Photographing your betta fish can be fun and rewarding. Not only are betta’s long fins and bright colors a treat to capture on film, but it also gives you a great way to remember your pet fish for the years after he’s gone.
But if you’ve ever casually tried getting some shots of your betta fish with your cell phone, you may have been disappointed that the images didn’t come out quite like the photos on our website!
But it doesn’t have to be so hard! If you’re looking to up your game in aquarium photography, here are some of the best pointers, tips, and tricks on how to get the perfect photos of your betta fish.
How To Get The Best Photos of Your Betta Fish
Learn Your Betta Fish’s Swimming Patterns
If you want to get the perfect shot of your betta fish, you’d better know how he moves.
Bettas are beautiful fish to watch because of their graceful movements in the water, but if you haven’t spent long enough watching them, it can be hard to predict their next move.
This is where patience comes in. Take your time to watch your betta carefully to see how he’s moving in the water, and how he reacts to different stimuli, and think about the angles that’ll make the best shots.
Having done your homework, it’ll be much easier to press the shutter at just the right moment for the ultimate shot.
Photograph Your Betta During Feeding Time
There are certain times when your betta is going to be looking especially impressive, and one of them is at feeding time.
Bettas just love being fed, and will even follow you around through the glass, anticipating their next meal!
When they finally get their meal it’s often the highlight of their day, and all that excitement makes them pulse with color and vibrancy. Some bettas will even flare out their gills and fins during feeding time as a kind of territorial announcement that ‘this food is mine!’.
All of this makes your betta look especially handsome, so feeding time is a great time to get some top shots.
Make Your Betta Flare!
As we mentioned, some bettas will flare at feeding time to show their dominance, but there are many other occasions when your betta might flare too.
Flaring is a territorial or courtship display where your pet betta will extend his gills and fins to make himself look bigger, stronger, and more fearsome. His colors may also look especially bright when he does this, so flaring can be one of the best times to capture him in all his glory!
There are a few ways to get your betta to flare, all of which involve triggering his territorial instincts so that he gets in the mood to show off. He’s not called a Siamese Fighting Fish for nothing!
Try dipping a smooth, rounded wooden or plastic object like a spoon handle into the water to see how he will react, or buy an exercise mirror.
Many male bettas will flare at, or even attack, any objects that enter the aquarium (including your hands!) and most will attempt to fight with their own reflection.
When your betta is all flared up and looking at his most imposing, press the shutter for an impressive shot!
Use a Black Backdrop or a Plain Background to Enhance His Colors
Brightly colored bettas really glow when seen against a dark background.
Many aquarists keep their betta in a tank with a black background or even a dark substrate to make their colors stand out even more, and this can be an especially good idea for a photo shoot.
A brightly colored betta, shot with a flash against a black background, can appear especially striking, but just remember that this method won’t work so well for darkly-colored bettas.
Black betta fish varieties such as Black Melano and Black Lace will almost disappear against a black backdrop and, in this case, a lighter background such as light gray, cream, or even white will yield more impressive results.
Turn Off Filtration and Aeration Devices
The tiny air bubbles caused by filters, airstones, and carbon dioxide injection may not be disturbing to the naked eye, but they can make a difference to the quality of your photos.
For the water to be at its most clear, temporarily turn off any equipment that can create bubbles.
Just make sure you turn them back on once you’re done! Aquarium filters shouldn’t be turned off for more than 30 minutes at a time in order to ensure adequate dissolved oxygen and safe ammonia levels in the water.
Use a Macro Lens To Capture Exquisite Detail
Macro lenses are camera lenses designed to shoot up close where you can capture the most detail. Taking shots with a good macro lens with high resolution can even be like looking at your fish through a microscope.
Fins and scales come out in such high definition, and it can be fascinating to zoom in on the pictures later to see your fish’s anatomy in closer-than-ever detail.
If you’re interested in getting breathtaking close-up shots of your betta, then a good macro lens on an SLR camera is best of all, but the macro function on your mobile phone can work too.
Use a Flash
Using flash photography on fish is a controversial topic.
While some photographers claim it has no significant impact on the fish, others will tell you that flash can cause significant stress, which is damaging to the fish’s overall health and well-being.
In 2018 researchers in Germany conducted an experiment, exposing Ram Cichlids to 10 flashes per minute for 8 hours a day, and measured their stress hormone levels. From their results, they concluded that flash photography didn’t produce any significant stress for this species.
It’d be dangerous to assume, though, that all fish species would be equally undisturbed by flash photography, and the jury’s still out on whether flash can cause stress in betta fish.
If you want to use flash photography on betta fish, consider doing it sparingly and make your fish’s well-being your top priority.
While a flash may help to achieve an even, smooth focus, it can also cause excessive reflection in your fish’s scales which may not look good, so you’ll have to experiment.
If you’re getting glare from the aquarium glass, try changing your angle until it lessens, or use a rubber lens hood.
Use a Rubber Lens Hood To Remove Reflections and Refractions
As we’ve already suggested, reflections, refractions, and glare are some of the most irritating factors when taking photos of fish behind glass.
A rubber lens hood pressed up against the aquarium glass is one good way of eliminating these obscurations from your perfect shots.
The darkened entrance of the lens hood will remove any reflections from the aquarium glass, but note that the hood must have a rubber rim around the tip to prevent it from scratching or damaging the glass.
Set up the Right Aperture and Shutter Speed
If you’re using a bridge or SLR camera, you’ll be able to change the aperture and shutter speed of your shot.
For newbies to photography, aperture simply means how wide the lens is opened and shutter speed is how long the shutter is opened to capture the image.
A good aperture for shooting betta fish is a fairly small f/18-f/22, and since bettas move a lot you’ll need a fairly fast shutter speed of at least 1/100th of a second if you want a crisp image of your betta without any blur.
Because a small aperture and fast shutter speeds are best for shooting bettas, you’ll also need good lighting to compensate for the lower amounts of light that can enter the camera.
Set the White Balance and ISO to Auto
You can try playing around with other camera settings such as your white balance and ISO to see how it changes your images to your personal preferences. But for casual photographers, we’d recommend setting these to auto.
Auto ISO will adjust the setting to make sure your photos come out bright enough, and the auto white balance will hopefully reflect the most realistic colors.
If you’re not happy with your white balance when you get your images to your computer, you can always use photo editing software to change it.
Use a Tripod
A tripod offers a number of advantages for a betta fish photo shoot.
Firstly, getting the perfect shot of your betta can take time. If you have a chunky SLR camera with a big macro lens, your arms are going to get achy quite fast. Secondly, the tripod will help keep your camera much more still and stable.
If you’re using a manual focus rather than auto-focus, you’ll want to keep your camera as still as possible to maintain the same distance from your aquarium.
Keeping the camera steady will, of course, also reduce blur, helping to get you those sharp, crisp shots that you’re looking for.
Precautions to Take When Taking Photos of Your Betta
We all want to get the perfect portrait of our betta fish, but we must also ensure that their welfare comes first.
Don’t Use the Flash Too Often
As we’ve discussed, there’s no conclusive evidence one way or the other regarding how much stress flash photography can cause a betta fish.
While other species of fish have shown no adverse reactions to flash, this may not be true of bettas.
If you’re going to use flash photography, try to keep it to a minimum to avoid overwhelming your fish.
Don’t Overfeed Your Betta
Yes, feeding is a good way of getting your betta to light up and look good for the camera, but remember too that overfeeding bettas is one of the main causes of health problems.
Bettas are greedy fish and will go on eating regardless if it’s good for them. If they eat too much, they can become bloated, constipated, and even develop swim bladder problems.
To stay on the safe side, never feed them more than twice a day or more than they can eat within 2 minutes.
Don’t Overstimulate Your Betta
As with feeding, your betta will often look at his most impressive when flaring and making territorial displays.
While it’s healthy for a betta to flare once in a while, too much flaring can cause significant stress and ill health.
If you’re using an exercise mirror, experts recommend not to use it for more than 5 minutes in a session, and for not more than a total of 10 minutes in a week.
If you’re using an external object to stimulate your betta, don’t exceed the amount of time recommended for mirrors, and make sure the object doesn’t have any sharp edges that could harm your fish.
What’s the Ideal Tank for Betta Fish Photography?
Aquarium photography specialists occasionally use specially designed ultra-narrow tanks for photo shoots, to maintain a consistent depth of focus for difficult-to-shoot species.
There are several issues related to these kinds of tanks though, and the narrow space will likely cause your fish stress, all the while making them less photogenic.
For most people’s needs, a simple well-maintained, flat-glass betta tank with a dark background and perhaps some nice rocks, plants, and pieces of driftwood will make for the perfect photo shoot.
What’s the Best Camera To Use for Betta Fish Photography?
If you’re after professional-quality images, then a decent SLR camera with a macro lens and a rubber hood is probably the ultimate camera equipment for shooting betta fish.
Having said that, many people are getting remarkably good aquarium photos with their phones these days, and with more innovations, photos from phones are always getting better.
Can I Use an iPhone To Take Photos or Videos of My Betta?
iPhones have some of the best cameras of any phone and can take amazingly good photos.
The video stabilization technology on more recent models also makes for professional-looking, smooth video sequences.
You can definitely take great photos of your betta fish with your iPhone or any high-resolution camera phone, and if you can improvise a lens hood (out of some dark paper for example) you could take some professional-looking shots that might even negate the need for an SLR camera.
Bettas are some of the most gorgeous aquarium fish to take photos of. With the right equipment and a few tricks to get things set up right, the results can be dazzling and a great bonus to your fish-keeping hobby.
As always with fishkeeping, make sure your fish’s well-being is your top priority, and never be tempted to cause them stress just for the sake of your photo album.
A well-looked-after and relaxed fish is always going to look better in the long run anyway, and with a handsome, healthy betta, you should have years of happy photography sessions ahead of you.