My Betta is 5 and a half years old. And I am deeply saddened and distressed at his state. I know he is old.

It has a slew of health problems. As of late however I noticed that his bladder has failed too. So I was wondering how to make his death less painful. Due to bladder he can't swim up properly to his food. Due to cataracts(cloudy eyes), he can't even see the food properly. And I keep him in a spacious 25 gallon. When feeding him, I will stick my hand in the aquarium, he will hobble over on my palm, then I will lift him up and using other hand almost directly deposit food pellets into his mouth.

So I can do the following. Transfer him to a more shallow 5 gallon where he can swim up somehow and try to get food without my help. That will keep him alive slightly longer.

Sorry I can't write properly. I just feel very saddened. Can someone please tell me what to do? I want him alive longer, but he is clearly in a lot of pain. He is my favorite Betta.

  • 2
    If he is in pain, and unlikely to recover, perhaps it is time to euthanise him. I believe this is something you can do yourself at home, but ask your vet for instructions.
    – mhwombat
    Sep 22, 2014 at 22:33
  • @mhwombat would you happen to know how? I looked at some of the methods and they seem very terrifying. Putting a tropical fish into ice bucket sounds completely terrible. Also is it a good idea to let him die naturally rather than speeding up the process? He still seems to have appetite(he ate for the first time yesterday in the past 4 days, maybe he can live?).
    – Quillion
    Sep 23, 2014 at 13:15
  • Unfortunately, I don't really know anything about fish. You need to consult a veterinarian to find out if he can be cured, and if not, what the most humane way to euthanise him is.
    – mhwombat
    Sep 23, 2014 at 13:22

4 Answers 4


Matt has asked me to post my results, so here they are.

I had poor execution. If one is easily saddened or depressed then stop reading now.

I set up a 5 gallon tank outside. Attached filter to ensure water circulation so the heat would drop evenly throughout and used a separator to divide the tank in half. Additionally I put a dripper that would drip alcohol in at a very slow rate. I also had slushed water ready just in case, and a tub of ice cubes.

Then I went to my old tank. The Betta was lying on the side just breathing, old and blind. As I made my resolve to go on with it, I reached out for the Betta. I do not know what it was but he would shy away from my hand. He would try hobbling away from my hand with whatever strength he had left. Still I ended up grabbing him and transferred him to the outside tank on one half of the divider.

Water temperature was 27 degrees. I would drop water cubes on the other half of the tank and let the filter distribute it. Temperature would drop one degree every ten minutes. When it reached 23 degrees I noticed that my Betta started moving sideways. At 20 degrees the Betta was actively swimming around. At 19 it got frantic.

That's when it hit me. This is going to be too long and painful for my Betta. I prepared ziplock bag, reached in, Betta instantly darted for my hand(still swimming sideways, almost upside down). I grabbed my Betta and dropped him into ziplock bag.

That was the most gruesome part for me and I broke into tears. For roughly 20 seconds or so (felt like an eternity to me), the Betta was darting very frantically everywhere in pure shock, and maybe even pain. Afterwards for the next 5 seconds seems like Betta realized what happened, slowed down, gills opened up and Betta sank. Not upside down, just sank... No more breathing...

Then I buried the Betta with the ziplock bag (it is cold, so Betta would not wake up again), said a prayed and spent the rest of the day in pure silence and sadness.

If anyone ever plans to use alcohol and ice method, be warned. Fish will be in hell for roughly 30 seconds before falling asleep.

Hope this helps someone someday.

  • I am sorry for your loss and I am sorry this was so difficult. Personally, I believe in a quick end. If I were in your situation, I would have used a knife to decapitate it. Luckily, my roommate works part time in a zebra fish research lab, so he has access to anesthetics for fish and if I have to put a fish down, I will use this method. Take comfort in the fact that your betta lived a long life and had an amazing owner from the sound of it. Oct 15, 2014 at 13:56
  • @PatrickSebastien thank you very much. I was considering the knife method too, but Betta is too tiny and moves, so cutting it off sounded like a difficult task for me, especially since I wasn't in the best emotional state to do precision work. I am not happy for the 30 seconds of pure terror my Betta went through and am still slightly haunted by it, but I had no other choice given financial restrictions and circumstances :(
    – Quillion
    Oct 15, 2014 at 14:08
  • 1
    Well done for being brave enough to post this traumatic event. Hopefully it can help others in the future. Dec 19, 2014 at 10:27
  • Thank you for sharing your story and more so for being such a caring person.
    – user6796
    May 8, 2016 at 0:44

Making a decision:

Whether or not you want to keep your fish alive longer is a very personal question. Only you can decide this. On a personal note, whenever a pet of mine gets to the point when it cannot function properly, and it's quality of life is extremely low, I believe it is time to euthanize. You may wish to consult a veterinarian on this before you make your decision, as it is not an easy one.

Euthanization methods:

There are several methods for this, which I will provide if you end up making this decision. There are two main categories... So called old school and new techniques.

The old school techniques involve things that you can find around your home. These methods are considered old school and they may not exactly be the most humane but they can be the most affordable and easy. I will list them.

Old school:

  1. Freezing

You can put water in a bag and put it in the freezer until it gets slushy. You then put your fish in the bag and continue freezing. This is not a method approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). If you decide to use this method, perhaps the better thing to do is to put the betta in slightly cooler water (approximately 70 °F / 21 °C) and then begin the freezing process. This will slow the bettas heart rate slowly and would most likely be more humane than putting it in slushy water.

  1. Decapitation

This is the quickest method. It simply involves cutting your fishes head off with a knife very quickly. It is not painless but it is very fast. The pain is momentary.

  1. Fracturing neck or spine

This is less quick but may be less painful. You take your fish and break its neck. The fish may live for a moment or two after this but will feel less pain.

  1. Remove oxygen

This method involves putting Alka Seltzer tablets in the water. You may wish to do this in a bag full of water for a betta, if you choose this option, as they can gulp oxygen from the surface. This has been reported to seem slightly cruel due to the fact that it is slow and it is suffocation.

New methods:

These usually involve an overdose of anesthetic or a barbiturate and are more humane, yet complicated and expensive. Overdose of anesthetic is used by universities that conduct research on fish. You could try to find a university of research centre near you that may carry a suitable anesthetic. There are also some household items like clove oil and vodka (not advocated by the AVMA) which will also work. Some of the anesthetics are available from pet stores or other sources.

You can find a list of anesthetics, barbituates, and all methods described here: How to humanely euthanize your fish.

  • Thanks. Due to lack of anesthetic, I think I will go with the option of dripping small quantities of alcohol while slowly freezing the aquarium. Very saddening experience. In all the years I kept the fish this is the first instance where the fish could hang on to life for so long and refuse to die.
    – Quillion
    Sep 29, 2014 at 12:47
  • @Quillion Be very careful if you freeze the aquarium. This will crack the glass. Do it in a flexible plastic container, like a cut off pop bottle. Sep 29, 2014 at 16:10
  • Even if I try to do it in acrylic aquarium the glass will crack? I will move him to my quarantine acrylic 4 gallon before I begin trying to freeze it
    – Quillion
    Sep 29, 2014 at 16:13
  • @Quillion I am unsure if acryllic will be safe. Anything rigid will probably crack. Sep 29, 2014 at 16:18
  • 1
    Thanks so much for your help in this desperate time for me. I will be saying my final goodbyes soon and will proceed to do it this weekend.
    – Quillion
    Sep 29, 2014 at 16:20

Just to add some further information:

The idea with freezing is to slowly reduce temperature to reduce the heart rate. The best approach for this is to put the fish in to a small container and place this in the freezer.

By putting the fish straight into slushy ice water you may instead induce shock and kill the fish that way, I suspect this may be what happened with your betta.

  • I agree with you that I most likely induced shock, however my fish didn't turn upside down, so I still hope to believe that my fish fell asleep rather than died. However as I have described in my answer I was slowly cooling down the aquarium at a rate of 1 degree per 10 minutes. My fish didn't seem like it was planning to go to sleep, rather it was darting everywhere quickly and seemed like trying to escape. I can imagine that if you try to do that in the freezer, the fish will try to jump out of the container or suffer longer.
    – Quillion
    Oct 15, 2014 at 13:09
  • @Quillion Cooling the water down at a slower rate (ie, 1 degree per half hour) may have induced less shock. My betta actually survived fine at 21 degrees when a heater failure occurred. His stress was low because the heat went down slowly. You could have even brought the temperature down to 22 degrees over a few days to better acclimate him. I am not criticizing. You did right by your fish, just offering suggestions for the future. Oct 15, 2014 at 14:02
  • @PatrickSebastien thanks man :) I think I am going to quit dealing with fish after this incident. Do not think I will be emotionally capable of surviving another loss like that.
    – Quillion
    Oct 15, 2014 at 14:35
  • @Quillion get a big community tank. More fish = less individual attachment. Oct 15, 2014 at 14:39
  • @PatrickSebastien already tried that too. Death is something not many people can handle it seems. Every time a fish dies, it doesn't affect as much as my Betta's death did, but still leaves a small scar. Wish I was like you and not be affected so much. Maybe once I recover and still want to get back to fish I will set up a lot of critters so that if someone dies or is about to die of old age will be devoured before I can witness the suffering. Probably get a few crayfish and a lot of shrimp to take care of that.
    – Quillion
    Oct 15, 2014 at 14:51

Is it fair that the quickest method for small creatures might be the most violent? Quickly, firmly and confidently holding by a tail and hitting their head on a hard surface, maybe several times if necessary.

It might seem brutal, however it works and if done confidently then it'll be over before the animal has a chance to realise what's happening.

  • One thing that I observed is that animals are far smarter than humans. They do sense things. I bet you absolutely anything that my Betta knew about incoming death. Which is why when time was not right he would wobble away from my hand, and when time was right he came to my hand.
    – Quillion
    Dec 23, 2014 at 1:21

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