Do Betta Fish Jump Out of Tanks?

Do Betta Fish Jump Out of Tanks?

When it comes to any pet, we must take precautions in order to ensure their well-being. Think about dogs and cats; you have to “proof” the house to make it safe for them. You can’t leave open containers of certain food around, and you can’t have plants like pothos, spider plants, or lucky bamboo. When it comes to fish, you mainly need to make sure that they can’t escape; they don’t do well outside of water.

Most fish have the capacity to jump out of their tank. This is not good, as you may not be able to find them in time. Betta fish are very adept jumpers and they will jump out of your tank if it is not secure.

In this article, we will cover lids, water quality, how to save a fish that jumped, the labyrinth organ, hiding areas, and startling betta.


A lid is the only surefire way to keep your fish from jumping out. They will jump, and the best way to save them is to cover the top since the top is the primary exit.

The main issue with lids is that there are normally some gaps. There are gaps around the filter if it is a Hang On Back (H.O.B.) or for the input and output of canister filters. In addition, there would be a gap for airline tubing if you are using a sponge filter. You will need some holes or spaces for the heater core as well, and since bettas are small and thin, they could jump out of very small openings.

The lid does not have to be anything special; in fact, most betta breeders simply use clear plastic wrap on the top. This not only stops the bettas from jumping out but provides a moist layer of air at the top of the tank, which helps babies develop their labyrinth organ.

Most lids you will find for sale are made of glass, which is great for clarity, but they do not often provide gaps for filters and other equipment. You can get your own lid of glass or plexiglass cut at most hardware stores but be sure that you cut room for air to enter the tank.

If there are large gaps in the lid that would allow the betta to escape, you should put something by the gaps. Even taping some plastic wrap would help enormously, or you could use aquarium sponge or really anything that is food safe and does not degrade in the water. The filler will not be in the water, but moisture will build up on the bottom and drip back into the tank.

Water Quality

Water quality is one of the primary reasons that betta will attempt to jump. In the wild, bettas have the ability to jump in order to catch insects above the water, but they can also jump as a survival method.

Bettas come from areas with wet and dry seasons and occasionally they will get trapped in small puddles as their water dries up. As the water in the puddle degrades in quality, the betta may become desperate enough to jump out.

Unfortunately, this does not often end with them finding clean water, or any water at all. When it comes to aquariums, the main water quality issues are ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. These are all nitrogen compounds derived from fish waste and processed by bacteria.

Ammonia is the first compound and should never be present in a healthy aquarium. Ammonia burns off the scales, gill plates, and fins of a fish, and often causes severe damage to the gills. Nitrite is the next step, and it binds to hemoglobin in the blood and prevents oxygen from getting through the blood.

Similar to ammonia, this compound should never be present in the aquarium. Nitrate is the last step of the cycle and is only tolerated up to 20ppm, while ammonia and nitrite are toxic at 0.25ppm.

The presence of any ammonia or nitrite will damage your fish, and it may stress the fish to the point that it feels it needs to escape. Just like the puddle, the chances of it landing in water outside the aquarium are slim to none.

By keeping your tank cycled and keeping nitrates low, you greatly reduce the risk of your fish jumping. Bettas see these compounds as threats, so by keeping the compounds low, you keep your fish healthy and happy.

Saving Methods

If you walk by your betta’s tank and realize it is missing, the first thing you need to do is to find your fish. Once you find your fish, you should check the moisture level of the fish. If the scales and gills are still wet, there is a good chance your fish will make it. However, if the gills are dry, the odds are not good, but it is still worth trying.

The first thing you need to do is to get your fish back in some water. If the scales are still wet, you can place it right back in the aquarium, and it should start swimming within a few minutes. However, if your fish does not resume swimming, remove it to a bowl.

Next, place a bubbler in the bowl, and gently hold your fish’s face in the stream of bubbles. This forces oxygenated water through the fish’s mouth and gills and is a good method of resuscitation. You can also gently “massage” the fish’s stomach.

The most important part of the fish is the gills. If the gills and or mouth are sealed, you will need to put the fish in water and use tweezers, or something similar, to very gently open the mouth and gills. Hold your fish in front of a bubbler and move it through the water with your hands, pushing it face first around the water.

In many cases, the fins will dry out and often become severely damaged. This is fine, as long as the rays of the fins are intact, because betta fish can grow them back. Keep a close eye on the fins for signs of bacterial or fungal infection as they regrow.

Labyrinth Organ

Betta fish have a higher chance of surviving a jump out of a tank due to their labyrinth organ. This organ is like a lung and allows them to breathe atmospheric air. Due to this, they can survive for a while longer than most fish, even after their gills dry up.

If the fish lands on a wood floor, it may be able to survive over an hour like that. However, if it lands on the carpet, it will not have as long to live, as the carpet will absorb some of its precious moisture.

Time is the essential component of saving a fish that has jumped. Even with the labyrinth organ, betta fish are not supposed to be outside of the water. They could also suffer severe injuries from the fall, so close monitoring is needed after the incident.

Hiding Areas

Another way to potentially avoid your betta jumping is to make it feel more secure. By providing areas that your betta can feel secure, it may not be as desperate to escape, and can instead escape to a safer area of the tank.

Bettas love tall stem plants, as they can hide in the small jungle they create. In addition, they can rest anywhere on the leaves of that small jungle, and plants help improve water quality.

Bettas also appreciate caves and leaf litter, as they can hide under leaves or in caves without being seen. This helps them feel more secure, because they think that because they can’t see whatever scares them, it can’t see them either.

By providing alternative means of “escape”, you could reduce the chance of your betta jumping out. This does not often work for water quality, as their safe haven would still be toxic, but it can help with the problems discussed below.

Things That Startle Bettas

Just like every other animal, bettas have a flight or fight response, depending on the danger they are faced with. Unfortunately, most of their “flight” response is jumping out of the water and away from danger, which is dangerous in aquariums.

Often, the thing that caused them to jump is something that startled them and didn’t give them time to react. For example, if you quickly approach the tank or flip the lights on without any ambient lighting, there is a good chance that you will startle your betta.

Even if you have a lid, you should make sure not to startle your betta. If it jumps and hits the lid, it can severely injure itself. Approach the tank slowly if you have an easily startled betta and turn on ambient lighting for several minutes before turning on the tank light.

Fish do not have eyelids, and it takes them a long while to adjust to the light, so suddenly turning on a light will hurt your betta’s eyes and frighten your fish.
Tankmates can also startle your betta, especially aggressive or boisterous ones. Some tank mates for bettas may harass the betta or simply startle it. If you notice your betta hiding frequently or avidly avoiding tank mates, you may have to rehome some of the tank mates. The stress of rude tank mates could build up and your betta may attempt to jump away from them.

In conclusion, there are some steps you can take in order to keep your betta from jumping and save it if it has jumped. However, preventative measures, especially having a lid, are the best ways to keep your fish alive and in the tank. All betta fish are able to jump, and most will attempt to at one point or another.

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