One of the best parts in fish keeping is the feeding time. When you are ready to give your little water buddies their food and they swim up to the surface water to see you.
What an amazing bond it is. You can feel their mood and take care of them according to their needs. It adds value to your life and encircles your mind with a sense of responsibility. And also in part of that responsibility the decision to euthanize your betta fish falls. Because after all, it’s a stage that every fish keeper should accept as a part of reality.
How to euthanize a betta fish: An in-depth Guide
How to euthanize a betta fish is the top weird problem for a fish keeper. Especially for people who are just a beginner in their fish keeping life. An unwanted situation that puts fish owners in a dilemma. The word ‘ Euthanasia’ is derived from the Greek word which means good death.
If you search for different ways to euthanize your fish then you will find much content in the online world. Many of which are a bit extreme ways to euthanize your fish. On the opposite, there are many kinds and mild ways to euthanize your fish. How you are going to euthanize your fish solely depends upon you. But I would suggest you follow and execute the humane way to euthanize your betta fish.
Old School Method
Just from the name of this method you can feel it, there would be some rough stuff which you need to execute. To many people, it would sound harsh. Especially for people who hold a high level of ethics inside their minds.
1. Ice Bath
It’s a very simple way to euthanize your betta fish. Some may find it humane and some may find it inhumane. It will vary from person to person.
One of the views is that whether it is humane or inhumane to euthanize using ice water will depend on the size of your fish and its biology. I would definitely not recommend you to follow this way.
There was a study done on Zebra Danios and it shows that an ice water bath of 39 degrees F is an effective and humane method to euthanize your pet fish. This method will work on some tropical fishes that have a size of 2 inches or lesser than that.
However you should know that the moment the fish is in contact with the ice, then the ice crystal will form on the gills of your betta fish. That would be painful for betta fish.
You also take note that this method is totally unacceptable and non-suitable for fish that are cold-water tolerant fish. For example koi fish, goldfish and sturgeon. Because these species of fish can survive in cold temperatures.
Some groups of scientists also suggest that you should fully ignore icing euthanasia. And their point is that it would be painful for the fish. In addition to that, I would like to say that please never throw your fish directly in the freezer and wait for it to become fully frozen. This is extremely inhumane.
Decapitation of your betta fish may sound lethal to some people. People who like to execute things very fast would choose this method. This method is basically not for every species and not everyone can do this.
It would be very hard to decapitate a bigger aquarium betta fish. But it’s very suitable for any small species. You also have to be very tough-minded to execute this process. Most of the aquarists in my opinion will skip this method. Though those who are keeping a very large number of fishes won’t be able to skip this method.
Because it is a very fast process. You just need to cut the head of your betta fish with a knife, saw blade, or using a scissor. You have stunned the fish then decapitating and finally pithing it perfectly to execute an inhumane way to euthanize the fish. If the fish remains conscious after decapitation then it will have extreme pain.
Pithing steps have to be done perfectly. If you are not able to do it properly then simply avoid it because you will hurt the fish by keeping it alive for some time after decapitating it.
Let me tell you again that it is best to avoid this specific method to euthanize your betta fish.
3. Carbon Dioxide
Euthanizing a betta fish by using carbon dioxide is a quite painful process. Because the betta fish won’t die instantly and take a bit longer. Injection of carbon dioxide in the water tank can cause the fish to suffocate and die. Pressurized C02 continuously bubbles into the water tank for around 30-40 seconds will replace dissolved oxygen.
This process is painful for your betta fish as your fish won’t have enough oxygen at the last moment and it will become highly stressed before dying. It is stressful and uncomfortable for your betta fish as it will gradually damage gill tissue then muscle atrophy will occur and finally it loses the reflexes due to organ failure.
4. Stun and Stab Method
This method is one of the fastest ways to euthanize your betta fish which is waiting for death. The name of the method should be enough for you to understand the rest of the job. Though I will talk about the process in detail.
You would be thinking that just hitting the fish with a blunt object does not sound humane at all. But trust me if you can do it correctly it is actually painless for fish. By hitting with the sharp object, you will just disable the nervous system of your betta fish so it won’t feel any pain.
It would be most suitable for small size fish. Sometimes it might be that the fish is not dead even after executing the final whack. You will notice that the betta fish became unconscious then please make sure it’s dead by stabbing the fish’s brain.
You need very few things to execute this method and each of these is supposed to be available in your kitchen. And these are aluminum foil, a blunt object, and a sharp knife.
Now just follow the instructions given below here :
Step 1: Grab the betta fish
Take a square piece of aluminum foil and keep it on a flat surface. Bring the fish out of the tank and place it on the middle of the foil paper. Now fold the paper over the fish. It would prevent the blood, guts, brains from spreading on every corner.
Step 2: Strike your betta fish with a blunt object
Now you are going to hit your fish with a very high force through the foil paper. Try to aim for the head to make the task short and easy. If you can strike exactly on the point then your fish will lose consciousness.
A smaller fish will be supposed to be dead by now. But it might be alive, you don’t know. So you need one step to execute to complete the euthanization process.
Step 3: Stab your betta fish
In this step, you will be going to slice into your betta fish. It’s called pithing. The plan is to pierce through the brain of your fish which will euthanize it instantly.
And you don’t need to worry because your fish is unconscious so it won’t feel anything. The brain of the fish is right behind its eyes.
This euthanization method may sound gruesome to many people. It is very tough to say whether it is humane or inhumane. Because the opinion will differ from person to person. But I would recommend you to choose a bit softer way to euthanize your fish.
Gentle ways to euthanize your betta fish
When it comes to euthanizing betta fish your first priority should be always to make sure you are following the most gentle approach. Your betta fish has been a long-time finny friend of yours whom you would like to say goodbye with the most merciful way of euthanization.
There are few methods to euthanize betta fish humanely and these are following;
1. Using Clove Oil
To find out the exact required concentration is not easy. So it’s best to ask the seller which clove oil is running very well in the market for the euthanization of fish. Clove oil mixture exactly works like any other costly anesthetic.
First of all, you took out a gallon of water from the main tank and put it into a jar or container that can hold a gallon of water. Typically a gallon of water would be enough to execute this method.
Now in a small pill jar take the same water and mixed clove oil. An amount of 4 drops of organic clove oil. It won’t get dissolved easily so you need to stir a bit. After mixing the oil evenly with the water now it’s time to use it for the main task.
At this stage, you are going to mix the clove oil mixture into the jar or container where your betta fish is in isolation. Pour the mixture and a few moments later you will notice the fish is knocked out. There might be some gill movement which means it has fallen asleep but not been euthanized yet.
Now again add a few more drops and wait for 20-30 minutes. After 35 minutes you will notice that the fish is getting tilted into one side and the gills are not moving at all. Which means you have done it.
One thing you must keep in your mind is that a big size fish will always require more drops than a small size fish. And, another very important note is that you should always buy organic clove oil for the euthanization of betta fish.
2. Overdose of Anesthesia
Like any other animal of the animal kingdom, fishes also have various types and patterns of physical stress. Though it may vary from cold-tolerant fish to warm tolerant fish. Expert fish keepers have recommended multiple ways to humanely euthanize betta fish.
3. Tricaine Methanesulfonate
This chemical is known as MS222. You will find it in any local pet store that sells fish stuff. Experts have suggested using a very large amount of it to euthanize the fish. The appropriate amount is 300 mg/liter.
As MS222 is acidic so it would require you a pH buffer if your fish belongs to a non-acidic aquarium. If you take a fish from a high pH aquarium to a low pH container then it would create too much stress on your fish. Make sure to fix the pH level before adding the fish into that water.
After adding the anesthetic you should wait for 30 minutes up to 2 hours. By this time, you will see that you have euthanized your betta fish.
4. Benzocaine Hydrochloride
This substance is also good for the painless killing of your betta fish. It is also available in any local pet store. To buy this chemical you need a prescription from the veterinarian. AVMA urges the fish keeper to use this anesthetic for the merciful euthanization of the fish.
The direct use of this chemical is prohibited. It is also insoluble to water so you need a substance like ethanol mixture along with the water with it. The permissible range of its use in the water is 250 mg/liter. You should not exceed this limit or it might be painful for your fish.
5. Injecting Barbiturates
One of the most professional ways to euthanize a betta fish is to use barbiturate injection. Experts in this fish-keeping field use this method mostly. Veterinarians also use this method.
When using this product for the euthanization of betta fish you should call a veterinarian to help you. Because you need to maintain your own safety and can’t expose your hand directly to this substance. Sodium Phenobarbital is perfect for this process of euthanization.
Any other types of barbiturates have a high chance of giving pain to your betta fish while euthanizing it.
6. Using Baking Soda for Euthanization
This method is one of those through which you can expect that you can euthanize your fish with a very little amount of pain. This method is cost-saving, fast, and on top of that, it would be less stressful for your betta fish.
At the first stage, you should start by adding baking soda to your water container. Please remember that the appropriate amount of use of baking soda is 3 tablespoons/ gallon.
Now after adding the substance you need to wait for it to mix. Let the baking soda fully dissolve into the water.
After a few minutes, you should check whether the gills of the fish are moving or not. If you see that it’s still moving then please hold patience for a little bit. Don’t take the fish out of the water before it is completely dead or it will struggle for air. Which will ultimately create stress on your finny friend.
Wait until you see that the betta fish is tilting on one side of its body. The moment you see it becoming fully flopped on one side then you can become sure that your little buddy has departed from this world.
Now just take him/her out of the tank and then wrap it with organic paper and dump it with the trash. Also, you can throw it into the river if you are a person who understands the basic cycle of the ecosystem.
7. Using Vodka for Euthanization
Some people might say that using vodka for the euthanization of betta fish is inhumane. But they actually say it without knowing the details. In this section, I am going to explain to you how it is a humane method and what are the steps.
On the very first point, you need clove oil along with the vodka. A question may strike in your mind that why is clove oil necessary for this process, isn’t it?
You will be surprised to know that the clove oil mixture sometimes will not be able to euthanize your fish. Many fish owners have faced this situation and they were really confused about what to do about that. So, after completing the clove oil part you can add vodka into the specific container.
Keep note that the vodka and water ratio should be 1:4. Don’t pour more than this amount of vodka into the water tank.
Now I will explain why you can’t call it an inhumane process. The key point is that when you are going to add the vodka your fish will already be asleep because of the anesthetic effect. And after adding vodka your finny friend will immediately euthanize.
One more extra note that you should never mix vodka into the water before adding any kind of anesthetic. If you do that it will burn the gills and your fish will fully realize the pain. Be very much cautious about this step.
Additional Read: How to Comfort A Dying Fish
Factors To Consider Before You Decide To Euthanize Your Fish
The amount of happiness in keeping, petting a fish is not less than the amount of sadness in seeing the fish falling sick. Rather, it is more hurtful to see your little buddy becoming weak.
I understand it’s not easy to trace the root cause of the problem of your betta fish. As an average person most probably you won’t have the scientific equipment that would help you to identify and diagnose the underlying condition of your betta fish.
And as you don’t have the equipment, you won’t be able to track it down whether the problem of fish generating as a result of a parasitic, viral, or bacterial infection or not. Usually, at this moment you will be looking for an end solution for your fish so that you can get rid of his pain and suffering.
There are many ways of humanely killing or euthanize are many. Different books, other fish owners may help you in such a time. You can also reach out for help in a fish forum for what to do and might get some adequate knowledge about the whole thing that you are going through.
You also may find some time that nothing serious has happened to your fish. Sometimes you just need to change the water and your fish will be okay. So, proper minimum research should be done by you before even going for the euthanizing process.
If you finally come to a point after talking to people having similar experiences like you and there’s no way out then only execute the euthanize part.
Presence of Dropsy
Aging betta fish mostly develop dropsy. It is a secondary signal for the underlying problems of your fish. You may notice your fish’s body shape changes due to swelling. If one can immediately notice and follow up with specific required treatment then the fish is likely to survive for a few more days.
Unfortunately, it is very common for betta fish to die because of Dropsy. It is usually generated because of kidney failure, an unhealthy diet, and internal infection. Too many fish in one tank can create more problems as it can spread rapidly from one fish to another. Experts usually recommend that it’s safer to put the bloated fish into another tank for the treatment until it becomes healthy or ready for euthanization.
Dropsy will lead to loss of appetite, less movement, sticking to the surface, loss of color, and gasping for air. Proper care may save your betta fish from developing dropsy at their younger stage of life. It would be hard to do when they are aging as they might develop not only dropsy but also some other internal problems.
Even after providing the treatment of dropsy like the change of water, maintaining proper heat like 78 Fahrenheit, lowering water level for more oxygen, adding aquarium salt for the release of built-up fluids, treating with antibiotic if the betta fish don’t become fine then it’s maybe the perfect time to euthanize the fish.
Have you done enough treatment to treat the fish?
A low-quality diagnosis of your fish will ultimately lead to more poor treatment of your betta fish. I would suggest you take all the possible ways to gather knowledge from the experts. You should try your part.
In this entire process before euthanizing you need patience. After applying all methods and treatments, if your pet remains in the same condition and does not improve then you need to think of the final step. You must give your fish and yourself an adequate amount of time to make sure everything is done properly.
Has the fish lost the will to fight?
First of all, you need to check thoroughly and monitor the betta fish that has been identified as ill. A healthy fish is supposed to flutter around, flare its fins & gills in a very happy mood. The moment it is exposed to any kind of virus, parasites, or infection your pet fish will become lethargic, and its fins may become clamped.
The most drastic change you will see is that your fish is in pain and moving rarely. Gasping for air and labored breathing is the major sign you can really feel that your pet is in a danger zone.
The age of the betta fish is also a major thing to consider in this regard. A juvenile betta fish will have more energy and survival probability than any older fish. Considering each and every aspect you should take the final decision to euthanize your fish.
Please keep that in your mind that it has a lifetime memory with you and you must make decisions in a very careful and respectful manner.
Why euthanize a betta fish?
Fish owners often get in this situation throughout their life when they have to take the decision to say their sick buddy a kindful goodbye. Each time a fish is facing difficulty because of its health issues then you need to euthanize them. This is the most bitter pill stage of your fish-keeping life.
If you really want to end the suffering of your betta fish from this suffering you have to go through the euthanization stage. You also want to save other fish from getting sick. Aquatic diseases can be highly contagious so you have to be a bit cautious and practical about taking a decision.
Losing your funny friend is the last thing you want as a betta fish owner. It’s really hard but at a certain point, you are literally left without any options. You might find some fish keeper who believes that you should leave the fish on its own so that it can have its natural death. And you should respect that view too.
As a fish owner, you should take note that there are various ways you can euthanize your fish. In this article, I would try to give you a brief idea about how to euthanize a betta fish.
When should you euthanize a betta fish?
As a fish owner, you are supposed to be a very caring person. But sometimes after being so careful and proper monitoring, you may miss that one of the fish has hit the danger zone. By the time you realize that it has become ill, it becomes quite impossible to reverse back the betta fish to its healthy state.
If you see that one of your little betta fish is ill you should instantly isolate it from the main aquarium. If you don’t do that then there would be a high chance of other fish becoming infected. And you simply don’t want to lose any fish because of the outbreak of any disease in your aquarium.
The ecosystem of your fish aquarium is vulnerable. It’s very much obvious to have chances of your betta fish to become exposed to many types of aquatic diseases. Any small thing like a virus can simply impact heavily on the health of your betta fish. There might be chances of the suffering of your fish as it might be inherited from its ill parent.
Older fish can’t fight back from the disease and mostly face death. On the contrary, a younger fish may have chances to survive if it’s not late. But yet fatal disease won’t spare it from escaping the painful journey towards death.
Usually, you can detect the illness of your fish by monitoring his movement pattern. You will see that his movement became slow and he is not playing in the water tank like before. A bloated belly betta fish is also a sign of a virus or parasite-infected fish.
Different types of diseases can be fatal for your fish which may force you to think of euthanizing your betta fish. The most common disease of the aquarium betta fish is Dropsy, neon tetra disease, chronic wasting disease, planaria, etc. You need to act very fast in taking precautions because as the fish will grow the chances of being more sick will become more.
You can’t do a detailed inspection due to the lack of medical equipment so it would be very tough to identify the root cause of the illness. If you feel like calling the vet simply call them and follow their guideline. After providing all types of treatment methods if it can’t become physically fit you should make up your mind for euthanizing the fish. Make sure you have given full effort to help the fish die peacefully.
What to avoid when euthanizing betta fish
Whenever you are in the state to make a decision to euthanize your betta fish you should not choose the way which is inhumane and sounds gross. Because you have the opportunity to choose a better way for the euthanization of your fish. Here in the following part, I will reveal some methods which you must ignore.
Flushing your fish
Flushing an ill fish in the restroom is the last thing anyone should do. It is totally a show of disrespect towards the fish. You can do euthanization of the betta fish like this but it is very much inhumane.
Some fish owners do it due to the lack of understanding of being careful and maintenance procedure. After getting flushed in the toilet a sick fish suffer more before its death. Although the fish vanish within a moment as you flush it but actually this process is indeed a slow killing process.
The change of temperature, human feces, chlorine powder, and other toxic elements of the sewage line will create very high stress on your betta fish. Keep all on one side and just think how gross it is that you are leaving a fish that has spent its life in a bright colorful aquarium. It is totally disrespectful and unethical behavior to a beautiful living creature.
A very important thing you should also consider is that a virus-infected fish may infect other fishes if it falls in any open river or lake through the sewage tunnel. It may raise the alarm of outbreaks of diseases among the fishes of lakes and rivers.
Suffocation due to lack of oxygen
This is another way in which I won’t recommend you to euthanize your betta fish. When the level of the oxygen in the water tank is less than your fish is going to suffocate. It will create a high level of stress on your fish. After surviving for a few moments in low-level oxygen it will become unconscious because of stress and will be dead very soon.
Even if you keep fish out of the water and let it die on a dry surface then it will also suffocate. The organ of the fish will slowly stop functioning and it will have a lot of stress on its body. This is a very foul way to euthanize your fish. It’s better to never even think of it.
Using vodka directly into water
Vodka has one of the strongest concentrations of undiluted alcohol. Directly mixing it into the water tank will burn the fish’s gills before it is dead.
Using your six senses you can well understand the fact that burning a fish’s gills is not a very humane approach to euthanize it.
Adding an infected fish into a pot full of boiled water is just another level of inhumane activity. Some people do this act which clearly indicates they lack ethics and morality. You should never do this as it is one of the harshest ways to euthanize a living fish.
Euthanize using Ice
Though it doesn’t seem to be that bad because in our regular we are used to seeing fish covered in ice in the supermall. But this one is unique because betta fish are not kept for eating purposes. They live a healthy life inside the aquarium until they get infected with any virus or parasites.
By keeping a living betta fish in the ice water would simply create huge stress on your betta fish before it is dead. You should avoid this type of euthanization because it is undoubtedly inhumane.
How to verify the death of your betta fish
Generally in any pet clinic, you will see that the veterinarians consider a 10 minutes after the last movement of the fish’s gill. After they are fully sure that the fish has departed then only they take the decision for the disposal of the fish.
What is the most humane way to euthanize a betta fish?
According to my opinion, the clove oil method to euthanize the fish is the most humane way of euthanization. In this method, the fish will die when it is in a state of sleep.
What to do with your Dearly Departed fish?
By the time you have to euthanize your betta fish, you should have a previous mind setup for the farewell process of your finny friend. There are different ways to do this task.
You can wrap your little buddy and then dump with the regular waste. If you want to dig it in the backyard of your house it is also okay and sounds more nature friendly. But remember never ever flush your dead betta fish as it shows a very disrespect towards this precious species.
What to do with unwanted fish in your aquarium?
Sometimes you do have unwanted fish in your fish tank. And as a fish owner, you are really confused about what to do with that fish.
Every fish owner can take care of a specific amount of fish. Sometimes because of busyness in life, you might want to get rid of some of your little buddies. You simply can’t euthanize your fish if they are fine and playful.
In some cases, you want to buy new fish so you don’t want to keep the old fish.
There are some very good ways through which you can transfer them from your ownership to someone else. I am giving you the idea here below:
- You can search for a fish shop near your home. Just go there and ask them will they buy your fish? If yes then just sell it at a low price.
- Just look for both online and offline for any fish lover who pets fish. There might be someone out there who will be interested in taking your fish for free.
- You can also contact any local fish club. You will find many people who will adopt your fish with a very happy face. Also, your fish will be in good hands too.
- Donations in any orphanage, office, or school would be great too. If this type of institution owns an aquarium then there is a high chance they will be very glad to accept your fish donation.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Does hitting a fish on the head kill it?
Depends. If you hit the fish with a heavy object like a metal pot, it’s probably safe to say yes, the fish will die. If you’re holding up your hand and slap them across their head it might kill them depending on what side of their brain is impacted first.
Try to kill it with the least amount of suffering.
2. Do fish suffer when they are dying?
Yes. Fish feel pain, stress, and even fear when they are dying or in agony. This is because the brain of a fish has receptors for pain and other sensations that can detect harmful stimuli such as extreme pressure. But, unfortunately for fish, this means the experience is very different from how we perceive pain.
3. Do fish get sad when another fish dies?
It is not just fish that get sad when another fish dies. Animals of all types can tell, among other things, that they’ve lost a companion– just as they know the difference between having their needs met or neglected for an extended period.
To any fish keeper, the experience of departure of a betta fish that he/she has been taking care of for a long time is indeed a heart saddening moment. But it is also true that to see your fish suffering for a long time due to any injury is not a good thing for you.
Though a weak and infected fish may seem like it is going to die with time you will notice that it will still try to fight back. Alas, it is a part of fish keeper life when you know that it will not become healthy as it was.
Finally, you make the decision to euthanize your fish. Here comes two different ways to execute this process. Now it is up to you to humanely euthanize a betta fish that has been a part of regular life.
I would recommend you to be very merciful, kind, and gentle to your fish in every step. The last goodbye should be the softest treatment from you.
Table of Contents
- How to euthanize a betta fish: An in-depth Guide
- Factors To Consider Before You Decide To Euthanize Your Fish
- Why euthanize a betta fish?
- When should you euthanize a betta fish?
- What to avoid when euthanizing betta fish
- What is the most humane way to euthanize a betta fish?
- What to do with your Dearly Departed fish?
- What to do with unwanted fish in your aquarium?
- Frequently Asked Questions