Popeye in Betta Fish – Symptoms and Treatment!

Popeye is an infection that causes the eyes of betta fish to bulge out (pop out) and makes them appear cloudy or white.

Popeye in betta fish should be treated as soon as you notice it. Changing the tank water, quarantining your fish, and using Epsom salt or antibiotics are some of the most effective ways to treat Popeye.

According to vets, the simplest way to treat Popeye in betta is to isolate the fish in a clean water container. Next, take another small container, fill it with fresh water and add a few drops of Epsom salt solution.

Stir the salt and water mixture and place your betta fish inside it. Let the fish bathe in it for ten to fifteen minutes every day before moving it back to the quarantine container.

Repeat this step until there are no signs of the disease and your betta fish is healthy again. 

However, if the cause of Popeye is a bacterial infection and not a physical injury, treat your fish with over-the-counter medications like Ampicillin and aquarium salt. 

In either case, do not forget to change the water every three days, as cleanliness is the key to treating Popeye.

Therefore, if your betta fish isn’t the only inhabitant of the pond or aquarium, isolating it is advised as it will prevent the disease from spreading.

Even though popeye is an easy-to-cure disease that requires basic treatment if caught at an early stage. If not treated on time, your betta fish can lose its eye forever.

Keep reading to learn more about Popeye and how to treat the infectious disease in betta fish. 

What Is Popeye in Fish?

Scientifically known as exophthalmia, Popeye is an infection that causes the eye of the betta fish to pop out (bulge out) and appear white or cloudy.

Popeye can either affect one eye (Unilateral Popeye) or both eyes simultaneously (Bilateral Popeye). The bulging is the result of swelling that occurs due to fluid build-up behind the eye.

With time the amount of fluid increases, which builds pressure on the eye, causing it to bulge out, giving it the “Popeye” look – therefore, the name.

Although Popeye is treatable, if neglected, it can result in causing eye rupture, blindness, and even the death of your betta fish.

Is Popeye Contagious?

This depends upon the cause of Popeye. For instance, if your betta fish is suffering from Popeye caused by an injury, chances are that the disease won’t spread.

However, if the cause of Popeye is a bacterial infection, parasite, or fungus, then there’s a possible chance that the disease might also spread to other fishes.

Is Popeye Fatal for Betta Fish?

Until and unless the cause of Popeye is a secondary bacterial disease or it has been left untreated, Popeye isn’t fatal for the betta fish.

However, on the other hand, if Popeye is caused due to physical trauma (injury) to the eye, the infection can cause your betta’s eye to rot. This will leave your fish with one eye only.

Therefore, although Popeye might look terrible in the initial days, the chances of your betta fish dying from the disease are unlikely. 

What Are the Symptoms of Popeye in Betta Fish?

Knowing the symptoms of Popeye helps identify the disease at an early stage. Here is a list of some common symptoms of Popeye in betta fish.

Eyes Changing Color

Changes in eye color are usually a symptom of Unilateral Popeye. These color changes can range from red and blood-like to a milky/cloudy appearance.

Redness of the eye is usually caused by a ruptured cornea. If not treated in time, it can result in loss of vision and abnormal colored eyes.

White-Ringed Eyes

White splotches or a white ring inside the eye of your betta fish is a very prominent indicator of Popeye.

So, if you are lucky enough to notice the symptom, start the treatment for Popeye immediately.

Protruding Eyes

Bulging or protruding eyes are the most prominent symptom of Popeye. This can happen to either one eye (Unilateral Popeye) or both eyes (Bilateral Popeye).

Other signs you must watch out for include loss of appetite, lethargy, remaining in the same spot for long periods, avoiding other fish, and resting on the bottom of the tank.

How to Treat Popeye in Betta Fish

The treatment method of Popeye depends upon the cause of the disease and the severity of the infection.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to treat Popeye in betta fish:

Physical Trauma | Use Epsom Salt

Unilateral Popeye is caused by a physical injury. It affects only one eye of the betta fish. An injury can either be the result of a fight between two tank mates or your betta fish bumping into a tank decoration.

So, if your betta fish is suffering from Unilateral Popeye, an Epsom salt bath is the ultimate treatment:

Start by placing your betta fish in a separate container with tank water. Now, add a small amount of Epsom salt to the container.

It is recommended that you should use one tablespoon of Epsom salt for one gallon of water. Stir the water until the Epsom salt has completely dissolved.

Now carefully place your injured betta fish into the container and leave it in the Epsom salt bath for ten to fifteen minutes.

While your betta fish is relaxing in the salt bath, float the container inside the aquarium to ensure that the temperature of the water is the same as the fish tank.

However, make sure that your betta fish doesn’t lose consciousness or face any breathing issues in the salt water. In case it does, move the betta fish back to freshwater immediately.

If you don’t want to stress your betta fish by removing it from its tank, simply add Epsom salt to the aquarium.

While a lot of people recommend using aquarium salt, it shouldn’t be used for more than ten days. Primarily because aquarium salt comprises magnesium sulfate, which can cause harm to your fish.

According to the International Betta Congress, salt is a tonic. It plays a vital role in promoting quick recovery and boosting your betta’s immune system.

Bacterial Disease | Ampicillin Treatment Method

On the other hand, Bilateral Popeye can be caused by a fungal, parasitic, or bacterial infection. This can affect both eyes of the betta fish.

Therefore, the treatment process for Bilateral Popeye is somewhat different: 

Start by setting up a quarantine tank and move your betta fish into it. While your betta fish settle down, change 50% of the water of the original tank in order to protect the rest of the fish.

Replacing the old tank water with fresh water helps eliminate the parasite, bacteria, or fungus that caused Popeye in the first place.

Now add an antibiotic medication such as Ampicillin to the quarantine tank. Note that one tablet of Ampicillin is enough for ten gallons of water.

So, if you have shifted your betta fish into a smaller container, make sure to break the tablet into two half doses.

Crush one half of the capsule into powder form and stir until the antibiotic completely dissolves.

Make sure to change the water of the betta fish’s quarantine tank every three to four days and re-treat the tank with Ampicillin.

Note that Melafix isn’t recommended as it contains tree oil which can be fatal for betta fish.

However, if you want to speed up the recovery process, add Indian almond leaves to the quarantine tank. They are powerful natural antibiotics that can help in the betta fish’s healing process.

Place the Betta Fish Back with Its Friends

As soon as your betta fish starts showing signs of recovery, move it back to the original aquarium. This usually takes up to ten days or more, depending upon the severity of the infection.

However, before you make the switch, it is recommended to ensure that there is no swelling around the eye and that your betta fish is completely healthy.

How Long Does It Take to Treat Popeye?

Don’t panic if your betta fish doesn’t recover from Popeye immediately. It can take Popeye several weeks and even months (if severe) to clear up completely.

The bulging eye disease will gradually resolve as long as your betta fish eats and stays active. Therefore, make sure that you treat the tank with aquarium salt or Epsom throughout the recovery time.

Tips to Prevent Popeye in Betta Fish

Here are a few steps that you can take to protect your betta fish from Popeye:

  • Don’t overcrowd your betta fish tank.
  • Perform weekly water changes.
  • Thoroughly vacuum the aquarium gravel to remove any organic matter that causes pollution.
  • If you have bought a new fish or plant, make sure to quarantine it before adding it to the tank.
  • Install a filter system.
  • Remove all tank decorations that have sharp edges.

Wrapping It Up!

Popeye is a dangerous disease that can attack betta. It is usually caused because of physical trauma or a bacterial infection.

The best treatment for Popeye is to isolate your betta fish, change the tank water and use Epsom salt or antibiotics, depending on the cause and severity of the disease.

Timely treatment and a little care can protect your betta fish from Popeye. You can prevent the spread of the disease by keeping the tank water clean and ensuring that all tank decorations are safe for the fish.

If you notice any symptoms of Popeye in your betta fish, act quickly and provide the necessary treatment to deal with the disease before it costs your fish its life.

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