If you came here asking the question “Can betta fish jump?” because you are thinking about entering your fishy in the next pet Olympics, then… you have to invite me if he/she qualifies. But I’m going to guess that it’s not visions of gold medal grandeur that you are really curious about. None the less, jumping betta fish is a thing. And as you can see from the video above, that may be something you want. In fact, there is even a kit available dedicated at showing you how to teach your betta to do tricks. Most likely though, having your betta fish jumping out of its tank is not something you want.
So to get right to the point, yes betta fish can jump. Bettas can definitely clear the edge of an open topped aquarium if the water level is high enough. Now, I did say that betta fish can jump, not that they will if the opportunity presents itself. Different, individual betta fish behave in individually different ways.
There are some bettas that seem to enjoy the “high” life more so than others. I meant that in the “high” up in the air sense of the word… not the “it’s for my glaucoma” sense. We are talking about fish. Jumping betta fish. Anyway… In general though, betta fish tend to jump as a way to try and escape an aquarium that has poor water quality and/or temperatures that are too warm. Using a decent aquarium thermometer to check on your aquarium’s temperature is a good way to prevent soaring betta fish. Regular water changes are necessary as a part of good betta tank maintenance, but in this case will also keep your betta from feeling the need to vault out.
There are too many sad stories about people coming home to find that their aquarium is only a container with water in it. Nothing more. After a little searching around near the aquarium, all that is sometimes left is betta flavored jerky. To add even more to this hypothetical yet grotesque story; often the fish is able to flop it’s way a good distance away from the aquarium before it’s end. You can add the danger elements of cats and small children if you possess any.
Now, this is something I have not seen any real experimentation on, nor am I suggesting you do any of your own on, but theoretically speaking, betta fish can live out of water longer than the average fish can. This is because of their labyrinth organ that allows them to breathe atmospheric oxygen straight from the air. I’m putting this information in here so that if you ever have a situation where your betta has skipped the fence, you don’t worry as much. You still have great cause to worry, but maybe just a little less.
Betta’s little fish bodies need water. That really is a no-brainer. Specifically though, their gills need to be kept wet. Yes, they can breathe oxygen right from the same air as you do, but betta’s will run into big problems quickly if their gills dry out.
How high can betta fish jump?
Two to three inches from the surface of the water is the average lift a betta fish can reach.
There are betta owners out there that have taken the time to carefully measure how high up their betta fish can jump. This is actually really helpful information for other betta keepers as it will help us best protect our betta fish from themselves. That, and now we know the upper limits of the average betta’s jump so we can train our athletic bettas to beat it. Betta Olympics will happen one day, I am sure of it.
Two to three inches from the surface of the water is the average lift a betta fish can reach. There is a rumor that someone measured a 5 inch jump from their betta. I would actually suspect that a 5 inch clearance from a betta is very achievable. When you consider that 5 inches isn’t too much longer than the total length of a betta, and you must have seen how fast they can swim, I’d bet that betta fish are more than likely capable of higher heights than even 5 inches.
Another interesting thing to learn is that female betta fish seem to enjoy the air-time more often than the boy betta fish do. Very much more in fact. If you are thinking about keeping a sorority of bettas, you should do more than just “think” about getting a lid on that aquarium. In case you haven’t learned yet, a sorority is what you call a group a girl bettas in an aquarium.
Some people have aquariums with a separator wall inserted to divide the tank. These divided betta aquariums are designed to keep betta fish safe from whatever is on the other side of that separator wall. More often than not, people divide up their tanks like this to be able to house more than one male betta fish in an aquarium. Sometimes these tanks are divided for betta breeding reasons. Whatever the reason, if the aquarium is an open air design, betta fish may be able to hop the fence.
How to keep your betta from jumping
Just because you haven’t seen your betta jump before doesn’t meant that your betta fish isn’t capable of jumping.
In any event, keeping the water line at or below 3 inches from the uppermost edge of the aquarium is a smart thing to do. Even if you have your betta in a lidded aquarium, if your fish really enjoys jumping, he/she will get more than a bad headache hitting that lid over and over. You will learn your bettas habits of jumping or non-jumping more with time.
After spending time observing your betta’s habits, even if you have never seen your betta jumping out of its bowl before, it’s still a good idea to treat your betta as a jumper. Just because you haven’t seen your betta jump before doesn’t meant that your betta fish isn’t capable of reaching new hights. The risk you take in not properly securing your betta’s aquarium from accidental escape is too great to take lightly. Even though carpet surfing sounds like a fun thing, for betta’s, it’s really not.
Because there are some bettas that seem to enjoy breaking up the monotony of their day by jumping, it’s really best to treat your betta as a jumper and take protective measures just in case. Aquarium lids are something that come standard on just about every store bought tank you can find. These aquarium lids act as magic force fields against betta’s super jumping abilities. Amazing really…
There are some really amazing looking aquariums on the market that are rimless. Betta’s living in rimless aquariums, aside from living a “betta” life than I, may need you to come up with a home-made lid of sorts. More on make-your-own approaches later. If you feel like drooling today, you should take a look at some of these rimless designs.
If you have one of those really nifty rimless aquariums, or just have a normal aquarium without a lid, think about adding something that floats on the water’s surface. There are some really neat live plants that float on the surface of the water that act as an anti-jump barrier for your betta. You should take a look at our guide to live aquatic plants for betta fish. If live plants are not something you want to consider, there are many fake plants and other things that float you can use instead.
Having floating objects on the aquariums water surface is a good idea, but they are not foolproof in their ability to completely stop your betta from taking that big leap of faith. Things that float on the surface will only cause a hindrance. You really want something like a real lid to keep yourself from worrying that your betta will jump out of its tank while you are away.
There are quite a few aquarium designs on the market that have feeding holes cut out in their lids. While these can be really convenient features when feeding time comes, these holes also pose a risk to leaping betta fish. If you use and aquarium with one of these “feeding hole in the lid” designs, you should think about covering it with something when it’s not feeding time. Sticky duct tape would probably not be a great idea. You want something heavy enough that it won’t come loose if your betta springs up and hits it. You also want to make sure that it’s something not inherently dangerous to the betta if he/she touches it.
How to make your own custom aquarium lid
There are many ways you can get creative in making a cover for your aquarium. You can get as “it’s just temporary I promise!” or “Yes, I know I’m a pro.” as you want. Actually, more often than not, I end up not using the lids my aquariums come with and make my own instead. Don’t ask. I have my reasons. Anyway, you can make these the type of lids in the video below for practically nothing and they more than do the job of keeping your betta safe and where he/she should be.