Betta fish (Betta splendens) are carnivorous tropical fish native to Thailand. With their fanciful, ruffled fins and brightly colored gills, they became popular as pets about 150 years ago and remain popular today. Bloat in your betta can be indicative of several conditions or diseases. It's important to know exactly what is affecting your pet and to consult a veterinarian or aquatic specialist before treating it.
Constipation is common in bettas. Symptoms include bloated stomach, lack of defecation and inappetence. It's typically caused by overfeeding, dry food or lack of fiber. First, fast your betta until the bloating subsides or defecation is observed, then adjust its diet accordingly. Avoid foods with fillers and feed pellets consisting mainly of fish or shrimp meal. Soak food in tank water for about 10 minutes before feeding. To introduce fiber, once per week defrost a pea, remove its skin and feed your betta a crushed portion of pea flesh about the size of its eyeball. Fast your betta one day per week to avoid overfeeding in the future.
Swim Bladder Disorder
Swim bladder disorder can be caused by severe constipation or injury. Betta fish with SBD appear bloated and have difficulty swimming upright, balancing themselves or reaching the top of the water without sinking. Treat constipation as stipulated in section 1. For injuries, add aquarium salt (1 teaspoon per 5 gallons) to prevent infection. If your betta is sinking, lower the water level so your fish can more easily reach the top, and float plants on the surface for it to rest upon.
Dropsy is a bacterial infection that causes kidney failure. When your betta's kidney function is compromised, fluid builds up in its body, causing it to bloat. Its scales are pushed outward and protrude from its body like a pine cone. Other symptoms include lethargy, inappetence and trouble balancing. Dropsy is fatal unless caught in its early stages. Typically dropsy is treated with an Epsom salt bath. Consult your veterinarian or aquatic specialist immediately for instructions on how to proceed.
Although Malawi bloat typically affects African cichlids, according to Betta Care 101, your betta is not immune to it. Malawi bloat is a protozoan disease that manifests with inappetence, bloating and breathing difficulty. It's usually fatal, but if caught very early can be treated. Treatments typically include isolation, medicating with trichlorphon or flagyl, regular water changes and Epsom salt baths. Treatment must be precise and should be conducted under the guidance of a veterinarian or aquatic specialist.
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Yvette Sajem has been a professional writer since 1995. Her work includes greeting cards and two children's books. A lifelong animal advocate, she is active in animal rescue and transport, and is particularly partial to senior and special needs animals.