Can A Betta Fish Drown? [Really?]

Well, most betta fish owners get in a dilemma about whether betta fish drown or not. The answer to this question is very complicated, which is why most betta fish owners do not have a clear idea about this topic. As a result, the betta owners are unable to save their fish from death.

Betta fish don’t drown rather they suffocate. That means bettas suffocate due to lack of oxygen because of various factors which lead to drowning and your betta eventually dies by drowning.

In this article, I am going to elaborately discuss whether betta fish drowns or not. So, let’s get started!

Do Betta Fish Actually Drown?

Betta fish and other labyrinth fish might seem to drown, although they actually suffocate rather than drown. Suffocation among your fish is quite uncommon, though, because your tank has a strong circulation and lots of oxygen.

The idea of drowning indicates that the lungs get filled with liquid, preventing the blood from receiving oxygen. Fish are theoretically incapable of drowning since they lack lungs. But there are also other ways that fish might suffocate.

Just be careful to give your betta the correct attention and implement the required safety measures. They should be able to utilize their gills and labyrinth organs to rise to the surface whenever necessary, regardless of what is in their tank.

8 Factors That Make Betta Drown

There can be many reasons that can play a vital role in making your betta drown. The factors can be related to internal or external tank issues. However, below I have explained all the possible factors that can cause the drowning of your betta fish.

1. Lack Of Oxygen

As a matter of fact, fish do not breathe in water. They suffocate if the oxygen concentrations in a tank are too low because they breathe water-soluble oxygen, which must be kept at the optimal rate. 

Like people and other mammals, fish possess internal organs that can only work when oxygen-rich blood is flowing through them. Other organs are supplied with oxygenated blood by the heart to perform vital tasks including eliminating waste products and extra fat.

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How To Set Up A Tank For Betta Fries

2. Their Natural Habitat In The Tank 

Some people believe that bettas can only survive in shallow water due to the “puddle theory,” or else they will drown. Given that betta fish are fish, so this really is illogical. Fish inhale dissolved oxygen found in the water and have gills for this purpose.

A betta’s habitat is now shallower than it was previously. Bettas’ available habitat has been reduced by population growth and deforestation, thus they have begun to spread out to new locations.

However, the simplest solution is to merely place decorations between the substrate and a platform that they may rest on. Most domesticated bettas do have lengthy fins that prevent them from swimming. They can still swim this range even in a tank that is just 28 inches deep, which is the deepest tank that is typically accessible.

They still have gills despite not being able to swim thus far. They could only die in the same manner as normal fish.

3. Release Of Carbon Dioxide

When a fish breathes, it releases carbon dioxide, just like humans do. Additionally, fish might suffocate in unclean and stagnant water if the filter isn’t functioning correctly. Although surface-applied oxygen can dissolve into tank water, it won’t disperse evenly, notably in extremely large tanks.

In the event that betta fish are unable to reach the surface of the water, they may also experience a shortage of carbon dioxide, which may result in a deficiency in oxygen and, eventually, causes suffocation.

4. Suffocation Due To Injury

A fish may pass away if it sustains a significant injury. For instance, damaged fish gills reduce the effectiveness with which they filter water, which prevents blood from being adequately oxygenated. 

If bettas’ gills are damaged, they could be able to survive for a while on their labyrinth organ, or the other way around. If too much time has passed, they may no longer be able to reach the water’s surface to breathe, which might result in death by suffocation.

5. When They Get Trapped

Although fish in tanks don’t frequently lose all of their fins, they can get caught on decorations. They might become caught underneath the decorations or between decorations and other objects, or they can become stuck within decorations and become unable to escape.

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They can stay stuck for some hours, but after that, they have a significant chance of passing away. Due to the minimal to nonexistent water flow in some regions, they may pass away more quickly, particularly if they become caught inside a decoration.

6. Intoxication

Ammonia and Nitrate poisoning are regrettably extremely frequent and actually cause the fish to suffocate. The nitrogen cycle in tanks begins with ammonia and ends with nitrite.

Due to their relative ease of maintenance and hardiness, bettas are frequently used as starting tropical fish. They just require a five-gallon tank, two different types of primary food and one secondary food, a heater, and a filter. However, because they are starting fish, they are frequently subjected to fish-in cycles by new owners.

Ammonia is very harmful to fish and severely irritates their skin. The burns frequently seriously harm the fish’s gills and render them incapable of breathing correctly or at all. The damage can get so bad that the fish loses their ability to breathe and drowns.

Hemoglobin in the blood is unable to deliver oxygen because of the binding of nitrite. Like other creatures, fish must have oxygen circulating through their blood to exist; else, they would die. Uncycled tanks contain ammonia and nitrite, and then a tank must be thoroughly cycled for around one month.

What Kind Of Water To Use For Betta Fish

7. Their Ability To Swim

Apart from becoming caught, bettas’ long fins are the main danger factor that might cause them to drown. While certain betta kinds, including plakats and wilds, do not have long fins, the bulk of them that are offered in nearby shops have.

The likelihood of the fish developing fin rot and having trouble swimming both increases with the length of their fins. Long fins were a purposefully developed characteristic, not something that the betta evolved to have. Unfortunately, they frequently struggle to swim because their little bodies cannot support their large fins.

It is conceivable for bettas to develop fins that are so long that they are unable to swim, however, this is uncommon. Cosmetic surgery is essential in these situations. The fish is put to sleep, the fins and tools are cleaned, and a portion of the fins are removed. 

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8. The Special Organ

In contrast to other fish, betta fish are substantially less prone to drown when poisoned. This is because they have evolved an unique organ. Water in the betta’s native environment is quite warm and typically still, therefore there is incredibly little dissolved oxygen present.

The betta and many other labyrinth fish developed an organ called a labyrinth that is comparable to a primitive lung in order to stay alive in this hostile environment. Bettas can breathe ambient air and get oxygen from it thanks to this organ.

This basically implies that bettas don’t have to rely only on their gills. Consequently, because they can potentially breathe, they have a considerably greater probability of surviving than other fish if they experience extensive gill damage from ammonia or nitrite poisoning.

However, the fish will die if the harm is serious enough to destroy the gill tissue. A betta will also die in this circumstance if they are unable to utilize its labyrinth organ due to a layer on the tank’s surface or because they are unable to reach the tank’s top and the air.

How To Identify A Dying Betta Fish?

Given that certain fish may pass away suddenly, this question can occasionally be challenging to answer. But, there are a few crucial things you can watch out for if the fish appears agitated or appears to be unwell.

When betta fish are under stress, they frequently spend more time hiding or sleeping than usual. They may also lie on their stomach at the bottom of the tank, and ill fish may become malnourished. Another sign of a serious sickness is unusual swimming motions or a reduction or slow chipping away of the fins.

Wrapping Up:

As we have discussed, betta fish die due to lack of oxygen in the water, therefore, the water of the tank needs to be cleaned. Because clean water will have more dissolved oxygen. That is why have a look at my next article which will give you a proper idea about the importance of filters in the tank.

Do Bettas Need Filter? [Or Not?]

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Muntaseer Rahman

About Author

Hello, I’m Muntaseer Rahman, the owner of I’m passionate about aquarium pets like shrimps, snails, crabs, and crayfish. I’ve created this website to share my expertise and help you provide better care for these amazing pets.


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