How To Tell If Your Betta Fish Is Happy

by Aquarium Scoop | Last Updated: January 25, 2023

Wondering if your Betta fish is happy? We’ll cover the signs of a happy betta and how to keep them that way.

In this guide you’ll learn:

  • Signs of a happy, healthy Betta
  • How to tell if your betta is sick
  • Signs of stress


Betta fish, Siamese Fighting Fish, or Betta splendens, first observed in the rice paddies and streams of Siam, Thailand, are now one of the most famous ornamental fishes. Their beautiful colors and silk-like fins have held aquarists in awe for many years. They are known to be quite hardy and are perfect entry-level fishes.

Betta Fish Happiness and Health

A fish’s happiness will always be connected to its health and good health is directly related to a good environment or habitat. It’s no different for Bettas. Proper water conditions should be kept to build a Betta’s immunity and keep it healthy. Good health leads to a happy and active Betta fish.

6 Signs of a Happy and Healthy Betta Fish

Bright Colors

A Betta at the peak of health and happiness will have bright colors. The red colors in Bettas, in particular, are prone to fading if your Betta is suffering from health issues. 

Intact and Open Fins

Healthy and happy Betta fish will have intact fins that are not clamped. They should easily open and billow when swimming or when your Betta is active.

Alert and Engaged

Your Betta should be alert and engaged when you are interacting with it or when it’s feeding time. It should react to visual cues and actively swim to and fro its tank. If your Betta is familiar with you, it may even dart in and out of plants or follow your finger when it sees you near the tank.

Eating Well

A happy and healthy Betta should respond well to food. They should actively swim towards their food and readily eat it. 

Bubble Nests

Male Bettas may make bubble nests even without the presence of a female betta. They do this when they are satisfied with their environment or habitat conditions which is a good sign that they are also happy.

Swimming Actively

Happy and healthy Bettas will be swimming actively in their tanks. They should not be swimming lopsidedly, which can signify a swim bladder disease. 

5 Signs of a Stressed or Sick Betta Fish

Hiding, Darting, and Erratic Swimming Behavior

Bettas excessively hiding or darting to and fro might be suffering from stress or a health issue. Watch for lopsided or erratic swimming behavior as well. If you observe this, check for other signs of illness and double-check their tank’s water quality parameters.

Duller, Faded, or Muted Colors and White Spots

Changes in skin color can point to a stressed Betta, which is often a result of some infection caused by poor water conditions or an injury. Watch out for white spots on their scales, which may signify ich or fungal infection.

📚 Read More >> Why Is My Betta Fish Losing Color?

Stress Stripes

Stress stripes can develop in Bettas but this is more prominent in females. This discoloration may also occur when your female Betta is ready to mate or reproduce. Check for other signs of illness or stress that co-occur with the discoloration.

Clamped Fins

If you notice that your Betta’s fins are clamped or held close to its body, this may be a sign that your Betta is stressed or unwell. Check for any injuries, tears on its fins, or signs of fin rot and make sure your water quality condition is good to avoid secondary infections.

Lethargy and Loss of Appetite

Your Betta should be readily eating when presented with food, if this is not the case, check for any factors that might be stressing out your Betta fish. Lethargy is also a sign of stress or a health issue. If your Betta is not swimming as actively or is hiding all the time, check for any signs of possible illness.

How To Keep Your Betta Fish Happy

Provide a Spacious Tank

Despite popular belief, Bettas require more space in captivity to keep active and healthy. Their tanks should be at least 5 gallons so they can swim freely. Bigger tanks maintain proper water quality conditions longer and are easier to maintain. 

If your Betta fish has tank mates then you should definitely have a bigger tank (at least 20-gallons) so that each fish can have its own pocket territory and they can safely avoid each other.

Provide Plants, Faux Caves, and Other Hiding Places

Betta fish are territorial, so adding soft plants such as Java Fern or Java Moss, faux caves, and other hiding places to your Betta tank helps them feel safe. 

Tank decorations that help recreate your fish’s natural environment will keep your Betta happy. This allows your Betta places to swim and dart around in to help keep things interesting in their tank. 

Maintain Proper Water Conditions 

It bears repeating that proper water parameters are key to a happy and healthy Betta. The health of your Betta fish will depend a lot on its environment, so ensure their tanks are well kept. 

The ideal water temperature should be 78°F or between 75-80°F. This is a bit warmer since Bettas are tropical fish. Use a heater if necessary, especially if the ambient temperature falls below 75°F. Make sure your thermometer is accurate since low water temperatures can make your Betta sick.

The pH level should be neutral at 7.00 but acceptable within the range of 6.5-7.5. Ammonia and nitrite should be as close to 0.0 ppm as possible (or less than 0.5 ppm) while nitrate levels can be between 10-20 ppm. Nano filters or low-flow filters should be installed to help maintain the water quality.

Make sure that you perform a partial water change every week to keep the water conditions at the proper level. Do this more frequently if you have a smaller aquarium.

Add Variety to Their Diet

Betta fish are carnivores and should be fed fresh or frozen insect larvae, mosquito larvae, daphnia, bloodworms, and brine shrimp. These natural hunters will enjoy chasing their food in their tanks. 

Flakes or pellets meant for Bettas or tropical fish can also be mixed in with their diet for added variety.

Bettas should be fed sparingly 1-2x a day in 2-3 minute increments. Make sure you avoid overfeeding.

Interact with your Betta 

During feeding time, try allowing your Betta to follow your finger holding its food before dropping it into the tank. Once your Betta becomes familiar with you, it will readily follow you or your finger across its tank. Doing this a few times a day is a great way to keep your Betta active and engaged.

Keep Them Active using the Mirror Technique

Bettas are known to become aggressive when faced with other fishes or another Betta. You can take advantage of this nature to help keep your Betta active and engaged.

Place a mirror in front of your fish’s tank so that your Betta’s fighting instincts kick in. His fins and gills should flare out and he may start swimming to and fro to intimidate the reflection he is mistaking for another fish. Do this 3-5 minutes a day to help keep things interesting for your Betta.


A Betta fish’s happiness is closely related to its health and the status of its living conditions. Always make sure that the environmental parameters in your fish’s tank are correct to keep your fish healthy and by extension, happy. A Betta that is active with bright colors and perky fins is a happy and healthy Betta.


How Can I Make My Betta Fish Happy?

The best way to make your Betta fish happy is to provide a proper habitat with the correct water quality parameters and conditions.

They should be in at least a 5-gallon tank with water kept clean with the help of a low-flow filter.

The temperature should be kept between 75-80°F. The pH level should be neutral at 7.00 or within the range of 6.5-7.5.

Ammonium and nitrite should be as close to 0.0 ppm as possible (or less than 0.5 ppm) while nitrates should be between 10-20 ppm.

How Can You Tell if a Betta Fish is Stressed?

A stressed Betta fish may have discoloration or faded colors, white spots, or other injuries on its skin or fins. It may also be lethargic or have a reduced appetite. Other signs of stress include excessive hiding, erratic swimming behavior, and clamped fins.

Do Betta Fish Get Lonely?

No, Betta fish are naturally solitary animals and do not need a companion. In fact, they can get quite territorial and aggressive in the presence of other fishes, especially other male Bettas.

On the other hand, female bettas can be kept in groups of 4-5 similarly sized females in sorority tanks. They are less aggressive and can live together peacefully.

Further Reading

Informative article on Betta Fish
​​Betta Fish: The Beautiful, and Very Popular, Siamese Fighting Fish

International Betta Congress Website
About Betta splendens – International Betta Congress

Scientific Articles on Betta Splendens
The Siamese fighting fish: Well-known generally but little-known scientifically

Care guides and articles
Betta Fish Care Guide
Your Betta Needs More Than a Bowl – Veterinary Medicine at Illinois
Betta Fish: Facts and Why They’re Not ‘Starter Pets’ | PETA