Betta fish have a well-known reputation for jumping. This can shock new fish keepers if they were previously unaware. Luckily, there are ways to prevent a betta from jumping.
So, why do betta fish jump? Most bettas jump due to improper water conditions. If the bowl is too small, it also could lead to a betta jump out of it.
While improper water conditions, whether it is temperature, flow, or toxic ammonia or nitrite, are the most common reasons for bettas jumping, there are some others. Today we will break down factors that increase the risk of a betta jumping and discuss how to reduce that chance.
Is it Normal for Betta Fish to Jump?
Betta fish jumping out of their enclosures has been a problem ever since people began to keep them. It is unfortunately very normal for bettas to jump, though there are some things you can do to reduce the likelihood of them jumping.
Betta fish are naturally carnivorous and primarily feed on other small fish and insects. In order to reach most of the insects, they have to jump out of the water. It is essential to have a proper fitting lid on your betta’s tank. If you are using a HOB filter, there may be some gaps between the lid and the tank, which you should cover with saran wrap, custom cut glass, or aquarium safe plastic.
If you have lines for air pumps and heaters, it can be tricky to find a way to get them in the tank with a lid, though some premade tanks have gaps perfect for these wires. Drilling a glass lid should only be done by a professional, and custom-made lids are a good alternative.
By keeping a perfectly fitted lid on the tank, your betta will not be able to escape from the tank. However, this does not always prevent bettas from jumping, and some may manage to injure themselves by hitting the lid.
Can Bettas Survive Out of Water?
Betta fish are unlike most other commonly available fish due to their ability to breathe air. They have an organ that is essentially a primitive set of lungs, called a labyrinth organ. While they do need both their gills and labyrinth organ functioning to live, they can breathe air alone for several hours.
Unfortunately, this does not mean bettas can live their lives out of the water. Their scales and skin must constantly be wet, or else it will dry and crack. The gills will become unusable if left out of the water for too long, which will eventually cause the fish to die. Even the labyrinth organ needs to remain moist or it too, will fail.
The amount of time your fish can survive out of the water depends on a few factors. If they land on hardwood or tile, they can normally live a few hours. They will typically bring a small puddle out of the tank with them which increases their survival rate. If they land or carpet, or any other material that absorbs water, it is unlikely that they will last longer than an hour.
Even if your betta is alive by the time you found it, the damage may be too severe for them to pull through. If the skin is already cracked or any of the fins are fully dried out, euthanization may be the kindest option.
How to Save a Betta that Jumped
Once a betta has jumped, it can be difficult to assess how much damage they sustained. They may have internal injuries as well as external ones, and surgery on bettas is virtually impossible due to their size. If the skin and fins appear mostly intact, gently move your betta back to its tank asap.
Sometimes the gill on one side may be shut. As long as one gill functions, leave your betta be. If neither are able to open, a few people have had success gently wetting and opening one or both of the gills. Be warned that this can cause severe damage if done improperly, and if both gills are already sealed shut, your fish likely sustained too much damage to pull through.
Be sure to change their tank water very frequently, at least once a day, even if there are no visible injuries. Indian Almond leaves are useful, as they release tannins, which have antibacterial and antifungal properties that can prevent infection. Tannins will make your tank water darker, but this is actually beneficial for your betta, as it better mimics their natural habitat.
Frequent water changes will keep nitrates to a minimum, which will help your fish’s immune system. Bacterial and fungal infections are unfortunately common after injuries. In addition to the Indian Almond leaves, be sure to keep some basic antibacterial and antifungal medications on hand.
What Causes Betta Fish to Jump?
The two primary causes of bettas jumping are bad water parameters and vibrations. Test your water regularly; there should be 0 ammonia and nitrite in the tank, and less than 20-40 nitrates. Ammonia and nitrite levels as low as 0.25ppm can cause bettas to jump and can become lethal at levels as low as 0.5-0.75 ppm.
Ammonia causes chemical burns and, in severe cases, hemorrhaging, in fish. The burns do not appear until the healing process begins, so if bleeding isn’t present, it can go undetected. Ammonia often causes severe gill damage, so fish hanging out near the filter or gasping at the top are common symptoms.
Nitrite binds to hemoglobin in the blood and prevents it from carrying oxygen, leading to the same symptoms as ammonia poisoning. While ammonia poisoning does not have a specific cure aside from changing the water, methylene blue can cure nitrite poisoning. It can reverse any nitrite currently bound to the hemoglobin. That means water changes are still essential for curing the fish.
As you can imagine, being burned or suffocated is not fun, which is why it causes bettas to jump. In the wild during the dry season, bettas occasionally become trapped in small puddles. Some of these puddles build up with ammonia and nitrite until the fish jumps.
Bettas don’t always land in water but jumping is their only option. Your betta is simply mimicking this natural occurrence, though ammonia and nitrite shouldn’t be present in aquariums.
Vibrations are harmful to fish. Be sure there is nothing around the tank that causes vibrations, as these greatly distress fish and can trigger fish to jump. Even a radio near the tank may create enough vibration to make your fish jump.
Are Bettas More Likely to Jump at Night?
As long as your betta is healthy and has a normal sleep cycle, they are actually less likely to jump at night. It is common to hear stories of people’s fish jumping at night, as they are less likely to be saved by someone and survive, so the stories become more notable.
If you fish is jumping at night, there is some kind of serious issue to be addressed. Be sure the parameters are good, that there are no vibrations, and that no tank mates are attacking your betta. Sometimes, bettas just jump for the purpose of jumping, though this is more common during the day.
To make sure your betta’s sleep cycle is normal, be sure to turn their aquarium light off and on at about the same time every day. Otherwise, a disturbed sleep cycle can confuse and stress a betta, which in turn can lead to jumping behavior.
In conclusion, betta fish normally jump out of their aquariums if there is ammonia, nitrite, or vibrations present. Vibrations severely stress fish, so they will attempt to jump and get away from perceived danger. Similarly, ammonia and nitrite cause real, continuous harm to your fish, so they will try to jump and save themselves. If you catch your fish in time, they can be saved, but rehabilitation can take quite a while. The best way to avoid your fish jumping is to keep the water pristine and have a secure lid.