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Why Is My Betta Fish Turning White?

You want your beloved betta buddy to be happy and healthy. But what can you do if you notice your brightly colored betta fish turning white?

There are many reasons why a betta fish changes its color or begins to fade, and even a bright blue betta fish turning black is not unheard of. So, if you’re asking yourself, “why is my betta fish turning white,” we can help.

Keep reading to find out the cause of your finned friend’s fading color and learn what you can do about it.

Why Is My Betta Fish Turning White?

There are several reasons why your betta might change color. If you notice your fish fading or changing color, any of the following causes could be to blame:

Stress

The most common reason for betta fish losing their bright colors is stress.

Stress has numerous causes, including:

  • Sudden changes in water temperature
  • A cramped tank
  • Insufficient filtration and irregular water changes
  • A dirty tank
  • An incorrect diet or overfeeding
  • Unsuitable or aggressive tank mates

Bettas are intelligent fish that need plenty of decoration, lush planting, and toys in their aquarium to keep them happy. If any of those elements are lacking, your betta buddy will become stressed out.

Changing Environment

It’s extremely common for a newly purchased betta to lose his bright colors when he’s first introduced to his new aquarium. 

If you think about it, the betta has most likely established a territory in his tank or box in the fish store. When he’s removed from that familiar environment and transported to his new home, the stress can cause the betta to turn pale. You can mitigate the effects of stress by keeping the tank lights off for a few hours. Once the betta settles in, his colors should become vibrant once again, usually within a couple of days.

Although it can be beneficial to change things up in your betta’s tank every once in a while, making massive changes to the aquascape or introducing new tank mates can be a major stressor for these sensitive fish. However, usually, your betta will get his color back within a few days once he’s reestablished his territory.

Age

fancy crowntail betta fish
Image Source: flickr.com

As betta fish age, they naturally begin to fade and lose their color. 

Bettas live for around five years, so if your pet is reaching that kind of age, you can expect his colors to gradually diminish. In fact, fading can begin as early as two years of age in some fish, especially if they’re living in a stressful environment.

Illness

Some diseases and illnesses can cause bettas to change color.

Luckily, that can be easy to recognize since your betta will typically change color and turn white when he’s sick. Once you’ve diagnosed the cause of the problem, you can take steps to put it right. 

Common diseases that can cause discoloration in bettas includes the following:

Fin Rot

Fin rot is a common disease in aquarium fish. The disease is caused by bacteria and causes the fish’s fins to turn white around the edges and develop a ragged, split appearance.

You need to treat this disease quickly to prevent it from spreading to the betta’s body or causing permanent damage to the finnage.

Ich (White Spot Disease)

White Spot disease or Ich is caused by an aquatic parasite that attaches itself to the fish’s skin or gills. 

Once fixed to the fish, the parasites cause irritation that causes the fish to flick or “flash” against solid objects in the aquarium, including the substrate. As the disease progresses, the fish develops a rash of tiny white spots across its body and fins.

Ich is usually pretty easy to cure, provided that you catch it quickly.

Columnaris

Betta fish, siamese fighting fish, betta splendens isolated on black background

Columnaris is a serious bacterial infection that can attack betta fish. The disease causes ulcers, damaged fins, white, fuzzy areas on the body, and general malaise. If your betta suddenly begins to appear fluffy and white, he most likely has columnaris. 

Columnaris comes in two forms. The most acute form of the disease can be fatal within 24 hours. However, if your betta gets the other variation of the condition, you might be able to cure him if you catch the disease early.

Injury

Often, when a fish is injured, and the affected body part begins to heal, the tissue and scales can grow back a different color, often black. That’s just a natural part of the healing process and shouldn’t be a cause for concern, as it simply means that your pet is getting better.

Why Is My Betta Fish Turning Black?

It’s not uncommon for a betta fish to turn black or become darker in color, even if they started out brightly colored. That’s usually a perfectly natural color change and is generally not something to be concerned about.

However, if your fish begins to suddenly turn black, observe him closely for any signs of disease or stress that could account for the color change.

When A Marble Betta Changes Color

Marble bettas can and do change color. That’s a natural phenomenon that’s down to the fish’s genetic makeup and is actually to be expected. 

Marble betta fish have what’s called “jumping genes.” Jumping genes are more correctly known as transposons. Transposons are parts of the fish’s DNA that are able to move in the genome. That means that if one or more of those genes change positions, your betta can change color or even appear transparent or translucent. The fun thing about owning a marble betta is that there’s no way of predicting what color your pet might finish up.

Some Marble bettas retain their patterns, hardly changing at all, whereas others can change to a solid color, including black or white. In contrast to a sick or stressed betta that turns a faded white, a Marble betta’s colors are vibrant and bright, changing rather than fading.

Actually, Marble bettas rarely remain the same color throughout their lives, often changing colors many times during their lifespan. In fact, that’s not unusual in regular bettas, although they don’t change color as much as Marble varieties do.

How To Make My Betta Fish More Colorful

Once you’ve ruled out sickness and disease as potential causes for your betta’s color change, it’s time to take a close look at your fish’s aquarium. As mentioned earlier, it’s often the stress that’s caused by living in an unsuitable environment that causes your betta to turn white or become pale.

So, take a look at the following suggestions and tips to ensure that your pet enjoys the very best conditions in which to thrive. Essentially, a regular routine and healthy tank can really help your betta to bloom and show his very best colors.

Make Sure Your Betta’s Tank Is Big Enough

Contrary to popular belief, bettas need to live in a proper aquarium, not a vase or tiny bowl. Your betta fish needs to live in a tank of at least 5 gallons to be happy.

Larger tanks are easier to maintain, too. That’s because the water parameters are more stable in a big tank than in a smaller one. Also, a large tank has much more surface area than a tiny bowl, which means better oxygen content in the water. That’s essential for labyrinth breathers, such as bettas.

Make Sure Your Betta Tank Has A Heater And Filter

Bettas are tropical fish that need a stable water temperature of between 78° and 82°F. If the temperature falls too low, your pet will succumb to temperature shock, which could kill him. So, even if the tank is in a warm room, you still need a heater with a thermostat to maintain a constant temperature.

Also, bettas are labyrinth breathers. So, to protect the delicate labyrinth organ from damage, the ambient room temperature should be the same as the water temperature in the betta’s aquarium. So, you’ll need an accurate aquarium thermometer so that you can check the water temperature every day.

Dirty water is a major cause of sickness and death in all fish species, including bettas. Bettas live in mostly still or stagnant ditches or paddy fields in the wild environment. Those bodies of water are kept clean and fresh by rainwater and natural gaseous exchange provided by a huge surface area. Also, a betta’s natural habitat is heavily vegetated. Plants help to keep the environment clean and healthy for the fish by absorbing nitrates from the water for use as nutrients.

In the aquarium, you must have an efficient filtration system to do the work that happens naturally in the wild scenario.

Feed Your Betta Color-Enhancing Food

One of the most effective ways to improve your betta’s color is to feed him a high-quality, nutritious, color-enhancing diet.

Bettas are primarily carnivores, eating a diet of insect larvae, water-bound insects, tiny crustaceans, algae, and a small quantity of plant matter. All those protein-rich foods contain carotenoid pigments, which are excellent for boosting your fish’s colors. So, feed your betta fish live or frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp, daphnia, and a little finely chopped salmon, and that can quickly boost your pet’s natural color.

You can also buy betta-specific mini pellets that are specially formulated to boost and enhance your pet’s bright colors, and these foods make an excellent staple diet for your betta.

Improve Water Quality

There are a few ways in which you can improve the water quality in your betta’s tank. 

Don’t Overstock Your Tank

Although you can only keep one male betta, there are dozens of suitable tank mates that you can choose from to keep your pet company. Unfortunately, that can lead to overstocking, which is bad news for your fish.

Bettas are highly territorial fish that won’t tolerate too much intrusion into their patch. So, you need a large, heavily planted tank that’s carefully aquascaped to provide clearly defined territories that your betta can claim as his. If you cram too many fish into your betta’s tank, you risk sparking confrontations and even fighting. That’s stressful for your betta, potentially making his colors fade.

As a very basic rule of thumb, use the rule of 1 inch of fish per 1 gallon of water when stocking your tank. Remember that most of the fish you buy are likely to be juveniles, so you need to check the fishes’ adult size to make sure you don’t overcrowd your tank.

Perform Regular Water Changes

To keep your betta’s tank healthy for your pet, you need to perform regular water changes.

Although your filtration system will deal with ammonia and nitrites, it won’t remove all the nitrates from the water. To do that, you need to change between 15% and 20% of the water every week. Generally, the smaller your aquarium, the more frequently you need to change the water. If you have a large aquarium that isn’t overstocked, you can get away with performing a 30% water change every two weeks.

When carrying out the water change, use an aquarium vacuum to remove fish waste, decomposing plant matter, and uneaten food from the substrate, under decorations, and around the bases of plants. That will prevent that organic matter from decomposing and polluting the water.

How Long Does It Take For Betta Fish To Regain Color?

The length of time it takes for your betta to regain his color depends entirely on the cause of the color change.

In some cases, the color will come back within a few days. However, other times, it can take as long as a few months. If the cause of the color loss is due to stress, the betta should recover relatively quickly once his environment is improved and the cause of the stress has gone.

In Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed our guide to why your betta fish might turn white. If you did, please remember to share!

Bettas can turn white for many reasons. A Marble betta will probably change color many times during his lifetime, a stressed or sick betta can often fade to a washed-out color or even to white, and an old betta also loses his vibrant colors as he approaches the end of his life.

Do you own a Marble betta? Did your fishy friend change color? Tell us about your chameleon betta fish in the comments box below!

Alison Page has been an avid fish keeper for over 35 years and has owned many different species of freshwater tropical fish including bettas. Currently Alison has two large freshwater tanks. The first tank has two huge fancy goldfish who are almost ten years old and still looking as good as ever. In the other, she has a happy community of tiger barbs, green tiger barbs, corydoras catfish, platys, and mollies.

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