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Betta Popeye: Everything You Need to Know About the Damaging Condition

Betta Popeye: Everything You Need to Know About the Damaging Condition

Fish are susceptible to disease or injury, even ones that are kept in the safest aquarium. If you are familiar with betta fish, chance is, you are also already aware of popeye condition, which is quite common to be contracted by this specific fish species. As betta popeye sometimes can lead to bodily damage and other fatal problem if it’s left without treatment, knowing the proper way to treat this condition as well as how to prevent it, is crucial for betta fish owners. Read everything you need to know about popeye on betta fish below.

What is Betta Fish?

Before we get into the betta popeye discussion, let’s talk about betta fish first. Also known as the Siamese fighting fish, this aquatic species is popular amongst fish per owners due to its vibrant physical colour and easy maintenance. The fish is originated from South East Asian region such as Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia. It is even considered as an inherent part of economy and culture in some of these mentioned countries. Thailand even named the fish as its National Aquatic Animal, which is not surprising considering it’s domesticated for the first time in Thailand, about roughly a millennium ago.

One of the most prominent features of betta fish is the labyrinth, which is a unique organ that makes it has great resistance to poor water quality and low oxygen levels.

Despite being relatively easy to maintain, it has to be noted that betta fish possesses frail body structure and is quite vulnerable to a number of diseases. One of the most common diseases to be caught by this fish is the condition known as betta popeye.

What Is Betta Popeye Condition?

Popeye (exophthalmia) is a general term used for various conditions that cause fish’s eye to swollen or bulge out, which can happen to any fish species, but it’s particularly more common in betta fish. It is typically developed from accumulation of pressure in the rear of the eye. Aside from appearing protruding, the eye may show white splotches or ring that surround it, which can be used as telling symptoms to differentiate normal betta eyes vs popeye. There are plenty of potential causes of betta popeye and the best way to detect it is by observing the fish closely to search for the symptoms.

Often times, betta popeye is no more than infection caused by bacteria. Poor water quality in the aquarium is mostly what causes the condition, that’s why betta fish kept in a clean aquarium is highly unlikely to catch it. Bacterial infection is able to spread fast and affect the suffering’s fish tank mates, but the popeye itself is not contagious.

When left untreated, betta popeye can lead to eye rupture, blindness, and death. If it is caused by injury, such as eye trauma, it can result in rotten eye. However, don’t panic yet because the fish has high chance to survive given a proper care.

This condition is generally not difficult to cure, as long as the exact cause can be figured out as soon as possible. This is because betta fish popeye can present as symptoms or indication of a more serious condition, such as tuberculosis, which can cause a quick death for the fish. In this case, it is practically incurable.

Causes and Symptoms of Popeye in Betta Fish

What causes popeye in betta fishes? As it has been mentioned before, there are various possible causes of betta popeye, which can be identified through observing the symptoms. For an example, unilateral popeye or condition where only one eye is affected is typically caused by trauma or injury. Therefore, it might be a wise idea to take off sharp objects or surfaces from the fish tank. On the other hand, if both eyes are affected, usually called bilateral popeye, then it is usually caused by infection.

Apart from that, here are some other common betta popeye symptoms:
  • Eye colour changes
  • Damaged cornea
  • Clouded eyes
  • Decreasing appetite
  • Decreasing energy
  • Social apathy
  • Lethargy

How to Treat Popeye Condition

How to Treat Popeye Condition

After you have identified betta popeye and determined that your fish is indeed contracted it, you need to figure out how to cure the condition. What treatment should be given to the affected fish depends on what causes the condition, whether it is an infection or an injury.

If the condition is caused by an injury, then in general, the best betta fish popeye treatment is to transfer the affected fish into an isolated aquarium to allow it healing in a peaceful environment.

However, if the betta popeye is caused by infection, then you need to take more elaborate steps. Medicine is usually recommended for this type for problem, such as antifungal or antibiotic unless the affected fish also seems to be bloated because this usually indicates that the popeye is merely a symptom of an incurable internal illness, which cannot be treated by the typical betta popeye medicine alone. Infection-induced betta popeye treatment works the most effective when it is given during the early phase of the condition, as it’s going to be quicker and easier to cure. Once it reaches more developed stages, the fish is at risk of losing its eye.

Below, you can read some recommended types of betta fish popeye medicine. However, before you read and follow them, it is important to tailor it to the certain circumstances of the fish. If the contracting fish is a solo inhabitant of the tank, then it doesn’t need to be moved. Otherwise, you need to isolate the fish first before applying treatment, as it may harm other tank mates or plants. The isolating method is usually called hospital or quarantine aquarium. If there are more than one affected fish, you can put them in the same quarantine aquarium, but it’s also possible and even better to separate and put them in a different tank each.

Here are some guides on how to treat betta fish popeye:

Using Melafix

Melafix is an effective and easy to use treatment for betta popeye. You simply need to apply the medicine once every 7 days, by dropping 5 ml of Melafix for every 10 gallons of water within the tank. After the treatment reached 7-day mark, change the water in the tank by 25%. If the fish is not healed yet from condition, continue using the treatment by repeating the guide up to 3 times. In case after 3 times treatments the fish doesn’t get better, it is recommended to reach for professional help.

This medicine can also be used as a precaution step to prevent the infection breakouts when you add new fish to the tank. You can simply drop 5 ml of Melafix for every 10 gallons of water daily for three days after the fish is added into the tank.

Using Epsom salt

Another effective treatment for betta popeye condition is Epsom salt. Also referred to as magnesium sulfate, this ingredient performs a great job in eliminated accumulated liquid behind the eye of the affected fish. In addition, Epsom salt is also able to help reducing swelling, inflammation, and infection.

So, how to treat popeye in betta fish by using Epsom salt? You can drop one tablespoon of Epsom salt for every 5 gallons of water in the tank.

Using aquarium salt

Aquarium salt (sodium chloride salt) works by raising the salinity of the water. This causes the water within parasite, fungus, and bacteria will be sucked out according to osmosis process. So in the simplest term, it dehydrates these microorganisms and kills them. It won’t dehydrate the fish because fish stored more water and has more mass than these pathogens that will die before the host is affected. However, note that salt is not a fail-proof solution as some microorganisms have great resistance to higher salinity.

There are also other benefits of using aquarium salt beside eliminating pathogens and parasites, which includes preventing damaging nitrates, protecting a wet and slushy outer membrane, enhancing kidney function, and boosting the amount of electrolytes in water.

The steps to use aquarium salt are more or less similar to Epsom salt. This will help them to recover while being on the quarantine aquarium. Aside from that, it can be used for new fish treatment as well by using lower dosages.

Aquarium salt for a health booster or preventative measure shouldn’t be used excessively, as it is the equivalent a healthy person abusing antibiotics by taking a pill daily to reduce the risk of infection. In the end, it is best to use aquarium salt for betta popeye when necessary, only in sparing dosage.

How to Prevent Popeye in Betta Fish

How to Prevent Popeye in Betta Fish

There are plenty of options when it comes to treatment for betta fish with popeye. That being said, prevention is still the best step to take first. Below, you can read various ways to prevent this condition.

Preventing betta popeye caused by infection

In case you are trying to prevent popeye caused by infection, you will need to focus mainly on enhancing the quality of tank water. Low tank water quality will stress out betta fish and affect their immune system.

Here are some ways you can boost the tank water quality:

  • Use purified water
You may think tap water is suitable for aquariums as it meets the standards of drinking water, but it isn’t always the case as it may contains heavy metals like copper, which aquatic creatures are often sensitive to. You can get purified water by using RO (Reverse Osmosis) filtration systems.
  • Feed the aquarium as necessary
There is no rigid rule when it comes to feeding fishes and other aquatic creatures, but there’s one certain thing: the tank’s ecosystem will carry more waste the more you add food. Unconsumed foods will break down into organics, nutrients, and solid particles, increate the nitrite, nitrate, ammonia, and phosphate.
  • Perform partial water changes regularly
There are several crucial benefits to get from regular water changes, such as reducing nitrate and phosphate level, decreasing accumulated organics that can weaken the fish's immune system, and replacing carbonates with magnesium and calcium.

Preventing betta popeye caused by injury

Popeye betta condition can be caused injury as well, so making sure that the amount of potential physically harming elements is limited is important.

Here are some things you can do to prevent injury to betta fish:

  • Remove plastic tank from the tank
For betta fish, plastic plants are very harsh and may induce damage to their body, eyes included. It’s better to use real plants instead of fake plastic ones.
  • Handle the betta fish carefully
In case you need to scoop the fish out of the tank, the betta fish’s eyes might be damaged by the net. Don’t rush the process and do it carefully.
  • Separate the betta fish from aggressive fish
If you spot a tank mate that acts aggressively towards the betta fish, then it’s better to transfer the fish to a different tank. It also applies even to a species that’s generally considered peaceful.
  • Do not switch on the lights of the aquarium abruptly
Turning off the aquarium lights too quickly may cause the fish to feel stressed and agitating. Start by turning on the room light first then wait for about 10 minutes before switching on the aquarium light.


By now, you have learned more about the betta fish popeye disease, which is a physically damaging condition that can lead more severe issues, even death if left untreated. This condition can be caused by a number of reasons, including bacterial infections and physical injury. You have also read various symptoms that you can use as a guide to determine if your betta fish has really contracted the condition. 

Moreover, you also have read about various available treatments to choose to solve the problem, which is better to be performed before the condition gets worse. All in all, preventing betta popeye is still considered better in general by performing preventative measures as explained above. You can simply follow the guide on how to prevent the condition above.

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