The Many Reasons Your Is Betta Gasping For Air & Breathing Heavily

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Betta fish are ornamental fish that are popular as pets. They can also be a challenge to keep as you must provide them with ample space and clean water to thrive. When they aren’t given the proper care, bettas can become depressed and gulp in large amounts of air often referred to as gasping for air. Because of the numerous reasons your bumblebee betta fish for sale is gasping or breathing heavily, it is important to know what it means so you can take the right steps to ensure your pet’s health and well-being. Read on to learn more about why your betta is gasping and what you can do about it.


What is gasping and breathing heavily in betta fish?

Betta fish breathing heavily and gapping their jaws is normal behaviour that occurs when a fish is under stress. The gapping of the mouth creates negative pressure in the fish’s body, relieving the pressure on the brain and central nervous system. This allows your betta to feel more alert and aware of his surrounding so he is more likely to respond to your cues. Betta fish breathing heavily may be caused by a lack of oxygen in the tank, low water temperature, internal or external parasites, or poor water quality. Betta fish breathing heavily may also be a response to stress caused by factors like poor husbandry, overcrowding, or inadequate diet.

Habit formation

Betta fish are commonly bred in home aquariums where people select their favourite babies to keep as pets. Once the betta fish are in the home aquarium, they are often bred, again and again, creating a new generation of betta fish that quickly become habituated to their surroundings. Habit formation is when a behaviour is repeated without any external cues. You might notice your betta fish breathing heavily while in the same location. Or, he might be gasping while in the same position in the home aquarium. Habit formation is common in animals that are kept in the same environment for long periods of time. Habit formation is not the same as learned behaviour. In a home aquarium, it happens with no external cues such as hunger, fear, or curiosity. Habit formation can lead to sub-optimal health when a fish is kept in an over-crowded home tank or an under-fed environment.

Habit reversal

Habit reversal is when an animal undergoes a change in its regular behaviour. For example, a betta fish that was kept in a home aquarium for years will start breathing heavily when he enters his natural environment, the water in his home aquarium. As he is used to breathing heavily in the same place, it is likely he is reverting back to his original habits after a long period of habit formation. It is important to note that this is not the same as stress, but rather a change inhabits.

Improper environment setup

Betting fish require a specific setup in their tank. The ideal water temperature is between 22-27 degrees Celsius. Bettas should have a water temperature of between 26-28 degrees Celsius in their tank to thrive. This can be achieved by providing a heater to the tank or placing a thermometer in the tank. Bettas can also experience breathing problems if the tank water temperature drops below 25 degrees Celsius. Betta fish require specific parameters such as specific levels of dissolved oxygen, pH, and hardness in their tank. Water parameters such as these can change over time so it is important to check that your tank’s parameters are optimal for your betta fish. When setting up your tank, it is important to leave at least 10cm of space between the surface of the water and the lid of the tank for breathing room. It is also important to clean the tank to remove debris and uneaten food that can potentially harm your betta fish.

Internal factors like illness and stress

Internal factors like illness and stress can cause your betta to gasp and breathe heavily. Malnutrition is a common cause of gasping and breathing heavily in betta fish. This is usually caused by a diet that is too low in protein. Sick or injured betta fish will also gasp and breathe heavily as they are more likely to gulp in the air to help relieve their pain. If your betta fish has a wound, he might gasp and breathe heavily to try to remove the pain. If your betta has an injury, he might gasp and breathe heavily because he feels the need to move his fins. This will lead to gasping and breathing heavily if the injury is severe.

External factors like humidity and temperature

External factors like humidity and temperature can cause gasping in your betta fish. Betta fish have a respiratory organ in their gills that help them breathe in and out. If the gill area is blocked, your betta fish will gasp and breathe heavily. Betta fish gill damage can occur if the fish is spooked, harassed, or injured. This type of damage is irreversible, so you will need to take your betta to the veterinarian if he gags or gasps when he is in the aquarium. Swimming in heavily polluted water, excessive water changes, and high ammonia levels in the tank can also damage your betta fish’s gills, causing him to gasp and breathe heavily. Elevated levels of humidity, especially in the summer, can also cause your betta to gasp and breathe heavily.


Betta fish are beautiful fish that can be kept as pets. However, they can also be difficult to keep and maintain due to the high maintenance required. Bettas are sensitive to water temperature, water quality, and diet. When these factors are not maintained, your betta will gasp for air. There are many reasons why your betta is gasping for air and breathing heavily. Proper tank setup, internal factors, external factors, and gasping from internal factors are the most common reasons. If you follow these steps, you can ensure the health and well-being of your betta.