Betta fish have been adored for their magnificent colors for centuries. But if you start to notice that your fish isn’t looking as bright as it once did and is turning a different color, you may have reason to be concerned.
More often than not, color fading is the result of stress or old age, though genetics can also play a role. Sometimes, however, loss of color can be due to something much more serious.
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know if you notice your betta losing color and why this might be happening in your aquarium!
Why Does Your Betta Fish Look Pale?
Fading color likely won’t be noticeable instantly. You might even have to compare previous pictures to confirm that your fish has actually changed in appearance.
However, this subtle change is often indicative of a much more serious problem, like stress as the result of imperfect water parameters, injury, or changing environments.
It could also just be a sign that your betta fish is nearing the end of its life or it could be the genetic makeup of a certain breed of betta fish.
Whatever the cause of your fish turning colors, it’s important to understand why your betta fish is losing its color so that you may treat your tank’s conditions accordingly or prepare to give your betta fish its best last days.
It’s also important to note that bettas can lose color immediately after being stressed. As we’ll discuss, this is very common when adding a new betta to the aquarium.
There are a variety of reasons that could be behind your betta fish stress, like water parameters, injury, or changing environments.
Usually, when the fish becomes stressed for one or more of these reasons, it will begin to lose color, and in extreme cases, may even fade to white or turn black.
Some betta fish, especially females, are also likely to develop stress stripes, which appear as light and/or dark horizontal stripes along the sides of the body; if these stripes run vertically, it could also mean that your fish is getting ready to breed.
Along with the loss of color, other symptoms of stress include loss of appetite, lethargy, rubbing against surfaces in the tank, laying on the substrate, and gasping for air at the surface of the aquarium.
Make sure to check up on your betta fish every day to ensure that everything is how it should be and there isn’t any abnormal behavior!
Like any other tropical fish, betta fish need stable aquarium parameters. They require 0 ppm ammonia, 0 ppm nitrite, and minimal levels of nitrate. The optimal betta temperature should be stable between 78-80° F (25.6-26.7° C).
Even small amounts of ammonia or nitrites can lead to ammonia poisoning or nitrite poisoning, which can quickly damage the internal and external body of your fish.
This pain will undoubtedly cause your fish to stress out and eventually lose color. If the temperature in the tank is allowed to fluctuate daily or isn’t set correctly, then your fish can also become stressed out over time.
Water parameters can also fluctuate if water changes aren’t done properly. Water changes should always be done with water that has matching parameters to those already in the tank, including pH and hardness.
Too large of a fluctuation can cause the tank water to change too fast for fish and invertebrates to adapt.
In the same way, new water should match the aquarium temperature to ensure that a temperature swing isn’t caused. Your betta fish may also lose color if you perform an especially large water change, even if all the parameters match.
Lastly, you will need to consider any medicines, chemicals, or additives being added to the aquarium. Bettas can be very sensitive, even to the point that some hobbyists have attributed aquarium salt to be the cause of their betta turning a different color!
As long as all instructions are followed on the given additive, and it’s determined to be safe for a betta, then your betta should make a full recovery.
An injury is another cause for stress in your pet fish; their immune system becomes compromised and they may pick up a secondary bacterial infection or disease as the result of a superficial injury.
Remember that betta’s are both fragile and aggressive fish! They may get injured from sparring with other fish in your tank. Make sure that all of your betta’s tankmates are peaceful and compatible with him.
Fin rot can also cause a change in colors, especially the colors of the betta’s fins. If the betta fish has fin rot, the edges of the fins might appear to be turning white, black, or brown; tattered and drooping fins are also a telltale sign of fin rot.
When the betta fish is recovering from fin rot, the new fin growth may also appear white or brown, depending on the color of the fish. This can also happen if your betta fish had a fin injury – even if it wasn’t followed up by an infection or disease.
If it is very common for new fish to lose their color when placed into a new tank; this is simply due to the stress of being transported and introduced into a new and unfamiliar setting.
Try to make transport as smooth and gentle as possible for your fish. Always carry a new fish in a darkened bag and avoid any sudden movements to keep your betta sedate and calm through this major transition in his life.
It’s also always best to keep the tank lights off for a couple of hours to keep stress levels down when introducing a new betta to the tank.
If possible, do this in the evening, so that your betta has a full night’s rest to settle into his new surroundings before the morning lights are switched on.
Float his bag on the surface for 30 minutes or until temperatures match that of your tank water. Next, gradually introduce some of your tank’s water into his bag for a further 30 minutes until he is acclimatized and ready to go out into his new home.
If your new betta changes colors when placed into your aquarium, there is usually no major cause for worry. Just keep a close eye on him, and coloring should begin to return in a couple of days.
Betta fish can also lose their colors if their current tank is changed too much too quickly; this would mean changing around the aquascape, introducing a tank mate, or just having your hands in the tank for too long at once.
As long as your fish is given some time to relax afterward, then your betta should regain its color in a couple of days as well.
As you can see from all of the above, reducing stress on your betta is paramount for optimum health, color, and even longevity.
Common fish diseases like ich (white spot disease) and velvet (Oodinium) infections are fairly commonplace in betta tanks and can also cause severe color loss in your betta.
Ich is normally diagnosed by the presence of white spots on the fish’s skin. Velvet results in a gold or brown dust-like appearance on your betta.
These parasitic infections may make your betta appear irritated, itching itself against the substrate, rocks, and plants. Your betta may lose interest in food and appear lethargic.
These types of diseases, along with others like Anchor Worms and Dropsy will also likely cause your betta’s colors to fade. Swift diagnosis and treatment of ailments is the best way to restore your fish’s health and beautiful colors.
As with all living things, betta fish start to lose some of their vibrancy and splendor near the end of their lives. In captivity, betta fish only live about 2-3 years on average, with some reaching 5 years.
If you’ve had your fish for a good amount of time and you start to see it losing color and its fins thinning out, it might almost be time to say goodbye.
There is nothing you can do in this case, but make sure that water quality is good and that the tank is as peaceful as it can be.
On the other hand, if your fish is still young and losing color, make sure to check all water conditions and find what is causing the changes immediately.
How do you know if your betta fish is dying?
Along with a loss of color, a common symptom could be if your betta fish is moving slower, losing interest in food, and resting on the bottom of the tank. Your fish will let you know when it’s in its final days.
There are some variations of betta fish, known as ‘Marble Bettas‘ that change colors throughout their lifetime. The entire koi betta subgroup is also a part of the Marble Betta lineage.
Marble bettas have jumping genes, also known officially as transposons, which are parts of the DNA that have the ability to change positions in the genome; this means that if one of these genes moves, then it’s possible for your betta fish to change color.
There is no predicting what color these fish might end up being; the fish can stay relatively similar, keep their patterning, or turn to a solid color like white or black.
It should be pretty easy to tell if genes have jumped versus a stressed-out or dying betta as the colors will remain vibrant in the process – in other words, the colors don’t fade, they change completely!
However, don’t worry too much if your marble betta goes through some washed-out stages during the transition between colors, as this can also happen in some cases.
As long as water and tank conditions are optimal and you’re aware that you have a marble betta, then there should be no concern when color changes happen!
How to Make Your Betta More Colorful
Once you’ve figured out why your betta fish is becoming dull or turning white or black and fixed the problem, you’ll probably be wanting to show off your fish even more.
Betta fish naturally have beautiful, vibrant colors and deserve to be shown off. Here are a few ways to give an accent to the natural beauty of your fish:
One of the easiest ways to make the coloring of your betta fish really stand out is by getting a complimentary light. This light doesn’t need to be high-tech unless you plan on keeping live plants.
Rather, the light should make your betta bring out its best colors and shimmer off its scales while it swims, without being too intense.
Some of the best bulbs for tank lighting are LEDs and are found on most modern tanks. They make the water shimmer, they last longer, and are overall more environmentally friendly.
One of the most important aspects of lighting is to ensure a healthy lighting cycle. This is basically about using your lighting to provide your betta with both night and day. A timer switch is an inexpensive investment that can help a lot with this.
Betta’s require between 10-12 hours of daylight, followed by a similar length of the night time when the tank’s lights are off. A well-rested betta is a healthy and colorful betta – so be sure to make sure your betta is getting enough sleep!
A good lighting cycle will also help your aquatic plants to grow well.
A great way to create contrast between your betta and its environment is by choosing a dark substrate; make sure to consider this before setting up the tank, as switching up an established substrate can be messy and difficult – especially once your fish is inside!
A darker substrate will help bring out the intensities of the colors of your fish while a lighter substrate can sometimes cause the fish to look washed out and also becomes noticeably dirty over time.
Some betta keepers also utilize a black backing to their tank, to make the colors in the foreground really stand out. Vibrant plants, decor, and fish colors will also be highlighted against a dark backdrop, and the effect can look stylish as well.
Just be aware that while bright colors appear more intense against a dark background, darker colors may become almost invisible!
Darker breeds of betta fish like Black Melano and Black Lace bettas won’t look good against a black background – for these types of betta, a light background may be more helpful to bring out their beautiful silhouettes.
One of the best ways to really make the coloring of your betta pop without changing its environment is by providing a high-quality and diverse selection of foods.
If you wish to feed your betta with a dried pellet or flake food, make sure that it’s one specially formulated for bettas. It’s important that it has a high protein content, with a low proportion of starchy fillers sometimes found in community tank fish foods.
However, remember that betta’s do best on a carnivorous diet! Live, frozen, and freeze-dried foods such as worms (earthworms, bloodworms, and Tubifex worms), daphnia, and mosquito larvae, are closer to what a betta would naturally eat in the wild.
These will add a lot of nutrients to your betta’s diet – perfect for helping his colors to shine and prevent health issues!
To bring out the yellow, orange, and red pigments in your betta, choose foods with a high percentage of carotenoids. Carotenoids can be found in some commercial fish food, and are especially abundant in brine shrimp!
Make sure not to give too much of one food as your betta might take a liking to it, become fussy, and refuse to try other options! Foods that are high in fat and fillers, can also cause your betta to become overweight, bloated, and constipated.
How Long Does It Take for Betta Fish to Regain Color?
Depending on what caused the color fading, the color of your betta fish can come back as soon as a day – but in another case, it could take as long as a few months.
If it’s taking longer than you would like, remember that this doesn’t necessarily mean that aquarium conditions are less than ideal; it might just mean that your fish is taking a little longer to get comfortable in its environment again!
During this recovery time, it’s best to keep your water parameters stable and tank conditions the same; any slight alterations could cause your fish to become stressed out again, which could cause the problem to start over.
It’s also recommended to switch to higher-quality foods during this time to help bolster your betta’s strength and immunity.
How to Keep Your Betta Fish Happy
Betta fish are easy to keep; once you’ve successfully added them to your tank, then they will most likely go on to live a long and happy life.
As we said, one of the most important factors is how you first introduce your betta to your aquarium. Gently acclimatize him to the aquarium system by floating his bag and slowly introducing tank water to the bag.
Over the course of the life of the tank, make sure to quarantine any tank mates, regularly check water parameters and perform water changes, and keep up with a moderate quantity – high-quality feeding regime.
All of this done, and with a bit of luck, you’ll have a smooth, trouble-free experience with your betta fish!
It can be very concerning to notice your betta fish losing color, but provided you act fast, there’s a good chance that you can save your fish.
If your pet fish has started to turn white or black, there is a good chance that your betta is under stress, water parameters are less than ideal, the fish is injured, or the fish isn’t used to its new environment yet. However, a betta fish losing color can also be a sign of old age or a genetic occurrence in some breeds of bettas.
Once you’ve figured out the problem in your aquarium and have taken steps to correct it, then it’s only a matter of time before your betta starts to get its color back. Make sure to keep tank and water conditions stable and safe for your betta fish and things should be back to normal within a couple of months at the latest!
If you have any questions about why your betta fish is turning a different color, how to enhance the colors of your bettas even more, or have had experience with an oddly-colored betta fish, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!