Female Betta Fish: Not Pairs But Three of a Kind

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What makes female betta fish different from the males? Turns out a lot and yet not so much. If that’s clear as mud let’s see if we can’t explain that two of a kind paradox and find out more as we try to understand female bettas from the inside out.

The Physical Makeup: Does the Fairer Sex Lack the Glamor?

First you may be wondering, given these are fish, how does one distinguish the boys from the girls. Sure the pet stores may label the cups “male” or “female” but can you really rely on the opinion of some clueless pet department clerk who was manning the paint mixer just last week? Luckily these fish offer visual cues you can use to identify males from female beta fish.

  • Fins: Physically females generally have shorter, rounder, less flowing fins and tails than the males of the species. This is the best indicator of the sex of the fish unless they are very young and the male’s fins just haven’t developed fully yet.
  • Colors: Typically female betta fish have less vibrant coloration than males. Although anymore breeders have found ways to develop females that are almost every bit as colorful as their brothers in some cases.
  • Size: Females tend to be smaller in size. Male betta fish tend to be bigger, longer and somewhat thinner.
  • Egg Spot: Females also have an egg spot but it’s not always easy to spot. Since this may only show at breeding time anyway, directly behind the females swollen belly, it’s not such a good way to sex the fish.

For the most part, the bettas you’re going find at the chain pet stores are going to be males because they are the showier sex and as such better grab the attention of would be buyers better. Still that’s not to say females of the species lack for glamor in their own right.

The Behavior – Aggressive Females

Male bettas can be more aggressive than their female counterparts. But that doesn’t mean that the fairer sex doesn’t exhibit a high level of aggression themselves. It’s just that it’s more the case that females tend to flare less and nip more. So don’t expect them to be any more socialable than males. But they can’t help themselves. It’s any betta’s nature to be in constant attack mode.

Besides like in anything else some simply do not play well with others.

That’s what in part accounts for their popularity. That and the fact that bettas each pretty much have fairly unique personalities – for fish. Which some find hard to resist.

It may also be helpful to know that female betas can display horizontal stripes when they are stressed or frightened. Or they can exhibit vertical stripes and flare their gills when they’re flirting and are ready to breed. Another betta selling point perhaps?

But what about if a female betta shows vertical bars around another female? (No, it’s not what you may think.) It’s actually more or less just a sign that says “Back off!” Still despite their aggressive nature believe it or not groups of girls can occupy the same tank rather successfully.

The Benefits of Sorority Living

Fact: Two male betta fish in one tank equals total CHAOS.

Fact: Two females in one tank equals total CHAOS Part 2.

Okay so given the risk of attitudes flaring is it still really possible to safely house more than one female fighting fish in one large bowl, tank or aquarium? Absolutely! There’s even a term for this type of living arrangement. It’s called a sorority tank. And keeping more than one sorority sister in a tank can work just fine (most of the time) provided you follow a few basic guidelines. The idea is to create an environment where these BFFs, or almost BFFs, don’t have a constant running cat fight oh, I meant betta fight, going on. And again you can usually avoid that by following some simple rules. Here’s …

Seven Simple Rules For Sorority Tank Success

Sorority Tank Rule #1: Try to introduce all the female to their new home all at the same time. Putting one in first lets that one mistakenly see the entire tank as her territory. A territory that is to be defended. So if they all go in at once that is less likely to happen. Each has a fair shot at staking a claim to their own little bit of heaven somewhere in the tank.

Sorority Tank Rule #2: A number of female bettas can be kept in the same 10 gallon tank as long as it’s an odd number. That would be three or five for that amount of water. Seven or nine fit comfortably in a twenty gallon set up. This leaves the occupants enough space and hiding places to go around.

Having an odd number also makes it more likely a peaceful pecking order will be established. (Two fish cannot develop a pecking order.) The dominant female will rule. Think of her as like the pack leader who the rest submit to. See this as translating into any any harassment will be dished out to multiple targets meaning no one fish is likely to be bear the brunt of it all. Generally things will sort themselves out in time and a relative calmness will the norm. But these are still fighting fish so you shouldn’t expect calmness to reign 100% of the time.

Then too keeping the cast of characters the same, that is no new fish, also helps keep “misunderstandings” to a minimum.

Betta Fish Care Tip: If you must introduce a new female to the tank rearrange your ornaments and plants. Think of it as reshuffling the deck. This move will temporarily confuse the existing fish. They’ll think they are in a whole new space and the new fish is part of the new set up. As a result new territorial claims will have to be staked out. Favorite hiding places claimed. Such a trick tends to cut down on any group territorial aggression towards the newcomer.

Sorority Tank Rule #3: Expect there to be squabbles initially. This is how the pecking order is established. For some posturing is sufficient. Others require a bit of nipping and chasing to catch on as to who is the lead fish. Also since rank has its privileges expect the less dominate fish to get less food. That’s just how it is.

Sorority Tank Rule #4: Even in the most well-adjusted families disagreements still crop up from time to time. For that reason you want to have enough plants and caves and other pieces of aquarium décor to offer ample hiding places for lower caste members to take refuge in – as they wait for any emotional storm to blow over.

Sorority Tank Rule #5: Be ready to separate a particularly aggressive fish if need be. Or one that isn’t aggressive enough. If one fish doesn’t cooperate you’re better off moving her to her own tank. It will be less stressful for all involved. And if one isn’t getting any food being on her own might mean she’ll be able to survive.

Sorority Tank Rule #6: Females from the same spawn, ie sisters, that have been together since birth have the best chance of getting along.

Sorority Tank Rule #7: No males allowed. Introducing a male to an established sorority tank can sometimes result in the death of that male. Surprising, huh? This is also why you want to be sure of the sex of the fish you are putting in this tank. That way there will be no surprises later on. We’ll save discussing males in more depth when looking at breeding beta fish, okay?

For sure female betta fish are in a league of their own. But some would say that’s definitely what makes them just that much more special.

Lucas – has written 71 posts on this site.
Putting a name with a face I'm Lucas Smatana. Like you I'm passionate about betta fish and hope to share my enthusiasm. The idea here is to make sure you get helpful info and useful ideas on betta fish care that really work. To insure your betta keeping experience is a good one both for you and your fish. So that you and your pet enjoy a long, happy and healthy relationship.

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