betta losing color

Why Is My Betta Losing Color? (Symptoms & Solutions)

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At, it’s our wish to help you keep your betta fish healthy, happy, and looking at their brilliant best. We understand how disheartening it can be to see your betta’s colors fade, so we’re here to help!

If your betta is beginning to look pale, it’s likely to be suffering from some sort of stress or health issue. By diagnosing and treating the cause of the problem, you’ll likely manage to restore your betta to its former glory.

We’ll also be sharing some top tips on tank setups and feeding regimes to make your betta glow. Let’s go!

Key Takeaways

  • A betta fish turning pale is often a symptom of shock, stress, or various diseases and health conditions.
  • In other changing color can be a natural consequence of marbled genes, such as those in ‘Marbled Bettas’ and ‘Koi Bettas’.
  • Choosing the right lighting, substrate, tank backdrop, and feeding regime are all great ways to make your betta’s colors ‘pop’ and shine at their brilliant best.

Why Does My Betta Fish Look Pale?

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.

Here are some of the most common reasons:


pale betta fish

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!

Poor Water Quality

Despite common myths, betta fish need a good aquarium filter and high water quality to remain in good health. Just like other fish, they require 0 ppm ammonia, 0 ppm nitrite, and minimal levels of nitrate.

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 become stressed and lose color.

Water Parameters and Temperature

Betta fish need a stable water temperature of between 78-81°F and a pH of between 6-7.5 to remain healthy and in optimum color.

If the temperature in the tank is allowed to fluctuate daily or isn’t set correctly, then your fish can become stressed or even suffer from thermal shock.

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, hardness, and temperature.

Injury and Fin Rot

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 scratch or scrape.

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 tank mates 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.

Introduction to a New Tank

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.

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.

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.

Changing Environment

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.


Lastly, you will need to consider any medicines, chemicals, or additives being added to the aquarium. Bettas can be very sensitive, even to fairly mild medicines like aquarium salt.

As long as all instructions are followed on the given additive, and it’s determined to be safe for a betta, then your betta shouldn’t suffer severe adverse reactions such as strong color changes.

Old Age

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, exceeding 5 years only when given ideal conditions.

If your betta is losing color due to old age, there is nothing you can do but make sure that water quality is kept high and that the tank is as peaceful as it can be.

Genetics – The Marble Betta

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 can change positions in the genome; this means that if one of these genes moves, then your betta fish can 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

betta losing color

Once you’ve figured out why your betta fish is becoming dull or turning white or black and fixed the problem, you’ll probably want 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 become noticeably dirty over time.

Tank Background

Some betta keepers also utilize a black backing to their tank, to make the colors in the foreground 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 make your betta’s colors pop without changing its environment is by providing a high-quality and diverse selection of foods.

If you feed your betta with a dried pellet or flake food, make sure that it’s one specially formulated for bettas. It must have a high protein content, with a low proportion of starchy fillers sometimes found in community tank fish foods.

However, remember that bettas 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.

In my experience, feeding your fish its favorite fresh foods can even make their colors glow the instant they hit the tank! All that excitement from being fed their favorite treat is a sure way to see your fish at its best. Top Tip!

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!

Just make sure not to give too much of one food as a varied diet is key to optimal feeding.

How Long Does It Take for Betta Fish To Regain Color?

fighting betta fish slowly losing 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 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.


It can be concerning to notice your betta fish losing color, but in many instances, your pet fish will regain its beautiful colors when conditions improve.

By maintaining excellent water quality, providing a healthy, varied diet, and a peaceful environment, you’ll be giving your betta its finest opportunity to look its brilliant best.

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