why is my betta fish turning white

11 Reasons Why Betta Fish Turn White?

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Betta fish, or Siamese fighting fish, are a popular choice for aquarists of all experience levels. They’re beautiful and graceful, with brilliant colors and flowing fins. But, if you don’t care for them according to their exact needs and preferences, they can lose color and turn white altogether. This isn’t good when this happens.

Here, we’ll detail 11 reasons why betta fish turn white and solutions to fix them. Before you freak out, understand that sometimes color fading is a normal part of their development. But, there can be other serious health causes such as poor water quality, old age, bacterial infections and stress, just to name a few.

It’s important you monitor your betta fish closely to see what other behaviors accompany their discoloration. Pay attention for eating problems, struggling to breathe, overly aggressive behavior, unusually lackadaisical energy and other such signs. Look for anything that isn’t normal for them.

Betta Fish Turning White Overview

When you notice a betta losing its brilliance, don’t panic. As mentioned above, this is often a normal part of their growth. Mostly, this will depend on the species.

For instance, marble and albino bettas naturally change and shift color, which includes turning white. Even still, you want to ensure their water parameters are prime. But, if you see it progressing for several days, it’s a sign something’s wrong. It could be due to:

  1. Stress
  2. Old Age
  3. Inadequate Diet
  4. Poor Water Parameters
  5. Injury
  6. Ich
  7. Columnaris
  8. Anchor Worms
  9. Fin Rot
  10. Other Bacteria ; Parasites
  11. Genetics

1. Stress

Stress is the number one cause for betta fish losing color and turning white. This is often due to poor water conditions but it could also be from aggressive tank mates, commotion among other schooling species, lack of food, loud noises or an unstable/wobbly tank.

With a water test kit, perform a check for the general parameters of your betta’s environment. Make sure all the equipment is working properly and that the betta is receiving enough light and nutrients. Then, look at all the tank mates residing in your aquascape and observe their behavior. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do other groups of fish fight over food at feeding time?
  • Are there any other fish bullying the betta?
  • Are there any battles of wills or territory occurring against the betta?
  • Is there enough room for all the fish living in the aquarium?
  • Is the tank stable? Does it wobble or are there any loud noises outside of it?
  • Did you just move your home or the location of the tank?

Solving Stress

Once you have solid answers, consider the solutions below:

  • While other fish fighting over food in another area of the tank won’t affect the betta directly, their commotion and aggressiveness will cause stress to betta fish.
  • In the case of other larger species of fish bullying or battling with your betta, you have to do something to mitigate this as soon as possible. This is often due to a lack of space, hiding spots or inadequate amounts of food.
  • In terms of roominess, 5 to 10-gallon tanks should have one or two bettas with a few invertebrates. Aquariums with a 20-gallon capacity can have one or two additional creatures like snails or shrimp. Anything over 30 gallons should be sufficient to hold several species comfortably.
  • When all of the above check out, then it’s time to inspect the outer perimeter of the tank. Make sure the tank isn’t wobbling and that there are no loud noises, including music, accosting the tank. Both of these things can cause betta fish great amounts of stress.
  • In some cases of moving the tank, whether to a different location within your home or moving your residence altogether, it can stress betta fish. With time it will subside, but you can put some Seachem StressGuard into the water to help them adjust.

2. Old Age

A common cause for bettas turning white is simply old age. As they become elderly, nature dictates color loss. So, it’s not unusual if you see your betta loosing color between three and five years old. In some instances, they can begin losing color as young as two years old.

So, if you know your betta is reaching the twilight of life, it’s time to accept that they will soon pass on to the great beyond. There’s no real solution except making their time left as comfortable and happy as possible.

3. Inadequate Diet

Sometimes, bettas that turn white are due to an inadequate diet. This is a sure way for them to lose color and turn white. Check their regular food so that it is rich in nutrients and vary things up from time to time.

4. Poor Water Parameters

No matter what causes a betta to turn white, chances are, the water parameters are poor and uninhabitable. Review the chart below to make sure the tank’s water falls within the appropriate ranges:

Ammonia0 ppm
Carbonate Hardness (KH)3 to 5 dKH (53.6 to 89.4 ppm)
General Hardness (GH)3 to 4 dGH (50 to 66.7 ppm)
NitratesLess than 20 ppm
Nitrites0 ppm
pH Balance6.5 to 7.5
Temperature 75° to 81°F (23.8° to 27.2°C)

5. Injury

So many things inside an aquarium can injure betta fish, which can give it a white appearance. Aggressive tank mates, rough decorations, untrimmed plants and other sharp objects can tear at their flowing fins and rip off scales.

As long as you keep their environment clean, safe and healthy, they should heal quickly. However, if stress ans strange behavior accompanies the injury, you may want to set up a quarantine tank until the fish recovers.

6. Ich

One of the most common fish diseases that will turn a betta white is Ich. This is the result of an opportunistic protozoan parasite. Any lowered immunity problems and stress in a betta will contract Ich with great alacrity.

Ich is much the same as human chickenpox. It attacks the fish’s skin, resulting in severe irritation and white spots. Fish attempt to scratch their bodies on surfaces along with the appearance of frayed fins, rashes, lethargy and a lack of appetite.

Treating Ich

  1. Quarantine: Set up a hospital tank for your betta as soon as you possibly can with excellent water parameters.
  2. Initial Treatment: Use freshwater aquarium salt to start the healing process. This will stop the parasite’s progress and is particularly useful in severe cases. Add anywhere from one teaspoon to one tablespoon per five gallons of water.
  3. Medication: Get an Ich treatment or medication that contains green malachite or blue methylene. Seachem’s ParaGuard is excellent. Follow the dosage instructions and keep to the regimen until the condition clears.

7. Columnaris

Columnaris, also called Cottonmouth Disease or Cotton Wool Disease, is a serious bacterial disease that betta fish easily succumb to due to over-breeding and mass production. However, stress and poor water parameters could also be culprits.

There are two types of columnaris. The first one means your fish has 24 hours left and the other takes some time before fatality sets in. If your fish has the latter type, there’s plenty of time to treat it.

Columnaris appears as fuzzy white spots all over the betta’s body. These spots begin around the gills and mouth followed by falling scales, revealing the muscle tissue underneath. They can also develop frayed fins and ulcers.

Treating Columnaris

  1. Quarantine: Isolate your betta away from all the other critters in your tank.
  2. Antibacterial Treatment: Give your fish about one tablespoon of freshwater aquarium salt per five gallons of water. This will halt the disease’s development.
  3. Medication: If the columnaris is serious enough, you may also want to give some medication to your betta. Terramycin, Acriflavine or Furan are excellent ones. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for dosage.

8. Anchor Worms

Anchor worms are a parasitic crustacean that attaches itself to a betta’s body. There will be white nubs clinging to fins, gills and scales. These cause ulcers, breathing problems, sores and irritation.

Anchor worms occur because of recent additions of other species or plants into the tank. Unfortunately, anchor worms can happen regardless of careful efforts to avoid them. The best avoidance is to purchase fish and plants from reputable sellers.

Treating Anchor Worms

  1. Quarantine: Isolate your betta ASAP to a tank with appropriate water parameters.
  2. Initial Treatment: Add about one tablespoon of freshwater aquarium salt per five gallons of water to initiate worm removal.
  3. Worm Removal: When the anchor worms are severe, you will have to pull them off physically from your fish. While this is the most effective removal method, it can cause stress to your fish.
  4. Post-Removal Treatment: After worm removal, give the betta a bath in Potassium Permagranate. Ensure you give the right dosage by following instructions to the letter.

9. Fin Rot

Fin rot is a horrible bacterial infection within the aquarium and this can definitely cause betta fish to turn white.  This is one of the most common problems aquarists face but it’s also one of the easier ones to cure. When this sets in, the fins begin to wither and rot away, which causes fish a lot of pain.

This often occurs due to poor filtration, bad water parameters in general, an overcrowded environment, the betta remained stressed out for too long or aggressive tank mates. As with most other causes mentioned so far, you want to make sure the water is in tiptop condition.

Pay attention to all your fish and observe how they interact with your betta. If any of them are nipping at your betta or they also show signs of fin rot, you must be proactive and take care of the situation immediately.

Treating Fin Rot

  1. Quarantine: Setup a quarantine tank and isolate all infected fish to prevent the disease from progressing further. Make sure this is pristine and perfectly ideal for your betta.
  2. Medication: There are many treatments and medications you can give to an infected betta for fin rot. Phenoxyethanol, commercial fish rot preparations, freshwater aquarium salt, malachite green or methylene blue are all very effective. Do thorough research on each kind to ensure you get the right one.
  3. Water Test: Check the water parameters of the main tank to make sure nothing is amiss. Do a partial water change and be diligent in ensuring the water is appropriate before adding it in.
  4. Monitor: During the betta’s healing process and after reintroduction to the main aquarium, monitor their fins. Make sure they heal during quarantine and ensure fin rot doesn’t return.

10. Other Bacteria ; Parasites

While the parasitic and bacterial diseases mentioned above are the most common, several others can be easy for bettas to contract and turn them white. These are usually the result of unhealthy surroundings and introducing foreign matter into the aquarium, such as new species and plants.

As a go-to, always quarantine your betta away from the main tank. Then, check other inhabitants for similar symptoms as well as the water parameters of the main tank. Next, add a little freshwater aquarium salt to begin the healing process and stop development.

Finally, research what’s ailing your pet and discover all you can about the symptoms. Acquire the appropriate medications and treatments, paying close attention to dosage instructions. If you catch the disease early, you’ll be able to cure it quickly in most cases.

11. Genetics

The final reason why bettas will turn white is due to genetics. In some cases, certain types of bettas will turn white, such as albinos or marbles, because that’s what’s in their DNA. Other times they will shift to a colorless or whitish state during their development or after maturity.

But, many of the problems and health issues that cause bettas to turn white is due to over-breeding and overproduction. This means when you decide to be a keeper of these bright beauties, you must source them from a reputable supplier that’s transparent about where they obtain their fish.