do betta fish get bored

Do Betta Fish Get Bored?: Curing the Betta Blues

It has probably only been a few weeks since that “love at first sight” moment at the pet store. But you can tell by the look in your betta fish’s eye that the honeymoon stage is quickly coming to a close. Now that your betta has successfully claimed the new territory inside of his tank, you may start anxiously worrying “Do Betta fish get bored?”

You should take a look at your betta fish right now. Does he look like he has that thousand-mile stare of complete and utter betta boredom? Not to worry! After reading through this article, you will be well on your way to reigniting that beautiful sparkle of pure satisfaction and absolute content!

Is it You or Them?

Now before we begin, take a close look at yourself and assess if it is you or your betta fish that is bored. Betta fish are solitary creatures by nature. They don’t need a lot of “fun” activities to stimulate them, but they definitely can, on occasion, exhibit symptoms of actual boredom. Typically with new betta fish owners, they tend to dote on their new betta fish a little bit more than necessary.

And if there are no real problems, symptoms, illnesses, etc, you may simply be imagining sad betta mentalities. I bring this up because, believe it or not, there is a real danger of “smothering” your betta fish with too much love. With that being said, let’s look at some actual signs of betta boredom:

Signs Your Betta Is Bored

The main indication that something is wrong with your betta is that his behavior has changed. As a good pet owner, you should take note of your fish’s regular behavior when he is healthy so that you have a better idea of what is his “normal.” Remember that all bettas have different temperaments and personalities, so being engaged and aware of yours’ is a good idea.

That said, here are a few symptoms that may be an indication that your betta is bored. Keep in mind that all of these can be symptoms of other ailments as well, so make sure to rule out those as well as addressing the potential boredom issue.

Lethargy

Lethargic behavior is a common symptom of many betta ailments. If you have ruled out any serious illness, yet your betta buddy still seems to be sitting around doing nothing, it may be a sign of boredom. A healthy betta will regularly patrol his territory and be generally active in his or her tank.

Decreased Appetite

Betta fish love food. When you approach your tank to feed your betta, he should come up to the surface in greedy anticipation for his meal. However, if he doesn’t show interest at mealtimes, it’s a good indication that somethings amiss. Again, make sure to rule out any serious illnesses first before assuming it’s simply boredom.

Tail Nipping

A more distressing symptom of boredom is tail biting. If bettas don’t have anything to keep them occupied, they may turn their frustrations to that beautiful, flowing tail. Betta fish do have teeth, so they can cause some serious damage once they start nipping if left unchecked.

Curing Betta Boredom

Now that you can identify when your betta is bored, here are a few things that you can do about it.

Redecorating

One of the easiest things, and certainly cost-effective, you can do to pique your betta fish is curiosity is to simply rearrange the accessories that he has in his fish tank. No, I didn’t say go out to the store and buy him all new betta couches and TVs. Simply moving things around that are already in the aquarium is enough to keep your betta entertained for quite some time.

For instance, if you have one of those little “betta leaf hammocks” that stick on the side of your aquarium with the suction cup… Unstick it and move it to the other side of the tank. Perhaps replant a few of their plants or just rotate their pirate ship, anything to shake things up will work. If you are one to use coffee cups and the like as your fish’s hide, you can simply swap out the cup.

Becoming a “coffee-cup” person is a great way to keep your betta entertained. Changing out coffee cups once in a while is an incredibly easy to do and tremendously affordable way of keeping your betta buddy un-bored. Plus, pretty much everybody I’ve ever met has more coffee cups than they know what to do with. Coffee cups to betta fish are like cardboard boxes to kids. You can never have too many, and every shape and sized one is a new vehicle to play in.

Keep this in mind every couple of times you are changing your betta’s water. If you are also rinsing some of their decorations, you can place them back in a new spot.

Change of Scenery

Aside from inside your tank, shifting things on the outside can also provide a little spice to your betta’s life. If you have space and energy for it, you can move your tank to a different placement or even room every few months. (Just be sure to move the tank while the fish is not in it).

Or, if moving a whole tank isn’t your cup of tea, you can just shift or swap out the objects around the tank. Bettas can recognize color and shape. So it can be as simple as changing out the candle on the side table. You could even set the betta pellets on the other side of the tank than usual and some bettas will be occupied for a hot minute.

One of my favorite tricks is changing out the art on the wall behind my tank. Every once in a while I like to swap out or rotate whatever posters and such I have hung around the house. So swapping out the one behind my tank gives me and my fish a nice sense of novelty.

Alternatively, you can check out the professionally made fish tank wallpapers sold online and in some stores. Honestly, you could even tape some wrapping paper to the back of the tank and your fish would probably approve– their standards aren’t too high.

Note: Some fish may react aggressively to brightly colored objects, particularly red, green, and blue ones. So make sure to watch your betta’s reaction to ensure any such behavior doesn’t go on for too long or else he may become stressed.

Toys for Betta Fish

Using the term “toy” when talking about betta fish is a bit different than with humans or other animals. Betta’s will play with or show interest in just about anything you put in or around their tank. So honestly, any non-toxic object could be a toy for a betta fish.

That said, there are toys that you’ll find in the store specifically marketed towards betta fish. Most of them take advantage of the fact that most bettas are fascinated by floating objects. So they tend to resemble glorified ping-pong balls (with a hiked up price to match). So if you are interested in getting your betta a toy, you can honestly just buy a ping-pong ball, wash it (with hot water, not soap), and pop it on top of the water.

If you have a particularly skittish fish, he may not enjoy the foreign object and go into hiding. So pay attention to how your fish reacts and interacts with the toy to judge if it should be removed. It is okay if your fish initially flares at the toy, just watch to make sure he eventually calms down.

Also, many people opt to use Marimo moss balls as “toys” for their bettas. They’re pretty easy to move around, and bettas often poke and nip at them when they’ve been added to the tank.

Betta Than A Buffet

In my own life, food is never something that should be considered anything less than a true experience in and of itself. Variety is the spice of life when it comes to fine dining. Your betta fish think so too.

If you been feeding your betta fish the same betta pellets day in and day out since you’ve had him, changing it up with some blood worms or simply a different brand of betta pellet is enough to chase boredom away. There are many, many different kinds of foods available that your betta fish would be more than happy to at least try.

Varying your betta’s diet will not only cause your fish to stay entertained, but it’s also relatively necessary in order to promote good betta health in general. Foods that you can feed your betta fish are typically cheap too. Investing in a few extra kinds of betta foods is a very wise decision for several reasons.

Playtime

Last but not least is the “you” component. If you have had your betta fish for any given amount of time, you may have noticed that every time you get up and move and walk around your house, your betta is watching. That’s because he likes you! Well, that and the fact that you are the reason that he eats and he knows that.

But aside from the “hand that feeds” mentality your betta fish may or may not have with you particular, you are a source of great entertainment to your betta fish. To entertain your betta fish, all you have to do is walk up to the tank!

Besides merely walking up to the aquarium, you can also take your (clean) fingertip and tap the top of the water with it. That will most certainly cause your betta fish to focus his attention on a strange monster size appendage invading his tank. I made that sound bad on purpose, it’s not harmful to your betta at all.

However, tapping on the side of the tank is not a very good thing to do. But I didn’t say to do that, using the tip your finger to play in the water and entertain your betta fish for a short amount of time is just fine. Remember though, clean fingers okay? Thanks.

Teaching Betta Fish Tricks

That’s right, you can teach your betta fish cool tricks and sweet moves. Teaching a betta fish how to jump through a hoop, or move a floating ping-pong ball from one end of the aquarium into a net at the other side, are just some of the things that you can do to keep both you and your betta fish entertained and busy. Honestly, it’s a really rewarding thing somehow to be able to say that you taught the fish how to do tricks.

One of the easiest one to try out first is getting your betta to jump. While jumping betta fish is generally regarded as a bad thing, it’s relatively safe in a controlled environment. You can teach your betta fish to leap out of the water when you go to feed him. This behavior is relatively natural as bettas in the wild will briefly jump out of the water to catch small bugs and the like.

Announce your presence to the betta fish by placing the tip of your finger in the water. Proceed to “stick” a betta pellet on your moistened fingertip or a target stick and place it just in front of your betta, just above the water. After a few tries, your betta fish should jump up and grab the pellet off of your fingertip (which should still be just above water).

If you have frozen blood worms, you can achieve the same result by holding one of those stringy blood worms in-between your fingers and holding it just above the water line in front of your betta.

Here’s a helpful Youtube video to get you started on some betta fish tricks:

 

Betta Fish Memory

As you can probably guess from the fact that you can teach them tricks, bettas have a pretty darn good memory. If you were to take whatever betta cave you might have in the aquarium and turn it around or move it to the left by 2 inches, your betta will certainly notice the change. Their longer-term memory is actually why bettas can exhibit signs of boredom and even depression if mistreated.

National Geographic has actually published an article that notes the inherent cruelty of the “3-second memory” myth. That myth, associated with goldfish, bettas, and plenty of other small pet fish is likely propagated to alleviate consumer guilt associated with housing these animals in excessively small tanks or otherwise practicing poor pet care. The unfortunate reality is that large stores that sell bettas benefit from owners’ mistreatment, as shorter lifespans mean more fish sales.

However, that reality just means that you reading up on how to keep your fish entertained is all the more valuable! Go you!

Loners or Lonely?

So a question that gets asked a lot when talking about betta boredom is loneliness. There’s a lot of conflicting information out there about whether bettas prefer to be alone or to have tankmates. The truth is, it depends on your betta. Some male bettas do perfectly fine when housed with other (appropriate) fish friends. Others can barely be trusted to play nice with snails.

Overall, if your betta’s temperament is not overly aggressive, having a tankmate or even a few is a great idea. The action of having other living creatures in the tank helps to keep things lively. A lively tank is good for keeping your betta entertained.

However, if your betta is on the aggressive side, try investing in some live plants instead. They still provide the movement factor and still provide a bit of intrigue for your fish. Because live plants shift in the water more than plastic or silk ones, bettas will often”play” in them in addition to resting or hiding in them. Plus there are a ton of different plant options to try.

Entertainment vs Stress

Any time you shift or change or move anything in his aquarium, your betta fish will go through a certain level of “stress” while he adjusts to his new surroundings. You may have the idea that the words “stress” and “betta fish” do not go together when referring to a happy, healthy betta environment. This is simply not true.

You do not want to overly stress your fish by constantly bombarding him, making him feel ill-at-ease in his home. However, betta fish actually need a tiny bit of stress to keep them healthy. I know to some of you reading this, that might sound like blasphemy… But it’s not. In the wild, bettas are constantly on alert; it’s instinctual and natural for them to be on alert. Depriving them of that part of their nature can lead to boredom and even depression in your fish.

The action of you walking up to the aquarium excites your betta. Excitement and stress are two words that are practically interchangeable. You do not want to play your betta fish in a state constant excitement either.

Final Thoughts

If you’re dead set on interacting with your betta by way of inserting things into the aquarium… Please make sure that everything is clean before you do so. Also, be sure that you do not put anything sharp in your betta’s tank. I’ve seen people interact with their fish using plastic straws. I don’t exactly see that as the safest interactive toy you can use as the ends of the straws can be very sharp. Well, to a betta fishes delicate skin and fins that is. Just be mindful. Please.

I would try to limit the amount of time you “entertain” your betta fish to no more than 10 to 15 minutes. For some betta fish that might be too long. For others, it would be just fine. Spend some time getting to know your personal fish as their temperaments and personalities vary widely. Absolutely, positively, 100% most importantly of all though… Love your BettaFishy!

Absolutely, positively, 100% most importantly of all though… Love your Betta Fishy!

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