how to euthanize a betta fish

How To Euthanize A Betta Fish: Simple, Humane Method

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Is your betta fish very sick to the extent that you feel that it is suffering? Keeping fish in an aquarium in your home or office is an exciting venture. You get used to caring for your fish to the extent that you are bonded to it.

When your fish falls sick, the first course of action is to medicate it. Tirelessly but with determination, you do all you can to make it better. However, sometimes, despite all your effort, you realize that it isn’t getting better.

It may be suffering from dropsy or even pineconing. As time goes by, you notice that its breathing is labored and it isn’t playing around in the tank. You are now faced with the question, what do you do next?

If your fish seems to be suffering and you can feel that keeping it alive is doing the fish no good; it begs the question, how to euthanize a betta fish? Before we delve into the quick ways to show your fish mercy, you need to address these issues before you decide on the course of action to take:

Factors To Consider Before You Decide To Euthanize Your Fish

Is It Time To Euthanize Your Fish?

As much as keeping a fish is fun, when it falls sick, it ‘s hard to determine what is causing the sickness. This is so because many fish enthusiasts lack access to scientific equipment that would help diagnose the ailment of their betta fish.

This lack of necessary equipment makes it hard to distinguish whether the betta fish is suffering from a parasitic, viral or bacterial infection. Hence, one is prone to jump to conclusions on whether or not, the time has come to euthanize your fish.

The internet, other hobbyists, and books could prove a useful tool at such times. Seek guidance and direction from those who have had a similar experience as yours. It could be that your tank needed some cleaning up and you only have to change the water.

What is Pineconing?

Pineconing isn’t a disease but rather a symptom of many different diseases that appear after they advance. A fish that appears to be pineconing will look distended and their scales will flare away from the body. This is usually as a result of bloating or fluid build-up. It is often associated with Dropsy but can also be a sign of other infections, heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, and more.

Generally, you won’t be able to identify the underlying problem without a fluid sample. However, if a fish is already at the pineconing stage, chances are the ailment is too advanced to effectively address anyway.

Have You Done Enough To Treat The Fish?

An ill-informed diagnosis will lead to one using the wrong treatments on the fish. Consult widely on the ailment of your fish and ask for recommended remedies from experts. Do extensive research on the possible illness of the fish and the best ways to treat it.

You need to be patient with your fish as its immune system is also trying to beat the condition. Treatment requires time and patience. Most ailments of the betta fish require straightforward and easy to administer, procedures. These include:

  • Warm and clean aquarium water
  • Antibiotics
  • Antiparasitics

Ensure that you have exhausted all the possible ways to treat your fish before you choose to euthanize it. Change your aquarium water if need be, warm it just in case the water temperatures are low.

Keep some aquarium salts on hand for the quick fix situations.

Has The Fish Lost The Will To Fight?

The stage is dependent on your opinion of your betta fish. A healthy betta fish is always fluttering around and flaring its fins and gills. Once it succumbs to illness, it becomes less active and may even have its fins clamped.

You may have noticed that, once it is in terrible pain, they rarely move around and often time, they are found at the bottom of the aquarium. Its breathing may also be, labored, which you can tell as it gasps for air.

The age of the fish also matters, younger fish are more able to fight infections and vice-versa. Depending on what you can see, you can decide if the time has come to say goodbye to your betta fish.

Some people reach out to the sick fish in the tank. If it shows no movement, then they decide to pull the plug. Remember that the decision solely lies with you. When you finally come to a decision, here what to do:

How To Humanely Euthanize A Betta Fish

Use Clove Oil

Most people use clove oil to euthanize their fish because it is the least violent humane way to put your fish to rest. These are what you will need for the process:


  • Essential clove oil or pure clove oil- this can be found in pharmacies, health food stores, and some supermarkets
  • A Large empty container that the fish can fit in. The fish should be able to move around without being cramped in the container.
  • Small container for mixing clove oil and
  • Air pump (optional)


  1. Fill the empty bowl with de-chlorinated water or simply with water from the tank.
  2. Fill your smaller container half-full of the water. Pour some 3-4 drops of clove oil in it. Shake to mix, as oil doesn’t dissolve in water.
  3. Switch on the air pump and place it in the large container.
  4. Pour the mixture of clove oil and water into this bowl. Disperse it evenly.
    • If you do not have an air pump, all you need is to stir or shake the mixture till the water becomes colored.
  5. Place your fish into the mixture in the large container. Wait until it’s breathing slows and it falls to the bottom.
  6. Mix/emulsify and add additional clove oil. This time use more like 5-7 drops.
  7. Wait until you see absolutely no signs of movement for at least 5 minutes (check the gills and eyes of the fish), then dispose of the fish.

The clove oil works as an anesthetic causing the fish’s breathing to slow down. Essentially, you are putting the fish to sleep before slowing its breathing to a full stop. This method does not burn the fish’s gills like the alcohol method nor does it require the violence or precision of stunning and pithing.

Keep in mind that you need to add the clove oil to the mix, gradually so as to reduce the stress on the fish.

Ways NOT to Euthanize Your Fish


This is a common “humane” suggestion you’ll see floating around the internet. Many people will recommend using alcohol, like vodka, in place of the second dose of clove oil. DO NOT do this. Your fish isn’t going to get drunk and pass away peacefully. The alcohol will burn their gills before they die, rather painfully and not incredibly quickly.


You’re going to see some conflicting information on this one. Some say flash-freezing tropical fish under two inches is okay. Others say the chance of crystallization on the gills, muscles, and tissues is not worth the risk. We recommend stray


Don’t listen to what you see in movies, kids. Flushing fish is not the way to go. Fish that aren’t already dead will experience a slow, unpleasant death as they are exposed to the chemicals and cold temperature of your toilet water.


Many people think the fastest way to kill a fish is simply to take it out of the water. This inhumane as it causes your fish’s organs to fail before they die. Additionally, because betta fish have the labyrinth that allows them to breathe some oxygen directly from the air, this process would be even slower and more painful for them.

Some Video Resources


There are several methods on how to euthanize a betta fish. You could choose to use alcohol or the clove oil method. Some of the methods, such as freezing the fish, increase stress in the fish than reduce it.

The choice of the method to use solely lies in your hands. Remember, do not be too hasty to euthanize your fish, give it a fighting chance. Also, ensure that you have diagnosed your betta fish correctly before implementing any remedies.

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2 thoughts on “How To Euthanize A Betta Fish: Simple, Humane Method”

  1. Sadly I had to do the clove oil procedure for the first time today. Removed my gal and put in a separate small bowl. Took a little while for her to stop moving with the oil added, but was very evident when it worked. A couple wiggles and she was still. Adding the second round of clove/tank water mixture to her cup did the trick. After a few minutes she was off to the great fishy lake in the sky. I really had to watch to be sure she was gone. Thank you for the humane euthanasia advice. It was better than watching her suffer after failed med treatments.

  2. Delores Fairchild

    so, our poor beautiful red Beta ate some brine shrimp that was recommended about 8 weeks ago and developed swim bladder??? it is terrible to watch him. he cannot swim, he struggles to get to places in the tank where he can be held steady and either upright of on his side. at times he will try to swim but he cannot. we tried remedies and nothing has worked and it is going on 3 months. he barely eats a pellet or 2 every day or two. is he in pain and should we end his suffering if he is in pain. we love him and feel so guilty for giving him that shrimp. please help us make this decision. Thanks from a distressed Beta Mom.

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