Betta fish are known for their vibrant colors and flowy fins.
Their rich body colors and unique patterns set bettas apart from other species of tropical fish.
When a betta’s bright colors begin to fade, many fish owners assume it is a bad sign.
And you’re likely asking yourself, “why is my betta fish losing color?”
It is completely normal for a betta’s colors to fade over time as the fish enters old age. Age-related color fading is harmless, but some causes of color fading may indicate an illness or injury. Other reasons for the color loss in bettas include stress, improper diet, and poor water quality.
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Why Does My Betta Fish Look Pale?
As long as the fish seems healthy, color loss in bettas is usually nothing to worry about.
If your betta’s colors fade, watch your fish for signs of illness or injury.
The list below provides an in-depth look at why a betta’s colors may look pale.
Prolonged stress in betta fish causes them to lose their vibrant colors.
Betta fish stress usually comes from a poor environment or injury.
Some betta fish develop stress stripes on their body. Stress stripes are more common in female bettas than males.
In addition to a pale color, common signs of stress in bettas include:
- Appetite loss
- Rubbing against surfaces
- Gasping for air
- Lying on the substrate
Reduce stress in your betta by maintaining consistent water parameters. Sudden changes in water parameters are a major source of stress and illness in bettas.
Temperature changes are the most common cause of stress in betta fish.
Bettas living in small tanks are more prone to stress-related illnesses. A tank size of 5 gallons or larger is best for your betta to thrive.
Avoid placing your betta tank in busy, noisy areas of your home. Sudden movements and loud noises make it difficult for a betta to feel safe.
Provide your betta fish with plenty of hiding spots for extra security. These hiding spots give your betta a place to relax.
Age-related color fading is the most common reason your betta has a pale appearance.
Bettas in captivity have an average lifespan of five years with proper care. If you have had your betta for 2-3 years, you may notice its colors fading around this time.
There is no way to reverse age-related color loss in bettas. Keeping stress levels low helps prevent early color fade in your healthy betta fish.
If your betta fish is young and its color is fading, it is more likely due to an illness.
Some common fish diseases and parasites lead to color loss in bettas.
In addition to a paler coloring, a sick fish may develop white or black spots.
Once the underlying illness is treated, your betta fish will regain its colors. Most of the time, your betta will not be as vibrant as before the illness.
If you provide treatment in the early stages of illness, your betta has a better chance of regaining its original colors.
Color loss due to injury usually occurs because of your betta’s stress.
The most common causes of betta fish injuries are sharp objects in the tank or aggressive tank mates.
If you place your betta in a community tank with other fish species, keep an eye on their behavior. Separate the fish if you notice signs of bullying or aggressive behavior.
When a betta fish is injured, its immune system is compromised. The lowered immune system makes the betta prone to bacterial infections.
As the infections and injuries heal, the new tissue growth may be paler than your betta’s original colors.
Avoid injuries by checking tank decorations for rough or sharp edges. Either sand the rough edges smooth or avoid using the decoration in your betta tank.
For community tanks, ensure the tank mates have a docile temperament. Docile fish are less likely to attack or bully your betta.
Overcrowding a tank increases aggressive behavior, even in docile fish. Do not attempt a community tank in an aquarium smaller than 20 gallons.
Betta fish are carnivores and need a protein-rich diet to stay healthy.
Without a quality diet, your betta’s colors will fade.
Add variety to your betta’s diet with high-quality pellets and freeze-dried foods rich in protein.
For the best options, check out our deep-dive review of the top foods for betta fish.
Poor Water Quality
Changes in water temperature or pH cause a betta fish to become stressed and lose its color.
Maintain a water pH of close to 7.0, which is neutral. The ideal temperatures in a betta tank range from 78-80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C).
Toxins in the water also cause your betta’s colors to fade or change.
Test your tank water weekly for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels.
Ammonia or nitrite levels above 0 ppm are toxic to betta fish. Safe nitrate levels are between 20-40 ppm.
Never place a betta in a tank without doing a complete nitrogen cycle. The nitrogen cycle takes 6-8 weeks and breaks down toxic ammonia and nitrite.
Without the nitrogen cycle, your tank is prone to ammonia and nitrite spikes.
Partial water changes must be done every week to keep the water parameters at safe levels. We recommend changing no more than 20 percent of your tank’s water at a time.
Removing too much water from the tank disrupts the nitrogen cycle and causes stress to your betta.
Once water conditions have been restored, your betta’s color will return.
For help keeping your water at its best quality, click the link to read our guide.
Marble Betta Genes
Marbled betta fish change color throughout their lives due to a type of “jumping” gene.
Some Marble bettas have patches of translucent white or gray skin. These pale patches may spread across the entire body over time.
If your betta fish has splotches of color on its body, it most likely has Marble genetics.
The color changes in Marble bettas are unpredictable. There is no way of knowing how often a Marble betta will change colors during its lifetime.
Why Is My Betta Fish Turning White?
Sometimes, a betta’s color does not fade but turns white instead.
When a betta fish starts turning white, it is usually caused by one of the diseases listed below.
Columnaris is a bacterial disease in betta fish. This disease causes fuzzy white spots on the betta’s body.
Other symptoms of Columnaris include frayed fins and ulcers on the body. Your betta’s color may also fade.
Poor water quality and diet cause Columnaris in bettas.
Treatment for Columnaris includes antibiotic medication and an aquarium salt bath in a separate hospital tank.
Anchor worms do not cause your betta to turn white. But the worms are white and appear as white splotches on your fish.
It is rare for betta fish to get anchor worms, as they are usually brought into the tank through infected fish or plants.
Quarantining new tank mates or live plants for two weeks reduces the chance of introducing anchor worms to your betta tank.
Other symptoms of anchor worms include:
- Rubbing on tank decorations
- Rapid breathing
- Redness/ulcers on the body
Treatment for anchor worms involves multiple steps.
First, you must remove the anchor worms from your betta with tweezers.
Once the worms are removed, move your betta to a separate hospital tank for treatment with an anti-parasite medication.
You must also treat the main tank to get rid of the worms in there.
Keep your betta in the hospital tank for at least 28 days.
The life cycle of anchor worms is 21 days, so this quarantine period ensures the worms are completely removed from the main tank.
Ich is another parasite that causes white spots on your betta fish.
The symptoms of ich are similar to the symptoms of anchor worms.
Once again, you must treat the betta and the tank separately to ensure the parasites are removed.
Use a commercial ich medication with methylene blue or green malachite to kill the parasites on your betta.
Kill the ich in the tank by temporarily raising the temperature to 86 degrees Fahrenheit and adding aquarium salt.
The increased temperature speeds up the life cycle of the ich parasites. Without a fish as the host, the parasites cannot survive.
Do 25 percent water changes for ten days to remove the excess aquarium salt before placing your betta back in the clean fish tank.
If your betta’s fins turn white, it may signify fin rot. The fins will also be ragged or frayed.
Fin rot must be treated as soon as possible to prevent it from spreading to the body.
Erythromycin is a common antibiotic used for treating fin rot. If a fungal infection is also present, you must add an antifungal medication with methylene blue.
When your betta recovers from fin rot, its fins will grow back. The new fin growth may be a different color than the rest.
Poor water quality is the leading cause of fin rot. Prevent fin rot by maintaining correct water parameters and performing weekly partial water changes to remove bacteria.
Why Is My Betta Fish Turning Black?
Sometimes, a betta fish turns black.
Turning black is not as common as turning white or pale, but there are several reasons it happens.
Some betta fish develop a dark or black coloring as they age.
Turning black is also common in bettas with Marble genetics.
Most bettas and Marble bettas do not turn black until they are at least two years old. If your younger betta turns black, it is usually a sign of illness.
Turning black is not harmful to a betta as long as the fish does not have signs of stress or illness.
Chlorine is found in tap water, and a dechlorinator must be added to neutralize it.
When a betta fish is exposed to chlorine, it will turn black.
Failing to treat your betta’s tank water is deadly for your fish.
Chlorine is highly toxic to bettas. If your betta turns black because of chlorine, it will likely die soon.
There is no way for a betta to recover from long-term chlorine exposure. The chemical eats away soft tissues like the gills, causing your fish to suffocate.
Ammonia poisoning from unsafe water parameters is another reason your betta turns black.
No amount of ammonia is safe in an aquarium.
An ammonia spike may occur when leftover food or fish waste is not removed from the tank.
Unlike chlorine toxicity, your betta may recover from ammonia poisoning if treated quickly.
You must perform partial water changes to remove the excess ammonia from the tank.
An ammonia neutralizer is also helpful for removing the harmful effects of the toxin.
In addition to turning your betta’s fins white, fin rot may also cause black spots.
As the betta’s fins die, the dead tissues rot and turn black.
Fin rot is treatable if caught early. Your betta’s fins will grow back, but they may be a different color than before.
Black Spot Disease
A parasite causes black spot disease. As the name suggests, the parasite leaves black spots on a betta’s body as it burrows through the skin.
These parasites spread quickly in dirty water conditions or overcrowded tanks.
Other signs of black spot disease include:
- Lethargic behavior
- Weight Loss
- Color loss
- Erratic swimming patterns
Bacterial infections may be present in the wounds from the parasites.
Black spot disease is less severe than other parasite infestations. Your betta has an excellent chance of recovering with prompt treatment.
How Long Until My Betta’s Color Returns to Normal?
It may take a few days to several weeks for your betta’s color to return to normal.
Recovery depends on the color change’s cause and the symptoms’ severity.
Maintain stable water parameters and avoid causing stress to your betta as it recovers.
Feed your betta a high-quality diet to boost immunity and encourage a fast recovery.
How To Enhance Your Betta’s Color
Safe water parameters and proper temperatures prevent your betta’s colors from fading.
Color-enhancing foods also keep your betta’s colors vibrant. Brine shrimp, daphnia, and salmon contain a lot of protein, which prevents color loss.
Keeping your betta healthy and free from stress helps maintain its colors.
Your betta’s colors are also visually enhanced through tank lighting and substrate choices.
Dark colors in the tank make a light-colored betta stand out. Likewise, lighter colors help dark bettas appear more vibrant.
Betta Fish Colors & Health
Color loss does not always mean your betta fish is dying.
It is natural for a betta’s colors to fade as it gets older.
Changing colors or fading is only a concern if your betta has symptoms of disease or parasites.
Once your betta recovers from illness, its colors return within a few weeks.
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