Like many other pet fish, bettas have quite a simple digestive tract, with a short esophagus and intestine, which usually works quickly and efficiently. Poop is a natural part of this digestive process, but how can you tell if your fish is pooping normally or not?
Or even worse – What if he isn’t pooping at all?
Well, just like humans and other animals, fish can also suffer from constipation, and in this article, we’re going to discuss how it affects our beloved bettas.
Can Bettas Get Constipated?
Okay, I thought this might have been a bit more obvious – but yes! Of course, they can!
As with all animals (just like you and me and our dogs and cats), bettas can get constipated. This can come with a few warning signs and can be down to several reasons, but if you suspect you have a constipated betta fish on your hands, this is something that should be taken very seriously.
Is My Betta Constipated?
If you notice a few symptoms of constipation in your fish, you’ll want to start treating him for this illness immediately.
If any other symptoms not listed below are also present, then you should take note of these as they could indicate a different illness.
These are the main symptoms of constipation in betta fish:
If your betta isn’t pooping, that poop isn’t going anywhere! And the longer that poop builds up, the bigger your betta’s belly will get. A distended or bloated stomach is a common sign of constipation in betta fish.
You should treat your fish for constipation as soon as you notice this. However, you’ll want to double-check that his scales aren’t sticking out. If they are, this is known as ‘pineconing,’ indicating that your fish suffers from dropsy, not just constipation.
If this is the case, you must take immediate action, as dropsy can quickly become fatal to your fish.
Lethargic / Not Swimming
This can be a common symptom in many illnesses in fish, so it’s important not to go off of this alone, but lethargy can be a huge tell-tale sign that your fish may be constipated.
As with humans, when our stomachs are pretty full, the last thing we want to do is move around and be active. Sometimes after a large meal, even I just want to lie down and sleep it off, and your betta is no different!
Keep a close eye on your fish to see how energetic he is. If he seems to be moving around much more sluggishly or slower than usual, then constipation may be the root cause.
Not Eating / Spitting Out Food
Another symptom that should not be a key determiner when seen by itself is a lack of appetite, a common symptom among many illnesses. That said, it could also be a key symptom of constipation.
After all, if you’re already full of food and have been for quite a while, the last thing you want is to eat.
Bettas are huge foodies, so if you notice he is ignoring his food, take this as a warning sign that something is very wrong!
If you notice your betta’s poop is stringy, this can be a clear sign of constipation, and you should begin treating it as soon as possible.
Healthy betta poop should sink down to the substrate every time he goes, but when constipated, his faeces can appear stringy and hang on to his behind for some time.
This could be difficult to spot unless you’re watching your fish like a hawk, so if you suspect he may be constipated, it’s advised to keep a close eye on him in case you spot this tell-tale sign.
If your fish seems to be struggling to swim, then this may have passed the point of just being constipated, and your fish may now, sadly, be suffering from swim bladder disease.
This can be fatal, but it is treatable if you catch it in time and research swim bladder disease to check that your fish isn’t suffering.
What Causes Constipation in Bettas?
If your betta has been constipated, it’s key to determine the cause. The last thing you want is to cure the issue just for it to come back with a vengeance!
As with anything, prevention is better than a cure, so knowing what causes constipation in bettas can certainly prevent it from occurring again.
Not Enough Exercise
As I always say when it comes to tank sizes – the bigger, the better! Whilst some sources may say that a betta can live comfortably in a 1-gallon tank, that’s not the case, and personally, I’d recommend at least a 5-10 gallon tank for one betta alone.
They enjoy having lots of space to swim around, and if they don’t have enough space, they won’t get enough exercise. – Simple enough, right?
Lack of exercise can cause constipation, and housing your fish in a tank too small can result in all sorts of unwanted issues – one of which is constipation.
Not Enough Live Food
A betta’s diet consists mainly of live prey in its natural habitat. Replicating this in a home aquarium is key in ensuring your pet is in good health, so eating whole animals or insects is a key part of this.
Pellets don’t always contain a lot of fibre. And whilst they’re high in many essential nutrients, it’s important that betta’s get enough fibre in their diet. This ensures their digestive system keeps working as it should.
Live prey also offers fibre-rich chitin found in their skeletons, and the combination of the skeletons and stomach content makes for a high-fibre food source.
If you’re looking for a good source of this to feed your fish at home, then daphnia and mosquito larvae are excellent choices.
Only Feeding Flakes / Freeze Dried Foods
Most fish that live off of only flakes or freeze-dried foods are prone to constipation, as they lack enough fibre in their diet.
If you plan on feeding flakes to your fish, ensure that you soak them before offering them to your pet. This is because they expand as they come into the water.
And as bettas are greedy little fellows, they’ll eat them before they’ve expanded, get too full, and make themselves constipated!
Pellets are recommended over flakes as these make for a much better-balanced diet, and if you choose a high-quality type, these will help decrease the chances of your betta becoming constipated.
Overfeeding is a very common cause of constipation in bettas. To avoid this, it’s important to let them feed only a couple of times per day for a couple of minutes each time.
Bettas are greedy little things and will continue to eat even when they’re full, so preventing this can also help to prevent any effects that overfeeding can cause.
As I mentioned before, if your fish doesn’t have enough fibre in his diet, then he’s very likely to get constipation – as is the case with most animals.
Bettas are opportunistic feeders, so they will basically eat anything. Still, as a carnivorous species, they thrive much better on meat and live food, so it’s crucial to ensure that you’re feeding them the right things to ensure a well-balanced and varied diet.
Swim Bladder Disease
Contrary to popular belief, Swim Bladder Disease isn’t actually a disease – it’s a symptom, and whilst it can be a symptom of constipation, it can also be a cause.
If your fish has an injury or infection that could be causing his organs to swell, this could lead to constipation. If you notice any other symptoms of a swim bladder disorder, such as tilting to the side or struggling to swim, this should be addressed immediately.
Too Much Blood Worm
Okay, I just mentioned that a lack of live foods in their diet could be a key cause of constipation in bettas, but if you’re not feeding them the right things, that can be just as bad!
Bloodworms are a key example of a treat – a delicious snack that should be given very sparingly. Whilst high in nutritional value, making them a consistent part of your Betta’s diet will not do them any good and may actually cause them more harm. In particular, frozen daphnia may result in digestive health complications.
They can result in betta fish constipation and interfere with healthy poops.
Does My Betta Fish Have Dropsy or Constipation?
Dropsy and constipation are very similar in symptoms and can be very difficult to differentiate. It’s crucial to ensure that before you treat your fish for any ailments, you are not mistaking dropsy for constipation.
If you don’t know what dropsy is, it is when water and other fluids accumulate inside your fish, causing tissues within their body to swell. Dropsy in betta fish can be fatal, and as you may have guessed, is far different in terms of treatment to constipation.
The most obvious sign to look out for when trying to differentiate these is the swollen stomach. With constipation, the scales will remain smooth. However, with dropsy, they will ‘pinecone’ and stick out in a way that resembles – you guessed it! The surface of a pinecone.
To ensure you’re making the correct diagnosis, here are some symptoms of dropsy to help you out:
- Bulging eyes
- Curved spine & clamped fins (visible in the later stages of the illness)
- Loss of appetite
- Pale gills (visible in the later stages of the illness)
- Pale & stringy faeces
- Standing scaled (pineconing – an obvious way of differentiating dropsy from constipation)
- Swimming abnormalities/difficulties
- Swollen anus
- Swollen belly
- Ulcers on the body
Some of these symptoms will be consistent until the disease ends (or, to be a little less polite, until your fish’s life ends). However, they should appear progressively as the disease worsens in your fish.
All the symptoms may not appear at once, but they will soon start adding up if this illness is not treated immediately. The symptoms start with digestive issues, which then result in health issues.
The constipation issues may be because of a lack of fibre and can be solved by increased dietary fibre intake to enhance the gastrointestinal tract.
Will Bettafix Help Dropsy?
Bettafix is a commonly recommended medication that may help cure dropsy in your betta, but sadly, there is no guarantee that it will work.
If you suspect your betta may have dropsy, it’s very much worth trying. However, it’s important to note that this illness is usually fatal, and this medication is not available worldwide.
How Do You Fix Constipation in Fish?
One common way of treating your betta for constipation is feeding them daphnia. This food source is high in fibre and will help regulate your betta’s digestive system.
This should be offered after a brief period of fasting to ensure that you’re giving the fish a chance to clear his system without just adding to the problem.
It may seem cruel to not feed your fish. However, you must remember that bettas don’t eat every day in the wild, so it won’t hurt them to go without food for two or three days in captivity either.
Peas are another high-fibre source of food that you can give to your betta to help treat constipation. In order to do this, you must soften the pea by boiling it and allowing it to cool down by placing it under cool running water.
Remove the skin, feed it to your fish, and wait 24 hours before feeding your fish more peas if it doesn’t pass any faeces.
Epsom salts are another commonly recommended method of treating constipation. Remove some water from your fish’s tank and use 1 teaspoon of salt per 5 gallons of water.
After adding the salt, put the water back in and leave your fish in the salt bath solution for a week whilst waiting for his condition to improve.
Can Constipation Be Fatal for Bettas?
Whilst not quite this bad for humans (although yes, it can be uncomfortable and sometimes even painful) for bettas, constipation can be a deadly issue. If not treated fast enough, it will kill your fish.
Hopefully, this article has helped you find out the issue with your fish – if it is constipation or dropsy, and, if it is constipation, how it can be treated.
So that said, best of luck to you and your fishy friend in his recovery, and happy pooping!