How To Euthanize A Betta Fish – Ways And Reasons Why

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Last Updated: August 1, 2022 by Flora Gibbins

While keeping Betta fish as pets is enjoyable and heartwarming, the package comes with less desirable aspects, like diseases and passing away.


Some scenarios necessitate euthanizing to show your pet fish mercy.

You might have heard about euthanizing fish with alcohol or an ice water bath before; however, let us tell you that those methods aren’t as humane as people think.

In this article, we’ll tell you how to euthanize a Betta fish in a humane way with minimum pain and suffering. This way, you can bid your pet friend a merciful goodbye.

How to Humanely Euthanize a Betta Fish

Here are two methods by which you can mercifully euthanize your pet fish.

Clove Oil

Euthanizing a Betta fish with clove oil is probably the most effective and humane method. You’ll need pure or essential clove oil, a large container for the fish, and a small container. You can find clove oil in a local supermarket or pharmacy. But how does it euthanize a Betta fish?

Here are the steps you should follow for the clove oil method:

  • Fill the large container with Betta fish tank water.
  • Mix three drops of clove oil with warm water in the small container by shaking.
  • Pour your clove oil mixture into the large bowl and stir it till oil gets distributed evenly in the water.
  • Put your sick fish into the mix.
  • Wait till the Betta fish falls to the bottom of the container.
  • Add five drops of clove oil.
  • Wait for five minutes and check the fish’s gills for movements.
  • Dispose of the dead Betta fish.

Note that if you own an air pump, you can use it for stirring the oil and the water instead of using a spoon.

Baking Soda

Here’s another merciful method to euthanize a Betta fish. However, we have to admit that using clove oil is more humane.

You’ll need baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, a water tank or large empty container, and a tablespoon. You can either do this process in your fish tank or empty some water from the tank into a large container and use it.

And although it includes suffocating, its effect is faster than that of taking the fish out of the water.

Here are the steps you should follow:

  • Put the fish in the tank or container.
  • Add three tablespoons of sodium bicarbonate to each gallon of water (if you have ten gallons, you’ll need 30 tablespoons).
  • Wait for a few minutes.
  • Check your fish for any gill movement.
  • Dispose of the dead fish.

Note that small fish will take less time to die than larger fish.

How You Shouldn’t Euthanize a Betta Fish

People have many misconceptions about how to euthanize a Betta fish, but it’s time to set the records straight. So here’s a brief roundup of the methods you shouldn’t use in euthanizing your Betta fish.

Taking the Fish out of the Water

Many people think that by taking the fish out of the water tank, they’re euthanizing it mercifully. However, they couldn’t be more wrong.

Accordingly, it’ll take more time to die; therefore, it’ll suffer more.

Using Alcohol

For some reason, using alcohol for euthanizing fish is a famous method among pet fish owners. But let us tell you that it causes a painful and slow death. Alcohol doesn’t work on fish’s brains as it does on ours. So no, your fish won’t get drunk and feel no pain.

Instead, the alcohol might cause its gills to burn, which is reasonably painful. As a result, the poor fish will suffer a bit before dying. Smaller fish will also suffer more than large ones.

Freezing in an Ice Bath

When it comes to tropical fish like Betta fish, many people prefer using freezing methods for euthanizing. Unlike cold water tolerant fish, tropical ones won’t survive in the ice water for long.

And although it’s a less aggressive method than the previous two. We still don’t recommend it because of how painful the formation of ice crystals is on the fish’s bodies.

Flushing in the Toilet

We’ve all seen it in movies; when the little kid’s fish gets sick, they bid it farewell and flush it in the toilet. That said, you don’t know what the fish might go through on its way down. It might get exposed to harmful chemicals and cold temperatures.


If done right and in the correct spot, stabbing with a sharp knife or a blunt object might not cause your fish pain.

However, only an expert fish keeper will know how to do so.

If there’s even a tiny chance that you might do the stab method wrong, it’ll be best if you choose another one.

Factors to Consider Before Euthanizing Your Betta Fish

Euthanizing a fish isn’t an easy decision, and there are a few factors you should consider before doing so. If there’s any chance that your fish doesn’t need it, you shouldn’t do it. Here’s a list of the most critical factors.

Identifying the Disease

While differentiating between a healthy fish and an ill fish isn’t that challenging, knowing the exact disease is. For instance, you might not know whether your Betta fish has a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection.

Identifying them requires scientific equipment that you might not have. Accordingly, you might not know whether there’s hope for your fish or not.

Some symptoms indicate that it’s too late for the fish, like dropsy. However, some symptoms might show because of something as simple as poor water quality.

Factoid: Just like human beings, bettas also suffer from tuberculosis. Unlike human beings, however, bettas do not have a chance of survival once this disease attacks. Read our article about Betta Tuberculosis: Everything You Need To Know for a better insight into this sickness.

Treating the Fish

After consulting a professional on the sickness of your fish, you should try to treat it. First, do enough research on the disease and its medications, and then decide on the best course of treatment.

Some people might not be patient enough to wait for their Betta fish to regain their strength. However, your sick fish’s immune system might take quite the time to beat the sickness, so try to have patience.

Luckily, some treatment methods are as simple as cleaning the aquarium water or using antibiotics. Once you feel like you’ve tried everything with your fish and it isn’t getting better, you can take the difficult decision and euthanize it using one of our humane ways.

Sad Fact: Avoid this avenue if you must and do everything to save your pet fish! It might not be that serious yet to consider mercy killing your aqua buddy. Read about reviving your betta pal here — Betta Revive Review: Indispensable Health Aid For Your Betta.

The Fish’s Will to Live

When some fish get sick, they lose the will to live quickly and start sulking till they eventually die. On the other hand, hopeful and younger fish don’t give up as quickly. Instead, they keep trying to swim and move around the tank.

Ideally, you should monitor your fish to see in what category it falls. Then, if it seems to have lost the will to live and refuses to fight, you can decide to euthanize it.

Alternatively, if you feel like the fish can beat the disease and it isn’t too late, give it a chance to fight.

It’s worth mentioning that this point depends entirely on your opinion and monitoring of the fish.

There isn’t a right or wrong decision here because waiting for too long might inflict more pain on your fish. And as always, it’s best to seek advice from experts.

Diseases That Might Necessitate Euthanizing

Here’s a list of fatal fish diseases that can’t be treated sometimes; thus, they might necessitate euthanizing.

Fish Tuberculosis

Fish tuberculosis is a disturbing and fatal disease for fish. The organism responsible for it is Mycobacterium spp, and fish can get it through the water. The disease’s main symptoms are body discoloration and loss of scales.

Luckily, this disease isn’t common at all. But the main issue with it is that your fish can transmit it to a human via an open wound or to other fish. Since it’s untreatable, the risk of letting your fish live isn’t necessary.


Unlike most people think, dropsy, also known as pineconing, isn’t a disease. Instead, it’s a symptom that indicates the presence of many other diseases, and it’s a common complication that many fish go through.

While dropsy isn’t a death sentence for betta fishes, it mainly indicates untreatable diseases like tumors or tuberculosis. Unfortunately, it shows in the late stages of most diseases, so it’s often too late to treat the sick fish.


Columnaris is a bacterial infection that has high death rates in fish. You can treat it using antibiotics if it’s in an early stage. However, late stages might not have a solution other than euthanizing.

More so, Columnaris is infectious, so one fish might cause the disease to spread through your community tank in a short time. But, again, it’s essential to consult a professional before making such a decision.

Factoid: Though not a serious disease but could still inflict harm to your bettas’ health, fin rot and fin loss could also be reasons for euthanizing if the bacteria has advanced too much within the bettas’ system! Visit our post on Betta Fin Rot Vs Fin Loss: Main Differences And Treatments to learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I euthanize unwanted fish in my tank?

No, you shouldn’t. Euthanizing is an extreme case that you should only do if your fish is fatally ill. If you have a fish in your aquarium that you don’t want anymore, you should either sell it to a nearby pet store, donate it to an orphan or school, or give it as a gift to a loved one.

How can I keep my fish healthy?

You should always make sure the water is in a clean condition before placing any fish in it, and feed your pets correctly. It’ll also help if you optimize the living conditions like temperature, pH, and lighting.

How can I make my ill fish comfortable?

If you want to make your ill fish comfortable during its last days, you should keep the water clean and avoid exposing the aquarium to bright light. In addition, try to remove any aggressive fish in the tank to prevent clashes.


Keeping fish as colorful and delightful as Bettas is an enjoyable practice. But sadly, fish have short lifespans and get sick easily; thus, they die quicker than many animals. So, if your fish gets a fatal disease that you can’t treat, it might be time to euthanize it.

The most humane way to euthanize a fish is by using clove oil or sodium bicarbonate, with the former being the better option.

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