Your pet betta fish is an intelligent little guy who will get bored if he doesn’t have the company and stimulation of a few peaceful tankmates. But not all betta fish will tolerate other fish in their tank.
So, what can you do to keep your fishy friend happy and healthy? Well, including some attractive and functional decorations in your betta’s tank can be a great way of keeping your fish busy, as well as making his home look great as a focal point in your room.
Most betta fish have beautiful flowing finnage that sets them apart from other fish species and makes them just about the most popular choice of pet fish. Although those fins look stunning, they can be a liability if you have anything sharp or rough in your betta’s aquarium that could snag his fins or tail.
Many bettas are injured by sharp rocks, substrate, or plastic plants that the fishes’ well-intentioned owners put into their pet’s tank. So, whatever decorations you choose for your fish tank, always check to make sure that they are safe for your pet before you put them into his home.
Before adding anything to your betta tank, you must wash it in clean water to remove any bacteria or parasites that may be clinging to the surface of the item.
That goes for plants too, which may be harboring snails and other parasites. It’s a good idea to rinse plants in water that contains an antibacterial aquarium treatment, and then wash them under clean, running water before putting them into your aquarium.
Natural or fantasy?
Now, although your betta fish is the star of the show, it’s entirely up to you what look you give his home. Some owners prefer to stick with the natural look, opting for a natural gravel substrate, rocks, driftwood, and live plants. However, many people like the idea of creating a fantasy land that shows off their fish like a character in a movie. Colored gravel, rainbow-colored plants, undersea houses, and sunken ships all feature in betta tank décor schemes – it’s really just a matter of your own personal taste.
The decoration that you choose is entirely up to you, and there are plenty of choices to be found in your local fish store or pet shop. We’ve included a few ideas later in this article to give you some inspiration too!
In the wild, male betta fish live alone, defending a territory against all-comers and keeping to themselves except during the breeding season. So, a betta fish’s day will be occupied with patrolling his territory, hunting for food, or seeking a mate. Between periods of activity, bettas rest on flat leaves, rocks, roots, or even on the substrate in a shallow body of water.
The naturally nosey betta will also explore his environment, checking out changes to his patch, such as newly fallen branches, plants, etc. During dry seasons, betta fish move to better territories where there are more food and better-oxygenated water. That means even more exploration must be carried out, not to mention seeing off any newcomers.
So, you can see just how easy it would be for a betta fish to become bored and frustrated in a bowl or nano tank that had no decoration whatsoever.
How to spot a bored betta fish
Bored bettas display very subtle behavioral changes that you need to look out for. You should make it a part of your pet’s care routine to get to know his normal behavior. If there are no apparent signs of disease and your fish’s behavior changes, that could be because he is bored.
Boredom leads to stress, which in turn impacts on your pet’s ability to fight off disease. In fact, stress is a major cause of fish mortality, so anything you can do to reduce your betta’s boredom is crucial to his health.
So, what are the main signs of betta boredom?
Now, there are some very lazy bettas that spend lots of time resting. However, if you have a betta who is usually pretty busy patrolling his home but suddenly just starts laying around, apparently not interested in his environment, that could be because he is bored.
Inactivity is very bad for betta fish, as obesity and bloating are often problems that result from laziness.
Loss of appetite
Bettas can be very greedy fish and don’t often like to miss out on a meal. So, if your fish loses his appetite, it can be a sign that he is bored.
Sometimes, offering a live diet can help here, as chasing his dinner can be a good way of brightening your betta’s day.
Yes, you read that right!
In extreme cases, a bored, frustrated betta can resort to attacking his own fins and tail, ripping into himself with his sharp teeth and inflicting significant damage. Injuries can leave your fish open to attack by parasites and bacteria, which could kill him.
How decorations can relieve betta boredom
So, providing your betta buddy with plenty of tank decorations can be the easiest and most effective way of relieving his boredom.
And once the decorations are in place, you can mix things up by changing the layout of the tank around every few weeks. Try moving a few pebbles or turning a piece of driftwood around so that your fish gets another view. That’ll give your pet a whole different environment to explore! You can also remove your fish from the tank for ten minutes or so while you change things up. That way, when you return your fish to his home, he’ll think he’s in a whole new territory!
But what kind of decorations are best for bettas?
Caves and hideaways
Betta fish find caves and hideouts fascinating! These curious creatures spend ages choosing a favorite resting area or selecting a particular rocky overhang as a place to build bubble nests.
Be sure to include a few resin caves, clay pots, hanging logs, and similar hideaway spots for your betta to explore and mark out as his territory. Aquascaping the cave entrance with a screen of tall plants is a great way of encouraging your pet to explore his new domain and “find” the hideout for himself.
Betta fish are surface feeders, and anything that appears on the water surface is sure to grab your pet’s attention. Try dropping a clean ping pong ball into the tank and watch to see if your betta comes to investigate the invader. If you have a fantasy theme for your tank decoration, you could even include a few colored balls of different sizes to create a surreal dreamscape.
Your betta will certainly be intrigued by the balls, and he may initially become aggressive, flaring at the unfamiliar objects, but he should calm down after a few minutes. However, if your pet appears to be getting stressed, remove the balls right away.
There are lots of purpose-designed toys for fish that you’ll find in your local fish store or pet shop and online. However, before you put any fish toys in your betta tank, make sure that there are no sharp edges that could inure your fish.
10 Brilliant betta decoration ideas
Here are ten of the best decorations that you can include in your betta tank. We’ve included a few in-text links that you can click on if you want to find out more about each item and buy one for your beloved betta buddy.
As previously mentioned, bettas love to have living plants included in their home, and most good fish stores offer a range of plants that are suitable for a nano or betta aquarium. Living plants provide extra surface area for beneficial bacteria, help to oxygenate the water and absorb nitrates to use as nutrients. Floating plants are also great for betta tanks, as they provide an excellent anchor for bubble nests.
However, if you don’t want the hassle of looking live plants, silk foliage is just as good, and you can choose from a wide range of funky colors too to match your chosen decor scheme.
Betta fish love to have a place to rest, and a hammock can make an excellent addition to your tank decoration. To stop your fish from becoming bored, try moving the hammock to a different location each week when you carry out a partial water change.
3. Hollow logs
You can buy resin hollow logs that your betta can use as a hiding place, spawning site, or resting site. Bettas love floating logs that hang just below the water surface.
You can also buy sinking logs that are crafted to look like submerged branches. These decorations are great if you want a natural theme for your betta’s tank. The log can be used as a cave or hidey-hole, having multiple entrances and exits that are sure to keep your fish entertained.
4. Marimo moss balls
Marimo moss balls are super-safe for your betta, and he can amuse himself exploring the soft surface of the balls or even resting on them. You can buy real, living moss balls that live just like plants in your aquarium, or choose fake ones if you prefer.
5. Asian temple
If you want to create an oriental theme for your betta aquarium, this Asian temple with artificial bamboo plants can set the scene, as well as offering your fish a hiding place. The authentic-looking model is made from non-toxic materials, and there are no sharp edges that could injure your fish.
6. Coconut cave
As you know, betta fish love to hide out in caves, and half a coconut shell can make a perfect den. You can buy these decorations in fish stores, but why not make your own? Check out this video to see how you can make a coconut cave for your fish.
7. Potted plants
A tank planted with beautiful, thriving tropical aquatic plants looks stunning, especially when an elegant, extravagantly finned betta is patrolling among the lush foliage.
Planting your plants in terracotta pots is a great way of preventing the plants from spreading and taking over the aquarium, and the pots look stunning, too, especially if you want to create a natural look for your betta’s tank. Also, your pet will love exploring among the leaves and pots, too, keeping your betta amused for hours.
8. Tangled roots and driftwood
An artistically arranged display of tangled roots and driftwood can form a really effective centerpiece in your betta tank. Choose a range of tall plants to place in and around the driftwood to create an enticing play and exploration area for your betta that looks stunning too.
Wild-picked wood can contain parasites or bacteria that could harm your fish and discolor the tank water. So, always buy natural decorations from a pet or fish store, rather than taking items from the environment.
9. Rocks and pebbles
Rocks and pebbles of different colors and sizes can look stunning when arranged among plants and driftwood in a beautifully lit tank. Decorations of this type can provide an interesting playground for your betta, as well as creating the perfect backdrop for his gorgeous colors and flowing finnage.
Again, always buy aquarium rocks and pebbles from a fish store so that you know they’re safe to put in your tank.
If you’ve gone for an undersea decoration theme for your betta’s tank, you might want to add a resin clamshell ornament.
You can choose a plain shell that opens just enough for your betta to hide inside, or you might prefer a shell that incorporates a bubbler feature. Although bettas prefer to swim in quiet water, many do enjoy playing in a stream of gentle bubbles, and that makes a very attractive decorative feature too.
However, you should never use a real shell from the beach. Shells are made from minerals, including calcium, which will leach into the water in your betta’s aquarium, eventually changing the pH levels. Betta fish are highly sensitive to water conditions, and any changes such as fluctuating water hardness and pH can be very detrimental to the health of your fish.
Although your spectacular betta fish is undoubtedly the star of the show in his tank, you can enhance the whole picture by using some beautiful decorations and imaginative aquascaping. Also, bettas are intelligent creatures that need stimulation to keep them from becoming frustrated and bored. You can provide your pet with everything he needs to keep him happy by including lots of interesting decorations in his home.
Remember to only use items that are free from sharp or rough edges that could injure your curious pet as he explores his environment, and never take anything from nature for use as tank decor. Instead, stay safe and buy everything that you put into your fish tank from a reputable fish store or pet shop.