If you’ve begun to notice bubbles collecting on the surface of your betta tank, don’t worry! It’s not a sign of stress, poor water conditions, or trouble – it’s your betta fish building their own little bubble nest which they use during mating.
Betta fish are pretty unique underwater creatures in that they have the ability to breathe oxygen just the same way as we do, all through a special set of organs called the labyrinth system.
Not only does this system help them out quite a bit when they are in shallow, low oxygen level water (which is where betta fish are found almost exclusively in the wild), but it also helps them to build the nests needed for them to procreate.
The first few times you see a bubble nest it’s probably going to take you by surprise.
Especially if your betta has been living life as a bachelor – flying solo in their tank without any “roommates”. You just wouldn’t expect a fish like that to be making nests for mating when they are all on their lonesome.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the ins and outs of these betta bubbles, what they are, and how to help them along.
Why Does My Betta Blow Bubbles?
There are a couple of reasons that your betta fish might make these bubble nests, even if they are living alone in their tank or aquarium.
For one thing, their natural instinct may kick in and let them know that it’s mating season and they just start going to work on this bubble nest without even realizing why they’re working so hard.
This (more often than not) happens when tank conditions are particularly warm and they have been eating a considerable amount of protein. If they even get a glimpse at a female betta fish (even in another tank or aquarium) it’s usually enough to kick them into high gear.
On top of that, these fish are known to make these kinds of bubble nests when they see a potential rival in their midst.
The bubble nest works to drive rivals away, letting them know that a male has already established this piece of water as their own territory. It’s not unusual for male betta fish to sort of have bubble nest competitions with one another, either – especially if they can see each other.
Some people will even put to male tanks next to each other without a clear divider just to get the fish to build as big a bubble nest as possible.
You run the risk, of course, of these fish getting a little bit perturbed and aggressive with one another – perhaps to the point of beating on the glass and hurting themselves while trying to hurt one another.
It’s not ideal.
What Are Betta Bubble Nests?
What is the actual purpose for the bubble nest itself, though?
Well, the idea here is for the male to create a safe nest for the female to release her eggs and for the Betta fry to establish themselves later down the line.
Each individual bubble can be inhabited by an individual betta fry, providing it a very oxygen-rich environment to establish itself in the earliest stages.
Betta fry are notoriously poor swimmers when they are newborn, and the bubble gives them a little bit of extra protection (and some additional buoyancy) until they can get their “sea legs”, so to speak.
Another cool feature of the bubble nest is that it maintains tension with the surface of the water thanks to the little bit of saliva used by the betta fish to create the bubble in the first place. It also interlocks with all the other individual bubbles, essentially creating a floating raft to support the young betta fish.
That raft can slide underneath all different kinds of plants and cover and hide under structure to offer just a little bit of extra protection against predators, too.
It’s a clever little system and a big part of the betta fish life cycle.
How to Spur Bubble Nest Activity
One thing you have to be a little bit careful with when it comes to these bubble nests is making sure that you don’t stress your fish while they build (or rebuild) them.
Empty bubble nests aren’t going to cause you any trouble at all. They can be left alone right where they are until they dissipate all on their own.
Some folks, though, just don’t like the way they look aesthetically and decide to write them down and forcibly dissolve them. There’s really nothing wrong with that either – especially if they don’t have any baby fish growing inside them – but you will stress your fish out a little bit with this approach.
You see, soon as that male fish recognizes that the bubbles have started to burst they are going to go to work trying to bring the nest back to life. If you keep breaking it down and they keep rebuilding it you could end up stressing them to the point of significant fatigue or even illness.
No, it’s a much better plan to give them all the resources they need to build the best bubble nest possible and then leave it just as is.
Here’s how to help support that kind of bubble production:
First, make sure that tank conditions are as ideal for bubble building as can be.
We are talking about clean and clear water, perfectly balanced pH levels, low ammonium, and plenty of oxygen.
You also want to make sure that the water temperature sits between 73°F and 85°F, though even a little bit warmer (with a bit of extra oxygen pumped in) can spur bubble production as well.
Secondly, you want to make sure that you are feeding your fish a protein rich diet.
Give them a little extra protein (and a little extra dietary fat) and you’ll help to spur on the hormones that trigger the bubble nest behavior in the first place.
Finally, it’s important that you make sure you are only ever spurring on this kind of activity if your betta fish is still a little on the younger side of things. You don’t want to tax an “old man” to the point where they start to jeopardize their health or wellness just for some empty bubbles.
Keep these things in mind and you’ll be good to go!