Many aquarists love to pet betta fish due to their vibrant colours, charming look, and resilient behaviour.
However, betta fish are similar to other fish species in terms of body chemistry and immune system, making them susceptible to several health problems.
One of the health conditions that betta fish may develop during their lifecycle is scoliosis.
If your betta’s spine is curved or bent in one direction, it can be due to scoliosis.
This condition can make it difficult for your betta fish to swim normally. Therefore, you should act immediately for the well-being and health of your betta.
This article shares more on scoliosis in betta fish, focusing on its causes, symptoms, treatments, and prevention.
What is betta fish scoliosis?
Betta fish scoliosis, also known as the curved spine, is a health condition characterised by spine deformation.
Betta fish suffering from scoliosis have abnormally curved spines giving their body a bent or hunched shape.
In the early stage of curved spine disease, betta fish experience difficulty in swimming and movement.
However, they may cease swimming or roaming around if the disease continues.
Your betta’s back may take the shape of “S” or “C” at a severe stage.
What causes scoliosis in betta?
Following are some possible and potential causes of scoliosis in betta fish:
Some betta fish are susceptible to scoliosis condition due to their genetics.
If that’s the case with your bettas, there’s nothing much you can do to keep them safe from this condition.
Curved spine disease can be passed genetically from parents to children.
The larvae and fry of diseased betta fish are more prone to develop scoliosis.
If your betta fish are developing scoliosis due to genetic factors, the best you can do is to separate them from the healthy ones to prevent the spread and aggravation of the disease.
It may also be best to cull your fish before the scoliosis develops further, causing it discomfort and harm.
Poor water conditions
Poor water conditions, like high levels of ammonia and nitrites, excessive buildup of bioload, and food leftovers, can make your betta fish susceptible to scoliosis.
When betta fish live in inadequately maintained water conditions, they can become stressed out, which weakens their immune system.
If your betta has a weak immune system, they can’t effectively develop, causing scoliosis.
Therefore, you must maintain high water quality in your aquarium.
Betta fish need a healthy and balanced diet rich in essential nutrients and vitamins to have a healthy immune system.
If fed a low-quality diet, their immune system can become compromised, and they may lose the capability to fight off the curved spine disease.
Low-quality or imbalanced diet also causes nutritional deficiencies in betta fish, making them susceptible to scoliosis.
Aquarists should also effectively manage meal frequency. Too much or too little feeding is not good for your betta’s health.
If you feed them too much, they may develop digestive problems that could result in fouling of the environment.
On the other hand, feeding them too little can lead to nutritional deficiencies affecting their immune system.
You should maintain a healthy meal frequency for the well-being of your betta fish.
Physical injury or trauma
Betta fish may suffer from the curved spine condition after experiencing a physical injury or trauma in the spine region of the body.
Such injury can result from fighting with other tankmates or bumping into a solid object in the aquarium, such as decorations.
Inbreeding is probably the most widespread cause of curved spine disease. Most inexperienced aquarists rely on inbreeding to get more generations of betta fish.
If any betta fish taking part in inbreeding is genetically susceptible to scoliosis, the disease could pass on to all the next generations.
Tuberculosis, or TB, is a bacterial infection common in betta fish. One of the significant symptoms of TB in betta is scoliosis (curved spine disease).
Therefore, TB is considered a possible cause of betta scoliosis.
TB is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium marinum. This bacterium targets the tissues and bones of betta’s spine, causing it to become curved or distorted, leading to scoliosis.
Besides scoliosis, TB has various other symptoms, including weight loss and breathing difficulty.
So, if you think your betta suffers from TB, you should immediately seek veterinary care.
As you can see, some causes of scoliosis can be prevented, while others are not in your control.
Symptoms of scoliosis in betta fish
Of course, the most noticeable symptom of scoliosis is the curved or bent spine in your betta fish.
However, there are a few other symptoms that you can look out for to ensure the right diagnosis of scoliosis, including:
If you notice that your betta fish is losing body weight and becoming thin, it might be due to scoliosis.
It happens when your betta fish suffers from anorexia (loss of appetite), leading them to consume less or no food.
Betta fish suffering from weight loss lose their muscle mass at a higher rate, which is alarming for their health and immunity.
Abnormal swimming patterns
Betta fish suffering from scoliosis may become lethargic due to low food consumption, showing abnormal swimming patterns.
They may also experience difficulty in swimming due to their curved spine.
At the severe stage of scoliosis, your betta fish may lack movement or even cease to move altogether.
You should immediately check for scoliosis if you notice abnormal behaviour in your betta while swimming.
Scoliosis may also cause skin problems in your betta fish. They may lose body colouration and pigmentation in their scales.
In a severe attack of scoliosis, your betta’s scales could be replaced with blood-filled wounds and damaged spots.
However, these skin issues are not clear indications of scoliosis as they can also be caused by tuberculosis.
Treatment of scoliosis in betta fish
Unfortunately, there’s no special treatment for scoliosis in betta fish. That’s because most of the damage is done by the time you diagnose this condition, and the chances of your betta’s surviving are thin.
However, if you somehow spot the curved spine disease in its early stage, the following treatment options can help you alleviate the condition:
Medication or drug therapy
Your veterinarian may prescribe a medication to aid the alleviation of the curved spine disease.
However, the medication’s effectiveness depends on the disease’s severity in your betta.
The veterinarian also considers the cause of scoliosis in your betta fish while prescribing the medication.
For example, if your betta has developed scoliosis due to TB, the veterinarian will prescribe an antibiotic to kill Mycobacterium marinum.
On the other hand, if a physical injury or trauma causes curved spine disease, the medication will be wound healers or anti-inflammatory drugs.
You can medicate your betta fish in two ways:
- Mixing the medication in the aquarium water
- Mixing the medication into food
If your betta is still eating, mixing the medication in food is an easy way to medicate them.
For that, mix the prescribed medication dosage in your betta’s meal. You can use your betta’s favourite food for this purpose.
On the other hand, if your betta has stopped eating, you must rely on mixing the medication in the aquarium water.
If all of your betta fish in the aquarium suffer from scoliosis, then you don’t need a quarantine tank, as you can mix the prescribed medication dosage in the whole aquarium water.
However, if only a few betta fish have the curved spine condition, you must set up a quarantine tank. For this purpose, follow these directions:
- Take a clean container and fill it with aquarium water. Your quarantine tank is ready.
- Now mix the medication in the water of the quarantine tank as per the instructions given by your veterinarian or the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Once the medication is properly mixed, transfer your sick betta fish from the main aquarium to the quarantine tank.
- Bathe them in the quarantine tank for 5-10 minutes daily. Continue bathing until you notice any sign of improvement.
How to prevent scoliosis in betta fish?
There’s a wide range of measures that can help you prevent your betta fish from developing scoliosis:
- Buy from a reputable store/breeder: The easiest way to prevent this is to buy your betta fish from a reputable store or breeder. This prevents inbreeding, and you won’t get a betta fish that genetically has scoliosis.
- Feed your betta a balanced, high-quality diet: you must ensure that your betta fish get a healthy, balanced, and nutritional diet to strengthen their immune system. The diet must include live, frozen, and dried foods in an optimum amount to avoid nutritional deficiencies in your betta fish.
- Adequate maintenance of water conditions: To prevent your betta fish from becoming stressed out, keep the fish tank well-maintained and clean. Always remember that most health problems (including scoliosis) of betta fish thrive in poorly maintained, low-quality water.
- Avoid overcrowding: Betta fish are a playful pet that loves to roam around and exercise. Therefore, you must give them plenty of space for free movement. It’s only possible when there’s no overcrowding in the fish tank.
- Choose a large enough tank: The aquarium you purchase should be large enough to comfortably accommodate your bettas. I’ve seen fish that live in small tanks developing stunted spines, causing it to curve.
To sum up, your betta fish can develop curved spine disease due to various factors, including genetics, TB, physical injury or trauma, poor water conditions, and a low-quality diet.
The best way to prevent this disease is the take the above-mentioned preventative measures.
If you diagnose scoliosis in your betta fish, seeking veterinary care as soon as possible is highly recommended.
Remember that there’s no straightforward treatment for scoliosis, so it’s in your best interest to prevent it from happening in the first place.