Betta fish are beautiful, intelligent creatures that are extremely popular pets. Bettas generally only live for around two to four years in captivity, so you want to give your beloved betta buddy the best chance of living a healthy, happy life.
Unfortunately, bettas can be vulnerable to digestive issues like dangerous bloating and constipation. But did you know that a betta’s stomach can actually explode?
Read this article to learn what causes a betta fish’s stomach to explode and find out what you can do to prevent that from happening to your precious pet!
Can a Betta Fish’s Stomach Explode?
Yes! It is possible for a betta fish’s stomach to burst.
An exploding stomach can happen because of stomach ulcers, pineconing due to dropsy, bloating, parasite attack, or end-stage kidney failure.
Why Does My Betta Fish Have a White Belly?
If your betta develops a white belly, you might be concerned that your fish could explode. However, that’s not generally the case.
When your betta’s belly becomes bloated and swells, the tissues beneath the fish’s scales are stretched to the max. That can leave your betta appearing as though his belly has turned white.
Usually, once the betta’s belly returns to its usual size, the fish’s coloring will return to normal.
Some owners worry that their betta’s stomach will explode if the fish is overfed. It’s easy to see why you might think that since a betta’s stomach is very small, around the same size as a fish’s eye.
There are some nasty side effects of overfeeding your betta fish. However, your pet’s stomach won’t explode due to extra food.
Giving your pet too much food can cause bloating and constipation. That, in turn, leads to bladder problems, leaving your fish unable to swim properly.
Your betta might be unable to stay on an even keel, tipping over onto his side or becoming stuck on the substrate, unable to swim to the surface.
For your betta to remain healthy, you should feed him twice a day, offering only what your pet will eat in a couple of minutes. Ideally, your betta should have one fasting day per week when you don’t feed him at all.
Fasting allows any type of food that’s still in the betta’s digestive tract to move through, helping to prevent a potentially harmful blockage from occurring.
You can read a detailed article on how to feed your betta in the article at this link.
Why Did My Fish’s Stomach Burst?
There are several reasons why your betta’s stomach might burst.
In dramatic cases, the stomach and the fish’s intestines will explode right through the poor fish’s skin. However, in most incidents of that nature, the fish simply becomes lethargic, stops eating, and quickly dies.
Unfortunately, if your betta’s stomach bursts, it’s too late for your fish. So, keep an eye out for signs that your pet is unwell so that you can treat him before it’s too late.
Now, let’s take a look at the most likely health issues that cause a betta’s stomach to explode.
At the top of our list of likely causes for an exploding betta fish’s stomach are bacterial infections.
Bacterial infections are a very common cause of fish death. A serious infection, such as Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, affects the fish’s intestines and gastric tract and can cause the fish’s stomach to burst.
Bacterial infections can have several common causes:
- Poor tank hygiene conditions
- The introduction of new fish to the tank
- Live foods can also be a source of bacteria
- Stress can lower the fish’s resistance to disease
If your betta is injured or stressed, his slime coat will begin to fail. That slippery, oily coating helps to protect the fish from certain bacteria levels and parasites.
A fish suffering from bacterial infection often develops a white, cloudy slime over its body, as well as red patches, ulcers, and lost scales.
However, many bacterial infections, especially those that affect the fish internally, aren’t detectable from the outside. Often, these attacks cause minor symptoms until the fish is beyond help.
Some minor bacterial infections can be successfully treated with over-the-counter medication that you’ll get from a good fish store.
However, double-check that the drug you use won’t harm invertebrates if you have them in your tank. It’s also worth noting that potent antibiotics can also kill off the friendly bacteria in your filter media.
Therefore, we advise you to test your aquarium water for increased ammonia and nitrite levels that could indicate a depletion of the beneficial bacteria colonies.
Boost bacteria numbers by adding an aquarium bacteria supplement to the water if necessary once you’ve finished treating your betta fish.
If necessary, carry out daily water changes and replace dirty water with clean water to reduce levels of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates.
You can take several steps to prevent bacterial infections in your betta’s tank. Let’s examine these in further detail:
Improve Water Quality
Harmful bacteria of all kinds thrive in a tank with dirty water.
So, the first thing you should do is attend to the general hygiene and water quality in your betta tank:
- Carry out a partial water change of 25%
- Remove the filter box and get rid of sludge from inside
- Ensure that the impeller is clean and free from clogging
- Rinse filter media in tank water to get rid of sludge
- Replace spent filter media
- Use an aquarium vacuum cleaner to remove organic waste from all areas of the tank
- Clean the viewing panes to get rid of algae
- Trim dead leaves and damaged stems from plants
Don’t be tempted to change the entire water volume in the tank. That could seriously stress out your betta fish, making the problem even worse.
Make it a part of your routine to carry out regular water changes to remove water toxins and test the water to ensure that conditions are safe for your betta.
When you’ve finished the cleanup, top up the aquarium with dechlorinated tap water at the correct temperature.
Quarantine New Fish
If you add new fish and invertebrates to your tank, always quarantine them for a couple of weeks first.
Only add the newbies to the aquarium once you can see that they are healthy so that you don’t risk infecting your betta’s tank mates.
Avoid Using Live Foods
Although bettas love live foods, using living food can introduce bacteria into your betta tank.
Instead, offer your betta frozen bloodworms, daphnia, and the like.
Aquatic parasites that attack the betta’s internal organs can also be responsible for a swollen belly that ultimately bursts.
These parasites are single-cell, protozoan organisms that live inside of your betta and basically leach nutrition from him. The most common internal parasites you’ll encounter are Hexamita and Spironucleus species.
Signs and Symptoms
Sometimes, the betta’s belly will appear sunken or sucked in. Other times, the fish’s stomach can become swollen and bloated. Often, these symptoms are caused by flatworms that live in the fish’s digestive tract.
The worms feed on the food that’s in the betta’s stomach before the fish has the opportunity to digest the food and utilize the nutrients. Gradually, the fish starves, even if it’s eating properly.
If your betta develops white stringy poop, it’s likely caused by parasite infection, such as tapeworms, Spironucleus, or roundworms.
Poor appetite is a classic sign of an internal parasite attack and is generally a sign of tapeworm infection or roundworms. As the parasites grow inside the fish’s stomach, the fish swells, and eventually, its stomach explodes.
Internal parasites aren’t always contagious. However, there is always a risk of your other tank occupants becoming infected.
We recommend that you isolate your betta in a quarantine tank with fresh water. Carry out daily water changes, changing out the entire water volume. Simultaneously, use an anti-parasitic drug to drive the parasites out of your betta’s body.
Parasites and harmful bacteria can thrive in a dirty tank, so take steps to ensure that your aquarium filter is well-maintained.
As in all fish species, bettas don’t have bone marrow. That means the betta’s kidneys work to produce the fish’s white and red blood cells, as well as detoxification.
That can make the kidneys work extra hard, leaving them sensitive to factors, including bacteria, parasites, and even stress.
Extended periods of stress can compromise the betta’s immune system, leading to several serious health problems, including kidney failure.
In extreme cases, the fish’s belly becomes bloated, and the stomach can sometimes burst.
The treatment of kidney failure in betta fish depends on the cause of the problem.
For example, Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) is incurable. However, you can sometimes cure dropsy by carrying out water changes and thoroughly cleaning your betta’s tank.
Keep your betta fish in a quarantine tank until you can be sure that he is cured. Returning your sick fish to the main tank too soon can result in other fish becoming infected.
Dropsy disease is actually not a disease in itself but is symptomatic of an underlying condition.
A fish with dropsy develops a swollen belly because of fluid accumulation inside the fish’s body. That ultimately leads to a swollen belly and inflammation.
Dropsy has many different causes, including liver dysfunction, parasite attacks, bacterial infections, etc.
To treat dropsy, you need to quarantine your sick betta to prevent a potentially contagious cause from spreading to your other livestock.
The treatment course you take will depend on what’s causing the disease. Depending on the cause, you might need to use parasite-specific medication or antibiotics.
You’ll also need to carry out partial water changes to maintain pristine conditions in the quarantine tank throughout your betta’s treatment and recovery.
Never return your betta to his main tank until you’re absolutely certain he has fully recovered, or you risk infecting other fish in your collection.
Sometimes, it’s simply not possible to treat dropsy. In that case, you’ll need to consider euthanizing your betta.
I hope you enjoyed our guide to betta fish stomach exploding. If you found the article helpful, please share it!
Although it’s not common, a betta’s stomach can sometimes burst. That’s a phenomenon that’s generally caused by bacterial infections, parasite attacks, kidney failure, or dropsy.
Depending on the cause of the problem, you can sometimes treat your betta before his stomach ruptures. However, once the damage is done, there’s sadly nothing you can do to save your beloved betta buddy.
Did your betta fish’s stomach explode? Tell us what happened in the comments box below.