Dropsy In Betta: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Dropsy In Betta

If you’re a long-term betta keeper, you might have already heard the term Dropsy. Dropsy happens to be one of the most heard and fatal diseases of Betta fish.

After noticing several symptoms of Dropsy in your betta, your first concern might be, “Is it hurting my Betta?” Well, Dropsy can be extremely painful for Bettas, as it is concerned with the underlying dysfunction of multiple organs.

So anyone having a betta fish should know in-depth about Dropsy. In this article, I’ll try to show you some facts and information about Dropsy and help you with some tips on how to deal with it.

What Dropsy Is?

A lot of people may think that Dropsy is a certain disease, but it is not the case. Dropsy is a clinical condition in fish, characterized by excessive extracellular fluid retention in the coelomic cavity. It is a display of your fish’s poor immune system or underlying health hazards. It is more like an Edema in the human body.

So if you start medication thinking Dropsy is an independent disease, you might be very wrong. The reason behind this fatal disease can be very hard to diagnose, as this can be caused by a whole range of reasons.

Causes of Dropsy In Bettas

There is no clear evidence on what causes Dropsy. As it is a result of other underlying diseases, researchers have tried to find out what those diseases are. There are also some other extrinsic factors causing Dropsy.

Multiple organ failure:

This is probably the main reason for Dropsy in most cases. The organs like the heart, the Kidneys, and the liver might be malfunctioning or developed some chronic diseases causing fluid retention in the Coelomic cavity.

Polycystic kidney disease is one of those diseases where the kidney vessels and the Ureter get blocked by multiple cysts. This leads to chronic kidney disease and prevents the kidneys from functioning properly. So the urines get trapped, and the body starts to swell.

Viral and Bacterial infections:

Another common reason for Dropsy is the Aeromonas Bacteria. Some viruses can also cause excessive fluid retention in Bettas. Some parasites, like The Amoebic attacks, are also responsible for this disease.

Extrinsic factors:

The environment of your tank has a vital role to play here. Poor water quality is a big reason behind Dropsy in Bettas.

Another big reason is malnutrition. If your betta isn’t getting enough food, its immune system will weaken, eventually. Also, fish that are recently transported are more prone to Dropsy.

  • Stress: Probably the most common intrinsic catalyst that causes Dropsy is Stress. Occasional stress is not responsible in this case. So if you keep your bettas in a stressful situation, quite a while to make their immune system weak, they’ll develop dropsy.

What Are The Symptoms?

It is really hard to differentiate Dropsy from other bloating diseases. But a good observation of the developing signs can help you to ensure the disease. The prognosis of this disease can be done by observing different stages of developing symptoms.

Initial symptoms: Your betta has likely stopped feeding. However, there may be several explanations for this, so proceed with caution before examining your betta for dropsy right away.

  • You should also be aware that your betta starts avoiding other fishes.
  • A betta affected with dropsy will frequently hide in one area in the tank.
  • If you find most of these signs in the betta, it is usually just a matter of days till their belly begins to distend. Dropsy treatment becomes even more difficult at this stage.

However, bear in mind that these symptoms could also be related to stress. If your betta is only stressed, an unnecessary dropsy diagnosis will aggravate the situation and may harm their immunity.

Confirmatory symptoms:

  • “Pinecone scales” are the MOST IMPORTANT sign that your fish is dying from Dropsy. When all of their spikes are jutting, much similar to a pinecone, dropsy is almost certainly the cause. But one concern is that your betta’s chances of survival are close to none.
  • A protruding, swollen, and bloated belly is also another powerful sign of Dropsy.
  • A curved spine that seems extremely abnormal can also be a sign of dropsy. It is caused by organ swelling, which induces strain and bends the spine of a fish.
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Two things to note that, when the inflammation of the spine is sideways rather than vertical, it is a sign of tuberculosis, not dropsy. also, a bloated or distended belly should not be misdiagnosed as dropsy as it also might be constipation.

Additional symptoms:

  • Gills can turn pale and lose their color.
  • In bettas with dropsy, often you can see fins are clamped in because of lack of movement. Pain and swelling make it harder for bettas to move them. Sometimes they will only swim at the surface of the water and will be averse to swimming in the bottom.
  • Fluid accumulation in the skin induces bloodshot eyes or a red/bulging anus.

Your betta doesn’t always experience any of these signs simultaneously, or he or she may never experience any of them. However, as time passes, you should find enough of these indications in your betta, particularly the main three.

If you note the key three signs together, you can begin treating your betta for dropsy as soon as possible.

Is Dropsy Curable In Betta?

I’m not here to give you any false hope. There is only a thin possibility of surviving if your Betta has already developed the confirmatory symptoms of Dropsy. But if you start treating your Betta early enough, it may survive. But any medication here is a sort of experiment.

Most Betta keepers think that Betta fish can never survive Dropsy. But some of them tried various ways of medication, and fortunately enough, their pet survived. But it entirely depends on which stage of Dropsy your Betta fish is. If it has lost the power to fight back or completely gave up on food, then experts recommend you to think about euthanizing your fish.

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Is Dropsy Lethal?

From several Betta keepers’ experiences, I’ve come to know that only 20% of Betta fish survive Dropsy. That means Dropsy can prove to be fatal in almost about 80% of cases. They mostly survive for about 2 to 3 days after showing the main 3 signs of Dropsy. Some betta were reported dead within a few hours.

Initial Treatments

Initial Treatments, As Advised by Mary McCauley: When you first notice signs of illness, it’s crucial to act swiftly. Mary McCauley, who runs Mary’s Magic Bettas, recommends starting with a quarantine system, emphasizing the importance of maintaining water quality.

“Always check your parameters to ensure ammonia and nitrites are at 0, and nitrates no higher than 20ppm,” she advises.

Incorporating tannins from Indian Almond leaves or Alder Cones can also be beneficial. While antibiotics like amoxicillin are essential for severe infections, Mary underlines using them carefully and only when necessary, with accurate dosing being key.

Typically, this type of treatment takes ten days. You should keep a close eye on the fish to observe whether they’re improving or deteriorating. Follow the product’s directions to the letter.

A methylene blue bath is also another treatment choice. Methylene blue can treat dropsy because it is effective against bacterial infections and a variety of other common illnesses. Mind to follow the directions on the container and also never continue it for more than ten seconds.

Note that Methylene blue should be added in an extra tub, not to the main tank. If you do otherwise, your filter will be ruined and unusable. It is harmful to the organic material in the tank and also can put stains on materials.


KanaPlex by Seachem is an effective drug. If you plan to start giving drugs to your betta, avoid putting Epsom salt in the water. All those chemicals could be worse than no substitutes because they might strain the betta’s inner organs.

If the fish does not appear to be resistant to feeding, mix bettas food items in HealthAid Metro by Hikari Metro or something similar even if the methods do not come with 100% assurance, they are worth a shot.

The Right Time To Start Medicating The Betta

Start quarantining your Betta as soon as it shows the initial symptoms of bloating. It’s probably a bad idea to observe how worse Dropsy can develop. Remember, the survival rate is closely related to the stages of Dropsy.

So the earlier you start the medications, the more is the survival rate. There’s no exact data on how long the medication process will take. Keep trying different methods. But you have to keep one thing in mind, if it doesn’t show any sign of recovering, STOP the process.

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Prevention Is Always A Safer Option

Dropsy is one of the most prevalent and hardest to treat diseases. As a result, you should always think about how to prevent it from happening in the first place. Here are a few hints on how to keep dropsy away from your betta:

Keep the tank clean at all times. This involves making daily water adjustments, cleaning the filter, also operating a vacuum to clear out old foods and junks.

Feed your betta just twice a day. Overfeeding will bloat your betta’s stomach. Also To minimize the chance of overfeeding, ensure your betta is fed a varied diet. As they are omnivorous, in addition to fish flakes or pellets, can also eat meat. Bloodworms, daphnia larvae, and mosquito larvae. These meal choices are also great choices for them.

Ensure your tank isn’t overcrowded with fish. The greater the number of fish, the greater the bioload. The quantity of waste generated by fish is referred to as the bio-load. A huge bioload will increase the likelihood of bacteria and fungus growing in the tank. In addition to raising the betta’s level of stress.

Misunderstanding Dropsy

Before you start the medications, it’s really important to make sure whether it is Dropsy or other bloating diseases. Often people misunderstand Dropsy with Constipation, Malawi bloat, bladder disease, Tumors, and pregnancy.

Is My Betta Suffering From Dropsy Or Constipation?

Since betta fish become bloated in dropsy and constipation, it becomes hard to recognize the actual health problem. Sometimes, the betta owners start the wrong treatment without knowing whether their betta is suffering from dropsy or constipation.

Before taking steps, let’s ensure what your betta is suffering.

1. Protruding Scales

Bloating is a common sign of dropsy and constipation in betta. But, you can differentiate between these with the protruding scales of your betta.

If your betta fish suffers from dropsy, it’ll have pinecone-like effects all over its body. That means the scales of your sick betta fish will get raised.

2. Stringy Poop

Generally, the poop of a healthy betta looks like small-sized food pallets. In most cases, a constipated betta will not pass any stool, whereas a betta passes stool in dropsy. It is a significant factor to notice whether your betta has dropsy or constipation.

If your constipated betta passes stool, it’ll have stringy poop. Instead of sinking into the substrate or bottom, the poop will be trailing behind the constipated betta.

Besides, your betta may release large globular poop when the fish is constipated. The poop size will be larger than the usual food pallet size that they intake.

3. Swollen Area Nearside Anus

If you remain confused about your betta having dropsy or constipation, you can look for this symptom. When a betta suffers from dropsy, it’ll have a distended bump near its anus. It may turn red too.

4. Ulcers Along Lateral Lines

Lateral lines are the curved lines that run or curl down their sides. You should look for signs of ulcers along these lines when you have confusion. If your betta suffers from dropsy, it may have ulcers along its lateral lines.

5. Gasping For Air

When your betta suffers from dropsy, it’ll have trouble breathing. Its respiratory rate will become fast due to fluid build-up in its body. As a result, your betta will dart to the surface to gasp air. On the other hand, a constipated betta will not show such a sign.

6. Less Of Color In Gills

The color of the gills tends to become faded in dropsy. Also, you’ll find clamped fins of your betta in dropsy. On the other way, this is a pretty uncommon sign in the case of a constipated betta.

7. Multiple Organs Failure

This one is an internal symptom to distinguish between dropsy and constipation. If your betta suffers from dropsy for a long period, there’ll be multiple organ failures inside their body. In the case of betta constipation, suffering for a long time may cause swim bladder disease.

Is Dropsy Painful For Betta?

The answer is a yes! Betta fish remains in pain when they suffer from dropsy.

Since there’ll be fluid accumulation inside their body, your betta will feel uncomfortable. As a result, your sick betta can’t move or swim freely due to the huge swollen abdomen. Moreover, it’ll cause the betta trouble breathing.

Your betta also loses their appetite when they suffer from betta. Undoubtedly, this serious condition is painful for your betta.

Also, the internal organs start to fail when your betta suffers from dropsy for a long time. If you fail to detect the early signs of dropsy, it may cause death to your betta.

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Is Betta Dropsy Contagious?

The betta owners might worry about thinking about whether betta dropsy is contagious or not. To lessen your worry, the betta dropsy isn’t contagious.

Usually, the betta fish with the immune system are susceptible to getting affected by dropsy. There isn’t any risk of spreading the bacteria named Aeromonas that causes dropsy.

But, you should separate the tank mates of sick betta fish. Sometimes, wrong water parameters cause dropsy in betta.

Hence, you should remove other fish from the tank if one betta fish gets affected by dropsy. Treating sick fish will be a suitable option by keeping them in a quarantined tank.

Does Bettafix Cure Dropsy?

Bettafix is one of the favorite antibacterial remedies of fish among betta owners. It helps heal damaged tissues or wounds.

As mentioned before, dropsy is not a disease. Dropsy is a sign of underlying diseases. In most cases, the vets tend to prescribe Bettafix when there are signs of unknown diseases.

There are records of Bettafix to cure dropsy in betta. But, there is no full guarantee. Since it is safe for betta fish, it’ll not cause any harm while not working on the betta.

Also, you should follow the direction for giving the required dose to your sick betta. However, the general rule of treating betta dropsy with Bettafix is adding 2.5 ml Bettafix in 3.8 L of water. You need to repeat it for 7-10 days as per the vet’s administration.

How Long Will A Betta Fish Live With Dropsy?

A betta fish can survive several months with dropsy. You might be aware that dropsy is pretty fatal. If you do not treat your betta at the right time, it can take its life. Generally, dropsy gets worse after 15-20 days of contraction.

How Do You Treat Dropsy In Betta With Salt?

You can also treat betta dropsy using aquarium salt. It is also safe for your betta fish. Adding salt to the water will balance the water salinity with the salinity of betta blood. In this way, the excess water in betta’s body will get released.

The accurate dose of salt depends on the number of betta fish and the quantity of water. Generally, the experts administer to add 1-2 ppt salt to cure betta dropsy.

Does Epsom Salt Help Dropsy?

Epsom salt is used widely to cure betta dropsy. To treat dropsy with this salt, you should quarantine your sick betta first. Then, you need to prepare an Epsom salt bath. 

If the tank capacity is 5 gallons of water, you will require 5 teaspoons of water to add. In short, the thumb rule is to add 1 teaspoon of Epsom salt per gallon of water. This salt bath will reduce the bloating of your betta by helping them expel the excess water and waste.

But, several experts suggest not using Epsom salt to cure betta dropsy. This salt will increase the level of GH. So, the pH level of the water gets changed due to this salt. When the water parameters go wrong, it’ll affect negatively your sick betta.

What Antibiotics Are Used For Betta Dropsy?

The bloating condition of dropsy is a symptom of several underlying diseases termed as also a bacterial infection. In case you haven’t known yet, the root reason for betta dropsy is a bacteria named Aeromonas. Also, this is a gram-negative bacteria.

So, when you go for antibiotic treatment, you should choose gram-negative medications for your sick betta. A popular suggestion of antibiotics is Mardel Maracyn 2 to cure betta dropsy.

There is another antibiotic treatment to treat betta dropsy. It is amoxicillin. No matter which antibiotics you use, you must abide by the rules of manufacturers’ instructions. If you notice no improvement, you should not delay seeking emergency professional help.

Time To Euthanize Your Fish?

This is probably the hardest decision to make. Once your fish loses the will to fight back, you should consider euthanizing it. But before you euthanize your fish, make sure you have done enough to cure it. In the later stages of Dropsy, you will see your Betta struggling badly with eating, excreting feces, and excessive breathing. You can use Clove oil to euthanize naturally.


Seeing your pet fish struggling with Dropsy is probably the least you expect. But just like humans, fish become weak as they age. And Dropsy can be a sign of its decreasing immunity. But it’s never impossible to cure Dropsy.

Especially if you can diagnose it at the very beginning. So don’t be lazy to give you betta the above-mentioned treatment if you see the symptoms of Dropsy. Who knows! your Betta might be fortunate enough to survive.

Muntaseer Rahman

About Author

Hello, I’m Muntaseer Rahman, the owner of AcuarioPets.com. 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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