Dropsy in Betta Fish – How to Treat & Cure Bloated Symptoms

Have you noticed your betta is swelling up? Giving up on its appetite? Or, has been facing difficulty in swimming? Well, in that case, you should examine your fish to check if it has been affected by dropsy. And if so, start your treatment right away as you don’t want to make it worse.

Dropsy is a life-threatening disease in Betta fish. In this disease, the belly of Betta fish swells because of fluid build-up. Kidneys of Betta fish swell because of excessive fluids. The causes of this disease are bacteria or parasitic infections or liver dysfunction.

Dropsy in Fish

Normally, Betta is the least prone to catching diseases very quickly. But when it does it can be very difficult to treat it unless you start the treatment immediately. Dropsy is not an easily curable disease, but there’s nothing to worry about as I have laid every single detail related to its cause, symptoms to its treatment, and prevention for you so that when you feel something is off about your fish you know what to do.

What is Dropsy?

Dropsy, also termed edema or ascites, is a condition that leads to extreme bloating/ swelling of the fish’s bellies. This is not a disease rather it is a bacterial infection or some people refer it to as a symptom in fish indicating its poor health. It is almost impossible for a healthy fish to get dropsy as compared to one with a weak immune system, thus they are more prone to the infection.

Spotting dropsy in fish is quite easy when you know the symptoms and signs, however, it is very important to treat this disease as soon as it is detected as it does not take long for the infection to become fatal and shorten your bettas’ life.

This infection occurs when the bacteria enter the fish’s scales making their way to its kidney and liver and affecting it. It leads to your betta retaining unnatural amounts of fluid inside it. This makes the fish uncomfortable which then affects its normal daily activities like eating and swimming. This fluid keeps on building until it completely pushes the fish’s organs to the side.

What are the Causes of Dropsy?

A bacterium named Aero monas is generally the reason behind dropsy. It is one of the most common of several gram-negative bacteria that is easily found in aquariums. It is considered a serious strain of bacteria that acts quickly as it enters the environment. It is present in fish even the healthy ones but it cannot act unless the immune system of your betta is weak. This can happen to your fish due to stress from many factors such as:

  • Poor quality of water
  • Dropped tank temperature
  • Stress from transportation
  • The nutrition is not proper
  • It can be due to an already-existing disease or infection

It is important to keep in mind that by stress we don’t mean any short-term stress, such as the one coming from cleaning the tank, but rather long-term. When your fish has been under stress for a long period, then it weakens its immune system and allows the bacteria to activate and attack your betta. Sometimes there are often other reasons for dropsy despite the tank environment being fine, it can still occur and this might be because your betta may be aged and as you know age weakens the immune system and makes the fish more prone to diseases. Therefore, you need to take extra care of your fish.

What are the Symptoms of Dropsy?

Although dropsy is rare among betta fish it can still occur. Thus, you should catch the infection beforehand as later on if it develops then its fatality rate increases and shortens the life of your fish. There are some early symptoms of dropsy that are curable as at that time the bloating hasn’t taken place.  Firstly, you might have noticed your fish skipping its meals; they don’t feel comfortable enough to eat food because of dysfunctional organs. Furthermore, your betta may also try avoiding other fishes in the tank and may try to hide in the decorations or plants. If you see these signs then it is better to get your fish examined and treated right away as after this it is only going to take 2 to 3 days for your betta’s belly to swell up and make it hard to treat. But also remember that these symptoms are caused by stress so make sure that you carefully examine your fish before treating it for dropsy because if not then you might end up giving unwanted treatment that drastically affects its immune system.

Later Symptoms of Dropsy Include

  • Grossly swollen belly
  • Scales with abnormal appearance
  • Bulging eyes
  • Pale gills
  • Swollen or red anus
  • Pale or stringy feces
  • Ulcers
  • Curved spine
  • Clamped fins
  • Redness of the skin or fins
  • Lethargy
  • Swimming near the surface

Grossly Swollen Belly

This is a very obvious symptom of dropsy; the stomach of the fish will balloon up as it is about to explode. Or it seems as if the fish has gained a lot of weight of a sudden. This happens because the fluid enters the tissue which causes the kidneys and spleen to swell up and then shut down which makes it difficult for the betta to eliminate the water build-up inside it.

Scales With Abnormal Appearance

This symptom is an indication of severe infection in your betta. Since the internal system of the fish is swelling up it affects the position of the scales of the fish. As with dropsy, they are not flushed to the body rather, they are protruded and are away from the skin, giving it a pinecone-like appearance.

Bulging Eyes

Dropsy can also result in a Popeye infection for the fish. This happens because the internal organs are shutting down and because the fluid is increasing, it increases pressure from the inside of the eyeball that pushes the eyes outwards.

Pale Gills

Because of dropsy, the infection leads to the occurrence of anemia in the fish that changes the color of the gills from their normal shade (red).

Swollen or Red Anus

This symptom occurs when your betta is going through enteric red mouth disease. It results in the swollen anus and other body parts of the fish.

Pale or Stringy Feces

Pale feces happen when the fish is not taking the right amount of food. As you already know, when a fish has dropsy and other infection it stops eating, in addition, your betta will produce more mucus than pale feces.


Occur alongside the fish’s body. This happens because of a severe bacterial infection.

Curved Spine

This happens when the fluids fill up the abdomen causing the organs to push aside, so at that time the spine is also affected and is curved.

Clamped fins

When a fish is suffering from dropsy and has bad pains or faces difficulty moving then it tightly holds its fins with its body.

Red skin / Fins

This happens when your fish has an Aeromonas infection, this usually occurs under the skin and creates bloody red fins and skin.


Having dropsy is very uncomfortable for the fish as its organs are not functioning properly, and the fish seems more exhausted than ever. Swimming near the surface- a lethargic fish is more likely to swim on the surface where it can hide easily. But sometimes it can also come on the top surface, maybe because it has lost its ability to swim properly.

Diagnosing Dropsy in Betta

The symptoms of this infection vary widely as dropsy and swim bladder disease are often confused with each other because both these infections share the same symptoms of swollen bellies, loss of appetite, unable to swim, and curved spine. Sometimes dropsy does not show any such symptoms which makes it difficult to determine whether the betta has dropsy or not. Thus, to make sure the veteran runs ab tests on the fish to make sure of the problem.

How to Treat Dropsy?

If you were able to catch dropsy in your betta beforehand then I should say that you and your fish are lucky because when dropsy is caught in the early stages then there are more chances of saving the betta’s life as it is treatable in the early stages. However, if you were not able to detect it on time then your fish might die. but you can still treat your fish to relieve its pain and what f you might be able to cure it.

We have laid down all the possible treatments and methods in detail for you to understand and imply when needed and surely you will be able to get your betta through this infection.


So the first thing that you are going to do is quarantine your infected fish. Place it in a separate tank all alone with no other fish. Make sure that the water is conditioned, and the tank has a bubbler attached to it for your fish’s oxygen, and also keep some decoration pieces or make someplace for your fish to hide so that it can reduce its stress. Keep the temperature of the water warm enough for the fish to relax.

Aquarium Salt

The next step is to add aquarium salt to the hospital tank where you’ve quarantined your fish. Remember to add no more than one teaspoon of salt to every gallon of water and make sure to use the salt as per the manufacturer’s recommendations. Moreover, it is very important to maintain a good level of salt amount in the tank. Maintaining a low level of salt in the tank may aid in the osmotic balance of fish by making its water salinity closer to its blood salinity. This helps the fish to get rid of extra water causing dropsy. And don’t add too much salt as it is unhealthy for the fish, especially freshwater fish.

Clean Water

After setting up the quarantine tank place your infected fish there and clean 25% of the water from the main tank, doing this will reduce the chances of other fish getting dropsy as well. After all these shiftings make sure that you perform partial water changes every week to the hospital tank and maintain a good level of salt in it.


Providing high-quality food to your fish is enough for those cases where the fish is not too advanced in the infection as it is still eating.


Treating your fish using antibiotics will help to cure the illness. It is recommended to use maracyn-two or amoxicillin to help your fish cover the disease soon. Usually, a ten-day course of antibiotics is given to the fish to completely get rid of the disease; however, you should read the instructions as provided by the manufacturer on its usage and dosage.


After the medication; keep a good eye on your fish when the symptoms start to fade away. Don’t stop its treatment when you see the fish is improving, complete the course of medicine, and afterward observe the fish then add it back to the main tank.

The Prognosis for Fish With Dropsy / Can Betta Recover From Dropsy?

Dropsy is not a very easy disease to treat. Rather it is incurable because at this time irreversible damage has been done to your fish organs which are very difficult to cure as it is almost impossible to get the organs to function just as they used to before. But if you were able to catch this disease early enough then using the right treatment and medication can help.

Many specialties advise euthanizing the fish to prevent the disease from spreading to other fish as well. Even with the best treatment, the mortality rate is high but if you think that your fish can get through it then you should go for the treatment.

How to Prevent Dropsy?

Since dropsy is known for being the most difficult disease to cure. It is always better to prevent it from occurring. Prevention is better than cure and prevention is ensured by Safety. The key part of avoiding dropsy to occur is to keep your betta as stress-free as possible so that it can maintain a healthy immune system. Other prevention methods are listed below so read through them:

  • Keep a good check on the water condition daily to make sure it is healthy for your betta.
  • Keep the tank clean
  • Perform regular water changes
  • Make use of a gravel vacuum to get the waste out of the tank
  • Clean the filter regularly
  • Do not overfeed the fish
  • Do not overcrowd the tank
  • Vary the diet of your fish
  • Use flake foods

By following these methods, you can surely prevent your tank from getting hit by dropsy.

Is Dropsy Contagious?

Dropsy is an infection that comes with a group of symptoms when occurred. This is caused by bacteria that already exist in the tank due to any reason, so it makes all the fish prone to dropsy, especially the ones with a weaker immune system, the ones that have stress, etc. betta that is healthy is very less likely to grab this infection.

The Bottom Line On Dropsy in Betta Fish

Dropsy is a rare infection that doesn’t happen quite often, but when it does it becomes almost impossible to treat it. As you probably have read through the article this disease has a high fatality rate and there are very less chances for your fish to survive. Therefore, the best you can do is to prevent this disease from occurring by using all the methods and steps listed above. Use them just as they are mentioned and also contact your vet to get further clear guidelines on treating this disease.

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