Can Betta Fish Have Seizures?

If you are trying to find an answer to the question “Can Betta fish can have seizures?”, you are in the right place. Across species Bettas can have seizures but, in many cases, they do not survive it. However, there are many things you can do to prevent it from happening, avoid and several tips you can use during recovery. We will tell you all you need to know about Bettas and seizures and try to make you prepared if it occurs to your Betta pet. 

Common Signs of Seizures in Betta Fish

Just like human fish have a nervous system and they can have seizures as well as other conditions such as heart attacks, strokes and trauma. First, we need to learn what to observe and how to identify seizures. If your Betta is having seizures, you will notice the short breath, gulping for air, rapid and unwilling twitching. You can`t help much while it is happening but you could identify the cause and help your pet after. You mustn’t confuse controlled signs of twitching connected to mating with unwilling and uncontrolled twitching while your pet is having seizures.

Most seizures are unable to survive and seeing one is not a pleasant thing. As long as you keep water parameters leveled and there are no sudden and rapid changes in temperature your pet is safe from seizures as they are the main triggers.  

So, the first thing you need to identify is whether it is a seizure or not and that you will do by observing. Even though it sounds complicated there are many symptoms that can help you decide and they are: 

  • A Betta is gulping for air
  • Your Betta has lost appetite and nothing can occupy it
  • The fish becomes pale 
  • It performs uncoordinated movements and erratic swimming upside down or in circles

Even though symptoms may vary, these mentioned here are most common and will definitely help you identify the seizure. On the other hand, finding the cause may not be that easy but it is crucial because if you do not remove the cause your Betta may not survive the next time it happens. So, watch closely, be very patient and hopefully, you will be able to identify the cause. 

What Is Causing Betta Fish Seizures?

As soon as you identify that your fish is dealing with a seizure, the next step is finding the cause. Most Bettas do not survive the seizure or die soon after one, but you needn’t give up on finding the cause. If by any chance your pet survives and you do not find and remove the cause next time it won’t be so lucky. There are many causes that can provoke seizures and we will tell you all you need to know and help you identify. 

  • Excessive light is the most common reason. The majority of fish don’t like bright light or flashes of light.  That is why you should provide the adjustable aquarium light that your tank size requires. Advisable are frequencies of blue, green and red that are less intense. A great help in avoiding the light are live plants in the tank that will provide the necessary shades if needed. The position of the tank is also very important and exposure to too much sunlight. It will also affect the temperature of the water. So, the best advice when it comes to light is to keep it somewhere in a shady place away from windows and heaters.
  • Number two cause of seizures is loud noise. It affects your fish negatively. Anything too loud coming from the outside as well as taping off the tank can be very dangerous for your Betta. The sign in many pet stores “Do not tap the glass” is there for a reason. Since the sound is transmitted faster in water, vibrations from the tapping of the glass are carried directly to the lateral line of the fish. Now, the lateral line spreads down the side of a fish and as a system of organs helps the fish detect any changes, vibrations, pressure and movements. Tapping of the glass is transferred to a fish and it causes stress each time you tap. Many believe that tapping causes internal injury similar to a blast from a dynamite explosion. Our advice is not to tap the glass and set the tank away from loud noises and sounds that cause any vibrations. 
  • The third cause on our list is a shock which can be provoked by light and noise but many other things. The list is rather long and the most common ones are temperature, water flow, food and water parameters. If the changes are gradual over months like in natural conditions a Betta has a chance to adapt. Any rapid change is and can be very harmful to a Betta. 

It often happens when you move a Betta between tanks or when cleaning the tank or performing water changes. Proper acclimation if you want to avoid stress is crucial during any of these procedures of moving. Until there is a match in parameters between the current tank and other environments where a Betta needs to be transferred you shouldn’t move it. The acclimation needs to be done patiently and gradually in order not to harm your pet. 

  • Temperature shock is a common cause of seizures and it happens if you do not allow full acclimation of your Betta to new parameters. Even though the temperature range for Bettas is large from 72-84 degrees they only thrive at a temperature around 78 degrees. Temperature shock can be provoked by both too cold and too hot water. 
  • Another cause of seizures can be from infections that can be bacterial, fungal or viral. There are parasites that can significantly harm the nervous system too. Proper treatment is vital for any infection and it should be taken seriously. 
  • In rare cases, the seizures can happen due to overdosing with medications so it is very important to stick to the prescribed dosage if you use any medications on the tank or the fish. 

How To Prevent Betta Fish Seizures?

If you want to prevent seizures you should deal with the water first. All the parameters, firstly temperature, need to be within borders. The levels of nitrates, ammonia and nitrites need to be within range too. 

Let us just quickly remind you of the ideal water parameters for Bettas. Try to hold on to this and you will have no trouble. The temperature range is rather wide and they can handle from 75 to 82 degrees of Fahrenheit. Certainly, they won’t tolerate sudden jumps in temperature. They are fatal for Bettas and certainly will cause stress so do avoid them. Nitrite and ammonia levels should be 0ppm, nitrates between 10 to 20 ppm and the PH of the water can be from 6.5 to 7.5. If you provide and keep these parameters your Betta will certainly enjoy as far as it comes to water. 

Then, the arrangement of the tank needs to be proper with plenty of live plants that Bettas love, decorations and hiding places. Proper equipment such as a heater, filter and air pump are needed.  Maintain the tank regularly providing scheduled water change and do not let waste build up.  In order to make it full and vivid you can make a mistake and bring in too many things so be careful and do not overstock the tank. 

If the tank is exposed to too much light you can prevent seizures by covering it with a lid or even a blanket. That way you will also provide the normal sleeping cycle that your Betta needs.

After dealing with the tank and the water, proper diet is another very important matter and much depends on it. Food rich in proteins and a varied diet is essential for your Betta’s well being.  

How To Treat Betta Fish Seizures?

There is not much you can do if you find yourself in a situation where your Betta is having a seizure and hardly that your pet will survive. Yet, there are a few things you can try at least to comfort your Betta if it survives.  

–  Use a lid or a blanket to cover the tank and turn the light off then check the temperature. These are the first and the most important things you can do to provide help and to reduce stress.

– You should test the water parameters and correct them if there are any signs of contamination. 

– Try to identify the real cause of the seizures and eliminate them. 

There are some medications that can be used if your Betta suffers from seizures. We strongly recommend Kanaplex that contains Kanamycin and Potassium Sulfate and it has shown to be a very effective one in rather low doses. If you decide to go with any medications do not forget to turn off the filter so that medication stays in the water and does the job.

Final Thoughts

It is surely a scary sight to see such a tiny creature having a seizure, gulping for air and swimming erratically. In most cases, it will hardly survive but there is always a slight chance that it will. Your role is to do everything you can to prevent it from happening because there is very little you can do after.

It is highly unlikely that after you provide everything listed above your Betta suffers from a seizure but if by any chance happens and your Betta suffers from one the treatment should be done by someone who knows what to do. If that isn’t you try looking for professional medical help and act as soon as you notice symptoms.

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