Bettas get their coloring from their genes. There are so many different types of bettas that breeders can produce just about any color you can think of. But just because your betta has the genes for bright, beautiful colors doesn’t mean it’s always going to look that way.
A few things can cause a betta to lose its color and some are much more serious than others. Knowing how to treat these things keeps your betta healthy as well as bright and beautiful.
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Understanding About Betta Fish Color
Betta fish coloring is a lot more complicated than you might think. There are so many varieties and they come in a range of colors and patterns. But it all boils down to four layers of color cells.
Every betta found in a pet store has four layers of color cells: an iridescent top layer, black layer, red layer, and bottom yellow layer. Every betta has a different genetic code that increases or decreases the pigments in these cells and where they are located.
The top iridescent layer controls how much blue appears in the betta’s coloring. They can be turquoise, steel blue, royal blue, or even have a total absence of blue which affects their coloring in an entirely different way. This layer also affects the metallic look on the surface of the fish.
The black layer can appear in a lot of ways – a cream body with red find or solid red or black. Certain genes eliminate the black pigment altogether. Depending on how the gene expresses itself, this layer can be pastel, iridescent, or deeply saturated.
Next is the red layer. These genes control the absence of red as well as different expressions of the color, including red or variegated fins or a completely red betta. Different patterns are possible, too.
Finally, the bottom yellow layer which doesn’t really have a lot of genetic expressions. In fact, a yellow betta is only yellow because the other layers are expressed with no pigment.
Of course, this all has to do with the genetic coloring of betta. There are environmental factors that can cause changes, too.
Why is my Betta Fish Losing Color?
There are several reasons why a betta fish could be losing color. The most common are age, illness, and stress. What is causing the problem can usually be identified by what exactly is going on with the color change.
Why is my Betta Fish Turning Black?
A betta turning black is not always something to be overly concerned about. As we mentioned, bettas can lose their color due to age and it’s pretty common for older bettas to lose their bright coloring and turn black.
Bettas can also turn black due to stress. This can happen from big environmental changes, like moving it to a new tank or adding new tankmates, or from water parameters being off. Too much nitrate, nitrite, or even water temperature that’s too high or low can cause stress.
In this case, correcting the underlying issue should bring your betta’s color back to normal. So, do a water test to see if you need to make any changes. Adjust the temperature settings as needed. If you can, give a stressed betta its own habitat or at least provide a lot of places for it to hide so it feels safe.
Generally, if your betta is otherwise acting normally, eating, and being as active as usual, there’s probably nothing to worry about. Check for sources of stress, correct them, and you should be okay.
That said, if the betta stops eating and becomes sluggish or hides for large parts of the day, there may be something more serious going on.
Why is my Betta Fish Turning White?
The problem is usually a little more serious if your betta starts turning white. A few things can cause this so make sure you investigate as some are quite serious.
We already mentioned stress in regards to your betta turning black but it can cause white color changes, too. This is especially true if your betta is light in color.
Ich is a parasitic that causes white spots on your betta. Other signs of an infection that you might notice are lethargy, lost appetite, and your betta may begin rubbing itself against things in the tank to attempt to remove the parasite.
The good news is that ich is generally easy to treat. The easiest thing to do is remove the betta and place it in a quarantine tank. This is often enough to kill the ich in the main tank as it no longer has anything to feed on.
In the meantime, treat the betta with heat and salt. Increase the temperature one degree every day until the temperature reaches 86 degrees F. Also, add one teaspoon per gallon of water and do a 25 percent water change every day. This will accelerate the lifespan of the parasite and create an environment harsh enough that it won’t survive.
Have you noticed fluffy white spots on your betta? This is likely a sign of columnaris, a bacterial infection that is somewhat common in bettas. It’s also called cotton wool disease because of its unique texture. A betta with columnaris may also have sores or ulcers on their body or fraying fins.
In addition to the white spots, you may also notice fraying fins or sores on their body. This disease can affect all of the fish in your tank so check them all if your betta is part of a community setting.
If columnaris is not treated, your betta may turn brown or black as it progresses. Treatment before this stage is critical. The best option is to place your betta in a quarantine tank.
Lower the temperature to about 75 degrees which is a little cooler than bettas usually prefer. Bacteria like warmer environments so, by lowering the temperature, you may be able to slow down the infection.
Add some aquarium salt – about a teaspoon for every five gallons – and use an antibiotic from the pet store. While you’re treating your betta in the quarantine tank, do daily 25 percent water changes in the main tank to try to get rid of any lingering bacteria.
Although not common, anchor worms can also cause a betta to turn white, especially if you recently introduced a new fish to the tank. Anchor worms are pretty easy to identify because they’re very noticeable on your betta. They can get to about ¾ inches long and appear split at the end.
If your betta has anchor worms, you’ll probably notice it scraping against things to try to get the worms off. This can cause red spots and sores so, if you see these worms, begin treatment right away.
Treatment is very hands-on, literally. To remove the worms, you have to actually catch the betta and remove the worms with tweezers. Get as close to the head of the worm as possible. Work quickly and give your betta breaks in the quarantine tank so it can recover and catch its breath.
After this, keep the betta in the quarantine tank. Add some salt and try a parasite treatment from the pet store.
How to Make Your Betta Fish Colorful?
If you notice that your betta is turning black or white, it’s important to assess what’s going on and intervene, especially if you suspect an infection. That said, your betta’s color may just fade with age. In this case, there are two things you can do to improve the color.
First, check the water in the tank. Anything that stresses your betta can cause your betta’s colors to fade, including high ammonia levels or temperatures that are too cold or too hot. You should also keep your betta in a five-gallon tank or larger to make sure it’s comfortable.
The second thing you can do to make your betta more colorful is to make sure you’re feeding it the right food. If you’re using flakes or pellets, it might not be enough. Brine shrimp is a great choice because the natural pigments enhance the betta’s color. You can also try giving you betta a mashed, cooked pea every so often.
Just because your betta was born to have bright beautiful colors doesn’t mean it’s always going to be that way. Several things can cause a betta’s colors to fade or worse. Knowing what to look for helps you determine the best way to move forward.
Sometimes, a simple tweak to the tank or the right food can solve the problem. Other times, you may need to place your fish in quarantine and provide the appropriate treatment.