Why Do Betta Fish Fight?

With bright colors, iridescent scales, and long fins, betta fish are one of the most attractive fish you can have in your aquarium.

They are colorful, elegant, and will be an excellent addition to your fish tank.

However, even though they make fantastic pets, you need to be careful before adding them to your aquarium.

Betta fish are extremely territorial and can display high levels of aggression.

This can sometimes even result in the death of other fish in your tank.

Here’s all you need to know about why do betta fish fight.

Why Do Betta Fish Fight?

Betta fish, also called Siamese Fighting Fish, are naturally quite aggressive and immensely territorial.

In their natural habitat, bettas have to swim through miles of paddies and rivers.

So, if one male betta tries to enter another’s territory, the two may become aggressive towards each other. 

Fight Over Food

Male betta fish also tend to fight over food. When in captivity, betta fish will usually eat as much as they’re fed.

However, in their natural habitat, bettas have to compete for the already minimal food supplies.

In such cases, when two males come face-to-face, there’s no pack mentality. Instead, there’s just a survival need that has to be fulfilled.

Fight Over Mating with Female Betta

Male bettas also fight one another to safeguard their nests and the eggs inside them.

When a male betta is ready for mating, he’ll blow bubbles on the surface of the water. These bubbles help to create what is known as a bubble nest.

Once the bubble nest is complete, the male betta will wait for a female to arrive and notice the nest.

Other males in their territory that may threaten his chances of successful breeding can trigger a fighting instinct.

When they Feel Intimidated

Another reason why male betta fish fight is because they might feel intimidated.

For instance, they can get alarmed by movement, particularly from fish with larger tails and longer fins.

A lesser but notable concern is that more flashy and brighter colors can also result in a fighting reaction.

Stress Can be a Reason for Aggression

Last but not least, stress can also be a factor in male betta fish fighting.

Changes in the condition of the water of your betta can kick in their fighting instinct.

Another stressor can be modifying aquarium decorations that can change an already established territory.

How Do Betta Fish Fight?

Two male betta fish will mostly fight by flaring their gills and fins in an attempt to appear more frightening.

In some situations, this will be sufficient, and one fish will take a back seat.

However, if this doesn’t work (which is mostly the case in small-sized tanks), the fight can escalate to nipping.

The males will start circling each other and nip at each other’s tails and fins. This can continue until one male steps back if they have sufficient space to do so.

In most cases, a betta fish fight will end immediately or just last a few minutes.

However, bettas that have been purely bred for aggression can fight much longer.

Such fights usually end with one betta either getting significantly injured or dying.

Note that this is animal cruelty and should not be encouraged in captivity.

Do Male Bettas Fight to Death?

In some situations, betta fish fighting might not prove to be fatal.

Non-deadly fighting usually happens in aquariums that have sufficient space and several hiding spots.

In other situations, male bettas will fight until they have injured their rival.

This may also be non-deadly if the clash is broken off in time.

However, there will be several times when two male bettas can fight to the death.

Their natural aggressiveness, coupled with centuries of breeding to promote betta fish fighting, can result in two males fighting to the death.

Do Female Bettas Fight With One Another?

Female bettas are usually much less hostile than male bettas.

Nevertheless, they can still be quite territorial and fight with each other.

Females can peacefully live in groups of female betta fish, termed sororities.

They might be a little hostile towards other females for a bit in a sorority until a natural pecking order is built.

For instance, in a 25-gallon aquarium housing nine female bettas, one will become the alpha.

The remaining eight will then submit to the alpha and create smaller packs of their own.

If no other betta fish are placed in the tank, the nine females will live comfortably without fighting.

A sorority of female bettas should contain a minimum of 4 to 5 females and no male.

Moreover, there should be ample room for them to move around. Nevertheless, certain bettas might still be too hostile to cohabit in a sorority.

Do Males and Female Bettas Fight One Another?

Well, the short answer to this is yes! Male and female bettas tend to fight each other as well.

Thus, they shouldn’t be put in the same tank, except while mating, and should be immediately separated afterward.

One reason why male and female bettas fight is because females often eat eggs while spawning.

So, a male will chase off and work to guard against such behavior.

It is the male bettas who put the eggs in the nest and look after them until they hatch.

They will go to all lengths to keep their offspring safe.

Do Betta Fish Fight with Other Fish?

Due to their territorial nature, male and female bettas are often housed in small tanks at pet stores.

Such short-term tanks are intended to keep them isolated from other fish.

Keep in mind that each betta has a different temperament and degree of aggression. In fact, bettas are also quite content living independently.

However, bettas will fight with other fish in the following situations:

  • The tank isn’t large enough for a community ecosystem.
  • There arent sufficient hiding spots.
  • The other fish are similar in appearance to a betta.
  • The other fish have bright-colored bodies.
  • The other fish have long tails or fins.
  • The other fish are naturally aggressive as well.

How to Prevent Betta Fish Fighting?

A great way to prevent betta fish fighting is to house only one male in a tank.

This will not trigger a betta’s territorial and aggressive nature.

Moreover, as mentioned above, bettas tend to fight with other fish with bright colors and long tails and fins.

So, make sure you don’t house fish with such characteristics in the same tank as bettas.

One of the most significant considerations to prevent betta fish fights is the size of the tank.

Betta fish are generally less hostile if they have sufficient space to map out their territory.

More space also means that other fish won’t continuously swim in that territory after it has been built.

More space also offers such fish with the room required to retreat if a fight breaks out.

Bigger tanks have more space for hiding spots as well.

They are also more stable, a factor that lowers stress from continuously-changing water environments.

You should also ensure that your betta and other fish have several hiding spots.

Hiding spots will make your fish feel safer and lower their stress levels.

They can also split the tank into multiple sections and offer spaces that the fish can explore.

This will help to distract them so that they aren’t just focused on one another.

Lastly, make sure you don’t place other aggressive fish in the same tank as your betta.

Such fish include Tiger Barb, Red Tail Shark, Flowerhorn Cichlid, Bucktooth Tetra, Afer Knife, etc.

Keeping your betta fish with non-hostile fish can also help to lower their natural aggressiveness levels.

Tank Mate Suggestions for Betta Fish

You might want to house other fish in your betta’s tank, if you think it’s getting bored, or to simply liven up their aquarium.

Here is a list of some of the best tankmates for a betta fish.

Each suggested tankmate requires a similar water pH of around seven and temperatures between 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mystery Snails

Mystery snails are plant-friendly and can cohabit well with bettas because of their gentle temperament.

Sometimes a curious betta can nip at a mystery snail, but they can simply retreat inside their hard shell and stay safe.

Also read: Can Bettas Live With Snails?

Feeder Guppies

Unlike the fancy guppies, feeder guppies don’t have long or brightly-colored fins. This makes them a perfect tankmate for betta fish.

Feeder guppies are also quite docile, so you won’t have to worry about them getting into a fight with your betta.

Also read: Can Betta Fish Live With Guppies?

Cory Catfish

Cory Catfish have a non-aggressive temperament, which makes them a perfect companion for bettas.

They are also pretty active and can liven up an aquarium.

If you want to be extra careful, you can even consider the pygmy Corydoras, which have a duller color.

Also read: Can Cory Catfish Live with Betta Fish?

Last Few Words

As the name suggests, Siamese fighting fish (or betta fish) are incredibly territorial, making them naturally hostile.

Mating and food are the primary reasons behind their hostility, which can be channeled at female bettas as well as other species of fish.

Offering sufficient room and several hiding spots, along with picking out tankmates carefully, will lower the chances of fighting.

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