Do Betta Fish Feel Pain? [Science Explains]

Betta fish are very intelligent when it comes to aquatic pets. Paired with their beautiful appearance, they are coveted by fish lovers. Their intelligence allows them to express a range of emotions and experience a wide array of sensations. But do betta fish feel pain?

Betta fish can feel pain. They simply don’t experience it in the same manner as humans do.

Most fish can feel pain, but Betta fish’s intelligence allows them to comprehend the sensation. This is why Betta fish can express signs of their discomfort and pain, and why you should learn to spot them early on.

Do Betta Fish Suffer?

A common misconception is that fish cannot feel pain. People believe so because some researchers have pointed out fish brain lacks regions that allow mammals to experience pain.

These researchers make comparisons to human brain structures and state they have found nothing similar in fish. Many have claimed that fish don’t experience nociception, downplaying the experience of pain compared to humans.

However, researchers have also long since established that fish have pain receptors. They experience pain, but it varies from humans because fish have a different biological makeup.

Betta fish, like other fish, can suffer. However, intelligence is also linked to how an animal experiences pain. Because Betta fish are highly intelligent among aquatic pets, their understanding and expression of pain have a few extra dimensions.

How do You know if Your Betta Fish is Unhappy??

Betta fish’s pain receptors are similar to other fish. However, while most fish react to pain reflexively, Betta fish can also extend their experience of pain to boredom, stress, and frustration.

Betta fish will not just experience these sensations. They will communicate their distress with a distinct difference in each case.

When Betta fish are experiencing discomfort, they will react in a few ways. These are distinct for each case.

  • Betta fish will become lethargic in cold temperatures.
  • They will swim around restlessly in hot temperatures.
  • Betta fish will rub their bodies on tank walls if they are infected.

If Betta fish become bored or stressed, they will display a completely different set of behaviors.

  • Betta will refuse to move around.
  • They will become aggressive, attacking other fish in their tanks.
  • They will refuse food.
  • Betta fish will bite their tails in extreme cases.
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These are not simple reflexive reactions that most other aquatic pets display. Your Betta fish will give you clear signs of what issues It’s suffering from. If you have a good relationship with your Betta, it may even break a pattern in its behavior to make you notice.

Can Betta Fish Feel Love?

Betta fish don’t have the same concept of love that humans do. However, its love isn’t entirely primal either. Betta fish can experience happiness and playfulness and clearly express them.

You’ll find happy and playful Betta fish displaying some clear signs.

  • The fish will swim around the whole expanse of the tank.
  • Betta fish will explore any object you put in and play with toys.
  • The Betta fish will display vibrant colors.
  • They will mingle with other fish in the tank.
  • Betta fish will feel comfortable sleeping in open spaces.

Betta fish will also express their version of love for you. If you care for them, they will display some of their natural mating behaviors.

  • Male Betta fish will produce bubble nests. They will produce a dense collection of bubbles on the surface of your tank’s water.
  • Your favorite pets will feel comfortable and safe enough to let you teach them tricks. You can teach them to pass balls, swim through hoops, and play hide and seek with you.
  • Your Betta fish will swim up to greet you. They will come to you even if they were hiding or roaming the tank.

Do Betta Fish Feel Pain When They Die?

Because they possess a pain reception system and sufficient intelligence, your Betta fish can tell when they have contracted a fatal disease or nearing death. In both cases, Betta fish will experience pain and struggle to cope with their condition. When your Betta fish is nearing the end of its life cycle, you can visibly see the symptoms.

  • Your Betta fish will become sluggish.
  • They will be unable to eat their usual portions.
  • The Betta fish will stop to rest more often.
  • The fish will sink to the bottom of the tank to rest, instead of floating up.

In case your pet may have contracted a disease, you’ll see some of the mentioned behaviors with some visible markings on their body.

  • Blotches of pale skin.
  • Altered or faded color.
  • Frayed fins or tail.
  • Bloated belly.
  • Vein-like markings.
  • Swollen eyes or head.

In whichever case, your Betta fish struggle until it succumbs. Their intelligence lets them comprehend the helplessness of their condition somewhat. So, Betta fish will feel helpless, stressed, and be in agony.

If a Betta fish is approaching the end, or if an infection has become fatal, many owners choose to euthanize them. They believe that they spare their favorite pets from suffering.

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Is Euthanasia an Acceptable Option?

Everyone would love to spend one more day with their beloved dying pets. But you have to consider the cost. Your Betta fish may have to experience extreme pain just for one more day.

If Betta fish are infected, they will experience immense agony. Their movement, sight, and eating will also be severely limited. Even in case of natural death, your Betta fish will have limited movement and lack vigor.

Diseases such as dropsy, tuberculosis, and cancer are almost always incurable. In every case, your Betta fish can have its organs or immune system compromised. Even after recovery, underlying conditions will continue to make them suffer and perish eventually.

Opting for euthanasia can seem inhumane. But if your Betta fish is days away from death, inflicting more pain will only prolong its suffering. It’s a hard choice, but It’s one that many owners will make.

However, euthanizing a Betta fish without being sure is extremely wrong. You should make sure that your Betta fish is truly beyond help before choosing the option. It’s best to consult a vet or an expert before deciding.

Is Euthanasia The Only Option?

For Betta fish, this is an important question. Betta fish were previously called Siamese Fighter fish for two reasons. They were bred for fighting, and they have incredible endurance.

Betta fish will even hide their suffering if it feels it can take it on. So, if it hasn’t lost its fighting spirit, chances are your Betta fish can survive.

Even if the condition is near-fatal, Betta fish can survive from critical conditions. With enough attention and care, you can spot any underlying conditions and cure them. Your Betta fish will fight past the issues with your love and care.

You can see if the fish is still struggling to live out its normal life, or if it has lost its will. Younger fish will have a greater chance of fighting, while older fish may give up. A Betta fish with no will to live will demonstrate it.

  • Labored breathing.
  • Rare attempts to move.
  • Gasping for air.
  • No reaction if you reach out to it.

How to Euthanize a Betta Fish?

Your goal for euthanasia is not to exchange prolonged suffering for lethal pain. If you want to let your dying Betta fish go with little to no pain, there is a painless method to do so yourself.

Clove Oil

You’ll need a few supplies to euthanize a Betta fish with clove oil.

  • Essential or pure clove oil.
  • A small container for mixing.
  • A larger container for the Betta fish.
  • Air Pump.
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You can follow this process to euthanize the dying Betta fish.

  • Pour de-chlorinated or tank water into the larger container.
  • Fill up the small container halfway with water.
  • Add 3 to 4 drops of pure or essential clove oil into the small container.
  • Shake the small container to scatter the oil droplets in the water.
  • Attach the air pump to the larger container and activate it.
  • Pour in the water-oil mixture from the small container.
  • Place the Betta fish in the container and wait for its breathing to slow.
  • Meanwhile, prepare another batch of the mixture in the small container. Use 5 to 7 drops this time.
  • Once its breathing has slowed and it has sunk to the bottom, add the mixture in.
  • Wait for five minutes to confirm its passing. Check for any signs of movement, especially the eyes and the gills.
  • Once the Betta fish has passed, remove it from the tank.

If you don’t have an air pump, then gently stir the water in the larger container after pouring in the mixture.

This method lulls the dying Betta fish to sleep, by using clove oil as an anesthetic. Its breathing will slow down, and with increased doses come to a halt.  

What Not to do

Some advertised methods for euthanasia cause a dying Betta fish shock and pain. You should not use the following methods to kill off your Betta fish.

  • Stunning the Betta fish and stabbing it in the head. The initial blow will be felt by the Betta fish, and it will be painful.
  • Flushing your Betta fish down the toilet. This method is inhumane, as the Betta fish will be exposed to filth, cold, and toxins that will slowly suffocate and poison it to death.
  • Flash-freezing your Betta fish. Fish blood, like human blood, is comprised mostly of water. If the freezing process is not fast, the water will crystalize and expand. The Betta fish will be gouged to death from inside out.
  • Use alcohol instead of clove oil. Alcohol will cause your Betta fish’s gills to burn before death.
  • Pulling the Betta fish out of water. Suffocation is not a peaceful method of death. Your Betta fish will experience organ failure before death.


Betta fish can experience pain more vividly than most others. They can feel frustration, despair, stress, along with different levels of pain. They can also feel and express love. So, if you take good care of your Betta fish, it will respond to your love in its own way.

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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