Betta fish are extremely interactive fish. They are incredibly responsive to human interaction and can even be trained! Even though they are solitary fish, playing with your pet betta will raise its energy levels and give it exercise, which is beneficial to their health.
Playing with your betta fish is very easy and you can do so with a wide variety of instruments. You can use both passive and active methods to play with your fish. Passive methods include live food, ping pong balls, and glass ornaments. More hands-on methods include markers, laser pointers, mirrors, plants, tweezers, and fish training devices.
In this article, we will cover live food, erasable markers, laser pointers, mirrors, ping pong balls, glass ornaments, plants, tweezers, and two training methods.
Live food comes in an extremely wide variety, but for bettas, the best choices are worms, crustaceans, and insects. Here we will cover some of the most common live foods used for bettas, how to feed them to your betta, and how to culture them.
The most common worms used are white worms, Grindal worms, California black worms, and tubifex worms. However, California blackworms are the most sought after of these worms, and in my experience, bettas like these the most.
Blackworms and tubifex worms live in the water and can be cultured in anything that has six or fewer inches of water, a bubbler, and a source of food. You can include substrate if you wish, but it is not necessary. White and Grindal worms can be kept in either organic potting soil or coconut husk. You should rinse them before giving them to your betta.
The best aquatic invertebrates to feed to your betta are daphnia, scuds, and fairy shrimp. Scuds are undemanding in food and housing and can live in a bucket. Fairy shrimp and daphnia can live in any container over a gallon, as long as it is full of green water.
This is considered a passive method of playing with your betta because the food itself provides the entertainment, not you. As soon as you drop the food in, your betta’s instincts will kick in and it will take off after the food. It is extremely entertaining to watch them prance around with their long fins.
You can scoop out fairy shrimp, daphnia, and scuds with a net, as can the worms. However, it is easier to suck up the worms with a turkey baster or large pipette. You can then empty the net or the turkey baster into your betta’s tank.
This does not entertain all betta fish, but some absolutely adore this activity. You will need a dry erase marker or similar, and an eraser. Start drawing on the side of the tank.
Your betta will probably follow the pen tip around the tank. Draw some crazy little designs to get your little buddy to follow it all over and get some exercise. Some fish will interact with the designs even after you leave.
For example, some will try and bite the designs, but others will hang out by them as if the designs are their new best friends. If your betta flares at the marker and the designs, you may need to choose a different activity. Bettas should not flare for more than 5 minutes a day and shouldn’t flare every day of the week.
Just like a cat, betta fish will follow a laser pointer around their tank. This method works best if you have a back on the tank, otherwise, the light will just go through the glass. They will follow the laser around plants and decorations, and this provides
However, if your betta flares at the laser often, do not use the laser for too long. Most do not flare excessively at the laser since it continuously moves, unlike the dry erase sketches.
You will be able to find many commercially marketed “betta mirrors”, but any mirror will do. If you have makeup mirrors or decorative mirrors already, you do not need to buy another mirror specifically for your betta.
Not all bettas respond to mirrors, but most will. Betta fish do not recognize the fish in the mirror as themselves, but instead, think it is another fish. Very calm bettas often will not respond to mirrors, but aggressive ones will.
They will flare out their gills and fins to their full extent. This is a great way to pose them if you are trying to take pictures to show off your betta fish. You should only show them the mirror for five minutes at a time, only once a day, and only for 3-4 days out of the week.
Ping Pong Ball
The ping pong ball works for inquisitive and aggressive bettas alike. Most bettas fall under one of these two categories. All you need is a clean ping pong ball that has never come in contact with soap or cleaners.
Place the ping pong ball at the top of your aquarium and tap it slightly to get it moving. The current from the filter should keep it moving, but if it does not, simply tap it around the tank. Your betta fish should initially show some curiosity at this new floating thing.
Most bettas will first follow the ping pong ball around, then bump it with their noses and mouths. If your fish loves the idea of this floating thing, they will start moving it around all by themselves. Then you can just sit back and watch.
Ping pong balls are not harmful unless your fish flares excessively at them, but you still don’t want to leave them in 24/7. By only adding the ping pong ball for a few minutes to an hour every day, you keep the activity fresh, so the betta will not get bored.
You’ve probably seen some little blown glass animals and mythical creatures with a little blown glass bubble. The little animal attaches to the bubble by a thread, and these are meant as small decorations for vases and similar items.
However, glass is considered aquarium safe as long as it has not contacted cleaners and the like. The main issue with these little decorations is that some may have sharp points that can damage your betta’s fins and/or scales.
The best way to test whether or not these will be able to damage your fish is to use the tissue test. Get a tissue and run it over all the potential sharp areas on the decoration. If the decoration tears the tissue at any point, this means it can hurt your betta.
You can either leave this in the tank as a decoration or remove it and replace it periodically to keep your betta interested. I have personally kept them in the tank as a decoration and have never experienced problems with them.
Betta fish absolutely love swimming in between and around plants. It makes them feel safer and more secure and brings out some of their “sneaky” nature. They will dart around the plants and come out for a surprise attack on their pellets.
Plants plus live food is a great mix for your betta. It brings out their wild nature and makes them happier, as it closely replicates what they would experience in nature. However, the long-finned betta would be unable to survive in the wild, so this is the closest they will get. Plants make it easier for you to play with your betta, as they like to pop out behind the plants and dart in them while playing with other things, whether it be a ping pong ball or a marker.
Simple aquascaping tweezers or even a straw can also become a toy for the more aggressive bettas. You may discover this while aquascaping your tank or trying to feed your fish with tweezers.
Some bettas, primarily the more aggressive ones, will try and attack the tweezers. As long as they are the large aquascaping ones, this should not cause issues with their mouths. They may get their mouths stuck on smaller tweezers.
However, this method is similar to the mirror, as it invokes aggressive behavior, so use caution. Use the same timetables provided for the mirror method and don’t play with the tweezers for too long.
The R2 fish school is one of the best training toys for your betta. It comes with a small field and goals that you can train your betta to swim through, as well as a “wand” that deposits food. The trainer has a full video 45 minutes long to teach you how exactly to use it.
You can also use your finger and some treats (such as white worms, black worms, or bloodworms) in order to train your fish to jump. Do not do this unless you have a secure lid, as your fish may begin trying to jump in order to get you to give it food.
Wet your finger and put a piece of food on it and hold it very slightly above the water for several minutes. If your betta does not jump to reach the food, wait until it is right below your finger and dip your finger in the water. The betta should then eat the food off your finger.
As the betta becomes more comfortable eating off your finger, continue to raise your finger higher and higher. Soon, your betta will jump to hit your finger without any food on it!
In conclusion, there are many different objects you can use to play with your betta. Some are more interactive than others, but all will give your betta some entertainment and exercise. We strongly recommend trying all of these at some point with your betta, just to see which one makes your betta the happiest.