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How to Cure Popeye in Betta Fish

If you’re an aquarist with betta fish, you may have noticed this species is prone to illness. Being kept in small bowls with poor water conditions can cause a weakened immune system which may then result in swollen or protruded eyes called popeye. That said, how do you go about curing this infection?

There are different cures for popeye in betta fish. You can use an all-natural treatment like melafix (a liquid made from tea tree extract), epsom and/or aquarium salt, and antibiotics like kanaplex. Melafix tends to be the preferred method since it won’t harm other tank inhabitants nor kill aquatic plants.

Now that you know there are variety of ways to treat popeye syndrome in betta fish, let’s explore this topic further and in more detail. Together we’ll learn what causes this infection, how long it takes to heal, how to treat it, how to prevent it, and if fish can die from it.

So, if you’re ready to learn more about popeye and its physical effects on betta fish in captivity, then please read onward…

What is Popeye in Betta Fish?

Popeye is a term used loosely to describe anything that causes the eyes of a fish to swell or bulge out. The infected eye may also appear cloudy with a ring of white spots surrounding it. In terms of betta fish popeye syndrome, the irritated eye typically looks red as well.

What Causes Popeye in Betta Fish?

Popeye in betta fish isn’t always caused by the same thing. Injury resulting from a fight with another fish can be the culprit. An accidental rub against a sharp rock or decoration in the tank can also cause popeye in bettas. A bacterial or fungal infection from ‘dirty’ tank water may also lead to this type of eye ailment.

How to Determine the Root Cause of Popeye in Betta Fish?

Besides the sore, irritated eye that appears cloudy, swollen or protruded, there are other signs that can help you determine the root cause of the ailment. Injuries to other parts of the body such as tattered fins and open wounds likely indicate a fight between tankmates.

Flesh or scales attached to rocks or decorations in an aquarium may indicate that your betta fish was inadvertently injured by a rough or sharp object. In addition, should you notice your fish refusing to eat while appearing lethargic, then it may be an illness such as ich causing the eye problem.

When betta fish exhibit symptoms of popeye as well as other illnesses such as fin/tail rot, ich, swim bladder disorder, etc. then the root cause could be a bacterial and/or fungal infection caused by an unclean or crowded environment. Highly toxic tank water is the leading cause of many fish diseases.

bright pink betta fish

How do You Treat Popeye in Betta Fish using Melafix?

You can treat popeye in betta fish with an antibacterial medication such as melafix. It’s all-natural and made from tea tree extract and cajeput oil. The liquid is typically added directly to tank water in the amount of 5 mg per every 10 gallons.

The bonus of using melafix is that it won’t cause harmful side effects to fish nor damage aquatic plants. This product also won’t affect the biological filter, alter the pH level in the tank, or discolor the water. It’s reasonably priced and available both in-store at your local pet shop or online through aquarium retailers.

How to Treat Popeye in Betta Fish using Epsom or Aquarium Salt?

Besides melafix, you can also treat popeye in betta fish with epsom or aquarium salt. Start by isolating the ailing fish and moving it to an empty quarantine tank (with the same water parameters as the main aquarium) so as not to harm other tank inhabitants or damage aquatic plants.

If using epsom salt or magnesium sulfate, add 1 tablespoon per gallon of water. Let the fish swim in the treated water for 10 to 15 minutes and then place it back in the main tank. Repeat this procedure for 3 days and watch for any signs of distress.

If using aquarium rock salt, add the same amount of salt (1 tablespoon for each gallon of water) but only leave the fish in the solution for 5 to 8 minutes since it’s much harsher than epsom salt. Observe the fish carefully to ensure no adverse reactions take place.

Can You Use Antibiotic Medication to Treat Popeye in Betta Fish?

Apart from natural cures like melafix, epsom salt, and aquarium (rock) salt, you can also use antibiotic medications like api erythromycin, kanaplex or maracyn to treat popeye in betta fish. Just be sure to follow the manufacturer’s exactly and watch for possible side effects like loss of appetite or lethargy.

How Long does Popeye Take to Heal?

It typically takes a few weeks to a month for betta fish to recover from popeye. While the swelling is likely to diminish within 14 days it may take up to 28 days or more for any damage in the cornea to heal. There’s also the possibility that severe cornea damage, even with treatment, may never fully heal.

How to Prevent Popeye in Betta Fish?

To prevent popeye in betta fish, be sure to keep the tank clean. Poor water quality with high levels of toxins can weaken a betta’s immune system and leave it susceptible to illness-causing bacteria. Doing regular water tests and bi-weekly partial water changes (15-25%) will help keep the environment safe.

As well, make sure the tank is free of sharp objects which can cut fish and result in infection. Rocks and tank decorations with rough edges greatly increase the chances of fish with long, flowing fins like bettas hurting themselves. Consider adding sand instead of gravel substrate to further reduce the risk of injury.

Keeping suitable tankmates in a big enough aquarium will also help prevent popeye in betta fish. Aggressive and/or territorial fish will fight which can inflict injury. If you can’t seem to stop the fighting, then consider quarantining or rehoming the ‘bully’ fish.

What Tank Parameters are Best for Preventing Popeye in Betta Fish?

A heathy and safe tank environment that mimics ‘the wild’ goes a long way in preventing betta fish from developing popeye. Since the natural habitat for this species consists of warm and slow-moving water, consider adding a heater to the tank to keep the temperature steady at 78- to 82-degrees Fahrenheit.

Bettas prefer a slightly acidic environment. To keep the tank safe and the water conducive to this species, test the hardness regularly with a dH kit and try to keep the pH balanced between 6.5 and 7.0. If the pH is too high, add some peat moss to the filter and if it’s too low, add a bit of baking soda to the water.

Can Betta Fish Die from Popeye?

If left untreated, popeye can progress to a more serious illness and ultimately cause premature death in betta fish. It weakens the immune system and can’t be cured on its own. Prompt treatment with the proper medication is required.

Final Thoughts

To sum-up, popeye is a type of eye ailment typically affecting betta fish in captivity. It can be caused by injury or disease and should be treated promptly. Effective treatments include all-natural melafix as well as epsom or aquarium salt and antibiotics like kanaplex. If not treated, it can lead to premature death.

I hope this article has been of help and answered all your questions about popeye syndrome in aquarium fish. Thanks for reading and good luck with your aquarist hobby.

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