Is Destroying A Betta’s Bubble Nest OK?

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There’s something unsettling about destroying a Betta’s bubble nest. But is it actually doing any harm?

Photo by billbrothels on Reddit

Male Betta fish will often build a bubble nest – a layer of bubbles – at the top of the tank. They do this to help protect any eggs, but they don’t need a female in order to set one up.

However, because they’re right at the top of the tank, they can be tricky to keep intact when you’re doing water changes. Filters can disturb and destroy them as well.

You might be wondering if that’s going to upset your Betta – after all, they work so hard, right? Is it causing them stress to have their bubble nest destroyed?

Don’t worry – I’ve got the answer, and the good news is it’s not something you need to panic about.

Destroying Betta bubble nests – am I a monster?

You’re not harming your Betta in any way by disturbing or destroying his bubble nest.

While it may seem cruel considering the work a Betta puts into it, they’ll make another one if they want to. Betta fish will usually only be saddened if they are unable to make a nest at all.

My Betta, Rainbow, goes through frequent periods of making bubble nests. As soon as I lift the lid on his tank the nest is disturbed, and if I do a water change it’s pretty much gone.

My Betta, Rainbow (name courtesy of my daughter!)

Destroying a Betta bubble nest accidentally or on purpose is only an issue if you are actively breeding your Betta fish. This is because the bubble nest is essential for the eggs and the fry to survive. 

If you’re breeding Bettas then just make sure you’re careful not to damage the nest. That said, you should still do water changes.

You’ll need to use a smaller vessel than normal to avoid damaging the nest, and later to avoid accidentally removing fry.

Water changes and bubble nest building

It is sometimes possible to skim a bubble nest out of the water using a ladle or plastic cup. You can then replace it after a water change.

However, it will likely be damaged as the bubbles are delicate. A water change should never be delayed to protect a bubble nest – clean water is more important.

It might seem harsh to destroy a bubble nest that your fish has worked so hard on, but don’t let it stop you from changing the water. Clean water is more important.

If it’s not a bubble nest that’s being used by fry or eggs, then just change the water as you normally would. Your fish will build another nest if it wants to.

If you are breeding then you need to be more careful, but that doesn’t mean you should stop the water changes. Unclean water is more of a risk to fry as well. So carry out the water changes but try to avoid damaging the bubble nest if you can, and take your time.

My water filter destroys my Betta’s bubble nest

A common problem with bubble nests is that filters destroy them as they agitate the water too much.

You could try repositioning the filter to move it away from the preferred spot where your Betta is building their nest.If that doesn’t work you may need a different filter or a bigger tank.

Sometimes Bettas won’t even try to build a bubble nest if there’s a filter agitating the water. They might also be trying to, but you never notice because their initial work is destroyed immediately. If you’ve never seen your male Betta making a bubble nest, consider whether the filter is an issue.

It’s a good idea to change it if you think it is, since Betta fish generally enjoy building a bubble nest. Making it possible for them to do so could really boost their mood and therefore their overall health. Use a lower-powered filter, or one with a sponge that dissipates the pressure.

Why do Bettas build bubble nests?

Betta fish build bubble nests as a way to protect eggs – they ensure that eggs are kept moist and have sufficient oxygen, which they often lack in the natural habitat where water may be dirty or shallow. Think of a bubble nest as an incubator, but for oxygen and water.

But if that’s why Bettas build bubble nests – to protect eggs – why do they do it even if there’s no female in the tank and no chance of eggs being laid?

Simply, it’s a natural instinct for male Bettas to build a bubble nest. They do it regardless of whether they’re actively mating or not.

And it’s a good thing. Bettas have a natural urge to build bubble nests, but they only do it when they’re healthy and happy.

It doesn’t mean that something is definitely wrong if your Betta isn’t building a bubble nest, but it could be a sign they’re stressed. If they are building a bubble nest, then take it as a positive.

And that counts for any kind of bubble nest, whether it’s a smattering of bubbles or an inch-thick layer that dominates a whole corner of the tank. No Betta is the same and they’ll make different sizes of bubble nests, at different frequencies too. It might be daily, weekly, or even monthly. 

How does breeding work with bubble nests?

After a Betta male has squeezed the eggs from the female and sprayed his sperm onto them to fertilize them, he will carry the fertilized eggs in his mouth to the bubble nest, adding each egg to a bubble to protect it.

The Betta will then protect the eggs, and ultimately the fry when they are born. At least, until they’re big enough to fend for themselves.

Some species of male Betta are known for being smart enough to maneuver the female close to the bubble nest before squeezing her to release the eggs. This saves a lot of time getting the eggs into bubbles. 

How often do Betta fish build nests?

Every Betta fish is different, and there’s no set schedule for how often a Betta will build a bubble nest. Some fish build them every week, while others may wait a month. It’s rare but some may build a bubble nest every day.

In terms of when the Betta builds a bubble nest, they tend to do it during their prime mating age. This is between 4 months and 1 year.

Again though, every Betta is different.Yours may start a little earlier, and could definitely continue well into their second year.

This is still important to note because a lot of pet stores won’t sell Bettas until they reach full color. This only happens at maturity at 12 months.

There’s a chance that, if you’ve bought your Betta fish from a pet store, they may not make a bubble nest as they’re past their breeding prime. Many will carry on past that 12-month mark, though.

How to get your Betta to make a bubble nest

To get a Betta to build a bubble nest, make sure the water is suitable. It should be between 75 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit, with a pH of 6.5 to 7.5. Betta need suitable water parameters to keep them happy, which will encourage them to build a bubble nest

If the water is too cold or too warm, your Betta will be lethargic, and they won’t have the energy to build the bubble nest. If the pH is wrong, or the levels of ammonia and nitrates are too high, your Betta will be stressed and definitely won’t be in the mood for making bubbles.

So, ensure you’re carrying out weekly checks of the water parameters, if not more frequent. Also, make sure you’re doing 10-15% water changes every week as well.

Read more: Betta Fish Lifespan

If you’re still wondering how you can help your Betta make a bubble nest, there are a couple of other tricks available to you.

One of those is to make sure the tank has a plant – live or silk – that reaches the surface of the water. The Betta can use this as an anchor for the bubble nest and will feel encouraged to do so.

Also, check that your filter isn’t disturbing the water too much. Turn it to the lowest setting, or make sure it has a sponge inside that helps to minimize the surface disturbance. Betta may not even attempt to make a bubble nest if the water is moving too much.

Finally, one trick you can employ is to place a mirror next to the tank for a few minutes at a time, daily.

This will trick your Betta into thinking another male could be moving into the area, and so the Betta will want to mark its territory. And the best way it can do that? Bubble nest.

Summary

If you’re able to protect a bubble nest while you’re doing any water changes, then that’s great. Your Betta will enjoy having his hard work preserved.

But don’t worry if you can’t help but destroy it. They’ll probably rebuild it soon.

My best advice is just to make sure you’re taking good care of your Betta. Check the water parameters regularly, make sure you keep up with water changes, and you’ll massively increase the happiness of your fish, and the chances that they’ll keep making nests.

Read more: Water Conditioner Guide

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