blue stressed and pale betta fish

Betta Stress Stripes: Identification And Treatment

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Adding a new betta to your aquarium can be stressful for both you and your fish, but sometimes your betta might show some concerning colorations. Stress stripes are one way your betta will let you know that something has changed or that something isn’t right in the aquarium. Luckily, these unfavorable conditions can usually be quickly fixed, returning the color to your betta fish in no time!

Keep reading to find out what betta stress stripes are, what causes them, and how to fix them if you start to notice them on your fish!

What are betta stress stripes?

betta fish stripes in black background

Betta stress stripes are your betta’s reaction to sudden changes or unfavorable aquarium conditions. Your fish may start to lose its bright colors and light and/or dark vertical stripes may develop on the sides of its body.

It is generally agreed that stress stripes run horizontally while breeding stripes run vertically, so make sure to check which ways the lines are running.

Do male bettas get stress stripes?

Usually, stress stripes are much more apparent in female bettas than males. Male betta fish will most likely lose color and display other signs of stress instead of developing stress stripes. If your male betta fish has lost color and/or had a change in behavior, check the parameters and conditions of your tank.

Why is your betta stressed?

There are a few reasons why your betta might be stressed, and there might be more than one answer to your specific problem. These are a few reasons why your betta fish might be displaying stress stripes:

New tank

It is very common for new betta fish to develop these stripes as they are transferred from the pet store to a permanent aquarium. As long as the tank is fully cycled, filtered, heated, and testing the way that it should, these stripes should disappear within a couple of weeks once the fish gets used to its new aquarium.

Change of scenery

Similar to a new tank, a change in surroundings might be enough to stress out your betta. This is especially true if you’ve made major changes to established territories which will have to be reclaimed. Continue to monitor how your fish reacts to the new changes; the stripes should go away once your fish has fully acclimated to the aquarium again.

Water parameters

Poor water quality or sudden changes in water quality will quickly stress out any fish. Stress stripes can be caused by inadequate conditions or too big of water changes. It is best to perform small, regular water changes than large, irregular ones.

Adjust parameters slowly in order to not stress your fish out even more. Stress stripes should improve as water conditions improve.

Tank conditions

Apart from water quality, your betta fish might not be happy in its current surroundings. Tank size, lighting, flow, and lack of hiding places can make your betta feel stressed. Make sure to never keep a betta fish in anything less than 5 gallons (18.9 L); consider dimming your lighting, lowering water flow, and providing plenty of natural crevices for your fish to feel safe.


Betta fish are solitary fish, but some hobbyists have had luck keeping them with an assortment of other tropical fish. However, just because your betta fish isn’t showing aggression towards those fish doesn’t mean that it’s completely compatible with those species.

Some fish, especially more active and colorful species, might stress out your betta without showing outward signs. Instead, they might develop stress stripes and become more skittish in the aquarium. If you notice that your betta starts to lose its coloration and changes behavior when introduced to a tank with more fish, it might be time to remove it from the system and put back into its own aquarium.

How do you treat betta stress stripes?

The only way to treat betta stress stripes is by relieving the fish of the thing causing stress. First and foremost, make sure that your aquarium water is testing the way that it should; unideal levels can be corrected with more regular water changes and tank maintenance for the most part.

Next, you should observe how your betta moves around in its tank. Does it swim around and stay active or does it meander around the bottom of the tank? If its the latter, make sure that you’re giving your fish enough space and enrichment to keep it interested throughout the day.

If you notice that your tank is a little bear in terms of decorations, try adding additional hiding spots, like rocks and live plants. A fish that frequently hides could also mean that the lighting is too intense, which can also be helped by adding more hiding places and tannins to naturally dim the light and bolster immunity. If there are other fish or invertebrates in the tank, watch how the two species interact and check to see if either one is becoming aggressive.

Lastly, consider if you’ve made any big changes to the tank recently. If it’s a new betta fish, stress stripes are likely to happen, but shouldn’t last for long. A rearrangement of scenery could have also caused your betta to become unfamiliar with its surroundings and stressed it out.

Can bettas die from stress?

Yes, betta fish can die from stress. A stressed betta is much more susceptible to disease and infection and can quickly succumb to minor pathogens. Stressed bettas are also more likely to have a lack of appetite and become more lethargic, which can contribute to weakness and subsequent fin rot from sluggish movement.

The moment you see your betta fish losing color or acting abnormally, you should try to look for the problem. In the meantime, you can also introduce tannins to bolster immunity. However, it is important to note that any changes made in order to restore optimal conditions should also be done slowly as this could stress out your fish even more.


close up shot of sick betta fish with black background

There are several reasons as to why your betta fish might be displaying stress stripes, but luckily, the causes are usually easy to fix. First, make sure that tank parameters and conditions are ideal for a betta fish. Next, make sure that your fish isn’t being harassed by other tank mates and that plenty of natural hiding spots are provided. Lastly, consider when you got your fish and if any recent changes have been made to the system. Once you have found the problem, slowly return the tank to its optimal conditions.

If you have any questions about stress stripes, betta fish behavior, or have had experience with a betta fish that lost its color, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

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