Bettas are active fish and love to explore. But, these colorful creatures are not always on full display.
You may look into the aquarium and see your betta in its favorite hiding spot.
So, should you be worried if your betta fish is hiding?
It is completely normal behavior for a betta fish to hide. In their natural habitat, bettas hide under plants when they sense predators nearby. You only need to worry when your betta hides more than usual. Constant hiding may be a sign your betta is sick or injured.
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Why Do Betta Fish Hide?
Betta fish in captivity hide for a multitude of reasons.
These intelligent fish are naturally curious and sensitive to changes in their environment.
Hiding spots give bettas a sense of security and a place to rest.
If your betta spends a lot of time in its hiding spots, there could be a cause for concern.
#1 Not Enough Hiding Spaces
It may seem like a contradiction, but when bettas do not have ample hiding spots, they hide more.
Your betta will likely spend more time in one hiding spot when there is nowhere else to go.
Wild bettas do not like open spaces because it puts them at risk of predator attacks. This instinct is passed on to captive-bred bettas.
Provide your betta fish with multiple hiding spots, such as:
- Live plants
- Smooth coconut caves
- Betta logs
- Smooth rocks
Avoid hiding spots with sharp or rough edges. It is easy for a betta to injure its gills or fins on rough surfaces.
Sand down rough edges and choose objects with rounded shapes for hiding spots.
Several varieties of live plants offer your betta a hiding place. Some good options include Java Fern, Amazon Sword, and Anubias.
Live plants have several advantages over fake plants. They increase oxygen levels in the water and keep your water parameters balanced.
A densely planted tank creates a more realistic environment for your betta.
If you choose fake plants, pay attention to what they are made of.
Artificial plants with plastic leaves are hazardous to bettas because of their sharp edges. Silk plants are a much safer option for betta fish.
Driftwood is a good choice for betta hiding spots because it releases tannins in the water. Tannins lower your water’s pH and contain antifungal properties.
Do not add more than one piece of driftwood in a smaller tank. Too many tannins cause the pH levels to drop too low, making the water dark brown.
#2 The Water Current Is Too Strong
Another common reason your betta hides a lot could be the strong current from your water filter.
Bettas do not swim well in strong filter currents because of their flowy fins and tails. They become tired from swimming and spend more time in their hiding spots.
Your betta may spend more time hiding below the filter intake, where the current is weaker.
Angling the filter output so it comes out of the water slows the current and provides better aeration.
You may consider poking tiny holes in the output hose as well. Add only one hole at a time until the current is slow enough for your betta.
Covering the nozzle with a filter sponge is the most effective method to slow your filter’s current. The sponge allows the filter to work properly while greatly reducing the water flow.
When choosing a filter for your betta tank, pay attention to the flow rate. The filter flow rate is measured in gallons per hour or GPH.
Ideally, the filter should cycle all the water in the tank 4 to 6 times per hour. For a 5-gallon betta tank, look for a filter with a GPH between 20-30.
An adjustable flow filter is the best choice for a betta tank. This filter allows you to decrease the water movement if it is too strong for your betta.
#3 The Lights Are Too Bright
A betta’s natural environment is full of plants for shade. One reason your betta hides may be the bright fish tank lights.
Aquarium lights are only necessary if you have a planted tank. If turning the light off causes your betta to come out of hiding, it is too bright.
Consider an adjustable light for a planted tank. The lower light settings are better for your betta fish while providing light for your plants.
Another option is adding floating plants to your betta tank. Duckweed and Frogbit float at the top of the tank, providing shade for your betta and filtering light to plant life.
Floating plants may occasionally need to be thinned out. These fast-growing plants will block out all the light if they are too dense.
An added benefit of a dimmer environment is less algae growth.
#4 Poor Water Quality
High ammonia and nitrite levels may cause your betta to hide more often. Incorrect pH and temperatures also encourage hiding behavior in bettas.
If your betta always hides behind the filter unit, toxins in the water are the likely culprit. Your betta stays close to the filter unit for access to fresher water.
Check for toxins in the aquarium with a water test kit. You must take action if ammonia or nitrite levels are higher than 0 parts per million.
Your betta is also prone to bacterial and fungal infections in a dirty tank.
A partial water change helps correct the water parameters in the tank. Do not change more than 20-25 percent of the water at one time.
Removing too much water from the tank stresses your betta and disturbs the water parameters.
It takes several weeks for a complete nitrogen cycle to balance the water parameters again.
Adding an ammonia detoxifier neutralizes the excess ammonia in the tank and works almost immediately.
The water pH levels in your betta tank should be close to 7.0, which is neutral.
Lower pH levels if too high by adding a piece of driftwood to the tank. When pH levels are too low, raise them with coral sand or more frequent water changes.
Correct water temperatures are also crucial for a healthy, active betta fish. Ideal water temperatures in a betta tank range from 78-80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C).
Never make sudden changes to your betta tank. Drastic changes to your water parameters may cause your betta to go into shock.
#5 New Tank Environment
When you bring your betta home, it may hide until it feels secure in the new environment. This is normal behavior for a new betta fish.
Rearranging the tank layout may also cause your betta to hide until it is used to the change.
There is no need to worry when your betta hides in its new home.
Once your betta is comfortable, it will become more active and stop hiding so much.
It may take up to a couple of weeks before your betta adjusts and resumes normal behavior.
Always acclimate your betta to its new home before placing it in the tank.
Ensure your tank has had at least six weeks to complete a nitrogen cycle.
The sudden change in temperature and water parameters may cause the betta to go into shock.
Set aside at least 30 minutes to introduce your betta to its new home.
Slowly drip water from your tank into the betta’s cup. This allows your new betta to get used to the new aquarium water conditions.
As the water volume in the cup doubles, remove one-third of it. Do this several times until all the water in the cup is from your tank.
After you release your betta into the tank, the fish may immediately search for a hiding spot. Hiding allows your betta to feel safe until it gets used to the new surroundings.
#6 Injured Betta Fish
An injured betta is a target for predators, so it will hide until it heals.
Check your betta for signs of an injury when it comes out of hiding.
Signs of injury in betta fish include:
- Blackened or bloody fins
- Ragged or torn fins
- Red streaks on the body
- Inflamed gills
- Fuzzy patches or white spots on the body, gills, or fins
- Open sores or cuts on the body
- Infections like Popeye, Velvet, or Ich
Adding aquarium salt to the tank encourages wound healing. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label for the correct dosage.
Secondary bacterial infections may need antibiotics.
Set up a separate hospital tank to give your betta medication doses. Certain medications harm plant life and the beneficial bacteria in the main tank.
Sick bettas are just as vulnerable as injured ones. They also hide more often.
Common symptoms of illness in betta fish include:
- Loss of appetite
- Faded colors
- Rapid breathing
- Damaged swims
- Erratic movement when swimming
Check out our list of common betta diseases for more help diagnosing and treating specific illnesses.
Treatment for sickness in bettas is similar to treating injuries.
Aquarium salt helps with mild illnesses. Severe diseases need antibiotics or antifungal medications.
Place your betta fish in a separate hospital tank for medication doses.
The cause of many diseases is poor water quality. Perform a partial water change in the main tank to improve water conditions.
Once your betta receives the correct medication, place the fish back in the clean tank.
If your betta does not have enough stimulation, the fish becomes depressed.
Depression in betta fish causes them to hide and may also affect their appetite.
Avoid depression in your betta by providing plenty of toys and decorations in the tank.
The smallest tank size for your betta to be comfortable is 5 gallons. If the tank is too small, there is no room for decorations or places to explore.
If your betta is housed in a 10-gallon tank or larger and has a docile temperament, consider adding tank mates.
Snails, shrimp, and algae-eating fish add visual stimulation to the betta tank. As a bonus, these tank mates feed on excess algae.
An exercise mirror is another great stimulating activity for betta fish.
When a betta sees its reflection, the fish flares to defend its territory. This kind of stimulation awakens the betta’s instincts and helps prevent depression.
#9 Change in External Environment
Moving your betta tank to a different room may cause your fish to hide.
If there is a lot of movement or noise in the new room, your betta may be frightened.
Bettas can feel vibrations through the tank water and hear the noise. Loud sounds near the tank cause the betta to search for a hiding spot.
Sudden movements also stress your betta and cause it to hide more often.
Keep your betta tank away from busy areas of your home. Likewise, do not place your betta tank in a room where the fish is isolated.
Bettas enjoy stimulation near the tank as long as it is not too much.
Your betta may watch you move about the room or become fascinated by the television.
When interacting with your betta, approach the tank slowly to avoid startling your fish.
Avoid placing your betta tank near a sunny window or an air conditioning vent. These areas cause fluctuations in tank temperature, which is unhealthy for your betta.
#10 Aggressive Tank Mates
Bettas are naturally aggressive fish and are known to fight each other.
Never place two male bettas in the same tank without a divider between them.
Female betta fish may be housed in sororities up to six but must be watched for aggressive behavior.
If you have a larger tank of 20 gallons or more, you may add other fish species for a community tank.
Avoid fish with large, colorful fins, as your betta may want to fight them.
The tank mates must have a docile temperament, or they will attack your betta.
Make sure you have the right tank mates for your betta fish by clicking the link and reading our in-depth article.
Your betta will hide from aggressive tank mates because it feels unsafe.
If you think other tank mates bully your betta, separate them immediately.
So, Should You Stop Your Betta From Hiding?
Hiding is a natural behavior for betta fish.
There is no need to interrupt your betta’s hiding behavior as long as your fish is healthy.
If your betta is hiding more than usual or you suspect an illness or injury, you must check on your fish.
Test your water parameters to ensure they are ideal for your betta.
Provide your betta with plenty of hiding spaces and stimulating tank decorations to keep your fish happy.
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