A common problem many betta owners (And fish owners for that matter) have is glass surfing. When you see your fish constantly pacing the glass it’s often a sign that something is wrong. If you want to know why betta glass surfing occurs and what you can do to prevent it then keep reading!
What Is Glass Surfing?
Glass surfing is erratic behavior that causes your betta to constantly pace up and down the glass in his tank. There are a number of causes for it and if you notice it constantly then it’s often a sign that something isn’t right.
If you notice your betta glass surfing, it’s important you figure out why it’s happening so you can fix the issue. Here are the most common causes of betta glass surfing as well as ways you can prevent them.
Betta Glass Surfing – Causes & Prevention
If your betta is glass surfing there are a few reasons it may be happening. To stop the behavior you’re going to need to find out what’s causing it and then taking the appropriate action to stop it. Here are the most common causes of betta glass surfing and how to prevent it.
Poor Water Conditions
We hear it time and time again when looking after bettas. Water conditions are everything. If you don’t have the right water conditions for your betta then he’s going to become stressed. And one of the common symptoms of stress in bettas is glass surfing.
Poor water conditions normally result in a buildup of ammonia as well as other harmful chemicals that are going to cause your betta harm. So it’s vital that you make sure your tank water is perfect
As well as a build-up of chemicals the temperature in your tank should be regulated as well. A bettas ideal temperature is 78°F, however, they can survive in water between 76-85°F.
If the water gets any colder than that you’ll notice them becoming lethargic and not moving. However, if it becomes too hot, your betta will begin swimming erratically. One type of erratic behavior you might notice is glass surfing.
There are a lot of dangers that can come from your tank not being the right temperature. Temperature shock in bettas can often be fatal and there are many reasons you should have a heater in your tank.
(If you haven’t got a heater for your betta then here are some of the best heaters for 5-gallon tanks.)
And lastly, if you’re overstocking your tank or overfeeding your betta can often lead to poor water conditions. If there’s more waste in your tank then the nitrifying bacteria can get rid of (the bacteria that breaks down ammonia) then the water conditions are going to gradually get worse.
There are a number of different ways you can prevent the water conditions in your tank becoming poor quality. And regular maintenance is always a great place to start.
Clean And Maintain Your Tank Regularly
First of all, you should make sure that the ammonia level in your tank hasn’t become too high, which often results in ammonia poisoning. Ammonia poisoning can quickly become fatal often killing fish in a matter of hours.
The best way to make sure the ammonia isn’t too high is by testing it regularly, in new tanks you should be testing it every day, but the more aged your tank becomes the longer you can go without testing it. I use the API master test kit which you can pick up off Amazon.
As well as testing for ammonia you should also be cleaning your tank regularly. Things, like performing water changes in your tank and vacuuming the substrate, are all great ways to reduce the buildup of harmful chemicals.
This is even more important in smaller tanks. One of the reasons you shouldn’t ever keep a betta in a tank smaller than 5 gallons is because of how hard it is to keep it stable. (If you’re currently housing your betta in a tank smaller than 5 gallons then here’s why a 5 gallon tank or bigger is always best.)
Make Sure Your Tank Is Heated Well
And secondly, you should make sure that your tank is being heated well enough. You should have a decent heater in your tank, and if your tank gets too hot in the summer you should also consider buying an aquarium cooling fan to clip onto the side (you can get them for pretty cheap off Amazon).
Fortunately, both of these things are inexpensive, and once you have them they’re going to last years. When choosing a heater for your betta as a rule of thumb you should have 5 watts for every gallon of water, to make sure it’s going to be heated enough.
Make Sure You’re Not Overstocking Your Tank
The more fish you have in your tank the more space you’re going to need. As a rough rule of thumb, you should only have 1 inch of fish per gallon of water in the tank. (Take this with a pinch of salt, some small fish require vasts amount of space to swim in. If you’re curious about fish that can live with bettas then here are some of the best ones.)
Don’t Overfeed Your Betta
You may think your betta isn’t getting enough food, but you may already be feeding him too much. A betta’s stomach is the same size as his eyeball so you should feed him accordingly. Some people recommend feeding him two small portions twice a day, while other people say it’s fine feeding them one small portion twice a day.
Personally, I like to feed him 1 or 2 small meals a day with an occasional day with no food. And don’t worry these odd days without food are good for them and reduce the risk of constipation and swim bladder disease.
Seeing His Own Reflection
This is often a big reason that your betta may be pacing up and down by the side of the tank. Bettas are extremely territorial fish, so if he sees his own reflection he’s going to try and scare it out of his territory. The only problem with this is that he’s never going to be able to do it.
If you think your betta is seeing his own reflection then not only will he be pacing up and down the side of the tank, but he’ll also be flaring. If you notice both behaviors then you should do what you can to prevent him from seeing himself.
Preventing your betta from seeing his own reflection isn’t as simple as it sounds. But luckily, there are a few things you can try to help reduce the chances.
Dimming The Lights In The Tank
One of the best ways you can stop your betta from seeing his own reflection is by dimming the lights. You don’t need your tank to be pitch black, just darker than the surrounding room. In fact, when my betta was pacing the glass, this helped massively.
While he still did it for a while (he was also in a new tank) it did subside significantly. However, if that doesn’t work there are other things you can do.
Buying A Backdrop
The problem with backdrops is that if you want to view your betta from all angles then you’re not going to be able too. However, luckily it’s not your only option.
Adding More Plants
If you don’t like the idea of adding a backdrop then try adding more plants. Of course, live plants are best, but silk plants should be fine. Avoid plastic plants as much as possible because they can damage your bettas fins.
Place the plants around the sides of the tank. This is going to reduce the chance your betta will see his reflection, and if he does see it, he’ll have to break his line of sight to get around the plant.
This is a much more natural way of doing things, however, it may not be as effective as a backdrop, but it’s still worth a try.
Just Leave It
In some cases, especially with new bettas, this behavior will lessen over time. As he becomes more used to seeing himself constantly, he may just stop chasing.
However, if this behavior goes on for too long or your betta seems extremely stressed (check out the symptoms of stress) then something will need to change.
The Wrong Tank Size
The correct tank size for bettas is a lot bigger than most people think. Many pet stores sell tanks that are 1 gallon or 2 gallons in size and claim that they are big enough. Sometimes they even call them betta tanks. But the truth is these tanks aren’t anywhere near big enough. The smallest tank you should house a betta in is over double the size of those tanks. You should never put your betta in a tank smaller than 5 gallons.
If your betta is in a tank smaller than 5 gallons then he may not only be bored of his surroundings but he probably doesn’t have enough space to swim. And while bettas can live in 1 or 2-gallon size tank they’re definitely not going to be happy.
Would you keep your pet dog in one room their whole life?
The only prevention here is to buy a bigger tank. If your tank is smaller than 5 gallons you should definitely find something a little bit bigger. Also remember, 5 gallons is the smallest you should go, bigger is always better.
And if you’re worried about the upkeep a bigger tank requires then don’t be. It’s easier to take care of a larger tank than a smaller tank. Conditions in larger tanks take longer to deteriorate which means you don’t have to perform water changes etc. as often.
If you have a smaller tank, then here are some of the best 5 gallon tanks for bettas. I’d highly recommend buying one as soon as you can for your betta’s sake.
The Wrong Tank Mates
Some bettas can never be housed with other fish because they’re too aggressive. However, it’s also possible for other fish to be aggressive towards your betta. One of the biggest weaknesses bettas have is the fact they aren’t the fastest swimmers. If you’ve got a fin nipper in your tank that’s faster than your betta then they may be stressing him out.
So the betta glass surfing that you’re seeing may be being caused by this.
This one can be entirely prevented from the beginning. Before adding any other tank mates you need to make sure they’re not going to agitate your betta. However, sometimes fish that are generally seen as peaceful might begin to aggravate your betta as well. In this case, it’s going to be a lot harder to prevent glass surfing.
You could try adding more decorations to your tank and hope the fish create their own territories they can stay in. Failing that you can also use a tank divider (Amazon) to divide your tank in two. This way you won’t have to worry about them coming into contact with each other.
But if it’s only the odd fish that’s doing it you could also move them into another tank if one is available. And, worst case scenario you can always try to take the culprit back to the shop and see if they will have them.
Not Enough Decorations
Bettas are intelligent fish so if their tanks don’t have enough decorations they’re quickly going to become bored. How bare is your tank looking? If everything else on the list is fine with your tank then you should definitely think about the way it looks.
Are there enough places for him to explore? Are there plants and caves he can swim through?
And without enough decorations then your betta may not have anywhere to hide. He may feel like he has to be on patrol all the time. Obviously, this stressful behavior could result in your betta glass surfing.
Prevention here is simple. Just begin adding more things into the tank. If you haven’t tried before then you should definitely consider live plants. There are so many plants that you can add that your betta will love. Betta bulbs, java fern, hornwort, anacharis, java moss, and anubias are all great choices.
But you don’t just have to add plants, there are so many decorations and cave features you can add. (Check out the best decorations for bettas here.)
A New Home
If your betta is settling into a new home then it’s not uncommon for them to glass surf. The stress of being moved from one tank to another (and even from one country to another if you’ve bought him online) may take its toll and cause him to glass surf.
Unfortunately, if this is the case, there’s not a lot you can do except give him time to get used to his new surroundings. However, one thing that might help is API Stress Coat. It’s got added Aloe Vera and it reduces fish stress by 40%
Is Glass Surfing Ever Normal?
To be honest, if you see your betta glass surfing every once in a while it’s nothing to worry about. Sometimes bettas act a little bit wacky and there’s not much you can do about it. And as previously mentioned, there are times when glass surfing is expected. Such as in a new home.
You can also expect glass surfing to occur when anything new happens in his tank as well, such as a water change, decoration changes, new tank mates, and even when people stand close to his tank.
Can Glass Surfing Be Fatal?
Betta glass surfing in itself isn’t going to be fatal, however, the underlying conditions that are causing it could be. If the tank isn’t clean then he’s more susceptible to diseases. Or if you allow your betta to stay stressed then it can have grave consequences.
If you see your betta glass surfing then you should definitely check that everything is okay in and around the tank.
Wondering where you can find a comprehensive guide on Betta fish care? Click here!
So, if your betta is glass surfing then you should figure out what’s causing it as soon as possible. However, just remember that sometimes there’s nothing you’re going to be able to do about it except give it time. If this is the case, then just wait it out and if necessary leave the lights off to help keep him relaxed