One of the reasons betta fish are adorable is their interesting colors. Few people can overlook the beauty and grace of how these little creatures swim. The subtlety of their fin movements creates a charming sight. What if you don’t see any of these in your betta? Is it sickness or stress that’s causing all these?

Muted color, unusual aggression, sudden movements, lethargy, poor appetite, and clamped fins are the most obvious symptoms of a stressed or unhappy betta. Other signs include gasping at the water surface, hiding tendency, and indifference to things.

Stress or an unhappy mood occurs in bettas as they experience the release of adrenaline and cortisol into their system.

Bettas are different from humans, but they can show gestures of cheerfulness. Since you want to see an emotionally stable and happy betta, you should try to be able to distinguish an unhappy one from a sick or normal one. Otherwise, you won’t have much to do before losing your prized possession to a state of depression which may eventually lead to its untimely demise.

Unhappy or Stressed Betta Fish

6 Symptoms of an Unhappy/Stressed Betta

This article discusses each of the above symptoms with relevant details so that you can take appropriate measures to get your betta some relief from an unhappy condition.

1. Loss of Vibrancy in Colors

Just remember how your betta usually looks. If you’ve had a close look at its body at least once, you should have understood the pleasantness. Do you see such niceness now? Bettas are colorful species and easily stand out among a lot of others.

The colors might seem dull or increasingly fade because the usual glow is no longer there on the body. A moving betta that starts fading its color should be less noticeable than what it used to look like in its original self.

Try to look more closely and see if there are stripes along the skin. Female bettas show these stripes more clearly than their male counterparts. Losing the skin color to any degree can be associated with different health conditions, but these stripes usually point to one thing only, and that is “stress”.

2. Clamped Fins


Picture a moving betta. What do you find out about its fins? These organs are usually held open instead of being pulled tight. Bettas love to allow all their fins to billow in the water and then fold nicely.

You may notice clamped fins, which means that they allow the fins to stay very close to the body. Sometimes, bettas may show clamped fins for a few seconds and then get them back to the usual style. It is okay, but you should pay attention if it occurs too much or for too long.

3. Lack of Interest in Food

This particular sign involves a lot of considerations alongside a mere indication that a betta is stressed. These little members of your aquarium are usually gutty and act somehow sensitively on the food you give them to eat. The happy ones don’t usually skip their meals.

Change in the atmosphere, slow metabolism, and/or certain diseases are the most common causes, and oftentimes, bettas stop eating if any of these situations occurs. A depressed betta may eat, but there is always a lack of interest which you might be able to notice if you observe.

First, you should check the possibilities of a disease or atmospheric changes. When you are sure none of these matters, you should do everything required to make the betta happy. Leaving the betta as it lives may result in some unfavorable effects like loss of its weight and a large amount of food waste on the substrate.

Sometimes, bettas may show aversion to foods they do not recognize or smell well. It is not essentially a bad thing, but you should not force the fish into something new that they fear or don’t want.

4. Continued Indifference towards Everything You Do

Many betta owners arrange for floating decorations in their water tanks in the hope that the fish will play with them and be able to escape boredom. You may try putting a ping pong ball or something similar. Even, some people use dry markers to draw on their tanks and attract the attention of their bettas.

Sometimes, happy fishes seem to enjoy admiring themselves in a mirror on the outside the tank. What if your betta is no longer interested in any of these attempts? Clearly, it doesn’t have much to benefit from your efforts. It may happen only once or twice. Don’t worry yet.

But you should look for treating the fish if this impassive attitude continues because it is in the nature of a hearty betta to stay as interactive as possible.

5. Lethargy and Irregular Swimming Patterns

For most bettas, it is a sign that they’re getting older. A betta which is just a couple of years old but shows this is probably not in its proper mood. A resting betta may look like being lethargic.

Fish that keep lounging around floating live plants for a while may not essentially be depressed. If the fish are doing this for longer than a regular duration (half an hour or a little longer), you should start checking.

Like other fishes, bettas swim a lot around the tank. Sometimes, you’ll see them staying in one place for so long that you have to do something to get them to move. Even if they might move, they won’t go far.

A stressed betta may develop strange swimming behaviors. Swimming frantically but going nowhere, rubbing the body on rocks or gravel, crashing at the tank’s bottom, and locking fins at sides are some of the common patterns which are indicative of seriously stressful or unhappy conditions.

Did you ever notice a betta gasping at the water surface? Well, you can ignore if the fish do it no longer than a very brief period. The fish may have become unhappy with the water, or it’s simply struggling due to an inadequate supply of oxygen.

Does your betta move all on a sudden and do this several times throughout the day? Sometimes, a panicked fish may do this, but too much of darting is not a favorable sign.

6. Increased Aggression and Fear

It is not unseemly that fish show aggression toward their mates. If a betta gets involved in a clash with another tank mate and seems erratic in its moves, you should care about it. Sometimes, fear may get the better of your betta, and it may not treat other mates well, regardless of their similarities or dissimilarities.

One of the characteristics that bettas possess is that they flare, and they do it mostly when something close to them seems like a threat. A flaring betta tries to get rid of that danger. If you see your betta doing this more often than once a while, it means the fish is causing serious stress to the body and eventually going to weaken the immunity system.

Bettas that seem to stay hidden behind something are perhaps attempting to avert a danger. This may cause stress to it. These species don’t usually follow this path except when they rest.

Final Words

You’ve got all the clues to find out if your betta is stressed or unhappy about something. Some of these symptoms are so closely associated with their emotional health that you needn’t be an expert to identify an unhappy betta while a few of them are often linked with certain other physical and/or behavioral conditions.

For example, lethargy is one of the common indications that you have an ageing or dying betta. But it may also suggest that your betta is stressed. So, you should do whatever is good for its emotional and physical stimulation.

Got any question about a stressed betta that has not been discussed here? Write to us and let us help you with more information.

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