Bettas do like to hide when they are in a new tank, when they are scared of something, when they are being bullied by other fish, when something is wrong with the aquarium, or if they are feeling sick.
Each betta fish or Siamese fighting fish has a different temperament, but generally bettas do not spend most of their time hiding. They tend to be curious about their surroundings.
Why Bettas Hide
Bettas hide for a variety of reasons, including:
- They’re naturally shy.
- They’re being bullied by other fish.
- They’re scared of something.
- There is something wrong with the fish tank, such as the filter, temperature or lighting.
- Something’s wrong with the water.
- They’re sick.
Getting to Know a New Betta
It’s normal for new bettas to be shy. They’ve just been plopped into a completely new environment. It may take a few days or a week for a betta to come out of hiding.
Take time to observe your betta every day. Just sit quietly near the tank to see what your betta does. This will help you know your betta’s normal behavior. This way, you can tell if the betta is just naturally shy.
If your betta deviates from this behavior, such as a normally bold betta hiding all of the time, then you know something is wrong. When caught early, many problems can be fixed before the betta gets very sick or dies.
Being Bullied by Other Fish
Adding any new betta to a community aquarium is a gamble, since bettas can act unpredictably. Often, it’s the betta that winds up being a bully to the other inhabitants. Sometimes, it’s other fish bullying the betta. The long, flowing fins of males seem to be irresistible to nibble.
Check your betta carefully for any torn fins or injuries. When feeding the fish, stay for a while to see if the other fish chase the betta away from food. If there are clear signs of bullying, then you need to get a new tank for your betta. Bettas do well living by themselves.
If it’s a bottom feeder attacking your betta, then the bottom feeder is hungry. The slime coating on the betta makes good eating. Make sure the bottom feeder gets special food.
Things That Scare Bettas (Besides Bullying Fish)
Ideally, aquariums should be kept in low-traffic areas of the home. Running by the tank will scare the fish. Any sudden movement will scare them.
They are also scared of loud sounds. Try not to blast a stereo or turn up the volume on the television. They also hate anyone tapping on the aquarium walls.
Is Something Wrong with the Tank?
If the water temperature is too cold, bettas will hide. Despite what any pet store employee tells you, bettas need heaters in their tanks. They prefer temperatures of 75 to 81 degrees F.
Bettas do not like really bright lights. Just think of you had to live with a car’s high beams trained on you all day. If your betta is active at night or when the lights go out, then you need to change the lights to something dimmer.
Bettas are not strong swimmers. They can get pushed about by a strong current from a filter. The current can be so strong that the betta will hide from it. Try turning the filter off to see if the betta comes out of hiding. If he or she does, then you need a new filter.
Is Something Wrong with the Water Quality?
Poor water conditions can make a betta hide around the filter. The water flowing from the filter into the tank is full of oxygen. Perform a water change to improve the water quality quickly. Then, do these water tests:
- Ammonia: Ideally, you want 0 ppm (parts per million), but anything up to 0.5 is okay.
- Nitrites: This also should range from 0 ppm to 0.5 ppm.
- Nitrates: 20 ppm at the most.
- Hardness: Bettas prefer soft water. If you do have hard water, make the change to softer water gradually, so as to not shock the fish.
- Chlorine: Bettas tolerate chlorine levels of up to 0.003 ppm. You can’t always smell chlorine in tap water. Use a dechlorinator to any new water added to your betta’s tank. You can also leave the water sitting in a bucket for about 24 hours.
Signs of a Sick Betta
Hiding is a normal behavior of bettas, because they are hiding their symptoms from predators. Predators look for sick fish because they are much easier to catch than healthy fish. When bettas are hiding because they are sick, they either stay at the bottom of the tank or hang right at the surface.
Other signs of a sick betta, besides hiding, include:
- Not eating.
- Pale color or, in the case of a new fish, even paler color than before.
- Patches of white fuzz.
- Lying or swimming on his or her side, even to the point of bending into a horseshoe shape.
- Bulging eyes.
- Clamping the fins to the body.
- Ragged fins or tail, or looking as if small holes are in the fins or tail.
The Importance of Hiding Places
It’s normal to want to see a new fish. It’s also normal to feel frustrated if your new betta hides all of the time. However, bettas need hiding places. They will get very stressed without hiding places in their aquariums. This is one reason why keeping bettas in tiny bowls is cruel.
In the wild, bettas live in shallow water with lots of vegetation. Their natural habitat provides many hiding places from predators. Even though bettas have been more or less domesticated for at least 1,000 years, they still retain the instinct to hide from predators.
Bettas are carnivores, which means they usually sneak up on their unsuspecting prey. This is another reason why bettas get stressed without any places to hide, because they will not be able to sneak up on their prey.
Good Hiding Places for Bettas
The main rule to follow when giving your betta a good place to hide is that there are no sharp edges. Betta fins and tails tear easily. If your betta gets scared and swims into a decoration, he or she can get seriously injured by a sharp protrusion.
That being said, here are some good betta fish hiding spots:
- Live plants – rooted or floating
- Fake plants
- Anything that makes a cave, like floating logs made for fish, or decorations with holes
- Aquarium safe rocks
- Clay or terra cotta pot turned on its side.
Don’t get carried away and try to jam too many plants and decorations in your betta’s tank. The betta still needs room to swim around. There also should be an area of clear surface water so the betta can easily get food.
They prefer to eat food at the surface of the water, and usually don’t search for food in gravel like a goldfish, although it does sometimes happen.
So, Do Bettas Like to Hide?
Unless this is a new fish just added to a tank, or a naturally shy fish, a betta that hides all of the time means that something is wrong.
Some bettas have more nervous dispositions than others. They may come out at night, or when everything is quiet. Bettas usually come out when food is available. Keeping plenty of hiding spots for your betta will make him or her more relaxed and less prone to hide all of the time.
If you want to learn more about Betta’s behavior, advice, and tips, please visit our collection of Betta Tips Articles.
About the author
Hi, I am Rena.
I grew up in a house surrounded by fish tanks.
I have spent my life caring for and writing about fish.
I have studied journalism and worked for online and print magazines.
You can find the articles I wrote here