Dropsy

This page is part of our betta disease and illness section.

We also have a handy Betta Illness Photo Guide that we send out to members of our email list. The guide includes the key points about betta illness and extra photos of symptoms.

Get our free Betta Illness Guide

What is Dropsy?

There isn’t much evidence to explain what causes betta dropsy; it’s all very vague in the world of betta keeping. Dropsy is the process of fluid building up inside a betta (usually swelling of the kidneys). This disease is associated with organ failure. It’s believed to be caused by poor water quality and diseases contracted from live food. When the fluid builds inside the betta’s body, it causes the betta’s scales to rise, giving the flesh a pine cone appearance. Dropsy isn’t contagious but the bacteria, which is believed to be a cause of it, is.

Symptoms

The main sign of dropsy is raised scales (this is easier to identify if you look at your fish from the top), an extended / bloated stomach, lethargy and resilience to feeding.

Possible Cures For Dropsy

At this moment in time, there isn’t a solid cure for dropsy. If your betta has contracted it, it’s likely you won’t be able to save it. Dropsy almost always leads to fatality 15 to 20 days after contraction. However, there are methods that you can use to attempt to cure dropsy; it’s rare but sometimes bettas do survive a battle with dropsy. The methods below have reportedly worked with betta keepers in the past. If you catch dropsy early enough, sometimes there’s a chance it can be cured.

Quarantine & Water Change

Move your betta to a quarantine / hospital aquarium with a 100% change of freshly prepared water. Prepare water as you normally would – add Epsom salt to the water (3 tsp per gallon). Do a 100% water change every 1 to 2 days for two weeks. You can also try adding an Indian almond leaf to the hospital aquarium too, these leaves have natural antimicrobial properties.

After a week, if there are no signs of improvement, consider moving on to medication.

Medication for Dropsy

A medication that has been known to work is KanaPlex by Seachem. If you decide to start using medication, it’s recommended to stop adding the Epsom salt to the water. Too many additives can sometimes be worse than no additives as they can put stress on the betta’s internal organs. If the fish doesn’t seem resilient to feeding, try soaking its food in HealthAid Metro by Hikari Metro or a similar medical product.

These methods are not a sure-fire way of curing dropsy, but they are actions you can take to try and help the little guy.

Should you begin medicating the betta as soon as you quarantine it?

It’s a bad idea to dose the water with too much salt and medication at once as this can kill the fish. We therefore recommend quarantining the betta first, and if it hasn’t shown any signs of improvement after 7 days then stop the use of salt and use medication instead.

Once you do start medicating, there’s no saying how long it will take for the medication to work, but if the symptoms to subside and your betta survives, you may well have cured it. Please let us know in the comments if you do succeed in curing dropsy.