TOPIC: betta turning pale - betta changing color

Q: Do Bettas change color?  I have a Royal Blue Betta that appears to change color when I am replacing the water in his aquarium.  He turns gray and then turns back to blue.  Is this normal?

above question submitted by Dave, New York - New York

Start spreading the neeeeeeeews... I'm going aaaaway... I'm gonna be a paaaaaart of it, New YoooOoork, New YoooOOoork... These vagaboooond shoooooooes ... 


? huh ? Oh, yes, the betta question... So sorry, I got kinda side tracked for an (ever so darn brief) moment... It's just that when I saw the address of our reader, it said "New York, New York" and so I had this automatic, instinctive, uncontrollable urge to sing: "Start spreading the neeeeeeeews... I'm going aaaaway... I'm gonna be a paaaaaart of it, New YoooOoork, New YoooOOoork... These vagaboooond shoooooooes ... "

See? There it goes again! LOL. Kinda hard to focus on a betta question under such adverse conditions... LOL.

So, Dave, your betta is turning pale every time you do a water change he? You ask if it is normal? Well, yes and no (I sure am being very helpful today :P). Let's take a closer look at your problem.

Do bettas sometimes change colors temporarily? YES. When?

  • when a betta is scared: Fear will cause bettas to turn pale until the fear subsides. This defense mechanism would allow a betta to "blend" in better with its environment, allowing him to hopefully escape his predator. Granted, not a lot of betta predators in a fish tank located in New York New York, but your fish doesn't know any better.

  • when a betta is stressed: a sudden change of environment will cause a betta to become pale, until the adverse conditions subside (bettas adapts to his new environment - for ex water PH change, water temp change etc...)

Should your betta change color every time you do a water change? NO. If it did, then we would call it a 'color change' and not a 'water change' LOL!!! In fact if you do your water change properly you should never run into this problem. The fact that your betta is turning pale indicates one of two possible scenario (and we need to fix this asap!):

  • you are not doing the water change properly. It is IMPERATIVE that a water change be as little of a 'change' as possible. And by this I do not mean to not change the water, but rather to change it as smoothly as possible. The goal: We want the betta to not even noticed his water was changed, except for the fact that it is now super clean. It is VITAL that your new water has the SAME temperature as your jar/tank  water!!! If the new water is colder, it will cause the betta to go into shock and lose his color. How do we achieve the trick? You need a good thermometer, to measure water temps in both his jar/tank and your bucket (or whatever you might use to store your clean betta water). Compare the two. The bucket water must equal in temp as the water in the jar.  A MUST. Sometimes people make the mistake of assuming that if they put both jar and bucket in the same room, they will end up at the same temperature. This is not so.  There are some rules to how water heats up or cools down and to help you here are a few parameters to keep in mind:  A)- The smaller the body of water the faster it will cool down or heat up. B)- the higher the shelf on which your body of water is placed, the warmer it will be. (if you have central heat in your place, that is). Hence let's take an example: Say you put a 5 gal bucket with clean water on the floor of the room, and your betta is in a 1/2 gal jar on the top shelf of the same room. In the morning you come to change water and dump your betta from the jar water to the bucket water. Problem! the water temps may be as far off as 4 whole degrees!!! That is why a thermometer is a must. This way no miscalculations.

    Another problem with water changes is the actual water properties. That too, must be consistent (constant). Any Ph change or water hardness change will cause a shock to the fish and Mr. Betta will go pale. Make sure to always use the SAME type of water, treated with the SAME chemicals in the SAME amounts. for more info on this see my water page.

    Other possible problem: You are changing a large amount of his tank water and replacing it with water that is not aged (for ex: adding water directly from the tap and then adding the chemicals to his tank). This is oftentime a problem and will cause the fish to lose color because they become stressed. Hence it is best to prepare/treat your water ahead of time (say 2 days) and store it so it becomes a bit more similar to the water your fish is currently living in. Remember: Fish live in constant osmoses with their water! Another good way to go is to make small, frequent water changes as opposed to large, but rare, water changes. The later are a lot more stressful for the fish.

  • you are being too rough while handling your betta. (if you are at all handling it when doing your tank cleaning) A problem common amongst men betta hobbyists. Men tend generally to be rougher when handling their fish. Remember your fish is a very tiny creature, vulnerable and defenseless while in your fishnet. Treat Mr. Betta with the utmost gentleness. By this I mean when you net him, it must be very softly (no chasing him around, scaring the heck out of it, or getting him stuck between the glass and the net's wire frame, etc...). In a jar situation, if you are not actually catching him but rather, pouring the jar's water into the net (which is what I do), then be sure to pour water slow-ly. So Mr. Betta will slide gen-tly into the net. Be quick to do the water change so you can SOFT-LY let him go into his new clean home. Don't let him linger too long in the net. Always use soft nets. Never grasp, pinch or touch your fish with your fingers while doing the water change. Your fish is SACRED ;) and cannot be touched by your mortal hands. OK? :)

If you do all above I think you will notice that your betta will not lose color anymore. If it still does, then it could be that you own the most cowardly betta in New YoooOoork, New YooooOOOoooooK!!  9shooooot here it goes again!)  LOL...

Note: (visualize (or should I say "earualize"), (hey, is a parenthesis inside a parenthesis, legal??) if you will, all above references to the song "new York, New York" performed with the most ANNOYING Broadway voice you can possibly imagine...) (cause that's just about how I am singing it right now LOL)