If you stop to watch your betta for a few minutes you will see him surface, sticking his mouth above water, to suck in air. Though they have gills, they still rely on their labyrinth organ (similar to lungs) to gain oxygen from the atmosphere. This allows them to survive in poorly oxygenated waters where other fish species would suffocate and parish. Betta fish spend much of their resting time floating near the surface. They will even sleep there if they have a surface to rest on or against. In their natural habitat bettas will hoist themselves onto submerged leaves and other debris where they can relax comfortably and still get the air they need. If there is not a surface to perch on in their aquarium they will find other ways to rest their wary fins. You may find your betta wedged between the filter and tank glass or simply squished into a corner.
There are several ways you can provide a platform for your betta to rest near the water’s surface.
- Live or silk plants. Keeping a variety of live or synthetic aquarium plants in your aquarium will not only make your betta feel more secure (like he has a place to hide) but it will also allow him to choose from a variety of places where he can relax. Choose plants of varying heights and textures so your betta has options.
- Floating logs. Zoo Med Laboratories has created a Floating Betta Log specifically designed for betta fish. It not only floats, it has a hole so that bettas can surface or blow a bubblenest in a calm environment. This is one of the best product ideas I have seen designed specifically for bettas as they are catering to the species’ natural instincts. I haven’t seen one in action yet but have heard good things from our readers who have them.
- Zoo Med Labs has also created a Betta Leaf Hammock. The suction cup allows you to adjust the floating synthetic leaf so it floats in just the right spot. I have also used floating feeding rings in a similar manner. The rings have a Styrofoam insert that keeps it at the surface. Bettas love to blow bubblenests in them as well as float inside the ring.
- Styrofoam cups are frequently used by betta fish breeders to create a secure place for the male to build a bubblenest. In breeding the cup is cut in half lengthwise and placed at the surface so that the convex portion protrudes from above water. If you are just looking to make a hammock for your betta, flip the cup over so that the majority of it is suspended underwater.
Offering your betta a place to rest near the surface will help to reduce stress and create a feeling of security for your fish. For sick or weakened bettas, this is particularly important so they are able to reserve some of their energy, focusing on healing rather than straining to reach the surface to breathe.