If your betta fish suddenly begins acting differently, you might assume he’s sick.
But wait! The problem could be that your betta is depressed. Seriously? Yes, bettas can become victims of depression just like people can.
Keep reading to discover ways to tell if your pampered pet fish is depressed, and learn what you can do to help your betta recover.
What Are the Symptoms of Depression in Bettas?
There are quite a few signs that could indicate that your betta is depressed. If your betta displays any of the following behaviors, you could have a miserable fish on your hands.
Loss of Appetite
Some bettas are picky eaters, but most have a healthy appetite. So, if your betta fish suddenly loses interest in food, that could signify depression.
However, a poor appetite can be a symptom of many diseases, so watch out for other signs. For example, if your betta has a swollen belly, that could mean that your fish has dropsy or bloat.
Betta fish are curious creatures that spend much of their day cruising their territory, checking out anything different or new. If you approach the glass, you can expect your fishy friend to follow you, probably hoping for some food or a game.
If your betta pet suddenly stops showing an interest in his surroundings or stays in one spot for long periods of time, that could be a sign of depression.
That said, bettas like to take regular naps from time to time throughout the day, usually resting on a flat leaf or betta hammock.
Bettas can sometimes show an increase in aggressive behavior when depressed.
If your fish begins flaring more frequently than usual for no apparent reason, it could be a sign of depression.
Sometimes, a depressed betta begins attacking his tank mates out of frustration and boredom. You can find out how to combat betta boredom in this helpful article.
Changes in Appearance
Loss of color can indicate other illnesses or diseases, too. So, observe your fish carefully to see if any other symptoms might give you a clue as to the cause of your fish’s fading.
Although it’s more common in females than males, a depressed betta can sometimes develop horizontal light or dark stripes on its body.
Those stripes are caused by stress and are pretty common when you bring a new betta home from the fish store and introduce him to his new tank. However, the stripes should disappear after a few days, and your new betta’s colors should become brighter.
Female bettas also develop vertical stripes on their bodies when in breeding condition rather than from stress.
How To Prevent Betta Depression
So, what depression treatments can you use to lift your pet’s mood?
Check Water Conditions
Betta fish are sensitive to water parameters and tank conditions and need clean water to thrive. Start by checking the water quality in your pet’s tank using an aquarium water testing kit.
- Ammonia and nitrite levels should be zero
- Nitrates should be below 20ppm
- Water temperature should be between 72° and 86°F
- pH should be in the range of 6.5 to 7.5
- Water hardness should be between 3 to 4 dGH
If the water is dirty, too cold, or too warm, that will stress and depress your betta. Adjust the temperature if necessary, and carry out partial water changes to fix the problem.
Remember to carry out partial water changes every week, replace spent filter media when necessary, and don’t overfeed your fish to prevent the water from becoming polluted by food waste.
Check Tank Size and Decoration
Although they are small fish, bettas need a tank of at least five gallons capacity to be happy. In the wild environment, betta fish adopt a territory of two to three square feet, so you can see that a tiny vase or bowl is not satisfactory at all.
When decorating your betta’s tank, provide plenty of rocks, driftwood, and smooth stones to give your fish something to explore. Bettas love to hide and take naps throughout the day, and you should include floating betta logs and caves in your setup.
Live plants make a great addition to any fish tank, including your betta’s pad!
Plants take up nitrates and CO2 from the water, helping to keep the environment clean and healthy for your betta and taking some of the load off your filtration system. Plants also produce oxygen, helping to oxygenate the water for your betta fish.
You could opt for silk plants if you don’t want the hassle of maintaining living plants. Silk plants look beautiful in the tank, provide your fish with somewhere to have its personal time, and need minimal maintenance.
Never use plastic plants in a betta tank! Plastic plants have sharp edges and pointed leaves that can easily snag your betta’s glorious floating finnage and injure your pet.
Your Betta’s Diet
Depression among betta fish can be caused by feeding an incorrect diet lacking the nutrients your pet needs to thrive.
Bettas are primarily carnivorous fish that enjoy a variety of food. In the wild, bettas catch water-bound insects, tiny worms, insect larvae, and crustaceans. They also eat a small amount of algae and plant matter, depending on what’s available in their immediate environment.
We don’t recommend giving your betta live foods since they can contain parasites and bacteria that could harm your pet. Instead, feed your betta frozen meaty foods, such as bloodworms, daphnia, and mosquito larvae.
Your betta’s basic diet should consist of betta mini pellets and a portion of live food every couple of days. This helps keep your pet’s digestive system working properly and can prevent common health problems like constipation and bloat.
Bettas are largely solitary fish, but that doesn’t mean your pet needs to be kept in isolation. Appropriate tank mates can provide excellent sources of entertainment, improve your betta’s quality of life, and keep depression at bay.
Although each fish is different, most male bettas can be aggressive toward other brightly colored fish with trailing fins that they mistake for a rival male.
Fin nippers, such as tetras, should also be avoided, as they can damage your betta’s flowing tail. However, since betta fish tend to hang around the middle and upper areas of the water column, you can safely include peaceful bottom-dwellers, such as Corydoras catfish.
Snails and freshwater shrimp also make good companions for betta fish. The invertebrates will happily and peacefully go about their daily business, and your betta won’t hassle them.
Bettas are surprisingly social fish when it comes to their human owners.
You can train your betta to perform simple tricks, such as jumping through a hoop for a food reward and even playing football!
Getting interactive with your betta from time to time can be the perfect treatment for a fish with depression. So, invest in a training kit, and get busy training your betta pet!
Did you enjoy our guide to identifying and treating depression in betta fish? If you found the article interesting and helpful, please take a moment to share it!
Betta fish can be victims of depression. However, you can usually help your beloved pet overcome his blues by providing him with a spacious, well-decorated tank, high-quality food, some suitable tank mates, and plenty of interactive playtime with you.
Did your betta fish get depressed? How did you help your fish recover? Tell us in the comments box below!