Betta Fish Depression


Betta fish depression seems to be a hot topic on and off lately. Many people question whether betta fish can really show signs of depression or if we, as owners, just see a fish acting a little sluggish and think they can suffer from betta fish depression! It does make for some interesting discussions, however.

For starters, putting human traits and characteristics onto animals is called “anthropomorphizing” but this isn’t an English language class so we can ignore that. So many people really do think their Siamese fighting fish depression is real. I tend to agree that there are times when your betta fish exhibits something that, for all intents and purposes, does look like it is a depressed betta fish! Debating aside, let’s talk more about this interesting topic!

When is betta fish depression likely?
I have seen my own betta fish look depressed in only a few circumstances on a regular basis. The most common one I have experienced is during the spawning process. After the bettas have successfully spawned, the female is removed and the male takes care of the eggs for a day or two then continues caring for hundreds of betta fry. Once the babies are able to swim freely and fend for themselves, the male suddenly finds himself removed from the spawning tank. He can no longer see his babies and can’t care for them with 100% of his attention like he has done for the last week or so.

Alternatively, these fish can seem depressed if their aquarium conditions aren’t adequate. This is likely either foul water or lower temperatures that cause this. Bettas need warm tropical water temperatures (around 80F is ideal) and need continually freshened water or their health can deteriorate.

What does a depressed betta fish look like?
I am sure many betta breeders have seen their male bettas sulk in the corner of a recovery tank for days or even a week or two after removing from the spawn tank. They don’t swim around much and sometimes don’t eat much despite the fact that they should have a voracious appetite after not being fed for a week. They won’t even show any interest in betta tank decorations and these depressed betta fish are unlikely to flare their fins much!

What can you do about betta fish depression?
If you think you have a case of betta fish depression in your betta tanks or betta bowls, then fortunately, there seems to be a few tricks you can try to help your Siamese fighting fish return to its active, happy old self! To start with, as you have now seen time and time again on this site, the betta fish needs to have the best water quality you can offer. Keep the temperature around 80 degrees Fahrenheit and change it at least two or three times per week if he seems depressed.

You need to provide some stimulation to your depressed betta fish. The easiest way to do this is to use a mirror. The betta will see what looks like another male fish in his territory and will most likely be tricked into getting aggressive. He should start swimming around the tank and will even try to fight the fish in the mirror. This will give him some much needed exercise and stimulation. You should hold the mirror against the fish tank and even try to move it around to a few different spots to really mimic another fish. Try this a few times per day until your fish recovers from his depression.

Try mixing food sources up to help keep the male betta interested in his food if he isn’t eating while he is depressed. Some live foods should do the trick including microworms, hatched brine shrimp eggs, and grindal worms.

I really think that if you try a combination of all three techniques you can help cure your betta fish depression! If these aren’t doing a trick, then reading a good betta fish book should help come up with other possible things to try.


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