Why Do Betta Fish Fight and How to Stop Them

Why Do Betta Fish Fight and How to Stop Them

Also known as Siamese fighting fish, Betta fish are known for fighting each other. Unfortunately, many people don’t know enough about this pet before getting one or more. Both sensitive and complicated, two males will often fight each other when in a tank together, but why is this? And how can you stop them? Well, these are the questions that we will be looking to answer here in this blog post.

Essentially, Betta fish are naturally aggressive creatures who have developed fighting instincts over the years. It can be very difficult for two to coexist peacefully together unless you make the conditions just right. Even then, there are to guarantees. The males are the more aggressive of the genders, but females have been known to fight as well. And their aggressive behavior isn’t always reserved for each other – it can also be directed at other marine life. You really need to do your research and plenty of preparation before you think about getting one or more of these fish.

Let’s start by looking at some basic facts about Betta fish if you don’t know much about them.

Two betta fishes

Betta Fish Facts

Native to Asia, Betta fish live in the shallow waters of ponds, marshes or streams. The males are the ones who look after the young, building bubble nests, feeding through their mouths, and attacking any potential predators in the area. Like us, they are diurnal creatures, which means that they are active during the day and sleepy at night, when they also need darkness to get their forty winks. Many of the ones sold in the US come from breeding farms in Thailand, where they are often kept in small bottles. Unfortunately, these fish are often the victim of mistreatment in the pet industry.

Bettas are carnivorous, eating mainly insects and larvae rather than plant roots. If they don’t get the right food, they won’t get the right nutrients, and will become sick and die. You should be especially careful not to overfeed your fish. The uneaten fish food and waste can lead to toxic nitrite and ammonia levels. As a rule of thumb, you should only offer as much food as they can eat in around three minutes.

While Betta fish can exist in a tank on their own, you need to plan the environment carefully to ensure that they don’t suffer from depression or frustration. Plants, caves, and other interesting features can all help. Also, if they are out in a tank with the wrong fish, they can suffer from stress and have their fins picked at.

From observing the behavior of Betta fish, it has been noted that they can recognize their human keepers. You may notice them swimming around in an excitable manner when you approach. They are naturally curious creatures who will take a good look at anything new that is placed in their tank. These items can help to improve mental stimulation.

Betta fish prefer water that is warmer and slightly acidic. Water that is too cold can end up suppressing their immune system and result in illness. If you are a close observer of Bettas, you will notice that they have different tail shapes. Generally, they will live for a period of two or three years, but there have been cases of them living into their teenage years.

Why Do Betta Fish Fight?

Betta fish are naturally aggressive creatures who often fight each other on sight due to their territorial nature. In the wild, food resources are limited. In order to survive, they need to guard the food supply of their territory with everything they have got. Betta fish fights will also erupt when they are trying to protect their young and their nests. One of the main ways of attracting mates is by building bubble nests, and other males in the area may attack to gain ownership of another’s nest. This will increase their chances of breeding successfully.

Intimidation could be another explanation for why Betta fish fight. Movements from fish with large tails and long fins can easily startle them. It has also been noted that bright colors can cause this reaction as well. Stress is another reason why these fish may fight. Changes in water condition or even something as simple as the addition of new aquarium decorations can cause this disturbance.

Male violence is common in Betta fish, but they can also act aggressively when females are introduced into the environment. Many keepers will not house males and females together for this reason – unless they are planning on breeding them. Females are sometimes known as being aggressive with each other before a social order has been established, but they are usually peaceful afterwards.

How Do Betta Fish Fight?

The fight usually begins with some intimidation tactics. The two males will flare their gills and try to look as intimidating as possible. Sometimes, this is enough, and one fish will back off from the fight before it has begun. However, often this doesn’t work in smaller aquarium environments. The next stage is for the fish to start nipping at each other. You will notice them circling and biting at the fin and tail areas. Eventually, one male should retreat – providing they have the room to do so.

A Betta fish fight may only last a matter of seconds – or it could go on for a couple of minutes. Over the years, some owners have inbred their fish to the extent that the aggression has been nullified. However, they can still rub each other up the wrong way. Some fish have been specifically bred to act aggressively no matter what situation they are put in.

Sometimes, the fighting is non-lethal. This usually occurs when the fish have plenty of room to retreat away from the confrontation. On other occasions, the dual will last until one of the participants has injured the other. However, on many occasions, these fights can get so aggressive that they go on to the death.

Bettas will also attack other fish if they share similar characteristics. So, when you are choosing fish to go in the tank with your Betta, you need to be very careful. Long fins and large tails can be particularly provocative. Other fish may be okay, but it is always worth getting some advice from the experts before building your tank environment.

How To Stop Betta Fish Fighting

If you are worried about your Betta fish fighting, there are some actions that you can take.

Choose the Right Combination of Males and Females

Whether or not your Betta fish will fight largely depends on the combination of males and females in the tank. Two females may coexist if they have enough hiding places inside a large tank. You will still need to keep an eye on them closely. Even some females may not be able to stop themselves from fighting – it depends on their individual personality. You may have to add a partition if it continues. Two males cannot be allowed to swim freely together. A partition will be needed, and you may want to position the greenery so they cannot see each other easily. Males and females kept together will often mate. The eggs will then be looked after by the male, who will continually chase off the female and even kill her if the betta fish tank is too small. The male will also need to be removed at a later date and you will need to find homes for the juvenile Bettas.

Invest in a Large Tank

If you plan on keeping more than one Betta fish, you will need the largest tank that you can get your hands on. 25 gallons should be considered the minimum. You should allow it to cycle as normal and include many growing plants, aquarium rocks, and shelters. Bettas need space where they can retreat from each other. Otherwise, the fights are going to get too serious.

White betta fish

Put Other Fish in the Tank

If you are just in the process of setting up an aquarium, you are probably best off just getting a single female Betta and other tropical fish. Some males should be left alone or only with invertebrates such as snails. When choosing the right companions, they should not have fins that are too ‘showy’, and you don’t want to choose another aggressive breed either.

Create the Right Environment

When you are creating an aquarium environment, you should offer plenty of hiding spaces for your Bettas and the other fish in the tank. This will add a sense of security and will also help to reduce stress levels amongst your fish.

Take Immediate Action to Stop Fighting

If any fighting occurs in the tank, you need to take immediate action to stop it. Otherwise, they are likely to cause serious damage to one another that could even result in death. One possible option is to separate the fish entirely. Alternatively, you could also divide up the tank with partitions, ensuring that all areas of the tank are interesting enough to hold the attention of your fish. This usually consists of a sheet of plastic or mesh with holes cut in it to match the size of your aquarium. Water should still be able to flow through, but the fish are kept firmly on one side. If they are still able to see each other fighting behavior will still ensue, so you will need to make an effort to block off their view  with plants and other obstacles.

How to Set Up a Betta Fish Tank

Establishing a successful aquarium environment for your fish is inevitably going to be a complicated and time-consuming process that has more than its fair share of complications. Essentially, you should be attempting to mimic their natural environment as closely as possible. While a single Betta fish can live in a tank of 5 gallons, more space is always going to be better.

Plenty of preparation work is always essential. Before any fish are added, the water needs to be cycled for several weeks. You can buy a testing kit that will tell you when the tank is finished cycling. During this time, good bacteria will grow, which will break down the toxic ammonia after the fish have been added. The bacteria works to turn fish waste into nitrates, which will be removed when you change the water in the tank. Around 10 percent needs to be removed and replaced on a regular basis. Avoid using any soaps or harsh chemicals which can be harmful to fish.

Related Post: Aquarium Water Test Kits

Before adding any tap water to an aquarium, you need to ensure that it is properly treated with a water conditioner. The tank needs to have a properly working filter, decorations, and an aquarium substrate. The water temperature should be maintained between 76- and 82-degrees Fahrenheit. Many fish require colder water and therefore should be kept in a separate space. Choose a space in your home where you are able to adequately control the light and temperature. Bear in mind that Betta fish get their oxygen from the surface of the water, so be wary about positioning any plant life here as it could take it away. For more information, you are best to consult with a tropical fish expert.

Betta fish

Final Thoughts

Betta fish are extremely territorial creatures who are naturally aggressive. Two of the main factors that contribute towards this are mating and food. While males are the more aggressive of the genders, females can still show a fighting spirit as well. If you are going to keep more than one Betta in a tank, you should ensure that there are plenty of hiding places and space. Remember, other fish can be vulnerable as well – particularly if they have long fins and tails. If things don’t work out, you need to be prepared to separate your Betta fish.

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