6 Reasons Not To Pet Your Betta Fish

There are many things that are very appealing about owning and raising fish, but it can sometimes feel hard to interact with them. Have you ever wondered: Can you pet betta fish?

You should not pet a betta fish, as it can cause them a lot of anxiety and make them act aggressively. Betta fish have been known to bite their owners if they are touched. You also run the risk of seriously harming your betta fish when you try to pet them, which can lead to many complications.

Read ahead in this article to find out all about how betta fish respond to being petted, and discover some safer ways to play with your fish.

Can You Pet Your Fish?

Although fish might not seem like the kind of animals you can pet, some species enjoy a bit of physical touch from their owners. The most important thing to keep in mind is that it all depends on the species. Some species will find being petted very distressing, and it can even cause serious harm, while others will actually enjoy it.

Groupers, koi, cichlids, and discus fish, for example, are all known to like being petted from time to time. With that being said, the majority of fish species are not used to human interactions, so it’s a safer bet to assume that your fish doesn’t want to be touched rather than assume that they do.

If you find out that the species of fish you have does like some physical touch, then you still need to make sure you are being extra careful and incredibly gentle with them. It’s always better to let a fish come to you rather than reach out to it so that you know they are comfortable and feeling safe.

red and blue betta fighting fish top form preparing to fight isolated black background

Do Betta Fish Like To Be Petted?

Betta fish are definitely not a species that likes to be petted. They are generally quite aggressive and solitary fish anyway – they don’t even really like to touch other betta fish. In the wild, they tend to spend the majority of their time completely on their own, and they are very territorial, so they will defend their own space and feel threatened when someone else is inside it.

On the whole, bettas like to be left alone, and they like to feel in control of the territory in their tank.

That’s not to say that betta fish don’t have any level of affection for their owners; it’s just that they are not fans of being touched. Of course, not all betta fish are the same, and some might be less averse to a hand getting too close to them, but, for the most part, it will make them anxious and unhappy.

Can You Pet Your Betta Fish?

Technically, you can pet your betta fish, but it is not a good idea to do so. In fact, it might be safer to think that you actually can’t pet your betta fish if you want them to remain happy and healthy.

If you want a fish that you can pet, then you should look into getting a different species entirely. Larger fish are usually less intimidated by human interaction, so you might want to think about putting together a koi pond in the garden.

Why You Should NOT Pet Your Betta Fish

So, we know that betta fish are not particularly fond of being touched, and they like their own space, but there are actually many reasons why you should not pet your betta fish.

It Makes Them Anxious

The first reason why you shouldn’t pet your betta fish is that it is simply a distressing experience for them. They will likely view you as a threat, and it can make them very anxious and uncomfortable. Stress is a major cause of ill health in betta fish, so you need to make sure you are doing everything you can to help them feel safe and secure.

They Might Bite or Hurt You

If they do view you as a danger to themselves, your betta fish is likely to lash out. They didn’t get the nickname “Siamese Fighting Fish” for nothing, and your betta can cause you serious harm if you are not careful.

They Can Become Shocked

Surprising your fish is actually a lot more dangerous than you might think. Although they are certainly used to reacting quickly in the wild, a sudden shock can be enough to actually kill a betta fish. This is also the reason why you should never tap on the glass of your betta’s tank.

It Makes Them Vulnerable to Disease

Betta fish have a natural coating on their scales that protects them from disease. If you touch them with your hands, you are likely to remove part of that coating and remove this protection.

Bettas that have been touched are much more likely to develop infections or other illnesses, even if they have not been scratched, because their natural defenses become compromised.

They Can Easily Become Injured

Although they can act tough, betta fish are a lot more fragile than you might think. Any kind of human interaction could easily lead to fin tears or general scratches, which can become infected. If you don’t want to cause harm to your betta, it’s best to avoid touching them at all.

You Can Introduce Bacteria to Their Skin

Even if you think your hands are clean, you could well introduce bacteria directly onto your betta’s skin by petting them. Our bodies are used to the natural bacteria that exist all around us, but fish are not designed to be able to fight them off. Bringing this kind of bacteria into direct contact with their bodies is a sure-fire way to transfer something unpleasant to your fish.

How To Play With Your Betta Fish Without Touching Them

So, we know that betta fish do not like to be touched, and we know why you should always avoid petting them, but how can you interact safely with your bettas? There are many different ways to play with a betta fish that are perfectly safe as well as being fun for both of you!

Betta fish are naturally curious and quite intelligent, and they are able to recognize different objects inside and outside of their tank. In fact, your betta will develop affection for you over time and be interested in the things that you do. This means that there are all kinds of games and activities that you can do together.

Get Your Betta To Follow Your Finger

One game you can play together is running your finger back and forth across the tank for your betta to follow. They might not pick up on the game straight away, but when they do, you should be able to get them to swim in all kinds of patterns.

Get Your Betta to Follow a Laser Pointer

Just like cats, bettas will often become fixated on the light that is generated by a laser pointer, so that can be a great way to interact with your fish. It is important, however, that you choose an ethical laser pointer that is designed to be used with pets, and you never shine it directly onto your betta’s body – particularly their eyes!

Get Your Betta To Eat Out of Your Hands

Feeding your betta is a great time for some interaction and play. You can even train them to eat out of your fingers! Start by dropping the food and then keeping your hand just above the water while they eat; then, you can gradually lower your hand each time until they become confident enough to take it from you directly.

Get Your Betta To Jump For Food

Betta fish will actually jump out of the water to catch their food, and you can train your fish to leap for a treat. If they become comfortable enough to eat out of your fingers, then you might be able to advance to holding a small blood worm above the water for your betta to jump and snatch out of the air.

Train Your Betta To Swim Through a Hoop

Floating hoops are a great way to have some fun with your betta. You can make a simple hoop out of a bit of pipe cleaner or some plastic and then use some of their favorite treats to encourage your betta to swim through it.

Train Your Betta to Jump Through a Hoop

If your betta gets the hang of swimming through a hoop, you can try holding it above the water and encouraging them to jump up and through it. Do be careful not to overfeed your betta fish while you are training, though, as this can cause problems for their health.

Teach Your Betta Fish to Play Hide and Seek

With a little patience, you can teach your betta to hunt down specific objects in their tank. This game usually works best with something bright and colorful that they will be able to recognize easily.

First, introduce them to the object that you want them to find, and then give them a reward when they touch it. Once they learn that touching the object will get them a treat, you can start hiding it in the tank so that they can enjoy hunting it down.

Let Your Betta Fish Play With a Ball

A floating ball, like a ping pong ball, can provide a lot of entertainment for your betta fish, and there’s not a lot you usually need to do to get them playing. Betta fish like to explore and investigate new things in their environment, so they are likely to start interacting with a ball simply because it is there.

Give Your Betta Other Toys to Play With

There are many other fish toys that you can also introduce to your betta’s tank. Floating logs, floating leaves, aquarium plants, and basically any interactable decorations you can think of are a great way to see your betta fish having some fun.

Give Them New Things to Look At

Betta fish are always interested in their environment, and you can attract your betta’s attention very easily by placing something new outside their tank. Changing up their environment a bit will keep your betta from getting bored, and it’s very easy to do.

Show Them A Mirror

This is a slightly more controversial game that some betta owners like to play, as it is not completely known whether or not it might cause distress for your fish. If you place a mirror up against your betta’s tank, then they will usually view it as a rival, often flaring and demonstrating their intimidation skills.

If you do want to try showing your betta their reflection, it’s best to keep these sessions as short as possible so that your fish doesn’t actually become frightened or aggressive.

FAQ

Will Touching A Betta Fish Kill It?

Touching your betta probably won’t kill it, but you just don’t want to take the risk. Petting a betta fish might not always cause them to become seriously harmed, but it certainly can lead to their death if they develop an infection, get a serious injury, or are overly shocked by the encounter.

Recap: Can You Pet Betta Fish?

So, can you pet betta fish? Not really. Although it is possible to gently touch your betta fish, it is likely to make them unhappy, and it can even cause them harm. Bettas do not like to be petted, and they will often become highly agitated, if not aggressive when touched.

Petting your betta fish can also be detrimental to their health. You can introduce bacteria directly to their skin, cause injuries to their fins, and damage the natural protective layer that keeps them safe from infections. Betta fish that are touched are much more likely to suffer from illness and injury than those that are left alone.

There are, however, many different fun ways to interact and play with your betta fish. They are known to recognize their owners and can even be trained to do all kinds of tricks. Bettas also like to play with toys, and they are naturally curious and inquisitive. Even though they don’t like to be petted, bettas are some of the most fun fish to look after!