Betta fish are amazing creatures with beautiful finnage and spirited personalities, but they often lead very sedentary lives in way-too-tiny bowls. If you’ve already seen our betta fish tank setup guide and upsized your betta’s aquarium with the necessary equipment, you may be wondering what else you can do to keep your pet fish entertained. In the wild, Betta splendens spends its time hunting for food, defending its territory, breeding the next generation of offspring, and of course resting. Based on these activities, let’s discuss 5 creative enrichment ideas to mentally and physically stimulate your betta fish and give it the best life possible.
1. TOYS AND DECORATIONS FOR BETTA FISH
Want to provide an underwater jungle gym for your betta to explore? Find some fish tank ornaments and interesting caves that he can swim around or dive inside. Just make sure the decorations have no sharp edges and all the holes are big enough for your betta fish to fit through without getting stuck. Since bettas like to swim near the surface to take the occasional gulp of air, we like the floating betta log. This natural-looking decor is like a large tunnel for your betta to easily swim through, take a peaceful nap, or even build a bubble nest inside. There is also another opening on the side for you to feed fish foods through to prevent his meal from being stolen by other fish or sinking too quickly into the gravel.
A floating betta log is an excellent place for exploring, resting, eating, and making bubble nests.
2. BETTA FISH EXERCISE MIRROR
Betta fish are also known as “Siamese fighting fish” because they will fiercely defend their home turf against others of their own species. While we don’t recommend putting two bettas together, you can take advantage of this protective instinct and give your betta a nice workout by using a floating betta exercise mirror for a few minutes each day. Upon seeing their own reflection, most bettas react by flaring their gills, stretching out their fins, and making their bodies look as big and tough as possible. After a short period of watching him parade back and forth in front of the “intruder,” remove the mirror and perhaps give him a little treat for his efforts.
A few minutes with a mirror each day can offer some much-needed exercise for your betta fish.
3. LIVE FISH FOOD
Because betta fish are hunters and not ambush predators, they spend a good amount of time searching for insect larva, small crustaceans, and other tiny aquatic animals to eat. While floating betta pellets are a good staple for daily feedings, there is usually not a lot of challenge in “catching” them since slow water current is recommended for their aquariums. Get your betta to apply her hunting skills by offering a variety of live foods. You can buy blackworms from local fish stores, hatch your own baby brine shrimp, or maintain cultures of daphnia and microworms at home. When bettas must find their next meal, it activates their patrolling, pursuing, and pouncing abilities and rewards them with a full belly. If live fish foods are not possible for you to obtain, try using a worm feeder cone instead. Place a cube of frozen bloodworms or other fish food inside, and watch as your betta fish figures out how to get the tasty morsels out. In a community tank, the cone also helps to slow down the more aggressive fish from gobbling all the food and give everyone a chance to eat.
If you don’t access to live fish foods, a worm feeder cone can provide an entertaining way for your betta fish to get its food.
4. AQUARIUM PLANTS
Betta splendens are originally found in shallow waters with tons of dense vegetation, so why not give your little buddy a lush, green forest to call home? Of course he’ll be happy with just about any live aquatic plant, but our favorites include large anubias plants to rest on like a leafy hammock or a Christmas moss bridge to shelter beneath at night. Tall background plants and floating plants at the water surface are also much appreciated because they provide interesting structures to swim in between and build bubble nests amongst. If you’re not ready to take care of live plants, you can also try catappa or Indian almond leaves. Not only do they tint the water with tannins that have mild antibiotic and antifungal properties, but they also act as fallen foliage for your betta to investigate.
For more recommendations, read our article on the top 10 betta fish plants for your aquarium.
Not only are live aquarium plants beautiful, but they also help to purify the water that your betta lives in.
5. TANK MATES FOR BETTA FISH
If you have a 10-gallon or larger tank with plenty of hiding spots, you may be able to add some peaceful roommates to your betta aquarium. Other animals in the fish tank provide exciting activity to watch, social hierarchies to establish, and rivals to outcompete during mealtimes. Because of the betta fish’s territorial temperament towards its own kind, avoid other fish with colorful and flowy fins. Plus, steer clear of nippy animals that may want to take a chunk out of your betta. Schooling nano fish are often preferred because then your betta has a hard time targeting any one individual. For specific suggestions, learn about the 5 best tank mates for betta fish.