Betta Fish Digging in Rocks: What Should I Do

Bettas are such a lovely pet to have. As much as they are fun and intriguing fish to have, they can be sometimes really strange! One day you might find them swimming at the surface of the water, another day they may be at the bottom of the tank. There are even cases where bettas are digging in rocks!

This behavior can be alarming especially when this is the first time you see it. However, digging rocks is not mostly always a cause for concern, keep reading below to find out if your betta is just being quirky or if what they are doing is more serious than that.

Why is my betta fish digging in rocks?

Digging rocks for most betta fish is a phenomenon that some pet owners observe. They may rub against any objects other than rocks such as glass, filters, and plants.

“Is it normal behavior for my betta fish to dig in rocks or any other objects for that matter?” you may ask. The answer is before brushing off your bettas’ behavior as normal, it is best to monitor their behaviors more and to rule out other illnesses first.

Here are some reasons that may be considered why your betta fish is digging against gravel.

1. Diseases

Have you noticed your betta digging recently? One thing you might want to consider is if your betta fish have contracted a fungal infection on betta fish or parasite. Rubbing against gravel might be your fish’s way to get rid of unwanted pests off its body.

So what are the types of disease of betta fish that may cause your betta distress?

Worms

Anchor worms are not as common as other parasites but this may be one of the reasons why your betta is digging. These types of worms can bury themselves under your betta’s scale or around the base of their fins and mostly occur in ponds where goldfish and koi live. Aside from this, anchor worms are easy to spot and can be noticed by seeing white strings hanging from your betta’s body.

In an attempt to get rid of this worm, your fish may try scraping against objects that may lead to injury if left untreated. Other symptoms to watch out for that comes with anchor worms are lethargy, labored breathing, loss of appetite, soreness, and even ulcers.

Treating your betta, especially if the disease is infectious, requires special attention and care from you. First, it is recommended that you set up a quarantine tank so that you can easily track their treatment and further monitor their progress. After that, carefully remove as many anchor worms as possible and make sure that there are no pieces left behind your bettas’ skin. Just a gentle reminder in removing the worms, this will stress out your betta which is why it is not recommended to do it for long periods of time.

Some owners and hobbyists have found out that one of the best products you can use in removing anchor worms are Dimilin-X Koi and Goldfish Treatment. This product should be given in regular doses and small amounts until your betta fish is cured; although, remember to keep this away from invertebrates and plants as this product may be harmful to them.

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Ich

Another parasite that your betta fish can acquire is the ich (or ick). Also known as the white spot disease, ich is very infectious and may even cause death to some fish. Ich may even spread faster if your betta is stressed or if the aquarium’s water condition is poor. 

If your betta fish get infected with this, it is important to get them quarantined fast if you have other fishes in the tank as this is highly contagious. Symptoms of ich may include, same as the anchor worms, are lethargy, loss of appetite, and labored breathing. Seeing white spots around your betta fish is the easiest way to determine if they are dealing with ich.  However, there are times where ich is difficult to spot because it can sometimes resemble velvet; just remember that the severity of this disease is often measured by how many white spots your fish have.

Creating a healthy environment will mostly do the trick on preventing ich formation and spread. If your betta is suffering from this disease, you can choose to use medication such as malachite green or salt baths.

Remember that starting treatment as early as possible is the key to prevent sickness caused by ich. Adjusting the tank’s water temperature levels or even adding aquarium salt can be helful too!

Velvet

Also called the rust or gold-dust disease, velvet disease is very small dots that are sometimes confused with ich and are not easy to spot before it’s too late. Same as the ich, velvet can be spread by an infected fish to another or could be due to poor water condition.

Symptoms are also the same as ich however, the difference is that velvet appears to have more small spots than the former. Like other parasites, betta fish will try to dig into gravel or rub into objects in an attempt to remove the velvet. Over scratching may cause over exhaustion and soreness to your betta fish which can eventually lead to infection.

If your betta suddenly had a change in behavior, it is best to check their bodies closely for any signs of velvet.

Treating velvet disease may vary from using a water conditioner in improving the tank’s water to adjusting the water temperature. If symptoms still persist even after doing this, medications that contain sodium chloride, copper sulfate, and acriflavine will mostly treat your betta.

Flukes

Gill flukes are a type of parasite that attacks and damages your betta’s gills. There are no physical symptoms in gill flukes, unlike the previous parasites, which makes it very scary and dangerous. Some of the signs to watch out for to see if your betta is suffering from this disease are mucus, gill damage and discoloration, and your fish’s ragged breathing. 

Aside from digging and scraping into rocks, if you see your betta fish gasping for air at the surface, then you might want to consider gill flukes as the culprit.

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Flukes can be treated by transferring your betta first to another tank and giving them anti-fluke treatments and medication such as prazipro and flubendazole in severe cases. 

In mild fluke cases, an aquarium salt bath is sometimes recommended as an alternative to medication.

Columnaris

Columnaris, which is also known as cotton-wool, cotton-mouth, mouth fungus, mouth-rot, and saddleback, are parasites that may enter your betta’s mouth, gills, or open sores. Like the other previous diseases, columnaris are highly contagious and challenging to identify due to the bacteria’s ability to progress at different rates.

Fraying fin is one of the early symptoms of columnaris which are often confused with other diseases. Shortly after the early symptom, ulcers and other wearing may begin to appear on your betta’s skin which is mostly accompanied by lethargy, loss of appetite, and discoloration.

Columnaris is known to spread quickly and if left untreated, may kill your fish in just a few days.  

Using a water conditioner to treat columnaris, or another same bacterial infection is one alternative you can try on your betta. In more severe cases, medications containing Sulfa 4 TMP, TMP Sulfa, and triple sulfa solutions are some options you can choose from.

2. Hiding place

A lighter reason (than diseases) on why your betta might be digging, could be because they are trying to look for a place to hide. Bettas are known to enjoy having a hiding place in their natural habitat since it brings them security. If you don’t have any decorations or a cave inside your tank, then your betta might resort to digging.

You can also see this type of behavior among fish that are new to their tank. Transferring from one place to another may shake their sense of security thus forcing your betta to adopt this behavior. 

What you can do in this kind of situation is to add more decoration to your tank. There are caves you can buy online or in your local shop that can serve as your betta’s safe space. 

Aside from caves, adding a plant or two to your tank is also a good option you can try! 

betta fish doesn't eat

3. Looking for food

If there is leftover food in your tank and your betta eventually swims at the bottom of the tank, digging into the rocks, then most probably they are just foraging for food that may still be floating inside the tank. If this is the case, then it’s not as problematic as it seems; however, keep in mind to remove any leftover next time to avoid polluting your betta’s tank.

If you notice that your betta is not eating the food you are offering them, then you may want to consider offering them a variety of food. Since bettas are also known to be picky eaters at times, preparing a variety of diets for them will probably take more effort than usual.

Bettas are known to be omnivores that is why in order to keep them as healthy as possible, a diet that consists of pellets, flakes, frozen, freeze-dried, and live foods may be the best option for them.

4. Small tank size

It is not a secret that the average tank size for a betta to live in should be a 5-gallon tank or larger. Stress is one of the many causes why fish rub against objects and one main reason for stress is having an inadequate tank size.

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Having limited space to move around and competition for resources, if they have tankmates, will surely cause your betta to feel distressed which drives them to manifest strange behaviors like rubbing and scraping.

Try investing in a bigger aquarium not smaller than a 5-gallon tank. Keeping a betta happy requires a comfortable space where they can move around and enjoy the decorations and toys you have for them. 

Even though bettas are small, they still need a space they can explore to keep them entertained and excited every day. 

5. Water temperature

Another stressor that may lead to your betta’s odd behavior is being kept in a tank with a cool water temperature. Bettas that are kept in incorrect water temperature may cause their metabolism to slow down which will eventually make them sluggish. Aside from this, your betta may swim strangely and would dig into the gravel, decorations, or glass. In worse cases, if not addressed, this may shorten your betta’s lifespan which could lead to immediate death.

The ideal water temperature for bettas ranges between 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Including a water heater in your tank’s accessory will be very useful to make sure that your betta is living in the best condition possible. 

6. Reflection

When bettas see their own reflection, their initial reaction is that they’ll be threatened and stressed out. Usually, when the lighting of the room is brighter than the outside, the tank reflects what is inside that’s why bettas see their own reflection.

Since you already know that stress can lead to odd behaviors, how would you stop your betta from rubbing against objects?

Setting up good lighting in your room to avoid the tank from creating a reflection is the best solution to this problem. You may want to consider including a tank light and leaving it off when the room is not bright. Another alternative is to place a lamp beside the tank and leave it on when needed.

7. Betta’s personality

Rubbing or digging into the gravel could be just because your betta fish is being quirky. Bettas sometimes are weird creatures and it is not uncommon for them to do odd behaviors. If diseases and other factors are absent, then most probably this is just part of your betta’s personality!

If this is indeed the case, just let your betta do its thing. However, make sure that the toys or decorations you have do not contain any sharp objects to avoid your betta from getting hurt or injured.

Take good care of your betta

Now that you are more aware of your betta’s behavior, it is now your responsibility to take care of and provide them with the best home and environment possible. Bettas are not just a trophy pet to keep just because of their beauty, rather, they are very cool and can make your life happier!