Q:
My male betta has been at the top of his fishbowl for about a week now. He is normally a very healthy betta, but lately he just floats on the top, making bubbles. Is this normal? thank you for your time.

Question submitted by kaycee, Harlingen - Texas

A: This is a good question because it is going to allow me to throw in a curve ball to most of you who are thinking just about now " I know the answer to that one! That's easy!". Most people will read the "blowing bubble" part and say: A betta blowing a bubble nest is a happy healthy betta. Which, by the way, is true! BUT (yop, there is a but, and a fairly large plump one if I may add ;) ) here is the confusing part: It may also mean just the opposite. 

OK, anyone who just had a nervous breakdown (or anxiety attack), raise your hand. Oh, quite a few of you, he? Just when you thought things were simple they just got a little crazier. Let's elaborate and examine this bubble blowing - mind blowing new notion:

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happy healthy bettas blow bubbles: In the case of a happy betta, the bubbles are a bubble nest. The male blows a bubble nest because he is (well, let's just say it like it is) horny. Mr. Betta is dreaming of a nice damsel and wants to raise a little family, so he blows a bubble nest. 

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sick bettas blow bubbles: In the case of a sick betta, the bubbles are not 'happy-let's-have-a-spawn' bubbles. To be honest, I am not sure exactly why sick bettas sometimes create bubbles when they exhale at the surface, but they do.

Did someone just yell "HELP!!!!" ? OK, Super Faith to the rescue (Woooosh): here is how to tell a healthy betta blowing a bubble nest from a sick betta making sickly betta bubbles.

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a happy healthy betta will usually be active in between bubble blowing. He will eat. If he hangs at the surface, it will usually be right under the nest (in a nest guarding position). Or it will be because he is actually sucking up air to build more bubbles (so you can see him taking a gulp of air, then going to the nest and blowing a nice bubble to add to his collection).

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a sick betta will not be active. He may not eat. He will hang at the surface with clamped fins, not move around much at all. The easiest way to tell a sick betta blowing bubbles apart from a healthy betta blowing a nest is by observing the bubbles themselves. If they are spare and scattered here and there (as in, one here and one there) and if they are large, they usually are sick betta bubbles. If they are smaller, in a large cluster, especially in a corner or under a leave, then they are a nest and they are happy betta bubbles.

In short Kacey, you need to examine these bubbles and determine whether you are looking at a nest or at a sick betta bubbles. If it is a nest, then your betta is fine. If not, then you need to treat your betta immediately. I recommend a course of either bettamax or kanacyn. See them on the medication page.

Important note: If a betta is active, (swimming around and all) AND has a few bubbles floating at the top, it does not mean it is sick. It could be that he started blowing an unorganized nest, or that a small nest he just blew got dismantled by his swimming around or water movement from a filter etc... So do not start treating a fish unless it is actually acting sick (as in not moving, clamped fins, maybe not eating etc...) EVEN if you see a few large bubbles floating about at the surface.

About me

I am a member of the IBC, founder and President of LABS  (Los Angeles Betta Society) and have been helping the betta community through this website since 1998. 
I have over 
180  spawns and  4000 shipments under my belt and have been featured on national and international television.       
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