine curvature.

In terms of activity, the betta will start swimming less and will only be sort of floating. It may even lose its appetite or will only nibble at the food.

There can also be significant discoloration in their droppings.

Causes of Dropsy in Betta Fish

The primary cause of dropsy is a gram-negative bacteria called Aeromonas. Aeromonas is a serious strain of bacteria that acts fast once it’s in the environment.

Dropsy can occur due to several factors that compromise or weaken your betta’s immune system.

Generally, this is all associated with your fish getting stressed in its environment.

Note that this doesn’t happen due to short-term stress from things such as cleaning a tank. Rather, it only occurs due to long-term factors.

Here are some of the most common causes of stress include:

  1. Poor quality or unclean water – This is the primary factor that can lead to your beta catching dropsy. In most cases, you can avoid this using a tank filter and by frequently changing the water.
  2. Poor diet – The second major stressor in betta fish is poor diet. If you don’t give the appropriate food to your fish, it will become stressed and its immune system will get weak.

Dropsy can also happen to fish that have recently been transported or added to a tank. Usually, sedatives are used to help fish keep calm while being transported.

However, in a new environment, the fish can be subject to a lot of stress.

Moreover, if your betta fish is already fighting against another infection or illness, then it’s also more vulnerable to dropsy.

Note that even if your betta lives in a zero-stress environment, it can still catch dropsy. It’s the same as humans – the older they get, the weaker their immunity becomes.

Tips to Prevent Dropsy in Betta Fish

Since dropsy is a difficult illness to treat, you should always try to prevent it altogether. Thankfully, preventing dropsy is quite easy and straightforward.

Plus, if you’re properly looking after your fish tank, the risk of your healthy betta fish getting infected with dropsy is fairly low.

Keep in mind that your objective should be to keep your betta fish in a stress-free environment.

Here are some ways you can achieve that.

  1. Make sure that your betta’s water is always clean. This means that you need to regularly change its water. You should also scrub with a filter and use a gravel vacuum to get rid of old food and feces that have settled at the bottom of the tank.
  2. Don’t add too many fish to a single tank. Remember, the more fish placed inside a tank, the higher the bio-load. Bio-load refers to the amount of waste produced by the fish. A heavy bio-load can significantly escalate the risk of fungus and bacteria in the tank. This can, in turn, increase your betta’s stress.
  3. Make sure you don’t feed your betta fish more than two times a day. Your betta’s stomach is equal to the size of their eyeball. Hence, overfeeding them is extremely easy. The problem with overfeeding is that it can cause your betta to bloat and swell. Plus, it can even result in leftover food decaying inside the tank.
  4. Lastly, ensure that you feed a holistic diet to your betta. Betta fish are omnivorous. Thus, along with feeding them pellets or fish flakes, you also feed them meat. Mosquito larvae, daphnia, and bloodworms are all great options.

Last Few Words

We hope this article helped you learn everything you need to know about how to treat dropsy in betta fish, along with the symptoms you need to watch out for, tips to prevent, and the reasons behind it.

Other articles you may also like: