Most betta fish enthusiasts know that their beautiful fish friends have tiny teeth in their upturned mouths. These teeth are used to grab and keep hold of prey. But do betta fish have tongues?
Yes, your betta fish does have a tongue, although betta fish anatomy is not like yours and mine.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about betta fish tongues, how they work, and what they look like!
Does Your Betta Fish Have a Tongue?
Yes! Your betta fish does have a tongue, although it’s not like yours and mine.
Don’t be surprised if you’ve never seen your betta’s tongue. Bettas cannot stick their tongues out or lick things like you and I can.
Instead, the tongue remains hidden inside the fish’s mouth, where it serves a more important purpose than tasting things and making rude gestures at their owners!
What Is the Betta’s Tongue Used For?
The betta’s tongue is more correctly called the labrum, and it has several important functions.
The main purpose of the tongue is to prevent the fish from swallowing large objects that could present a risk of choking.
The bony tongue-like structure also helps to protect the fish’s delicate gills and the ventral aorta from damage by spiky or hard foods. The ventral aorta is the major blood vessel that supplies blood to the betta’s gills, so if that were ruptured, the fish could easily die.
It’s also thought that bettas use their tongues to break down items of food before swallowing them.
Do Bettas Have a Sense of Taste?
Yes, bettas can taste things, but they lack taste buds and can’t taste things in the same way that human tongues do.
Many species of fish, including bettas, primarily use their sense of smell to detect food. When you drop some food into your betta’s tank, the chemicals the food contains disseminate through the water within seconds, helped by the filtration system that circulates the water. The betta detects those chemicals and knows a meal has arrived.
Most fish species have chemical sensors on their heads, faces, and in their mouths, while some species even have them along the sides of their bodies.
However, betta fish do not have taste buds on their tongues.
Can Bettas Stick Out Their Tongues?
As previously mentioned, most freshwater fish tongues are bony, inflexible structures whose primary function is to protect delicate structures.
Unlike your tongue, your betta buddy’s tongue can only make tiny movements up and down, and it isn’t used as a chewing aid. Your pet fish certainly won’t stick his tongue out at you!
So, if you do see anything sticking out of your betta’s mouth, it’s not likely to be his tongue.
In that case, what could the object be?
Sometimes, a fungal infection can present as fluffy, cottony mold protruding from the fish’s mouth, which you might mistake for the fish’s tongue.
In this case, you should treat the water with an over-the-counter antifungal treatment you can get from your local fish or pet store.
Pay attention to the water quality in your betta’s tank, as dirty water and poor water parameters can contribute to outbreaks of mold and fungus. You might need to carry out a water change and clean your filter media to correct the water quality and prevent further disease outbreaks.
Many times I spotted something hanging out of my betta fish’s mouth and wondered what it was.
On closer inspection, the object turned out to be nothing more sinister than an especially large bloodworm or a scrap of food that the betta was struggling to swallow. After a few minutes of working on the food, it vanished into the hungry betta’s mouth, and all was well.
There are a few fish parasites or flukes that can sometimes attack the mouth and gills.
If you spot something trailing from your betta’s mouth, it could be a macroparasite that’s attached itself to your betta’s gills or mouth.
In this case, you’ll need to use an antiparasitic medication that you can buy at your fish store or online.
It’s helpful to take a photograph of your fish and the offending parasite to show to the staff in the fish store. This ensures you’ll get the correct medication to kill the fluke.
Can Betta Fish Talk?
So, can fish with tongues talk?
No, your betta fish cannot talk, although it would be a great trick to show your friends if he could!
However, your betta fish can hear, and many owners swear that their fish can recognize human voices. In fact, many owners insist that their pet betta will come to the surface when spoken to. However, I think that’s most likely because the betta associates the movement outside the glass with the arrival of a food source!
From my betta fish experience, I know that all my fish quickly learned that when I came to the fish tank, it was time for a meal or a game that involved treat rewards.
However, if my friend was looking after my aquarium while I was away, the same fish behavior happened. So, I’m not sure that bettas can recognize their owner’s voice. Do you disagree? Tell us why in the comments box below!
If you want to keep a truly vocal fish, you might want to consider adding a Croaking gourami to your community tank. These little fish belong to the same scientific family as bettas, although their looks and behavior are totally different.
As the name suggests, Croaking gouramis make a pretty loud croaking sound when alarmed. Why not take a look at some next time you visit your local pet store?
What Sounds Can Bettas Make?
Although they can’t talk, betta fish do vocalize to some extent. Try getting rid of all the background noise in your room, and you might just be able to hear the following sounds made by your betta fish.
Although I’ve never heard my bettas make any of these noises, some owners insist that their fish have made these sounds.
If you do hear your betta fish making any of these sounds, it’s likely he’s communicating with his tank mates rather than asking you for a treat!
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So, betta fish do have tongues, but they don’t work in the same way as yours does. A betta’s tongue is a bony structure that can only make tiny up-and-down movements, doesn’t have taste buds, and isn’t used for eating food.
Instead, the tongue, or labrum, is mostly there to protect the betta’s gills and the vital blood vessels that supply them.
Have you ever seen your betta fish’s tongue? Tell us about your betta buddy in the comments box below!