Q: Sometimes my betta's swimming or still, and then suddenly he'll start flopping himself around wildly, looking like hes madly confused or trying to swim through the bowl wall. I have experimented by sitting very still with all electronics off. And he'll still do it. Is there something wrong, or did I get a schizophrenic fish?

Question submitted by Erica, Santa Clarita - CA



Animal Planet will be airing our betta segment (on "The Most Extreme") again on the following dates:

bullet June 08 at 8PM & 11PM
bullet June 15 at 2AM

for more info click here.  If you have not seen it yet, there's your chance! Note that it is towards the end of the 1 hour show, since bettas made #2 on the most extreme fighters of the animal kingdom countdown :)).

A: Here is what I want you to do: Bring your betta bowl and set it right in front of this screen. Then have your betta watch THIS:



That should cure him :)))).

(Hey, who ever said that informative articles have to be boring??)

So now let's really tackle your question. Betta Schizophrenia? I think not. To me there could be three causes for a betta's erratic behavior:


sudden vibrations, shocks and noises. This would startle the betta causing him to dart. I always tell people, keep your bowls away from stereos, commotion, speakers, etc... Avoid placing your fish on a coffee table where people put glasses, books etc. Each object that lands on the surface of such table will cause a shock wave that will startle the fish. As we saw a few days ago, rough handling of bettas is a #1 cause for stress, lower immune system and the disease outbreaks that follow. In your case, you were a good girl :) and elaborated when formulating your question and did mention that you had all electronics off. Still, if your betta is on a table, shocks could cause this. I do not believe that this is however your case.


external parasites. Bettas will try to scratch their scales by darting and hitting rocks, plants, tank walls. Usually you can tell this behavior is parasite linked because it looks like the fish will intentionally run into things and while running into them will curve its body so that the side only contacts the targeted surface. Although I do not believe that this is your problem this is certainly a scenario to consider.


water, diseases and hoozeheknos. (Don't know what hoozeheknos is? Me neither LOL). Let me tell you a story. I once had a betta in a brand new bowl on my desk at the office. He was very healthy. For the sake of convenience I used bottled drinking water for this one fish. Water came from the arrowhead dispenser inside office. Betta did well for several months. Then one day out of the blue, he started acting "strange". He would lay around less active then usual, then suddenly start "freaking out" and swim like crazy in all directions as though in a state of panic attack (sounds familiar?). Scared the living daylight out of me LOL. "Spiky" (that was his name) was obviously feeling discomfort of some kind and reacting to it by darting to try to get "away" from it. This lasted a few days. I was puzzled. Everything was still the same, water was clean, from same water dispenser etc... I added some Maracide (for parasites) just in case, but this did not seem to help. I did a water change, and that was useless too. Finally I decided to take Spiky home. At home I simply put him in a new jar and acclimated him gradually to my normal fishroom tap water (treated to perfection LOL). To be on the safe side, I did add Maracide to his new home for a week. After only 2 days I noticed Spiky was back to his good old normal self. :)

My conclusion on this is that something in Spiky's environment had become corrupt. Perhaps the new water bottle in the dispenser? Perhaps fluctuating temperatures at the office caused parasites to multiply? Perhaps yurrh oiuddp whu fwq fpiusl. You know what I mean: who the heck knows (hoozeheknos) ???? The point is my gut felling about Siky's problem was correct. It was related to his bowl/water. By providing a new healthy environment,  Spiky made an almost instantaneous full recovery and never acted like a weirdo ever again :). Hey, I just had a thought: After all he WAS kept at the office. An office would turn anyone into a complete schizo LOL!!!!

In short, my advice to you is go get a brand new bowl, bare and do not add anything to it for the time being. The less stuff in it the less things we have to rule out. Just a plain 1 gal bowl. Then use water from a different source. If you are now using tap water, use bottled water. If you are using bottled water, then prepare treated tap water (follow my recipe or else!!). We are going to switch your betta to a different water from a different source. This is what I want you to do (exactly verbatim):


Put both bowls on same table/shelf so that the water temps in each bowl is the same.


Fill new bowl with new water and make/have extra water left over cause we are going to need it (you'll see)


very gently dump 80% of your old bowl's water while still keeping the betta in it. Do not dump it in the drain. Betta might jump and fall in it (duh). Use a clean bucket or do it over the lawn. You can put a fish net under and dump water through so your betta will not fall to the ground should he decide to leap.


Now add the new water to the old bowl where the betta still is at the rate of 10% each 2 hours. After about a day you now should have 80% of the new water in with the 20% of old water in your old bowl with the betta (right?). 


Now take your small net and net the betta, let it drip a bit so to bring as little of the water with you as possible. THEN place the betta in new bowl by "dropping" him gently (as in do not dip the net in the new bowl).


discard old bowl and old net. (oh and get a new net to replace it when you go buy your new bowl).

By doing above you have insured that: 1)- temps were even  2)- betta was very gradually acclimated to the new water  3)- only betta is moved to new environment and none of his old water is.

Add 4 drops of maracide per 1 gal (yes I know it is 4 times the dosage but worry not I do it all the time). Do not add it again until you do your next water change (1 week later). Obviously from now on you will use the same type of "new" water and not the old type (duh). If in 1 to 2 weeks your betta is still not back to normal, email me.

Goodluck and I hope this works for you. Dismissed and get to work. (and STOP staring at the little thingie going in circles above) LOL.

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