Why Do Betta Fish Fight

June 21, 2023

Betta fish are well known for their extravagant displays of aggression, especially towards other males, though females may also fight among each other. But many of us do not realize that their fighting nature is mainly aimed at their own species, and that they can still be kept with many other peaceful fish species.

Betta fish are social, independent, and very interactive freshwater Aquarium fish that have come to show many signs of intelligent behavior, and acceptance towards their owners. By understanding a bit more about the breed, you could easily be the proud and content owner of the most spectacular betta fish.

Species Information

Betta Fish, known as the “Siamese Fighting Fish, “ should explain why they Fight. Betta fish are essentially freshwater fish, native to Southeast Asia.

Betta fish were initially bred in Thailand and domesticated for their aggression to be used in gambling matches, similar to cockfighting.

The Betta fish, in general, is notorious for being highly territorial, especially males who will attack and kill each other, and females that may be territorial in more confined spaces.

Betta fish are hardy and intelligent, and chosen by many aquarists for their absolutely striking color variations such as the Bold Red, or Paler White, and their gracious and elegant mannerisms. Though they can be quite aggressive, you need to keep in mind that they each have their own individual personalities.

A Few Quick Facts on Betta Fish Temperament

I want to share a few basic facts from trusted resources with you, for more insight into Betta fish behavior;

  • Betta fish females can be housed together in a group of at least 4 to 6 females, as they form a hierarchy that will get along with each other. With two Betta females, one will most certainly try to dominate the other, sometimes resulting in her death.
  • Male Betta fish can never be housed together with another male betta, as it is entirely in their nature to eliminate other males, thus they will fight to the death.
  • Unfortunately, the same principle counts for a male and female Betta, they will fight for territory and space. The only time when a male and female Betta can be placed together is after they have been properly introduced and courted each other for mating. Only for mating and laying eggs, in which case the male will chase the female away.
  • Male Betta fish take care of eggs and young, until they are independent, in which case they will similarly become aggressive towards them.
  • Male Betta fish will not get along with other fish species that have very bright colors, or long flowing tails.

Why Do Male Betta Fish Fight?

Male Betta fish fight because they are excessively territorial. When they have established a territory, food source, or even access to females, they will not share it, and become extremely aggressive in behavior. Unfortunately, all of this is just a consequence of how they were reared and bred to be.

Why Do Female Betta Fish Fight

Unfortunately, similar to male Betta fish, females are similarly territorial, and dominant, thus two females will fight relentlessly, though with four or more females, they will form a pecking order and co-exist peacefully together, even with other species of tank mates.

Choosing Tank Mates For Betta Fish

Betta fish will easily get along with most fish similar in size or smaller, that are peaceful, and do not have elegant long fins, that may be a temptation to nip at. A few of the best tank mates for male or female Betta fish are. In contrast, some other species companions are ideally crucial for your bettas to keep them happy and entertained, and a much better choice than keeping only Bettas on their own, or females in a group.

  • Corydora Catfish – They are peaceful Bottom feeders that help to keep your tank clean.
  • Neon Tetras – Tetras are shoaling fish that are small, fast and active, they can also provide good entertainment for your betta to try and chase around.
  • Rasboras – They are gorgeous shoaling fish that keep to themselves, and that are extremely peaceful.
  • Kuhli Loaches – They look like small eels, and they are peaceful bottom feeders, that in turn help to keep your tank clean.
  • Guppies – Feeder Guppies with shorter tails or female guppies are similar to good tank mates, however, try to avoid fancy guppies with long tails.
  • Plecos – Also a bottom feeder that is peaceful and mainly keeps to itself.

Do Betta Fish Show Aggression Towards Their Young

Firstly, mating between male and female Bettas can be quite intricate, as you need to place the male in a separate container in the tank with the female to enable them to court each other, and to establish whether they are aggressive, or accepting of each other.

If both show acceptance they can be placed in a separate breeding tank where the male will build a bubble nest for the eggs, and upon inspection the female will decide whether she accepts it, and in turn will allow the male to fertilize her eggs.

After all the eggs have been laid though, the male usually chases the female away, and she must be removed to be kept out of harm's way. Strangely enough, the male takes care of the young fry until they are independent enough to become what may seem as a threat to him, whereas you will need to remove the male.

How Can You Prevent Aggression In Betta Fish

Unfortunately, you will never be able to completely control aggression in Betta fish, Males will never coexist, and you will need to be more careful with females, however here are a few tips to create a more friendly environment, that is calming for your betta;

  • Ensure that your tank is the proper size for your betta, at least 5 -10 gallons, so that it can swim around, and not get frustrated.
  • Try to create a calming natural environment with plenty of plants, hiding spaces, and decorations that are safe.
  • Create a calm background and try to avoid any mirror or reflective materials which your Betta may see as another Betta posing a threat.
  • House only single males in a tank, and not even facing each other.
  • House at least four to size females together, and never with a male.
  • Choose peaceful shoaling tank mates as calming companions.
  • Try to interact with your Betta on a daily basis, they are highly intelligent.
  • Establish a clear day and night schedule with a light, or natural indirect sunlight, as they do tend to sleep at night.
  • Feed a healthy diet of meat based foods such as Bloodworms and larvae, and plant based food such as zucchini, lettuce and spinach, as well as a high quality pellet or granular food.
  • Keep the tank clean with a pH of at least 7.0 or higher, and temperatures of between 24-28 degrees Celsius, or (75-82 Fahrenheit).

When your Betta fish is in a comfortable and clean environment with enough space, it will naturally be calmer and more social in behavior.

How To Choose A Calm Betta Fish

Essentially when choosing a Healthy Betta fish, you want to choose one that is active and shows no signs of disease;

  • Fins – Must not be damaged or clamped in any way.
  • Inactive – Bettas need to be active, yet relaxed but not lethargic.
  • Appetite – Place your finger in the tank or bowl, and check if they respond in a hungry way, or ask the pet store or breeder to give them a small snack.
  • Spine – Look for a straight spine and a Betta that can swim straight.
  • Swimming – The Betta needs to be swimming actively without any trouble.
  • Gills – The gills must not be swollen, and must be uniform with the body.
  • Color – Choose a color that you love, that is bright and clear with no white spots or patches on the body.

If there are a few healthy Bettas you can look at their behavior and initial reaction to your presence, whether they hide away or whether they show some interest. There is not much guarantee of a less aggressive Betta, though, at least your Betta will be healthy following these tips.

To Conclude

Betta fish essentially are bred to be aggressive and fight especially males, so ideally it is in their nature. When kept in the right conditions, you will be most surprised at how majestic, intelligent and interactive they can be, besides their feisty nature.

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siamese_fighting_fish#:~:text=Betta%20splendens,-Regan%2C%201910&text=Siamese%20fighting%20fish%20are%20endemic,gambling%20matches%20akin%20to%20cockfighting.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/225405023_Runway_behavior_of_Siamese_fighting_fishBetta_splendens_for_aggressive_display_and_food_reinforcement

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Carlos Diaz
I believe in making the impossible possible because there’s no fun in giving up. Travel, design, fashion and current trends in the field of industrial construction are topics that I enjoy writing about.

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