Keeping happy, healthy fish is the main objective for any aquarium hobbyist. Apart from food and a clean aquatic environment, entertainment and enrichment can be provided as well. Fish, like cats and dogs, are pets which begs the question: do fish like (or need) toys?
Like other animals, fish like to interact with objects and be entertained. Fish toys are one such example and provided they’re lightweight, easy to bite or push around, and aquarium-safe, then adding them to your tank is a good way to introduce a little fun into your pets’ daily lives!
Now that you know fish toys are a good thing, let’s explore this topic further. As we move through this article together, I’ll explain if fish get bored, what species in particular enjoy playing with toys, how to entertain (and bond with) your fish, how to make your own fish toys, and where to go to buy them.
So, if you’re ready to learn more about fish toys and their how they enrich your aquatic pets’ lives, then let’s begin!
Can You Put Toys in a Fish Tank?
You can put toys in a fish tank – but not just any toy. They must be made of aquarium-safe, chemical-free plastic. If not, you run the risk of harmful toxins leeching into the water or the toys becoming a breeding ground for algae which could cause illness and even death to your fish. Therefore, it’s best to purchase fish toys from a reputable pet shop or professional online retailer.
Do Fish Get Bored?
When it comes to pet fish, determining if they’re bored or not is difficult. Since they can’t verbally communicate with their owners, all you can do as an aquarium hobbyist is make an assumption based on their physical actions. Laying along the bottom of the tank or floating listlessly near the surface could be a sign of boredom.
As well, wild-caught aquarium fish that are accustomed to exploring and foraging in a large area could be more bored than those that are tank-raised and used to smaller surroundings. In any case, adding rocks, caves, decorations like mirrors and backdrops as well as floating plants and toys like ping pong balls couldn’t hurt.
What do Fish do for Fun?
Just like other pets, fish like to be entertained. Swimming through caves or nudging at thermometers in their tanks are a few examples. An air pump with an air stone adds bubbles to the tank which some fish like to swim through. Floating decorations or plants are also fun for fish to push around. And, of course, interacting with their owners is a fun pastime.
How to Entertain Betta Fish?
Bettas are unlike other species of fish in that they can be ‘played with’ (just like other pets), though not in the traditional sense. They can recognize their keepers and will react to their presence in the room. To better bond with your betta fish, try the following activities:
- Run your finger across the aquarium glass gently and watch your betta follow it. It’s like a game of tag with your pet fish! Just make sure not to tap the glass hard as this may disturb or stress out your fish.
- Take a ping pong ball and place it on the surface of the water. Move it around gently and wait for your betta fish to swim up to and interact with it. This will entice the fish to push it around and play with it.
- Take a laser pointer and direct it at the aquarium. Watch as your betta fish chases after the light just like a cat! This works best on a tank with fewer decorations as too items will make it difficult for your fish to spot the light.
- Add a mirror to the tank. The premise is that your betta will swim up to it and think it’s another fish, causing it to flare its fins. Be aware, however, that this form of stimulation may cause stress should the fish view the reflected image as a threat.
- Place a brightly colored backdrop inside the aquarium. Take a few post-it notes in different colors and place them on the glass, rotating them occasionally to spark your betta’s interest.
- Add some shiny decorations such as hang-on colored glass ornaments. The sparkle of light from these ornaments will attract your betta’s attention.
How to Entertain Goldfish?
Like bettas, goldfish like to be entertained. Live or silk plants provide a great pastime for them as they seem to enjoy nibbling at or swimming in and out of the leaves. Even substrate along the bottom of the tank can provide hours of fun for goldfish as they sift through it in their endless search for food. Tunnels and other hiding places like terra cotta pots and ceramic caves for exploring provide amusement as well.
Another great idea for entertaining goldfish is to cut up pieces of cucumber and toss them in the tank. Watch them chase after and nibble at them as they float to the bottom. Or you can take a seaweed clip with a spinach leaf attached and let them go at it! Just be sure to remove the leftovers from the tank at the end of the day so as not to let rotting food raise the ammonia and/or levels in the water.
How to Entertain Guppy Fish?
Like bettas and goldfish, guppies like to play and be entertained. Providing hiding places for them to swim in and out of is recommended. Decorative items like caves, ceramic pots, driftwood, PVC piping, rocks, logs and greenery are ideal. Adding java ferns or anubias plants to your tank will provide a fun pastime for guppies as they swim around and through the leaves.
Adding an air pump or an air stone to your guppy is another great idea. Guppies like to interact with the bubbles and will often through them. They don’t, however, like a swift current so don’t use too strong of a filer or a powerhead in their tank. Guppies also enjoy poking around in gravel so be sure to place some substrate along the bottom of their aquarium as well.
How to Make Fish Toys?
Making your own fish toy is easy, provided you take caution and use only non-toxic plastic or natural materials whenever possible. A leaf hammock, for example, makes a great addition for your betta or goldfish aquarium.
Aquatic plants are decorative and help maintain the ecological balance in the tank. Simply take a large plastic leaf (or better yet, use a real Indian almond or catappa leaf), attach it to a suction pad, and place it up against the glass inside the tank.
PVC pipe can be used to make tunnels and hiding places. The extra bonus of adding PVC pipes to your aquarium is your fish will not only have more fun but they will have more hiding places to feel safe. I have a great article on adding PVC pipe to an aquarium which can be found here.
Where to Buy Fish Toys?
It’s generally best to purchase fish toys from a local pet shop or online retailer that specializes in aquariums and aquatic animals. Amazon is a great place to start. Floating fish rings/food feeders are ideal for bettas, goldfish, guppies and more!
Check out this cool toy that’s made of environmentally safe, non-toxic materials. Best of all, it’s reasonably priced and comes with a money-back guarantee!
To conclude, fish like to interact with objects and be entertained, just like any other animal. Toys, for example, are a great form of entertainment and enrichment for your pet fish. Be sure the items you choose are lightweight, easy to bite or push around, and aquarium-safe so as not to endanger your pets.
I hope this article has answered your questions pertaining to fish toys and their implications. Thanks for reading and good luck with your aquarium hobby.