Velvet on Betta Fish: How To Treat and Prevent It!

Betta fish are vulnerable to many of the same diseases other tropical fish get. Velvet disease, which gives the fish a velvety faded orange, gold, or rust color, is one of them.

Velvet on betta fish is caused by a parasite. It is a common disease in freshwater and marine aquariums and deadly for your infected fish if left untreated. Other names for velvet disease are Coral disease, Gold Dust disease, and Rust disease.

velvet on betta fish

How can I tell if my betta fish has velvet?

If your betta contracts velvet, it will have a fine yellow, orange, or rusty-colored dusting on its skin.

Rapid breathing is an early sign your fish is having difficulty. The parasite has infected its gills.

Your fish may also begin rubbing itself against objects in the fish tank.

The discomfort and irritation from the parasite may cause your betta to “flash” its belly, trying to scratch itself. It will swim erratically, twirling or shimmying in the water.

It may lose its appetite and appear lethargic.

Other fish disease signs include excessive mucus and bloody streaks on the body or fins.

Clamped fins and bulging eyes are other symptoms. 

Advanced-stage symptoms of velvet are cloudy eyes, skin ulcers, and skin detachment. These are all also indicators of other diseases.

Both velvet and the proliferation of bacteria in the tank can cause cloudy eyes. Ich causes white spots on the fish’s skin or gills and can resemble Velvet.

Taking the time to discern symptoms and determine the correct illness is essential.

What causes velvet on betta fish?

Several species of protozoa cause velvet disease.

P. amyloodinium, P. crepidoodinium, P. pillulare are a few. The most common parasite to cause velvet disease is Piscinoödinium.

It was first called Oödinium. When it was discovered to use photosynthesis in the free-swimming stage, the name had to be changed.

Some authors also refer to it as an alga because it contains chlorophyll.

Introducing a new item in your tank can bring pathogens such as parasites. Decór, snails, other fish, and maintenance equipment can all be sources of contagion.

A healthy, disease-resistant betta fights off fish disease. Stressed, overcrowded fish with poor water quality or nutrition will succumb.

Brand-new fish have just gone through a lot of stress and need extra support. Quarantining a newcomer in a quiet, clean tank will help.

Overcrowding in betta tanks is a problem. Your betta needs at least 5 gallons of water to exercise and thrive.

Its environment needs to have room to swim and hide. The tank must be free of sharp objects, rust, and flaking paint.

Putting too many fish together can lead to aggression, stress, and poor water quality.

It also makes adequate fish care harder, as you must frequently perform water changes.

Buying so many more friends for your betta is tempting, but they do not need it!

Poor water quality stresses fish. This makes them vulnerable to disease.

Rising toxin levels due to accumulated waste, overfeeding, or overcrowding will stress your betta. Don’t put off water testing and maintenance.

Keep good fishkeeping habits, and your betta will be happy and healthy.

How Do I Treat Velvet On Betta Fish?

Stages of the Parasite

As a protozoan, the life cycle of velvet disease is like the life cycle of ich. 

Individual parasites reproduce in the Tomont stage. They live in the substrate or on decorations in your betta’s aquarium.

Just one Piscinoödinium parasite can divide itself into 250 dinospores! As fun as the word ‘dinospore’ is, you do not want them in your aquarium!

Tomont division is temperature dependent.

This division can complete in just 3 days at 79-80° degrees Fahrenheit (26-27° C) or take longer if the temperature is lower.

Raising the temperature in the tank to at least 80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C) to speed up division is part of the treatment.

This ensures as much of the parasite as possible is in the water for the medication to kill.

The next life cycle stage is when the baby parasite leaves the substrate or decor. This is the Theront or free-swimming stage.

It swims through the water, looking for a host. When it lands on a fish’s scales, it latches on.

This stage is when it is easiest to treat the disease. It dies if the juvenile parasite does not find a host within three days.

When you remove your sick fish to a quarantine tank, there is no host left for the parasite to latch onto, and the parasite will die off in the original tank.

Depending on the tank’s temperature, this can be quick or take a while, reportedly up to 28 days.

Once the velvet parasite latches onto your betta, it will eat through your fish’s slime coat. The adult parasite eats your betta’s skin cells in this Trophont stage.

Your betta’s immune system creates a cyst around the velvet in a bubble. This bubble is what you see.

This is when you’ll notice a color change in your fish. The physical appearance of velvet on betta fish is gold or rusty-colored spots on the skin and fins.

This is often difficult to see on gold or rust-colored fish.

This cyst limits the trophont in the damage it can do and makes it harder to kill. The bubble protects the trophont from medication.

At average tropical temperatures, this stage lasts six days. Raising the temperature of the tank speeds this stage up to three days.

Lowering the temperature slows it down, which you do not want.

You want the theronts to burst from the cyst and swim in the water to find a host and get killed by the medication.

What Are Some Treatment Options?

The first thing to do when a fish shows symptoms of velvet disease is to consider putting it in a quarantine tank.

Velvet disease does not require a hospital tank as you are medicating the water, not the fish, but quarantining has its benefits.

Quarantining protects the other fish in the tank from whatever illness your betta has. It also protects your pet from being picked on by other fish.

Treating your betta fish for velvet disease in the earlier stages is easier. Paying attention to your fish’s behavior and catching it early leads to successful treatment.

Increasing the water temperatures is one treatment for parasitic diseases in betta fish. Raise the temperature in the tank to about 80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C).

Some fish specialists recommend up to 85° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C). This increases the rate of tomont division.

There will be more dinospores in the water to kill with medication or remove with a water change. Be careful with the temperature, some fish cannot handle higher temperatures.

There are several commercial fish medications commonly available for velvet. They are methylene blue, malachite green, formalin, acriflavine, and copper sulfate.

Copper sulfate can kill good bacteria, algae, roots, plants, and snails, so have care when using it. Only use copper on fish in quarantine.

Don’t use copper on plants and other living things in the aquarium.

These common medications are available online and in the pet store. Follow all manufacturer recommendations for dosage and duration of treatment.

Do not medicate healthy fish, as it is tough on them. Remember to remove your carbon filter, as it will neutralize the medication.

Once your betta is healthy again, do a 60% water change to rid the water of any extra medication. Replace the filter you removed before medicating.

If your betta is in a hospital aquarium, treat both tanks. Velvet’s life cycle is typically 6 – 12 days.

It can take up to 28 days, so the original tank needs medicating, too.

Using aquarium salt in the tank also helps with illnesses. Aquarium salt helps keep the betta fish’s slime coat healthy.

Fishkeepers who use salt add 1 teaspoon of aquarium salt per 2 1/2 gallons of water for fish in freshwater aquariums.

Another treatment technique is performing large water changes. This eliminates as many parasites as possible before they get to your fish.

Water changes also improve water quality and eliminate excess ammonia and nitrites. Your fish needs the best water quality for a healthy life!

Continue treatment until all signs of velvet are gone, and then keep going for another 48-72 hours. This will ensure you have gotten all the parasites in their vulnerable stage.

Velvet is caused by a parasite feeding on a fish host and will not go away on its own. Diagnosing this illness early in your betta is essential for treatment and recovery.

Left alone, the parasite will run rampant and take over the tank, infecting other fish.

How to Prevent Velvet Outbreaks In Betta Tanks?

Preventing an outbreak is easier than treating one. Velvet disease spreads quickly from fish to fish, overtaking your entire aquarium.

Once you see the symptoms of velvet in betta fish, quarantine the host fish. Begin treatment right away.

Thoroughly treating a velvet infestation will help prevent future outbreaks.

When you get a new fish or plant, quarantine it for two to four weeks. This will give any disease time to make itself known without spreading to your other fish.

Washing your plants is also an option. Make a 10% bleach solution and soak plants in it for up to five minutes.

Soak plants in conditioned water for another ten minutes. Rinse them well and then place them back in the aquarium.

Plants also bring invertebrates like snails along with them, which sometimes carry pathogens.

Water quality is an important factor in aquarium health. Regularly test for nitrate, nitrite, pH, ammonia, hardness, and temperature levels.

Perform partial water changes and vacuum substrate weekly. Your betta will be happier, healthier, and have better color if water parameters are good.

Ideal Water Parameters for a Betta Fish Tank Include the following:

  • Temperature: 78-80° degrees Fahrenheit (25.5-27° C)
  • pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Ammonia and Nitrite: 0 ppm
  • Nitrate: < 40 ppm
  • gH: 3-4 dGH (50-66.7 ppm)
  • kH: 3-5 dKH (53.6-89.4 ppm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 5 Gallons

Performing frequent water changes will help reduce stress in your tank.

Regular water changes control water quality. This will also help manage a parasite infestation by eliminating the free swimming ones.

Another cause of stress in your tank is overcrowding. As a general rule, do not have more than one inch of fish per gallon occupying your tank.

Ensure your fish are community fish and able to get along. Many fish will pick on a betta and damage their fins. 

For more information on what fish to have with Bettas, check out our guide to the best betta tank mates.

Make sure you do not overfeed or underfeed your betta. They only need an amount of food equal to about the size of their eye.

Uneaten food breaks down in the tank and raises ammonia and nitrite levels. This causes more water changes. 

A well-nourished fish fed a varied diet is better able to resist disease. Feed your betta a mixture of tropical flakes, betta pellets, freeze-dried foods, and live foods for optimal health.

Velvet Is For Clothes, Not Betta Fish

Taking good care of your betta is important to preventing a velvet outbreak. Should your fish get velvet, there are many treatment options available.

Follow all medication directions regarding dosage and duration. Keep water quality high and care for your pet as well as possible to prevent future outbreaks.

To learn more about Betta diseases, check out our complete guide at the link.

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Wesley Oaks has a background in web publishing and decided to combine his skillset with his enjoyment of betta fish. When he isn’t working behind the scenes for Betta Fish Bay, he’s homeschooling his kids and soaking up quality family time.

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