Why is My Betta Shedding?

Betta fish normally shed due to injury, illness, or disease. Occasionally, a betta will shed in order to grow new scales. It’s best to assume there’s an issue and start addressing it ASAP.

If you’ve begun to notice your betta fish “shedding” its scales you might start to get a little anxious.

Sure, some fish have a natural tendency to “molt” and shed their scales to grow new ones – but that’s not something that betta fish do as a general rule.

No, if you start to notice that your betta fish has begun shedding its scales (or if you’ve started to see spots and patches of scale loss) the odds are pretty good that something is wrong with your fish.

Something that needs to be addressed ASAP.

Below we run through (almost) everything you need to know about why your betta fish is shedding and what you can do to help them out.

Why is My Betta Shedding?

There are a variety of different things that can cause your betta fish to start to “shed”, some of them relatively harmless but some of them much more serious – including a couple of root cause issues that have to be addressed ASAP if you want your fish to lead a happy and healthy life.

Let’s run through some of the most common reasons behind why your betta fish is shedding right now.

By DefenderRegina [Public domain]

Physical Damage or Injury

The first (and sometimes the most obvious) reason your betta fish is losing scales is because of a physical injury of some sort.

These fish are sometimes called “Siamese Fighting Fish” for a reason, after all.

They have a natural aggressive behavior, are incredibly territorial, and have been known to fight – quite literally – to the death.

If your betta lives in a tank with a diverse population of underwater creatures, especially those that also don’t like to share their space all that much, you may be dealing with a fish that has become injured.

Physical damage doesn’t just come from fish fighting, though.

Accidents can happen underwater – sometimes more frequently than you’d otherwise assume. Betta fish are agile, gifted swimmers but they also have long and flowing fins and bodies.

It’s not at all uncommon for these fish to bump or scrape up against tank components, structure, or even hardy plants and have a couple of scales peeled off.

Sickness, Infection, or Disease

Scale loss – especially if it’s significant – can be a sign of serious sickness, infection, or even disease with your betta.

Maybe your fish loses a couple of scales here or there. Maybe they’re losing them in big patches. Maybe the scale loss starts small and then grows almost over their entire body.

At the end of the day, you can’t rule out serious health conditions that need to be treated if you’re noticing scales coming off your betta.

Fin Rot

Fin rot is a condition that can leave betta fish with scale loss, though it usually manifests itself by destroying and tattering their tails first.

This is a bacterial infection that needs to be treated with clean, clear water and aquarium salts ASAP.


If you’re noticing tiny little white spots all over your betta as well as scale loss you could be dealing with a condition known as Ich.

This is another parasitic condition that must be treated quickly and aggressively. If left to fester for too long – even just a week or so – it can kill your fish.

Daily water changes, gentle but steady temperature increases, and antibiotics specifically for Ich are the way to go if this is the reason behind betta scale loss.


Velvet can be a parasitic condition that dislodges scales from the body of your betta fish, leaving behind little “gold dust” markers that make it relatively easy to identify.

The worst thing about this condition (similar to Ich) is that it causes your betta fish to be driven almost crazy by the itchy sensation, compelling them to smash their bodies against structure and aquarium glass just to get a little bit of relief.

That can do a lot of damage and dislodge scales as well.

Tropical water temperatures, clean tank water (as well as daily changes until things progress), and velvet specific antibiotics should remedy this situation relatively quickly.

How to Prevent Betta Scale Loss

There are a couple of things you can do to help support a happy and healthy life for your betta fish, one where they never have to worry about losing scales at all.

Dialed in Tank Conditions

First things first, you need to be sure that your tank conditions are perfectly dialed in for your betta fish specifically.

These fish need at least 5 gallons of room to roam all on their own to be happy, and at least double that if there are going to be extra fish added into the mix.

You need to be sure that tropical water temperatures are maintained on a consistent basis as well. These fish are, after all, native to Southeast Asia and the water there is considerably warmer than you might think.

Ammonia levels need to be taken care of, plenty of oxygen needs to be in the water, and the pH has to be balanced as well.

Gentle Flow

Aggressive tank flows can lead to scale loss and damage to your betta fish as well.

Sure, that sounds a little bit crazy – how could a strong underwater current peel your fish apart – but that’s the reality of life with betta fish. They just aren’t as hardy or as resilient as other types of fish that can handle significantly stronger currents.

Silk or Real Plants ONLY

If you’re noticing that your betta fish is losing scales when it bumps up against plant life and structures it’s important to soften those elements as much as possible.

Hard plastic plants (and other components) are going to do a whole lot more damage to your fish than silk or real life plants ever will.

Consider your options to limit scale loss as much as possible.

Smart Feeding Schedule

Finally, it’s important to make sure that your fish is getting all the nutrition they need to build strong and resilient bodies.

Make sure that they are getting plenty of protein but that you aren’t overfeeding them. Overfeeding your Betta fish can cause almost as many problems as under feeding.

Get their nutrition dialed in and their scales won’t necessarily become armor, but will be much stronger than they would have been otherwise.