Have you seen your betta fish swimming up and down along aquarium walls. That’s called glass surfing. Glass surfing is an erratic behavior in betta fish that’s characterized by the fish pacing all over the glass of your aquarium. But what does it mean?

When betta fish surf the glass, it means there’s a problem in your aquarium – usually poor water conditions. The fish are stressed and unhappy. You can fix this behavior by cleaning the aquarium and maintaining healthy water conditions such as temperature and pH at their optimum.

Overall, provide a safe and healthy environment in the tank to stop your betta fish from glass surfing.

Is it normal for bettas to glass surf?

Glass surfing is not a normal behavior in betta fish. It only happens when something is wrong in the tank, usually poor water chemistry, overcrowding, bullying, or other form of distress.

Not every day is glass surfing in betta fish caused by poor water conditions. Sometimes they display whacky behavior if you bring them to a new home. Glass surfing can happen if you don’t acclamatize your betta fish the right way, or when you place the bettas in tap water before conditioning.

Betta Fish Glass Surfing

The erratic behavior may continue until the bettas get used to their new aquarium. In fact, you may notice glass surfing as soon as you change anything in the fish tank.

Generally, glass surfing is not considered dangerous to your betta fish but it can lead to injuries to various organs. For example, injury to the swim bladder can lead to the vertical death hang posture.

In severe cases, the betta fish will repeatedly hit the aquarium walls with its snout like it wants to get outside the tank. 

It is essential to find out the exact cause of your betta’s glass surfing and correct the issue as soon as possible.

Why is my betta glass surfing?

Let’s look at some reasons your betta fish is glass surfing. In the next section, I have discussed tips to stop betta fish from glass surfing.

Here are some reasons your betta fish is glass surfing:

Poor water conditions

Build up of chemicals in your aquarium can significantly impact the health of your betta fish. The concentration of chemicals such as nitrates, nitrites, and ammonia in the aquarium should be at zero parts per million to keep your bettas healthy and happy. 

Fish waste, food leftovers, and algae accumulate in the water and deprive the fish of oxygen. Suffocation stresses the bettas and makes them want to escape the tank. If that happens, your bettas will swim irregularly up and down along the aquarium walls.

Strong water current

Bettas dislike strong water currents because they have delicate fins. Strong water currents mean bettas have to use more force to move. The fish gets fatigued and may be thrown against your aquarium walls and decorations. 

Betta fish might start glass surfing to show their dissatisfaction with the strong water currents in your aquarium. If you use a water filter, regulate it to ensure it does not eject water with a lot of pressure. Some faulty filters make noise and rattle the water, making your bettas restless.

Betta fish prefer slow-flowing water to not only protect their fins against damage but also to breathe easily. 


A fish tank can be overstocked in two ways: either the aquarium is too small, or you are keeping too many bettas in your fish tank. Keep only one betta in a five-gallon tank to avoid overstocking and glass surfing.

Also, as a rule of thumb, keep 5 female bettas in a sorority tank to avoid harassment and fights among the fish.

An overstocked betta fish aquarium poses serious health risks to fish and heightens aggression among male bettas. Note that bettas are territorial fish. When overcrowded, they will fight and injure one another. 

Weak bettas can succumb to the stress, and the others may get bored and lonely if the tank is too small. 

Betta fish seeing their own reflection

Another reason your betta fish could be glass surfing is that they are seeing their own reflection in the aquarium glass wall. Being territorial and aggressive fish, bettas will react to the reflection with aggression, following its image up and down the tank. 

The betta will puff up and flare gills while relentlessly chasing the “intruder.” This manifests as glass surfing in your bettas. To stop glass surfing, remove the reflection as discussed in the next section.

At times, they’re responding to color changes in the TV since some fish like watching TV. It may not be that they actually understand what’s going on on the TV but they enjoy the color changes and sounds.

Wrong tank size

The right size to keep your bettas depends on the number of fish you want to keep and the reason for keeping them, among many other factors. 

The right tank size allows bettas adequate swimming space, reduces water toxicity, and promotes optimal water parameters like pH and temperature.

If your tank is smaller than five gallons, perhaps that’s why your betta fish is glass surfing. A bigger tank allows bettas to live long, about three to five years. 

But if you don’t correct it sooner, your betta fish will die early.

Water changes

Change the aquarium water for your bettas once or twice a week. However, the water temperature, pH, and CO2 levels can drop significantly. Guppies are sensitive to water changes, which can result in glass surfing.

Nevertheless, glass surfing resulting from water changes is usually temporary and should not make you panic. If you see your bettas glass surfing after a water change, allow them a few hours to acclimate to the new water conditions. 

Your bettas should get back to living their everyday happy lives.

Decoration changes

Remember that bettas have quite delicate fins, and changing or altering the decorations can significantly impact their wellbeing. 

If the aquarium decorations constantly stress your bettas, they will react by glass surfing to indicate their plight.

Avoid using plastic or metallic decorations in your aquarium that could hurt your fish. Instead, use balls, foliage, leaves, and shipwrecks to decorate your betta fish tank. 

If you remove all decorations from your tank, bettas will get familiar with their surroundings quickly and get bored. 

The correct decorations and arrangement create biodiversity and allow betta fish opportunities to hide and swim without glass surfing.

How to stop betta fish from glass surfing

Here are some ways to stop your betta fish from glass surfing:

1. Install an aquarium heater

Use a thermometer regularly to monitor the water temperature. Although bettas don’t rely entirely on a heater, it is essential for strengthening their immune system. 

Sudden temperature variations in the aquarium are one of the leading causes of diseases, stress, and glass surfing in betta fish, especially if the fish tank you use is small. 

Install a good aquarium heater in your betta fish tank to keep the temperatures between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Clean and maintain your fish tank once per week

Follow these steps to clean and maintain your betta fish tank:

  1. Test your aquarium for ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites
  2. Use an algae scraper to scrub algae off your tank walls
  3. Prune the dead aquarium plant leaves and trim overgrown foliage
  4. Turn off and unplug all aquarium equipment in your fish tank
  5. Use an aquarium siphon to vacuum the substrate and remove old tank water
  6. Clean your aquarium filter
  7. Refill the water
  8. Plug and turn on the aquarium heater and filter
  9. Wipe the outside walls of the glass to give your aquarium a crystal clear finish

3. Avoid overfeeding your betta fish

As long as there is food in the tank, bettas will eat even if they are full. Overfeeding can cause them bloating, anxiety, and glass surfing.

You will know the bettas are consuming enough food if you see no leftovers at the top of the aquarium.

Feed your betta fish once or twice a day with two or three medium-sized pellets. When placed in water, the pellets will swell to satisfy your fish until the next feeding time.

4. Do not overcrowd your fish tank

Avoid overcrowding your fish tank. The minimum tank size for keeping one betta fish is five gallons. It should have one male or one female betta. 

However, the bigger the tank, the better for your fish. A larger tank eliminates glass surfing, reduces overcrowding, and is easy to maintain.

5. Add tank mates compatible with betta fish

Many tank mates can live peacefully with betta fish. These tank mates match the aggression, energy, and size of the bettas, and so they will rarely attack each other. 

Add tank mates such as Kuhli Loaches, Ember Tetras, and Cory Catfish.

Adding the wrong tank mates with your bettas can cause significant competition and harm to your bettas and make them surf the glass even more.

6. Dim your aquarium light

If your aquarium light is too bright, bettas will see their reflection in the glass. Dimming the light is essential to remove the shadow and reduce your betta’s glass surfing behavior. 

Also, plant tall bushy aquarium plants such as the Amazon Sword, Asian Ambulia, or Blue Water Hyssop. The plants should cover the betta fish reflections and reduce glass surfing.

More on Betta Fish


Keller, K. (2019). Bettas need more than bowls. The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

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