Planted aquariums always look beautiful, and the fish look happy. But do the fish actually like the plants, or could the plants be harmful?
So, do betta fish like plants? The short answer is yes. Betta fish absolutely adore plants, and they provide tons of benefits for your fish.
Betta fish, while predators in the wild, are also prey, and need places to hide. Plants make them feel comfortable, as they mimic their natural habitat. They also provide great resting areas, lower nitrates, provide extra oxygen, and increase a betta’s level of stimulation.
Do Bettas Need Live Plants?
Betta fish do not need live plants to live or thrive, but live plants are incredibly beneficial. They fill several other needs and can help stabilize a tank.
Bettas, as you may have noticed, have incredibly long, beautiful fins. These fins are not natural but are a selectively bred trait. Many people consider bettas to be lazy fish, and while even natural bettas aren’t as active as one may expect, most of a betta’s “laziness” comes from their fins.
Instead of helping a betta swim, abnormally large fins weigh them down, meaning they need to rest frequently. Plants provide a multitude of resting areas all over the tank, which can eliminate stress caused by being unable to get to the surface, or being unable to rest.
Since bettas are prey in the wild, the bottom of the tank is not where they want to be. They like to rest in areas that are covered and slightly off the bottom, or slightly below the top of the water. While having several decorations can accomplish the same thing, low tech plants are easier to clean and maintain.
Betta fish are more active in tanks with plants, likely because they mimic their natural habitat. Some owners report that their fish are also more interactive when kept with plants.
Live plants also help increase the dissolved oxygen levels in the water, which in turn help your fish. They also lower nitrates, which damage a fish’s immune system over time.
Do Bettas Like Fake Plants?
Just like live plants, fake plants can provide many different resting areas, as well as hiding areas. Betta fish like most fake plants, but fake plants do not help oxygenate the water or decrease nitrate levels. They are also very difficult to clean.
However, some fake plants can harm your betta, which we will discuss in a section below.
Do Bettas Like Floating Plants?
Floating plants tend to be a betta fish’s favorite type of plant. Bettas are a top dwelling species and prefer to spend most of their time near the surface of the water. Floating plants and surface decorations are the only ways that long finned bettas can chill at the top of the tank.
Betta fish love hanging out in any top-level plant, whether it’s the roots of something growing out of the water, like pothos, or floating plants like red root floaters, frogbit, or salvinia minima. Red root floaters and frogbit produce great roots for bettas to hang out in, while Salvinia minima produces good surface cover.
Even if your betta can’t hang out in the floating plants, the surface cover they provide will make them more comfortable. Similar to being able to hide in plants, dappled lighting gives them a sense of security.
Do Betta Fish Like Lucky Bamboo?
Lucky bamboo, while a beautiful plant, is often incorrectly cared for, which can be harmful to fish. Most tank set ups with this plant will show it fully submerged, often with several symmetrical plants towards the back of the tank.
While this does create a stunning visual effect, it can lead to serious problems down the road. Lucky bamboo, while often sold as an aquarium plant, is not a plant that can be submerged. It is considered a semi-immersible plant, meaning only the roots should be submerged.
If the stalk and/or leaves of the plant are left submerged, the plant will quickly rot. Rotting plant material leads to ammonia and nitrite spikes, which are lethal to bettas. Once the spikes start, they are very difficult to stop, and your fish will get hurt from even small spikes.
Since most of the lucky bamboo must remain outside the water, you may wonder how a betta can enjoy it or how you should plant it. If you have a hang on back filter, you can keep the bamboo in the waterfall portion. This will allow the roots to be shallowly covered, as well as allowing them to drape into the tank, giving your fish some cover.
Some people have successfully drilled holes and holders into their tank lids. The bamboo plant grows up and out of the tank, while the roots splay across the water underneath. Bettas greatly appreciate the cover the roots provide, and they tend to spend a lot of time in them.
Can Plastic or Silk Fake Plants Hurt Bettas?
Plastic and silk plants are the two most popular types of fake aquarium plants. Both have the capacity to be harmful to betta fish in ways that real plants can’t. Plastic plants are more common and cheaper than silk plants.
Silk plants are not actually silk, but they aren’t entirely plastic. The stems of silk plants are plastic, while the leaves and/or flowers are fabric. This makes them softer and more realistic.
While fake plants have the benefit of never rotting or needing fertilizers, they are well known for cutting bettas. Betta fish, and their longs fins, are much more fragile than most other fish. Plastic plants and silk plants are perfectly safe for most fish, but betta fish fins are about as durable as a tissue.
Plastic plants have grooves and imperfections that tend to be sharp. Silk plants have the same issue, though only on the stem and in the connections to the fabric. Run a tissue paper over any area that seems suspect, and if it tears, it has the potential to harm your betta.
Luckily, betta fish have great healing abilities when it comes to minor tears in their fins, so if you miss a sharp decoration, you have time to correct it. However, every open wound has the potential to become infected, and while it is rare for bettas to die from infections, it is best to avoid the possibility in the first place.
What Plants are Bad for Bettas?
Most plants are the best gift you could give your betta, but there are a few that can cause some harm. Be cautious of any semi-aquatic plant, just like lucky bamboo, as they will rot if you place too much of the plant in the water. Always do research because some of the most popular aquarium plants will die in water.
There are also some plants that are harmless until introduced to certain environments. Hornwort, also known as coontail, is one of the more famous examples. Hornwort is a popular plant that you can leave floating or plant, is extremely hardy, and requires little to no fertilizers. For these reasons, it’s popular with betta keepers.
Most betta keepers have soft water, meaning there is little dissolved mineral content, as bettas dislike water with high mineral content. However, since domesticated bettas are hardy, some keepers started housing their bettas in harder water, which is when they started noticing issues.
Hornwort has very small, soft leaves. Unless it’s kept in hard water. When hornwort is in hardwater, the leaves become hard and sharp, and can tear a betta’s fins quite badly. Luckily, hornwort is the only prevalent plant that can suddenly become dangerous.
In conclusion, betta fish love live plants, and they provide a lot of benefits for your tank. Fake plants, like plastic and silk plants, still have some of these benefits, but they can also be harmful. Not all live plants have to grow underwater to benefit your betta; some grow partially out of the water, with only their roots submerged. Bettas still love hanging out in the roots, and they lower nitrates and increase oxygen.