Gill Flukes in Betta Fish: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

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By Linh Nguyen Updated on 02 Feb 2023

Bettas are beautiful fish that come in many colors and are a popular choice for aquariums. Unfortunately, they can be susceptible to gill flukes, tiny parasites that can cause serious health problems if left untreated. Some common symptoms of gill flukes include:

  • Excessive mucus production
  • Gills that appear red or inflamed
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Loss of appetite

If you suspect your Betta fish has gill flukes, it's important to seek treatment right away. Left untreated, gill flukes can lead to serious health complications and even death. In this blog post, we'll cover everything you need to know about Betta gill flukes, including symptoms, treatment, and prevention.

A betta fish with gill fluke

A betta fish with gill fluke

1. What are betta gill flukes?

Betta gill flukes are parasitic flatworms that infest the gills of betta fish. These parasites can cause a number of problems for bettas, including gill damage, difficulty breathing, and even death. 

These flukes are small, white worms that attach themselves to the gills of betta fish. They feed on blood and tissue, causing irritation and inflammation. In severe cases, gill flukes can block the respiratory opening, leading to death.

Gill flukes are most commonly found in wild bettas, but they can also affect captive-bred fish.

2. Causes of gill flukes on your betta

Gill flukes are a type of parasitic flatworm that infect the gills of fish. They are typically found in freshwater streams and ponds and can infect a variety of fish species. Gill flukes can cause a number of problems for betta fish, including gill damage, difficulty breathing, and increased susceptibility to other infections.

There are a number of different factors that can contribute to a betta fish becoming infected with gill flukes. One of the most common is exposure to contaminated water. This can happen if bettas are kept in an aquarium with other fish that are already infected, or if they are exposed to contaminated water in the wild. Poor water quality can also increase the risk of infection, as can stress from overcrowding or poor diet.

Besides, the parasites can attach themselves to live food sources such as bloodworms or brine shrimp. Once the parasites have attached themselves to the gills, they will begin to feed on blood and tissue. This can cause irritation and inflammation of the gills, making it difficult for the betta to breathe. In severe cases, the gill flukes can cause such extensive damage that the betta will suffocate and die.

A dirty water tank

A dirty water tank

3. Symptoms and pictures of betta fish gill flukes disease

There are four main stages of gill fluke disease in bettas, below are details of the stages and their symptoms.

3. 1. Infectious stage

The first stage is when the betta fish becomes infected with the parasite. This can happen through contact with contaminated water, or by eating infected food. The parasite then enters the betta fish's gills and starts to multiply.

At this stage, there are usually very few symptoms, and difficult to detect. You will only notice slight changes such as gills appearing red and inflamed, fish will feel itchy, and will often rub against the tank wall to scratch.

3.2. Early stage

The second stage is when the parasite starts to damage the betta fish's gills. The most common symptom is increased respiratory rate, where the fish will gasp for air at the surface of the water. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, lethargy, redness, inflammation of the gills, and white stringy feces. If left untreated, betta fish will eventually die from suffocation as their gills become too damaged to function properly. This stage of the disease can last for a few days to a couple of weeks. With proper treatment, most betta fish will make a full recovery.

Some typical signs include:

  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Gasping for air at the surface of the water
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Redness and inflammation of the gills
  • White stringy feces
Symptoms of betta fish gill fluke disease

3.3. Severe stage

The third stage is when the betta fish's immune system starts to fight back against the parasite. This can sometimes result in the betta fish recovering from the disease, but it can also lead to the betta fish's death if the immune system is not strong enough.

At this stage, the betta fish's gills are so damaged that they can no longer function properly. The fish will often lie at the bottom of the tank, barely moving. It will have difficulty breathing and its skin will start to turn blue due to lack of oxygen. If left untreated, the betta fish will eventually die from suffocation. This stage of the disease is usually fatal unless the betta fish receives immediate treatment.

3.4. The stage of recovery or death

The fourth and final stage is when the betta fish either recovers from the disease or dies from it.

If the betta fish recovers, they may be left with some permanent damage to their gills. However, it may still be weak and require some time to recover fully.

If the betta fish does not receive treatment in the early stages of the disease, it will likely die from suffocation.

Betta fish that are infected with gill flukes will often exhibit a range of symptoms, including increased respiratory rate, gasping for air, loss of appetite, lethargy, and redness and inflammation of the gills. If left untreated, the disease can progress to the point where the betta fish suffocates and dies. However, with early diagnosis and treatment, most betta fish will make a full recovery.

Below are detailed methods and instructions for you to completely treat this disease.

4. Gill flukes disease betta treatment

4.1. Using antibiotics

There are many common and specialized antibiotics that can treat all infections caused by bacteria. From internal parasites to external parasites with all kinds of flukes.

Some medications include: metronidazole or praziquantel

These medications can be taken through food or by adding them to water.

If using metronidazole or praziquantel through food, mix the appropriate amount of medication with the fish food. Follow the instructions on the packaging for the correct dose.

If adding antibiotics to the water, first make sure that the betta is in a separate tank or container. This is because metronidazole and praziquantel can be harmful to other fish and invertebrates.

Add the appropriate amount of antibiotics to the tank or container, according to the instructions on the packaging. Make sure that there is plenty of aeration in the tank or container, as they can cause oxygen levels to drop.

Treatment time from 7 to 10 days. After this period, remove the betta from the tank or container and rinse it with fresh water. Be sure to remove all of the antibiotics from the betta's environment before returning it to its main tank.

metroplex drug

4.2. Using aquarium salt

Aquarium salt can be used to effectively treat gill fluke disease in betta fish. The recommended dosage is 1 teaspoon per gallon of water, and the treatment should be continued for 10 days. To ensure that the aquarium salt is properly dissolved, it should be added to a small amount of water before being added to the tank. The aquarium salt will help to kill the parasites that are causing the gill flukes, and it will also help to reduce inflammation and improve circulation within the gills. After 10 days, the betta fish should be slowly acclimated back to their regular freshwater environment.

4.3. Some notes when treating flukes

In addition to medication, bettas with gill flukes will also need to be kept in clean water. This means doing a complete water change at least once a week and using a high-quality filter. Gill flukes are difficult to treat and it can take several weeks for the betta to fully recover. However, with proper treatment and care, most bettas will make a full recovery.

In the process of treating gill fluke for betta fish, there are some notes you need to pay attention to:

  1. Do a water change before treating the betta fish for flukes. This will help to remove any existing parasites from the water and make the treatment more effective.
  2. Choose a treatment that is specifically designed for flukes. There are many products on the market, some common medications used to treat gill flukes include praziquantel and levamisole.
  3. Follow the instructions on the packaging carefully. Do not over-medicate, as this can be harmful to your fish.
  4. Quarantine the betta fish during treatment. This will prevent the spread of parasites to other fish in the tank.
  5. After the treatment is completed, do another water change to remove any residual medication from the tank.
treatment of gill fluke disease for betta fish

5. Is gill flukes contagious?

Gill flukes are a type of parasitic flatworm that commonly infects freshwater fish. They are relatively common in freshwater aquariums and can be passed from fish to fish. Although gill flukes are not typically considered to be contagious, some studies have shown that they can be transmitted from one fish to another through contact with infected mucus or feces. In Bettas, gill flukes often cause respiratory distress and can eventually lead to death if left untreated.

Here are some things you need to do to prevent gill flukes from infecting your betta.

6. Prevent gill flukes

There are a number of different ways to prevent gill flukes from infecting your betta fish. Here are detailed instructions.

Quarantine new fish: When adding new fish to your tank, it's important to quarantine them first. This will help to ensure that any potential diseases or parasites they may be carrying don't spread to your other fish.

Keep your tank clean: A clean and well-maintained aquarium is less likely to experience problems with disease. Be sure to perform regular water changes and keep an eye on water quality.

Use a good filter: A good filter will help to keep your tank clean and maintain good water quality.

Avoid overfeeding: Overfeeding can lead to poor water quality and increase the risk of disease. Be sure to feed your fish only as much as they can eat in a few minutes.

Treat early: If you notice any signs of disease in your fish, it's important to treat them as soon as possible. The sooner you catch and treat an illness, the better the chances of a successful recovery.

By following these preventive measures, you can help to keep your betta fish healthy and free from gill fluke disease.


Gill flukes are a parasitic infections that can affect betta fish. The causes of gill flukes on your betta, the symptoms and pictures of betta fish gill flukes disease, and treatment for gill flukes are all important topics to know if you are a betta fish owner. It is also good to know if gill flukes are contagious so that you can take steps to prevent your betta from getting this parasite. I hope this information has been helpful. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about gill flukes or any other aspect of caring for betta fish.

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