Inflamed Gills – Important Facts & Tips About This Betta Illness

Betta Illness - Important Facts & Tips About Inflamed Gills

Another fairly common betta illness that I’ve been wanting to cover for a while is “inflamed gills”. Inflamed gills can be the result of bad water conditions or bacterial infections. Bacterial infections are typically a sign of high ammonia in the water, the result of insufficient water changes. Bacterial infections are very contagious and if left untreated will result in behavioral issues, red patches and possibly open sores across your betta. So the first thing you want to do is to ensure proper care of your fish, which we’ll get into more details below, and prevent this or any other illness from happening in the first place.
Another important thing that you need to do is to always monitor the health of your betta fish at all times and if you notice things that are out of the ordinary (not eating or moving around as much, etc.), keep track of this information as soon as it happens. You never know when this information will come in handy when treating this betta illness, or others.


How To Identify This Betta Illness

When betta fish gills become inflamed, you will see that one or both of the gills fails to close properly. Something else you might notice is red on the inside of the gills. During the latter stages of this disease, your betta will begin to gasp for air until he or she is unable to breathe properly. Below is a video that will give you an idea on what to look out for:
Betta Illness - Inflamed Gills - Photo permission by

Preventative Measures

As I mentioned above, the best way to prevent illnesses in the first place is proper betta care. The four most important aspects needed to properly care for your betta are:

  1. Proper water changes
  2. Warm water maintained at a constant temperature around 75 to 82 degrees Farenheit
  3. A healthy and varied diet
  4. Quarantine for new fish, new tank mates, and/or new plants

Doing these four things will help you to reduce the chances of your fish getting sick. For more information on what you can do for your betta, refer to our post Betta Fish Care Sheet. Also, to properly treat a betta illness, you need to equip yourself (ahead of time as much as possible) with some important items that you will keep handy as an emergency kit. These items include things such as:

  • Extra nets and extra 1 gallon containers
  • Aquarium salt
  • Epson salt
  • Potassium permanganate
  • A quarantine tank
  • A variety of medication – refer to the infographic here for details


How To Treat This Betta Illness


Check the Water

Before you treat your sick betta fish, the first thing you should do is check the water chemistry. Having toxic levels of nitrates, nitrites, or ammonia are harmful for the fish, weakening their immune system. Such a weakening could result in sickness. Liquid tests will help you to maintain proper water chemistry. One that we highly recommend is the following:

If you notice your fish is gasping for air, swimming with their head down, or it’s lethargic, do a 100% water change immediately. Your fish might very well be suffering from poisoning due to unhealthily high levels of the elements mentioned above. Do not use chemicals to remove these things. Note that extreme pH variation can also lead to such illnesses. Porous rocks like lava rock or sandstone, as well as sand itself can change the water. Check the water condition for chlorinates. The reason you want to check the water chemistry first is that changing the water can often help cure serious ailments or illnesses. Just make sure you add the proper conditioners and medication (see next section) when you add the new water.


In addition to doing a water change, you will need to treat your betta with the proper medication if he or she is suffering with this betta illness. Inflamed gills can be treated in a variety of ways. If, for example, the sickness was caused by high levels of nitrate, nitrite, or ammonia, you want to treat it with 1 teaspoon per gallon of aquarium salt and Stress Coat, in addition to daily 100% water changes. If you believe the disease was caused by a bacterial infection, you can use this treatment up to ten days, followed by Maracyn, API Triple Sulfa, API Tetacycline, or API Erythromiacin. Just make sure you follow the instructions and add the right amount for the size of tank you have and don’t overdo it. Adding more than you have to will not speed up the process or make things better. Just be patient.
If you were able to successfully treat inflamed gills, I would love to hear from you and get your feedback on how you were able to do it. Just use the comment box below.
Before you leave, please check out our Shop for amazing deals on betta fish tanks, decorations, supplies and more! If you are looking for bettas, then have a quick look at our “Where to find betta fish for sale?” post for great places to find them online.

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2 thoughts on “Inflamed Gills – Important Facts & Tips About This Betta Illness

  1. Hi, I have a betta that looks like he might have an inflamed gill. Yesterday it looked like a lesion on his face, but today the whole side of his face is swollen. I did a 100% water change and added api salt. Today I did an 80% change and added enough salt for 4 gal. He’s in a 5.5 gal tank with one nerite (who was removed), some driftwood and live plants. Ammonia and nitrite are both 0, nitrates were 5ppm before the water change yesterday. Ph is stable at 7.3. I’ve had him about 4 months. I have ParaGuard, metroplex, and kenaplex on hand. I don’t have the other meds you mentioned. Should I try the kenaplex or ParaGuard? Thanks in advance for any advice you can give!

    1. Hi – I’m sorry for the late reply. Personally, I would start with Paraguard because it’s great for a wide-range of fungal and bacterial diseases. Kenaplex can be great too, but it’s stronger so I would only keep that as a 2nd option, if Paraguard doesn’t help. Good luck, and again, I’m sorry for the late reply.

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