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Betta Fish Constipation: Why Does It Happen?

Renee Whitmore
Last Updated on
by Renee Whitmore

You might think that keeping betta fish excludes you from the worries about healthy bowel movements that dog or cat owners often face. Still, the reality is that betta fish can also struggle with digestive issues such as constipation.

Below, we’re sharing everything you need to know about betta fish constipation so you can identify and treat the issue easily if and when it happens.

What You Need to Know About Betta Fish Constipation

Betta Fish

Betta fish constipation is an issue that’s more common than you might think. So, understanding what causes it, what the most obvious symptoms are, and how to treat the problem is crucial if you want to keep your fish healthy.

Let’s dive into the most important things you should know about constipation in betta fish so that if it happens, they won’t have to suffer for long.

What Causes Constipation in Betta Fish?

There are three primary causes of constipation among betta fish. While diet and exercise are two of the most common culprits, just as with humans, there’s also a more concerning cause that you’ll want to know about, called Swim Bladder Disease.

Being able to locate the source of constipation will then help you identify the best course of treatment, so let’s take a look.

  • Swim Bladder Disease – While it sounds like a disease, Swim Bladder Disease is a large range of ailments that show the same symptoms. Swim Bladder Disease could be the cause of your betta fish’s constipation, but constipation could also be the cause of Swim Bladder Disease.

The lack of certainty of cause and effect makes it harder to figure out which one spurred the other.

This disease is also sometimes referred to as Flip-Over Disorder or Swim Bladder Disorder, and it commonly impacts betta fish. If you notice your betta floating on its side or upside down, sinking to the bottom of its aquarium, or having trouble swimming downward from the surface of the water, this could be the issue.

Essentially, this happens when the fish’s swim bladder gets compressed by internal swelling within their abdominal cavity, which can easily happen if they haven’t been able to make a successful bowel movement.

  • Poor Diet – They may also be suffering from constipation due to poor diet, which could mean several things. One option is that they’ve only been eating flaked or freeze-dried food, which could indicate a lack of fiber in their daily diet. Incorporating pellets can help to balance their diet and promote healthy digestion.

Betta fish should also be eating some live animals within their diet to get the essential nutrients. Some examples are mosquito larvae or Daphnia.

Another issue could be too much blood-worm in their diet, or even overfeeding, which can keep them too full and make it difficult to have a bowel movement.

  • Lack of Exercise – Is your betta fish getting enough exercise? You might not think about it, but if they’re not swimming around their tank enough, they’re not getting enough exercise daily. You should keep only one betta fish in a tank of at least five gallons, so if your aquarium is smaller than that, it’s time to upgrade. Just making this one small switch can make all the difference in their digestion.

These are the three most common causes of constipation in betta fish. But the symptoms of each of these causes can look different. Understanding the symptoms will help you identify if your betta fish is feeling constipated so you can treat the issue promptly.

What Are the Symptoms of a Constipated Betta?

A constipated betta may be hard to notice at first, but if you keep your eye out for these tell-tale signs, you’ll be able to tell when your fish is constipated so you can set them up with the right treatment.

Not Eating:

If you notice your betta fish refusing to eat or trying to eat but spitting out their food, this can indicate that they are constipated.

However, it’s not always what it means. If you notice this symptom along with other symptoms listed here, it’s a good sign that they could be constipated, but refusing food alone isn’t enough to diagnose the issue.

Related Article: How long can betta fish go without food?

Pale, Stringy Feces:

If you can catch your betta while they have a bowel movement, try to take a look at the texture of their feces. If it is stringy looking and not sinking to the bottom, that’s not what you want to see. They should sink every time, so if you notice that the feces looks like this, you should start constipation treatment as soon as you can.

Bloated Stomach:

A bloated, swollen belly on a betta fish indicated some sort of gastrointestinal issue. Think about it – if your fish can’t empty their bladder, there’s nowhere else for their food to go. The longer they are constipated, the larger the bloated belly will get.

Not Swimming or Trouble Swimming:

A healthy betta fish should spend most of their time swimming around their tank. If they seem to be having trouble swimming or are refusing to swim, it’s a sign of Swim Bladder Disease caused by constipation.

Betta Fish Constipation Treatment

The very best betta fish constipation treatment is Epsom salt. As a mild muscle relaxant, it can help relieve them of their constipation. To do this, add about one teaspoon of Epsom salt per five gallons of water in the tank. Stir until dissolved, and keep only your betta in this tank. They should stay there for about a week or until you notice the symptoms dissipating.

If that doesn’t work, or you’d like to try something else instead, try to fast your betta for a few days to give the built-up food in the stomach time to digest and move through the digestive tract.

When in doubt, add more daphnia to their diet as these animals have chitin-rich skeletons full of fiber and can help produce a healthy bowel movement.

Betta Fish
About Renee Whitmore
Renee Whitmore
Renee Whitmore is an American college professor and freelance writer from North Carolina. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a Master’s Degree in English Education. When she is not driving her teenage son to wrestling practice or learning the ins and outs of Fortnite from her younger son, she is working on her first book to be published soon.
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