Do Betta Fish Get Depressed? (How To Make Your Betta Fish Happy)

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Last Updated on 2023-10-23

Has your betta lost his usual charm? Instead of swimming around his tank, does he seems to be moping around and unhappy?  Maybe this behavior has been going on for so long, you may even be asking yourself, “Do betta fish get depressed?”

Well, this article is going to give you all the information you need on betta depression as well as how to make your betta fish happy!

Key Takeaways:

  • Betta fish can experience depression, and their well-being is affected by various factors.
  • Symptoms of a depressed betta fish include loss of appetite, fin clamping, lethargy, fading color, hiding, erratic swimming patterns, and increased aggression.
  • To make a betta fish happy, ensure they have an adequately sized tank (at least 5 gallons), provide plenty of decorations, add plants, rearrange their tank periodically, and consider introducing compatible tank mates.
  • Signs of a happy betta fish include active swimming, a healthy appetite, the creation of bubble nests, and interest in their surroundings.

Do Betta Fish Get Depressed?

As much as you love your betta, it can be hard to think fish can get depressed. After all, we’ve been told our whole lives that fish aren’t intelligent. Well, the more you watch your betta the more you’ll begin to notice he’s extremely intelligent in his own way.

And, it’s true, that if your bettas needs aren’t met he can quickly become depressed. And it’s not just bettas.

When it comes to depression, fish are fairly similar to people. And in the future, they may be critical for helping humans develop effective anti-depressants!

A study on zebrafish, for example, found they will stay at the bottom of any tank they are introduced to when they are depressed. Whereas when they’re not, they’ll dart around the whole tank exploring as much as they can!

So now that you know that bettas are fully capable of getting depressed, the next step is spotting the symptoms.

What Are The Symptoms Your Betta Is Unhappy Or Depressed?

There are a number of different symptoms that you should keep an eye out for. After all, if depression is left unchecked, it’s going to have some severe consequences.

Uninterested In Food

One of the most common signs that something is wrong with your betta is when they’re uninterested in food. Normally bettas are extremely gutty, if you notice your betta no longer wants to eat, then you should begin checking to see what’s wrong with him.

When you can rule out any form of illness or disease, then you should begin treating your betta as if he’s depressed.

As well as being uninterested other symptoms can include loss of weight, picking at food, and more food waste than usual on the substrate.

Fin Clamping

When a betta’s fins are clamped close to its body instead of being open and spread out, it may suggest discomfort or unhappiness. As well as fin clamping, when your betta is unhappy, it could also be a sign that they’re sick or have a weakened immune system

Lethargic And Uninterested

Your betta may also become lethargic and uninterested in swimming around his tank. Most often you’ll see him sat in one place, and when he finally moves he won’t move far. It may even seem like he’s floating in one space for extended periods of time.

Don’t confuse being lethargic with resting. Sometimes you’ll notice your betta lounging around a leaf. When he’s doing this he’s probably resting. It’s only if he never moves that you should start to worry.

He Doesn’t Care About You

Also, you’ll probably notice when your betta is happy he’ll come to see you when you visit his tank. When a betta is depressed this generally won’t happen.

Instead of coming to the edge of the tank to look, he’ll just pay no attention to you.

Fading Color

When there’s something really wrong with your betta they often end up losing their color. You’ll notice your betta losing his vibrancy and becoming dull when he’s depressed.

As well as that you may begin to notice stress stripes on his side and his color just won’t look as good as it did before.

These stripes can also be caused by stress, and they’re often known as stress stripes! Just like depression, you should know how to treat stress in bettas.

However, in some cases, a loss of color can also be a symptom of hole in the head, a disease which can quickly become fatal when left untreated.

Frequent Hiding

If a betta is consistently hiding in caves, plants, or other decorations in the tank and avoids coming out into the open, it may indicate that the fish is not feeling secure or comfortable in its environment.

Erratic Swimming Patterns

Unhappy bettas may exhibit erratic or frantic swimming patterns, such as swimming rapidly back and forth or repeatedly hitting the sides of the tank. However, erratic swimming patterns can also be signs of things like swim bladder disease, temperature shock, ammonia poisoning and more!


And lastly, in some cases, you may notice increased aggression. If he’s with other tank mates that he never had an issue with before he may begin to attack them.

And he may also begin flaring regularly which is also going to stress his body and weaken his immune system.

blue betta

How To Make Your Betta Fish Happy

Fortunately, when you notice that your betta is depressed there are things you can do to make him feel better. In fact, most of these things you should be doing anyway, but if you’re not, now is a great time to start.

Key AspectTips to Make Your Betta Fish Happy
Tank SizeProvide a tank of at least 5 gallons for your Betta. Bigger is better.
Tank DecorationsAdd caves, floating leaves, ornaments, and toys for entertainment.
PlantsInclude live plants or silk plants to mimic their natural environment.
Tank RearrangementChange the tank layout from time to time to keep the environment fresh.
Tank MatesConsider introducing compatible tank mates (based on Betta’s temperament).
High-Quality FoodFeed your Betta a mix of high-quality foods, including live and frozen options.
InteractionInteract with your Betta by gently engaging with them and providing stimulation.

Make Sure His Tank is Big Enough

One of the biggest things you can do to keep your betta happy is giving him enough room to swim. Don’t buy into the belief that a betta tank only needs to be a gallon in size. Not only is this not true, but it’s also cruel.

If you own a betta, you shouldn’t house him in anything smaller than 5 gallons. And when it comes to tank size, bigger is always better. Where possible, you want to put him in the biggest tank possible, there’s no such thing as too big.

If you’re housing your betta in a tank smaller than 5 gallons then you should think about upgrading the tank ASAP. Here are some of the best 5 gallon tanks you can buy for your betta! (And if you want to know more about size requirements for bettas then read this article.)

Plenty Of Decorations

You should also add decorations to your tank to help keep your betta entertained. Caves, floating leaves, ornaments and toy are all great! They’re going to keep your betta intrigued and all the time he’s exploring he won’t be depressed.

Just make sure you’re adding lots of tunnels and caves so your betta has plenty of places to hide.

Here’s a list of all the best decorations you should add to your betta tank.

Add Plants

It always helps to add plants to your tank as well to match your bettas natural environment. While live plants are always more natural in a betta tank, they aren’t always practical.

If you’re going to keep live plants then java fern, java moss, anacaharis, hornwort, and anubias are all great choices!

However, don’t feel like you have to stick with them. If you don’t want live plants then you can also add silk plants. Avoid plastic plants when you can though because they can often damage your betta.

Rearranging His Tank

And every once in a while you should move things around in his tank. This will give him a whole new environment to explore and make the tank feel brand new.

Think about how you feel when you move around a room in your house and it feels fresh and new, your betta will feel the same way!

(A little tip as well as rearranging the tank why not introduce things outside the tank. Placing new stimulus outside the tank will intrigue your betta and make the environment feel new as well.)

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Introduce Your Betta To Other Tank Mates

Betta’s are solitary fish, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep them alone. In fact, there are many fish that can be housed with bettas. You just have to know what your betta’s temperament is like.

If you know your betta is peaceful then why not try adding some bottom dwellers such as otocinclus catfish, corydoras, or plecos?

And if you don’t fancy fish, then you’re not limited by them either! Dwarf crayfish, shrimp, snails, and African dwarf frogs all make great tank mates as well!

Feed Him High-Quality Food

Make sure you’re feeding your betta high-quality food as well as a wide variety of food. A problem with a lot of food that people buy is that it lacks nutrition.

When your betta isn’t getting the required nutrition that he needs it’s no wonder that he’ll become depressed.

When feeding your betta try to give him a mix of live and frozen food such as daphnia, mosquito larvae and brine shrimp. Every once in a while you can also give him some bloodworms as well.

On top of this if you plan on feeding your betta pellets stick to something like Aqueon Betta Pellets. They are perfectly balanced nutritionally so your betta will get everything he needs from them.

Interact With Your Betta

You should also interact with your betta from time to time. Place your finger slightly above the water until he jumps out of it (just make sure he doesn’t jump out of the tank).

You can also try talking to him, or letting him play with a mirror for a couple of minutes a day!


Signs Of A Happy Betta

If you’re doing all of this then your betta should come out of his depression and be happy again in no time. Once your betta is happy, you should be aware of the way he acts. So, if something does go wrong you’ll notice it quickly. Here are common signs of happiness in bettas.

A Lot Of Swimming

You should notice your betta swimming around a lot in his tank unless of course, he’s resting. Make sure you notice him swimming quickly around the tank from time to time, as well as spending a good portion of the day moving around.

But don’t worry if you notice him lounging on a leaf because they love doing this too. Just make sure he’s not spending all his time doing that.

A Healthy Appetite

This is the biggest indicator that your betta is happy. Bettas love to eat, so if you notice him eating then he’s still happy! The moment you notice that he’s not eating and he’s not sick then you should try moving his tank around.

Making Bubble Nests

Another great sign that your betta is happy is when he’s making a bubble nest. Your betta will only make a bubble nest when he’s extremely comfortable and happy in his tank.

If you notice a bubble nest then you should pat yourself on the back because you’re doing an excellent job as a betta owner. However, don’t get downtrodden if you don’t see a bubble nest because not all bettas will make them.

Following You Around

When you approach your tank happy bettas will normally begin to follow you intently and watch you. The fact that he’s showing interest in what’s happening around him is a sign that he’s still engaged and happy!

So if you notice your betta following you around it’s another great sign that he’s still happy and not depressed!

Here are 10 signs of a happy betta fish explained in a video by Aqua Diary

How To Tell If Your Betta Fish Is Unhappy?

As well as looking for signs of happiness, there are a few ways to tell if your betta is unhappy as well. So make sure you’re looking for the following:

Why Is It Important To Keep Your Betta Happy?

You should want to keep your betta happy just for his wellbeing. However, there are many practical reasons that you should try to avoid a depressed betta.

The biggest one being that a depressed betta will have his immune system compromised. The depression itself combined with the lethargy and lack of eating is the perfect way to weaken his immune system and make him vulnerable to disease. Find out more about how you can improve your betta’s lifespan as well as how long they live!

And if you’re housing your betta with others and he becomes depressed and aggressive then he could end up killing your other fish.

And lastly, if your betta loses his color he’s not going to look as beautiful as he did before, so you’ll want him to get his color back ASAP.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, if your betta is depressed then you should act appropriately to make sure he cheers up as quickly as he can. If you don’t then he may end up getting sick and dying.

Now you have all the knowledge you need to know how to make your betta fish happy! However if you have any more questions you can leave them below, otherwise, I hope you and your betta have a great day!


Ultimate Betta Fish Care Guide
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