Betta Fish Hiding – Common Reasons Why, And What To Do


betta fish hiding

Betta fish, also known as Siamese fighting fish, are some of the most popular freshwater aquarium pets. These beautiful and graceful creatures can be a joy to watch. But there may come a time when your betta takes refuge in a corner or underneath something. So why is your betta fish hiding?

Betta fish may be hiding for many reasons, and I have listed some of the most common below:

  • Your betta doesn’t like the light.
  • Your betta’s tank is too small.
  • Your betta wants to avoid other tank mates.
  • The current in their tank is too strong.
  • Your betta may be sick or injured.
  • Your betta is depressed.

It is important that you understand which type of behavior your betta fish is exhibiting so that you can provide it with an appropriate environment or take other steps necessary to solve the problem.

In this post, we’ll look at some of the most common reasons betta fish hide out in corners of their tank or underneath things and what you can do if your betta is exhibiting this kind of behavior.

Bettas won’t generally hide unless they are uncomfortable, so your main aim should be to improve the health and happiness of your pet.

Make sure to check out our Betta Fish Care Guide And Species Overview.

Why Does My Betta Fish Hide In The Corners Of The Tank

In the wild, a betta’s environment provides them with plenty of hiding places. They are voracious hunters, so bettas typically hide amongst plants, and they will vastly prefer to be hidden than out in the open.

If your betta is hiding out in the corners of their tank, you can probably blame their new environment. Your tank setup should take into consideration a betta’s need for hiding spots. If your betta does not have a good hiding place, it will naturally retreat to the edges of the tank and will often sit behind the filter.

1. How much light Do Betta Fish Need

People often think that bettas enjoy the bright lights you find on tanks with many different kinds of light setups, but bettas actually prefer dimmer light because their natural environment would not have bright, sunny areas.

In the wild, a bettas environment would be heavily planted, providing plenty of naturally dark areas to hide, so if your tank lights are too bright or you leave them on for most of the day and night without providing shaded areas for them to hide, they will find the dimmest corner of their tank and hide there.

Why not read my post about how well betta fish can see in the dark.

2. Do bettas like plants

As I have mentioned above, plants make up a large portion of a wild bettas natural habitat, and they provide plenty of natural shade and hiding spots.

Floating plants are a popular choice for a betta tank as they are not too dense and will sit at the water surface, blocking some of the harsh light from penetrating.

It doesn’t really matter if you are using live plants or artificial plants. They will serve the same purpose by giving your betta somewhere to hide, other than the corners of your betta tank.

Plants For Betta Fish
Plants And Ornaments Are Good Decoration For A Betta’s Aquarium

If you choose to utilize fake plants, you will not get the same benefits as real ones, such as an increase in tank oxygen levels and promoting beneficial bacteria growth that will keep your tank water balanced. Whether you use real or artificial plants to provide some natural shade, both will be enough.

Many newer betta owners will keep a fairly bare tank, which is far from the perfect environment for a betta fish. A betta will feel threatened and constantly exposed with nothing to hide behind.

Betta fish will feel safe when they have plenty of hiding places to choose from and will more likely stay out in the open for longer. Ornaments or small cave-like decoration will provide some hiding spaces and can provide your tank with some character.

If you are really interested in setting up your betta tank correctly, I have an article here: Setting Up A Betta Tank (The Right Way!).

3. Is the water current in your tank too strong

Wild bettas are used to slow-moving water, so if the filter you are using is too strong for its tank size, the created current will also be too strong and cause your betta to hide away.

If the water current is too strong, bettas tend to seek shelter behind the filter or below at the filter intake, where the current is at its weakest. If you find your betta hanging around these areas, you can be pretty confident that your filter flow rate is too strong.

When you purchase a filter, make sure that it is suitable for the size of your tank, or buy an adjustable flow filter that has a low setting. Betta fish do like some water movement providing they can easily swim into and play in a slow-moving current. A slower current will also provide your betta with some exercise.

If you cannot reduce the flow rate of your filter, the best option is to raise the outlet or output hose above the water level by an inch or two, keeping the intake beneath the water. This will cause the water to drip down into the tank causing more of a disturbance to the surface water but will reduce the general flow rate.

By raising the filter, you will also improve the level of dissolved oxygen that enters the water.

Is Your Betta Tank Too Small

If your betta tank is too small, a betta will feel exposed and at risk from threats. A betta’s instinct is to protect itself from predators, and it will need space to run if necessary. A betta that feels confined with nowhere to run will be under constant stress and want to hide most of the time.

small betta tank
Some people believe that betta fish will happily lie in small confined spaces which is not true.

Many people believe that because you may find wild betta fish in tiny puddles and sluggish streams, they can also thrive in tiny tanks. Although betta fish can live in very shallow water, they require space to swim and hide. The puddles and streams they dwell in may be shallow, but they are quite expansive and provide ample territory for several bettas to live peacefully.

I will not talk in-depth about what tank size is best for a betta fish, but ideally, you will want to consider looking at 5 gallons and upwards. A 5 gallons tank is generally too small, and instead, a 15-20 gallon tank would be ideal for even a single betta fish.

Your Betta Wants To Avoid Other Tank Mates

If your betta lives in a community tank with other tank mates, they may occasionally want to isolate themselves from the other inhabitants. This isn’t just a bettas behavior, and it’s something that many other types of fish will also do.

When bettas hide, it commonly signifies that they’re feeling overstressed or threatened in some way. Many bettas live with tank mates that they don’t get along with, and some of these fish can be real fin nippers which isn’t good news for a betta with long-flowing fins.

Try rearranging your tank layout if you notice your betta hiding or burrowing underneath decorations or under plants. If you’re keeping bettas with other fish, do your research to find the best tank mates that will be the least threatening.

Under no circumstances should you risk keeping 2 male betta fish in the same tank as you will just be asking for trouble. Male betta fish are best kept apart, or you will see many bouts of aggression and fin flaring, which is quite normal behavior between male bettas.

Betta fish are even known to become aggressive towards their own reflection in the tank glass, and you can witness this behavior by introducing a mirror into the fish tank.

Mirrors are a much better way of providing your betta with some company as they can be introduced for short periods before being removed again, and the betta can come to very little harm from a mirror.

I have a post titled “Do betta fish like mirrors” which is an interesting read and explains in a little more detail the benefits of using a mirror in your betta tank.

You May Have A Sick Or Injured Betta

If you have a sick or injured betta, it will naturally feel less able to defend itself from threats and will often hide away until it has recovered.

Several illnesses need to be considered, with the most common being Fin Rot and Ich (White Spot). I do have an article about fin rot that may be useful to you, which you can find here: What Causes Fin Rot In Bettas (Symptoms & Treatment Guide)

Illness In Betta Fish

Many diseases are difficult to detect, and many are caused by stress, which reduces a betta fish’s immunity to specific germs and allows a bacterial infection to occur.

If you believe that an illness is to blame, you should first examine the water parameters in your betta tank. A healthy and balanced tank will help you to keep healthy fish.

The water parameters to check are:

  • Ammonia, Nitrate and Nitrite levels.
  • The water pH level.
  • Water temperature.
  • Test for the presence of chlorine and other chemicals.

Water quality problems are a primary cause of fish disease and can result in bacterial infections or nitrite poisoning. If food and fish waste build up in your aquarium, ammonia levels will rise, causing a sudden spike in nitrate and nitrite levels.

Nitrite poisoning is extremely dangerous, so you will need to monitor your betta fish very closely for signs of stress or illness. Using a liquid betta test kit from your local fish store, you can test the betta’s water for nitrite poisoning. If possible, it’s always better to prevent an issue rather than cure it after the betta fish has been exposed to the toxins.

aquarium water test kits
Use a test kit to regularly test your fish tank water parameters

Understanding general betta behavior is a good way of knowing whether or not your betta fish is healthy. A betta should be very active, constantly exploring their tank and flaring to show their betta colors off to their best effect.

If you notice any unusual behavior from your betta, such as laying on the bottom of the betta tank, shying away from betta fish food, or generally looking like it’s not feeling well, then you probably have a sick betta.

Injury In Betta Fish

Injury can also cause your betta to hide away. If other fish have caused the injury, you will need to stop further incidents, or your betta will not want to be an active member of the tank.

If you can see obvious damage to your betta’s scales or fins, the damage has likely been caused by fighting, however, as I have already mentioned above, fin rot is common among betta fish and can look similar. Injury can also progress into fin rot, so a suitable treatment may be necessary.

Do Betta Fish Get Depressed

Betta fish do get depressed, and why wouldn’t they, stuck in a tank away from their natural habitat. All animals have natural instincts which are dulled down in captivity, which can cause a betta to become unmotivated and depressed.

Depression can show itself in several ways such as:

  • Hiding away in the tank.
  • Lack of appetite or your betta just stops eating altogether.
  • Unusual behavior such as biting their own fins.

Exercise is a good way to keep your betta interested, and there are many toys that you can either purchase online or even try to make yourself.

A simple betta ball is a very popular toy. It is a simple floating ball, often with different patterns or colors, which will float at the surface. If you find your betta fish is hiding, pop a betta ball in the tank. Once your betta gets used to it, you may find that your betta will spend many hours pushing it around.

If you don’t have a betta ball, a simple ping pong ball will do. You can color it in or draw patterns on it to make the ball a little more interesting.

A Betta Fish Playing With His Exercise Mirror

I have also mentioned earlier in this post that betta mirrors are a good form of exercise. The sight of their reflection may initially cause some aggression from your betta and lead to gill flaring, but this is natural and will help your betta let go of some pent-up energy.

Unless your betta grows overly attached to the mirror, I would only use it only for short periods of around 15-20 minutes.

As with people, exercise is a great way of beating the blues and getting rid of depression. If you can coax your betta from its hiding spot and create a new routine for them, you may find your betta hides less and will begin to look forward to some playtime.

Conclusion

So as you can see, a betta fish can hide for a multitude of reasons, from poor water quality, bullying tank mates, and right up to general depression.

The more you know your betta, the easier it will be to establish the problem. The environment is often the cause, and we have a guide to Setting Up A Betta Tank (The Right Way) if you are interested.

Hopefully, this guide has given you a few things to think about, and I hope it helps you solve your betta hiding problem. Maybe you have gained some insights into better betta care along the way.

Frequently Asked Questions

Jon O'Connell

I have kept both marine and freshwater fish and set up almost 100 aquariums. Happy to share my knowledge and experience to help others enjoy keeping healthy and happy fish.

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