Betta Fish Aquarium Behavior

Betta fish are known for their aggressive behavior, especially when they are placed with other fish. As a result of their ancestry stemming from male Siamese Fighting Fish protecting their territory, Bettas can become quite brutal when agitated.

Some Betta owners believe that only male Betta is aggressive. Actually, both male and female Bettas can display antagonistic traits, but it is more common in males. According to some sources, if a Betta aquarium consists of all female fish, one will become the leader of the pack and the rest will become docile in deference. Peace should ensue as long as no new fish are introduced into the tank.

Unique Betta Personalities

Each Betta has a unique personality and caring for your Betta requires an extra dose of love and care! In general, the inhabitant of a Betta aquarium will be friendly and in some cases, Betta fish will even enjoy being stroked, petted or lifted out of the tank. Despite their aggressive nature, Betta fish are quite social and can become depressed and even starve themselves to death when they are neglected.

Although Bettas have a reputation for being loners, they can share an aquarium with other fish as long as the new inhabitants are peaceful. It is possible to have Bettas coexist in an aquarium with other fish. However, you must understand which fish make the best Betta tank mates.

Do not choose breeds that are:

  • Aggressive
  • Larger than Average
  • Closely related to the betta

Beware of Flaring!

Betta fish are most beautiful when they are “flaring” and showing off their colorful fins. However, this display is actually a sign of aggression and means that trouble can be on the way if there are other fish in the tank.

Crowntail betta looking up

Betta fish fights can be sudden and brief and usually result in a torn fin or two, not a dramatic death. Female and male Bettas may also fight each other, especially before mating. Although Betta fish were originally raised to fight, it is animal cruelty to deliberately instigate a fight between two males by placing them in the same Betta aquarium for that purpose. It is also worthy to note that as Betta fish get older, they become more aggressive.

If you have ever seen a male Betta when he is “flaring,” you will understand the attraction to these exquisite fish. Flaring is a manifestation of their aggression, and it occurs when a male Betta believes his territory is being threatened. Bettas also tend to become more aggressive as they mature.

Rather than risk fighting amongst Betta tank mates, many Betta owners choose to keep a single Betta fish in their aquariums. A single Betta can live in a small space and doesn’t require a filtration system; however, this is risky and not recommended. Proper tank setup is essential. Bettas actually like stagnant water, as it is reminiscent of their historic homes in the rice paddies of Asia from which they originate.

Betta Breathing

You may notice your Betta swim to the surface of the aquarium and appear to gulp in air. The Betta is actually gulping in air, as it has a unique “labyrinth” breathing system that requires oxygen. This same mechanism explains why Betta fish require little water and can be taken out of the tank for brief periods of time. Bettas are beautiful fish and a great choice for a pet!

To learn more about caring for your Betta and his aquarium, check out this helpful video.