Betta fish have been adorned for their magnificent colors for decades. But if you start to notice that your fish isn’t looking as bright as it once did and turning a different color, you have reason to be concerned. More often than not, loss of color is the result of stress or old age, though genetics can also play a role. It is important to understand the reason your betta fish is losing its color as soon as possible as this can be a symptom of 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?
A color change most likely won’t be immediately noticeable. 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 variation 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 accordingly or begin to give your betta fish its best last days. It is also important to note that sometimes 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 few 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 lose color and fade to white or even turn black. Some betta fish, especially females, are likely to also 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 check 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). Any amounts of ammonia or nitrites can lead to ammonia poisoning or nitrite poisoning, which can quickly damage the internal and external surfaces 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 is not set to the right level then your fish can also become stressed out over time.
Water parameters can also fluctuate if water changes are done improperly. Water changes should always be done with water that has matching parameters to those already in the tank, including temperature; 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 is not 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 so much so that some hobbyists have pinpointed aquarium salt to be the cause of their betta turning a different color! As long as all instructions are followed on the given additive, then the betta fish should make a full recovery.
An injury will always cause a fish to stress out; their immune system becomes compromised and usually, they get a secondary bacterial infection or disease as the result of a superficial injury.
Fin rot can also cause a change in colors, most often on the 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; similarly, this can happen if your betta fish had a fin injury that wasn’t caused by infection or disease.
If you notice that your fish is developing white spots on its body along with faded colors, then it is best to assume you are dealing with a parasite of some type, either ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis) or a species of Oodinium. Even if these white spots don’t turn out to be a parasite, make sure to quarantine the affected fish just in case.
If it 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. It is usually best to keep the lights off for a couple of hours in the tank to keep stress levels down. If your new betta changes colors when placed into your aquarium, there is usually no need to worry 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 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. If your fish is still young and losing color, make sure to check all water conditions and find what is causing these changes immediately!
How do you know if your betta fish is dying?
Along with a loss of color, you might also find that your betta fish is moving slower, losing interest in food, and relaxing 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 that change colors throughout their lifetime, namely marble bettas. 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 move, then it is 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 the same, keep its 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 remain vibrant in the process; the colors don’t fade, they change completely! However, there might be some washed-out stages during the transition between colors.
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 if a color change does happen!
How to make your betta more colorful
Once you’ve figured out why your betta fish is 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 colors and deserve to be shown off. Here are a few ways to really accent 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 does not 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 options are LEDs and are found on most tanks as they make the water shimmer, last longer, and are overall more environmentally friendly.
Another 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 established substrates can be messy and difficult.
A darker substrate will help bring out the intensities of the colors of your fish while a lighter substrate tends to cause the fish to look washed out and also becomes noticeably dirty over time.
One of the best ways to really make the coloring of your betta pop without changing its environment is by providing high quality and diverse selection of foods. Betta fish should be given a pellet or flake fish food that is high in protein with little fillers as their main meal. Additional food, like live, frozen, and freeze-dried worms (earthworms, bloodworms, and Tubifex worms), mosquito larvae, and brine shrimp, can also be given as occasional snacks.
Make sure not to give too much of one food as your betta can take a liking to it and refuse to try other options. Some foods are also high in fat and fillers, which can cause your betta to become overweight or constipated.
How long does it take for betta fish to regain color?
Depending on what caused the color change, the color of your betta fish can come back as soon as a day or as long as a few months. If it’s taking longer than you would like, remember that this does not necessarily mean that aquarium conditions are unideal; it just means that your fish is taking a little longer to get comfortable in its environment again!
During this recovery time, it is 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 is 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 fish 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.
The best way to ensure your fish leads a happy life is to first correctly acclimate it to the aquarium system by floating the bag and setting up a drip acclimation. Allow the parameters from the bag to match those in the tank–usually over an hour time period–and add the fish. 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 feeding. With this, you should have no problems!
It can be very concerning to notice your betta fish losing color, but as long as you act fast, there’s a good chance that you can save your fish. If your fish has started to turn white or black, there is a good chance that your fish is under stress, water parameters are unideal, the fish is injured, or the fish is not 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 variations of bettas.
Once you’re 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!