March 15

Sarah Robertson

Do Betta Fish Have a Brain/ Are Betta Fish Smart?

Bettas, also known as Siamese fighting fish, are beautiful and interesting fishes. They are very popular and considered the second most popular fish, only after goldfish. The popularity of Bettas is due to their colorful bodies and long fins that resemble crowns. They also come in a wide range of colors which add to their beauty. They are without a doubt the aquarium's centre of attention.

However, there is one question that every betta fish owner wants to have answered: do betta fish have a brain, and are betta fish smart?  The answer is yes, bettas are smart fish. In fact, they are one of the smartest aquarium fish out there. In this article, we'll discuss the same.

What Is It Like to Be a Betta?

In the wild, bettas dwell in small puddles and rice paddies. They usually retreat to abandoned tunnels and crevices during the dry season. Their natural habitat is quite small compared with that of most fish species, which makes them easy to care for in a fish tank at home.

They require a simple set-up. If you're using tap water, keep in mind that it'll need to be treated before being introduced into the tank since chlorine and other chemicals in it might harm your fish.

Certain water parameters must be maintained in the betta fish tank so that these aquarium fish can thrive in captivity. Bettas have a labyrinth organ which allows them to breathe air from the surface even when water is low and oxygen levels are low. Weekly water change is recommended.

  • Water pH:  7.0
  • Water hardness: 2-10 dgh (dgh = degrees gh) 
  • Temperature: 74-80F or up to 27C 

Do Bettas Have a Brain?

One of the most asked questions is "Do these freshwater fish have a brain?" One can easily answer that question by looking at a typical betta's anatomy. Yes, they do! It is located right behind the eyes and covers almost all of the forebrain area similar to a goldfish.

The statement is being tested through studies. Researchers observed that when Betta fish confront a foe, they employ forceful tactics such as bites and slashes. When Betta fish have had the opportunity to compare their skills, they typically stop fighting, which reduces the risk of serious harm.

The researchers discovered that when two male rivals were engaging in aggressive behavior, they were altering their actions to mirror the other guy. When neuroscientists examined the bettas' brain activity, they found that battling fish turned on or off similar genes in their neurons. The research found that even when betta fish are fighting, their brains are truly cooperating and collaborating with one another.

Bettas and Humans

If you own a Expensive betta fish, you may be wondering how smart it is. One way to test your betta’s intelligence is to see how well it responds to training. We may not know what it is like to be a betta but we can infer that they are happy in their natural habitat.

We can also assume that they have been domesticated by humans for quite some time now. They probably have been around for more than 2000 years as they were found during the Dong Son culture of the Vietnam region. 

Male bettas and female bettas are easily cared for and can be kept at home with other aquarium residents. They don't require large swimming areas like that of the average fish species either. They can be fed live food, pellets and flakes which are easily available in pet store.

These qualities make them perfect pets. It is believed that they will work well in an environment where you'll spend time training them and playing with them. It is also a good idea add some other peaceful fishes such as guppy fish, ghost shrimp, african dwarf frogs etc.as tank mates into your betta tank.

Betta Fish Have a Brain

Are Betta fish Smart?

Yes, the studies suggests that bettas are not just beautiful creatures but also smart ones.  Even though they don't have a big brain like humans, they are capable doing many things that other fishes cannot do.  

The word "smart" means different things to different people. Some people think intelligence is how fast you can memorize something or how many big words you know. Others think it is about logic, being able to figure out puzzles and answer complex questions. Still others think of it as being able to solve novel problems that have never been experienced before.

Why Are Bettas Smart?

There are several reasons why we believe that this pet fish is really intelligent. They have so many brain functions that are usually found in more intelligent creatures. Bettas respond to both visual and audio cues. Try commanding the fish to rotate clockwise or counter clockwise by tapping on the side of the tank, as well as calling out the name of your pet among others. 

There have been a lot of studies conducted, and the majority of them agree that bettas are bright. They exhibited the following abilities:

Identify shapes and colors- Research shows that bettas can distinguish between shapes, colors and patterns. This level of recognition corresponds to the highest form of object recognition in primates (humans included). For example, we humans would recognize a happy face and a sad face. The same is true for bettas: they can tell the difference between a smiling face and a frowning face.

Awareness of their environment- They are also thought to be related to cichlids on the evolutionary tree, a very clever family of fish, and they demonstrate high parental care for their young. Bettas tend to be aware of their surroundings, like to explore their environment, claim personal areas and they often develop amusing personality "quirks".

Identify their owner- They quickly learn to recognize their human companions, they know when feeding time is, and they get excited when you approach their aquarium. They may even learn to tell time and remember when their owner is due to feed them.

Personality and mood- They become very territorial and protective of their surroundings, like a cave or flower pot in the case of Betta splendens, but they also have an amazing ability to detect fear. When you are afraid your heart beats faster, your scent changes, and you have a different metabolism. Just as dogs can smell fear, Bettas can detect it too because they are so in tune with their surroundings. In fact, pet stores will sometimes put two male bettas together to see which one wins the territory battle because the loser is often killed.

Flexible behavior- They are considered very flexible in behavior as they have been known to quickly learn tricks, play games and can even be taught their name.

Shows interest to music- Some bettas will become more active when they hear classical or jazz music, but other fish react negatively to certain genres of music. They also enjoy watching television, especially the Animal Planet channel.

Self-recognition- Another fish tested was the one-of-a-kind Siamese fighting fish, or Betta splendens. The Siamese fighting fish is far more colorful than most other varieties. This betta has been known to do many things that are considered intelligent for fishes, but perhaps the most interesting doing is its reaction to its own reflection. Siamese fighting fish will flare out their fins and gills and display threatening ways even when confronted with their own reflections. This type of action is known as mirror testing, and it is thought to be a sign of self-recognition.

Traits of a Smart Betta Fish

  • Intelligence- fish's ability to comprehend spatial relationships between things, memory, and learning. Fishes have been observed to memorize feeding schedules and even anticipate the arrival of feeders. In addition, fishes have been observed to learn from each other, as well as from other species.
  • Trainability- How easy a fish is to train. How readily it may be trained to complete activities or tricks. This factor is heavily influenced by the species' energy level.
  • Resourcefulness- The ability to solve problems with minimal training or difficulty. Problem solving involves using objects as tools to reach food or escape enclosures, as well as assembling and dissembling structures.
  • Curiosity- Curiosity is usually measured in terms of how quickly an animal engages with something strange in its surroundings. 
  • Visual acuity- This is the ability to resolve fine details in the environment. Fish have this mostly for finding food rather than avoiding predators, as most fish are color blind and only see in shades of grey. 
  • Social skills- How well an animal can relate its behavior to others of its species. There's indication that fishes recognize themselves in a mirror, which is a test of self-awareness.
  • Emotionality- The ability to form emotions. A few fish are known to make distinct facial expressions in the same manner as primates do.
  • Personality- The extent to which an individual differs in its behavior from other members of the species.

What Is the Best Way to Train My Betta?

Although bettas are not as chatty as our other favorite pet, the dog, they do have the ability to recognize their own names and can be taught another words and phrases. Many people think that teaching a betta trick is similar to teaching a dog to rollover. It's actually more like training a parrot. You can train them starting from simple tricks. This fish can be trained to come to them when called by using positive reinforcement.

Train by moving your finger- Move your finger in a circular motion across the betta's head while saying its name. Betas will tend to swim towards any movement, so it should respond by moving towards your finger-tip. When it reaches you, gently give it some of its favorite food (usually live brine shrimp or bloodworms).


Betta fishes love their food and will be happy to come and get it. Repeat this process several times a day until your betta knows its name.

Train by calling its name- Once your betta is responding to the finger trick, you can try calling its name. Betta fishes are more likely to swim towards their name than any other words, so it should swim towards you when you call its name.


Try saying "buddy", "fishy", or some other pet names that will get its attention and then give it some food. You can even try calling its name in different tones- high pitched, low pitched, fast and slow.

Train by talking- The next step is to teach your betta to recognize particular items after you've trained it to respond when called by its name. This can be done by pairing a word or phrase with something good (such as food).


Try repeating the same phrase over and over while presenting treats until your betta begins to associate that word or phrase with getting food. Then say the word or phrase again (without giving food) and do not give your betta any treats.


This way, it will learn that saying that particular word or phrase causes something good to happen. The general rule is "no treat, no trick". It is also a good idea to give them toys such as ping pong ball to play. This can help in mental stimulation.

Hand feed trick- To teach your betta to get his food, start by putting a pellet on your fingertip or holding a live blackworm beneath the water surface to see if he'll take the treat straight from your fingers or tweezers.


If he doesn't come, try again in a few minutes. Once your betta is hungry enough to get the treat from your fingers or tweezers, you can start hand feeding it.


This way, you will be able to train the fish to come right up to you for food and even touch your finger-tip. Always remember to close the lid as these fishes are known to jump high.

Do Betta Fish Have a Brain 1

Tips to Remember While Training

As bettas are very intelligent fish, they learn quickly and will remember a trick or command after only a few training sessions. Your fish might perform the task correctly every now and then to be rewarded with food but it is always important to praise them frequently while training to keep their enthusiasm up.

 If you notice that your betta is disinterested in learning something new, try going back to one of the tricks you know he or she can do and work your way up to the harder trick. Keep the following in mind while training your betta fish.

  • Always use positive reinforcement to train your fish. Force or punishment will sometimes work but it is not necessary and can be harmful to the mental state of the betta fish. Instead, try to make this fun for both you and your betta. This can be done by rewarding good efforts instead of punishing bad behavior.
  • Make sure that when you are teaching your betta, the rules are always consistent. This will help ensure that they learn to associate words or actions with particular responses faster.
  • Always stay calm and patient while interacting with your betta fish. Treats can be used in small amounts during training sessions so that the best behavior is encouraged without overfeeding your fish. Overfeeding will not help your betta learn faster and can be harmful to his health.
  • Take breaks in between training sessions so that the rules are always enforced even when you are not practicing them. This way, your betta fishes does not learn to ignore you unless it is during a particular session. If he stops responding, do not punish him. Try again in a few minutes.
  • Bettas are smart fish capable of learning many different behaviors, but they generally have a short attention span. If you are trying to teach your Betta how to do something, make sure that whatever you are doing takes up no more than five minutes of its time. You can't expect it to spend long periods of time on laborious tasks.

How Does a Betta Respond to Training?

Positive reinforcements, such as praise, stroking, and goodies can help train these popular pet fish early on. You may then gradually remove the treats while still providing only your approval. Once your fish is trained, it may be rewarded with food; nevertheless, training sessions should be kept short and interesting. Always remember not to overfeed your betta or else it will become obese.

What Are the Benefits of Training a Betta Fish?

The benefits of teaching your betta new tricks are that it makes him feel useful. It is also a good idea to train a betta because it will help you get to know your betta's personality and level of intellect better. You will also be able to understand its emotional state much more easily.

FAQ

Is It True That Betta Fish Have a Three-second Memory?

You may have heard rumours saying that bettas have a 3-second memory and that they don't remember anything. This is not true at all. If you ask a betta owner, they will tell you that their fish respond and do tricks as soon as they call or say their name. Some can even swim through hoops if they received positive reinforcement.

What Are the Factors That Influence the Betta's Intelligence?

The factors that affect the betta's memory are experience, food, air, water quality and genetics. Specifically, an individual bettas' past experiences will determine how easily they can be trained to respond to certain words or keys. A betta is more likely to remember something if it is associated with positive reinforcement.

The way a betta responds to hunger can also affect its ability to remember. Finally, genetics will determine whether or not a betta is more intelligent than other fish as well as if it is more likely to respond well or poorly to training.

What Role Does Visual Stimulation Play in the Smartness of a Betta Fish?

They see color. While humans perceive colors in different ways, you can think of it this way: most humans are red-green colorblind, meaning that it is difficult or impossible for us to distinguish green hues from red hues. These fish species, on the other hand, see all colors in the spectrum. Because of this, they can tell the difference between different colors and will swim up to brightly colored objects in their tank.

What Other Senses Do Betta Fish Have?

These fishes are believed to sense sound using their lateral lines. The lateral line is a set of scales along the side of the fish that detects vibrations in the water. This helps them detect predators and prey. They also sense vibration through their body, which helps them determine if something is touching them.

Can a Betta Think?

Betta fish are very intelligent creatures, so they can actually think. All you have to do is spend a little time with your betta, and he or she will learn tricks like responding while calling names or doing the "wave."

Do Bettas Have Emotions?

Fish have the same pain-sensing equipment and natural chemicals as humans, as well as the ability to avoid harmful stimuli on purpose. They also possess emotions that we can comprehend. In most circumstances, they are extremely intelligent and can identify their owners.

Can My Betta Fish Hear Me?

The betta fish is clever, and it has a variety of abilities. Betta fish do not have ears, but they do have tiny openings on the inside of their heads that house a hearing structure. So, to put it another way, betta fish may hear.

In reality, detecting predators is one of the ways that betta fish utilize their sense of hearing. However, they are not like a cat or a dog and can recognize their name. They just know someone is speaking. They can associate sounds with action, though. 

Do Betta Fish Get Attached to Their Owners?

Betta fish may not "love" their owners in the same way that a dog or cat would demonstrate affection, but they do show a clear interest and connection with their owners. Bettas are also known to have excellent memories and can recall people who haven't seen them in weeks or months.

How Do You Condition the Fish to Work With You, Not Against You?

It's important to remember that your fish will quickly become bored if teaching sessions are too long or too repetitive. Always keep sessions short and interesting to avoid discouragement. When your betta seems disinterested, stop the session and try again later.

What Are the Things That Stress Betta Out the Most?

Betta fish are generally thought of as low-maintenance pets that can thrive in small, cramped environments. However, it does require time and attention from their owner to ensure they lead a happy life. Bettas have a natural tendency to tolerate stress well, but there is a limit to what they can handle. The following are some of the most common things that stress out bettas:

  • Moving the tank. Bettas are very attached to their homes, and moving it can be quite stressful. Even if the new location is much better, it will take your Betta time to adjust to its new surroundings. Sometimes, this process could take weeks or even months. If you plan on moving your betta's home, make sure to give it time every day to get used to its new location and surroundings before making the permanent change.
  • Cutting plants and aquarium decorations. They like to claim ownership of their homes by building nests inside them. Therefore, anything that looks like a good place for your Betta to build a nest will most likely be claimed by it. This includes large pieces of driftwood, rocks, and even your prized aquarium plants.
  • Another potential problem is the amount of waste products they produce. Bettas do not need much space to survive, but high levels of ammonia and nitrite can be detrimental to their health and may even prove to be fatal. Because of this, you should make sure that the water in their tank is well filtered and changed frequently. It's also a good idea to feed your Betta sparingly, since overfeeding can cause its water to become polluted quickly.

Conclusion

Betta fish are highly intelligent fish and can be trained with patience and perseverance. In fact, it's been said that they're able to solve problems just as well as some primates. They have excellent memories and will remember their owners for a long time. Furthermore, they can be kept in a small tank like vases too.It is true that they require clean water to live in but this is where regular aquarium cleaning comes into play.

They have the ability to adapt to new surroundings in no time. If you are a fish lover who doesn't have much experience in caring for these types of animals, it is best to start with a betta fish. These special creatures can be a perfect choice as they are beautiful, smart and easy to care for. They make a great addition to your home.

Sarah Robertson


I am a passionate blogger who also happens to be a fish keeping enthusiast. Writing about my hobby is something that I absolutely love to do, and it's no secret that my chosen topic is always centered around fish keeping.

Sarah Robertson

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