Yes, Popeye The Sailorman may be a favorite animated character to some. However, that does not mean that your betta fish should look like him.

If yours starts developing betta fish popeye, then it is time to worry and do something about it.


For starters, such a sight is creepy to some fish-owners. Before it worsens, it is time to find out what it is.

What Is Popeye in Betta Fish?

The bad news is this affliction also attacks all fish – not just your betta buddy. The real name for this illness is exophthalmia.

It occurs when the pressure behind the fish’s eyeball protrudes forward. Not only it makes your fish look creepy and is very uncomfortable from it, here is another bad news:

Your betta fish can die from it.

Yes, treating Popeye infections is a lot harder than preventing them. However, there is still a way out of this. Of course, before that, let’s talk about the causes first.

The Causes for Betta Fish Popeye

To be on the safe side, consult this with your vet too. The causes behind Popeye infections may vary, but here are the most common ones:

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Unilateral Popeye

When it only hits one eye, your fish may probably have accidentally injured themselves. For example: banging against the tank wall or close, rough contact with other fish in the tank.

Another possibility is when their eye gets scratched by the net because you are a bit too violent when moving them to another tank during cleaning.

Bilateral Popeye

If both eyes are infected, chances are your betta fish is attacked by either fungus, bacteria, or parasites. Still, you may also need to check other symptoms to clarify that for sure.

The Betta Fish Popeye Symptoms

Betta fish with popeye do tends to looks a bit creepy
Betta fish with popeye do tends to looks a bit creepy (Image: reddit u/Monshinix)

To help you to decide on the proper method to treat your betta fish, here are some of the symptoms yours is suffering from Popeye infections:

1. Their eyes are popping out

Whether it is only one eye or both, it does not matter. Not only it makes your fish look creepy; it is also worrying. It is time to treat your fish right away.

2. Their eyes change color

The changes can either be like one of these: milky, cloudy, or bloodshot. It is a sign of a ruptured cornea. The last bit – bloodshot – may also result from a fight with other fish in the tank.

3. There is a white ring surrounding their eyes

Even though their eyeballs have not popped out just yet, the white ring around their eyes may still be a sign of a Popeye problem.

The good thing is this early sign may save your betta fish right away once you start treating it with the proper medication.

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4. There are other symptoms

Lethargy and lack of appetite are symptoms of Popeye infections too. Not only those, but your fish may also look as if they do not want to swim around nor get near other fish in the tank.

How to Cure Popeye In Betta Fish

Based on the cause, here are some methods to help to cure your betta buddy of Popeye infections:

If it is by physical harm:

Here are the steps:

  1. Take 10% of the water in your tank into another tank in the container.
  2. Place your betta fish in that container. Before that, add some Epsom salt into the water; one tablespoon per gallon is enough. Stir it well until Epsom salt dissolves, then place your sick fish in it.
  3. Let your sick betta fish rest in that separate tank for ten minutes before returning them to their friends in the communal tank. Give them time to acclimate when you do that.
  4. Float the container in the aquarium so the water stays warm.

If it is by infection:

Here are the steps:

  1. Separate your sick betta fish into the quarantine tank. (Learn the procedure to create the quarantine tank.)
  2. Change the water 100% with cleaner water in the communal tank. It also prevents other fish from suffering the same Popeye infections.
  3. Start treating your betta fish with ampicillin and aquarium salt. (You can also use Melafix to cure Popeye.) Use ampicillin for every ten gallons of water. If you are unsure of the dosage, ask the professional for this.
  4. Do not use ampicillin for over ten days. Do not forget to change the water after that. Let your betta rest until they seem on the healing process.
  5. Please have patience because it may take months for your betta fish to heal before you can take them back into the communal tank.
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How to Prevent Popeye In Betta Fish?

To prevent infection:

Change the water regularly and make sure the tank is not too crowded. Once you spot a sick fish, separate them immediately from other fish.

To avoid fights between fish:

Do not overcrowd the tank and separate aggressive fish from the rest. Avoid using plastic plants in the tank and handle your fish with gentleness.