Betta fish have this weird level of intelligence.
What I mean by that is, if they’re not happy with something in their home – if the tank isn’t big enough, or the water parameters aren’t suitable for them – then they won’t just tolerate it.
They’re smart enough to try to find a better home.
Unfortunately, they’re not then smart enough to realize that jumping out of their tank is probably going to kill them, and not lead them to some watery paradise away from the limits or conditions of their tank.
My Betta, who lives next to me at my office desk, has never tried to jump as far as I know. However, if your Betta jumped out of the tank in the past, then I’ll explain why they might have done it, and what to do to stop them.
But before that, here’s what to do if you ever find that your Betta jumped out of the tank and is still alive, so you can give them the best chance of survival.
Read more: What Is The Average Lifespan of a Betta?
What to do if your Betta fish jumped out of the tank
If your Betta fish jumps out of the tank, put them back into the tank immediately. Your Betta won’t suffocate immediately as their labyrinth organ can breathe air, but they will dry out quickly and will likely die within 10-20 minutes.
It’s likely that your Betta fish will lay or float at the bottom of the tank when first replaced. Don’t immediately panic, as they may just be recovering. But look for any signs of the gills moving. They may have dried up. You can add aquarium salt to help improve gill function if that’s the case.
Betta fish also have a slime coat. With exposure to the air this can dry out, so consider adding a special product designed to promote healthy slime coats in Betta fish to make sure it recovers quickly:
Seachem Stress Guard for a healthy slim coat – check latest price
If you don’t find your Betta immediately after they’ve jumped out of their tank, don’t assume the worst. While longer exposures to the air will likely be fatal, it’s still worth trying to rescue them. Put them back into the tank and give them time to come around.
Once you’ve returned your Betta to the tank and added any agents to help their recovery, you can start looking at why they might have jumped out of the tank in the first place, and ways to stop them.
How to prevent your Betta from jumping out of the tank
The easiest way to stop a Betta fish from jumping out of the tank is to cover it. Make sure any cover you use is heavy enough to not be moved accidentally or is properly connected to the top of the tank, to avoid your Betta nudging it free and potentially getting trapped under it.
However, if you’re asking how to prevent a Betta fish from jumping out of the tank, your first question instead should be why are they jumping out? A cover can work, but often a Betta fish will jump out of the tank with good reason, and resolving that will likely stop it from happening.
The most common cause for Betta fish jumping out of their tank is poor water conditions, usually because there’s too much ammonia. The fish will be stressed by the poisonous levels of ammonia in the water and will try to escape.
Use an aquarium testing kit to monitor the levels of ammonia in the water – it needs to be under 0.5ppm. You can control the ammonia in the tank by performing regular water changes, but if there’s still a problem then you can buy an ammonia remover for the tank.
Betta fish also need plenty of space to swim freely, so keeping them in a tank that’s too small will mean they try to find more room by jumping out. A Betta fish needs at least a 5-gallon tank but would be better suited in a 10-gallon tank, or a larger one if kept with other fish species.
Sometimes Betta fish may have a disrupted sleep cycle, and if that happens they can get confused, which may lead to them jumping out of their tank. Make sure any aquarium lights are turned off at night so that they can regulate their sleep.
If you’ve checked the water parameters, and you’re changing it regularly to keep it clean, and you know the tank is big enough and your Betta fish is getting enough sleep, then you’ll have to resort to a cover.
Betta fish are energetic and will sometimes just jump because they are swimming enthusiastically, and other times they may jump to try to catch small flies too, which you won’t ever be able to prevent. Instead, keeping them safe with a cover is the better solution.
How long can a Betta fish survive out of water?
Betta fish have a labyrinth organ that allows them to breathe surface air. This organ could keep a Betta alive for up to 10 hours out of the water but only if it stayed moist. On a regular surface, it would likely dry out and die within 10-20 minutes.
How high can a Betta jump?
The average maximum height that a Betta fish can jump is 3 inches. Some may be able to jump higher, but this is the exception – most jump between 2 and 3 inches out of the water.
Why is my Betta fish jumping at night?
If Betta fish are only jumping at night, their sleep cycle is likely being disturbed. Make sure lights are switched off at night so they can regulate their sleep. If they jump at other times, the tank may be too small or there’s too much ammonia in the water.
Why does my Betta jump at my finger?
Bettas will jump for a finger if they think it is food. Bettas will jump out of their tank to try to get food and have been known to eat small flies. If they see a finger, they think it is food, or that it may have food on it.
If your Betta fish is jumping out of the water, the chances are they’re doing it because something’s wrong. Do a partial water change immediately and test the parameters to ensure they aren’t suffering from ammonia poisoning.
Sometimes you’ll rule out all the causes, and just find that you’ve got a particularly energetic Betta fish that won’t stop jumping. In those cases, just make sure it has the proper cover, so you don’t have to worry about its escaping trick.