Dropsy in Betta Fish: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

early stages of dropsy in betta fish.

What is dropsy in betta fish?

Dropsy is the expansion of liquid within the body cavity. This is a common betta illness in fish that can be fatal. Dropsy in betta can be painful, leading to loss of appetite, lethargy, and difficulty in swimming.

As per my experience and expertise, I have observed that caring for betta fish can be a difficult task, especially for beginners.

So, it is crucial for betta fish keepers to properly monitor their fish’s health.

Similarly, I have faced that dropsy is usually a sign of main internal organ damage or infection. So the prediction for bettas about illness is miserable. Particularly to enquire about dropsy is painful for bettas.

In most cases, 15 to 20 days after severe infection, dropsy in bettas is fatal, If proper care will not be done. So, prompt and appropriate veterinary care is important.

In this article, I emphasized an in-depth analysis of dropsy betta. I also provided my expert opinions and observations while experiencing bettas care.

What is dropsy caused by?

Dropsy is an illness that arises in fish due to a buildup of fluid inside the body cavity or tissues.

As an Ichthyology expert, I have noticed that it can be a sign of a number of underlying conditions. These are bacterial infections, parasite infections, or liver malfunction, rather than a disease in and of itself.

I have highlighted in-depth detail about what causes dropsy in betta fish.

1) Bacterial Infections:

Through first-hand experience, I have come to realize that bacterial infections are one of the major reasons for dropsy betta.

Mostly bacteria such as Aeromonas, Pseudomonas, and Edwardsiella, can infect the betta fish and lead to dropsy.

These bacteria frequently enter the fish’s body through open injuries or through the digestive tract. Once they enter, they can multiply quickly.

They cause destruction to the internal organs and disturb the fish’s fluid balance. This destruction led to the characteristic swelling associated with dropsy.

It is also important to highlight that dropsy betta fish itself is not a contagious disease.

Though, the bacteria that cause the infection leading to Dropsy can be contagious.

If a betta fish is infected, there is a danger of increasing the bacteria to other fish in the same tank or water system.

2) Poor Water Quality:

Poor water quality is another important factor causing the expansion of dropsy in betta.

Betta fish are very much sensitive to changes in water parameters, for instance, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels.

If the freshwater aquarium becomes dirty with toxins or if there is an accumulation of waste. It can lead to stress on the fish’s immune system and create those infections that lead to dropsy in betta.

3) Overfeeding and Inappropriate Diet:

Overfeeding can also be a reason for the growth of betta fish dropsy.

If you excessively feed betta fish or give them a poor diet that lacks proper nutrition.  Poor diet can cause digestive issues and constipation.

These situations can lead to the development of bacterial infections and raise the possibility of betta fish dropsy.

4) Internal Organ Failure:

Dropsy disease can also arise due to the failure of an internal organ in betta fish.

This can be begun by different reasons, including age, genetic predisposition, and chronic health issues.

When the fish’s organs, such as the liver, kidney, or heart, are not functioning well. It can disrupt the fluid balance in the body.

Fluid retention and the characteristic bloated form related to betta fish dropsy.

5) Genetic Tendency:

Some betta fish may have a genetic tendency to emerge dropsy.

Certain genetic characteristics or deficiencies can affect them to the illness.

It is necessary for fish breeders to sensibly choose breeding stock. Also avoid breeding individuals with a history of betta fish dropsy.

I have highlighted above the main reasons that caused betta dropsy. You can certainly minimize the risk of dropsy by early identification and cure of infections.

How Do I Know If My Betta Has Dropsy?

Initially, the betta fish may look tired and show a loss of appetite if they have issue of dropsy.

The fish’s scales may start to appear slightly raised or have a “pine-cone” like appearance.

The abdomen may appear slightly bloated or swollen.

In the advanced stages of betta dropsy, the fish’s situation gets worse.

The swelling became more prominent. The betta fish raised scales, resembling a pinecone raised scales on betta.

The belly becomes severely swollen, giving the fish a round and bloated appearance.

The fish may have effort swimming and retaining stability. Other symptoms may include clamped fins, rapid breathing, and overall weakness.

Based on my personal experience, I have analyzed the following common symptoms of dropsy betta fish. These symptoms seek the attention of fish keepers:

1) Bloating or Swollen Abdomen:

One of the most prominent indications of dropsy is a betta fish swollen abdomen.

The fish’s belly converts prominently betta fish bloated and pale, giving it a rounded appearance.

This inflammation is caused by the gathering of fluid in the body cavity. This is a typical sign of betta fish dropsy.

2) Bulging Eyes:

Dropsy affected betta fish may also show bulging or protruding eyes.

This indicator is often a result of the fluid buildup behind the eyes. That affects them to appear enlarged or swollen.

The eyes may appear cloudy or hazy as well.

You might notice that they start to have bug eyes or that their eyes are swelling like betta Popeye.

The gills of your betta will turn pale and lose their color.

Spine curvature is also common due to bloating abnormally affecting the body.

3) Raised Scales:

Another mutual indication of dropsy is the raised scales on the fish’s body.

The betta fish scales sticking out from the body, giving the fish a pinecone like appearance.

This pinecone is caused by fluid retention and swelling that affects the tissues beneath the scales.

4) Loss of Appetite:

Dropsy can affect a substantial loss of appetite in betta fish.

Dropsy affected betta fish may express disinterest in food and refuse to eat, even when offered their favorite treats.

This decreased appetite is often a result of the underlying health issues and anxiety linked with dropsy.

5) Lethargy and Difficulty in Swimming:

Betta fish suffering from dropsy may become lethargic and show laziness.

They may often spend time at the bottommost of the tank or rest near the water surface.

Moreover, kidney failure or organ dysfunction are also betta fish dropsy symptoms.

If a betta fish shows numerous symptoms of dropsy. It is essential to take fast action and seek suitable veterinary dropsy treatment betta.

Though, Dropsy is usually tough to cure, and the prediction for affected fish is often poor. So betta lovers should remain attentive. 

Diagnosing Dropsy in Betta Fish

It is difficult for every fish keeper to have the ability to observe or diagnose physical conditions in real-time.

Hence, I share my expert opinion that can help you distinguish between dropsy or constipation betta.

I have already highlighted what is dropsy in fish. That is characterized by swelling or bloating of the abdomen and raised scales.

Dropsy is frequently affected by bacterial infections or organ dysfunction.

Instead, constipation in fish typically results in a distended abdomen without the raised scales or pinecone-like appearance.

The fish may have trouble passing feces and can show reduced appetite and laziness.

In certain situations, constipation can be begun by overfeeding or a diet lacking in fiber.

To diagnose further, the followings steps may be in consideration frequently:-

1) Observation of Symptoms:

The early stage in detecting dropsy in betta fish involves observing the presence of characteristic symptoms.

As mentioned earlier in this article, these betta dropsy symptoms include a swollen abdomen, bulging eyes, raised scales, loss of appetite, and lethargy.

If a betta fish reveals some of these symptoms of dropsy in betta fish, betta with dropsy may be alleged.

2) Analysis of Physical Appearance:

Close inspection of the fish’s physical appearance can show further pieces of evidence for diagnosing dropsy.

The swollen abdomen and raised scales are prominent signs that can indicate fluid retention.

During the assessment the bulging or enlarged eyes can also be detected.

It is important to note that these physical ups and downs are typical features of betta with dropsy. But they may also be present in other fish diseases.

So, it is essential to consider all symptoms collectively and not rely solely on physical appearance for diagnosis.

3) Consultation with a Veterinarian (if Necessary):

If there is doubt about the diagnosis or if the betta fish’s condition does not improve even with suitable care. Then you can consult with a veterinarian who specializes in fish health.

Veterinarians with experience in fish medicine can perform a more ample investigation. They may conduct further diagnostic tests, such as water parameter analysis, bacterial cultures, or microscopic examination of fish samples.

They can provide expert advice and guidance in dropsy in betta fish treatment.

How to Treat Dropsy in Betta Fish?

If you find symptoms of dropsy then you should focus on how to treat dropsy.

I recommend the following reliable approaches should be considered while dropsy betta treatment:

  • Always quarantine new fish before adding them to an established tank to prevent the spread of illness.
  • Avoid dropsy or overfeeding by maintaining good water quality.
  • Consider using a water testing kit to monitor water quality regularly.
  • Keep a record of any proper treatments given and their effectiveness to help identify patterns and improve future treating sick betta fish dropsy.

Additionally, I also recommend crispy tips for how to cure dropsy in betta fish:

  1. Do a 25% water change for dropsy betta fish treatment.
  2. Include a heater with an integrated thermostat and set temperature between 75-82 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Keep the water level lower than normal to make it easy for your betta to surface for oxygen.
  4. Include an air stone with an air pump to help the tank’s water recover by adding oxygen.
  5. To help with swelling and the release of accumulated fluids, add aquarium salt to the hospital tank at a rate of 0.5 teaspoons per gallon.
  6. Your betta fish should always get used to the hospital tank for betta dropsy treatment.
  7. As per its directions, control the antibiotic. You can soak the food in the antibiotic for faster potency if your betta fish is still eating. Otherwise, betta fish in the water can also absorb medications like kanamycin.

Throughout my experiences, I’ve come to understand the significance of dropsy in betta treatment to save betta’s life. Therefore, I am explaining in detail following measures should be considered while treating betta dropsy in fish:

1) Isolate the Affected Fish:

When a betta fish is diagnosed with dropsy, it is essential to isolate it from other tank mates.

This helps prevent the spread of possible infections. Also allows for focused care and betta fish dropsy treatment.

Quarantining new fish before introducing them to an existing tank. This can also help prevent the introduction of diseases to the established fish population.

When you quarantine a betta fish indicating symptoms of dropsy, it is critical to closely observe its behavior and condition.

If you are doubtful about dropsy fish betta, it is suitable to seek expert guidance from a veterinarian experienced in treating fish.

Veterinarians may recommend medications and fish antibiotics available to treat betta dropsy.

Antibiotics for example Kanamycin and Ampicillin are mostly used to target the bacterial infection associated with dropsy betta fish.

2) Improve Water Quality through Regular Maintenance:

Keeping good water quality is important for the overall health and rescue of a betta fish with dropsy.

I suggest betta lovers to regularly test the water parameters. For example ammonia levels, nitrite, pH levels range 6.8 to 8, temperature range 75°F to 82°F. And also take necessary steps to ensure they are within appropriate ranges.

3) Administer Antibiotic or Antimicrobial Medication:

Since bacterial infections are a common cause of dropsy, the use of betta dropsy antibiotic or antimicrobial medications is essential.

You should consult with a veterinarian experienced in fish health to decide the most suitable medication and dosage for your betta fish.

Follow the prescribed treatment schedule carefully and complete the full course of medication to efficiently eradicate the infection.

3) Provide a Balanced and Nutritious Diet:

A well-adjusted and healthy food has an important part in supporting the immune system and overall health of a betta fish with dropsy. 

You should provide antibacterial fish food in the form of high-quality betta-specific pellets or flakes that contain critical nutrients.

4) Use of Epsom Salt Baths or Medications (if Suggested by a Veterinarian):

In some cases, veterinarians recommend the use of Epsom salt baths or specific medications to aid in the treatment of dropsy.

Epsom salt baths can help reduce swelling and aid in fluid drainage.

Similarly, any additional medications should be used under professional guidance to ensure their effectiveness and safety.

Dropsy is a difficult illness to treat, and complete recovery is uncommon.

However, with early stage dropsy betta recognition and rapid veterinary care, it is possible to improve the fish’s condition and prolong its life.

Dropsy naturally requires more targeted and stronger medications to address the bacterial infection and related symptoms. Following products are used to treat dropsy:-

BettaFix is an API product that contains natural ingredients like tea tree oil, which is known for its antimicrobial properties.

It is mostly used to treat bacterial and fungal infections in fish, including dropsy.

Pimafix, also by API, is another cure selection that contains an antifungal agent called Pimenta racemose.

It is commonly used to address fungal infections in fish, and it may be used as a complementary treatment for dropsy.

Kanaplex, produced by Seachem, is a broad-spectrum antibiotic medication. That can be effective against various bacterial infections in fish, including dropsy.

Although treatment of dropsy of affected betta fish is necessary. But as per my expert opinion, beta lovers should focus more on preventive measures to save betta from diseases.

How to Prevent Dropsy in Betta Fish?

1) Keep a Clean Aquarium:

Betta enthusiasts should keep a hygienic aquarium. That is one of the most significant dropsy prevention approaches for betta fish.

In this regard, remove garbage, leftover food, toxic plants and debris from the tank on a regular basis.

2) Quarantine New Fish before Introducing Them to the Tank:

When introducing new fish or plants to the tank, it is essential to quarantine them first. This helps prevent the introduction of potential pathogens or diseases into the main tank.

Keep the new arrivals in a separate quarantine tank for a period of time, closely observing their health and behavior.

I recommend after adapting the new acquired fish, place it in the quarantine tank for 2 to 4 weeks.

This allows for early detection of any illnesses and prevents the spread of infections to the existing fish population.

3) Regular Water Testing and Maintenance:

It is necessary to monitor and maintain the water parameters in the aquarium. This will help to prevent betta fish from different diseases such as Fish Fungus, Ulcer and betta fish cloudy eye.

You should check the water frequently for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH levels.

As I have highlighted above, betta lovers ensure these factors are within the suitable range for betta fish.

4) Avoid Overfeeding:

Proper feeding practices and plans play an important role in preventing dropsy in betta fish.

Avoid overfeeding, as it can lead to obesity and strain the fish’s organs. You should remain careful about portion sizes.

5) Monitor and Address Any Signs of Illness Promptly:

I recommend that you should frequently notice your betta fish for any signs of illness or distress.

Look out for changes in behavior, appetite, or physical appearance.

If you notice any abnormalities or symptoms, take immediate action.

You can significantly reduce the risk of dropsy in betta fish, by applying these preventive measures.


Dropsy is a condition in betta fish characterized by fluid accumulation, leading to a swollen abdomen, raised scales, bulging eyes, and loss of appetite.

It can be caused by infections, poor water quality, organ failure, or genetics.

It is important to note that recovery time for a betta fish with Dropsy can vary depending on the severity of the condition, the underlying cause, and the response to treatment.

Dropsy is often a chronic and progressive condition, and even with treatment, complete recovery is uncommon.

The main focus of the cure is normally on improving the fish’s quality of life, handling dropsy betta symptoms, and reducing discomfort.

So in conclusion, understanding the dropsy causes, symptoms, treatments, and preventions of dropsy in betta fish is critical for fish keepers.

It is important to note that early detection and veterinary intervention are important for successful treatment.

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