How Can I Play With My Betta Fish?

Last Updated on February 9, 2023

Are you looking for ways to entertain your betta fish?

Bettas are extraordinarily beautiful and curious tropical fish. They love living alone and having their personal space. But just like humans, boredom can significantly affect their health.

In this post, we’ll discuss the common signs of a bored betta fish and share some tips on how you can save them from misery.

If you have a betta or planning to get one, reading this will show you how to give them the attention they need.


  • Both female and male bettas can suffer from boredom. Some signs include tail biting, poor appetite, dull color, and aggressiveness.
  • You can keep them entertained by playing with them, teaching tricks, and adding decorations in their fish tanks, such as live plants and toys.
  • Contrary to common belief, betta fish are energetic and curious. They are also intelligent and can remember their owner’s face.

Do bettas like to play?

Have you ever heard from someone that bettas are lazy?

Unfortunately, this is a common misconception that newbie owners have.

That’s why they leave their bettas alone and with nothing to do.

In reality, bettas are energetic and curious species. They do love hiding, but they also enjoy playing and swimming around.

The usual reason why some think they are no fun is that most pet stores put them into small cups, giving them no room to move and explore.

Do betta fish get bored?

Yes, they do! Boredom results from a lack of stimulation and activities of your betta fish.

And although it might seem harmless at first, it can result in depression.

Dr. Pittman, a professor from Troy University, Alabama, shared a fascinating study in his NY times article, “Fish Depression is Not A Joke.”

This is where he discussed the behavior of aquatic pets when depressed.

He performed an experiment called the “Novel Tank Test.” Dr. Pittman observed the fish’s behavior and measured how long it stayed at the bottom of a new tank.

According to him, if the fish stays at the bottom for a long time, it suffers from depression. While a fish that continuously swims and roams around is happy.

Dr. Pittman likened this behavior to humans. He mentioned that fish species show the same symptom of losing interest in their surroundings when depressed.

This isn’t common in their natural habitat, as betta fish live in rice paddies where they can move freely. But the situation is different in captivity.

Six signs that your betta fish is bored

Here are some signs to watch out for to determine whether your betta is suffering from boredom or depression.

Lack of energy

A healthy and active betta fish will usually swim around the areas of the tank regularly.

So if your pet does not show this activeness, it is most likely that your betta fish is bored.

For instance, your fish isn’t moving much and staying in one corner for an extended period during the daytime.

If you notice a lack of energy and enthusiasm from your betta, you should play with them more or give them toys.

Poor appetite

They might be a picky eater sometimes, but betta fish love to eat.

When you try to approach their fish tank to feed them, a healthy betta fish will follow and come up to the surface in anticipation of their meal.

However, if your pet looks uninterested during mealtime, it might indicate that they want something new.  

I suggest that you time your betta.

If it doesn’t eat its meal for 2-3 minutes, it’s time to introduce new food and switch things up.

Tail biting

Betta fish are known for their beautiful and vibrant tails. If you notice that they’re getting torn and the form changes, that’s a clear sign of tail biting.

Tail biting happens when your pet feels frustrated because there’s nothing to keep them occupied. Besides tail biting, their fins may also look clumped.

In my case, I haven’t caught any of my bettas nipping their tails in the act. But I’ve seen some pieces in the water when I’m cleaning.

This is why it’s crucial to be aware of how they look.

Make sure to check their tails regularly to avoid any risks of wounds and infection if it gets too severe.


There are many reasons a betta fish hide, so it doesn’t necessarily mean they are bored.

Happy bettas do this when they want to sleep and from time to time, but not for long periods.

In other cases, bettas hide because they feel threatened, are uncomfortable with the light, or are stressed by the strong current and water quality.

But if you’ve noticed that your male or female betta fish is hiding frequently, and you’re positive that it’s not any of the above, it can mean that your betta is losing interest in life.

Color loss

Besides their cute frames and tails, one common reason people love betta fish is their unique color.

When bored, your fish will look a bit different.

Their color will start to look dull, which can be combined with the appearance of stress stripes on their body.

Once you notice that your betta fish isn’t as colorful as it was, you know there’s already a problem you need to solve.


Boredom and depression can also show in how they behave with their tank mates.

Of course, because of their nature, we already know how aggressive male and female bettas are, especially males.

But if you see your betta constantly fighting and bullying others, this is a sign that they are bored or stressed.

The best way to avoid this is to transfer your betta fish into another tank or to other tank mates.

Now that you know that betta fish get bored, you should make the necessary actions to avoid this from happening.

These signs can also show when there are other issues with your betta fish. So remember to rule out other serious illnesses first.

And even if it’s not severe, don’t ignore the signs. Boredom won’t directly kill them, but it can surely weaken their immune system.

How to entertain betta fish?

The good news is that there are many ways to keep your little friend entertained.

Here are some of the best ones:

Add objects at the bottom of your betta tank

Bettas are indeed inquisitive creatures, so providing them with new things and places to explore is a good idea.

There are many items you can buy online or in your local pet store that is made for your betta’s entertainment.

For starters, you can add the following:

  • Aquarium plants – You can include live plants or artificial ones in your tank. Plants are essential for providing oxygen and hiding places for your betta.
  • Broken barrel – It’s a good tank decoration, giving bettas a place to hide and sleep.
  • Moss balls – Besides being an oxygenator, moss balls also give your betta a place to play and rest.
  • Tree tank ornament – This is a great decoration and works similarly to the broken barrel.

Just make sure that the objects have no rough or sharp edges so they won’t damage your betta’s fins.

In addition, only add chemical-free items and clean them before putting them inside the betta fish tank. Betta fish are susceptible, so this is a very important step.

Add fish toys to the water’s surface

Betta fish are like kids: they love having toys.

You can give your pet a small floating toy or a fish bobber. Some other fish toys you can add are a tunnel, floating betta log, mirror, ring, and leaf hammock.

Always make sure that the toys aren’t covering the whole surface of your tank. Bettas are labyrinth fish, and they need to come up to get some air.

Additionally, buy non-toxic ones. Otherwise, you might do more harm than good.

Give your betta live food occasionally

Zoo Med 78065 Can O' Bloodworms, 3.2 oz,Black

Above: Zoo Med 78065 Can O’ Bloodworms, 3.2 oz,Black. Click on the image for more information.

Your betta fish can also be bored by just eating pellets.

If you start seeing your betta spitting out their food, then it’s not a great sign.

Since they are considered carnivorous fish, you can give them a treat by giving them live food now and then.

These provide them with healthy and balanced nourishment.

Here are popular live food choices you can give your betta:

  • Bloodworm – Besides being nutritious, bloodworms’ motion can stimulate bettas’ natural predatory instincts, making feeding time more fun for them.
  • Brine shrimp – Also known as artemia, brine shrimps are an excellent nutritional supplement for your betta. They are rich in protein and fiber, which keep bettas healthy and active.
  • Daphnia – It’s healthy like the two above. Daphnia also has laxative properties that can prevent constipation.

Let me share one fun thing you can do while feeding them live foods.

Instead of giving the meal right away, you can hold it first and let your betta chase it for a little while.

This is an excellent form of quick exercise for your betta fish.

If you’re planning to try other live or frozen foods besides the above, do your research first. Certain types of food can make your betta sick.

In addition, be careful not to overfeed them. Overfeeding can cause bloating or constipation, so it’s best to keep your feeding portions balanced.

How can I play with my siamese fighting fish?

Besides giving them toys and putting decorations to keep them entertained, you can also interact with your betta splendens.

You might haven’t heard this, but it’s possible to form a bond with your pet fish.

You can start with these simple methods.

Running your finger back and forth across the fish tank

See if your pet will follow your finger as you move it around the betta fish tank. You can reward them with treats so they can associate the action with food.

In most cases, the betta will respond to your movements if you are the caretaker.

You can also set some pattern, like figure 8, and see if your fish would follow.

If you’re planning to run your finger inside the tank, ensure you’ve washed your hands and are wearing nitrile gloves so you won’t introduce any bad bacteria.

Also, avoid touching your betta, as it can cause stress.

Make your betta flare

Encouraging your betta to flare up is a good way to see if they are healthy.

Moreover, flaring helps your betta fish with their bowel movement.

Usually, male bettas flare more than female ones, given their more aggressive behavior. However, it’s a great practice for both.

You can use a small mirror if you only have one betta fish. But if you have two or more, you can simply put their tank side by side and remove any cover.

These actions will make them think other fish are inside the tank. Thus, they tend to flare their fins to protect their territory.

While they are flaring, you can easily see if their fins are okay or if there are any infections on their body.

However, prolonged flaring can easily stress out your betta, so it’s best to keep it at a minimum of around 5 to 10 minutes a day.

Place a ping pong ball inside the tank

Kevenz 60-Pack Ping Pong Balls, Assorted Color Table Tennis Balls, Multi-Color Beer Pong Balls for Beer Pong Games, Arts and Craft, Party Decoration and Pet Toy

Above: Kevenz 60-Pack Ping Pong Balls, Assorted Color Table Tennis Balls. Click on the image for more information.

Ping-pong balls are cheap, great, and exciting toys that amuse your betta.

If you want something your fish can push and poke around, then a ping pong ball is an excellent choice for your pet.

Any ping pong balls will do as long as you make sure that you have cleaned them thoroughly.

A great alternative is a transparent bowl or cup with stones, marbles, or other tiny objects that your betta can push around.

However, avoid leaving them in the tank to avoid stressing your betta.

Train your betta to eat out of your fingers

Since bettas recognize their owners, they must see that it’s you who is feeding them.

Once they are used to you being near them, try keeping your hand on the water’s surface while they eat.

Slowly and gradually, you can start feeding them while holding the food slightly underwater.

It’s also good to note that feeding your betta with a food they like will reinforce them to learn the behavior you want to teach them.

Bettas prefer foods such as mosquito larvae, freeze-dried bloodworms, and tubifex worms to keep them excited.

Just remember not to overfeed them too much with treats!

Teach your betta fish tricks

Zoo Med Betta Bling Mermaid with Hoop

Above: Zoo Med Betta Bling Mermaid with Hoop. Click on the image for more information.

Yes, it’s possible to train your betta fish with simple tricks like swimming through hoops, following a target, pushing a ball, and so much more!

They are intelligent creatures and can learn much, given the proper training.

You can do this by using an item of choice and providing treats as a reward. It may take patience and practice, but your betta will eventually learn the trick you’re trying to teach them.

The important thing to remember when playing with your betta is to keep it in moderation so that your fish learns more.

If you notice they are becoming tired or fearful, stop the session and resume only once they get to rest.

Can my betta fish recognize me?

Yes! Your betta will most likely recognize you when you feed them constantly.

The more interaction and exposure you have with your betta, the more they will remember you.

Some good signs that show they can recognize you are swimming through the glass when you approach them and remembering tricks you’ve taught.

Is it okay to touch my betta?

Touching your pet is a way to show how much you love and care for them. And while it’s possible to touch betta fish, I don’t recommend it.

It may spook your pet and respond by swimming away and becoming afraid of you.

This isn’t a good response, especially if you’re planning to play with them and teach them tricks.

Touching can also affect and remove betta’s natural slime coating, making them more vulnerable to diseases.

Do betta fish need attention? Tips on interacting with your betta.

Unlike other fish and pets, betta fish are more low maintenance. But they still need your care and attention.

Providing them home and keeping them fed are just the basics, but ensuring they are active and stimulated will reward you with a happy and content betta!

But remember to do everything in moderation, whether teaching them tricks, making them flare, giving them treats, or playing with them.

Avoid pushing them too much as it can lead to stress, which can cause health problems for your beloved friend.

Finally, talk and interact with your betta regularly. Treat them like other pets and call them by their names to strengthen your bond.

Final thoughts

So that’s it for our guide on exciting ways to keep betta fish entertained.

As you can see, there are plenty of great and creative methods to keep your betta happy and engaged.

From using floating logs, mirrors, and ping-pong balls to playing with them and teaching them tricks, these activities will help show your pet that they have a fantastic home filled with love and care.

Make sure to include your betta in your schedule so you can provide them with around 20 minutes of your time.

That includes 5 to 10 minutes of daily playtime, feeding time, and environment and body check.

Trust me. Your pet will appreciate all your efforts!

I hope this article helps.