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Do Betta Fish Jump? Exploring Their Leaping Behavior

Something that I didn’t know when I first bought my betta fish was that it can jump out of the water. I’ve actually seen my betta fish jump out of the water several times.

Quick Answer

Betta fish may jump due to a variety of reasons, including a lack of oxygen in the water, territorial defense, escaping predators, and not having enough room to swim. It may also be a part of a playful behavior as well.

Keep reading to find out exactly why your betta fish is jumping out of the tank and what you can do to stop it from occurring. Interestingly enough, some people may actually be able to teach their betta fish to jump, such as through a hoop, something I’ll touch on below.

Why Do Betta Fish Jump?

Jumping is not something that most betta fish do regularly. Generally speaking, there are a few principal causes of this behavior, so let’s find out what these causes are.

A Lack of Oxygen

Perhaps one of the most common causes of betta fish jumping out of the water is if they do not have enough oxygen in the tank. All fish breathe oxygen, and betta fish take in oxygenated water through their gills, process the oxygen, and expel the water.

Betta jumping

If the water does not have enough to dissolve oxygen present, a betta fish will effectively suffocate in the water. If this happens, the only solution for your betta fish is to start swimming to the surface to get fresh air.

In some cases, your betta fish may take this to the extreme and instead of just gasping for air at the surface may actually jump right out of the water. Your fish is trying to breathe. If you notice your fish constantly at the surface, then a lack of oxygen in the water is the most likely cause.

Escaping Predators

Although this is admittedly more of a cause in the wild than it is in a home aquarium, some betta fish may attempt to jump out of the aquarium to escape predators.

If you have other fish in the tank that are bothering your bettafish, such as bullies that may be nipping at its tails and fins, then it is likely that your bait official tried to escape the harassment.

If you notice that you have other fish in the tank that seem to follow your betta fish around, then this is the most likely cause of it jumping out of the tank.

Not Enough Swimming Space

Betta fish are pretty active swimmers, and if they don’t get enough space, they’ll start to get stressed out. At the very least, betta fish should have around 5 gallons of tank space. If your betta fish does not have enough tank space, it may start to get restless.

Furthermore, betta fish like to have a lot of horizontal space to swim around it. They don’t particularly like deep tanks, because their natural environments are usually rice patties and shallow puddles.

While they don’t need their tanks to be very deep, they do enjoy the horizontal space. Therefore, if you notice that your betta fish is jumping out of the tank, it may be searching for more space or be extremely restless due to a lack of it.

Territorial Defense

Betta fish may also jump out of the water in a display of dominance over other fish. This is particularly likely if you have two betta fish in the same tank or even in close proximity.

Also, if your betta fish mistakes another fish for a betta fish, this may also occur. This is nothing more than jousting for the right to be the dominant alpha male of the pack, so to speak, and hopefully get the rights to mate with females.

Poor Water Quality

It may also be the case that your betta fish is unhappy with the tank conditions. There could be too much nitrites or ammonia, other toxic substances, the pH level could be off, or the temperature could be at the wrong level for your betta fish. These are all things that may spur on your betta fish to attempt to look for greener pastures.

Solutions for Jumping Betta Fish

There are of course some relatively simple solutions that can help stop your betta fish from jumping out of the tank. Obviously, this is something that you want to avoid happening.

While it is fine if your betta fish just jumps to the surface quickly and then lands back in the tank, what’s not fine is if your betta fish misses the tank on the reentry and ends up on the ground.

Furthermore, if your betta is jumping out of the water due to issues such as a lack of oxygenation, then you will need to address this issue, or eventually your fish may become very stressed out.

Increase Oxygen Levels

What is interesting to note is that betta fish have something known as a labyrinth organ, which is more or less like a pair of lungs. 

Now, unlike with most other fish that can only breathe air from the water, a betta fish can use this labyrinth organ to breathe air from the surface, just like humans can with our lungs.

Therefore, although your betta fish will not die if there is not enough oxygen in the water, they may very well jump out of the tank to breathe fresh air. This is a big risk because the fish may miss on the reentry. 

Therefore, a good idea is to provide your fish with more oxygen by adding an air pump and an air stone into the tank. Simply increasing the oxygen levels makes your fish a lot more comfortable. Here are some other great ways to increase oxygen levels in a fish tank.

Provide More Swimming Space

As mentioned above, it may be the case that your betta fish is jumping out of the water because it does not have enough horizontal swimming space.

First and foremost, remember that a rule of thumb is that every aquarium fish needs to have at least two gallons of tank space for every inch of fish. Seeing as a betta fish can grow to around 2.5 inches in length on average, it is essential that each fish has at least 5 gallons of tank space, and the more the better.

If you find that 5 gallons of tank space is still not enough, try doubling the size to 10 gallons, which should absolutely be enough. Furthermore, make sure that you don’t have a deep tank, but rather a wide tank. Remember, it is horizontal so it makes space that betta fish enjoy the most.

Maintain Good Water Quality

It may also be the case that your betta fish is trying to escape the tank due to poor water quality and parameters that are not ideal. 

Therefore, you need to make sure that all of the water parameters in your fish tank, such as pH level and temperature, are at the right levels for your betta fish. The pH level should be between 6.8 and 7.5. The temperature should be between 75 degrees and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

This means that you should get a pH testing kit to monitor the pH levels and a good aquarium thermometer to measure the temperature. You may also need an aquarium heater to maintain the temperature. 

On that note, making sure that the water is extremely clear and free of contaminants is also important, which means that getting a high-quality aquarium filtration unit is essential.

My favorite fishtank products that make life easier

I am so happy you enjoy this post so far! You will also definitely like my product recommendations that will make your fishkeeping experience so much better. I’m 100% sure you’ll love them!

  • Without a gravel vacuum, like one from Aqueon, cleaning the substrate of your tanks is near impossible. Whenever I want to remove some of the sunken detritus from the bottom of my acrylic tanks I’m happy I’ve got one of these.
  • It’s no secret that I do not like nutritious aqua-soil. It makes a mess and only works for a given amount of time. Instead, I always use a liquid aquarium plant fertilizer. Everyone who keeps live plants needs it, it’s not that expensive and makes your plants grow better.
  • I love keeping plants, but planting and reorganizing my aquarium was difficult until I got a set of these tools. It’s much easier to plant any kind of plant compared to using my thick fingers.
  • Ever since I’m able to accurately test my water parameters, including the pH level, keeping fish became less stressful. Before I was always stressed that my water parameters were wrong, but with a kit such as the API Master kit, I can measure this. It really is essential to successful fishkeeping.
  • The more you know about your aquarium, the better! Temperature is crucial for the health of your fish. A thermometer will also show you whether your heaters are still working correctly. It will give you more insight and more peace of mind. It’s an easy way to ensure that you’re providing your fish with the tropical temperatures they need.

Remove Bully Tankmates

If you notice that your betta fish is jumping out of the water because there are other fish following it and harassing it, then the simple solution is to separate the fish.

A Note on Teaching Betta Fish to Jump

Something that is worth noting here is that it is technically possible to teach a betta fish how to jump, and even to jump through a hoop, not unlike a lion in a circus. 

I personally managed to teach one of my betta fish to do this, although only one of them out of many that I’ve had managed to actually learn it. Nonetheless, it is technically a possibility.