Is your Betta happy?
You may be thinking, ‘how would I know? He’s a fish!’
Whether this is your first (or twenty-first) Betta fish, there are ways to tell if he’s happy (or wishing he was back in that tiny cup at the pet store looking for a new home).
Let’s discover the 8 signs of a happy Betta fish and some ways you can cheer him up if he’s feeling “blue.”
- #1 Wants to Eat
- #2 Swims Freely About
- #3 Makes a Bubble Nest
- #4 Explores
- #5 Does Not Hide
- #6 Has Brilliant Colors & Flowing Fins
- #7 Interacts With Tank Mates
- #8 Interacts With You
- Pro Tips on How to Have a Happy Betta Fish
- Final Thoughts on Signs of a Happy Betta Fish
#1 Wants to Eat
Just like we like to eat when we’re happy, so does the Betta. Your fish should eagerly swim to the top of the tank to see what goodies he gets to indulge in. And if you feed him at the same time each day, he will know and happily meet and greet you at the surface.
Betta not enthusiastic about feeding time?
This doesn’t mean he’s not happy, he might just be bored of the food you are offering.
- Freeze-dried foods
- Mosquito larvae
- Live Brine Shrimp and Bloodworms
- High crude protein flakes or pellets
Pro Tip: Don’t overindulge your Betta. Feed only a couple of pellets or flakes at a time, twice a day.
#2 Swims Freely About
Bettas love to swim (despite what some pet retailers may tell us). When the Betta species is given ample room to swim, they will happily do so. If he’s not, then he may have an issue that goes beyond mood.
Betta laying on side or having difficulty navigating the tank?
These could be signs of swim bladder disorder, the beginning of a bacterial infection, or parasites. Watch your Betta closely for other symptoms of illness, then treat accordingly.
If your Betta doesn’t show signs of illness and eats normally, he could just be bored or lazy (read below for tips on getting your Betta happy again).
#3 Makes a Bubble Nest
Happy, healthy Bettas will show their contentment by making a bubble nest. This collection of tiny bubbles (blown by the male and some females) is a place where the eggs of the fish are placed and kept safe until they hatch.
Don’t see a bubble nest?
That doesn’t mean your Betta is unhappy, he could just not be ready, or be too old to want to reproduce (Betta males breed between 4 and 12 months of age).
Some Bettas will create bubble nests almost daily, while others will only blow bubbles every few months.
A happy Betta will explore and patrol the habitat. He will poke his head inside caves or logs, swim around the plants searching for stray food, and keep an eye out for anything new or unusual in his “territory.”
This curious behavior is one of the traits many Betta owners love about the species.
Betta not showing any interest in exploring?
Again, look for other symptoms of disease or stress. If nothing is apparent, then your Betta may be lacking stimulation due to tank size. Small tanks or containers do not allow for the addition of decorations or proper filtration and aeration, which can all lead to boredom and laziness.
#5 Does Not Hide
It’s perfectly natural for Betta fish to hide when they first arrive in a new tank. However, if this hiding turns into a habit, there’s something not right.
If your Betta appears healthy, perhaps there’s a stressor causing him to keep out of sight? Does a furry pal paw at the surface of the aquarium when you’re not looking, or perhaps a toddler has taken to banging on the side of the habitat. Maybe it’s as simple as your filter is too powerful and it keeps sucking him into the intake.
Monitor your Betta to see if you can discover what’s happening so you can rectify the situation.
#6 Has Brilliant Colors & Flowing Fins
One of the most obvious signs of a happy healthy Betta is those brilliant colors and long flowing fins.
Betta dull with ragged or torn fins?
These could be the beginning signs of fin and tail rot – a nasty illness that will need your intervention (quickly).
Another issue that can create a color loss in your Betta is inferior foods. Always look for food that is high in crude protein (some may even have additives to enhance color).
You will also want to make sure your aquarium’s water is not too cold (between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit) and the water quality is optimal (regular water changes and filtration will improve that issue).
#7 Interacts With Tank Mates
When your Betta is happy, he will enjoy swimming among his tank mates. However, if he is flaring, chasing the other fish, or hiding a lot, these could all be signs of stress.
Stress may be occurring due to overcrowding of the habitat, or the fish are incompatible. If you think this may be what’s bugging your Betta, relocate him to his own tank. Not all Betta fish can cohabitate with other communal fish.
#8 Interacts With You
Some Betta fish keepers tell of how their pet will follow their finger, greet them at the side of the aquarium, and follow them to the end of their habitat. These endearing behaviors are your Betta’s way of telling you he is happy to see you.
If these behaviors describe your Betta. Good job! He is happy and healthy!
Pro Tips on How to Have a Happy Betta Fish
No one wants to think their pets are unhappy. If your Betta needs a boost of cheer, check out these pro tips.
Having a “happy habitat” is a lot more than just plopping your Betta into any ole container and letting him live out his existence here. A basic happy Betta home consists of;
- Spacious Size – We recommend nothing less than 5 gallons for a happy Betta (larger if you plan on adding tankmates).
- Low-Flow Filtration – Bettas are slow swimmers, so a low-flow filter will ensure that they won’t get sucked into the mechanics or their fins are being injured.
- Suitable Substrate – Good substrates allow for anchoring plants and allowing good bacteria to flourish. It will also be free of rough or jagged edges and too big for your Betta to ingest.
- Low Lighting – In the wild, Bettas live in rice paddies that have very low lighting, Do the same for your home aquarium by using low-watt bulbs.
- Plenty of Plants – A happy Betta habitat has plenty of live plants to play and rest among.
- Tropical Temperature – a cold, unheated tank equals a sluggish, low metabolizing fish.
Just like humans can’t live on junky food, neither can your best Betta buddy. For a happy Betta, only feed quality food that is high in protein.
And, like the adage says, “variety is the spice of life,” so offer your fish different foods that will keep him interested in mealtimes.
Some Betta fish do enjoy the company of tankmates. This allows for playtime and just not being alone. However, remember, the amount of fish you put into one tank will depend on the size of the aquarium. A good rule of thumb is one inch of fish per gallon of water. And remember Tetras and shrimp species do need to be kept in schools.
Suitable companions for the Betta fish include;
- Ember Tetras
- Cory Catfish
- African Dwarf Frogs
- Ghost Shrimp
- Kuhli Loaches
- Malaysian Trumpet Snails
Don’t think you can buy toys for your Betta fish? Think again. From rings and floating logs to swim through to tiny mirrors for flaring, the pet industry is now beginning to recognize the need for Betta to be entertained.
However, before you add any new object to your tank, be sure to read the product’s instructions and inspect it for rough or jagged edges.
In the case of mirrors, watch your Betta for stress, as constant flaring can take a toll on his nerves.
Pro Tip: An inexpensive and fun idea to play with your Betta fish is to add a ping pong ball to the surface of the tank and watch what he does.
Change It Up!
Finally, to help keep your Betta fish happy, change things up for him. Just like humans, your fish will get bored of the same thing day in and day out.
Try giving him some new live plants, a cave to swim through, or even some live food.
Final Thoughts on Signs of a Happy Betta Fish
Having a Betta for a pet is no different than having a dog, cat, bird, or rodent. We have to strive to give these creatures the love, respect, and care they deserve.
Happy Betta will be eager to swim, eat, explore, and interact all the while displaying brilliant colors and flowing fins (you may even get to watch him build a bubble nest).
However, if you suspect your Betta is unhappy, then look for signs of stress or illness. If none are apparent, then try the pro tips we have added here today to get your Betta happy again.
After all, a happy fish is a healthy fish.