Betta fish are some of the most popular pet fish for beginners and experienced fish keepers alike. Since they're often kept alone in a tank, owners may think their betta may be unhappy and lonely. However, there are obvious ways to tell if your betta is a happy fish.
Signs of a Happy Betta Fish
Bettas are beautiful fish that are usually kept alone in tanks because the males can be aggressive toward other fish. They can, however, have other tank mates if you choose other compatible fish species. Whether you keep your betta with other fish or alone, you can tell they're thriving and happy by observing their behavior and tank environment. It's important to take time to watch your betta fish every day to look for signs of normal, healthy behavior or indications that they may be bored or unhealthy.
Betta Bubble Nests
One of the most obvious signs of a happy betta fish is when they build a "bubble nest." Look for a collection of bubbles on the surface of the tank, or you may actually see your betta blowing the nest. Male bettas make bubble nests when they are ready to mate, and a fish would only express this instinctual behavior if they felt safe and comfortable.
However, if you don't see bubble nests in your tank, this doesn't mean you have an unhappy betta. Every male betta will create bubble nests on their own individual frequency, which could be as much as every day or every six months. Some female bettas may also create bubble nests, though it's generally a male behavior.
Bettas are intelligent fish and can actually be trained to do tricks like swimming through hoops. One sign of their intelligence is recognizing when it's feeding time. A happy, well-adjusted betta will begin to swim over when you come to the tank to feed it, especially if you feed in the same place. They will also eagerly move toward the food and eat when you add it to the tank.
A betta that is doing well in their environment will interact with their surroundings regularly. This means swimming around any plants and ornaments you have in the tank. If a betta only stays in one place, especially at the bottom of the tank, and ignores their environment, this is a sign they may be unhealthy. This is not the same as sleeping, which bettas will do and is perfectly normal.
Another sign of a happy betta fish is one that is out and about in their tank and easily found from day-to-day. If you have trouble finding your betta in the tank because they are hiding all the time, this is a sign of a stressed or possibly ill fish. While bettas do enjoy spending time in ornaments that have hiding spots, they shouldn't be in them all the time and ignoring the rest of the tank.
A happy betta will swim around their tank daily. Sometimes they will move almost lazily about, and other times they'll flit from side to side quickly. If the betta appears to have no trouble swimming and isn't leaning to the side or struggling, your betta is healthy and happy. A betta that is not doing well may seem to have trouble swimming and appear uncoordinated. They may also stay near the bottom of the tank and show signs of struggling to swim away from the bottom.
Getting Along With Tank Mates
If you keep your betta with other compatible fish, seeing them interact with the others in a non-aggressive way is a good sign. This means they may swim around or past them without appearing stressed or chasing after them. If your betta is flaring their fins at the other fish, chasing them, and even nipping at them, this is a sign they're unhappy, and you may need to remove the other fish from the tank.
A betta that isn't stressed and is physically healthy will display vibrant colors and flowing fins. This is a clear difference from a sick betta, whose color often appears dull and faded with fins that may look clumped, ragged, or droopy. Another sign of a stressed betta is "stress stripes" that will appear horizontally on their body.
Keeping Your Betta Fish Happy
It's easy to keep betta fish happy by providing for their mental and physical needs. This means a tank of appropriate size, good quality food, and lots of plants and decorations in their tank. If you see the signs of a happy betta fish, you know you're on the right track. By observing your betta fish's daily routine, you can also readjust if you see signs they may be sick or depressed.